Looking towards the south from Bluff Hill, Napier
Welcome! This is my part of the world: Napier, New Zealand/Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud. My family has lived here since the 1880s. The region is known for it’s sunny weather, vast skies and open space. Some say Napier has a mediterranean climate. Me, I’m not so sure. Some days, during the heart of summer – maybe.
It’s late autumn, now. Antarctica feels very close, much too close for comfort. The southerly winds are frequent. They are cold, the sort of cold that cuts through the warmest coat, that tastes of ice and snow. When a southerly strikes the sky and the hills turn grey and the sea rages with an icy fury that keeps even the hardiest fishers and sailors close to home. After the wind has blown itself out we have biting frosts followed by clear, sunny days – a fine compensation for the rough weather!
If you look at the photo you can see the point of land on the horizon. That’s Cape Kidnappers. Captain Cook named the cape in 1769, during his circumnavigation of New Zealand, after local Maori attempted to kidnap one of his crew. Two Maori were killed and one injured. The crew member made it back on board the Endeavour.
In Maori tradition Cape Kidnappers is known as Matau-a-Maui, or the fish-hook of Maui. According to legend Maui, the ancient demigod, pulled the North Island from the ocean while he was out fishing with his brothers. Maui features in many legends, in many cultures around the South Pacific. He usually did what he was told was impossible. Apart from fishing up the North Island, he went into the underworld to find his father, he harnessed the sun, and stole fire.
To the south, beyond Cape Kidnappers, there is nothing but ocean until Antarctica. And to the east there is nine thousand kilometres of the Pacific until landfall in Chile. We are, indeed, a long way from anywhere.
Note: Information about Maui is taken from the reference below.
Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal. ‘First peoples in Māori tradition – Māui’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 22-Sep-12