5 January 2003

NZ Whitianga A Morning Walk

OldEric says :-) I was up this morning by 6am and on my morning stroll by ten past. Instead of going my usual way down Cook Drive I cut down through the walkway past the Art's Centre then the Kindergarten and the Motor Camp and on to Buffalo Beach Road. I have been having trouble with my Gout over the holidays, at least I think it is my Gout, I always seem to get bouts of it during the hot weather. The Doctor says I should drink more water. However I won't let it spoil my morning walk which I enjoy during these warm balmy days meeting people and exchanging cheery morning greetings as we all take in the early morning scene.

As I arrive at the wharf the usual busy morning of boat launching is absent this morning only a couple of drunks returning home from an all night party, sharing a large bottle of beer and shouting friendly abuse at a lone fisherman on the beach. The wharf is empty; I'm the sole occupant, no one even catching sprats. Yesterday was the big local fishing contest and boats big and small were out by the hundreds after the big prize and I guess the enthusiasm of more fishing is at a low ebb this morning. the boat trailer park is almost empty. Only a few cruisers from the marina heading out for a spot of marlin fishing. The whole usually busy place feels strange.

Even the early morning walkers are down in numbers. Last night was warm and unusually balmy. The usual chill coming with sundown didn't come and when Pat and I went for a ride in the car the town and esplanade was buzzing with like-minded people enjoying warm evening. The wharf was alive with young fishermen catching never ending shoals of sprats attracted by the wharf lights. The ferry was still running across the estuary.

I think most of the early morning brigade must have slept in this morning. As I continued my walk along past the hotel and marina I looked at the large parking area and visualized the scene when the block of twenty-two shops is built on the hotel car park. A builder Philip Leather originally from our hometown of Huntly now a big operator bought the Whitianga Hotel and land to acquire the car park land and then re-sold the Hotel along with a small block to another builder As I rounded the Hotel corner I saw the other builders efforts. He was in the process of completing a block of nine townhouse apartments of three stories and an internal lift to the upper levels.

As I walk along a little further I come to Sleeman's Park, a pocket sized piece of land where I used to stop and sit in the sun for a few minutes and savor the estuary views but now partially blocked out by the tall masts and superstructures of the marina boats. Sleeman's Park was a rough piece of forgotten council land on the waters edge and which was tided up and planted by an old European immigrant as a labour of love. He lived alone outside of town and he would often be seen trundling his wheelbarrow down the road to his pride and joy. He has long since gone and the Council in a their wisdom named the piece of land after him and put up a plaque honouring him.

Facing the park across the road is a house which I often think of in passing, a house that Vicky would like and appreciate. The house is newly built in the last two years but it built to plans of the late 1800s, early 1900s era and it is of period cottage style. Looking at the exterior of the house it is a perfect replica of an early settler house with a veranda and curved corragated iron roof overhang of that early era down to the last nail. The inside, I imagine would would be modern and I doubt that the interior walls would be planked, covered with scrim and then wallpapered. The outside still has a look of newness and it just needs a a dulling of the bright paint work and a mature cottage garden to complete the picture.

I'm now two thirds of the way to completing my walk. I move up to and over the main street past our favourite coffee shop, across the newly tar sealed main car park which used to be a large expanse of grass and up the side streets back to Gillian and Paul's house with not much to stare and ponder over on this last leg of my walk.

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