The next stop on my trip was the north island of New Zealand. I spent most of my time on the western edge of Auckland, Waitakere, the rugged west coast. Auckland in a funny kind of way reminded me of Phoenix, Arizona because of the incredible sprawl. It is great that most people get to live in a detached bungalow with a sizeable chunk of garden surrounding it on all sides, but that translates into a massive suburban area eating away the beautiful nature. Once you do get passed the last set of backyards though you are greeted with fine black sand, huge frothing surf, craggy rocks, rolling sand dunes, and some rich and beautiful flora.
I found when I was looking at patches of natural landscape that I could barely focus. There was something magical about the bush, it seemed to ripple, or vibrate at such a rate that it gave the appearance of being still but was literally buzzing; a bit like a humming bird holding its position when taking a long deep drink of nectar. And so many of the trees and plants were new to me, I couldn’t get enough of just looking.
Interestingly when back in suburbia so many plants poking up along the side of the pavement, through garden fences, and amongst the lawn grasses were familiar to me. I even got to lead a wild medicine walk around the neighbourhood as there were so many medicinal plants I could pick out and talk about.
I was lucky enough to meet a fellow wild food and medicine forager who led me on an amazing walk pointing out numerous indigenous medicine plants; whilst collecting enough pikopiko to accompany our evening meal. Pikopiko is the Maori word for the young growth of the hen and chickens fern (Asplenium bulbiferum). Steamed and then seared in some garlic and butter it made a tasty dish.
I had not known before that the common name of Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) is tea tree, and that it is related to what I normally would consider as tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). The biggest surprise with Manuka though was when camping in the Bay of Islands. I thought I could smell a pot of chai full of Indian spices being brewed, but it turns out it was the highly fragrant smell of burning Manuka wood. It was a real treat and lifted me into quite a heady space.
There were plenty more treats and surprises in store for me. One of them was being there in the run up to Christmas and thus seeing the New Zealand Christmas tree (Metrosideros excelsa), otherwise known as Pōhutukawa, in full flower. Beautiful big blooms of red covering the trees, really delightful.
I met so many lovely people, including a couple of sea pixies who live on a boat and sail the oceans. I am such an earthy girl that to meet someone so salty was a beautiful pleasure. We talked for many hours in the smoke of burning Manuka and I saw the love of sea floating through the sea pixies deep blue eyes and felt it flowing through their words, it was like being kissed by a mermaid!