Wednesday 10 February 2021

Second, and third, time lucky

With thanks to Auckland Unlimited for this famil

Right. This time it worked out, my little famil to Northland, that a fortnight ago got stymied at the last minute by a rogue community outbreak. Today I collected my Nissan in the city and smugly drove against the morning traffic towards the west where my first point of call was Titirangi. This is a sort of mainland Waiheke: people drift here away from suburbia to live an alternative, arty sort of life tucked into the hills and the bush, and that was my focus today - after a very decent coffee at the Deco Eatery, which has an unexpected, but pleasing, Turkish theme.

Te Uru Contemporary Gallery is somewhere I've visited before, and been more taken by its elegant stairway than the modern art on display there, not being much in tune with that sort of thing. So it should have been educational to take a tour around it with Andrew, its naturally enthusiastic director - and it was, to a point. 

It all looked great in the gallery's beautifully lit rooms, and there was a good variety of works on display. Not many that I would happily share my home with, however, though I could appreciate the inventiveness and skill. I did get as far as equating some of the more confronting pieces with a play - ie, ephemeral, making a statement to remember but not to live with.

I went next door to the original home of the gallery, before it was outgrown - Lopdell House - and was equally delighted by the staircase there, to be honest. Walking along the main street, past an inordinate number of cafés for the size of the town, I was disappointed not to see any of the hens and roosters who were so ubiquitous last time I visited. The lady in the florist told me there'd been "a big cull" because they'd got so bold they were stopping traffic. Shame - but they didn't get them all, and I heard crowing as I walked back to my car.

I made an unofficial detour then to the Crown Lynn Museum that Andrew had mentioned. I've never been a huge fan of this iconic Kiwi brand of china, but it's certainly a very familiar part of my past, so it felt right to acknowledge it. The museum is small but eager, next door to the old kiln, and the curator Rosemary was very informative. They made bricks and insulators originally - the china was an offshoot. I knew people collected it, but was surprised to hear about an auction live on TradeMe where a cracked swan ornament was already up to $1200.

Next I drove off into the country, winding through farmland and bush, to Westbrook Winery, classically set at the end of an avenue of trees in a neatly trimmed garden that sloped down to a lily pond. Tracey was - surprise - full of enthusiasm and information, even about the smoothness of the high-Ph bore water on the table. Naturally it was the wines she focused on but, as regular 😀 readers will recall, wine-tastings are not my forte (after the third one I can't remember the first) so I was glad to be able limit things to just one: their Crackling Rosé, which was indeed very nice - so nice, in fact, that I actually bought a bottle. I know!

Stopping in Helensville, where I dutifully looked around the gallery of local artists, noticed yet another Turkish restaurant, and was button-holed by a very determined lady in the unofficial visitor centre. I eschewed the itinerary's suggested drive to Muriwai gannet colony because it was raining, and I've been there several times already. Instead, I took another unofficial detour to Hobsonville and Whenuapai, both of them huge and fast-growing housing estates with a distinctive and very different, untraditional look to them.

Finally it was time for dinner, at the Riverhead Tavern, where I've also been before, by ferry, and sat at the same table overlooking the water. It was perfectly nice, and the food was tasty, but eating on your own is a skill that I've let get rusty in the ages since life was normal. Owner Stephen came for a chat and was full of - all together now - enthusiasm for what they've done to the place and still have plans for, despite the current situation.

And then, at last, I headed off to remote Bethells Beach to my accommodation for the night. Except, I couldn't find it. I got to the end of the long single-lane road winding down towards the beach between scattered baches in the bush, peering at the numbers on the very random letterboxes, looking in vain for 267. GPS didn't help, there was no cellphone coverage, it was getting dark, no-one was home in the first two houses with lights on that I knocked at and, if it hadn't been third time lucky, I might have had to spend the night in the car. But some nice and helpful people let me use their landline, and the BB Cottages owner came down to guide me through a gateway at the end of the road with its notable lack of the number 267, but with an unhelpful 'Private Property' sign instead and, after a brief glimpse from the garden of a sullen sunset over the sea, I settled into my home for the night in the company of a friendly teddy bear on the bed.

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