Opinion: It’s time to smell our roses…

The Age of Reason

By Peter Carr

One of the advantages of retirement linked with advancing years is an alleged associated quantum of free time. Free, that is, to be used in any way legally appropriate.

So it is as I pen this week’s opinion piece that I find myself listening to the gentle lapping of a balmy Pacific Ocean in the upper part of Northland. Beachside at Tauranga Bay having arrived here after departing at dawn from an even more remote Bland Bay. Interestingly named as Blind Bay by Captain Cook 250 or so years ago when he possibly perceived a narrow entrance. Later local Māori, not comfortable with the nomenclature of Blind, changed it to Bland.

Like many of the bays in this part of the Northland east coast Bland Bay is indeed beautiful. Parked nose to the beach we fall asleep to the sound of the lapping beach-edge water and wake to magnificent dawns.

Here at Tauranga Bay there is an identical situation. Boats going past just off the beach are headed towards the narrow entrance to the picturesque Whangaroa Harbour, which itself is well worth a visit. It is so land-locked and quiet that during World War II it was seen as a protective hideaway for the US Pacific Fleet. Having taken a 34-foot yacht through the entrance even my Master Mariner status would baulk at taking a cruiser through that gap.

From here we will take a leisurely anti-clockwise curve across and down Northland delighting in the views, warmth, fresh fruit and friendliness afforded by the locals. We are part of a 35-strong campervan group of Waikato residents – all of a similar age where 4pm Happy Hour is the strictest rule of the day.

So why this rambling outpouring of local tourism? Because this is the new and hugely growing opportunity afforded by the blasted virus. Imagine the Opua ferry operator’s face at 7.20am today when I warned her that there would be 34 more vans behind me, all wanting to cross within two hours before the low spring tide made the off-ramp untenable for longer vehicles. The ferry company’s coffers will do well today.

And that is a very good reason why we should be putting thoughts of overseas flights and cruises behind us for quite some while. The huge hit that all levels of tourism operations have taken is quite frightening. 35 campervans at $21 each this morning made the ferry operator’s 5am start well worthwhile.

Without doubt the false low fares in real value terms – driven by heavy airline competition – have lulled us into thinking that much of the world outside of New Zealand is more attractive visually, socially and historically. This is partially true but taking time to smell the roses in Aotearoa is surely a must do for the younger generations and not just those of us eking out our existence within the parameters of the national pension.

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