October 20, 2008 – Mount Maunganui, New Zealand
Morning in the Bay of Plenty dawned sunny and cool, ideal for a walk around the mountain who tried to drown himself in the sea.
He was in love with Powhenua, but she loved another mountain, Otanewainuku. In despair, the nameless mountain called on the fairies, nga patupaiarehe, to drag him into the sea. Plaiting ropes to drag him and chanting their karakia, the fairies dragged their friend to the sea’s edge.
Alas, the nga patupaiarehe could not finish their tasks before daybreak. They fled back into the forest as the sun rose, fixing the hapless suitor in place. Now Mauao (“caught by dawn”) stands as symbol of the tribes of Tauranga Moano. He is better known than the rival mountain, though his story had a poignant ending.
Mauao Walk is popular among residents and visitors alike. Along its sea-washed banks we saw large black birds with bright orange beaks and legs. Do any of you birders recognize them? (oyster catchers?)
Today’s entry will be brief (mercifully, most of you will probably say). We stopped at a hotspot in a backpackers’ hotel to check e-mail. I learned my brother Eric died in hospital several days ago. I’ve tried to reach his wife, my brother Jerry, and my nephew, but no one is near a phone.
News was sent on the 18th, two days after his death, but I don’t know which side of Greenwich Mean Time that was. All I do know is that he was only 64, and my world suddenly seems a lot lonelier.