In the beginning, driving between Napier and Taupo (on State Highway 5) is sort of like playing snakes and ladders. It requires alot of concentration due to the serpentine nature of the hills around Te Haroto particularly since they descend quickly like the game-snake into one corner after the other.
Te Haroto can look, on the surface, like a god forsaken place with it’s beheaded tree stumps and their gnarled aging limbs laid bare for all and sundry to see but it’s got its own golden child in the form of N.Z. classical singer Te Rangihau Gilbert. He was born there into the home of a predominantly maori speaking family (as they were) in those parts years ago.
I have fond memories of Andy and Gracie, old friends of my chopper pilot mate Grant. We’d flown into their place for a cuppa and three of my most vivid memories of that time were that Gracie boiled the tea on a wood fire range (and that it passed the Penneylane test for tea, that is, a horse-shoe would’ve floated) it was that good and strong.
The second was that the house had a dirt floor but you could have eaten off that floor it was so clean and tidy. The third is that their long-drop (outside toilet, little more than a long but deeply dug hole in the ground) had one of the most beautiful views this side of the black stump.
You had to whistle a tune when you got within 10 feet of it to let a person know you were coming. If they yelled out they were there you stayed right where you were. There’s a reason for that! The long drop had no door which is why you could enjoy the fantastic view though it must have been hell in winter!
Te Haroto was also one of the locations for Geoff Murphy’s ground-breaking feature film Utu and Te Rangihau Gilbert, then a teenager, won a small role as a horseback-riding commando” in it. I met Geoff Murphy years ago, when he was hanging out with Bruno Lawrence and everyone BLERTA down at Waimarama, it wasn’t difficult to imagine he’d become a Film Director, he had the heart and head for it way back then.
As the miles come between us, me and Te Haroto and the bitumen-beat becomes mesmerising I understand a quiet truth sprung upon me. What truth? That we are, all of us, human documents where stories are written on us, in us and about us and that the most important thing we could ever do is allow ourselves to be read.