Big Boat Man’s environment

Having lived and worked on the Kapiti Coast all his life, BBM says he lives in the best place in the world.  You ask, Has he seen other places?!

Yes, of course.  He has travelled North, East, and West, and enjoys meeting people of other cultures. (Why not South? Well, think about it. The next stop from New Zealand is the Antarctica)  We often discuss how life is the same all over the world – people everywhere work to survive (how they work is interesting), love their families (their family dynamics are interesting), enjoy having moments of leisure (what they find pleasure in is interesting), arrange their home environment as they see fit in the circumstances (the myriad of circumstances is interesting), and on it goes.  We never tire of observing life as it exists.

But the Kapiti Coast is unique.

Where else can you fish, tramp, see glow worms, gather shell fish, and meet friends walking on the beach, all on the same day?

The small coastal towns which make up the region of the Kapiti Coast (land in the shadow of Kapiti Island) each have their own reputation and allure.  Pukerua Bay looks seaward, modern houses up top, with rustic buildings down on the short waterfront. The small lane which provides access for boats quickly peters out into a walk track to wind around the coast, coming out in Titahi Bay by the quarry.

BBM talked me into taking our bikes and cycling that track one day.  Let me just set the scene a bit further at this point.  The walking track is on the foreshore where the hills above come down to see what has washed in over night.  So, there are rocks that have tumbled down from above over the years.  There are rocks at the water’s edge that are round from the sea washing them, and you can get no grip.  There are paths to follow, yes, but sometimes these split where trampers have disagreed on which way would be best – higher brambles or lower brambles?  So, I had the job of deciding whether to follow BBM or choose the path which I thought better.  This is an exhausting thing to do while manhandling a bike which disagreed with both of us.

To top it off, BBM had decided we should allow Brynn’s small terrier to come with us.  So, we reached Titahi Bay, passed the quarry, passed the marae, circled back down the road and came upon the (brand new at the time and not quite finished) cycle path through the flax.  At this point we realised we had a bit of a problem.  The small dog had run and chased and jumped, and basically done her bit by then.  The path had uphill and downhill.  We knew she couldn’t keep up on the downhill, and we wanted to enjoy the wind in our faces by going as fast as possible.

BBM called the dog over and grabbed her under his arm.  She fought at first, but quickly realised she was getting a ride similar to being in a car with her head out the window.  Oh the joy!  We reached the bottom of the hill and BBM tossed her out to run up the next hill and wait for her next short-lived thrill downhill.

The local train slowly climbs the hills and meets Pukerua Bay at the top.  While Kapiti Island captures attention with its contrast against the blue water, on those very clear days, we can see all the way to Mt Taranaki.  Just the tip, mind you, but it is a welcoming sight.  BBM spent much of his childhood with cousins at their grandmother’s place near the Mt.  Recently he investigated the possibility of being buried there, within sight of where he has lived all his life.

So, coming north from Pukerua Bay, there is Paekakariki, known for its artists and alternative lifestyle people.  Suffice to say that in his younger years BBM spent lots of time in this little village.  Sometimes we walk south on our beach until we reach Paekakariki.  It has wonderful coffee, stone pizza, handmade bakery items, a pub, a little church that evidently doubles as the town hall, concert hall, and art showroom, depending on the weekend.  Of course, BBM also knows most of the older residents, their children, their grandchildren, their foster grandchildren, and you get the picture.

I stopped by Paekakariki one day with a Chinese teenager.  He and I had already had a discussion that morning about why we only had hens for eggs.  No roosters because we are right in town.  We stopped, and I ran up to see BBM’s brother-in-law about a piece of art for a family member’s birthday.  It took longer than I anticipated, and when I returned to the car, I realised the young man had the window down and had been talking with an older gay man sitting outside at the café.  No problem.  I started to drive off, and the man waved at the teenager. The teacher in me wanted to use the opportunity for educating the teenager, but the host in me didn’t want to do anything contrary to what his parents would want him exposed to.

I started with an explanation that Paekakariki is a well known place for artists and other kinds of lifestyles.  Laid back, creative…… some people here are gay.  Gay?  What is gay? Well, you know how some boys like girls, and some girls like boys?  Some girls like girls, and some boys like boys.  Yes, yes, hmmmm, you mean like LOVE?!  Ok, so maybe I shouldn’t have brought it up.  Should I have left this topic alone and let him learn from the other boys at school?  He went silent, listening to his music on headphones.  My mind wandered as I drove toward the city where I was taking him to the airport to return to China. About 20 minutes later, he took off his headphones, looked at me seriously, and asked, “You have no roosters.  Are your chickens gay?”

One town further along the coast is our community of Raumati Beach.  Another artsy community with little shops, grandparents, families, schools, and one short strip of industrial where a couple of engineers can fix your car, recycle your car, or design and make whatever metal thing you require.

We can walk to the beach, walk to the shops, walk to the next community of Paraparaumu…. which is somewhat larger and holds the post codes for our area.  The boat is being built in Paraparaumu and in the Summer BBM often rides his bicycle over to the shed.  While people can, and do, walk from the top of Kapiti Road to the beach, it is about 4 kms.  There is a mix of shops, houses, car industry places, and a small airport along this stretch.  The beach area itself is well established with a large playground, skate park, a couple of blocks of shops, restaurants and business offices and a boat club.

Many years ago, my parents applied for their first passports and came to visit.  Back then the above strip of Kapiti road had only houses, airport, and pastures along it.  My father would walk over and talk to the pilots each day.  Before he had arrived, I explained to one of them that while he owned his own small plane, he had sworn never to get into a helicopter, something he thought of as a flying gas tank.  Our friend was the local training pilot, so he took my information as a challenge to get dad into a helicopter.  And, he did.

That same pilot taught BBM and his first wife to scuba dive.  He made them snorkel for the first two years.  Nowadays people would not train under someone who took that long to teach diving, but he was a careful instructor who wanted them to understand the nature of the sea, and be entirely comfortable in it.  So, BBM has know the top and the bottom of the coastal waters for many years.

Waikanae is the next town to the north.  It is known as a bedroom community.  A bedroom community where there are retirees and families, and very little in the way of shops.  The fairly recent extension of the train line out of Wellington has meant growth for the community, but this appears to have impacted mostly on the local schools.  Just this past month a new section of expressway has opened up.  This means that for some people in Waikanae it is faster to get on the expressway to shop in Paraparaumu instead of going up the main road to the village shops.  We are a bit concerned because Waikanae has the closest old style butcher for us now.  If their trade decreases we could lose our last local specialist butcher.

Next come Peka Peka, Te Horo and Otaki.  BBM has many memories from these areas.  He learned to swim in the local Te Horo school pool. He stayed overnight with cousins in that house not far from the beach.  He used to dynamite the stumps out of that field.  He helped at his father’s veggie stand on this road.  He has memories of living in this house.  He made the tremendous decision to puncture a bloated cow on that farm. He found a cow somehow on top of that wall – still mystified about that.  He and his friend got caught putting farm fuel in his friend’s car – supposedly just enough to get back home for him. That excuse worked with his father until the fuel started pouring all over the ground as the tank overflowed during the explanation.  They must have had a love-hate thing going for his father who also happened to be NZ’s top amateur golfer.  He bought a new car which he was very proud of.  It had 12 cylinders and was from overseas.  He was so proud that he only would allow a specialist mechanic in a far town even touch his car.  BBM and his friend swapped the plugs around so that the engine no longer purred – it pranged at a weird rhythm.  They never did admit what they did since his father took the car all the way to the specialist mechanic and they didn’t want to cop the bill for the prank.

So, this is the environment.  One in which we live currently and in the past simultaneously.  As BBM’s wife, I love the stability his local knowledge and history brings to our daily lives.  And, I believe his local roots allow him the stability from which to launch his explorations to the other places we visit.  We both entirely enjoy coming home to our own little place when we have been away.  The house, the sea, the community. This is home.  This is our environment.

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