In the 28 years I knew Godfrey, was Christmas with us, a day that we made a bit event of , and he very rarely acknowleged the holiday. He did share with me an experience he had in 1983, with a family that taught him with their caring, a wisdom he longed to share with the whirled..down on The Hokianga, passed on to me by a fellow traveler.
I tell my self, “just pedal, don’t look up until you top that last steep hill crest”. Then you can rest, look out across the water to the sand hills, like a painted set of sea, and sand, and sky created for a play..there is mystery in the beauty here, down on The Hokianga, the hottest time of year.
Ever present headwind cooled me as I coasted down the switch-backs to Omapere on the harbor side. Meandered walking with my bike, waving to the folks, it had been a great ride. What struck me first about him was his battered plaid suitcase, he was eating apples, sitting alone end of the pier, a vagabond like me, looking across The Hokianga, it was Christmas Eve, the hottest time of year.
Boldly I asked, (is there any other way?) What brings you, fellow wanderer to Omapere? well off even the hobo beaten track! He handed me an apple, introduced himself as Godfrey, told me he had been here many years ago. It was something I needed, to see it again, to come back.
There is the Rawene Ferry, there is pretty Opononi, and an old school house hostel where I stayed in Pakanae. There are friends I am hoping still live here, we shared a Hangi feast, rode horses along the sand, living off the land back then this golden time of year.
“If you can catch one you can ride” they said, of the roaming horses, they belong to the whole community, twas a big grey mare I rode, galloped along the waterside. In all my journeys I had never seen ocean so clean and warm and clear. The kids dove from their horse’s backs, reckless youth and beauty, Christmas on The Hokianga, hottest time of year.
We had dinner cooked in an earth oven, everyone who came brought food to share. We had lamb, and fish, we had peaches, corn and Kumara, we had fizzy drinks and salty snacks. Granny came, she had been netting eels, she chased then about the yard with her axe. I helped her, live eels, they were good.
And at close of the day the guitars came out to sing, the fire was burning well, all drew near. It occurred to me that Christmas Day had come without greed, or want for more than what sustained us, there in the now. The kids sacked out on a blanket in the sand, each holding one small gift in their hand.
We raised a toast around the fire with beer, down on The Hokianga, the hottest time of year.
The Hotel is new, the old Four Square Store is the same. As are the ever drifting sand hills so high, I knew the friends you seek I told Godfrey, from up the gravel track in Pakanae. The old school house hostel was lost to fire, what little they owned was swept away and gone. Good kind people, they had no choice, at that coldest time of year but to move on.
He thanked me for the telling, reckoned it was good to know such decency was not forgotten. There were hilly miles ahead for me to Rawene, time for me to pedal on. Farewell I waved to Omapere, farewell to the waving vagabond.
Shadows ever changing cross the dunes, above the harbor bar, Godfrey sat longer, watching an old scow coming in. The sun was going down, someone was shouting at her husband on the main street of town. Godfrey rest of his life, sought the humble joy and love that he had known here, down on The Hokianga, the hottest time of year..