Well, so far being 33 feels pretty good. The birthday powers that be were smiling on me today, as the weather was absolutely glorious – cloudless, blue sky, bright sun and turquoise sea. Hugely novel for someone more used to celebrating in icy winds and cold rain. Will and Juliet made me my favourite breakfast (smoked salmon and scrambled eggs if you’re interested), which we had on the balcony – I felt a slight insight into the world of a celebrity.
I then took a ferry across to Waikeke Island, where I was meeting a friend of my sister’s, who I hadn’t seen for over ten years, and her husband, who I’d never met. Luckily there was no need for red carnations – we recognised each other straight away. We then spent a lovely time cycling around the island, and stopping off at an idyllic beach for lunch, a beer and a swim in Aegean blue waters with the occasional serenely moored yacht as our only companions in the water – again, ridiculously novel, as I no doubt incessantly proclaimed all day. Pedalling back through the quiet, shaded lanes felt mysterious and jungle-like, especially with the exotic calls of native birds such as the tui, which kind of gives a low whoop. It’s also called the parson bird, because of a ball of white feathers on its throat, which gives it the look of clerical attire.
Waikeke Island is a wonderful place, summed up by the sign that greets you when you get off the ferry: ‘Slow down, you’re here’. I felt immediately at home there and indeed spent much of the day imagining in great detail making my home there. Also, portentously, the union jack badge that one of my sisters gave me to put on my rucksack (“lest I forget my roots”) fell off somewhere on the bike ride today – interesting…
The island has always had the reputation as being a hippy hang-out, and in the seventies most Auckland residents were happy to leave the hippies to their own devices and wanted no part of it. However, in a brilliant case of hippy victory, the island gradually became more and more popular, and the land is now probably worth 100 times it was worth in the seventies. This gives the island a fascinating mix of residents – from the original hippies, the preened wealthy newcomers, and the equally wealthy newcomers who hark back to the island’s hippy roots. There is clearly a serious amount of money swirling around the island (real estate is ironically prohibitively expensive for most Auckland residents now), but there is also a lovely, community-spirited, creative, eccentric feel to the place. It feels somehow off the map, out of the mainstream, in a brilliant way. Local art, dreadlocks, smart bars, crystal healing, Gucci, bare feet, expensive 4x4s, yoga, shabby beach houses (called bachs here), luxurious villas, tie-dye, exclusive vineyards and wild-looking children all rub along together in a heady mix of escapism.
I returned back just in time for a sunset drink with Will and Juliet on the Bucklands Beach seafront, followed by a barbecue back at their place. They even gave me a birthday cake with candles (blueberry and plum – divine) and some beautiful earrings. I felt very lucky and spoilt. I think I should birthday abroad more often, if today was anything to go by – a fantastic start to my next year… 🙂
Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera to the island today, so can’t make you envious with scenes of my birthday bliss. However, piccies below of breakfast on the balcony, sunset over Bucklands Beach and my enormous birthday cake should go some way to having such an effect.
My wonderful hosts, Will and Juliet, dishing up breakfast magic – look at the sky!!
Photo taken from my seat at the Beach House bar, glass of chilled white wine next to me – happy days.
My seriously awesome birthday cake (and you can just make out my new birthday earrings too).