Travel Story Tender, loving care in the Bay of Islands

Photo of Niall McIlroy

The Bay of Islands, near New Zealand's northern tip, is a scenic smattering of low, green islets and is beautiful under any sky.

Treacly water, green and bronze.

Little boats with single white sails skim across. They are just like a child would crayon.

The drone of a motorboat, its mule of a motor catching the wind and spinning this way then that as it veers between sleeping-dog islets with their scratches of beige beach.

Low humps patched with tufts of forest and white roofs lumpen the rim of the horizon, then sweep wide, twin prongs of a billiard-table green hill, almost meeting as they eke out out to the Pacific, rocky fingers of Cape Brett a final protest on the end of one arm ... and then ocean.

Above it all, a bumblebee black-and-yellow parachutist floats then falls, rises then dips, and then gradually, eventually, intentionally, inevitably ... lands at sea.

The sun flares and fights, conquers the clouds, forces through its fire only to shatter, then sparkle and glisten off sea it turns silver and glints triumphantly gold off willing waves — a battle of elements ends in a late afternoon knockout.

Another noisiness approaches, tired tourists in a tender, jet towards the ship. They’ve seen the scene from the land but I have lived in it from the sea, under a dank sky, the same sky that James Cook saw from these waters in 1769.

Mine is a packed and pitted picture.

Cook’s wasn’t.

But the essence of this scene is the same — treacly waters, great green arms and this sleeping dog suddenness he called the Bay of Islands.

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