Danny does Hawke’s Bay
CHRISTMAS has come early in New Zealand this year. Well, you could argue that given its time zone (GMT + 12), Christmas comes early in New Zealand every year, but that’s not what I mean.
In the town of Hastings, on the east coast of the north island, Santa Claus has been taken out of storage a few months ahead of schedule. He’s been placed atop the New World supermarket, as he was last year. Except instead of his traditional red and white costume, he’s donned the all black jersey of the country’s rugby team.
So Santa is a New Zealand rugby fan and, if a teaser for The Dominion Post newspaper is anything to go by, so is Christ. As billboards outside newsagents go, ‘Jesus is an All Black’ is up there with ‘Pope’s brother had Wigan chip shop’.
So they take their egg-chasing seriously in this neck of the woods. Mind you, the most fanatical rugby fans I’ve met since arriving in the country are not Kiwis at all. Three people in matching red rugby jackets passed me in the art deco town of Napier. The question “Where are you from?” elicited a surprising answer – the Czech Republic, whose team is not even playing in the Rugby World Cup. Unfortunately, our lack of a common language meant I couldn’t find out their full story. Czech, please (if you’ll pardon the pun).
I’d come down to the Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand to spend a few days with my uncle and his family. Ireland aren’t playing in the area known as New Zealand’s ‘fruit bowl’, so it was no surprise that I only met a handful of people wearing green jerseys, including a couple from Belfast. But you never know where they’ll turn up. The nice policewoman who took my report of a lost laptop (long story) has connections in Annaghdown, north Galway. Descending from the summit of Auckland’s One Tree Hill (celebrated in song by U2), the first man I met was an 80-year-old Limerick native. He’s been in New Zealand for 54 years and was accompanied by two dogs and a ferret. No kidding.
Also on the agenda during my time here is an excursion to the Te Mata peak, about 400 metres above sea level. The view from the top is apparently spectacular, but even looking at it from below is fun, as the summit and surrounding area resembles a sleeping giant. The Maori story goes that the giant fell for a beautiful woman, and amongst the challenges she set for him was the task of eating his way through the hill. Unfortunately, he choked on a large rock and fell dead. Hopefully that won’t happen to me.
Daniel Carey, a Mayo News reporter, has taken a year out to travel the world. His addiction to the keyboard remains, however, and this column will carry his reports from life on the outside.