It remained sunny and calm when Te Matau a Maui completed the journey in to Wellington Harbour. I was moved by the sight of the red sails contrasting with the familiar folded hills and jagged rocks of the landscape, the waka so small in comparison. I reminded myself that this little vessel has safely travelled the not-always peaceful Pacific and I thought too of the journeys of the ocean going waka that brought the ancestors of the Maori people all the way to Aotearoa/New Zealand from afar, centuries ago.
The image above is looking across Wahine Memorial Park. The waka is approaching the notorious Barretts Reef (more correctly Barrett Reef) or Tangihanga a Kupe, at the entrance to the harbour. An interisland ferry, the Wahine, was caught in an extremely severe storm. Unable to enter the harbour, it was grounded and damaged on the reef and subsequently capsized. Despite being so close to safety and the valiant efforts of many rescuers, 53 people died from drowning, exposure and injuries. This tragedy was in 1968 but is still vividly remembered.
Safely past Barretts Reef, the Te Matau a Maui is approaching the rocky outcrops of Point Dorset - they give an indication what lies under water. But after this, into the wide open spaces of the harbour.
The misty sunlight softens the hills - it isn't pollution - Wellington's winds keep the air very clear! The waka has just passed Matiu/Somes island. The mountains in the misty distance are the Tararua Ranges.
Into the bustle, a contrast of styles - passing an outgoing interislander ferry, and approaching the port...
From the shore near Oriental Bay the view is now looking away from the sun, so the bright blue sky is evident. But the misty conditions still blur the hillside northern suburbs and Mt Kaukau, with the television transmitter on its summit. From another angle, the destination can be seen...
An intrepid oystercatcher on the rocks by Oriental Bay, focused on food and not on incoming waka.
Coming in to dock at Chaffers marina, the crew are welcomed from the shore, prayers are said, and to the haunting sound of a conch shell, they arrive.
With the sun behind, lighting up the brilliant red sails, the design by artist Sandy Adsett can be clearly seen. But very quickly, the waka is tied up, the sails are furled, and the crew are being interviewed by TV journalists, with people clustering around the dock to greet them and to admire the waka.
Close to Te Papa, where the festivities took place, and with the "Beehive" government building in the background, Te Matau a Maui is in effect in the middle of the city.
Why have I focused so much on it? I think because the traditional construction and scale of the waka, and the traditional navigation used to sail it, remind me of some important ingredients in the recipe for living well on this earth - awareness and observation of the environment and using this knowledge - being attuned and connected with nature, recognising that we are not always in control and responding with patience and respect to the forces of nature, being able to enjoy the environment without causing damage. And, of course, the art and the craft evident in the making of Te Matau a Maui.