For wanderers like me, the name ‘Waiheke’ will ring a bell. For those who are hearing the name for the first time, Waiheke is a small picturesque island about a 30-minute ferry ride from Auckland that I had the good fortune to visit. Recently, I spent a wonderful Sunday afternoon on the island during a working trip to New Zealand. Before my colleagues and I started for Waiheke, the morning was cloudy and rainy, and my heart sank that the visit would not materialize. But by early afternoon, it was bright and sunny (typical, unpredictable Auckland weather!). We reached the jetty, boarded the ferry and parked ourselves on the upper deck. What a stunning view it was! As we left the jetty behind, I could see the beautiful Auckland shoreline. There were many small islands en route before we sighted Waiheke, a small, longish island.
We got down and started walking, not really decided about what to do. It was a nice walk through the roads of Waiheke, clean and neat. We found a small café, where the girl waiting on us was from the USA. She had been living on Waiheke for three months and planning to be there for another year or so. She was working and living minus the pressures of corporate life, and seeing places at the same time. Somewhere, it connected with me and for a moment I thought if I could do something similar… maybe, maybe not!
The shops sold local wines, olive oils and other local produce. At a shop where my colleague stopped to buy olive oil, the lady at the counter was very helpful. She was also very pregnant. We asked her whether she would go to Auckland for the birth, as Waiheke did not have a hospital. To our surprise, she declared that she would deliver her baby on Waiheke, with the help of a midwife. Apparently, there are three midwives on the island who help deliver about 70% of the babies born there. One more interesting interaction and learning!
Looking for good eating places around, we were told that there were two, one being an Indian restaurant. My Macedonian colleague voted for Indian food, so we found the place and settled down with a bottle of local red wine and instructed the waiter, originally from Haryana, to make the dishes 'Indian spicy' and not as per local taste. Our dinner was over by around 5 pm, early even by New Zealand standards. We sat there talking of the food, wine and Waiheke… and ended up missing the ferry we wanted to take.
We had an hour to kill before the next ferry. So we went to the sea-shore, took off our shoes and went knee-deep into the clean and beautiful water. We washed our faces with the salty, cool water. It was an amazing feeling. We stood there watching the sunset, the water hitting the shore, birds flying about and locals hurrying about their speedboats. It was the most amazing half-hour of my life, as if the world had stood still for me, everything else forgotten.
Not wanting to miss the ferry again, we had to leave for the jetty. There, a local newspaper full of property advertisements caught my eye, the price range being $200,000 to $ 2.65 million. Apparently, Waiheke was an investment destination for many who wanted to retire and live there. And why not? Here was a place on earth, beautiful and calm; absolutely the right place for retired life. I left beautiful Waiheke island with mixed feelings. A part of me did not want to leave!