Whether providing shade for a summer picnic, standing sentinel on a crumbling cliff or splashing Christmas crimson along garden edge, street or shoreline, the pohutukawa is one of the trees New Zealanders hold in greatest affection. Its grizzled bark and joyous blooms speak to us not just of the enduring qualities of the tree, but of the land itself.
Poor as can be, but living the lives of kings—a Coastie's description of the laid-back lifestyle on New Zealand's easternmost seaboard—means there's always time for loving and laughing. Father and daughter Wallace and Jardine Walker make that quintessential East Coast connection while whanau and friends fish from Hicks Bay wharf for kai moana to put on the table tonight. Hicks Bay is one of a few dozen isolated communities on the Coast; forgotten treasures along a happy-go-lucky highway.
In the field
Josie Harbutt, writer of our Ruapehu feature, has loved the mountains of the central North Island since she started tramping there as a teenager. The soles of her boots have crunched over and around Tongariro and Ngauruhoe dozens of times, but, she says, "I've always been a little in awe of Ruapehu, so have only climbed to the summit on three or four occasions."
As if to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its last major outburst, on September 18, 1995, Ruapehu sprang unexpectedly from repose to violent activity. Over the next few weeks a white plume billowed to over ten kilometres above the mountain, raining black showers of ash across most of the North Island and disrupting air and ground traffic. On the night of October 11, with most of the water from the crater lake exhausted , molten magma fountained from the crater for several hours. Shafts of lightening cracked through the base of the dense ash cloud every few seconds. Fire had come to the mountain again.