This photograph was taken from Te Mata Peak, Hawke’s Bay, in June 2022. Today, Hawke’s Bay, a peaceful, agricultural region, is covered in the debris and deluge thrown at it by cyclone Gabrielle.
When I visited the area I stayed with friends from Zimbabwe, former farmers. They’ve built new lives for themselves in Hawke’s Bay. None of it has been easy, but they’ve never stopped. It was a privilege to stay in their beautiful home, and to get to know the area a little.
One day trip was to a stunning old farm house, where the owners had been on the land for several generations, running cattle and sheep on the steep hillsides along the coast. The farm stretches down to a lonely beach. Beyond is the ocean, that goes on and on to Argentina and Antartica. It was idyllic to visit, but it cannot have been easy to develop.
Now, Hawke’s Bay is faced with clearing up and building again.
Dotted with sheep and ridged with tiny tracks, the hills around Hawke’s Bay seem to roll on forever, like a rumpled duvet. For the most part the slopes are without trees, those having lost their ground centuries earlier to humans. The tallest of the peaks in that region is Te Mata, from where I took this photograph during my visit in June 2022.
On one of the days I was there, I was taken for a drive through the hills. For part of the way we followed the Tukituki River, along an almost empty, winding road towards the coast, to visit a beautiful old homestead. The day – so special – began grey and cold, and ended with bright sunshine.
We drove back in the evening, the last of the sun picking out the tracks left by livestock as they walked the hills in search of the sweetest pastures. The sheep, dotted far and wide, seemed so small against the geography of it all, and I could imagine, barely hidden beneath them, the restless shift of tectonic plates. Occasionally there were farm houses, and closer to Havelock North, some immaculate vineyards, but for the most part it was a quiet road. The distances between neighbours were not huge, but the hills added an isolating feel. I wondered how it was for the farmers.
The next day I flew out of Napier, to Auckland, the carpet of crewcut hills tumbling away beneath us.