Today I’m a bit of a lone ranger. I’ve decided to walk the banks of the Waikato, which I’m told is the longest river here. It’s spanned by a number of bridges, but my goal for the morning is to reach the (unsurprisingly named) Victoria Bridge. I meet exactly five persons on the way and thrice as many ducks. This is very educational – I learn three things today. Ducks hate me photographing them (sigh). Kiwis (the human kind) don’t mind my asking them to photograph me (thank you). Bridges are good shelters from rain, but there isn’t much you can photograph while sitting under Victoria Bridge. However, I do spot my first oak tree. It’s beautiful.
Across the river, I find Memorial Park lies empty except for its monuments to war heroes. The park boasts a Spitfire replica, an anti-aircraft gun, and a large anchor. The pillar commemorating those fallen in war is remarkably like the one in Perth’s King’s Park – a little smaller perhaps. Lesson learned – dustbins can be very good camera stands.
My last stop is St. Peter’s Anglican Church, back on the other side of the river. It was built by the army in 1915, which is perhaps why it reminds me strongly of the Afghan Church in Mumbai. Even the wooden rafters look like the same Burmese teak, although I suspect this is local timber. An elderly parishioner invites me to the Maori service that’s just beginning in the side-chapel. When I decline, she hugs me and wishes me well. I write “Mumbai, India” in the visitors’ book and feel a bit guilty about this. Is this really where I’m from? Should I be writing “Perth” instead? Mumbai just sounds so much more exotic right now…and very far away.
Several hours and shopping bags later, I’m sitting by a window at the Traffic restaurant, when I notice a large sari emporium across the road. There are several Indian flags draped in the display window. Suddenly, a Sardarji comes out of the building. Perhaps Mumbai isn’t quite so far away after all.