Off the coast of Auckland, NZ
“Hell of a long swim,” the old man laughed from his dinghy at the opposite end of our survival rope. Our motor had died on the Hauraki Gulf while heading back to our group’s sailboat, and we had no oars. But the old man spotted us idling in the water before panic set in—the rope he tossed as strong as the Island wine.
Our teammate with the short-cropped hair, the oldest student in our group, thanked the old man as he pulled in his rope.
“No worries,” he said.
No worries: the slogan of a nation.
A slogan for the previous night spent on Waiheke, where there were only open skies, a row of sleeping bags on a hillside, and a basket of seashells at my feet.
Kia Ora, we said at sunrise to the sound of zippers punctuating the dewy morning. Kia Ora, said the heads behind the zippers.
We docked after two days out, and for two days more felt the gentle rock of the Gulf with every step we took on land. We tried the local fare—breaded cod, with chips, wrapped in that morning’s newspaper. We bent the stalks of native foliage to our noses, breathing in memories of a place we may never return to again.