Wendyl Nissen

Wendyl Nissen on being 'The Supportive Wife'

Wendyl Nissen: Gold Card nirvana

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Great island, notes Wendyl Nissen, just leave me in peace on the ferry.

Embarking on a ferry trip to Waiheke Island isn't all smooth sailing as Wendyl Nissen found. Photo / Supplied
Embarking on a ferry trip to Waiheke Island isn't all smooth sailing as Wendyl Nissen found. Photo / Supplied

It's hard not to like Waiheke. It started out as a safe haven for alternative lifestylers and has finished up as a safe haven for the filthy rich. Which leaves the island in the unique position of offering something for everyone.

But there's one problem - the ferry.

Island residents wave away the half-hour ferry trip as part of being a "Waihetian" as they so nauseatingly refer to themselves. "It's a great time to just wind down," they say. "Or catch up on some work on my laptop," they continue. "Or have a glass of wine."

Nonsense. I've been to Waiheke often and on the ferry you can never be alone. There is always someone who wants to talk to you. Because they're Waihetians and bored out of their brains doing that ferry trip.

"Don't I know you from somewhere?" they'll begin. "I'm sure we used to work together."

When you answer in the fewest words possible hoping they will get the message you'd just like to watch the view they keep talking anyway.

"So it's been a busy season for weddings on the island. Most weekends there's at least 10 bridal parties heading over. It really is such a magical place to get married."

They're right. I've been to more weddings there than I care to remember. It is magical, but not when you're waiting for the last ferry home surrounded by a hundred drunk people.

The gorgeous women who tottered off the ferry just hours before are now huddled in corners, mascara running while they clutch their abandoned high heels in their manicured paws and argue because they both hit on each other's boyfriends. The boyfriends meanwhile are vomiting off the stern.

Of course the Waihetians are tucked up in their beds, safe from the wedding goers.

"We've had quite a few celebrities over this summer, too. Some really quite important ones who worked on Lord of the Rings and things like that. You see them on the ferry all the time just trying to be normal. Waiheke is quite the celebrity hang-out."

Really? You're telling me that A-list Hollywood stars are going to board the 9.30am ferry to Waiheke and put up with you when they could afford a private boat, if not a helicopter?

I do know Marcus Lush and John Hawkesby are often seen on the Waiheke ferry but that's hardly A-list Hollywood. The only people who seem to "hang out" on the ferry with any enjoyment are Gold Card-holders who, having reached the age of 65, can ride for free.

But there is a cost. To us who pay for our tickets.

The Gold Carders bring on board with them the undeniable right to sit where they like and boss everyone around until they find the right seat.

Non-Waihetians tolerate them, but not the Waihetians. Because they know exactly what the Gold Carders are up to.

They arrive on the island, plant themselves on the beach next to the ferry, get out their thermoses and packed lunches, and never put a penny into the local economy.

I once spent two weeks on Waiheke attempting to write a book. Once I'd recovered from the ferry ride it was a wonderful experience. Great local food, friendly neighbours, terrific walks and gorgeous beaches - I had so much fun alone on the island that I ended up not writing much book at all.

And then I had to catch the ferry home.

- Herald on Sunday

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