A love letter to: Paihia

Nick Dwyer.
Nick Dwyer.

As someone who spent some of my most treasured years as a child living in the Bay Of Islands, I've always felt a strong affinity toward anyone that grew up in the Far North.

It's like me and them are both members of a secret club, a club that truly understands that at the tip of Aotearoa is a land full of magic. It was only two years, but it was two years full of adventure that helped shape this much younger version of Nick that still nearly 30 years later is still trying to chase dreams and adventure all over the world.

It was 1986 when we moved to Paihia. I'll never forget that first time driving from our old home in Henderson up North, where each hour it seemed like the outside temperature had risen a degree. Driving along that last little stretch past the old Beachcomber Motel it really did feel like we'd gone through the wardrobe and ended up in some kind of tropical Narnia. We lived up near the back of Kings Rd, with the wild bush as our backyard, which allowed for constant daily adventure and the running wild of ones imagination. The best thing about Kings Rd was the dairy at the bottom and it was here I discovered my first real sweet-toothed thrill - those classic Kiwi lolly coins.

At 2 for a cent, on my 20 cents a week pocket money you could get yourself a feast.

For someone yet to travel to anywhere truly tropical, the Bay Of Islands was paradise. Paihia was like something out of a movie; in retrospect it was an overdose of kitsch, but as a child it was a utopian community. I remember the freedom my sister and I had of walking home by ourselves after school and taking detours to explore all the nooks and crannies of the town, unthinkable back in Auckland. It was a town full of motels, the incredible fonts on the loud and colourful signs evoking images of Pacific islands and Caribbean lagoons. The designs themselves were a sight to behold, my favourite being the Austria Motel run by the very friendly Germans with their very tall two sons. It was only years later that I realised when speaking with Florian Habicht that I realised that that was him and his delightful family.

In an odd way, this tiny town in the far north of New Zealand with its abundance of tacky motels with their foreign influences, gave me a window to another world outside of my own. Through all of these people that came from all around the world to Paihia to come and be happy, I started to realise for the first time the magnitude of what a wonderland lay out there.

Nick Dwyer's Weird Night Out Friday July 8, Mahatma Gandhi Centre, 145 New North Rd, Eden Terrace. 7pm- 12am. R18.

- Weekend magazine

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