Lisa Clark's life was cut short, but that didn't mean her story had to be.

As the former New Zealand-based British doctor succumbed to ovarian cancer aged 40 in 2012, she made a plea to her father.

"She said, 'Dad, I don't want to be forgotten'," her father Roger Clark told the Herald on Sunday from the United Kingdom.

"That becomes a little bit of your mission in life."

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Dr Lisa Clark, pictured at centre with her baby daughter, with her parents Roger and Lynette Clark and her sisters, Jenni, left, and Amanda. Photo / Supplied
Dr Lisa Clark, pictured at centre with her baby daughter, with her parents Roger and Lynette Clark and her sisters, Jenni, left, and Amanda. Photo / Supplied

It was those words, and thousands more in diaries of her travels as a young doctor, that spurred her parents to retrace their daughter's adventures, including meeting the now-grown woman in Tonga who she'd delivered as a baby and visiting her favourite places in Northland.

So in December, Clark and his wife Lynette travelled 18,000km from their home in Chandler's Ford, Hampshire, to New Zealand.

The couple's South Pacific adventure began on a ship to Macquarie Island, 1100km south of Invercargill, to see royal penguins in the wild.

It wasn't something Lisa had done, but it was spurred by the British mother-of-one's desire for adventure — even in her last week of life she was telling her dad she wanted to go to the Maldives.

"After she passed I thought about what I wanted to do. I thought 'I don't want to have any regrets'."

A royal penguin, photographed by Roger Clark at Macquarie Island, 1100 kilometres south of Invercargill, during a trip made in memory of his late daughter, Dr Lisa Clark. Photo / Supplied
A royal penguin, photographed by Roger Clark at Macquarie Island, 1100 kilometres south of Invercargill, during a trip made in memory of his late daughter, Dr Lisa Clark. Photo / Supplied

Penguins ticked off, the couple flew to Northland, where Lisa spent six months doing her surgical elective at Whangārei Base Hospital in the summer of 1998-1999.

Reading her diary each night, the couple visited the places Lisa wrote of so
affectionately — the hospital, her flat, the local pub and the beautiful deserted
beaches "with golden sand that you could run through your feet".

In the Bay of Islands, they walked the same paths she had and ate at the same waterfront restaurant before travelling north again to 90 Mile Beach and Cape Reinga.

The owner of a backpackers gave the Clarks a hand-painted card when they stopped by - Lisa had been among the first guests years ago.

Dr Lisa Clark spent six months working at Whāngārei Base Hospital in late 1998 and early 1999. Photo / Supplied
Dr Lisa Clark spent six months working at Whāngārei Base Hospital in late 1998 and early 1999. Photo / Supplied

Sometimes the places Lisa wrote about, such as The Boatshed Cafe in Rawene, weren't open.

"[But] we luckily caught the owner outside and persuaded him to show us around."

In Waipoua Forest the couple stood beneath Tane Mahuta, and at Baylys Beach they watched the sunset, just as their daughter had.

Although their time in Northland was brief, its impact was not, Clark said.

"It was incredible in the end. When we left England we had these horrible images of her dying. When we went to New Zealand and stood in the same places, ate in the same restaurants, we were with her. She was a 26-year-old doctor again and we were with her.

"It was wonderful."

Dr Lisa Clark with the Tongan baby, Meleane, she delivered while working in the island nation in the late 90s. At right is Meleane's mum, Hainite. Photo / Supplied
Dr Lisa Clark with the Tongan baby, Meleane, she delivered while working in the island nation in the late 90s. At right is Meleane's mum, Hainite. Photo / Supplied

But they were far from done. The couple's next destination was the Vava'u island group in Tonga, where Lisa spent a month working at Neiafu Hospital and, most memorably, delivered a baby for the first time — which she wrote in her diary had been named in her honour.

They wanted to find that now-grown baby, Clark said.

"Lisa cherished this special moment in her life and the idea that we should make contact with this baby called Lisa had been worming its way through my thoughts ... it fitted well with the request from Lisa that she didn't ever want to be forgotten.

"I thought as the spark in our lives had been extinguished maybe we could raise a spark in the life of this 21-year-old by telling her she was special to both Lisa, when she was alive, and now to us."

Meleane, who was delivered by Dr Lisa Clark while the latter worked in Tonga in the late 90s. Photo / Supplied
Meleane, who was delivered by Dr Lisa Clark while the latter worked in Tonga in the late 90s. Photo / Supplied
Roger Clark, pictured with Meleane. He gave her a tree of life necklace, she gave him a shark tooth necklace. Photo / Supplied
Roger Clark, pictured with Meleane. He gave her a tree of life necklace, she gave him a shark tooth necklace. Photo / Supplied

The couple managed to track the 21-year-old down to tiny Ta'anea village, where they discovered she had actually been named Meleane. Clark suspected the belief the baby had been named Lisa was a misunderstanding.

"Not a major setback as Lisa never knew any different and after all Meleane was still the baby from Lisa's first delivery — the special one we had often had in our minds."

Meleane's mum gave the couple a ngatu, a decorated bark cloth, made by her other daughter.

"Ngatu are often decorated with motifs and patterns taken from the natural environment or associated with important people and events ... we were very humbled to be the new owners," Clark said.

A Ngatu, or tapa cloth, given to Roger and Lynette Clark by the family of a now-grown baby delivered by their late daughter, Dr Lisa Clark, in the late 90s. Photo / Supplied
A Ngatu, or tapa cloth, given to Roger and Lynette Clark by the family of a now-grown baby delivered by their late daughter, Dr Lisa Clark, in the late 90s. Photo / Supplied

The final part of their journey was to stay in the Paradise Hotel room Lisa had called home while in Tonga, Clark said.

As they noticed the same curtains she had posed in front of for a photo sent home, they realised they'd found the closure they'd been looking for.

"We had followed Lisa's footsteps through her diaries, we had seen what she wanted us to see, we had touched on her foreign experiences. More than anything though we felt we had reconnected with our daughter as if we were in a time warp.

"It was now time to say goodbye to our young daughter, and travel home with our special new memories."

Northland revisited: The journey taken by Roger and Lynette Clark in Lisa's memory

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