Millisphere: a discrete region inhabited by roughly one thousandth of the world's population. Around eight million people, but anywhere between four and 16 million will do.
Even before the dreaded Covid-19 I had identified 10 good reasons not to travel; and by travel I mean flying.
There are obvious reasons, like airline carbon emissions and pollution by tourism, but one reason not to "travel" is that it is possible to be a "tourist" in your own backyard. A fortnight before level 4 lockdown we had parked the caravan at the Elsdon Motor Camp, above Porirua, and I devoted a day to Tawa.
Back in the day when comedians were funnier. Ginette McDonald perfected the "New Zillund" black cardigan accent with her "Lynn of Tawa'' alter-ego.
"Tawa, that's up the line a bit, ay, the psychiatrical (sic) hospital is up there, oh, that's at one end and the borstal is at the other." she performed.
Unlike nearby Porirua, with its big-barn retail and confusing 1970s new town layout, Tawa has a traditional main street, conveniently called Main Rd, where I lucked into a ceramic frieze on the outside of the brick Mervyn Kemp Library. A hundred odd 200mm square
baked clay tiles, each inscribed with one feature of Tawa, looked to have been done by school children as part of a community development scheme.
Prosaic images on the tiles showed an Indian dairy and other shops, streets of state houses and the RSA garden of remembrance. They could have been anywhere in Aotearoa. The Motorway Tunnel, the Bucket Tree and the Elsdon Best Memorial spoke of something out of the ordinary.
Tawa College sits on both sides of the Wellington motorway and is connected by a tunnel. The most famous tree in Tawa is not the native Beilschmiedia tawa but a large macrocarpa pruned into the shape of an upside-down bucket, which is notorious for Tawa teenagers climbing up and sliding down the outside.
The Elsdon Best memorial is in the Grasslees Reserve, by the Porirua Stream. Ethnographer Elsdon Best was born at Grasslees Farm, Tawa Flat, in 1856 and went on to work in the Wellington civil service.
A couple of years of boredom saw him quit and move to the East Coast where he joined the armed constabulary. Best was transferred to Taranaki for the Land Wars, reassigned himself to the Māori Regiment and was in Parihaka when Te Whiti and co were arrested. Best then resigned and went on OE in Hawaii and California, returning to the East Coast with a sawmill - which sent him broke.
For over a decade Best worked as a quartermaster for a gang of road workers in the Ureweras, becoming a fluent speaker of Māori and deeply immersed in Tūhoe culture. In Wellington he founded the Polynesian Society and joined the Dominion Museum as an ethnographer.
Famous for his book Tuhoe: The Children of the Mist, 1925, Best's ashes rest under a simple granite obelisk near where he was born. HAERE RA TE PEHI. HAERE RA KI TE HONO I WAIRUA the inscription reads. Pehi is the transliteration of Best and Te Hono-i-wairua is the gathering place of the spirits.
Best's legacy came under an attack in the 1980s from which his reputation has not fully recovered. Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter Buck) the Liberal MP and author of The Coming of the Maori (1949) described Best as one of the few Pākehā who could see through Māori eyes.
The Best property at Tawa passed to the Mexted family. They included the All Black, Murray, and the Mexted name appears in the RSA garden of remembrance. Another Tawa sportsman, Samoan Jerry Collins, was briefly All Black captain before dying, along with his Native American wife, in a motorway crash in the south of France. Their baby survived and lives with her tribe in Canada.
According to Prince Harry, who, before Covid-19, was promoting sustainable tourism, one in 10 jobs globally is generated by us tourists and we treated ourselves to a night out in Tawa.
Apart from us, the Indian restaurant was empty, although there was a big crowd at the pub quiz-night further up Main Rd. When tourism happens again it will be local and there are more reasons to go to Tawa than just visiting auntie in Arohata, 1 Main Road, Tawa.
•Fred Frederikse is a self-directed student of human geography. Mapping the Millisphere, "a new millennium travel story" can be found at millisphere.blogtown.co.nz