Rose Parsons (nee Leov-Wells ) writes of her love of Rangitoto Ki Te Tonga – D’Urville Island and her surprise to find herself centre stage, sharing her families stories as she tour guides small groups at her ancestral home. D’Urville Island is a remote outlying island in the Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island of New Zealand.
If someone had told me I would be guiding tours on my home turf, ‘down the Sounds’ as we local call it, chatting with mates from primary school and telling the tales of my ancestors to all and sundry, I would have said you’ve slipped your mooring!
To me it was just ‘the island’ a misty far off land which a saw from my parent’s bedroom window, a mysterious place I thought was Africa, until I was put right. But it is more like Greece today as our trusty launch Te Amuti ferries us around the very seascape of my girlhood. Bill Webber, a fourth generation Kaumatua (respected elder in Maori), lifelong friend of my parents, neighbour and successful ex farmer is the skipper, he manoeuvres us with experience thorough what we call the Paddock Rocks. Most likely of volcanic origin and remnant of a past crater, the Paddock Rocks have always conjured up for me the Greek Isles, especially on a good day. As we round the reef we see the green gentle slopes of Ohana (Maori for Hosanna). This is my ancestral land, my great grandfathers brothers leased the land from the Maori owners for sheep and cattle farming.
Here is the reminder of a childhood ghost story. The nearby island of Hautai which is passable only at low tide is Tapu (sacred). It is the burial island of the early Ngati Koata (local Iwi, local Tribe). Some young European men staying at a hut near the island got spooked one night as they thought they heard ghostly voices coming from across the water, in the morning they found a beer bottle in the grass. Wind blowing across it was their ghost spectra. As children we would never dream off setting foot on Hautai out of humble respect, mixed with a healthy dose of fear.