Often in New Zealand we hear people referring fondly to their family bach, a little house near the sea to which they would return each summer, building up a pleasant store of memories and shared deprivations, year after year as they grew up. And while we had a fairly privileged childhood which featured plenty of love and fun, a bach wasn’t part of my family culture until recently.
Then a few years ago, my parents found a steep, bushclad and inaccessible section at Hekerua Bay on Waiheke Island, a cleansing forty five minute ferry ride from Auckland. Never ones to back down on a challenge, the only answer was to build a house on it, a saga which deserves its own book. The result was a very comfortable tree house, nestled in the bush above a small rocky cove.
For lucky us it makes a very welcoming retreat not too far from where we live. Still inaccessible by road, it requires a walk in down a long steep zig zag and a breath defying slog up wooden steps dragging your volumes of planned reading and bottles of wine. As you can imagine, it was with great joy that we moved beyond the stage of bulky nappies and baby paraphernalia.
The advantage of a walk in, is that once there, we don’t want to leave. We settle in. We read, we walk, we swim, we kayak around the headland for a samosa from the Four Square at Little Oneroa.
It has to be admitted that the inter-generational holiday will require some flexibility and tolerance on all sides, especially when your family features three lively, and loud boys, with not a lot of space around the house to run around. Full credit to my parents for 1. continuing to invite us, and, 2. putting up with the sheer force of energy, volume and confrontation that is our offspring. But sometimes things will spiral upwards and that’s when we know that, rain or shine, it’s time to get outside.
For my children, Hekerua Bay has become their happy place. It’s where they have spent endless hours on the pebbly beach, collected treasures, and walked miles (ok, sometimes against their will). They’ve developed strength, observation and independence while kayaking around the coastline and sea channels around us. Surrounded by native bush and water wildlife they have learned to confidently spot and identify native birds and trees and occasionally large marine mammals such as seals and orca.
In Maori ‘Hekerua’ means Double Bay. For us it means double happy.