The photo caption woke something in me. A memory; something familiar but I wasn't sure. I was browsing through old issues of the local newspaper when I saw images of workers cleaning a beach fouled by an oil spill in New Zealand. Jon had his laptop out so I asked if he'd bring it up on a map. Sure enough, we'd been there.
Not only had we been by Papamoa Beach when we cycle toured in NZ back in 2004 (so long ago), but we were so struck by the beautiful setting that we stopped riding after only 13 kilometers so we could spend the day on the ocean before heading inland.
We were one week into our four-week trip and the previous day's ride had been long and hilly and fraught with stress as we entered Tauranga in the company of double-trailer semis and logging trucks. With relief we'd found a campsite at Mt Maunganui and a great restaurant just a block away. Across the road was the ocean - or more accurately, the Bay of Plenty.
The next day, we pedaled down the coast not sure how far we would ride, but keeping our eyes open for the next place to stay. The pine trees and the water lured us in. As we rolled into the Papamoa Beach holiday park, the wind was picking up. While checking in, we debated a tent site or a room. That's when the rain started. We took a room in a cabin that had a view of the water. The rain subsided as we walked a few blocks for lunch and groceries, a bottle of wine. Later we spent time walking on the beach watching the big waves come in with the storm. Jon went for a run.
Reading over our notes brought me back to that trip, the high dunes we crossed between our cabin and the ocean, the ferocity of the storms which originate in the Antarctic to pound the coastline, drench the inland and provide winds to power you or demoralize you, depending on your direction of travel.
Now the coastline has been fouled. It's not that I care more about a place just because I've visited it, but this disaster hits the part of me that loves visiting new places and learning about different parts of the world. I feel more connected as I recall that the young woman who checked us in told us that her grandfather had planted the pine trees we were admiring. How much will her livelihood and that of so many other Kiwis be impacted? What about the wildlife; the penguins and other sea life? My heart goes out to them.
The clean-up has been in progress for a couple weeks now, but Alaskans know that initial clean-ups often only take care of the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Messes are quick to make; but sometimes they take a generation to clean up. That oil is going to be in the Bay of Plenty for a long time. What a shame.