After several exciting weeks of traversing the Northland of Aotearoa (New Zealand) and interacting with incredible communities all throughout, our leg of the Worldwide Voyage finally concluded with a sail into the city of Auckland and a day of ceremonies.
The day started at 4:30 a.m. on Motutapu, an island within sight of the Auckland skyline that is now set aside for conservation. This island was the intended meeting place for eight sailing wakas of the voyaging family, including Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia, before sailing into Auckland Harbor together. These wakas were: Haunui (New Zealand), Hine Moana (New Zealand), Aotearoa 1 (New Zealand), Marumaru Atua (Cook Islands), Gaualofa (Samoa), and Uto ni Yalo (Fiji). The latter three had sailed in from Sydney, Australia after having represented the voyaging family at the World Parks Congress meeting a few weeks prior. Unfortunately, due to light winds, only Marumaru Atua was able to make it to the arrival ceremony on time. Still, the image of six Polynesian voyaging canoes sailing into Auckland was a powerful one for all who were there to witness it.
The arrival at Okahu Bay in Auckland at approximately 9:00 a.m. was capped off by a Maori powhiri where crewmembers of all six wakas gathered on shore to be culturally welcomed to Auckland. After exciting speeches and performances (and of course food), our crews migrated to the Viaduct in downtown Auckland around noon to receive a second welcoming from the mayor of Auckland (and more food). Upon the conclusion of this ceremony, crews met up for a private voyaging family dinner where old friends were reconnected, new friends were made, and stories were shared all around (with even more food).
Throughout these exciting few days, one thing that we, the crewmembers of Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia, experienced in abundance was the incredible hospitality of the people in Auckland. From those that were living in the city, to the people working there, to the people who were just visiting on vacation, the reception of the canoes and the mission of our Worldwide Voyage was incredible.
When it was finally time for our crews to say goodbye and head home for the holidays, we did so with gratitude in our hearts and comfort in knowing that the canoes would be under the watchful care of the staff at the Voyager Maritime Museum in downtown Auckland. As crewmembers returned home to their families and loved ones for the holiday season, we were all reminded of the fond memories we shared during our time in Aotearoa. For me, I look back upon the experience in awe of how many teachers we had aboard and the wealth of lessons I was privileged to learn along the way.