Titirangi. I named this blog Titirangi Storyteller after the village I call home. It’s part of Waitakere City, considered one of the ‘rougher’ areas of Auckland – but the way I see it, that rep keeps the house prices down and snooty folks who work in ‘firms’ rather than for companies’ away from the place. They’d clear the trees and put in lawns and swimming pools. There’s enough places in the world like that already. Gimme trees any day.
Located at the edge of the Waitakere Ranges, Titirangi means ‘fringe of heaven’ in Maori. Perfectly named, the English pronunciation titty-rang-ee never fails to get a rise from the menfolk back in New York.
The week I arrived in New Zealand, shell-shocked from leaving everything and everyone I’d ever known 9000 miles away – we went for a ride. Not sure how we meandered this way, but driving through suburban Auckland, we ended up out west and came up the famous Fungus sculpture in the middle of the roundabout at the edge of Titirangi village.
We continued west and found ourselves winding through lush bush: kauris, rewarewa, tanekaha, putawetaweta, totara, manuka, kanuka – trees I had never imagined, interlaced with ferns and palms, so dense it seemed you would need a machete to get through them. There were houses in there. Ordinary people’s houses… not strange hillbilly huts or millionaire mansions – at least not all of them – most of them were fairly ordinary one or two story, three bedroom homes. Out of Hansel and Gretel they seemed – and I determined that I was going to live there one day.
It took a few years – but a few years ago that dream finally came true and I got my house in the trees. Little glimpses of the harbour from the kitchen and two of the bedrooms. Tuis and wood pigeons playing in the trees. There’s a stone bus shelter nearby and two beaches within walking distance.
To me, Titirangi IS heaven. Back in the US, anyone living on a half acre of woods with beaches this close and a major city half an hour away would have to be very well off. Here there’s beneficiaries, working class families with young children, middle class and also some wealthy folks – each tucked up in their corner of the woods. No, it’s not like that everywhere in NZ, but there’s something wonderful about living in a place that’s not divided along socio-economic lines, a place where people know their neighbours.
For the last half century, it’s been home to some of this country’s renowned artists – the Colin McCahon house is on the next ridge over and the tiny village is full of galleries and cafes, with Lopdell House, the only building over two storeys tall, housing a prominent art gallery and live theatre. There’s a thriving music scene with live music in a couple of the cafes on the weekend, a folk music society and an annual music festival showcasing Waitakere talent. I live just down the road from Lopdell House – and the walk home is breathtaking. Hard to capture in a photo – but there is an incredible bougainvillea
that has grown nearly 100 feet tall, supported by a kauri tree. In summer it is a wall of shocking pink blossoms. It’s summer now, so I was able to get this shot of it today. Try walking past that without a massive grin.
While the flora here is unlike anything else on the planet – the fauna is even stranger. Wood roaches are just plain icky. They look like common roaches, but fatter and slower. And yes – a few will come in the house. Fortunately, they make their nests outside, so you would never have an infestation.
Then there is the weta. One could easily mistake it for a massive spider – and reason enough to get off this island immediately. But it is related to grasshoppers and crickets. This weta’s body is about 2 inches, or 5 centimeters long – add feet and feelers and it’s over a foot long (30cm). This one was lounging on the side of my house when I got home one night. They are completely harmless and will never wander inside. They’re still good for a fright!
But my favourite spot is my garden. It’s all trees, no lawn, and if I sit just right, I have a view across the Manukau Harbour – to the airport. I sit out there in the cool of the evening, watching the planes take off and plan my next overseas adventure. I’ll leave from there… and always, always, always come back here.