Although Opo the dolphin became famous throughout New Zealand long before I arrived in the country, I couldn't live in the north and not know the story of how, in the mid 1950s, she started to follow fishing boats into the Hokianga Harbour and swim daily in the bay close to the township of Opononi. She liked human company and delighted all by performing stunts with beach balls and the like. She allowed children to swim alongside her and make contact, although Maori children were more reluctant to play with her, as cultural beliefs said the dolphin was a messenger from Kupe (who according to legend was a great chief of Hawaiki who arrived in New Zealand in 925 AD).
Her death was reported nationwide, and she was buried with full Māori honours in a special plot next to the War Memorial Hall, just to the left of her statue.
A stone statue of the dolphin playing with a child was erected in 1960. That has now been replaced with a beautiful bronze casting. The original is on display at the Hokianga Historical Society's Museum at nearby Omapere.
It's just to the right of the shot below:
It was early afternoon by the time we reached Opononi on Saturday. We were still wrapped up in our coats which is pretty unusual for a fine winter's day in Northland. However, the chilly weather wasn't keeping the fishermen and their children away.
Nor was it detracting from the beauty of the Hokianga.
We took a drive up the hill on the other side of the road to see what views of the harbour the residents enjoy. Now that's a sight I'd like to wake up to each day.
Here's a question. What do you think is going on here? Aren't those flags Himalayan prayer flags? Is someone covering all their bases? The house is a very modest, not very well cared for cottage but the Virgin Mary is pristine. Just another reason why I love the Hokianga, you never know what you're likely to see.