About halfway through 2015, we (my husband Ray and I) received an invitation to my brother's wedding in New Zealand. After some deliberation, we decided to take the long plane trip from South Africa to attend this momentous occasion.
I won't bore you with details of a family wedding, nor of all the places we visited, or even all the sights we saw. I only wish to tell you about our last long-weekend we spent in New Zealand, in particular the Saturday night.
My brother, Rob, had booked a 'bach' (Kiwi name for a holiday home) for the weekend after his wedding. The whole family including his three adult children, plus two of the children's friends were invited - nine of us in total.
At six-thirty on the morning of Friday 13 November, we started out from Waiuku (Rob's home); our destination was the historic village of Russell, on the Bay of Islands. After driving through many quaint towns, rolling green hills and dense forests, we crossed with the car ferry at Opua to drive the last winding road into Russell.
On arrival at the 'bach', we discovered that the house was built on the side of a steep hill, accessed by a steep, tarred driveway. Part of the front view of the house was obscured by an ancient Syringa tree which was studded with moss and draped with lichen. The air was filled with the sweet scent of its blossoms. Directly across the road was the oldest church (still in use (Christ Church, built in 1836)) with its small graveyard (the first white woman born in New Zealand is buried there). [Please excuse the history lesson.]
On climbing the wooden stairs from where the cars were parked under the house, we found ourselves on a wooden deck which ran almost the whole way around the living area and had a magnificent view of the bay. Our (Ray's and mine) bedroom was also on this level. The other bedrooms were upstairs. All downstairs rooms had glass sliding doors leading onto the deck.
Saturday afternoon we arrived back at the bach earlyish, as Rob had a headache from doing all the touristy things with us and went for a lie-down. Ray and I took the opportunity to explore the graveyard across the road - Ray knows my fascination with old graveyards. I wandered around, reading inscriptions while Ray went off to take pictures of the white-painted, wooden church and bell tower. We were hailed by our family a while later, to help prepare for the barbecue we were to have that evening. I was a bit annoyed, as I hadn't finished my tour of the interesting (to me) graves.
That night, after our stomachs were full of delicious goodies from the barbecue, we all sat around the dining room table playing Cludo and other board games until late. Goodnights were said, and we made our respective ways to our rooms. Ray went to the bathroom while I slipped out the sliding door to have a last smoke on the deck.
Out in the stillness of the night, I surveyed the clear night sky, drinking in the crystalline air before lighting up. From the road leading up from the waterfront, I heard quiet voices and the soft pad of footsteps approaching. By the faint lamp-light, I watched as a couple walked by, hand in hand. They soon disappeared into the gloom up the hill to my right. The couple were hardly out of sight when I heard the tramp of boots coming from my left - just a single pair of hobnail (?) boots. I leaned over the balustrade to catch a glimpse of this lone pedestrian. I couldn't see anybody. Just then, a car smoothly rounded the corner and purred its way past. I expected to see at least a shadow of this booted hiker, but I was in for a disappointment. Thinking that the Syringa tree was blocking my view, I listened until the person should be in sight and lit by the street lamp. Nothing. Nobody. But the heavy footsteps carried on, tramping right past the bach, and up the road. A little chill worked its way down my spine.
I was still mulling over what I had heard, but not seen, while finishing my smoke. Movement from below caught my eye. I gawked at a small bluish light as it swayed its way past the property on the grass verge. I screwed up my eyes in an effort to see if there was a person 'attached' to the light. I think I saw a faint dark shadow but can't be sure. Was it someone carrying some sort of lantern? I will never know the answer to that question. Whoever, or whatever, soon disappeared without a sound behind the next property's garage, and I never saw it again. I killed my smoke and scurried indoors, feeling somewhat incredulous and confused. What had I just witnessed? Was it possible to have two separate 'experiences' in the space of ten minutes?
Ray was waiting in bed for me. I gasped out my experience with the boots but didn't mention the light as I wasn't sure if it had been anything preternatural.
The next morning, I came upon Ray telling Rob and his new wife, Cheryl, of my experience the previous night. Cheryl turned to me and jokingly said something to the effect of, "That'll teach you to go visiting graveyards. He most probably fancied you and followed you home." We all had a good laugh.