I stood on the top of the cliff and looked down at the waves churning below. On this day, I had arrived at Cape Reinga, or Te Rerenga Wairua, the northernmost part of Aotearoa New Zealand. In Māori tradition, this place is of the utmost spiritual significance. After death, Māori spirits would travel up the coast of the North Island before reaching Te Rerenga Wairua, the leaping-off place of spirits, where they would take a final look at Aotearoa before diving beneath the water and traveling to their ancestral homeland of Hawaiiki-A-Nui. It was immensely windy as I stood on the path and began to take photos of this land. It was my first week in the country and as I stood in the place where spirits see Aotearoa for the last time, I began to see the country properly for the first time. Over the following days, we drove south down the North Island, passing through other important points of interest including Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove), which is also featured in this photo essay. With each day, I began to understand more fully the complexity of this land and its people.

A coast is where the land meets the sea. Earth meets water. Opposing but symbiotic. In many ways, it is the story of this country. Volcanic, glacial, tropical. Māori, Pacific, European. Opposing, but connected, on a series of islands in the middle of the ocean near the bottom of the world.

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