24 January 2016

Heaven is a place on Earth, but where exactly is it?

Belinda Carlisle first spoke of it nearly 30 years ago, proclaiming "Heaven is a place on Earth".  Maybe she's been there - maybe not.  But if there were any truth in my teen heartthrob's words, then I think I know where it is.  I was there.

Throughout my travels, my search for that one perfect place has brought me far and wide - firstly north, then south and finally west.  I've lived in this part of the world long enough to know that looking for Heaven in the east would be futile labour, but that's a story for another day.

Fact is, despite having looked in many places for umpteen years, I'd managed not to find a place quite perfect enough to justifiably warrant the description of "Heaven".  Nonetheless, I'd always known it would be a matter of time before I did.

The entire time, however, something kept drawing my mind back to a certain island nation I'd ventured to some years prior which did come close - very close in fact - to resembling Heaven.  Beautiful, dramatic, open, tranquil - alluring even - are just some of the adjectives that immediately spring to mind when describing this place.

Just picture this.  One minute you're gaping in awe at her dramatic snow-capped mountains in all their cold, frozen splendour, but turn around and you're immediately greeted - gobsmacked even - by expansive plains of brilliant gold and verdant green that spread out like an exquisite patchwork quilt.

I mean, seriously, this land had it all; rugged remote coastlines, crystal clear blue and turquoise lakes, mighty waterfalls, mountain-fed rivers, lush subtropical rainforests and an array of exotic wildlife.  Above all, this land was peaceful.  In fact, it was downright tranquil.  Surely, I told myself, Heaven must be close.

And so it was that I would in the spring of '06 be blessed enough to once again set foot on these pristine islands - nearly four and a half years since I'd last done so - carrying with me faint hopes of finding Heaven somewhere in the nooks and crannies of this majestic land.  With time coming at a premium (I only had ten days' vacation), I was, at best, hopeful.

However, I must have found favour with the gods on that occasion for I wasn't made to wait very long in my search for paradise.  A mere two days into my journey, I found myself in a place that was so remarkably beautiful and tranquil it seemed almost undisturbed.  Immediately, I knew I'd arrived in Heaven.

What greeted me that afternoon on my arrival at this picture perfect location was tranquility personified.  The place was supremely beautiful.  Her clear tidal estuaries, pristine silver-coloured beaches, deep blue seas and dense native forests, put together, offer visitors sights not commonly found in a single place.  Anywhere.

Her shores were gracefully lined with sacred pohutukawa trees, and during spring when the trees are in bloom, the waterfront becomes a spectacular blaze of red.  The only thing missing was probably the sound of sweet music from angelic harps. 

The climate here is gloriously temperate year-round.  Never too hot nor overly cold, and time.... well, time slows to a crawl.  Literally.  Everywhere you look, smiling, friendly strangers leisurely go about their business - occasionally greeting you well as paths cross.

Days here are best spent just chilling; taking in the splendour of the shimmering sea and exploring the beautiful islands and coves across the bay.  This is also an ideal place for bushwalks, swimming (with dolphins even), fishing and kayaking.

For the less adventurous, nothing beats a scenic, romantic stroll along the pristine beach which eventually leads to a site nearby where an historic treaty that formed a great nation was signed between the land's natives and the pākehā (European settlers).

I'm convinced Mother Nature doesn't hide her beauty here.  Her sunrises are always spectacular; more so her sunsets.  Here, I could find no flaws in her beauty.  None.

And faithful to the prayers of His people, I've no doubt God's blessings over this place has never ceased.  He's given her people plenty, He's given them peace.  And He's defended their free land.

Welcome, everyone, to Heaven on Earth.  Welcome to Paihia, New Zealand.

Located in the far north of New Zealand on the Bay of Islands, Paihia is a leisurely 4-hour drive along State Highway 1 from the NZ's main gateway city of Auckland.

Have you visited Paihia before?  If so, please share below your thoughts on the place.  If not, has this post motivated you in any way to make the effort?


  1. Very descriptive and expressive piece of work, friend. We have talked so much about this country. I hope we have a chance to revisit (5th time for you and 2nd for me) in the near future.

  2. Beautifully written. Went right till the end to discover this paradise.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Ami. I hope you'll have the chance to visit Paihia one day, if you haven't already done so. Allow 4 nights to see Heaven in its entirety. Thank you for popping in.

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