Last week I boarded a long metal tube, swapped my jacket for jandals, and headed for the land of the long white cloud. Back just in time for a family wedding, I touched down on NZ soil to the strains of the familiar nu zild twang, a cacophony of cicadas, and the muggy dregs of a marathon summertime. A Tui sang. Love was in the air.
Heading up north of Auckland for the ceremony, the roadside signs reminded me that I was well and truly home. Where else would you come across an advert for the sport of ‘axe throwing’, juxtaposed with faded adverts for tip top ice cream? The Hororata Highland Games may come close, but aside from the sword-dancing, blades are mercifully absent in the southern celebration. While it’s true that any knife-related mishap on either island would be covered by ACC, that’s likely to be small consolation to the freshly injured. Even though the weekend was all about celebrating the support of loved ones in sickness and in health, we decided it was best to err on the side of the latter, so we kept driving – for better or for worse. (Just for the record, we made it to the wedding, all limbs intact, and it was lovely).
I love this country because of all its surprises that lie just off the beaten track. I also love it because it’s home to my someone-to-share-those-surprises-with. In the three years we’ve been based down in the South Island we’ve discovered llama trekking, penny farthing racing, and little blue penguin watching, to name a few. (Actually, the so-called ‘penguin advocates’ who were stopping traffic and helping the birds to cross the road were more of an attraction than the wildlife itself!) Then there are the local gems – from the giant sculptures that mark out rural towns (the Salmon of Rakaia is an iconic local landmark), to the hidden waterfalls and breathtaking vistas just up in the hills and around the lakes (straight out of Lord of The Rings – clichéd, but true). Of course, the North Island’s not half bad either – think white sand beaches, Pohutukawa blossoms, and, well, side-of-the-road axe-throwing, should it take your fancy… Whichever island you’re in, there’s always something new to try out, and you always come out richer for the experience.
Do I appreciate what we have in the land of the long white cloud just that little bit more having been away from it all? I do.
Originally Published in The Ashburton Guardian