New Zealand 2011. Northland.

We’d come to the final leg of our New Zealand Odyssey, leaving Aukland to strike out to the country’s aptly named, northernmost part, Northland. Here we motored up to Cape Reinga via ’90 mile beach’, a long, curving stretch of sand up to a headland where two seas meet; the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. For the Maori these are the male and female seas coming together, ‘Te Rerenga Walrua’, representing the creation of life. Along the way, huge dunes provided a tourist draw for sand surfing, although there were no more than a handful of takers.

Here, as all of the coast throughout New Zealand the waters were clear, striking, azure blue and turqoise, topped with white froth. At the top of the headland where the two seas can be viewed in a turbulent cauldron there is a lighthouse and a couple of helpful signposts displaying distances.

We followed up with a visit to the Waipoua Kauri Forest. The Kauri trees are ancient giants of conifers, rightfully treasured and protected by walkways, platforms and paths. Like the giant Redwoods of California there are revered trees, special for their age or size and we took our time to gape and to wonder, humbled by the dimensions and endurance of these wonders.

There was little of our time in New Zealand left as we headed for Coromandel, where many tiny islands poke out of the sea and the terrain of the Peninsula is green and rolling. Coromandel town is tiny but we located a bar where we could enjoy a drink and people-watch. It was a favourite haunt of the local fishermen who loped in straight from work, wearing shorts and wellington boots.

Then we enjoyed a last visit to the beach at Cathedral Cove. I was glad, here that I hadn’t left it too late in my life to visit New Zealand. The climb down to the cove was not for the fainthearted. But once we’d got there we could understand how it got its name, as the rocks have formed a cave with a vaulted ceiling, as if a demented architect had been down here and built a huge temple on the sand.

It was time for us to leave. We’d had six weeks in New Zealand, meeting friendly people, enjoying the thrills of the RWC and taking in as many sights and experiences as we were able. And I know ther was so much more we hadn’t seen and done; the South Island east coast’s snowy glaciers and caves, the north west of North Island, Aukland and so much more.

But we were scheduled to leave. But not, reader to return to the UK. The trip had much more in store as we were about to leave NZ and take a look at another country- and a very large one, too. But that must wait for another time, another post…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

Sacrilege

NZ Queenstown

We travelled to New Zealand in the autumn of 2011 when the Rugby World Cup was scheduled to be held there. This was to be our retirement treat-a three month stonker of a trip that also encompassed Australia [where I have cousins] and a small add-on of a stay in Hong Kong on the way home.

The thrill of such an enormous piece of travel was tempered, initially by having our flight from Heathrow cancelled by Quantas for no reason we could discern. This meant that our onward flights from Brisbane were scuppered, messing up our arrival to Christchurch, New Zealand and losing us a night of accommodation.

2011 was also the year of Christchurch’s catastrophic earthquake, which was heartbreaking in itself, besides disrupting the Rugby matches and venues involved.

After a tortuous and exhausting series of flights we arrived to Christchurch’s small airport. In the arrivals hall we staggered to the information desk and were directed out into the sunshine of the afternoon, where a kindly driver took our bags and we slumped into the back of his car to be taken to the hotel. I felt I’d stepped into a warm bath.

Even in my almost comatose state I was thrilled to see the verges and green spaces which were lined with nodding daffodils-a novelty for we northern hemisphere-ites in autumn.

NZ Xch

Although our hotel was a forest of steel ceiling supports and those roads that had not been blocked off were cracked with fissures the hotel staff welcomed us in.

Having slept we explored our area, Hagley Park and looked at the quake-damaged centre of town. The park hosted an exhibition of the proposed rebuilding of Christchurch.

A couple of days later we collected our rental camper-van, which was exquisitely equipped and set off to explore beautiful, pristine South Island on a gentle, meandering road that followed the railway track and took us through small communities, past stunning scenery and into wonderful camp sites.

Throughout this time I don’t think I ever stopped smiling. People were unerringly kind, the ease of travel unprecedented. In spite of the terrible earthquake we were welcomed. Even the creatures were friendly.

NZ ducks

The rugby games were like huge, joyous parties with dancing displays, music, dressing up and buzzing atmosphere. I lost count of the number of times we engaged with those around us, laughing, conversing and getting hugged.

In between matches we went sightseeing-following the beautiful, wild south coast road to stunning Milford Sound, viewing penguins and snow-capped mountains and scoffing New Zealand pies and scones from the dairies. Then we turned north via Kaikoura, went whale-watching and walked in glorious Abel Tasman National Park before taking the ferry to North Island.

In Wellington the camp site was full so the local rugby club accommodated us, throwing open their showers and their clubroom and even offering us a curry sauce to go with the chicken we’d bought to cook. We visited the amazing hot springs and geysers at Rotarua, 90 Mile Beach, Coromandel, the gigantic Kauri pines.

The trip remains, to this day my favourite to date. If asked I don’t hesitate to say that New Zealand is my favourite of all the destinations we’ve visited for the reasons I’ve detailed and so much more.

What has happened there is heart-breaking. This most beautiful and idyllic of countries has been sullied for it’s innocent beauty.

If you peddle hate posts on social media; if you keep recycling jingoistic, populist, right-wing propaganda; if you keep screeching about ‘taking back control’ and closing borders, building walls to keep people out and showing hate to other races and religions you are perpetuating acts of violence and terrorism.

Enough said.