New Zealand 2011. Abel Tasman.

If you were to write a tropical paradise then the Abel Tasman National Park, in the north of New Zealand’s South Island could be your guide. As we arrived to our camp site, at Kaiteriteri, the skies were a flawless blue and the sea azure. We’d learned that we could catch a water taxi into the park, be dropped off at the start of a hike and picked up at another point, which was perfect. On the way we got to see ‘Split-Apple Rock’ before the boat pulled in near to the shore and a walkway was lowered to the beach- thus avoiding wet footwear.

By now we had long given up our warm layers, as since moving north [and with the benfit of a few weeks on towards summer] the weather was becoming hot. It had been tricky packing one bag for a long expedition covering all weather conditions but until now we’d at least had the benefit of the van to avoid carting heavy luggage around too much, although later in the trip this did become a headache.

So we spent our day walking along the white beaches, padding across lofty bridges spanning ravines, wandering through forest shaded with beautiful tree ferns and following rippling streams. emerald with reflected vegetation and dotted with enormous boulders, a spectacular way to spend a day.

Next we were off to Nelson to watch Australia play Russia, a wacky event at which the Aussie spectators had gone to town with their outfits. We’d been on South Island for a month and had packed in a lot of sightseeing and rugby. We’d worked our way up to the north, leaving two weeks to see what we could of North Island before moving on to the second big part of our expedition. In order to travel to North Island with our van we needed to get the ‘Interislander’ ferry, which, under good weather conditions would be a spectacularly beautiful boat ride, but on this occasion we were unlucky and made the crossing under grey skies and misty drizzle- which demonstrates that the course of true travel does not always run smoothly. Then we came to Wellington and [appropriately perhaps] the heavens opened and we were inundated.

Another first was that all Wellington campsites were full, which meant we’d need to use the local rugby club’s facilities. We turned up there, following the diversion sign and went to the clubhouse, where we were warmly welcomed by the kindly members, offered use of the club’s showers [an interesting experience] and offered a curry sauce for the chicken curry I was planning to make for our dinner!

We made use of our time to see what we could of Wellington, in spite of the rain, taking a cable car to Victoria Peak and looking at the old, timber government buildings.

Next stop was Napier and its art deco buildings…

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.