Kathy regales us with tales from her New Zealand adventures, as she takes in the warm weather and catches up with old friends…
You can read the first instalment of Kathy’s NZ adventures here…
Now I remember why we make the effort and fly the thousands of miles to spend the time we do in New Zealand. Sitting on a swing, in the sun at a friend’s home, overlooking Lake Rotoura at Ngongotaha with glorious birds chirping, squawking, screeching, singing around me – I so remember!
It’s about the place itself, and its people; old friends and the promise of new friendships. It’s about the warmth of the people and of the sun during the long dark English winter. Covid had kept us away for so long!
The Kiwi magic started as soon as our plane landed in Auckland. We’re slightly earlier this year than we have been on previous visits, so it was a bit cooler. A light sweater thrown casually over my ever-hopeful sleeveless top kept the chill away. Apparently the UK was in a total deep freeze at the time, so there were no complaints from me!
The pohutakawa (the New Zealand Christmas tree) wasn’t quite in its full glory but a few red flowers waved at us as we waited in the car park for our ride to the car hire company.
We had stopped in San Francisco for three nights en route and visited friends we hadn’t seen for three years. Covid stopped their planned visit to us in the UK which is now rescheduled, hopefully, for this Spring. Their visit that is, hopefully NOT Covid!
Our friends kept us busy! In addition to wonderful meals, we walked on Mount Tam one day, on another day we went into town to a Diego Rivera exhibition at the Modern Art Museum and the next day – as it poured with rain – we visited a mature garden an hour and a half outside the city. Another excellent outcome of our time with our friends was that the jet lag already began to ease.
This is the tenth visit we’ve made to New Zealand since 2009 and my husband tells me that means we’ve spent 25% of our lives here since then. The sounds, the sights and especially the people around us, let peacefulness flood into our bones, seeping into the crevices and we store that up together with wonderful memories to take back home.
Our friend Ann Marie, who we always stay with when we first land in Auckland, had tears in her eyes when she opened her front door to us. So did I! Happy and grateful to be here and see you again tears. After being warmly welcomed back into our New Zealand “whanau” (Maori for family or extended family) and being looked after brilliantly for three nights we headed South.
Our entire three months is a holiday, but our first few weeks are an adventure. We will move into Auckland to a house we’ve lived in four times before at the end of December, but first we travel and soak up what brings us back year on year.
We flew into Invercargill, picked up our hire car from the tiny airport, and drove through emerald, green lush countryside an hour and a bit to Gore.
Our B&B sat just above the Mataura river which especially excited my trout fishing husband. Liz and Dan, our hosts, gave us a delicious evening meal and over lamb and all the trimmings we became great pals. The next day, Liz took me swimming at the municipal pool in town while Terry walked and waded as he fished the river, guided by Bunny a fishing guide. The guiding business was nearly wiped out by Covid, so Bunny was grateful for Terry’s custom. Liz and Dan run their business more as a hobby and a way to keep engaged with the outside world. They only accept bookings from people they like the sound of and, happily, that worked for us!
Later that afternoon Liz, Dan and I sat on their deck as a storm moved in over the river below us. The lightning show and downpour was magnificent. The temperature dropped from 21 to 13 in an hour and sweaters were quickly pulled on and, finally, we retreated inside for warmth. The men fished about an hour away and were not in the storm. Instead, they watched it in warm sunshine!
Our hosts in Gore are typical of so many Kiwis; welcoming, friendly and kind. Before we left, we agreed if they get to Auckland while we’re there we’d meet up again. I have no doubt we will. As they waved us goodbye, it seemed impossible to believe we hadn’t known them for years.
So many New Zealanders are aware that they live in a beautiful paradise and that creates a special bond both with the land and with others.
And, now, here I sit on a swing in a land where friendships deepen. Gore was only the first stop on our Southern trip. I was so busy seeing albatrosses in Dunedin, birds on Stewart Island, and generally soaking up the sun in the places we tramped (kiwi for hiked), there wasn’t much time to write. But now, before we head into our next adventure the moment has arrived.
The swing where I’m writing from belongs to Dick and Rosie. Terry met Dick several times in the past before Dick retired as a fishing guide. We had both stayed in the cottage he once rented to tourists but Covid made that impossible, and now the place was rented permanently. Dick invited us instead to stay in his home. Our good fortune! Once more we felt as though we had known this couple all our lives. As a thank you for their warm hospitality I cooked dinner one evening. I could have been in my own kitchen I was so comfortable. Once again, I felt like I was in the company of people I had known for a lifetime.
The kiwi magic of sharing and connecting is truly special. As one of my friends told me when we first arrived: “welcome back to paradise!”
More later, for now, it’s time to close my eyes and breathe in all the goodness that surrounds us. Until then, close your eyes and see if you can hear the lake lapping on its shores. Or the birds calling to you. Can you feel the warmth of the sun on your skin?
I wish you Aroha! Can you guess what that might mean?
Kathy Feest has a wealth of experience with writing, leadership and personal development mentoring. Kathy fulfilled her dream at the age of 41 and earned her first University degree; she went on to complete a PhD in Medical Education. She regularly runs self-development workshops at The Joy Club so keep your eyes on our events calendar for one of her next live sessions.