Tuesday, June 4, 2013

New Zealand Interlude

People travel to New Zealand for many reasons nowadays.  In the distant past, people went to New Zealand for land and opportunity.  Extreme sports have been a big draw for a few decades now.  Then came Lord of the Rings, and now everyone wants to visit Middle Earth. Me, I go to New Zealand whenever I can, to visit my family there.

A tui singing above my nephew's backyard

The amazing thing about New Zealand to me is not that there are beautiful places to explore, but that there are beautiful places everywhere you turn.  As one of my sisters said, when we visit New Zealand we don’t have to go out of our way to see beautiful sites.  There are beautiful sites in our family’s back yards.

A few of the thousands of sailboats around Auckland

New Zealand's restaurants are stellar; this fabulous fish was served at DiVino Bistro in Auckland.

A geologist's delight!
Approaching Auckland from the water

I met one of my nephews for lunch in downtown Auckland, and got my first glimpse this visit (this is my third trip to New Zealand) of the reason it’s called the City of Sails.  Probably every other adult in Auckland owns a sailboat.  And with the most ragged coastline I’ve ever seen, there are loads of spots to anchor your sailboat.

Waiheke Beach
River's Edge

Strange and Wonderful Rocks

On my first trip to this tiny country, I was amazed at how strange the trees looked.  This country had the aura of being someplace on Planet Earth, but it didn’t look like anyplace I’d been before.  The otherworldliness is partly caused by the unusual plants that grow in this isolated habitat.  It might also be caused by the almost violent upthrust of the land out of the sea, and the lack of centuries being smoothed by the glaciers that groomed my familiar New England landscape.  Juxtaposed with the raw geology and the unknown flora is a sweetly familiar fauna: sheep, and cows, dot the rough green hills, so you know it must be Earth. 

My eldest sister has lived in New Zealand for most of the over 45 years she’s been married to a New Zealander.  Recently she came back to Massachusetts for a high school reunion where she found herself repeatedly asked to explain why she’d moved to New Zealand.  Such a conscientious person, she tried to explain the long sequence of events, the incremental steps taken toward making this her home!  My explanation for why she moved here is simple:  because she could.  For most of us, impossibility is the main reason we have not moved to this idyllic island country.

The pace of life here is slower, sometimes annoyingly so to the young, who’d like a brisker pace.  When I come here, I am able to breathe, to sleep deeply, to just absorb my surroundings and enjoy each moment.  It’s partly that I don’t make plans beyond hanging out with my family when I’m here.  It’s also partly because New Zealand is so very far away from other lands, even Australia, that it’s not infected by the bustle of countries more attuned to the world’s commercial heart.  I felt about ten years younger after my ten days there.  Good, because then I’ll live long enough to visit New Zealand about ten more times.

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