Out of Breath and Full of ‘Maze. This is New Zealand

New Zealand was pretty overwhelming. Yep, I’ve been there before, yep it’s just a country, but blah, there you are, I’m struggling to find the right words.

But the geek part of my brain is aware I’m two countries behind with my blogs, so I’m going to heed a dear friend’s advice, ‘Stop making excuses!’ and attempt to focus on one thing and try and make it worthwhile.

But if you could imagine me flipping a coin to pick just one fantastic thing out of a month long trip of fabulousness and emotion, that’d be great. If you could also bear in mind the true meaning of words like, ‘wonderful’, ‘breathtaking’, etc. that’d be glorious, thanks.

Penny in the air…

Moetapu Bay. In the South Island. With the pet sit, and the wine.

Moetapu Bay was about a six hour drive from Christchurch. It was quite a detour from the quicker route through State Highway 1 but that was still impassable after an earthquake in Kaikoura. The parts of the journey I didn’t spend gaping at the scenery and singing along to Adele, were taken up with arguing with the SatNav about not trying to get to SH1. It took a mere 3 hours for it to give up.

The off-key singing (mine) was punctuated with regular gasps of, ‘Wow!’ and, ‘Look at that mountain!’ and, ‘Can you believe we get to be here?’

The term highway is a bit misleading though. In New Zealand it means one lane each way, often with gradients to make your car whimper, frequent series’ of 90 degree bends bracketed by a perpendicular rock-face on one side and a plunge into breath-taking beauty on the other. Remember what I said about those words? Take a sharp breath half way in and just stop. Hold it two seconds. That feeling in your chest? That’s what I mean.

We eventually arrived at the house sit just as it went completely dark. This coincided with me realising that I had no signal on my phone, I couldn’t remember the house number, and darkness in the mountains without streetlights is really bloody dark. There were a few frantic minutes of praying to the email server gremlins, trying to divine the number through sheer willpower, and finally a small light bobbing through the darkness and a Kiwi accent saying, ‘Hello? Is that Charlie? We were getting worried!’

Our hosts ushered us into their beautiful home, plied us with wine, and we got acquainted with Molly and Hettie, our charges for the next few days.

We had a lovely meal and I cried with laughter at some of their own escapades from pet sitting in the UK.

I suddenly realised the upside of terrifying darkness and dragged my travel buddy outside to look at the stars. Orion, Southern Cross, and so many more, reliably beaming down. I’ve seen them from many different parts of the globe now, but it always makes me feel centred and happy.

The next morning I was awake early and went to walk Molly and Hettie with one of their owners. I always like checking where I’m meant to go as my sense of direction is laughable. Even, ‘just down the lane,’ or ‘round the block,’ can cause difficulties. I wish I was kidding.

I was treated to an early morning view across a tranquil bay. Cossetted by mountains, mist hanging over the water, the squelch of my Converse in the wet sand and the pattering of the dogs’ feet over the shells.
For the next few days I opened my eyes each morning to the perfect view of trees in the foreground, water and mountains stretching into the distance, boats resting on the water, and absolute stillness in the air.

We took a trip on the Pelorus Mailboat, which traditionally takes mail and groceries to houses on the Sounds which are inaccessible by road, but also does day trips on the weekend. It coasted gracefully through the Marlborough Sounds, and came with proper tea in a proper mug and a free spontaneous dolphin visit. The sun actually sparkled on the water, making it seem as though a thousand camera flashes were going off.

We were nearly late for a wine tour as I let out an involuntary yelp and demanded a u-turn on a hairpin bend just to look at the view.
It was worth it. Mountains coasting down either side, perfectly framing the mirror of water below. It stretched into the distance like something out of a film. All it needed was a young Daniel Radcliffe on a Hippogriff.

The wine tour was brilliant. We went to four different wineries, and met some great people! At least, I think it was four. There was definitely also a chocolate factory, and I bought some jewellery as well as two bottles of wine. It was a pretty successful day.

There were days of reading, drinking coffee on the deck and the little balcony set into the roof of the house. Walking the dogs and finding ‘pretties’ on the beach. Evenings drinking wine and playing cards and Cluedo.

Speaking to my mum on the phone and getting weirdly choked up as I tried to find words for this magical place. This was the first time it happened in New Zealand, and probably where I felt it most strongly. An overwhelming emotional reaction just to the scenery around me. It was hard to take it all in and believe I was actually there to appreciate it. I had words like wonderful, amazing, and awesome, but they just didn’t seem enough. It was something more than words or what my eyes could see. I guess I find something spiritual in the vastness and staid grandeur of a mountain range which nothing else evokes.

Over the next short month I didn’t stop trying to pin down the words, but I did learn to pause and embrace the feeling and enjoy it. Stand, breathe in down to my toes and try to imbibe some of that ancient peace. My photography skills don’t begin to do it justice, and the words I need to use are heard so frequently they’ve lost their meaning.

North Island or South, a city striving forward after a major earthquake, or a tiny coastal idyll, New Zealand is a place to be experienced. Preferably with a nice Sauvignon Blanc.


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