My Place in the World?
I could tell you…but it’s a secret. That’s part of why it’s my place in the world. Later…I’ll tell you later.
I fell in love with this isolated small town in New Zealand on my first visit there in 2014. This summer, I will be going for a 3rd time. Every time I go, I stay longer. Three days the first time. Ten days the second time. Five weeks this summer. The time in between visits is getting shorter. Our third visit will be the first time we’ll be there during New Zealand’s winter.
Normally, the population of this town is about 30 with around 30,000 annual visitors coming to enjoy its unique ecosystem and rugged coastal beauty. But not in the winter. In the winter, the town empties out. There will be at least one person there keeping things in working order, but at least 50% of the residents head off on their own holidays. Tourism drops off. I’ll soon find out whether or not it’s with good reason, but I’m not concerned. A good book, a glass of wine, and a wood-burning stove are all I need to be content. Even the biting sandflies cannot dampen my love of this secluded respite.
An Introvert’s Paradise
It’s not for everyone. There are no stores, no coffee shops, no restaurants, no busy roads. It’s pretty much a one road town. It is, in fact, a hamlet – smaller even than a village by definition.The nearest store and gas station are 30 km away. The oldest building dates back to the gold rush days of the mid 1800s when the town’s population reached a whopping 4,000. This historic building, originally a small hotel, is the quaint social heart of the community, where artists and traveling musicians come to play for guests in a room that barely seats 30. Many incredibly talented musicians have performed there, including the Kelly Family Band (Barelyshakes), violinist Fiona Pears & Band, and the Tattletale Saints. The room in which they play boasts wide plank wood floors and vertical wood slat walls reminiscent of the past.
A Nature Lover’s Respite
Rainforest, wetlands, ocean, glaciers – all can be seen from a single vantage point here. There is ample hiking, a coast full of the types of stones and driftwood you want to pick up and take home, and over 70 species of birds, including the elusive kiwi, which I have yet to spot, despite my efforts. Sure, there are tourist activities like kayaking and bout tours. That is, after all, how many residents earn a living. But it isn’t the tourist attractions that make it my place in the world. It’s the raw natural beauty, the lack of people, the night sky full of stars, the solitude, the quiet.
When I’m there, I’m in my place in the world. When I’m not there, I’m waiting to go back. I can easily recall how it feels there. To simply think of it is like placing a blanket of tranquility upon my shoulders.
New Zealand: You Can’t Go Wrong
In a broad sense, New Zealand is my place in the world. The whole country is spectacular. From Akaroa, Curio Bay, and Kaikoura to Oamaru, Queenstown, and Wanaka, New Zealand is a delight for the senses. The indescribably beautiful landscapes, the white wines, the farmers’ markets full of fresh produce and artisanal cheeses, and the peace and quiet of the South Island are only a few reasons to love it. I adore many of the countries I’ve visited, but none have stolen my heart quite so much as the sparsely populated and unimaginably beautiful New Zealand.
Ready to Explore?
If you’re more of an armchair traveler or just want to see some of New Zealand’s beauty, New Zealand from Above provides a stunning visual overview of the country in a four part series (watch for free with a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime). This documentary was produced by the amazing film production company gebruederbeetz. The Beetz brothers’ films have won many awards, and it’s easy to see why. Both the filming and musical scores are pure pleasure to experience and totally worth having to read subtitles if you don’t speak German. For a taste of their New Zealand series and my place in the world, here is a short clip of Episode 1: Fiords and Rain Forests.
If You Can’t Travel, Read…
Since it’s not quite time to pack my bags and journey back to my place in New Zealand, I’m transporting myself back in time to 1866 New Zealand with The Man Booker Prize 2013 winner, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I’ve only just started, so I can’t add my two cents to the reviews yet. So far, so good, but I’m biased.The audiobook is available for free with a 30-Day Free Trial of Audible. I had a quick listen to the sample, and the narrator is one of the rare audio book narrators whose voice I don’t dislike (not that I have much experience).
…or Go Op-Shopping
For now, I’m curled up with the actual book, weighty though it is with its 800+ pages. I read a bit this morning while enjoying a cup of coffee bought in Mexico in a mug bought at a thrift store in New Zealand on a coaster bought in Turkey on a table bought in Korea next to a book and Hydro Flask tumbler bought in the United States. As I was looking at the picture and realized that the 6 items represented came from 5 different countries, I couldn’t resist that sentence 🙃.Thrift stores (aka secondhand stores), or as they call them in NZ, Op-Shops, are yet another thing to love about New Zealand.
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