We’re on the plane from Christchurch to Sydney, after a mixed time here. It is an outstandingly beautiful country, and one that needs more time to really appreciate, preferably on foot rather than from a car window. I am still kicking myself for listening to the enthusiastic Trailfinders guy, who talked me out of 3 weeks in the South Island in favor of 1 week in the north and 2 in the South. The amount of time we had to drive for the sporadic rewards of the North were just not worth it, and I would have loved that extra week in the South to roam around more, and to have be able to relax a little into the places we visited.
Culturally, New Zealand is an interesting mix. Part laid-back, part super-aggressive (don’t EVER think a car would stop of slow down for a pedestrian unless forced, and don’t expect hotel receptionists to be welcoming), it is a country in transition back to its Maori roots. For most of the trip I thought that the country’s Maori side was mainly packaged up for tourists as we saw little evidence of it beyond museums and ‘authentic villages’. We watched the movie ‘Whale Rider’ and the resurgence of culture in the film seemed like wishful thinking. That was before we were lucky enough to go to the bi-annual Maori festival, where thousands of Maoris showcased extraordinary adherence to their heritage (more on this in another post). However, for much of the time the country alternately reminded me of England (culture, 1970’s food choices), or the Texas hill country/ Scotland (scenery, insularity of the small towns). This isn’t New Zealand’s fault, but in my quest for cultural dissonance, this didn’t really fit the brief.
Still, we’ve had great adventures, learned how to carve jade and bone, and had a gentle re-entry to our year of travel, after a few very easy, and much-appreciated weeks back home. I will come back here for another trip with Lou, and we will walk, and walk through this country’s beauty.