Summer is my favourite season.
I like all of it; brightness of summer mornings, big open skies, lazy afternoons, scented summer nights … and of course long days of holidays when each and every hour belongs to me to do (or not) with it as I please. For a limited number of days at least.
In New Zealand summer arrives in December and that means that most of us combine end of the year festivities with annual holidays, aka – BBB (Beach, Batch, Barbeque)!
While there is certainly no shortage of beautiful beaches in New Zealand either by the lakes, rivers, or sea, batches and barbeques have undergone some transformations over the years and are now somewhat fleshier with price-tags to match. Still, as most Kiwis know – no price tag should be allowed to stand in a way of proper Kiwiana summer and to that end camping grounds (either organized or freedom ones) remain popular and well-attended as I observed on my recent trip to South Island.
Even though I spent my early years and couple of more recent ones on the North Island, South Island remains very special to me. Not only because I lived there for more than ten years, but also because my daughter still lives there as a student at Otago University in Dunedin.
And so it is no wonder I could hardly wait to finish work on Christmas Eve and board the plane to take me from Wellington to Dunedin. Seeing my daughter and my two dear friends waiting for me at the air port in Dunedin was truly wonderful! We had a lovely Christmas in Dunedin, city with strong Scottish heritage, breathtakingly beautiful peninsula and home to New Zealand’s oldest University. While once the centre of gold-rush economy, nowadays the city is dominated by its University and income its generate.
After Christmas we travelled further South to visit picturesque little township of Roxburgh nestled in truly amazing region of Central Otago, famous for its landscapes, bike-treks, stone fruit orchards and mighty Clutha River on which one of the earliest hydroelectric dens was built. Our friends who own and operate local hotel – Goldfields, extended to us their warm hospitality including trip to nearby rodeo in Millers Flat and ever popular Pinders Pond so named after the original owners of the land.
It was a hot and dusty day almost custom made for the local cowboys and cowgirls to show off their skills some of which were rather impressive! Not to mention unmistakably masculine odour; smell of horses, human sweat, dust, tobacco and leather. I can almost hear my grandfather next to me. And in some of those tall, green-blue eye boys with broad shoulders and large, working hands – I can almost see him.
After few more days basking in the company of my daughter (yes by that time she had rather enough of her mother constantly trying to hug her, like hugs and kisses can be bottled up and taken with me -:)) I left for Christchurch, city I once lived for a long time, including horrible times of earthquakes and where I have some of my dearest friends.
Before the earthquakes, city was known as a ‘Garden City’ for its beautiful gardens and overall very English atmosphere including punting on Avon River. Nowadays city is still very much under construction, but large and significant developments can be observed everywhere.
To say that I had a lovely time with my friends in Canterbury would not do the justice, perhaps ‘wild times’ would be better description!
The last leg of my journey took me from Christchurch to Picton via magnificent Coastal Pacific Scenic Route, courtesy of Kiwi Railway. The train journey took five hours and that means five hours of watching truly wonderful scenery of bushy hills and rugged Pacific coastline. The train’s open carriage provides opportunity to really enjoy the views as you travel very close to Pacific Ocean.
Once in Picton it is only a short walk to board the ferry across the Cook Strait. At the peril of sounding like a promotional tourist brochure, I must say that sailing across the Cook Strait is absolutely amazing. While I have crossed it before, every time is different; the beauty of Marlborough Sounds, wind that always blows across the Strait, (known as ‘Roaring Forties’) smell of sea and then approach to Wellington’s harbour after three hours journey.
Disembarking from the ferry, I thought how wonderful it all was and how fleeting.
Familiar streets of the city came into view and I knew that another year is now ahead of me … year, I decided is to be of solitude and writing. But of that – another time.