KIWI BIRD CALLING – COLUMN #3 FROM NEW ZEALAND

This morning I opened my chocolate advent calendar stretched out on a sun lounger, Bob Marley hummed in the background, the smell of sun cream wafted through the air and there was absolutely no sign of a white Christmas ‘just like the ones I used to know’.

Now I’ve heard about the joys of Christmas in the sun. Heck, I even have friends who have vouched for its greatness. So when I told them I’d be in New Zealand for this period, they tried to persuade me of its charms. They reminisced about boarding planes with suitcases stuffed full of carefully wrapped pressies ham bbqs and sharades on the beach. Call me a Northern hemisphere traditionalist, but I’ve always been one for tucking into the customary festive roast on the big day, wearing questionable Christmas jumpers and snuggling up by the fire with a Baileys or five.

But I’ll try anything once… and I must say, I could really get used to having a tan in December. Having mince pies for sale during bikini season does however, present a bit of a dilemma.

We’re heading down to Lake Taupo for the holiday period which will be a much deserved break for David who recently passed his first big flight test. I have also been pretty busy, spending the last few weeks racing around the region on various video shoots. That sounds glamorous doesn’t it? Well I worked 60 hours last week so while it’s an incredibly fun job, the down time couldn’t come sooner. It looks like we’ll be having that big bbq on Christmas day! I’m putting my foot down about the Baileys though.

A few weeks ago saw me celebrate my 25th birthday. Woops… I know a lady shouldn’t impart her age but turning a quarter of a century is a pretty big milestone and I feel proud of my 25 stripes. Time does fly though doesn’t it? It feels like only yesterday that I was 15 years old – having sleepovers with girlfriends, making up dance routines to my Britney Spears’ cassette tape and sporting a very questionable side fringe. So much has happened in the last ten years, from exams and university to meeting ‘the one’ and being in New Zealand today but I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe the fringe…

We’ve been well and truly making the most of the summer period out here. Most of our free days have been spent exploring hidden beaches, clear rivers and discovering new walking tracks. We recently travelled to the east coast to an area called the Coromandel Peninsula. It is stunningly beautiful – with white cliffs and the sand to match. We trekked along dusty paths and clambered over large boulders to two beaches – New Chums Beach and Cathedral Cove, both of which were worth the hike. Another beach, Hahei, was straight out of Conde Naste Traveller – no need for Photoshop here. I am still amazed by the diverse landscape, you can understand why so many people relocate to New Zealand permanently. You can ski one day and have your toes in the sand the next. Yes please!

Last week we visited a place called the ‘Blue Springs’, where we trekked along the Te Waihou Walkway which lies alongside the upper reaches of the Waihou River. The actual Blue Spring is internationally acclaimed, its water taking over 100 years to reach it from the Mamaku Plateau. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, completely breath-taking – literally. The water was only 11 degrees! We sucked it up but boy-o-boy was it chilly. You’d think I’d be better trained from Shell Beach swims over the last two and a half decades.

While New Zealand is a big country, being based in central North Island enables us to reach a lot of ‘hot spots’ within a few hours. And those hours of driving through new towns, untouched landscapes and open roads gives you time to think.

Something that came to me the other day is probably a thought that has come to you from time to time while travelling – in one form or another. You might have been gazing out of a busy train carriage, staring out of a tiny plane window or just strolling along the west coast of Guernsey on a breezy December afternoon. It was this: whatever you do in life and wherever life leads you, there is an infinite amount of new beginnings and novel experiences to be had. If you feel trapped in a certain lifestyle, outlook, job, relationship – anything, then make a journey. That journey could be to the gym, to another continent or even into the pages of a book. It could even mean to the shops to buy the ingredients for mince pies. Keep moving forward and searching for the ‘new’.

Everything out here is new (not only the hot Christmas!) and it’s those out-of-the box experiences that will form your most precious memories – the ones you will impart one stormy evening to your grandchildren over a glass of sherry. For you that is, not the grandchildren. I know that’s what my nana did anyway.

Speaking of storytelling, while out hunting for a Christmas tree the other day, we came across a Christmas tree farm where you could choose yours from rows of thousands of little green sentinels. We got chatting with the British owners who told us how they had been passing the farm one day a few years ago during a short trip to New Zealand. They had turned to each other and said ‘why not’? The rest was history and now they run the whole thing! Now that, as Kate Winslet says in my favourite festive film ‘The Holiday’, is gumption!

Until next time.

Happy Christmas and see you in 2016.

Love The Kiwi Bird

“Go outside. Don’t tell anyone and don’t bring your phone. Start walking and keep walking until you no longer know the road like the palm of your hand, because we walk the same roads day in and day out, to the bus and back home and we cease to see. We walk in our sleep and teach our muscles to work without thinking and I dare you to walk where you have not yet walked and I dare you to notice. Don’t try to get anything out of it, because you won’t. Don’t try to make use of it, because you can’t. And that’s the point. Just walk, see, sit down if you like. And be. Just be, whatever you are with whatever you have, and realise that that is enough to be happy. There’s a whole world out there, right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it.”
Charlotte Eriksson, Swedish author.

This column appeared in The Guernsey Press on December 23rd 2015

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