KIWI BIRD CALLING – COLUMN #5 FROM NEW ZEALAND

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Someone told me the other day that I ‘have a real zest for life’. Zest!? All that immediately sprung to mind was oranges and lemons, but in all seriousness and upon a tad more deliberation, this really touched me. Because shouldn’t an appreciation of life – and all that goes with it – be the ultimate goal for us all? “Yeah, yeah. Easier said that done” I hear ya. But bear with me.

The way of life in New Zealand has truly gotten under my skin. I’ve slowed down. I now take the time to scrunch my toes into the sand and gaze up at the stars with a glass of wine, without constantly checking an electronic device or watching the clock. I love the culture and scenery out here – from the vast green landscapes and the overzealous crickets, to the uncensored morning radio and cheery kiwi accent.

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I think over the last few years so many of us have stopped properly processing the world around us because we are often experiencing it through a lens of sorts – be that a smart phone, television or computer screen. I was on a dolphin watching tour recently up in the Bay of Islands, and while I took a few photos at the beginning…

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for the remaining half an hour I simply observed the beautiful creatures in their natural habitat through my own eyes – rather than through that of a camera. This is incredibly important. As most of you know, I’m a keen photographer, but what I can’t stand is seeing people stuck behind a device – never genuinely experiencing the moment. Do you really need to video that firework display? No my friend, you do not. It will look ten times better in the sky than on your screen a few days later.

Stop and look at the beauty around you. After reading this, go outside and just walk or sit for ten minutes without looking at any technology. Soak up the now. If we all had a zest for life, the world could be a much better place I believe. Too much downward gazing leads to ignorance (and a hunchback for that matter). Not ideal.

I think it was my parents who instilled this ethos into me. Min and DD, as they have come to be known over the years by family and friends, are perfect examples of this attitude. Like anyone, they’ll be the first to admit that they have their foibles, but it’s their positivity that has made them such good role models.

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They love to travel and always go the extra mile to make people feel special. They are 99% of the time the last ones up at a party, dancing the night away and drinking raspberry cosmopolitans into the night. They support and encourage, whether that’s in pursuing our careers or helping anyone who’s had a rough day. My dad is still running half marathons and my mum can still do a headstand. Now that’s mettle for ya!

They recently came to visit Dave and me, and boy did we make some memories along the way.  For three weeks we explored the beaches, vineyards, cities and lakes of New Zealand. Our first stop was Nelson in South Island. I flew down a few hours before and waited outside on the high viewing gallery to see their plane wizz by on the runway. It was identical to the old Guernsey airport arrivals lookout on a summer’s day – blustery and hot, with a perfect view. After long hugs, we piled our bags into a tiny rental car and set off to our first AirBnb house (we used AirBnb most of the way). With a private pool and a stunning view out into the nearby bay – we thought we had died and gone to holiday-home heaven.

We picked our own mussels along the shorelines of Stephen’s Bay and gathered pears from our garden for an early evening feast.

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The next day saw us hiking part of the Abel Tasman National Park coastal track where we passed over swing bridges, paddled in deep emerald lagoons and ambled along vast, white sandy beaches.

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For anyone visiting South Island, this is a must. We did the ‘Ultimate Abel Tasman Experience’ through Marahau Water Taxis which allowed us to do a four hour walk and see the rest of the coastal park – penguins and all – on a boat, which was perfect.

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After a few days down south, we headed to Picton where we boarded a conventional ferry that would take us to the North Island (www.bluebridge.co.nz) in only three hours. Multiple ferries leave at all hours during the day, there are comfy sofas, a cinema and no delays despite the minor storm we hit. It powered through and we even arrived a tad early. No fiddle faddle, no fuss. Just good, old-fashioned efficiency.

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Wellington saw us drinking richly brewed coffee  and making a quick pit stop at the Te Papa Museum which, if you’re going to do one museum in NZ, this is the one to go for. It’s the national museum and is highly interactive and engaging. We stayed just off buzzy Cuba Street in a quaint weatherboard cottage.

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Wellington is famous for its coffee so caffeine enthusiasts will get some serious satisfaction here. We drank heady cocktails at The Library where old books lined the walls and velvet booths made for an intimate evening of family natter. Sea salt and caramel fudge martini anyone?

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We spent a night among the art deco streets of Napier where we visited the oldest winery in NZ – the Mission Estate.

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At only $7 for seven tastings (about £3.20) – we certainly weren’t complaining! Next stop was Lake Taupo where we completed the mammoth 22km Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

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Excruciating and beautiful – it’s an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life. At one point it felt like you could be walking through the deep, red craters of Mars. The air is thin and the scenes go on for miles and miles. It was totally epic. We soaked in natural hot springs, cycled the lake shores, gazed at towering waterfalls and spent our evenings gazing out at the blue waters from another beautiful AirBnb property.

The next day we mastered the art of caving in the infamous Waitomo Caves. Luckily, we didn’t encounter the giant eel that resides under the waterways. Eddie can get a little inquisitive at times I hear… Thankfully he was feeling shy that day.

We wanted to show my parents Hamilton, which has been our home for the past six months. It was great to be able to take them out in our temporary hometown and dine in our favourite Mexican restaurant, aptly named ‘Mexico’. Margaritas to die for and hot sauces galore. My vibe! The Coromandel Peninsula was up next where we walked to the beautiful Cathedral Cove

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…then watched surfers on Hahei beach. This place, although remote, is something special.

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Our last stop was the Bay of Islands. We stayed in Paihia which is the perfect launch pad for island trips, helicopter rides, paddle boarding  – whatever floats your boat or, in our case, your stomachs. Three weeks in – we were sporting considerable wine and steak  babies. We visited Urapukapuka Island a few times (through a company called ‘Explore’) where you can explore to your heart’s content and lounge in one of several sandy bays. Very similar to Herm in fact. Less chilly swims involved however.

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It was almost time for my parents to leave. We had an hour left in Auckland and in the indulgent spirit of the holiday – we treated ourselves to an ice cream at Giapo and reminisced on all the good times had by all. End as you have been doing all a long I say.

Love, the kiwi bird.

“I believe when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade…then try to find someone whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.”
Ron White

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If you would like to see more of my adventures then follow me on Instagram and Twitter @JessamyBaudains

For all other enquiries you can reach me at jessamy.baudains@gmail.com

[This column was printed in The Guernsey Press on 5th March 2016]

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