There’s no place like home, it’s true — and in some respects it’s sad that our five months’ sojourn in our home country of New Zealand has come to an end. It’s been full of time with friends and family; housesitting adventures; Shakespeare; hiking; weddings; and yes, a glass or two of wine.
After six months in rural Panama, I was keen to jump into city life again. We started with a month in rural Australia (well, not too rural, it’s a farm just out of Melbourne) visiting my sister, Anna; her husband, Mat; and their two young sons, Henry and Leo. Henry was excited about our arrival — we’d had a great holiday with him in Spain a year or so previously — but Leo was unconvinced. After all, we hadn’t seen him for two years, when he was just one year old. Luckily, we won him over, and by the time we had to go, the boys were campaigning for us to stay on indefinitely.
Just ten days later, the whole family was in Napier on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, to celebrate my brother’s wedding — a beautiful day and a great trip in general. It was the first of the road trips that were to colour our stay in the country.
We’d planned to spend New Years with our friends Janine and Ange, but they were heading south to climb Mt Cook, and our housesitting commitments wouldn’t let us get away for long enough to justify the travel time. Instead, we drove to Russell, where Craig’s mum and stepdad are building a holiday home — almost a holiday home complex really, as it includes two small cabins in addition to the main building. Since the cabins were completed, we got to try them out both over New Year’s and several weeks later when we returned with our friend Sherry Ott.
Another northern highlight was the day trip to Matakana we took with my dad. He hadn’t driven north of the Harbour Bridge for years (flying’s a different story) so we got to introduce him to the farmers’ market and our favourite wineries, as well as having a delicious lunch at the Puhoi Valley Cheese Co.
In addition to our Napier trip, we also spent a couple of weeks in Papamoa, housesitting for our friend Angie. Highlights were a damp outdoor Shakespeare performance in Tauranga, and catching up with our friends Dave, Katrina, and Tracey.
We revisited Port Waikato for a weekend a couple of weeks later, which stood out for its sublimely relaxing feeling — it’s so good to get away with a big group of friends and do not much at all.
The biggest trip south, though, was moving my dad to Gisborne. I’d spent the previous few weeks selling his furniture online and helping him clean up, and one weekend in February we hired a van, carefully stacked his remaining belongings in it, and drove for about eight hours. Problems with the previous tenant and a clash with Craig’s free weekends (he was heading to Israel the following week so we couldn’t change moving day) meant that the apartment wasn’t ready for Dad to move straight in.
We’d booked an AirBnB for the two interim weeks, but found it wasn’t suitable when we let ourselves in and found a person sleeping in one of the bedrooms. The owner of the house, as it turns out, but it certainly wasn’t the private apartment we were expecting! Luckily the Top 10 Holiday Park had a perfect solution in its two-bedroom apartments, and Dad had a pleasant stay there before moving in to his real apartment two weeks later.
It wasn’t all trips away — we also had some great times in Auckland: Shakespeare at the pop-up Globe first with my friend Rhi and later with my mum, a trip to Waiheke Island for Tracey’s (gorgeous) wedding, numerous evenings at friends’ places, hikes, and time at the beach… it was full of adventures.
Too soon, our time in the North Island was up and we flew south to spend a couple of weeks with Craig’s dad Norrie and step mum Anne. They were in the process of buying a new house and putting the old one on the market, but there was plenty of time for dinners out and a trip to Hanmer Springs between open homes. Sadly, the largest pool at the Hanmer Springs thermal pool complex was closed, but a long hike in the forest and a good game of mini golf made up for that a bit.
We’d stayed in New Zealand longer than planned in order to walk the Milford Track over Easter. Janine had done a stellar job of organising things, and though the first day was a little stressful (Mara’s bag didn’t make it on the flight from Auckland with her; waiting for it cut timings close) we all had an amazing time. The path was generally wide and not too steep; the birdsong and plant life were stunning, and the company was second to none.
Plus, we had amazing weather in a part of the country famed for high rainfall — not much more than light drizzle on days two and three. Craig even managed to get through without injuring himself, which is an achievement based on his previous track record of long walks. My new boots (bought in Melbourne especially) paired with some cool new insoles I’d been sent to try out, ensured that my reputation of having miraculous feet was unharmed.
Of course, we had to celebrate such a successful walk, so we spent a few days in Queenstown afterwards, taking in a boat trip, an onsen pool experience, a trip to Arrowtown, and a fair bit of wine tasting.
Two days in Lake Hayes with Norrie and Anne, and a few more days in Christchurch rounded off our New Zealand season, and we were off once more to Melbourne to visit Anna and Mat.
Anna was in Bendigo for a conference when we arrived, so we picked up Henry and Leo and drove north for a satisfying day of playgrounds and a visit to the Dragon Museum. We ended up spending quite a bit of time with the boys, actually — later in the week Anna and Mat had another conference to head to, and left the boys with us for three days. This went surprisingly well, and Henry resurrected his campaign for us to stay.
But, while there’s no place like home — whether that’s our home country or the family farm (as Anna likes to call it), there’s also no place like the road. So that’s where we’re headed: back to Europe for a northern summer. And we’re looking forward to seeing where this new road takes us… maybe we’ll see you there!