We drove almost 500 hundred kilometres yesterday, down the east coast from Dunedin to Invercargill via the Catlins, stopping to walk an old favourite bush walk of mine at Tautuku. It was raining but that was entirely appropriate, as school camps there were all about rain and wet woollen outdoor gear and that drying room where clothes went to recover after some time in the rain.
But honestly, New Zealand smells so damn good in the rain. There's the peat of the forest floor, the various ferns, the sea or the river, the stones under-foot … all of it, wet, is New Zealand to me.
I was driver, as we're left-side of the road here but I was lovely, stopping where ever Gert wanted to stop. Stopping where ever I wanted to stop too.
The landscape … well, let's just say I was like a very proud mother, showing her longed-for baby off to the stranger. I love this country. I love the 'ta-dah!' moments it offers up. This beach, that mountain, the view .. there were so very many 'ta-dah!' moments yesterday.
And as we wandered through Invercargill, quite behind schedule as we searched for my Nana's house … a childhood favourite destination of mine; then searching for another (affordable) 32GB usb stick for photo-backup (because we're taking millions of photographs), I let those memories of long ago wash over me.
Our little red car is going well but needs its tank filled every 400km, just to be sure, as the gauge doesn't work. Things got a tiny little bit worrisome as we made the journey between Riverton and Tuatapere … with me uncertain about the 'where' of the next petrol station.
The south coast of the South Island offered us an empty highway, exquisite seascapes, and great stands of wind-twisted trees ...bent low by the force of powerful winds. We stopped often.
Then we turned the car west and headed for the mountains and Manapouri. Gert pulled out his camera and occasionally took photographs from the passenger seat, in-between stops for beautiful scenes. It's stunning out there. I'm not sure how one returns to Belgium but that's for another day.
We arrived at Hunter and Clare's place just after 6pm, and it was so damn good to see them after so long. They had come to us in Belgium but I used to live in Te Anau and we became friends here. This is one of those places where I do believe I might have left a piece of my soul.
Hunter is a long-time local in this wild corner of New Zealand. I have an interview with him that I would like to write up over the winter ahead. He and Clare have created a small paradise here but even that is an entire story I need to write up with photographs.
We caught up over a delicious homemade, (homegrown, actually) venison stew, in their renovated (since last time I was there) dining room. We talked, then they invited us down to the lake … The Lake … where we ooohed and ahhhed over the sun going down in the mountains.
Bedtime arrived and voila, they had yet another stunning surprise in store. We are staying on their property, in their exquisite (truly exquisite) little self-sufficient B&B cabin. We are here!
As I type this, I'm sitting out on the verandah (or deck, as they call them here in New Zealand). It's 8.45am and the landscape is exploding with the most beautiful birdsong. We have heard the Bellbird and the Magpies chiming away and now … now there's this chorus of multiple birds. I believe this might be there 'happy to be alive'chorus.
I opened the curtains to trees and mountains and sunshine and now … well, we must head out and explore. Mustn't we ...
I'll leave you with an image of the wind-twisted pines of yesterday, down on the south coast of the South Island of New Zealand.