This is part three of three. The full text which I’m calling ‘The Long and Winding Road – Prologue’ is too long to publish in a single post, so it has been broken into three parts. Last week I published part two: This Calls For A Spotify Playlist. Today is part three: A Tourist in NZ.
A few days later I found myself discussing all things Covid 19. The conversation traversed the topics of hand sanitation, hygiene standards, social distancing, contact tracing and how wonderful life in Aotearoa was under Alert 2. The hysteria of being able to line up for hours in our vehicle to get McDonalds and KFC had died down and it was generally accepted that while we were all sick of our own cooking, Alert Level 2 was far better than Level’s 3 and 4. After all, we now had takeaway shops back, we could stock-up on alcohol, extend our bubbles, use QR codes and send kids back to school. With the number of new Covid 19 cases dropping by the day and local travel opening up, it seemed New Zealand was the place to be. I must admit, I was more than ready to spend a few hours wandering along a beach, swimming in the ocean or roaming through the wilderness. There were towns, forests, mountains, lakes and beaches to see and I was just a little bit excited.
Later that same day, sometime after 6pm in the evening, I found myself listing potential ideas for upcoming blog posts while the evening news droned on in the background. I try if at all possible to avoid the 6pm news on TV. I find it repetitive, onerous and completely exhausting to sit through. Despite my misgivings about the nightly bulletin, I watched as they cut to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. In an effort to stimulate the local economy she was telling everyone to take a local holiday. She had received a letter from a lady called Judith who was looking forward to getting a haircut and seeing Aotearoa once out of lockdown.
“my message to everyone is to go and get that haircut and see your own backyard” she said.
I assumed she meant this figuratively and not literally. Following the Covid 19 lockdown I’d seen quite enough of my own backyard over the last few months and I didn’t have any desire to stay put if I could help it. The possibilities started to spark in my mind. I could improve my knowledge of my own country’s identity by taking a look at it through fresh eyes. My mind whirled, I could write and photoblog about my own backyard. After all, the Prime Minister was telling me to do so and it didn’t seem right to argue with her. I would call it, Jacinda’s Law.
For the briefest of periods I carefully considered what this would mean. Clearly I couldn’t just take off on an endless grand adventure, that would be ludicrous and totally impracticable. For one thing my job prevented this. But, I could use Jacinda’s Law as a sort of guide when time allowed. Where possible I would headout into my own backyard and take stock of this great country called Aotearoa, reconnecting with its identity. Are we still a nation obsessed with Fresh Up, Fush & Chups, Buzzy Bees, The Pavlova, Paua Shells, The Edmonds Cookbook, L & P, The All Blacks, Gumboots, Jandels, Hokey Pokey Ice Cream with a No 8 Wire mentality? Are these items redolent of New Zealand life or just of an urban myth sold off to tourists who drive on the wrong side of the road and decorate bushes with loo paper.
There were of course some obvious obstacles that would make this more challenging than it first appeared. In the South Island for example, The Southern Alps would clearly limit my travel options. It isn’t possible to continuously zigzag across the country at will as it is in Britain. There are only four points where you can cross the Alps via road and often they are closed in winter. To drive from Dunedin on the East Coast to Hokitkia on the West Coast is a distance of 548 kilometers with a driving time of nearly 7 hours. An alternative option is to travel through Haast. This is somewhat closer at a distance of only 400 kilometres and 5 hours driving time. Another potential obstacle is the small matter of Aotearoa being split into three main islands. The North and South Islands and Stewart Island. These geographical challenges meant I would have to keep my travels local, stopping at all the small incidental places around Dunedin that I usually drive past without giving a second thought too. Then, I would venture further afield out into the vast beyond of Aeoteroa during school holidays, long weekends and when time permitted and regularly blog about my travels.
The Prime Minister had clearly given me a sign and who am I to argue with someone who has successfully led a country through a mass shooting, a volcanic eruption and a global pandemic all in 12 months.
I particularly liked the idea of rediscovering all the nooks and crannies of Dunedin and Otago that I had forgotten about. I also liked the thought of being able to answer people when they asked me why I was doing this. I would look them in the eye and then adjust my gaze over their shoulder to the horizon, tilt my head back slightly and say with a look of thoughtful confusion and a touch of daring, ‘because Jacinda told me too’.
There was also a long weekend coming up, Queens Birthday, and a chance to rebook a scheduled autumn trip to Arrowtown. The timing seemed almost perfect.
But before that late autumn adventure, I had an ipod to re-find, a Spotify playlist to adjust, hundreds of kilometres ahead of me in my weekly commute and a chance visit to the small nook of Evansdale Glen.
Winter sunshine, Roslyn Village, Dunedin