I was born in Palmerston North, New Zealand (NZ). I have no real memories of the time between my birth and our departure when I was 2, but photos with the family cat – we called it ‘Boozy’ to my mother’s chagrin – trigger feelings of vague familiarity.
But no photos are needed to assist my recall of some of the top New Zealand tourist attractions we subsequently visited on two family holidays! Although I was still very young, my memories are crystal clear.
Yeah, so what?
As a general rule, childhood memories are dodgy at best, especially after reaching adulthood, where the unreliability factor increases exponentially with every passing year. But while I was 7 or 8 on our last visit, and I can’t clearly recall the logistics of the trip, my memories of New Zealand’s scenic wonders are scarily reliable – unlike many other memories from that age!!
But who says those memories are reliable? Glad you asked! I checked the NZ Tourism website to see if I’d got the place names right – and the photos almost exactly match what I recall!
What’s so amazing the memories have lasted for 40-odd many several years??
Rotorua’s incredible boiling mud, and stories of both animal and human deaths in its seething depths certainly made an impression. My natural tendency to ghoulishness may well have been fed by these grisly tales, although I don’t recall being afraid. And the steam that rose from the ground – WOW! That certainly made show and tell when I got back to school! And I certainly knew which mental image to call on to match ‘double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble …’ – somewhat appropriate, given the Scottish connection with New Zealand’s heritage!
The Franz Josef glacier was a disappointment to my young literal mind – why wouldn’t a frozen river be much colder? Scott of the Antarctic was surrounded by howling blizzards and swirling snow – so why weren’t we? I was devastated that normal clothing was more than adequate. However, as my first conscious memory of snow and ice, I recall the rifle-cracks of ice sheeting off into the meltwater (see? Geography IS worthwhile!!) and my disbelief that ice wasn’t pure white like in the pictures …
And what can I say about Milford Sound that hasn’t already been said? The scary depth of the water, the spectacular peaks, the awesome scenery of the cruise – incomparable! Although much too young to articulate it, I thought we’d been transported into a parallel universe!
And maybe we had. The glow worm caves provided another mental image to match C. S. Lewis’ ‘The Silver Chair’ when Jill and Eustace are taken underground. It’s no surprise to me that the film of arguably the most well known fantasy tale ever – Lord of the Rings – was shot in New Zealand.
And other images come thick and fast. The glorious scenery of Mt Cook. The Pancake Rocks – perhaps feeding into my later love of texture. The Cook Strait ferry crossing, complete with dolphins. The Air New Zealand complimentary tikis in various sizes that my sister and I fought over for years … yes, it’s a slice of heaven all right!
Whenever I hear New Zealand musician Dave Dobbyn’s ‘Slice of Heaven’ – theme from the ‘Footrot Flats’ movie – I can’t help but think he’s given the world a simple word association test for New Zealand.
In the meantime, I’ll enjoy it through New Zealand authors Janet Frame, Alan Duff, Ngaio Marsh and Booker Prize winner Keri Hulme. And through the music of Split Enz, Crowded House and Dragon. Watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and actors Sam Neill, Russell Crowe, young Oscar winner Anna Paquin and Temuera Morrison. And of course, through the timeless music of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
If further proof of New Zealand’s unique place in the world is required, take a look at this list of New Zealand’s Top 100 History Makers. Werever you’re from I’ll bet almost anything that you’ll have heard of at least one person on it.
So why is a committed OZ-phile blogging about New Zealand? Well… glad you asked that too!!
Well, glad you asked. It’s because our neighbours ‘across the ditch*’ need our help. The natural inclination after events like the recent Canterbury earthquake is for tourists and other visitors to stay away. But that would be a damn shame because New Zealand is OPEN FOR BUSINESS! I’m reliably told that 99% of tourist attractions – even some in the Canterbury region – are ready and waiting for visitors.
So … here’s 5 good reasons to include New Zealand on your next holiday itinerary:
- Of course if you’ve read my blog, you already want to visit OZ, don’t you? DON’T YOU?? So why waste that long-haul flight just to visit one country? Hop across the ditch while you’re here and get two countries for virtually the price of one!
- Give yourself – and your children – the kind of memories that, like mine, won’t fade.
- There’s no better time than now! Hit the NZ tourism website and check out NZ travel contributions from other Blog4NZ participants. I’ll bet you find something you like!
- New Zealand is a microcosm of the rest of the world with it’s natural wonders, unique wildlife and fascinating history. So if you can’t quite afford that ’round the world’ trip, go to New Zealand instead!
- Prove me wrong about the superiority of OZ as a travel destination. Go on – you know you want to …
And who knows? Maybe one day, egotistical as it sounds, I’ll make it onto NZ’s Top 100 History Makers – as a famous blogger**!! But whether that day comes (!) or not, I plan that one day soon I’ll take a break from OZ travel and enjoy New Zealand’s delights once again.
*An OZ/NZ ‘in’ joke meaning ‘across the Tasman’ (the sea separating OZ from NZ) that emphasizes how close we are both geographically and socially!
** As if! Yes, I’m joking!!