In an ironic turn, it took a flight for my body to finally shut down from fight or flight mode. How could I have known a month ago, when I booked some time off, that I would be escaping a city still shaking with 7.8 earthquake aftershocks?
It was as if I had been holding my breath for the past week. The moment the plane took off from the city, my lungs filled up properly, the tempo of my heart slowed and the tension in my shoulders, which I hadn’t even realised was still there, relaxed as if I were about to climb into bed.
I had lived in New Zealand for a year but working on minimum wage with rent and bills to pay meant saving up enough to go out and explore the country took some time. My aim for this trip was simple: explore, relax, and make some memories. Admittedly some of these memories are hazier than others due to drinks on the Kiwi Experience bus but I’ll tell you about that some other time.
My first stop was Matakana, a town my friend, C, would used to visit all the time with her family. It was a gorgeous day, filled with the kind of heat you feel when you step off the plane in a tropical country. I could hardly believe I was still in New Zealand; it was a welcome change from floods, grey skies and gale force winds.
C picked me up from the airport and we were away. Even though it was just a day trip I could still feel the eager thrill of discovery tingling in my spine. I looked out of the window, the forest pointing out which clouds to look at, the rolling green hills and the endless stretches of green. Finally. This is why I’m out here.
We explored Matakana’s farmer’s market; if you picture Etsy in real life, mixed with an eccentric car boot sale and hanging flower baskets, you’ve got it. We strolled through the village, both of us delighting at the weather and happily slick with sunscreen.
Before we left Matakana, we paid a quick visit to quite possibly the most picturesque public toilets I’ve seen in my life.
“Do you want a picture here?” C asked.
“It’s a toilet.”
“I know but everyone gets their picture taken outside them.”
A day this warm definitely called for ice cream. We stopped at Charlie’s Gelato Garden, which we discovered had been included in the Lonely Planet 2017 Guide to NZ. This would be the beginning of my love of random road trip finds, but again, I’ll have to tell you about them some other time.
Wanting to make the most of the weather, C drove to Tawharanui Regional Park. I’m not even sure how to begin describing this place to you. Soft white sands, which made the blues of the ocean and the sky even more rich. The beach was held between impossibly large arms: one made up of a fleet of navy hills and the other made up of rolling green fields.
We walked along, our feet making gentle prints in the sand, talking about books and music. We could hear the laughter of children behind us and the idle chatter of a couple in front of us, but the longer walked, the more it felt like we had the place to ourselves.
C mentioned there were some good wineries nearby and as the day was getting late, we decided to get going and stop at one enroute to her house. C was driving so didn’t drink so that left me with my wine training, trying to bumble my way through a few tasting glasses. I bought a bottle of rosé as I wanted to give C a thank you gift for letting me stay at her house and giving me such a wonderful first day of my holiday.
We shared the bottle of rosé in her hot tub as we watched the sunset. ( I can’t help but smile as I write out such a pleasant sentence/memory.) I sipped my wine, watching the sky ever so briefly matching the colour of rosé as the sun sank, the thrill of discovery was resting as the pleasure of relaxation soaked in.