Let’s take another drive together, this time to the north, up the valley, over the Rimutaka range and down through mile after mile of long flat fields of green, the dairy farms of the south replaced with New Zealand’s more traditional (and famous) sheep. We past the Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre – the only place I’ve seen a rare takahe – but don’t stop in, and neither do we detour into the Tui Brewery, unmistakable as it towers over the tiny hamlet of Mangatainoka, as we still have two hours to go, through the Viking centre of New Zealand at Norsewood and Dannevirke and beyond.
As the predicted winds rise, the windmills along the skyline to the north come into view, as my electrical engineer husband once again tells me about the size of the windmills, the span of their wings. When in Europe, I enjoy the sight of the modern windmills, ubiquitous from the Sierra Nevadas in the south of Spain, through to the plains of Hungary in the east, as they are elegant structures, all white and smooth and shapely. But in New Zealand, on the landscape I love and know so well, they do cast a jarring note, even though I still appreciate their clean lines and, of course, the equally clean power they generate.
As they fall behind us, the clouds clear, the sun comes out, and the temperature rises, and we take a shortcut, driving through pristine farmland with undulating hills, the grass so very green here in early spring, the sheep so white, the lambs so cute, the willows lining the meandering rivers a lovely, joyful, promising green, waving happily in the wind. If a set designer was producing a blissful rural landscape (think Hobbiton), then of course they’d come up with this. Finally we drop into the Bay, as it is known, and drive through hectare after hectare of grape vines – promising us a happy weekend – before we arrive at our hotel on the beach.