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Southern Trees

I’m running out of good tree photos, but unearthed this one from a road trip we took around this time of year back in 2016. The trees are macrocarpas, which I have written about before here (they are just outside my window as I write this.)

These trees are on the southern coast of the South Island, where the winds blow in fiercely from the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. We had driven south from Queenstown, via the Te Anau and Manapouri lakes, and then took what I see the map calls the “Southern Scenic Route.” It is remote, for New Zealand. We drove through farmland, and alongside cycle trails, lost reception for even our National Radio channels, and hoped we wouldn’t break down, until we linked up with Route 99, and drove southeast to Riverton. My cousin lives in this lovely little harbour town, and she had recommended taking this route, partly to see these windswept trees. I’m glad she did, as it is a reminder of the often harsh environment in the south of our country.

You can see that the trees have grown leaning in one direction, trained that way by the winds, and the green tops have been sheered off, whitened by the relentless elements. But the trees have survived nonetheless, and the ones at the back stand tall, protected by their neighbours’ sacrifice. I like that.

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I have a lot of posts half-written now – or perhaps, less than half-written. But they’re not ready to go, and today I’ve been distracted with other chores, so I thought I’d share a photo or two from a very pleasant walk I took at the end of last week with my husband. When the wind drops in Wellington in spring, it is time to grab the opportunity and get out and walk. This year we’ve been trying to find new places to walk, because – perhaps due to the lockdown – I’m a bit sick of walking around my neighbourhood, frankly. For years we have been driving over a particular bridge at the beginning of a valley, and I’ve looked at the river and the walking paths along it and thought or said or both, “we really should walk up there one of these days.” But the decades passed, and we always drove on, needing to check in with the in-laws, and getting caught up there. Now that they’re gone, though, we felt free to park under the bridge, and take a walk.

It’s a simple path, made for dog-walkers and human walkers and cyclists, along a river. There’s nothing strenuous about it, but perhaps that’s the point. It is relaxing, we were surrounded by green, with trees with new spring leaves lining the river, and on the other side of the path, a couple of paddocks, a driving range nearest the bridge, and an expensive golf course next to the path. This was the adventureland of my husband when he was a child, before the driving range, and when the paddocks still had cows and sheep, and before the bypass was built on the other side of the river.

In the midst of some small rapids on the river was a fisherman, casting his line out into the calmer water. We tried to imagine what he was hoping to catch. “There aren’t any fish in that river!” my husband exclaimed. But the water was crystal clear, running down from the mountains without travelling through farmland or industry, and so it would make sense that there are a few. We were passed by the occasional cyclist, a jogger with a very tired dog, and we never caught up to the woman pushing the pram way up ahead of us. We eventually turned and walked back to the car. The exercise was good to have, but better than that, we had time to breathe some fresh clear air, enjoy the sun, and feel some peace.

Note: I did not play with the colours at all on these photos. It really was that green.

Can you see the fisherman?

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Today feels a bit like freedom, even though I a) feel jetlagged (see below), b) it has been raining and miserable all day, and c) I am freezing. Why? Because school holidays finished on the weekend, and I can reclaim my city.

Better still, Wellington on a Plate, which is a food festival held annually in my city, is on this October. COVID lockdown had meant that it wasn’t able to be held in August as usual, but it is up and running now, with restaurants all over the city and suburbs participating. They changed some of the format this year, so I missed out on the more formal dining options. But we’re now into the Burger event, where restaurants invent a festival burger. Some people try to eat as many burgers in the festival as possible, lunch and dinner for days. But we are just aiming at two or three, hopefully at restaurants we don’t usually visit, and hopefully out with friends at least once or twice.

I got up at 2 am last night to watch the French Open Final, the first tennis I’ve watched since the Australian Open in January. I am feeling extremely jet-lagged today, and badly need an afternoon nap! It was weird watching the game, with a sparse mask-wearing crowd in the stadium, few cheers, little atmosphere. I wonder what it was like for the players?

It was a huge contrast to the sports event I watched in the afternoon. A rugby test match between the All Blacks (NZ) and Australia in my city, where 30,000 people (well, give or take 5,000) turned up to a stadium to watch the first international rugby anywhere in the world since March. A pop sensation had played a concert to adoring teens and tweens earlier in the weekend. And of course, we have Wellington on a Plate underway. Life in Wellington may be wet and windy and cold, but it was a great place to be this weekend.

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