We had hoped to catch much of the family on our way back through North Island but we laid low for most of it at Rod and Wendy’s, organising the piles of words, photos and videos we had accrued since landing in NZ five weeks earlier. Nevertheless, we took some time for sightseeing when Wendy treated us to a tour of Waitomo Caves. The highlight was a boat ride in total darkness for the last stretch of the cave system. Overhead there twinkled a galaxy of glowworms, uncountable green lamps in the darkness. We also visited a bird centre which I won’t splurge much ink over except to immortalise one thing I noted there on the dietary habits of captive kiwi birds. The birds’ keeper told us that the kiwi in front of us was noshing down on a healthy mix of tofu, peas, porridge, carrots and cows’ hearts. Cows’ hearts? Fear the bloodthirsty might of the kiwi!
We spent our last night in New Zealand precisely where we had spent our first, back at cousins Ben and Mon’s house. We were late arriving due to an important detour to deliver a T-shirt from the owner of a Nepalese nature reserve to his brother in Auckland. It was a long-standing promise to a kind man and his family, finally put to bed thousands of miles and a few months later.
Ben and Mon’s too little terrors, Fraser and Lachlan, entertained us all the next day, begging to be swung around the living room or to put on Emma’s make-up. They joined us at the airport, where we watched the other planes taxiing about, loading and unloading. You know, real man stuff. But Lachlan, of whom I have previously mentioned a love of high-heels, seemed most pleased as we entered the departures lounge and a lady walked past. He pointed at her feet and shouted, “Mum, look! High-heels!”. Priceless. Those kids are as cute as they come.
And that was New Zealand. It has its few annoyances, such as astronomical mobile phone pricing, archaic internet services and a crippling isolation from, well, everywhere. The country has a self-image of being a leader in healthy eating but the fayre is usually predictable and they have no concept of vegetarianism. But these are trivialities lost against a dazzling backdrop. It’s hard to grumble, really, because it’s beautiful and friendly and we love it.