New Zealand, with its promise of unspoilt nature and an enticing laidback lifestyle, beckons vicariously until such time we can travel there again. Here’s how to channel your inner Kiwi from afar.
Let’s pour a glass of Marlborough sauvignon blanc or a Hawkes Bay chardonnay and put on some music. Kiwi singer-songwriters Lorde and Boh Runga, perhaps, or maybe a trip down memory lane with a Crowded House album. (You’re right, they were based in Melbourne but founding member Neil Finn was a New Zealander.) Depending on how the mood takes us, we could stick our nose into The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize winning novel set in Victorian-era New Zealand, or laugh through A Good Keen Man by Barry Crump for its insights on rural life.
But for those times when our own imagination isn’t enough, we’d say retreat indoors and put on a movie. It’s not hard to see why the country is the darling of any self-respecting cinematographer. Words like awesome and breathtaking are overused, but here they are a perfect fit – you only have to watch Lord of the Rings to see why. But Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy is only the beginning. Immersed in The Piano or Whale Rider, we can almost feel the warm prickle of sand between our toes and the sound of breaking waves on the shore.
Constrained by four walls, as we watch New Zealand’s magnificent landscapes take centre stage we’re reminded how good it feels to embrace the great outdoors. One of the country’s famous Great Walks will have to wait for now. Instead, we’ll content ourselves with gentle stroll along our local coastal path or a ramble in the countryside. But doing so reminds us we need to get away, to channel the Kiwi love of staying in a bach (fun fact: it’s pronounced batch, not bark). These diminutive holiday homes are the mainstay of New Zealand’s domestic tourism industry, but we’re sure no one is going to mind if we improvise with a stay at a log cabin or beach hut for now.
Of course, you could rightly argue that a simple walk isn’t enough – New Zealanders are well-known for their love of adventure sports. This was the birthplace of the bungee jump after all, and the place that took one look at an inflatable ball and thought, let’s roll down a steep hill in that thing and call it Zorbing. When Kiwis aren’t diving head first off bridges, you’ll find them abseiling, snowboarding, whitewater rafting and pretty much anything else they can invent that raises their heartbeat. If we are to pretend we are there, then, a bit of lateral thinking is required. After all, we aren’t all lucky enough to have the Southern Alps on our doorstep. But there’ll be something to help us channel that adrenaline rush. Perhaps now’s the time to be brave and try skydiving, jet-skiing or something equally extreme.
To successfully pretend you’re in New Zealand, all you’ve really got to do is order a flat white. The Kiwi love of coffee, or more precisely Wellingtonians’ love of the stuff, is well-documented. It’s a fact – OK, more a boast – that the nation’s capital has more cafés per capita than New York City. We’re not sure how anyone would actually prove that, but they’re certainly happy to make the claim.
Pass the Anzac biscuits – tea drinkers don’t have to feel left out. Early British settlers introduced the practice of drinking tea to New Zealand and they’ve been boiling the kettle ever since. Back then, some unscrupulous types had a rather unsavoury habit of mixing the dried tea with sawdust to make it stretch further. Fortunately, that scam ended years ago. A regular brew will be sweet as, you might hear a Kiwi say.
As you pop a lamb roast into the oven, we’ll leave you with the words of Celia Wade-Brown, former mayor of Wellington. She once described her country as “the place of the possible”. What does it take to pretend you’re in New Zealand? A positive attitude, it would seem, and a willingness to try new ideas. When you think about it, isn’t that what travel’s all about?