After 6-weeks of travels in New Zealand, yes, we saw more sheep than people. But we also returned with as many people stories from New Zealand as from any other travels.
Like everything else in New Zealand, we discovered some spectacular traits in the people of New Zealand.
”Outdoors” – isn’t just a part of life, it’s a way of life
While lunching on a beach at the Houghton bay in Wellington, we saw a woman get out of her car with her kids and a dog. As she set up her picnic and started to read her book, the children climbed up a little rock and started playing with their dog. No shouts of, “Careful/ Watch out/ Don’t go to the edge” were heard. Yet, everyone stayed safe and a good time was had by all!
Indoor rock climbing places are common, and packed. As are camping sites in the summer. Not surprising, considering it’s a country meant for a life of adventure and activity.
A passion for arts – even quirky ones
Of course, we asked him if we could take a picture. “Of course”, is what his shrug told us. We showed him the photos and admired his stuff. Before leaving, we asked him for his email so we could send the photos.
To which he said, “It isn’t as simple as that”, and proceeded to pick a wire and his tools. For a moment, we thought he was probably lost in his own thoughts and the comment was in relation to that. What couldn’t be simple about giving an email id?
“You see, the email is on a bag. To give you the email, I’ll have to give you the bag. And I can’t give you an empty bag, can I?”, he said in the sweet lyrical Kiwi accent.
Wow! We were stunned and amazed seeing the wire transform, in a matter of minutes into a beautiful rose ring fitting perfectly around my little finger.
“Home is where?”, he asked us. “India.” “Oh, the mother of my children spent a long time there”, he told us. He had exhibited at a number of galleries, including one at the famous Museum of Wearable Art in Nelson.
Later, when we looked up the name on the bag, we realised that the artist, Mike Ward had also been an MP once, belonging to the Green Party which he had himself formed!
Kind, kinder, kindest
We had rented a car from her the previous evening, from Takaka in the Golden Bay – the most beautiful place we visited in the South Island. The next day, while returning it we expected it to be a matter of handing the keys and a car inspection.
Instead, it turned out to be a conversation of how our drive to the beach had been. She knew we particularly wanted to catch the sunset there and she had suggested we also check out the baby seals which are usually playing on the beach. We told her we had managed both – getting the sunset, and playing with the seals.
We waited for questions about refilling the fuel tank or the condition of the car to come up. Instead, what we got was, “I am glad you could put the car to good use”.
We couldn’t hold it any longer and asked her if she didn’t want to check the car. “Why, was there any problem?”, she said a bit surprised. “No none at all. We’ve also filled up the fuel tank.” “I am sure you have!”
What? She was going to trust us, just like that? We then told her we weren’t used to this trust-based style of running a business. “But it’s so much better when we are honest and can trust each other.” Who could argue with that?
Our most surprising encounter though was the day we decided to explore hitchhiking. This was again in the Golden Bay and our experience that day defied all the hitchhiking guidelines we had read.
Women generally do not stop their cars, they said. Well, our first lift was a single lady who went off her route to drop us right at the Pupu Springs, where we were headed.
People with expensive cars don’t usually stop their cars was another general guideline. A guy in an SUV not only stopped his car and picked us up but also spent an entire day with us.
He had thought we were Fiji-Indians when he saw us first. But on hearing we were Indians from India, he got super excited. He and his wife and spent a wonderful time in India. People had been so kind and generous, he was just happy that he now had a chance to do his bit, he told us.
“Do you have some time”, he first asked us as soon after. “There’s a bush here I would like you to show”. This was like asking for a finger and getting an arm. Of course, we had all the time in the world to see the places he wanted to show us!
We had met him at around noon, and place after place, he took us around the entire Golden Bay, which without a car of our own would have been impossible for us to get to. He took us to beaches, waterfalls and nature trails, sharing with us the story of Golden Bay and his life in the Golden Bay.
When he then came to drop us all the way to the hostel because it was getting dark, we asked him to join us for dinner. “Oh no, my wife is waiting for me”, he said. “How about a coffee then?” He said it was kind that we wanted him to join us for coffee, but he would have to pass. He was the kind one here, we reminded him. Is there anything we could do to express our gratitude?
He answered in one line, “Just pay it forward”.
We were expecting our 6-weeks in New Zealand to be filled with beauty – of nature. But beyond that, what this blissful beauty revealed was a heart of gold.