Explore: Unexpected Farmland

In case it's not highly evident, I'm not in New York right now. I'm on holiday in New Zealand, my homeland, and (unbiased opinion here, obviously) the most beautiful country in the world. Being in New Zealand is a bit of a dream*, in several different ways. There's the dreaminess of the place, of course, but there's also the journey to get here, which is so long as to be almost unreal. I've always been totally flippant about it before, describing it to others as no big deal. You fly to LA, then it's an overnighter to Auckland. Whatever, right? Especially compared to going from London, which is literally** as far away from Auckland as you can get.

Um, no, actually. Not whatever. I've always (quietly, and only to myself and H1) giggled at those who, upon discovering I hail from New Zealand, gasp with excitement, then tell me how much they've always wanted to go to New Zealand and how amazing they've heard it is - only to follow this up by saying they could never travel for that long. They often follow this up by telling me about the longest plane trip they've ever taken (it's usually in the vicinity of five or six hours - i.e. nothing to we more seasoned travellers). Well, I think it's time I stopped laughing, because apparently, no matter how used to it you are, it gets harder the older you get.

It's true that from New York, it's only a flight to LA, followed by an overnighter to Auckland. But planes don't fly direct from my apartment (YET - I'm still working on the private plane/airport thing) and they're also quite fussy about you getting there in time to go through security and buy stuff you don't really need at duty free. The same is true in LA - a good few hours are required to make a connection. And arriving in Auckland after a night flight is all well and dandy - until you have to head straight to the domestic terminal to get down to Hawkes Bay.

It wasn't easy, but it could have been worse. It could have been too foggy in Hawkes Bay to land, which would have meant we had to give up on landing there at the last second and instead whoosh up into the air to try our luck in Palmerston North instead...

Oh wait. THAT HAPPENED.

We were almost crying with exhaustion. Morale was low as we loaded our bags, and then ourselves, onto the bus that would return us to our rightful destination. H1 disappeared straight away into a movie on his laptop, and I plugged myself into my iPod and stared out the window, ready to sneer at Palmerston North and all that lies between it and Hawkes Bay.

But you know what? It's freaking beautiful between those two places!

Image: Flickr/Neville10
Image: Flickr/Neville10
Image: Flickr/Neville10
Image: Flickr/Neville10

Tidy suburban streets*** give way to farmland gives way to the quiet splendour of the Manawatu Gorge, then you go up for a bit, past more farmland, and suddenly you're rolling down hills past small, attractively worn towns and into Hawkes Bay 'proper' (that is, the bit close to the ocean, where my in-laws live). It's amazingly beautiful. And it's especially surprising, because it's not an area I've ever thought of as beautiful before - it just was. I lay my head against H1, on a tilt so I could see out the window, listened quietly to Fly My Pretties, and let the scenery wash over me and soak my soul with goodness. It was almost enough to let me forget that I was rapidly approaching my 40th hour of travel.

Image: Flickr/Brenda Anderson
Image: Flickr/Brenda Anderson
Image: Flickr/Neville10
Image: Flickr/Neville10

Almost. I mean, I had to hold onto it enough to write about it, right****?

*I'll blame this for my severely disrupted blogging schedule.

**I think - it seems to be when looking at a map, but I'm not so hot when it comes to map reading.

***Suburbs in New Zealand are far more pleasant than in the US - my analysis of why this is will be forthcoming, don't you worry.

****I didn't take any photos, because taking photos through bus glass wouldn't lead to anything impressive, and I was too tired to lift my arms anyway. So thank you Creative Commons, and the kind people who open their photos up for sharing, for enabling me to illustrate this with more than words.