I have been traveling up to the north of the South Island of New Zealand and then driving down the centre of the island back home.
We stopped at Hamner, with lovely bush clad mountains all around. Soaking in the thermal pools with the rain falling was just a fantastic feel. We drove through to Nelson then Kaiteriteri. There were lovely golden sand bays with warm water and beach forests. Driving south through the Lewis Pass, you are surrounded by impressive bush, mountains and hills. After spending a further night at Hamner (we love those pools) we stopped at the township of Oxford where we had memories of our teenage courting days. Ashley Gorge with its river and picnic grounds is a great place... the sand flies think so too! Another special place for us was Jones' Gully, but we had forgotten how to get to it. We asked several locals who did not know of it's existence. Finally while I was looking at a map on the information centre board an older man approached me and asked what I was looking for. I told him and he said, "Oh yes, I know that, I have been shooting there years ago... its all overgrown now though!" He was right. It was definitely not like the memories we had of it, and there were unwelcoming "keep out" type signs all around it. We continued our travels down the scenic route through the Canterbury Plains. There are the foot hills and mountains of the Southern Alps on your right, beautiful rivers that you cross and the expansive fertile Canterbury plains on your left. We stopped at Tekapo, that picturesque blue lake with mountains every where you look. There we sat in the hot pools watching the sun go down and the stars come out. Lightening flashes in the distance gave an extra dimension, lighting up the sky for an instant colouring the clouds. The next day as we drove past the end of Lake Pukaki, there was a breath taking view of Mount Cook glistening in the sun. Through the Lindis Pass we saw dry paddocks coming alive through irrigation and the large expanses of the growing number of vineyards. The rugged Central Otago hills, the lakes and finally the Dunedin hills and harbour made us feel very proud of the scenery of good old New Zealand. I love my country! ... but...
As we drove the roads around Northern Canterbury we heard the news that three teenagers had lost their lives unnecessarily through road accidents in the area. Our road toll is appalling. We read too of racist attacks on the streets of Christchurch. When we sat in the pools of Tekapo a local resident was ranting to tourists from the UK in the most racist way and implying that that was the way all Kiwis thought about Maori. I had to move on before I said something nasty to him. Unfortunately, though most of us try our best not to be racist, there are sad expressions of racism still alive and well in NZ. There's a big list of other sad things.
- A big gap between rich and poor that is widening with its attendant law and order problems.
- Over crowded prisons, recidivist criminals common and a big proportion of our population in prison.
- We have, one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world.
- Our health system, once a shining example for the rest of the world, is struggling to cope with real needs people have.
- We have a major binge drinking culture and mindset impacting on many people's lives. A man who works in our court system told me of the number of young teens regularly being taken to our hospital emergency departments, and then said, "That's just the tip of the iceberg of the problem!"
- Abuse of children seems to happen regularly and sexual violence is always in the news.
I could go on... New Zealand is a very beautiful country. I love it. It still offers a great lifestyle, freedom and relative security. But there are lots of people hurting, cracks in our systems and people left behind or spat out the back. I saw a film the other night. There was a beautiful lady as one of the characters. But under that beauty there were all sorts of problems that emerged. New Zealand is a bit like that. At first glance she looks idyllic, but there are troubles under the surface. My holiday reading was Michael King's "History of New Zealand" so I have been thinking of my country as I drove through it. As I holidayed, and was moved by the richness of the beauty all around me, I once again felt the restlessness and "call" to keep on trying to make a difference for good in "God's own". I try to be a citizen of the world, but I do love my country.
- Out at sea off the Tasman National Park at sunset
- Lake Tekapo as it was when I went for a jog along the shore.
- Looking down into Ashley Gorge.
- The beach where I conducted my son's wedding.