Didn’t Leave Empty Handed

Takitimu mountain range. Whenever I am somewhere where I can see these mountains, I know I’m home. Well, one of my homes. Perhaps the most authentic one – the one where I feel most grounded. My turangawaewae.

Recently we spent two nights at the hidden gem of Borland Lodge, Western Southland, sussing it out as a location for a future family reunion. Conclusion: it’ll be perfect.

Bonus! close by, a cafe & bar nestled under the mountains. Brunel Peaks cafe. It seems it is not as frontier-town as I thought, or remembered, down there by the Waiau river, among the tussock, toetoe and flax, with the Takitimu mountains standing guard.

Upon arrival, South Island robin kakaruai paid us an inspection / visit, hopping around inside our cabin, checking under the bed. Maybe it was the same one that became a friend and throughout the two days, would drop down at our feet to say hello. So unafraid, at one stage it hopped on to Robert’s knee. I guess it was looking for the sandflies that might land on us in their persistent quest for blood.

But robin was out of luck if it thought it would catch any sandflies landing on me – I was wearing socks and had a shawl wrapped around my face. (I would have been wearing gloves too, if I’d thought of it). Bug Guard works fairly well, but we were told by the lodge manager that you have to apply two coats of the stuff because the mean little suckers will lick the first coat off.

We went forest bathing. The weather was hot and humid (something else I do not remember from my childhood) and the mossy coolness under the southern beeches was very welcome.

Cicadas never existed down this way when I was a kid but they’re there now, in their thousands and making a terrific racket. However, if you’ve got tinnitus, like Robert has, the silence is apparently even more deafening – he couldn’t hear the rattling cicadas at all.

When a bit of a breeze stirred the tops of the trees, we could (both) hear the top branches knocking together like ti rakau, Māori sticks. As if the trees were making sure their neighbours were home.

Coolness at Lake Monowai. Lake Monowai is very close to Borland Lodge.

Picnic spot by Monowai river, at Monowai power station. One of the earliest power stations built in Aotearoa.

After two days we headed off for home and the second half of our round trip, stopping off at my birthplace, Tuatapere, where I sold my books Quick Blue Fire and Craggan Dhu to talented local artist Karen Friend If you are in Tuatapere, do visit her beautiful gallery there.

I also donated three of my poetry books and Quick Blue Fire; to the Waiau Memorial Library. I promised to mail them Craggan Dhu when more copies arrive from America.

I’m sure you agree, thistles are pretty – although from what I remember as a child helping out on the farm in winter, you don’t want to strike one hiding in the hay you’re tossing out for the sheep.

Robert disappearing into Clifden caves – taonga of Kāi Tahu. Dear reader, he did re-emerge

and took this photo.

Nothing says country more than a stile.

From Tuatapere we drove to my old hometown, Orepuki, where we called in on a cousin. She bought two books and gave us two pāua, as well fresh veges. from her garden. This began a trend. As the day unfolded, it appeared that we weren’t going to go away from anywhere empty handed. My cousin took two books to put in the Orepuki Cafe who very kindly have taken my books in the past and where J&K have held a poetry reading. Sadly we didn’t have time this visit to call in there ourselves. Next time though, it’ll be a must.

Next destination was the southernmost city in the world; Invercargill; where we had lunch in one of their brand new shopping centres. The place seemed to be full of star struck Invercargill-ites gazing around at their city’s new look. “Let’s go this way and take a look at the lobby,” I heard one citizen suggest to his companion.

Invers is indeed looking very classy. Like a butterfly emerging from its once-provincial chrysalis.

Then we drove on to Gore, where both sides of the main street are lined with overflowing hanging baskets and in the air, the scent of lavender.

We visited family and were given a haul of ripe red plums and a goody bag to add to everything else we’d already gathered along the way. We ended up all having dinner together at Thomas Green, where I fell in love with apple martinis.

Since arriving back home, the gifts haven’t stopped. Five minutes ago, two grinning grandchildren knocked on the door and handed over a plate of home baking.

“That one’s for Grandpa and that one’s for you.”

I’ll take it.