A Real Mix

Our welcome falcon. Kārearea

Arriving at Borland Camp this Easter for our family reunion we were greeted by the shy Aoteraoa New Zealand falcon. Kārearea.

Recently I heard / read (can’t remember where) a description of sisters as being ‘a slightly different version of the the same face’ and as only ever feeling completely whole when all together in one room. This could well be the case when I get together with my three sisters. Add three brothers to the sibling mix, plus partners, children and their partners and in some cases their children, you are liable to end up with over fifty persons and a very lively time.


The Takitimu mountain range as a backdrop for our get together felt appropriate for our Kāti Māmoe, Kāi Tahu whānau. Also, the Waiau river begins its run for the sea in this area. Our mountain, our river. Te mauka. Te awa.

Surrounded by mountains, a walk up to the top of one of the smaller ones was a given. My knee isn’t up to climbing. Robert took the photo above and the ones below.

Walking on water. The kids playing with the properties of a mountain tarn

Robert spotted an Aoraki (Mount Cook) buttercup (does that make it the ‘Cooke Buttercup’?)

On lower terra, the more common autumn toadstool

Southern beech trees

Mossy forest floor

Lake Monowai

Hidden gem

I took this photo on a previous trip to Clifden Caves in the summer. Some of the more intrepid of our whānau went caving here on Easter Sunday and were lucky enough to see glow worms, stalactites and the interesting interior limestone rock formations,

I have never ventured inside the caves, despite having visited the entrance twice. Caving is not my thing. These southern caves are an important landmark for the Southern Māori iwi / tribes and there are traditional stories of them using these caves for both shelter and escape.

During the reunion we celebrated three birthdays in each of the generations – including mine. Although my 70th is still two months away, I was surprised by an early acknowledgement by the family. Tears!

As an extended family I would describe us as a real mix. We are town and we are country. Some of us are from other countries. We are adventurous, curious and energetic (well, the younger ones, not my generation so much now that we are all in our sixties and the oldest of us either fully or semi-retired). We love nature, no frills, food and laughing. We tend not to be materialistic types. A lot of us like books. Some of us like a flutter or a gamble. Music is important, especially for Sam the dj, but for some odd reason (apart from Sam maybe) we tend to keep our musical tastes to ourselves.

Some of us are bold and some of us shy. Some of us are gardeners, some farmers, some own chickens and/or dogs or cats or both. One of us is a care manager. One works in the head office of the Health Department. There are a few teachers, a television script writer and podcaster. One is an artist, another a photographer, another a tour guide. Another is the manager of New Zealand’s Kauri die-back programme. We have a psychologist, a couple of accountants, an ambulance driver, a tradie, a help line bank assistant, a mine manager in the outback of Australia, a barman, a mathematics lecturer (professor?) and two microbiologists. Some work from home and others in offices, a radio station, shops, schools, university, laboratory, warehouses or on farms. There are three golfers last time I counted.

I would hazard a guess that we are mostly introverts, however if we look hard enough, extroverts can be found within our ranks. Some do not suffer fools gladly, others are remarkably tolerant. We are mostly a placid lot, quick to laugh and ready to see the funny side of both life and other people. Having a sense of humour is rated high on the list of family and in-law attributes. We can be critical and cynical. (The Mock-enzies is a tag that one in-law has in the past used to describe us). Some of us can spend two hours arguing a silly point, such as whether sparkling water is still classed as water. (Yes. This really happened.)

Two sisters survey Te Waewae Bay, Gemstone Beach

Most of us are sporty, except those who aren’t – they tend to be creative freelancers or manage a lifestyle block.

“It’s good you’re a poet,” my sister told me, “Because you ain’t a mathematician.”

I can only agree.

We can be either bossy or placid. Highly motivated or rather more laid back. We are accommodating, yet can be extremely stubborn (or as Mum would say, ‘pig-headed’.)

But most importantly, we all like each other. Although when we are together, the subject of politics is best avoided. Some of us embrace the Māori side of our whānau, others not so much. Some of us are interested in family tree research, but others prefer not to talk about ‘dead people’.

On Easter Sunday, for some of us a day trip to Tuatapere and then on to Orepuki was almost obligatory, simply because this is where it all started – where the great, great grandparents on both the maternal and paternal sides of the Don and Shirley (nee Lee) McKenzie whānau met, married and brought up their families.

Gemstone Beach

Those of us who made the pilgrimage on Easter Sunday, spent a happy couple of hours on Gemstone Beach. We could not get over how many people were there. What fresh hell is this? There were surfers for goodness sake! All I can ever remember seeing out on the waves back in the day, were porpoises.

It is apparent that the secret is out. The lonely beach I knew as a child is now a popular gathering place. I don’t know whether to feel sad or glad about that.

No photos to show of our next brief stop that day, to Te Puka o Takitimu / Monkey Island farther along Te Waewae Bay and where Ollie, a young great-nephew over from Australia was sure he would be able to see a monkey.

This was the beach where us older generation picnicked and swam as children. I have to say I mostly remember the earache I always suffered from the cold water and wind.

I tried to ignore the long line of camper vans … it wasn’t like that back in my day. But I didn’t want to be that old lady. (Though clearly, I am.)

Afternoon tea at our Great Aunty Mary Simpson’s old house; now the Orepuki Beach Cafe.

I didn’t take nearly enough photos. Too busy being with family, catching up and laughing and eating.

Key Words:



Toasted Marshmallows

Game of Spotlight

Climbing Wall

Bush Walks

Nature Hunt

Blue toadstool

Mount Cook buttercup






Sandfly repellent


Beech Trees






Arguing the Point

Making fun of other family members


Five Hundred



Saturday night roast

Jelly and Ice cream


Forest bathing

Easter Bunny

Easter eggs


Walking to the Lake

Falling in a puddle

Walking up the side of a mountain

Baby in a front pack




Te reo cards




The Old Girls

The Brothers



Great Aunties & Great Uncles


Funny stories


Yarning until 2.00 a.m.



Day trips

Nana naps

Clifden Caves



Gemstone Beach

Monkey Island


Beach Stones

Riverton Races

Te Anau


Sun, sun, sun

Deep South


Moveable tent site


Cold nights

Need more blankets

Photo Albums

Taking Photos

No WiFi

Birthday Cakes


Bernie’s song

Birthday Pancake Breakfast

Uninvited George


Red band gumboots

Good-bye Hugs

Left Over Food

The Irish Good-bye

Who wants to take the bread? Who wants to take the sausages?

Where’s the vacuum cleaner (‘lux) ?

Where is the nearest recycling centre for all the bottles!!!


Writer from Dunedin, New Zealand.

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