For starters, the scenery is absolutely spectacular whichever way you decide to drive. After years in arid, flat country I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the green rolling hills and numerous waterways. Every time we head out somewhere, I always find myself turning to NIH and saying something along the lines of “How beautiful is this place? How lucky are we?”.
Hamilton is perfectly placed in the middle of the top part of the North Island (that sounds scientific, doesn’t it) so that it’s a 40 minute drive to Raglan on the West Coast or a 1.5 hr drive to Tauranga on the East Coast. Or in Central Queensland terms 45 ks one way or 100 ks the other. Because there’s hills and lots of them. To compare, it usually takes 45 mins to travel 75 ks in Central Queensland. No hills. No turns. Just flat and straight and you can drive a consistent 100 ks an hour … okay, faster than that. But the slower drive time doesn’t seem to worry me because there’s so much to look at!
There’s green hills then forests then hedgerows straight out of the English countryside TV shows I’ve grown up on. There’s also water everywhere in the form of lakes and creeks and the mighty Waikato River. It’s a strong dairy area (apparently because it’s flat??) so less sheep and more cattle wandering the lush green. The paddocks are smaller and the number of cattle in them larger, which must be to do with the fact there’s so much more feed available to them then back home in CQ.
Then there’s the people. So very warm and welcoming and friendly – and usually so surprised to discover a couple of Aussies with no previous connection, family or otherwise, have chosen to emigrate to New Zealand! The conversation usually goes like this:
Us: We’ve just moved here from Australia
Them: Ah. So how long have you been away for?
Us: Er, no. We’ve never lived in New Zealand before. We’re Australian.
Them: Oh. [pause for puzzled frown] So … why did you move here? If you don’t mind my asking …
Us: For the adventure of it …
NIH: I had a job opportunity ,,,
Me: And the temperature is much cooler than where we were living …
Them: Where in Oz are you from?
Us: Central Queensland
Them: Oh yeah! My [insert cousin/brother/sister/aunty/uncle/mother/father/next door neighbour] is/was over there. Mackay, they were based.
Us: [glancing at each other with no surprise anymore] Yep. We were four hours’ drive from there – Emerald?
Them: Nup. Haven’t heard of it.
Of course, once we’ve established the fact that we’re Australian, not returned New Zealanders, they don’t miss the opportunity to remind us that pavlova and Russell Crowe actually belong to them and swearing allegiance to the All Blacks is just the sensible thing to do.