Rata trees in flower on the Hokonui Hills, photo credit Wild Frontier.
We may not be by the beach this year, but the scenery is still stunning!
Ahh, it's all a bit idyllic here at the moment. While the rest of the world seemingly is caught up in traffic jams and fighting their way through crowds, we're sitting outside in the sunshine enjoying nothing but peace and tranquility. There's maybe another ten vehicles here, but our campground is so big everyone has plenty of room to themselves to spread out and relax. I can't think of anywhere else I would rather be right now! It's a little strange not being by the sea for summer but a change is as good as a break, as they say and this holiday season is certainly proving to be that!
A little corner of our camping 'village', as seen from our back door!
Most of our little Christmas village is still here, although a few have moved on now. I have to say, I have never experienced so many consecutive hangovers in my entire life as I have this festive season! Not that we're complaining mind; it just goes to show how much wonderful company we have been treated to lately, from old friends and new. Christmas Day itself was somewhat quieter than we planned, thanks to the heavy rain which kept everyone from mingling as planned and cooped up in their motor homes instead. Even so, the weather did nothing to dampen our spirits and we curled up inside listening to corny Christmas music, watching festive movies and playing card games badly until the rain subsided. Later that evening we went to Bevin and Amy's house for a BBQ and it was so lovely and relaxing chatting to everyone on the veranda and strolling around their beautiful garden.
Us with Annelieke
The days between Christmas and New Year were a bit of a blur! Or should that be a social whirl? Our fellow campers were all keen to get outside and chat after the previous wet day and there was an influx of new arrivals, many from overseas. When it comes to travellers, everyone is different. Some people keep very much to themselves and don't interact at all except for a wave when they leave; others are extremely friendly and keen to chat. Such as Annelieke, a bubbly Dutch lady with a great sense of humour. From the start she was wonderfully outgoing and had only been at the campground ten minutes before she was riding a horse around the arena, thanks to a local who happened to be there practising polo. Shortly after her arrival we were joined by another Dutch couple, Axel and Astrid, who after making smalltalk asked if they could camp next to us for the night and continue the conversation. Annelieke returned to join us after her horse ride and the five of us were a merry group, sharing dinner and talking into the night before it got too cold and we all had to give in and retire! Spontaneous evenings such as these are always so memorable and enjoyable and it's lovely to learn so much about different people, their cultures and their countries. We all exchanged details in the morning before they left and promised to keep in touch. Hopefully we will see them again one day! It's such a special place here, often people do come back; such as the South African family of five we have camping next to us this week. It's always so nice to see people who love it here as much as we do.
The best thing about having a BBQ is that it's always the blokes who cook it!
We have also enjoyed some fun evenings with our young French friends, which have also resulted in some spectacular headaches the next morning! When we first hit the road, I imagined that we would naturally meet a lot of people; however I never envisaged what good friends they would also become. With not too much going on in the way of New Year entertainment in Gore, we agreed we would spend New Year's Eve with Valentin and Sandra and the four of us settled comfortably out in the sunshine for a relaxing evening of dinner, drinks and conversation. Here in Southland, it doesn't get dark until around 10.30 - 11pm at the moment and as the countdown to midnight drew closer a vehicle pulled up alongside us, blaring music. It was Paul and his wife Chrissy from the other end of the campground, and they had also brought along Debra, to see the New Year in all together. I can't remember the last time I laughed so much - or sang! There was our merry group, all from different countries, all different ages, talking and joking up a storm. We hugged and sang Auld Lang Syne, watched the neighbours' fireworks and carried on the celebrations until once again it got too cold. And as I sat there in my camping chair, with Paul and Chrissy's little dog Fergus asleep on my lap, I thought to myself how far Gareth and I had come and what a brilliant year it had been. I couldn't have possibly asked for any more from my life right then.
The next day was blazing hot and Paul and Chrissy invited us for New Year's lunch. It had been years since I had sat round a table for New Year's Day; not since I lived in England, and tired as we all were (and hungover as some of us also were!) it was so lovely to be able to do that again. For the millionth time I felt truly blessed to have met so many wonderful people. It's particularly touching for Gareth and I, because being vegan we are used to doing our own thing and not wishing to be an inconvenience to others when eating out; yet both Bevin and Amy and Paul and Chrissy all insisted we join them and went out of their way to make sure there was plenty of food for us to eat. It really was so much appreciated!
Working on one of our many projects in my outdoor office!
Who knows what this year will bring for us? There are all sorts of things we WANT to do; it's just a question of whether we will have the time, already the year is filling up fast for us! For now we are happy right where we are and have plenty to do, as well as some big projects we are working on. Once those are done, then we will treat ourselves to some more adventuring! Saying that, we had a very busy December, visiting all sorts of new places, which I will tell you about next time. If I had one wish for 2018, it would be that my family could see and experience life the way I do. I saw this quote recently on my gorgeous friend Lin's motivational website Inspire Beyond Belief and it really struck a chord with me:
As far as I'm concerned there are no truer words! I may not have known where the heck I was going this time last year, and I still don't know now. But we both agree it was the best year ever. We've found our place in the world - and it's the WHOLE world!