I am writing from the banks of Lake Wanaka, New Zealand where Carlos stands waist deep in water about one hundred meters away. He is fishing for trout– an obsession he has acquired since we moved to Tasmania five months ago. I have no idea what sparked his interest in fishing but nearly every time we have crossed a river or a lake in New Zealand (which if you look at the map you’ll understand is about every fifteen minutes one way or another) he spouts: “FISHING!” like a little boy who sees an airplane or a cow for the first time.
He puts his head down as he walk towards me sans fish. “I lost my Tassie Devil,” he says, clearly more upset about his favorite lure getting away from him than the loss of his expensive sunglasses early today while mountain biking. “That really bums me out.” No worries, we have other lures and he’s back at it within minutes. As much as I am miffed by Carlos’ overnight fanaticism for fishing, I do like the idea of catching our own dinner. And, as he put it, it’s a better habit than gambling.
For the last week we have been road tripping on the South Island of New Zealand on what we both agree is a boy’s trip. I’m fine with that since we spent our time in Melbourne shopping and seeking out culinary spots that I had researched. Anyway, skipping rocks, lighting camp fires, gutting fish and tasting microbeers are all valuable life skills that I have no qualms about developing. The South Island of New Zealand is far more remote and sparsely populated than I anticipated. Even if I wanted to seek out hip restaurants or shops it simply wouldn’t happen here. It is stunningly beautiful no matter which way you turn. And besides the herds of camper vans, there really aren’t many people. I was told there were more sheep than permanent residents on the South Island and I believe it.
We touched down in Christchurch last week and spent the day touring the broken city. The earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 destroyed what you can imagine was once a charming English city. We were silenced by the barriers that close off the entire Central Business District. Imagine the entire downtown of San Francisco or Hobart shuttered for years. It’s heartbreaking to see but there is a vibe of “hold onto your bootstraps” that New Zealanders are known for and we could both imagine Christchurch looking totally different in ten years. For now, it is a wounded town that has a long recovery ahead. An in all honesty, after touring the barren West Coast and midlands of the South Island, it almost seems as if New Zealand wasn’t really supposed to have a thriving metropolis anyway. This is a land of pristine, untouched wilderness. The land is so clean and pure that a city might just feel inappropriate nestled inside of it.