Kaikoura to Christchurch, New Zealand

October 28, 2008 – Kaikoura to Christchurch, New Zealand

It occurs to me as I write the evening of November 1st that I didn’t really explain why the Maori tour was a best-day experience. I think it was because, as the tour progressed, I felt as if we became whanau, their word for “family”. The feeling was temporary, of course, as it is when we share a special experience with strangers, but it was no less satisfying for that.

Or perhaps it was because Maurice said that when an elder dies, “another totara tree has fallen”. (That’s the tree I wrote of that’s considered the “big chief” tree.) My brother was the family totara tree. Hearing the Maori saying, I burst into tears, and Karen understood. When we share tears with a stranger, we bypass the superficial and connect at a deeper level.

Before we left Kaikoura, we used the library computers to catch up with e-mails. Late afternoon we climbed aboard an Interisland bus headed for Christchurch. On the winding roads that led from the coast, through high hills, and down to the Canterbury Plains, we learned that I have not lost my propensity for car sickness in swaying vehicles.

Rocky coast south of Kaikoura
Rocky coast south of Kaikoura

The beautiful scenery was only slightly distracting. Rocky coasts, broom-covered hills (shame on the Scots for that colourful invader), and fields of sheep (which I love from my farming days) could not keep me from wishing I could get off the bus and walk.

Broom is a too-successful invader, but underneath it the seeds of native plants shelter and, it is hoped, will one day take over again
Broom is a too-successful invader, but underneath it the seeds of native plants shelter and, it is hoped, will one day take over again

Arriving in Christchurch, I was relieved to step off the bus and delighted to see Peter Gough heading our way. Peter had had the same question I had – would we recognize each other after thirty years? We’re both grayer. I’m stouter. Peter still looks fit. We managed to connect, and he took Robin and me over Dyers Pass and down to the place I’ve imagined in the more than twenty years he and his wife Janet have lived there: Governors Bay.

Governors Bay is one of many inlets on Banks Peninsula, a pair of ancient volcanoes whose edges have been nibbled by the sea. The peninsula, with stunning vistas around every curve, lies east and slightly south of Christchurch.

Our bedroom in the Gough home was Naomi’s room. Though the bush below has grown high enough to swallow part of the view, the window still looks out on the water and hills of Lyttleton Harbour. Sunlight streaming over the Harbour would be our first view of the day.

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