I’m delighted to be joined on the blog today by my good friend, Trish Nicholson, an incredibly talented author, photographer and storyteller, to tell us about life in the Far North of New Zealand.
From any hill in the real Far North – the ‘fish tail’ in Maori tradition – you can see the sea. On the west is 90 Mile Beach, or Te Oneroa a Tohe, in Te Reo, the Maori language. (It’s actually 88 km. but that doesn’t have the same ring to it). Boating and fishing are local obsessions, second only to rugby. With 40 beaches within 40 minutes of where I live, fresh seafood is a staple on most family menus.
A good introduction to an area is to visit the local market. When I go to ours on a Saturday, my neighbours are pressing juice from their own oranges; offering avocados, olives, grapes, blueberries, and vegetables they grow themselves; displaying their own art and craft work in flax weaving, jade carving, jewellery-making, painting or knitting, and selling pre-loved items – everything from baby clothes to car parts.
Dairy farming, beef herds, forestry and timber products are major sources of income. But it’s not unusual for a family to have a small olive orchard, or fatten a few steers as well as having regular jobs, or running a small business. It must be a healthy life: a local resident celebrated his 104th birthday recently by renewing his driver’s licence.
We are in the sub-tropics and boast of a ‘winterless’ climate, but we have so much weather we joke about going through four seasons in a day. A view can be dark and drizzly, the wind blowing grit into your eyes in the morning, and like this by afternoon:
The Far North is home to the mighty kauri tree, though few have survived felling and natural causes. A series of cataclysms toppled whole forests of kauri 50,000 years ago. The swamps that formed over them preserved the trees intact, including their natural resin. This kauri gum – like amber – was dug up for export to Europe in the 19th century to be used in paint and varnish production. Today, ‘swamp kauri’ is extracted for the luxury timber trade, to make furniture and Jacuzzis for Japan, or coffins for Taiwan.
Since I stopped travelling around the world 12 years ago, I have planted as many native trees as will fit on my property.
When I’m not planting trees, I’m writing BiteSize Travel ebooks for Collca, a lovely publisher who lets me use loads of my colour photographs. The latest release: On a Flying Tiger: a journey in Bhutan, will be available on Amazon from April 20th.
If you want to visit, you’ll find me in my tree house
on Twitter as @TrishaNicholson, or on my website www.trishnicholsonswordsinthetreehouse.com
I look forward to seeing you.