I’ve lived in New Zealand two years and it wasn’t until this weekend that I did The Best Of All Things.
One of my besties here, Amanda, worked on a farm in Ponui (home of New Zealand’s only feral donkey) studying kiwis (the birds, y’all). This weekend she invited some friends to stay for the weekend. After only 24 hours on the island I decided I would never leave. (Spoiler Alert: I had to leave.)
We arrived in a rickety boat. Our cabin was run down, had no heat and a phone system that operated like Morse code. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
We barely had time to settle in that night before Amanda walked us through pastures, up a mountain and through the bush on a kiwi hunt.
As soon as we left the house we came across a little blue penguin. A penguin. IN THE WILD, GUYS. The penguin (christened Herbert) was running around in the pasture when a cow spotted him. The cow immediately lumbered up and the bird – terrified – just stood there. The cow would inch sloowwwly forward, Herbie would twitch, and the cow would jump back. This process lasted five minutes; a stand-off between the tiniest blue penguin and a giant, hulking cow.
As soon as we started walking again we came across a kiwi. IN THE WILD, GUYS. These things are hysterical. They’re fat, only come out at night, can barely see, make an absurd amount of noise and can’t fly. He looked like a very fat man with very short legs. I love that this is the national icon of New Zealand.
Eventually we found our way to a lookout: a small ridge looking over the island, the water, then Auckland in the background. We sat without stars or moonlight, staring over our city. Five foreigners, from three different countries, all strangers less than a year ago. Sometimes I forget just how lucky we are.
We then made our way to the base of a gully, which is where we found glow worms. GLOW WORMS. IN THE WILD, GUYS. These bad boys were so big and so bright we could see them even with our flashlights on. (You can pay $150 to see glow worms in Waitomo, or have A-Cakes show you around an island in the middle of nowhere New Zealand where they litter the trail like stars.)
I slept like a baby that night. I haven’t slept so long or in so late since before my course and it felt amazing.
After breakfast the next morning we met Buster, the chicken Amanda saved when it was just a chick.
Amanda gave us a tour of the wool shed, walking us through the process of shearing a sheep. We all got to stamp wool, making our feet covered in lanolin and (literal) shit. My toesies have never felt lovelier.
Amanda also showed us how to shear a sheep using our dear friend Helen as an example. I think Helen was secretly pleased.
We walked along the beach that afternoon, buried our feet in the sand, splashed in the water and played explorer on a docked boat. What could be better? Oh yeah, yoga with a view of the water. THAT HAPPENED.
We practiced our sun salutations on the beach while the sun came out from the clouds. The boys relaxed with a beer with the chickens. I filmed a top-secret video for CouchSurfing, read while it rained and walked up to the top of a nearby hill to look out over to the Coromandel.
I don’t even have the words anymore.