As a northbound bus sped us away from Auckland’s busy streets, we soon found ourselves surrounded on either side by the scenery which we had expected to encounter in New Zealand: green, rolling hills, acres of trees, vast amounts of sheep. After a two hour journey on increasingly windy roads, we dismounted in the small town of Kaiwaka, where were apprehensively shouldered our heavy backpacks and waited for a ride from an acquaintance recently made over the phone: Liz Cameron, longtime friend of my uncle Ken’s and co-owner of the Lochiel Estates winery in Whangarai. It soon transpired that Liz was a perfectly lovely woman and, upon hearing that we really had no direction in life, offered for us to stay a few nights at the Estate while we attempted to figure something out. The offer was greatly appreciated by these two freshly nomadic travelers, and upon our arrival to the house we knew that we were extremely lucky; it sat upon the top of a hill amongst rows and rows of vines and a beautiful view of the surrounding farmland. We were introduced to the other two inhabitants of Lochiel Estates: Gary, Liz’s husband, who welcomed us into his home as if we were old friends, not strangers from another country, and Lucky, the little dog with the big personality. The hospitality of the Camerons was endless, and we greatly enjoyed the company of them and their friends that we met while we stayed there. During our few days in Whangarai we learned about some New Zealand history at the Kauri museum, participated in the weekly town market and were shown what is meant by the expression “Kiwi hospitality”. After an internet job search proved successful and it was decided we would be relocating to the Te Anau on the South Island for work, we re-packed our backpacks and sadly said goodbye to the two people that had quickly become like family to us in a place so far away from home. Gary and Liz Cameron, we cannot thank you enough for your generous hospitality, your willing acceptance of us into your beautiful home, and your truly fabulous wine. I seriously doubt I’ll find a Pinot Gris that good anywhere else (but I don’t mind trying).
One last stay at the Base hostel in Auckland, followed by a flight and a night in Queenstown, and it was time to arrive at our new home: Te Anau, a small, tourist town with a population just under 2000, where we would be working in a hotel set amongst a beautiful backdrop of mountains and lakes.