Matt Heath is a radio host on Radio Hauraki and Herald columnist

Matt Heath: It snowed on our Kiwi summer holiday

Camping near Dunedin during snow in January is a true test of a family's resolve. Photo / Getty Images
Camping near Dunedin during snow in January is a true test of a family's resolve. Photo / Getty Images

KEY POINTS

Slip, slop, slap turns into sleet, sleet, sleet in the deep south

2016 may have been the hottest year ever but you wouldn't call this the greatest summer. Like most Aucklanders you probably spent your break complaining about the weather. That's because you're a pussy. If you want to see really crappy summer weather you should try camping near Dunedin.

This year my family set up at a lake west of Outram. The plan was to take our two Auckland-raised kids down south for some good honest freshwater sailing and fishing. Get them out of the city, off their iPads and into a tent. I figured a week with my cool big sister and her family outdoors would be a great start to the year. It wasn't.

Things started okay. Weather was good. Caught a few trout. Had a few laughs. Day three it snowed. January in New Zealand, it snowed. This isn't a drug reference, this was real-deal campsite snow in early January. Not ideal.

Kiwis only get a few of weeks off a year. We deserve slip, slop, slap. Not sleet, sleet, sleet.

I'd accept a novelty white Christmas Day. I believe Invercargill had one mid last century. But by January you're over Christmas. You want to be half nude and badly sunburnt on a boat. Drinking warm Wakachangi and listening to punishing BBQ dub. You don't want to be huddling together in a sleeping bag like Sir Ed and Tenzing up Everest.

Imagine snow in January at Mission Bay, Russell, Matakana. The Mount, Waihi, Mangawhai or Poodle Town? Never going to happen.

Were we asking for it, choosing the lower South Island for our tropical summer vacation spot? Yes and no. I grew up in Dunedin and we had amazing summers. Incredibly hot dry days. Asphalt melting scorches. Unfortunately there were no witnesses to these. The students go home over the break and the locals clear out to Central. The place becomes a ghost town. As a result there's no evidence of hot Dunedin summers. No one sees them. Christmas Day 2009 it hit 32C. I was the only one there. It was back down to 8C by the time everyone got back.

Of course there are bad summers too. Five years ago we camped 3km south of Moeraki at Trotters Gorge. Beautiful spot, lovely river, amazing walks. Rained constantly for 10 days. Everything got damp through. Socks, undies, under the undies. I didn't see a single unimpeded ray of sunshine all holiday. Two soggy weeks in a tent with a couple of hyperactive, defecating, toddlers. We had to abandon everything and swim out naked. Bought all new clothes in town, went straight to the airport and flew home. This year was worse.

Then better. We abandoned the summer snow and booked into the wonderful Hotel St Clair with it's spectacular view of the great surf beach. We figured Dunedin summers are best experienced from behind a window. Your swimming best done in heated salt water pools. Of course the weather had changed by then and it was close to 30 degrees for the next three days. My lower legs got dangerously sunburnt enjoying the esplanade cafe and alfresco bar culture. Ankles swelled into cankles. Had to borrow a cane off an old man to get around. Once again there was no one there to see any of this.

It may not have been the best summer break in Auckland but count your blessings, it didn't snow. We live in paradise. We forget how lucky we are. Maybe it's time to get some perspective on our weather. Next Christmas I suggest you man up, grab your thong, sunblock and crampons, pack up the kids and camp in the lower South Island. That's where the real New Zealand summer is.

- NZ Herald

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Matt Heath is a radio host on Radio Hauraki and Herald columnist

Matt Heath is a breakfast radio host on Radio Hauraki, and a television producer, writer and director. He made a name for himself with Back of The Y Masterpiece Television, Balls of Steel UK and the feature film The Devil Dared Me To. Matt was guitarist and singer for the band Deja Voodoo which released two top twenty albums. He is currently a producer on Best Bits, a cricket commentator for The Alternative Commentary Collective, and the director of Vinewood Motion Graphics. Matt is a father of two living in Auckland City.

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