Travel Comment

Ponderings on all aspects of travel - both at home and abroad.

Liz French: Exploring your own backyard

The 'Pink Hatters' are committed to making the most of New Zealand's many attractions. Photo / Liz French
The 'Pink Hatters' are committed to making the most of New Zealand's many attractions. Photo / Liz French

We baby boomers seem hell-bent on dashing off around the world gaining notches in our money belts. Everyone has been, or is going, to Europe or Asia. Every dinner party is dominated by dissertations on Provence or Umbria, India, Annapurna or Istanbul. The latest travel statistics show a significant increase in the numbers of New Zealanders travelling overseas.

All of which served to increase my admiration for a group I met on a catered farm walk near Gisborne. The Pink Hatters are two couples, from Wellington and Hawkes Bay, who have made a deliberate decision to eschew overseas travel in favour of discovering their own beautiful country.

The money not spent on long boring expensive flights buys them plenty of local cuisine and luxury accommodation among the more rugged activities they undertake on their regular holidays.

They've met heaps of wonderful people and many overseas visitors relishing parts of New Zealand that most Kiwis have never experienced.

We live in one of the most spectacular and unspoiled countries in the world, regularly topping international destination lists.

Yet I know more people who have walked the Cinque Terre in Italy than any of our own Great Walks.

I admit to some envy when I farewelled friends off to ski in Colorado in January. I soon got over it as we spent our summer breaks tramping in the Kauaeranga Valley near Thames, cooling off in a pristine river; sleeping in a teepee in an eco resort in Raglan; mountain biking above the shores of Lake Taupo and participating in a DOC guided ride across a remote station to the Mohaka River.

We jet boated and canoed the Whanganui; joined friends to Walk Gisborne while my partner sailed to North Cape via a dramatic coastline dotted with deserted bays and white sand beaches. He returned matching North's Marcus Lush for gush. I learned to stand up paddle board on Tauranga's harbour and we took mountain bike skills courses in Rotorua's Whakarewarewa Forest.

All for the equivalent of one economy return fare to Denver.

For a more hedonistic holiday the quality and choice of local accommodation, food and wine is world class and the locations to enjoy it in often breathtaking.

You can get a decent coffee. There is no need to have jabs, spend hours in airports and even longer cooped up in planes. It takes less time so you can go away more often. You know what your dollar will buy.

And - if you care - your carbon footprint is much lighter.

Bring back that old slogan, "Don't leave home till you've seen the country".

Liz French is a freelance writer

- NZ Herald

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