Winston Aldworth 's Opinion

Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

Winston Aldworth: Breaking news ... something got stolen

The backpackers who had their cars broken into by thieves while they were swimming at Maraetotara Falls. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today
The backpackers who had their cars broken into by thieves while they were swimming at Maraetotara Falls. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today

It's a pretty common news story in the summer months - and the key elements are generally the same: Young backpackers, a beautiful spot by the water, an unguarded vehicle and some local hoods.

Also familiar: the reaction of locals. Kiwis often dip into their pockets to help out burgled travellers. Why is that?

Local communities don't rally around to produce a brown envelope every time a Kiwi gets robbed when passing through town. And Lorde knows Kiwis who get their backpacks lightened while touring in other parts of the world would be unlikely to find themselves appearing in the local media ("Leading your Johannesburg news bulletin: A New Zealander has had her camera and passport nicked...").

A group of seven travellers, from Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Germany and France, got the 100% Robbed experience last week in Hawke's Bay. They had their van and car turned over while swimming at Maraetotara Falls, halfway between Havelock North and Waimarama.

They lost money, a few possessions and - probably most annoyingly - passports. (Petty crime is low enough, but stealing passports is particularly galling - unless you're a Mossad agent or a Walter White figure on the run, a passport is of pretty much zero value, but the relative inconvenience to the traveller is huge.)

One of the group, Krista Wu, from Taiwan, saw the bright side.

"I quite like New Zealand. The feeling is people are really nice compared to my country." Bless.

There's something extra crap about people having a crap time when travelling. They should be having a great time! It's logical that those of us stuck at work are having a lousy time, but young travellers having fun keep the universe in balance.

Two possible reasons for the robbed-traveller story having such interest for us.

1. It's an extension of the cultural cringe that sees us desperately asking visitors "whatdoyouthinkofnuzild?". As a nation, we're so mortified by the prospect of them going home and delivering an unfavourable report that we dust off our wallets to buy their silence.

2. This is actually a really nice place to visit and the people (mostly) are pretty cool.

I prefer the second theory.

As always, be safe - and definitely be insured.

- NZ Herald

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Winston Aldworth

Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

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