As the sun set in Wanaka, the fresh southern air gave up those last few degrees above zero which it had clung to for at least part of the day. The only thing colder had been the looks of other motorists, since I was driving a rental car, and was lumped in with the "rental car tourists" instead of the locals, in the "Us v Them" road wars.

But it was freezing, and so was I. Packing my bags only a few days earlier, I had gone to my wardrobe to grab the one and only jacket I own, only to find that I apparently don't own it any longer.

I had told myself that I'd toughen up and brave the weather in my sweatshirt. That it was only a week, I'd spend most of the time inside, I'd get used to the cold after a day, and a bunch of other phrases which would oust someone as having never spent much time down South in winter.

That evening in Wanaka I stood corrected and stood in front of a mirror, looking at myself in the most hideous jacket that you can picture.


It is the epitome of function over form. It looks like a nice big soft marshmallow which you've dropped on the kitchen floor, and then scuffed it around on the ground with your bare feet a little until it's a nice dirty shade of brown- the shade where you can't tell if it was made that colour, or perhaps it was once white but the owner has no personal hygiene.

For the record, I don't really like marshmallows. A lot of people do. But it should be noted that being dressed like a marshmallow is never a positive thing, no matter how much you might like them.

But it also felt like a marshmallow, hence the appeal.

The marshmallow jacket continues its winter theme by propping your arms up with marshmallow fluff, leaving you with your arms sticking out at unnatural 90 degree angle like a snowman's, and by smothering your upper half to leave you waddling around like a plump little penguin. The further it drapes down, the wider it gets, leaving you the shape of an igloo.

It's got so many feathers popping out of that it leaves a trail of perplexed tourists in its wake, all wondering if they still tar and feather people in New Zealand (not only due to the feathers, but because public shame is the only reasonable explanation for someone going out dressed this way). It surely left an equally perplexed rental car company wondering if I had been catching and plucking dinner while driving.

As all animals adapt to their environment, I had quickly figured out that I could dip out of the freezing air into the warmth of shops, feign interest and sidestep sales assistants for just long enough to warm up again, then keep moving down the street one shop at a time. Fortunately, I'm a compulsive "just browsing, thanks!" kind of person, so it came naturally.

But when I ducked into this one shop, the jacket caught my eye right off the bat - most likely because it was so hideous. It was priced to clear, probably so the shopkeeper didn't have to look at it any more, because it was so hideous. But the price was hideously good. It was about as low as the temperature outside, as low as my will go to back out into the cold this ill-equipped.

Beanies give me and all those around me horrendous flashbacks, usually in the form of giggling fits, so they were out of the question. It had to be a jacket.

You could plot a graph of my thought process at that exact moment. Maths was my weakest subject at school, but I can still tell you that the temperature outside and my concern for fashion are positively correlated, at least when it comes to the cold - as the temperature drops, so do the chances of me caring in the slightest how I look.

I also took solace in the knowledge that our time together would be short and sweet. There was no chance of me fitting this monstrosity into my bag, so from the outset, I planned to find some other ill prepared traveller at the airport on my way out of town and pass the large ugly warm curse on to them. It wouldn't follow me home to haunt my wardrobe.

I tried the marshmallow on, which seemed silly given that I already knew I was going to end up with it, and already knew that it was going to look terrible. It did, but it was satisfyingly warm. So, I returned to the street with my next layer on, and we began to bond.

It kept me company for the next few days, in both cold temperatures and semi-Arctic temperatures, across hundreds of kilometres of pristine southern terrain while being tailgated by utes, at many speeches where I proudly showed school children my ugly jacket and threatened to give it to them if they didn't sit down and listen.

And when the time came to say goodbye, it wasn't as easy as I had foreseen it in my head. I didn't rip it off and cast it aside in the terminal.

The jacket, ugly as it may be, had become the defining point of my trip. It was the sweater to my David Bain. It was a pug - so ugly that you kind of like it, or feel sorry for it, or something, but you really can't be mean to it.

So that's how I came to be in the middle of Queenstown airport, stuffing a large marshmallow jacket into my bag as a small crowd of sideways looks from around the room settled on me.

Now it lurks in the back corner of my wardrobe, as a souvenir from my time as a tourist in my homeland.