Comment: The countdown to the biggest event on the rural calendar – Fieldays 2019 – is on. Rowena Duncum reflects on the pros and cons of her team's leisurely paced trip to Fieldays last year – and her change of heart along the way.
For many rural folk, getting to Fieldays involves calling in favours to look after the farm for a day or two, bartering a few milkings here and there for those split or autumn calving, and jumping on a plane or in the ute for the annual pilgrimage to Hamilton's Mystery Creek.
For The Country team, Fieldays last year got off to a rocky start about a month out with just four little words: "We're taking a campervan".
Those four words confirmed my growing suspicions that my boss Lee Piper, the self-titled 'Old Pipesy', had lost the plot.
Most people venturing from Dunedin to Waikato's Mystery Creek for the 50th Anniversary Fieldays would fly.
Correction: most sane people. Especially when their company's footing the bill.
But not us. The Country team moves to the beat of their own drum, it seems.
If I'd made a list of ways to travel from Dunedin to Fieldays – in the middle of winter, no less – a campervan wouldn't have made my top five. It wouldn't have crossed my mind, to be honest.
Yet somehow, there I was, with my now-officially-certified boss and foolish workmate – one Sam 'Lashes' Casey, who'd infamously and accidentally led an All Black into the wrong student flat the previous weekend – halfway across the Cook Strait, halfway through day three of the world's greatest* road trip to Fieldays.
I've got to admit though, it wasn't half bad.
The RV Super Centre hooked us up with a palatial six-berth River campervan, and it must be said, there's something supremely satisfying in just chugging along, rocking up to a random camping ground, simply plugging in and being all set.
We even had matching embroidered pink bathrobes, a fair whack (no pun intended) of Farmside broadband, more Emerson's Mackaiser than we could handle, and more Silver Fern Farms venison than Lashes can burn on the barbecue. (Yes, our commercial team outdid themselves last year.)
Touring, I discovered, is one of life's great joys.
Sure, boys certainly emit a lot more gastrointestinal odours than girls. And it was a small, enclosed space ...
Sure, there was also an incident involving the rapid disappearance of the aforementioned broadband …**
Sure, we took a few wrong turns. But is a road trip without detours even a road trip?
All in all, it was genuinely refreshing to travel at a slower place, regroup before the madness that is Fieldays, take in some breathtaking scenery and yarn to the locals at country pubs along the way.
A real team-bonding experience.
So when you're considering ways of getting yourself to Fieldays and how long to barter in terms of time off, don't sell yourself short. It's been a challenging season, and a slower-paced road trip might be just what you need.
They're doing it again this year, but I won't be joining them a second time.
I might have managed to write a glowing report this time, but let's not push it, eh?
*We have absolutely no way of backing this up with facts.
**Lashes ran us out of broadband the first night, streaming who-knows-what in HD. No judgement from Farmside, who stocked us back up again ASAP.