There's an old NZ Tourism television advertising campaign from the 1980s that has found a new lease of life in the post-pandemic world we now live in.
It was built around the theme of "don't leave town 'til you've seen the country".
Quintessential Kiwi messaging — a bit like Barry Crump and the Toyota Hilux ads of the same generation and genre.
For those of you not old enough to remember, it featured a young New Zealand bloke on his OE being told about the 350 islands in the Bay of Islands by a New York cabbie and about the beauty of Milford Sound by a beautiful Parisian vixen. On both occasions he had to admit he'd never been there.
Or in the case of the French temptress and Milford Sound, saying "I've never been down that far", as he glanced down to her ample bosom. So gloriously 80s and politically incorrect!
The punch line of the commercial comes from a black African man, standing on a river bank calling out to our canoeing Kiwi, "hey man, do you know where the Victoria Falls are?" To which our hapless hero replies, "somewhere near Taupō aren't they?"
The ad finishes with the African man pointing just downstream to the Victoria Falls as our hometown hero looks aghast as he floats towards his (presumably) impending doom. The voiceover guy finishes with "a word of advice to New Zealanders". And in comes the catchy jingle. "Don't leave town 'til you've seen the country".
"Somewhere near Taupō" became entered the lexicon and became 1980s jargon. While it was a great commercial campaign, unfortunately the message didn't stick.
In the intervening four decades we've done nothing but leave the country. In our droves!
And I'm a guilty Boomer (apologies in advance for that Chloe) because I'm from the luckiest generation who are well travelled internationally. Even though I'm at the tail end of those born from 1946-64, like many Boomers, I was penniless in my twenties but a free tertiary education and time in the property market, as opposed to timing, has been the Boomer's friend.
My job in radio has also been a great catalyst to travel domestically, initially as a rugby commentator and more recently as a rural commentator, but I'm ashamed to admit I've never been to Kaitāia, Westport or Aoraki Mount Cook.
While the former two are going to have to wait, the good news is, to quote Sir Ed, when it comes to Mount Cook I'm going to "knock the bastard off" this weekend. No, I'm not climbing it, but I hope to have a good look at it from base camp, Mount Cook Village.
You see, that is the starting point for the Alps 2 Ocean bike ride which will take me eventually to Ōamaru, some 320km down the bike track.
We'll peddle past the magnificent Mackenzie Country through Tekapo, Twizel, Lake Ōhau, and Ōmarama. Then it's down the mighty Waitaki Valley through Ōtematata, Kurow and Duntroon before finishing in Ōamaru.
This is truly majestic country. Some say the austere and beautifully barren landscape of the Mackenzie Country has been ruined by water. While it's fair to say there has been dairy farm development where perhaps there shouldn't have been, water has also breathed life into the region and its economy.
Then there's the upper Waitaki hydro-electric power system — with all its lakes, dams, canals and intertwining intricacies — surely one of New Zealand's great engineering feats of the 20th century. It has, quite literally, powered our nation. I love dams. We need more of them!
And finally, we finish in stunning Ōamaru with its Victorian whitestone architecture, funky steampunk culture and adorable blue penguin colony. It's definitely one of the country's best-kept tourism secrets.
And to cap off my trip through heartland New Zealand I might just call into the historic Totara Estate, just south of Ōamaru, on the drive back home to Dunedin. That's where the nearly 5000 mutton and lamb carcasses were procured for New Zealand's first ever frozen meat shipment in 1882 on the sailing ship Dunedin.
Amazingly, despite an air circulation problem en route in the frozen hold, only one carcass was deemed unfit when she berthed, after 98 days at sea, in London.
In the meantime though, we can forget about London. But when the borders do eventually open, remember — don't leave town 'til you've seen the country. After all, we live in the best one in the world.