A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holiday, by Tim Roxborogh.
"You call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye." It's one of the killer lines in one of the great, lesser-known Eagles songs, The Last Resort (1976). Largely a Don Henley creation, it tells the story - with bleak beauty - of America's insatiable appetite for more, more, more at the expense of our humanity and of the environment.
In a seven-and-a-half-minute epic about people who've "raped the land", of mass housing divisions that resemble "a bunch of ugly boxes" and the reality of there being "no more new frontier", the message is as brutal and true today as it was 40 years ago. I've often thought about the lyrics as a travel writer, especially when you discover somewhere special and some of the residents tell you "Shhhh, don't tell everyone".
Waikato's Blue Spring is a case in point of tourism's double-edged sword. Like a lot of people, I hadn't heard about this remarkable dot in the centre of the North Island until a couple of years ago. While I was writing an article about Lake Karapiro Lodge, the owners encouraged me to drive down the road to Putaruru to see the Blue Spring.
I couldn't believe this place, part of the 4.7km Te Waihou Walkway, had flown under the radar for so long. As I wrote at the time, the combination of the crystalline blue water with the vibrant greens of the plants trailing in the river current, and Waikato' rolling hills as well as fern and pine forest on either side is incredible. I couldn't wait to tap out a story.
I wasn't the only one. As spring gave way to summer in 2015-2016, several high-profile articles came out hailing the Blue Spring as New Zealand's best kept secret. The weather played ball that summer and despite water that is said to never climb higher than 11C, the country's "best kept secret" soon became the place from which to post envy-making pics to social media.
Then suddenly the story changed. The Waikato waterhole had reportedly been damaged by all the swimmers. With the water no longer startlingly clear, the plants dulled in colour and suggestions there weren't enough toilets and bins for the swathes of tourists, claims of "paradise lost" were tossed around.
We'd called this place paradise, were we now responsible for kissing it goodbye?
Luckily though, this wasn't the end of the story. Swimming was banned in August 2016 and signs were erected explaining the fragility of the eco-system, and how much of a taonga it is to local Maori. A dud summer weather-wise followed and the spring had time to recover.
A Waikato man who's heavily involved in tourism and environmental projects told me just last week it was back to being as stunning as ever. So by all means, go there and be amazed at just how gorgeous it is. Be respectful, take your rubbish home, stick to the trails and don't swim. But maybe this time, don't call it paradise.
Keeping with the Waikato theme, I love this part of the country. In a recent poll showing which provinces Kiwis would most like to visit on holiday, Waikato came bottom. Sure, there's a lot of competition, but this is unfair. It's my theory that it's the unfashionable image of Hamilton alongside the prominence of the dairy industry in people's minds that tricks New Zealanders into thinking they've got Waikato sussed.
Well, just as many of us didn't know about the Blue Spring, there are a whole host of other Waikato experiences that are worth (carefully) raving about. One of those - e-biking the new cycleways alongside the Waikato River - I'll be writing about in an upcoming Herald feature. Spoiler alert: I'm never riding a normal bike ever again.
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's The Two, Coast Soul
on Coast and writes the RoxboroghReport.com.