There's something refreshing and refocusing about a holiday.
Having just returned from six weeks' work reprieve, this reporter is back at the desk re-energised and ready to meet new people, find new stories and promote the good side of Whanganui in the paper we call Midweek.

Part of that time off included a trip to places north of Auckland where Marie and I discovered a very different part of New Zealand. It's certainly a destination as it's not a part of the country you pass through on the way to somewhere else.
Perhaps that contributes to its unique nature: its variety of vegetation, different birdlife and unspoiled coastline.

And, of course, it is steeped in history. Places like Paihia, Russell (Kororareka) and Waitangi ring with stories of our colonial past and efforts to create a nation. Who has not heard of Hone Heke, even if he is forever remembered for chopping down a flagpole?
We travelled by bus along Ninety Mile Beach, boogie-boarded down a high sand dune at the Te Paki Stream, trekked out to the lighthouse at Cape Reinga and walked through a kauri forest at Manginangina.

We stayed with a lovely couple in the hills above Kerikeri, from where we could see all the way across to the Bay of Islands. On a good day you can see the Hole in the Rock. We saw skylarks high in the sky, rosellas flitting through the trees, turkeys wandering free, a weka investigating the tourists near the Russell flagpole and seabirds we seldom see in our part of the country.


We dined on fish and chips at the world famous Monganui Fish Shop, went shopping in the old stone house at Kerikeri and walked along some beautiful beaches.

We have always appreciated the value of our volunteers, and in Whangarei we were treated to another shining example of what they can do.
Quarry Gardens is a subtropical oasis created by unpaid workers in the remnants of a former quarry in Russell Road, Whangarei.
It contains a lake and waterfalls, native forest walks, subtropical and arid gardens, tunnels, a camelia walk, remains of the old quarry machinery and concrete work ... it's a fabulous place and we got to meet some of the volunteers who make it happen. Mostly retired people, they maintain the gardens in impeccable order, often supplying their own plants to add to the vast Quarry Gardens collection.
Attached to the gardens is a superb cafe with large windows looking out into greenery and water.
Just like our volunteers who keep Virginia Lake looking so good, the Whangarei people do it for the love of it.

We travelled home by train, catching the Northern Explorer (they call it Dora) from Papakura, which gave us views of the North Island from a new perspective.
We missed a few Whanganui events while we were away, but we know there is always something going on here, which, as far as I am concerned, is grist for the Midweek mill.

Naturally, we voted in the recent local elections. Many did not. Whanganui's percentage of registered voters who actually bothered to vote was pathetic — 44.17 per cent! That suggests an awful lot of apathy.

I did hear that a lot of (young) people do not vote because they do not know enough about the candidates. That statement became a news item but no-one seemed to question its veracity. The blame instead was placed on the candidates for not reaching out to the young voters. Really?

Are we talking about the most socially connected generation in the history of the planet? The people for whom current information as well as the wisdom of the ages is available at the push of a button, and for whom everything they need to know about the elections is available on that same portable device?

Perhaps a shift sideways from meaningless tweets, narcissistic selfies and fluffy trivia to real information is beyond those who excused their apathy with ignorance.