“It was really cool to see where Rosie lives, works, goes for a drink, and to meet her friends. And of course we loved New Zealand, what’s not to love?”
Last November, my husband and I travelled to New Zealand to visit my daughter. We had a two-week stopover in Malaysia, where we thoroughly appreciated the heat, vibrant colours, and friendliness of the people we met there. We quickly got used to the cheap, delicious street food, so much so that we had a bit of a shock arriving in expensive Auckland.
I often sit and reminisce about my daughter as a baby, clinging on to me like a little koala bear, and now she’s living on the opposite side of the planet—time certainly does fly. I have always encouraged Rosie to travel, although I didn’t expect her to settle in NZ… admittedly I have very mixed feelings about this. I am thrilled she is happy in her work, has wonderful friends and is enjoying all the delights of NZ, but I miss her so much, and in my gut there’s a part of me who wants her back under my wing, clinging to me, safe in my arms. She was such a shy child hiding behind me—it’s hard to believe now that you can’t shut her up!
With these emotions, the trip was always going to be a mixed experience — knowing from the beginning that there would be an end to it, and that would involve another sad goodbye to my beloved daughter. But we had a bloody good time, all five weeks of it!
The first two weeks were spent exploring the North Island, from the magical Bay of Islands to the Coromandel Coast, and ending in not-so-windy Wellington.
Ah, how hard it is to pick out memories, so many and so varied. It was incredible to stay in the most Northern campsite in New Zealand and then do the long and (to me) arduous walk to Cape Reinga. Hours away from phone signal and internet, we set up our campsite. I hadn’t camped with Rosie for years; it was so much fun! She ensured we go to one of her favourite geothermal hot springs, Ngawha, which we loved. Quite unspoilt, hardly anyone there, and I had a great talk with a Māori regular who told me of the history of this taonga (treasure) of the North.
My husband and I are used to staying in hostels and tents—rarely do we stay in luxury, so our treat to ourselves was to stay in a divine house on the Coromandel Peninsula for Christmas. Unfortunately, the weather was cool and dreary, but we still had a good time, joined by Rosie’s friends—mostly non-Kiwis who had ended up in New Zealand. We cooked a traditional English Christmas dinner and were entranced by the addition of grapefruit fresh from the tree.
It was lovely how quickly Rosie and I just got into our normal relationship, mostly good, lots of jokes, some irritation (as mothers and daughters do). Overall I was just in seventh heaven to be with my Rosebud again! We spent a lot of Christmas Day skyping the family in England, but it doesn’t really do it for me—I like to feel and smell and hug, you can’t do that over Skype!
It was really cool to see where Rosie lives, works, goes for a drink, and to meet her friends in the flesh rather than just stalking them on Facebook. Of course, we loved New Zealand—what’s not to love? Such friendly people, and I will talk to anyone—it’s what I like to do, much to my children’s amusement. I remember chatting with a Māori farmer well into his eighties in Raglan; we exchanged stories of farming in the old days, and I just thought how much my Dad, a Worcestershire farmer, would have loved that. We met such interesting folks through staying at hostels and Airbnbs, all with their own stories to tell.
From Wellington, we got the ferry over to the South Island. Rosie had to return to work, so off we went in her little white car that she had leant us. Arriving in Christchurch, I was utterly shocked by the devastation caused by the 2011 quake. I was also very impressed by what is happening there now, the regeneration of the city. We loved the cardboard cathedral and the shipping container shopping mall. We were very moved by the stories we heard there, talking with a museum attendant, a road worker, a cafe worker, all with their own painful memories of the earthquake.
I remember back when I was travelling—the same age Rosie is now—I fell in love with Israel/Palestine, and after spending a couple of years there I considered permanently staying, even though we were spending lots of time in bomb shelters. So when Rosie mentioned she was tempted by the cheap rent and beautiful surroundings of Christchurch, aka Quake City, I understood the fear my mum would have felt back then.
I learned a lot of random facts to go home with, like Kiwis can’t fly and only lay one egg. “Waka” means canoe or indeed any other mode of transport. Cuba Street in Wellington is really groovy! (Must remember not to say groovy in front of Rosie unless I want a sarcastic reaction.) I re-read Janet Frame, and Māori stories of Earth Mother and Sky Father. And at the end of it all, I re-learned the practice of letting go—something parents do all their lives. I waved goodbye to my lovely daughter with tears in my eyes, not knowing where or when I would see her again.
However, now when she talks of her friends and NZ travels, I can picture the places and put names to the faces, and I have many blissful memories of our special trip to the magical islands of Aotearoa.
Author - Pammie Michell
Pammie Michell is from the United Kingdom. She is a mindfulness teacher who loves to visit different cultures, and volunteers in her spare time at a local refugee centre.
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