Sunday 13 January 2013

Far from it

Despite its unfortunate international code Dunedin's airport, while cutely small and provincial in feel, is the gateway to a beautiful part of the country that, on a fine summer's afternoon as the sun makes its leisurely way down to the horizon, just glows. It was, I'm mildly astonished to report, my first time through the airport though I've been here many times, always by road; and the last time was 12 years ago, so I was seeing the countryside with pretty much fresh eyes. Open, rolling, full of fluffy sheep and neatly-trimmed windbreaks and little towns with rather grand Coronation Halls along the road from equally grand but undoubtedly better-patronised pubs, it was a pleasure to drive through and felt like home in a way that the North Island's lumpy, bushy, volcanic landscape never does, to me, Mainlander through and through.
Bowling along the wittily-named Presidential Highway (which, though a simple two-lane country road, links Clinton and Gore) the sun was low and the shadows long, and the sheep classically back-lit. When we arrived at Mainholm Lodge the scenery was luminous, the long view to the Blue Mountains (er, 'mountains') framed by cabbage trees and a monkey puzzle, and what better way to enjoy it than sitting on the porch with a glass of wine with a friendly tortoiseshell cat purring at my feet? As the dusk slowly crept in, we averted our eyes from the sheep in the paddock outside and ate lamb shanks and sticky date pudding in a cosy Victorian dining room, swapping travel notes with host Graham, from Wales via Perth. And now we're enjoying the novelty of watching a 1991movie, The Returning, filmed at the house, which promises to be a real clunker - but how often can you watch a drama filmed in the very room in which you're lying?

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