Friday, May 2, 2014

Like a Venn diagram, but with no overlap

Here's a classic way to start a weekend: arrive by ferry at Matiatia on Waiheke Island, on a calm autumn evening with the sun setting over Motutapu, staining the flat sea orange. It's school holidays and there are kids everywhere, luxuriating in their freedom. There are boats everywhere too, their owners making the most of the still mild weather and warm days - Oneroa Bay is full of them. Not as chokka as in the height of summer, but still plenty came skimming in during the afternoon over the glossy water that's so still, you can see the trail they leave behind them for a long time after, the same as if someone had walked across dewy grass.

There's a bunch of US travel magazine editors in Auckland this week, along with a small phalanx of American freelance travel writers, come for a conference and being diverted with pre- and post-familiarisations ('fams' to them, 'famils' to us) which will include a farewell group lunch here on the island. Sound familiar? It's a similar set-up, scaled well down, to my recent trip to Chicago for IPW. I can imagine that they all leapt at the opportunity to travel somewhere far away and exotic, to be hosted in a luxury hotel (the Sofitel, scene of my splendidly successful sabrage), be fawned upon, treated with gifts and special dinners, and then to be whisked off to places like Rorotua, Napier, the Bay of Islands and Queenstown.

I hope they have fun, and that the weather co-operates, and they see their various bits of New Zealand at their best. There's no doubting that those going to Queenstown will be blown away by the scenery, how could they not? I'm still marvelling at how glorious it was, when I was there on my sixth or so visit, to cycle the Paradise Trail - but thinking of it now reminds me that I have a huge gap in my experience, that many people I mention it to can hardly believe. Queenstown is a bit like Whistler: most people here know it only as a winter, ski destination; while in fact there's a whole separate set of visitors like me who have only ever been there in the summer.

They have a Winter Festival there, you know. Maybe next year...

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