#natureisawesome. I have been using that hashtag when sharing new images on my Instagram page, which is peppered with photos of books interspersed with scenic images of NZ nature. Earlier this morning, while driving in loops with Mr. Wanderlust, in search of an elusive track around a waterfall, I rounded the corner and felt my breath catch in my throat. Before us opened a magnificent view: rolling green hills overlooking a deep blue line of the ocean to our right, with Mount Maunganui and more Pacific blue to our left. I was struck with awe, yet the ubiquitous word ‘awesome’ suddenly felt too commonplace a description for this experience.
I have been a nature explorer since childhood. I vividly recall Sunday mornings when my parents would pack a picnic into a backpack and we would walk to the nearby forest, my playground. Later, in my teens, the weekend tradition continued. I would sit in the back of my parents’ car, quietly observing the countryside fields and forests on the way to a nature reserve. Sure, I complained from time to time about how much I wished I could have stayed home, but my mother always saw through the facade. Returning home after a soulful day out, blissfully exhausted, she felt it in the serene smile on my face.
One of our main intentions, upon deciding to move to NZ, was to dedicate our time to exploring the country and its beautiful beaches, mountains, and various other hiking — or tramping, as they are known here — tracks. On weekends and during school holidays, the Wanderlust Juniors join us, playing games along the way. Once, after several rainy days in the winter, they accompanied me on a muddy walk near a farm. Trust yours truly to venture off the beaten path to where the cows are. After they had started to get annoyed at having to jump over cow dung, I attempted to make the experience more fun for them by making up games and singing ‘Hey, diddle, diddle’ to the cows. Last weekend, during a bush walk up a hill, the Wanderlust Juniors created their own game upon feeling inspired by the forest.
“I’m Gandalf!” the eldest declared.
“I want to be Gandalf!” the youngest protested in return.
“You can be Saruman, but when he was good, in The Hobbit.”
With their walking staffs, they ran ahead to escape the Orcs — you guessed it, Mr. Wanderlust and me.
They observe, even when they run fast and appear lost in a fantasy world. Just as I once pretended to dance with the faeries in the clearing. The scent of warm pines in the summer and the song of the sparrows transports me, every time, back to that moment. Nature is awesome.
What are your favourite places to walk, hike, run, and explore?