From Hong Kong we flew to Wellington in New Zealand, via Auckland, and then dove a couple of hours north to the town of Masterton to stay with friends of many years standing, dating back to the time that we all lived in he Rossendale Valley in Lancashire. Peter is now the vicar of Epiphany parish Church in Masterton. Saturday we spent recovering, but the following day we went out for a late lunch to a local winery, accompanied by the principal of the primary school linked to the church. After lunch, we were taken to another winery nearby, where we we able to taste - and buy - some of the local wines. Sunday evening saw us at a third winery, this time the home of Peter's archdeacon and her husband, who were hosting a barbecue. Not often that my choice of wine at a barbecue would be one retailing at NZ$ 40 a bottle (25€)! I was delighted to discover that they ship this excellent Pinot Noir to the UK under the Pirinoa Road label. I shall be online searching ahead of my next UK trip by car.
Our friends have a home outside Marton to which they will ultimately retire; in the meantime it is used as a holiday home, and we headed over here on Monday or the rest of our time with them.
What a contrast to Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated places on the planet. New Zealand - a country with about the same land area as the British Isles - has a population of four and a half million people, one million of whom live in Auckland and another million are on South Island. There is an abundance of land which, even allowing for the restrictions on permitted building density, is easily affordable. Most construction is off-site and then simply assembled and completed on the plot. Their home stands on a 10 acre block in the midst of farmland, with several stands on trees, and is an absolute delight to be in. A neighbouring farmer has the use of the grassland for grazing. The place is so quiet that you can stand outside at the front of the house and the only sound is that of the sheep cropping the grass 300 to 400 mtres away.