Anke and I are driving out of Christchurch, away from the city and into the wild. It’s the first days of summer in Canterbury, a couple of weeks before Christmas, and the region’s infamous hot, dry, vexing Nor’wester wind is blowing strong. It’s been a tough year, and we’re both feeling the pull of an open road and the crisp air of New Zealand’s mountainous southern lakes district.
With the keys to the Mazda CX-30 in hand, I grab hot tea and a toasted cheese scone from the Caffeine Laboratory in Christchurch’s historic New Regent Street, then stop to pick up Anke. She’s delighted to be hitting the road at last.
“God, I can’t wait for this,” she says as she puts her bags in the boot, settles herself into the front seat, and begins to regale me with her latest work dramas.
It’s been a long time since Anke and I have spent this much time together. Both independent writers running our own businesses, we might message daily on WhatsApp, but with her living in Lyttelton and me in Nelson (some five and a half hours away on a good day), we don’t often meet. A road trip through our beloved South Island is the perfect opportunity for us to catch up on each other’s lives.
We’re quickly out of the city and cruising the Canterbury Plains. As fields and trees whip by, we get familiar with the CX-30, playing music, admiring the classic, minimalist lines of its leather dash, and calling up our friends for a three-way chat on the seamless smartphone integration.
In Geraldine, we stop at Verde and sit down with drinks at the last picnic table in the cafe’s colourful, cottagey rose garden. “It really feels like summer now, eh?” Anke says, and I agree. Though it’s barely noon on a Wednesday, there’s a holiday atmosphere here already.
Anke and I settle back in for the two-hour drive to the start of our hiking spot at Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, home of New Zealand’s tallest peak, and I begin to test out the CX-30’s safety features.