Recently I had a rare treat – a day out with my mother and her friends after they came to Dunedin from around the country for their annual get-together.
Their friendships were established in our farming community of Hindon, when they decided many years ago to take a break from the farm and plan an annual tramping trip.
Life on the farm can sometimes be challenging, battling droughts in the summer and snow in the winter, and I applaud the decision made all those years ago to factor in some “active relaxation” for themselves.
They have been meeting for 26 years and each year they go somewhere different, taking turns to host and plan a great experience for the others.
And they have been everywhere – Stewart Island, Abel Tasman National Park, the Tora Coastal Walk and the stunning Banks Track at Akaroa.
These days, as 70-somethings, their tramps are more of a recreational variety and on the itinerary was the Dunedin Street Art Trail and Orokonui Ecosanctuary, combined with some lovely lunches and dinners out. Drinks and nibbles at 5pm were compulsory.
They have certainly come a long way since the early days training for tramps, putting sacks of sugar in their backpacks and walking up and down the tussock-covered Hindon hills!
We walked the Leith Walkway, starting near the botanic garden and walking through the university, where I was able to provide some interest points and commentary from my time working there, down to Forsyth Barr Stadium, where we were treated to a short tour, and then around Logan Park, past all the sport and recreation facilities, linking back around through the university again and back to the gardens.
We then went up Mt Cargill before heading out to Orokonui.
It was great to be able to act as a guide. Being a tourist in your own town makes you stop and look through fresh eyes and I was interested to hear their stories of connections – of significant places, of streets their children flatted in and even where you had to go at the university archway to see your exam results posted on the noticeboard.
Times, indeed, have changed!
Through a love of being active, they have come together and enjoyed each other’s company over the years, and each trip is eagerly anticipated.
They may have all moved away from our farming community but those connections are stronger than ever – old friends are truly the best friends.
I’m taking some inspiration from them to plan a first reunion with some of my oldest and dearest friends later this year.
May it be the first of many.