Just a few short hours before, I was calmly seated on a long-haul flight from the other side of the globe. Now, I am holding on for dear life to the back of my Dad’s quad while he careens up and down hills, swerving between trees and splashing through boggy creeks while chasing a herd of bulls. I’m sharing the wooden platform tacked over the back wheels with one of the sheepdogs. As I turn my head to search for the escaping bulls, the dog catches me full in the face with the broad side of her very long tongue. I’m definitely home on the farm in New Zealand.
The dogs adore taunting the bulls and look very proud of themselves when they get the huge beasts into the cattle-yards. They’re being checked out before being sold tomorrow. When they are let out, I prudently stand up on the elevated ramp that you can see in the photo above. These big guys are pretty wild and very intimidating when you are standing on their level. Actually, they’re still very intimidating when you stand up on the ramp, but they have less chance of being able to charge you when you are up there!
The farm in New Zealand where I grew up lies at the end of a very long and windy gravel road. A grader comes from the town of Whangarei, about an hour’s drive away once or twice a year and trundles along the road to fill in all the potholes and redistribute the gravel. A vehicle coming along the road is an event and we all go out to look at it to see who it could be. A couple of times over the years, very bewildered tourists in camper-vans have ended up out here when they took a very wrong turn. It is possible that somewhere on the back-roads of Northland, they are still driving around aimlessly, looking for a way out.
There’s a grass airstrip on the farm, which you can see in the photo below beside the road. Yes, you are right. It’s not quite like the runways at the airport, but small planes can land and take off from there with no problems. This is where the pilots who spread fertilizer on the fields fly from. I remember once when I was young, being allowed to go for a ride with one of them. The pilot took me on an acrobatic ride that was better than any roller-coaster! He flew straight up so that I was pushed into the seat, and then stalled the plane so we dropped like a stone and I floated. Only my lap-belt kept me in. It was fabulous! I’m sure that he wouldn’t be allowed to do it nowadays, especially with a kid in the plane with him, which is a pity.
Life is very good out here for animals and people alike. Fresh air, oodles of space to roam in, and views people around the world pay millions to have on their back door-step. I feel very privileged to have grown up here.
By Lisa Watson