It’s God’s own country, lovely weather, come soon,’ said my nephew who stays in New Zealand. I knew the country was beautiful, but the trip exceeded all my expectations. The dramatic landscape, lush vegetation and unique wildlife completely bowled me over. We visited various parts of the North Island and to see more of the country we took a ship from Auckland to all the important ports of the east coast and to the southernmost island, which is near the Antarctic.
In Wellington, we saw a scaled-down version of the wooden ship that carried early settlers from Britain to New Zealand. Christchurch looks like any big seaside resort in England. Dunedin is similar to Edinburgh, and the town has preserved its Scottish heritage. We were treated to soulful music and highland dances. The day ended well with a taste of haggis, a traditional Scottish dish, and a Patiala peg of Scotch.
As an ex-servicemen, I enjoyed the visit to a museum at a local air base. New Zealand has a small air force but it had taken active part in operations in North Africa and also with the Americans on the Pacific coast during World War II.
One of the officials at the base, a decorated ex-fighter pilot, showed me around and we traded stories of the campaign when he was locked in combat with the German Lutwaffe while my regiment below was in full retreat. Field Marshal Rommel’s Panzer divisions had broken through our defences in Tobruk in 1942.
My trip also included a visit to Sydney. I visited the Sydney Cricket Ground. Being a cricket lover, I was thrilled to sit in the Bradman Bar in the Member’s Enclosure. What made the trip doubly memorable was a chance meeting with my first ‘date’. We were both college students in Lahore some 70 years ago.
The trip to New Zealand also seemed to have a positive effect on my golfing skills — I was so enthused by it that the first day I visited the course on my return to India, I teed off on the 13th and made a hole-in-one.