It’s only a matter of days before the rubber hits the road, and the All Blacks take on France in the 2011 Rugby World Cup. For New Zealand this is bigger than the Olympics, a lot bigger.

The tension is taking its toll and every time a ‘do or die’ game is played the nation holds its breath. Even those not previously enamoured by the sport of rugby are finding themselves restless, unable to focus and wishing Sunday’s final wasn’t taking so long to arrive. Psychologists are reaching out to remind people that it’s only a game. Interestingly the writer himself admitted to pre-game jitters. It would seem no one is immune.

You have to wonder – why the stress New Zealand? I mean on paper it’s a sure thing right? Is it a history of choking that’s getting the fans nervous? Considering the Wallabies have taken the All Blacks out in two previous semi-finals, it’s no surprise most were afraid to commit to an AB victory last Sunday. Fortunately the AB’s are firing on all 15 cylinders right now and everyone is holding their collective breath the magic will last another seven days.

Just a game

While leaving a trail of chip crumbs between the couch and the coffee table, nervously munching through a game’s worth of s’n’v chips, it got me thinking. What would happen if the All Blacks didn’t win the RWC? Would the economy fall over? Would a major (non-weather) depression set in? Would the rivers and lakes dry up? It’s that last point that leads me to my main point.

Footy aside, New Zealand is an amazing country with incredible scenery. Even if a game of rugby is lost, or the RWC slips from our grasp for another four years, that isn’t going to change. The sting of losing lasts a day or three (just ask the green and golds) yet the things that really matter still remain. The trees, the rivers, the amazing country we live in. And for the last six weeks that’s what I’ve been reminding myself of – part of the reason this blog has been a little neglected (not to mention the continual flow of website projects coming through).

Nelson – Home of the arts in the mainland

Nelson is one of my favourite destinations. Not just because I lived there for a few years (and schooled in sunny Motueka) but the place has done a great job of capitalising on its natural beauty and its slightly anti-establishment style (a bit like the Byron Bay of NZ). We drove up there, through the amazing Lewis Pass (never get tired of that drive) and stayed over a long weekend at a house with friends. Good times.

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Aside from the mandatory cruising in the sun and sampling the end result of some good viticulturing, we rubbed shoulders with arty types at the famous Cubicle Art Store store for an exhibition of Atom1746 (a super hero in the art world and a finalist in the Bansky Street Art awards) and the Oi You Street Art exhibition at Founders Park.

Milford Sound – Do it now

Milford – if you haven’t done it and you live in New Zealand then shame on you. Well at least that’s how I felt and so to put a wrong right we made a trip down there one wet weekend. Flew down to Queenstown where we picked up a free relocation van from the friendly people at Jucy and headed out to our first stop – Te Anau, another destination I hadn’t, up to this point, ever reached. From a free rental van (ok so it handles like a sack of potatoes but that’s vans for ya) to $20 cruises on the Milford Sound, this was an amazing weekend that was probably a lot more affordable than most Kiwis would imagine.

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The rain was relentless but we were prepared. Snacks, movies, games – I’ve never had so much fun in a motel room. In fact, I’d hardly noticed that the ongoing rain had meant Lake Te Anau was almost lapping at the door. It didn’t bother me, in fact after being down there I honestly believe the wet season is the best time to visit the place. It turns on the magic but it can also close roads as I was about to find out.

The continual rain had created a hazard on the Milford Hwy (SH94) forcing them to close the road – apparently the warm rain melts the snow, which creates an avalanche risk. We just hoped the road would reopen by the next morning so we could make it through for our 9.45am cruise. Up early the next day to find the road still closed, and with a two-hour drive we weren’t going to make it in time. Fortunately the awesome people at Jucy came to the rescue and rescheduled our cruise for the later 1.45pm slot, and by then the road had reopened. Hooray for awesome service!

The drive is absolutely incredible and we stopped so many times I’m glad there was no one behind us. Bush walks, waterfalls, lakes, mountains, misty rain, sheer cliffs that disappear into the clouds, tunnels venturing into the unknown and dramatic snow falls (hence the avalanche risk) – this place is truly amazing. The Milford cruise was fantastic (great deals to be had on bookme) and the recent torrential rain (with an average rainfall of around 7m it’s no surprise) meant all the waterfalls along the fjord were working, including the Four Sisters.

You get to see all the famous sights like Sandfly Point and Mitre Peak (also known as Rahotu, which has an interesting meaning) and complimentary teas and coffees matched our BYO picnic. Five stars!

Win or lose, we don’t know how lucky we are

So regardless of the outcome New Zealand console yourself with the fact you live in amazingly beautiful country. Tune out from work, politics, bills, domestic issues, and possibly even the rugby and get amongst it. And that’s something the Aussies, the French or even the Namibians can’t take away from us.

It’s only a game

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