It’s a place near the center of New Zealand’s North Island; we spent the last Christmas of the decade there. It’s considered remote in NZ which I guess makes it doubly so in the wider world. Unless you’re planning southern-hemisphere skiing you’re unlikely to go near it, so I felt words and pictures worth sharing.

What happened was, Lauren’s brother and his wife who live in Auckland came to visit us and we took them to our cabin; they liked the country-retreat concept so much that they bought an acre in Horopito and built a house on it. This was finished and moved-into on December 18th and in a flash of insane courage, they invited their three children, two children’s spouses, and five grandchildren along. And us. Lauren and I have been together for more than twenty years and have spent every Christmas with my family, so it was about time hers got a turn.

So it was off to New Zealand for us. Now, as an environmentalist loudmouth should I feel bad about jetting between the hemispheres? I should, and I do. But there’s that twenty-years thing and also Lauren’s Dad is getting to a state of age and health where we may not see him again. We’re obviously going to have to slash the amount of mass jet travel; I would hope that the global carbon budget can sustain trips made mostly for love, but I don’t know. I may never pull that transcontinental trigger again.

Horopito was once a lumber boomtown, but the town’s pretty well gone. This post office was closed in 1970.

Horopito Post Office

It has been pointed out to me that this picture would be suitable for an indie album cover. Any band that wants to use it may do so but you have to send a few bucks to the little girl, whom I know.

Horopito isn’t famous for anything but it’s near some well-known things, most notably Mount Ruapehu, the North Island’s tallest at 2,797m (9,177 ft) . (Actually, Ruapehu is part of a complex that includes Tongariro and Ngauruhoe (which Peter Jackson had stand in for Mount Doom.)) There are any number of glamorous pix of Ruapehu and its posse, but here’s a look out the front of the family property during complicated weather — most NZ weather is complicated.

Mount Ruapeho in clouds

We took two trips up the mountain. Here are views from the Whakapapa side:

View from near Whakapapa
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View from near Whakapapa

And here’s another looking southwest.

View southwest from Ruapehu

New Zealand is full of nice scenery, whichever way you look.

Smash Palace! · That’s all you need to say to explain where Horopito is to any New Zealander with even one or two grey hairs. It’s officially Horopito Motors, “the largest and only vintage car dismantlers in Australasia”. It’s really impressive in the satellite view. “Smash Palace” refers to a 1981 NZ-made movie in which the wrecking yard features; I’ve actually seen it and it’s not terrible.

smash Palace
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Smash Palace

Of course, the main point was getting the family together. In a Southern-hemisphere Christmas, the turkey and ham at dinner is served cold, and then after digesting a bit, people retire to the lawn to toss frisbees and rugby balls and generally run around:

Christmas festivities

One evening the sky was crystal clear and a few of us stargazed. I didn’t take the trouble to figure out how to unleash the Pixel 4 astrophotography mode, but I did point it at the southern skies. On that half of the globe, Orion is upside down…

Southern-hemisphere Orian

… and looks like a shopping cart.

Also, what I think is the Southern Cross, first time I’ve seen it. The Pixel didn’t capture the Milky Way, perfectly evident behind the Cross, to the naked eye.

Maybe the Southern Cross

If you have a large loving family to welcome you, I think Horopito is a fine place to visit, and the quality of light is special.

Clouds over Horopito

I missed my own ancestral family, meeting for a Prairie Christmas back home in Canada. (But appreciated the fact that I was thirty or so Celsius degrees warmer.) And I’m so thankful and heartwarmed by the hospitality and love, effortlessly given in acre-sized servings by Mary and Martin and the rest of the Wood clan.


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December 31, 2019
· The World (116 fragments)
· · Places
· · · New Zealand (9 more)

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