After a day or two in Central Otago, meeting inspirational locals, it was clear that you shouldn’t judge a destination only by its tourist brochures and TripAdvisor posts.
I learned that from the grandparents, parents and children, all volunteers, who give up their time to nurture and plant thousands of native trees and shrubs around the Wakatipu Basin, bringing back the greenery, and hopefully the birds and insects, that seemed all but lost.
From the tour guide who freely admits his company “burns a lot of fossil fuels”, but does so to open the eyes of visitors from around the world to the beauty and fragility of New Zealand’s great taonga – the land, waters, wildlife – and assists them to help preserve it, and their own environments. And from Monica Mulholland, who, well into her 50s, decided the time had come to finally live life on her terms, as a transgender person. As a man, he’d been a longtime member of the Rotary Club; as a woman, she would become their president.
“What I did not realise until I started to come out, was how accepting Queenstowners are, and what resources there are in this town,” she told me.
She was speaking of her own situation, but Monica was speaking a wider truth. For Queenstown may be all those skifields, bungy-jumps and celebrity visitors and cocktails, but it is more than that. At its heart, it is a community.