Before the arrival of the people who would become known as the Maori in the Thirteenth Century, there were no mammals endemic to the fauna of New Zealand. Birds filled most of the ecological niches of the islands. Although the natural history of the island has undergone dramatic changes over the last seven hundred years, there are still many birds. Unfortunately, this proved fatal this morning as several flew into the engines of the turboprop plane that we were meant to take from Wellington to Dunedin. Luckily, we were not on the plane and no passengers were hurt. Still, our flight was delayed seven hours and we spent a lovely day in the Wellington Airport.
New Zealand is never without its magic. Our lunch quest led us away from the airport and through a pedestrian tunnel that opened onto a sleepy seaside cul-de-sac complete with grass-filled parking lots, a dog beach, and a Kiwi bodega.
Arriving in Dunedin, and traversing the cliffs to the picturesque Larnach Castle, we were greeted by Head Gardener, Fiona Eadie, who was kind enough to keep our much-delayed appointment and tour us around the grounds of the castle. Fiona has been working with Margaret Barker, the owner of Larnach Castle, over the last twelve years to transform the gardens of the Castle into lush havens for native New Zealand plants with a focus on an impeccable visitor experience. Larnach features a South Pacific themed garden, an alpine garden, English style borders, tropical forests, and many other extensive plantings with a light Alice in Wonderland theme permeating various installations.
Up to this point we were unaware that a significant 6.2-magnitude earthquake had struck Wellington just hours after we had taken off. Over the past week we have come to love New Zealand and its people; our hearts go out to the North Island and those affected by the quake.
Dinner at Larnach is accompanied by a story of the rise, fall, and rebirth of the Castle. Its relatively short history includes episodes of extravagance, adultery, tragedies, insanity, and death. We were left indulged and intrigued, whispering the question… “Is it haunted?”
Photographs by Gary Shanks