Where the streets have no point

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

In ye olde days of travel (aka pre the ongoing maelstrom), in a realm of privilege and opportunity, one of the decisions I found the toughest to make was whether I would revisit a place I had been to before and adored, or whether I should try somewhere new, yet to be discovered and loved, writes  H J Kilkelly.

H J Kilkelly
H J Kilkelly
Never had I encountered a town, city or country I was vehemently opposed to ever going back to; a few times, of course, I had been to places I wouldn’t be in a rush to get back to, but conversely wouldn’t refuse to revisit if the opportunity presented itself.

There was always something incredible to discover: a food I hadn’t eaten yet, a sunrise to be seen from the top of a mountain — OK, large hill — I hadn’t climbed yet, a waterfall, a skyline, an unusual theme park, a breath-taking rock formation, an emotion stirred unexpectedly.

Never had I met a place that I wanted to avoid; a place with wairua so oppositional to my own that the very thought of spending more time there made me feel slightly ill. A place where the roadside plaques made me angry, the contents of the shops infuriated, and the air felt thick with the loaded pain of history. Or of being forgotten, perhaps.

This year, quite unintentionally, I found That Place.

Much as I wouldn’t name The Best cheese rolls to be found, or indeed, give the Best Recipe for one (yes, that was entirely deliberate) I also will not be naming That Place. I firmly believe there is (probably?) something to love about everywhere, and that people who live there may indeed have actually chosen to do so. Either that, or much like Hamilton, it’s so hard to find the way out again that perhaps it just sort of tricks people into staying forever. No shade intended, Hamilton.

Old mate Google failed to shine much light to the very many questions I had about whether That Place had made any lists of "worst", "best", "most" ... well, anything. Not on the radar, it would seem. I’m still not prepared to call it "just an average town" but I do know now an awful lot about the most racist towns in Aotearoa and where the best places in New Zealand are for Pokemon Go. "Most dangerous" was pretty much what you’d expect, perhaps better to have a title more like Don’t Mess with Nature, You Won’t Win. Oh, and to give credit where credit is due, and coz I feel sort of bad now, "Hamilton’s stretch of bars and eateries leave Auckland’s Viaduct for dead".

The title "Best Worst Towns in NZ" had me giggling, but I digress.

That Place’s tourism page speaks to less than a handful of things to do or see, and if we’re calling a spade a spade here, they’re really in neighbouring towns, not this one itself. What attractions there are in the area definitively tag themselves to other places nearby. Telling? Perhaps.

Being careful to not give too much of an identifier here, the one activity it does name actually located within That Place itself is so appallingly tone deaf that I had to double check I had read the entry correctly. I had, further incensing me, but also confusing the heck out of me as to why this sort of thing is, well, still a thing.

Are you wondering if That Place I’m speaking of is the place where you live, where you’re perhaps reading this right now with cuppa in hand? Is your mind furiously trying to put together ultra-vague clues and figure out where-in-New Zealand this possibly could be? Next time you’re moving around the country, stop and breathe in the vibe and maybe you’ll catch a whiff, correctly identifying That Place with the sour feeling it leaves. And if you do live there, or you think you do, you’re probably right — and that said, perhaps it’s time to interrogate that unsettling feeling in the air.

This particular town won’t be forgotten, or at least, will always have people moving through it, maybe needing a toilet stop or a (very, very bad, I’m sorry to report) cheese roll to tide them over to their actual destination. And undoubtedly, That Place is the destination for some.



Loyalty dictates that you cannot revisit a place that you visited with a former partner. Eventually, you can't go anywhere.