This is home

My yearly ritual of begging my mind to move to the high, safe fields of my grandmother's abode begins.

I admire the soft sights across the Maniototo plain.

The smell of fresh scones, a temptress to my stomach.

Waipiata, the home of my heart.

The history captures my imagination and soul, the once old flourishing Hamilton's gold field, home to thousands who dwelled in the cobbled shacks, which now lie as rocky mounds, perfect for hide and seek.

Later, it was an open-air home for tuberculosis patients, followed by a corrective and training centre used by the Justice Department.

This gossip-worthy history has my mind full for days, exploring both of the ramshackle buildings, and the now updated houses.

After having a bellyful of scones and a new-season apple off the tree, I grab my bike and shoot off down the hill to the beautiful Green Bridge.

Groups of sweaty rail trailers crowd around the water, bathing off their dirt and getting a break from the midday scorching sun, as temperatures hit 30degC.

The Rail Trail runs from Clyde to Middlemarch, stretching over multiple geographic terrains and settings during the 150km ride.

Hence the name, it runs along the former Otago Central Railway, but now only used by walkers, bikers or horse riders.

After a glorious swim, I bike to the Waipiata pub to meet my grandmother for dinner.

I notice the war memorial has been replaced with a beautiful angel, which towers over the dusty road crossing on the Rail Trail.

The angel was damaged with old age, the town had fundraised for weeks to purchase this new glory.

I follow the gravel track until I reach the pub; the new owners have given the porch a new lick of lacquer which brings it into the 21st century.

I hitch my rustic bike up next to the dusted modern ones with their round cushioned seats, and stroll inside.

After saying brief hellos to the locals, the smell of sweat mixed with beer forces me to escape outside to the barbecue. This is the life, I think to myself.

The locals join with the bikers to discuss the season: ''milk is selling for 20% higher than last year! And it can only get better''.

Envy rises within me as I hear a Rail Trail couple announce their purchase of an old villa in the main street of Waipiata.

After walking the Rail Trail the previous year, they had not been able to forget the beauty of the surroundings, or the warmth of summer so had decided to pack up their city life and truly enjoy their lives.

Some tourists from London became interested and discussed how ''absurd'' the house prices are.

''Innit berserk, for only $45,000 I could buy a quarter acre, ready to build! Also, my only neighbours would be a few sheep for miles either side!''

The landscape is often what attracts most tourists to Central Otago.

Grahame Sydney, a local and world-renowned artist, has put the Maniototo on the map with his vast skies, perfect complexions, and picturesque accuracy.

Consisting of a baron wall, Demolition is his painting of the old Waipiata railway station.

It reminisces with the fond memories of those who lived in these streets over a century ago.

The vast beautiful sky takes up half the canvas and echoes the reality of most evenings in the Maniototo.

Along with soft colours, the station creates the image of gold miners arriving at this foreign locality, where they would build their lives.

After dinner, my grandma shared her word of the day with all who were there.

''Quintessence,'' she said.

Never in my life have I felt so quintessentially blessed.

Fresh food for my stomach, fresh air for my body, new sunrises every day.

This is, and always will be, my home.


By Florence Clutha (Year 13, Otago Girls' High School)


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