One of the reasons we enjoy hosting international students is because they inevitably stretch our family, introducing new foods, new games and new ways of thinking, and our family is changed, always more than it was before.

We travel a lot, all over the country, dragging our students to the prettiest tourist spots as well as the secret local treasures (Kerosene Creek at sunset is the hands-down favourite) and the iconic Kiwi landmarks, trying to make sure they get to see as much of our country as possible. Sometimes their interests take us to places we’ve never been before…

Which is how I found myself, during the last week of summer, in the back of beyond sharing a very primitive camp ground with over 100 laid-back, dread-locked, yoga-practising, sun-loving (in the nakedest possible sense) rock climbers. It was a place we would never have known existed if it wasn’t for Maja.

Maja is a climber and her team, most of them Year 13s at the same school, made their annual trek to Takaka to climb at Payne’s Ford. So we went too, fascinated by the eclectic mix of young people from all over the world, the way they dressed, the food they ate and the ideas they good-naturedly debated. The weather was sensational, the campground welcoming and the wood-fired pizza oven made dinner magic every evening.

And again, last weekend, at Castle Rock for the national bouldering champs. Another gorgeous day in the most spectacular of locations. Twisty, agile, fleet-footed people hanging upside down in the most ridiculous of places.



She’s one-in-a million this girl. Throwing herself into life in a new country while still keeping up the things she loves. Busy at school while working part-time at the local cafe. Taking the opportunities that New Zealand’s great outdoors offers. And, for a change, she’s the one dragging us along for the ride.

Hangdog – A climber who hangs on the rope while working on a very difficult sport climbing route, which usually takes many attempts and requires the climber to wire or totally figure out all the movements for a successful ascent from ground to anchors.


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