It’s interesting how small towns around the world can feel so similar to one another, cultural, geographical, and other differences aside. I’ve learned that my preference is to live in more populated, more diverse areas, but passing through small towns and staying long enough to start seeing familiar faces, especially in a different country, can be a fun change from the typical international metropolises I’m drawn to.
By the 5th day in Dargaville, my friend Anne and I found it comical how often we saw the same people around town, who now recognized us as well. We ran into familiar faces on forest walks, while dropping in on a ukulele practice, and bumped into people we’d met playing indoor bowls (not to be confused with 10-pin bowling, like I’d assumed before seeing lawn bowl fields for the first time in Australia).
Despite limited things to do within Dargaville (though we seemed to do every activity we could, minus a fire workshop–see below), it was easy to find something fun to do every day within an hour’s drive.
One afternoon, we drove to Bayly’s Beach. Literally–you can drive onto the beach. Of course, as soon as Anne and I set off on a walk while her boys were entertaining themselves by rolling down sand mountains, it started to rain. Sitting in the car watching the waves roll in never gets boring to me, though, and soon enough, the skies had cleared.
That night, I thought I was going to watch Anne’s dad play bowls, but–surprise!–we were playing, too. The organizers were patient enough to teach me as I struggled with hand-eye coordination, as per usual, and eventually, after laughing at ourselves, making some terribly bad bowls, and then some beginner’s luck bowls, we started having fun with our teammates who had deacades of experience.
The next day, we drove to the Waipoua Forest to see some tall, tall trees, including Tane Mahuta, the largest kauri tree to stand, whose age is estimated to be around 2,000 years old. I feel lucky to have been on a few forest walks in Australia and New Zealand, because it really is a special environment–surrounded by green everywhere, with sweet-smelling plants, birds chirping, and so much peace and quiet.
Anne and I headed to the local ukulele group on our last night and strummed along to the Baby Boomer-era songs. Playing some of the same songs I grew up listening to is always a nice connection to home, and another reminder that different parts of the world have more similarities than differerences.