By Jennifer Watts, NZ Herald
Remember thigh gap, the social media-fuelled craze a few years back when women starved themselves and then, with careful angles, photographed a supposedly sexy gap between their legs?
Well, I found man gap. It’s thriving in Kinloch, a small holiday town on Lake Taupo’s northern-most bay.
Kinloch is a little bit special. While the tourist mecca of Taupo is only 20 minutes away, this place clings to the vibe of a classic Kiwi holiday from decades past.
There’s a rare simplicity here. A casual friendliness, and a lack of officialdom that can so often tie up and drag down bigger tourist hot spots.
There’s free range kids and happy dogs, walking tracks and Great Lake Trail cycle routes, generous two scoop ice creams from the corner dairy, fish’n’chips to salt’n’sauce and eat on the foreshore with one of the best views you could wish for. There’s a homely burger called the Grand Loch, and for something posher, wood fired gourmet pizzas.
Here the streets are quiet, boundaries are fluid and neighbours yell “Good Morning” to me from their deck, several doors down. It’s a place where you can leave doors unlocked and curtains wide open. Where I get up at midnight to steal a leftover barbecued sausage from the fridge, and through the range slider see my neighbour at the back doing the same.
And we have man gap, that deliberate hole left between shrubs along the fence line, where men meet to chat, wiling away an hour or more between mowing the lawns and tidying the yard. It’s a chat gap that would be plugged in big cities, a concern for privacy resulting in fully fenced borders, anonymous neighbours and a loss of community.
Not in Kinloch. This town is home to around 700 permanent residents, a figure that swells dramatically when holidaymakers flood in. Kinloch was originally a sheep station, with the town laid out in 1962 by then Prime Minister Sir Keith Holyoake.
It developed as a holiday destination, the older part, where our family holiday bach is located, built around the lake. The popularity of this place can be seen in the new sub divisions crawling up the hills behind. What these properties give up in walking distance to the shore, they gain in stunning views over Lake Taupo with often snow covered mountains, sentries on the horizon.
The town’s central location pulls people from all over the North Island, hot summers and chilly winters offering a goodie bag of seasonal sports, speed and adrenaline as deep and high as the lake and volcanoes around.
At the Kinloch turn off, cicadas greet you from the boughs of tall poplars lining the main road in. You’ll pass the beautiful Jack Nicklaus-designed Kinloch Golf Club, and a more modest public course up the road.
A right turn leads to the marina and lake, and also a tiny shed, sitting right on the pebbly shore. Inside you’ll find a book exchange and toy library, a treasure trove of beach toys and fiction, free for all.
Kinloch’s sense of community is a grassroots jewel and the Kinloch Community Association works to keep it shiny. Summer concerts, market days and sporting events, including this weekend’s Kinloch Triathlon-NZ Sprint Champs 2019 and ITU World Champs Qualifier [Feb 9/10], help raise money for all things local.
It’s in Kinloch that you can experience the Kiwi summer ritual of scorched feet on hot sand, a mad hop to the cool lake water, soothing city soles. Here even uncertain swimmers can wade in the water, safe from ocean currents and free of salty critters.
It’s here where birds nest in mailboxes and sing from high in the tree tops against clear blue skies. Where modern political tight right and hard left rules to live by fade and then are superseded by an old rule, to live and let live. Be kind because strong communities are a strong antidote to the world’s ill-wills.
Our own neighbourly man gap is used to exchange news and tidbits, the ladder and tools, spoils of a good day fishing, wine, smiles and the latest tennis score.
Property renovations have come and gone and still the man gap remains. It may never get its own hash tag, but I’m more than a bit okay with the memories being made across that bit of fence in Kinloch.