We continued our West Coast travel northwards. The weather was no better by the time we reached Punakaiki, and it was clear I wasn’t going on any horse trek here. I have only ridden a few times, but always thought that I’d like to learn to do it properly – some day. Probably never now. And then there was the scenic flight over the glaciers which quickly became an unfilled whim, but once we walked around the Punakaiki (or Pancake) rocks, we held no remorse for losing those dreams.
It is true, that the weather was lousy the day we drove to Franz Josef, and the road flooded in patches, but we arrived safe and sound at the Alpine Glacier Motel. It was hard to realise that mountains surrounded us, as the sky had lowered to road level. Rain, and hunger saw us drive to Alice May’s restaurant for dinner (although it was a mere 5min walk), for rain continued to fall. This is THE place to go to dine, for three reasons: the friendly staff, whitebait omelet, and to read the legend of Alice May. One of twelve children, from Hawkes Bay. She worked as a hotel maid, fell pregnant, and was rejected by her lover when she lost the baby, when he’d originally promised marriage. She shot and killed the man, and was imprisoned. The Socialist feminist movement petitioned widely for her release, and she was, six years later. Later, after moving to the South Island, she married Charles O’Loughlin and they had six children together. Jennie O’Loughlin, the owner of Alice May’s restaurant, is one of Alice’s many grandchildren. Amazing story.
Last week, Kerry and I headed off for another South Island adventure, with family this time. No bike riding, but a train trip on the TranzAlpine, through the Southern Alps to the West Coast. On the day we left home I dressed for the cold, boots and all, as Christchurch, our first destination, is always colder than Auckland in winter. On the plane, I felt like a swaddled babushka and sweated in my seat, while I looked out in awe at the snow-clad Kaikoura Mountains on the East Coast. What stunning views. And luckily I had the window seat. And, yes, I was the photographer this time.
This blog recounts our three-day cycle experience, travelling on different trails in Central Otago. There were five couples and tour leader Gerard in our group. All had biking experience, and with e-bikes, which was good. On our first day, it was cool to start, but a fine day, and all were eager to get going. First, we were shuttled, with our bikes on a trailer, to Oturehua, and the start of our ride.
After considerable discussion my husband and I said ‘let’s do it! to what looked like a fabulous nine day trip to Otago & Fiordland over the Easter period – a trip which offered cycling, flights in small planes, canoeing, boat rides in idyllic places and wonderful hotel stays. Add great food to that list. How could we not go? We tried not to out-guess what we’d find, as we packed our gear, and just accept what came our way. We both felt so fortunate to be able to travel.
We travelled inland through the heartland of Hawke’s Bay knowing that a large house was awaiting us to rent. With the hideousness of the previous day (see Part One) still bugging me, I prayed that this place would suit our family’s needs. The scenery was uplifting, though the hills were their usual arid summer colour. It was hard to believe that there had been torrential rain and flooding a week or so back in nearby Napier. But this region bore no apparent scars.
We had long thought of finding a holiday place in Hawkes Bay big enough to take all our extended family. And as I knew how hard it was to find accommodation in that area in the summer, we booked through bookabach agency a year earlier. When the time came, we were very sorry that our family in Melbourne weren’t able to come because of Covid restrictions, but the New Zealand bunch were still keen on the holiday, making us a total of eight. We were travelling by car from Auckland, Wellington, Whanganui, Palmerston North (all in the North Island), and from Dunedin in the South. We were to be staying at Haumoana, right near the beach; a favourite surfing spot for the children when they were teenagers. But that was not the only reason we chose this spot: it was also close to bike trails, great produce, and wineries – and the house could sleep up to eleven. We couldn’t wait to get there.
With our lockdown almost over, Kerry and I got busy organising the trip to New Plymouth we had planned months before we’d heard the word Covid. Now were were in level 2, the government was urging Kiwis to travel within their own country; to help kick-start our local tourism industry, which had suffered with the border restrictions to overseas visitors. New Plymouth is within the Taranaki province (the Naki to Kiwis) and has many attractions. The most famous being its superb mountain; a mountain I’d only spotted from a distant road, or when I’d flown over the cone capturing a terrific birds eye view in a photo. Meaning always to go and walk around the foothills – sometime. That time had arrived! Continue reading
While out on my usual morning constitutional, I came across this house adorned ready for Christmas. How crazy I thought, as our Pohutukawa blooms and locals are heading to the beaches, that so many of us ‘grownups’ in New Zealand still treasure this chubby fellow from the North Pole. Look at him, abseiling, climbing a ladder, and parachuting in. I only hoped his presents weren’t melting in the sack. I tucked my phone in my pocket and kept walking, on the hunt to see if there were more interlopers from the North Pole around. Continue reading
I read Owls Do Cry by New Zealander Janet Frame (1924-2004) when I was in my twenties. Not that that is remarkable. What is remarkable is her personal story, which translates into fiction through much of her work, and this novel is no exception. The setting is the coastal town of Oamaru where the ‘Withers’ family face many hardships, including money problems, mental health issues, a disabled child, death, and grief. It is a profound book, touching and disturbing, for when Frame writes about ‘Daphne’s’ experiences in psychiatric hospitals, she is speaking of herself. There are passages which float between the lucid and the wild but Janet Frame’s writing carries the reader into these worlds using unique and brilliant prose. Continue reading