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Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

Yesterday we got up early (for a Saturday), filled the car with essentials, and headed off, out of the city and up the valley where the Hutt River skirts the highway, its willows rapidly losing all their leaves, into the countryside. It was a gloomy, dark morning, and the rain that was forecast later in the day seemed to have arrived early – it was light, almost misty, and we hoped it would be different at our destination.

We passed the tempting $10 Breakfast sign at the café at the bottom of the hill, tempted to stop for bacon and eggs and a decent coffee, thinking about texting our friends to say we might just be half an hour late. But we didn’t, and we drove up into the winding Rimutakas, up into the cloud, and then dropped back into the Wairarapa beyond, a bit perturbed to find that the weather was no better, and maybe even worse.

We arrived at Alders, site of previous adventures in better weather, where we were due to help our friends harvest their olives. The sight of Peony and her bedraggled sister, both soaked through, supported my decision to bring my bought-for-Iceland-and-previously-only-ever-worn-there rain pants, grateful for my bought-for-Iceland-but-perfect-in many-places fleece and rain jacket, and pleased that my husband had thought to bring our gumboots (and later even more pleased he unwittingly gave me the pair without the hole in the sole).

Our hosts/overseers had thoughtfully provided gloves and plenty of purpose-bought rakes that easily strip the olives from the branches, and we stuck into the work, getting wet not so much from the rain which eased off and just turned to mist, but from the very wet olive trees, and only slightly hampered by steamed-up glasses. With a very efficient crew of workers this year, and even though the trees are so much bigger than when we first went about seven or eight years ago, it was only a few quick hours later that we were told they had enough olives (8-900 kgs or a ton), and sodden, we retreated back to the house to dry off, grateful for the wine, hearty lunch of Indian dahls and curries, and cheerful conversation after a job well done.

Previous olive harvest posts here and here.

 

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On a rare morning when

a) we didn’t have anything planned/necessary to do together,
b) we didn’t have to attend to the in-laws, and
c) my husband wasn’t playing golf exercising,

I declared that the car was mine, and grabbed my camera, finally getting some time to do some photography homework. I drove to a local park that has a high concentration of native plants, and took the last carpark, worrying that it would be busy inside. I could hear children’s voices in the distance, but almost instantly, as I walked through the entrance gate, a calm descended.

Surrounded by ferns, and tall trees, I was cocooned by the green canopy. I used my senses, listening to the tui clicking and clacking and chirping, and the two kereru swooping past me, beating their wings unmistakeably. I looked at the light and shadows, playing around with my camera, working comfortably on manual thanks to my photography course, moving around to try different angles and focal lengths. I revelled in the freedom to do what I wanted, and take as long as I wanted over a particular shot, or around a particular plant, without worrying about anyone waiting for me. But most importantly, I breathed.

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For the first time ever, I think, I actually saw the clocks go back, waking at 2.30 am and wondering if it was the first 2-3 am hour or the second, then again 40 minutes later, to saw that it was 2.10 am. I could then sleep easily, as we all had our alarms set for 4 am, to get the BIL to the airport to catch his early flight home to Asia.

Later, after a good sleep-in, the extra hour in the day meant that we were still early enough to set off for a late-morning walk. I felt good – whether it was the long sleep I had enjoyed, or the freedom that comes from being left in peace, I don’t know – and we decided to head out to Makara, a tiny beach community at the southwest of the city, and take the coastal walkway.

The seashore here was rocky and stony, with lots of seaweed and piles and piles of driftwood, and the occasional boat frame rusting away. The path was uneven, sometimes flat on the side of the hills that rise up from the sea, and sometimes disappearing, requiring navigation over the driftwood and stony beach which wasn’t too unstable, although I was acutely aware that it was exactly this weekend two years ago when I fell and broke my ankle.

The sun shone, the sky was blue, the temperature mild, with only a gentle breeze cooling us, as the sea lapped against the stony beach, uncharacteristically calm, the windmills on the green hills opposite turned slowly, and in the distance, flat Mana Island and steep, hazy, Kapiti Island beyond pointed the way north.

Next time, I later resolved, I’d take my camera and tripod, but the phone camera didn’t do a bad job.

bty

bty

bty

 

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I’ve been away the last week, taking advantage of some (sadly only) temporary help (but welcome nonetheless) in the elder care situation. We visited the northeast of the country, to a part I’ve only ever visited for business, flying in to a factory with foreign visitors and then out again.

This time we took the slow route, taking time to stop on the way, to enjoy the landscape that is similar yet subtly different. The road north along the Pacific coast is winding, up and down hills and rarely opening up to large vistas, around farms and commercial pine forests, the large logging trucks ensuring we maintained vigilance on the roads, the dairy farms replaced by sheep – the farming of old New Zealand – then the sheep replaced by vines – the farming of new New Zealand – and then north into the hills, finding beef cattle everywhere, grazing on lush green grass, living the good life. Then we came across goats, more goats than I had seen anywhere in New Zealand, the source no doubt of the goat curries we saw on some menus in the area, and of the cashmere in the beautiful Tolaga Bay woollens I had bought in the years when income came easier.

We drove north to the bays of the Whale Rider, and the now disused wharves of formerly bustling communities, and through areas that have been home to hundreds of generations of Maori, past small marae and meeting houses, and in the local museum, we heard a class being shown around entirely in Te Reo, the beautiful language of their ancestors that has seen a rebirth in recent decades.

We stayed on a long, golden beach, where surfers rode the waves after work, and locals and visitors of all ages walked, some with dogs or small children or both running around them, some alone, some holding hands with those they love. The magic of knowing we were in the first city in the world to see the sun was made better by the beauty of the location (and the sunrise), the calming white noise of the waves, and the pleasure of briefly being free.

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When Kiwis travel to Europe, we are often entranced by the picturesque countryside, and the charming ruins. We ignore our own scenes – they’re too ordinary, with no charm, exoticism, history, we think.

But we are wrong. In the last few years, I’ve become entranced with our own rural ruins. Many are old wooden houses that are falling into decay, paint wearing off, wood rotting, battered by the elements, the winds and rain, sun and frost. Many others are corrugated iron farm buildings – barns or shearing sheds, often patched with different colours, gaping holes – and it isn’t always obvious whether they are no longer in use.

I love the idea of taking a series of photographs of these buildings, but I’m not confident enough, so we drive past, trying to figure out which angle would give the best shot, whether a house is abandoned or still occupied, and looking for a good place to stop and set up my camera … some time in the future. I did it again today, thinking, “one day.”

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Last year, summer did not turn up here in Wellington, but it must have had a guilty conscience as a result, because this year it arrived about a month earlier than usual, and in November we were already having our first barbecue, and eating outside, which in itself is a bit of a novelty in Wellington, hitting the combination of warm enough temperatures and lack of wind to be able to eat outside in the evening.

I have already received mockery from various unsympathetic friends on Fb when I have complained that these high (for us) temperatures overheat our house and that sleeping becomes difficult, so I’m not going to give you the numbers, and I will point out that everything is relative. We don’t have air-conditioning, and our house is built to catch the sun, not to hide it (for most of the year this is a good thing), but right now, we spend all afternoon and early evening trying to find the perfect combination of ventilation, directed air-flow, and closed curtains to keep out the sun. Of course, my husband and I have endless arguments on how this should be done, and when the heat makes us (okay, me) cranky, we do not agree to disagree on this matter.

Last night was cool, and I slept well (after the Australian Open Final finished about 1 am), but today the cloud from yesterday has lifted, the sky is blue, the heat pumping into the house and bedroom, with the forecast remaining warm for the next few days, and so we have a zoo trip and a barbecue for visiting relatives planned on Wednesday. Whilst this ability to plan in summer may be normal for many of you, it isn’t for me, or for most Wellingtonians, as usually, the one thing we can rely on is that our weather is changeable, and that just when the heat seems to be unbearable and lasting way too long, the winds will change and we will get some much-needed respite. I see lower temperatures and rain is forecast for Friday – a good day for the museum, I think.

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A week ago, we packed our bags and the car, and headed over the hill – this one – to stay overnight with friends at their charming cottage amidst an olive grove.

They welcomed us with a lovely late lunch of delicious dark, seedy bread and cheese and tomatoes and asparagus and pâté and salami, and of course, being in a wine town we had to indulge in some local rosé, which is always perfect for a summery lunch and for nibbling with fresh berries from the garden.

Then came the business end of the day, as the croquet lawn was calling to us, and the game of the day was Croquet Golf – or was it Golf Croquet? My husband and I have only ever played once, some years ago, but beginner’s luck must have been upon us, as we took the first game 7-4. The second game didn’t go so well, with my husband wondering aloud, after further fortification from the rosé, just why the ball wasn’t going straight anymore! By that time it was close to 5 pm, and we figured that it must be time for some champagne – of course!

After a delicious biryani dinner and more berries from their garden, we took to the lawn for the deciding game, although by this time, our croquet brains had decided that attack was the best form of defence, and we all aimed at each others’ balls as often as we aimed at the hoops to score points. Appropriately, our hosts’ years of practice paid off and they trounced us soundly, so we retired to the campfire, and as the sun set and the almost-super moon rose, we chatted and sipped some more; a perfect end to a perfect day.

 

 

 

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