Archive for the ‘Wairarapa’ Category

Norfolk Pines or Araucaria_heterophylla come from Norfolk Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean between Australia and New Zealand, and we often see them planted along coastlines here in New Zealand. In writing this, I was astounded to see that they are cultivated as houseplants overseas. I am not a huge fan of Norfolk pines as a seaside tree – they don’t provide enough shade for my liking, and they don’t have lush palm-like leaves.

But Oriental Parade, the home of the main beach in our city, is lined with them, so I feel I have to accept them! I will admit they look lovely and sculptural against the sky, and those in Oriental Bay are decorated with lights (which always make me think someone put them up for Christmas and New Year then forgot to take them down!) at night-time, which is always a pretty sight.

On our recent trip to the Wairarapa coast we saw them along the beach there too. Here are a few I’ve seen recently:

Another in the Thursday Tree Love series – find all the other bloggers doing it here.

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After a busy summer sorting out the in-laws’ house, The Husband and I decided to escape for a few days. We had been hoping to escape for a glorious late summer holiday, free at last from his filial responsibilities. But we missed out by about a month. So we knew there were still going to be some nice days before temperatures dipped too much, and decided to just get away.

We didn’t go far. Our trip could have been a day trip. But we wanted to be relaxed, and feel as if we had “got away from it all” so we spread the trip over two nights. We headed off to the east coast of the Wairarapa, the region I often refer to as “over the hill” because we literally have to drive over the Remutaka Hills to get there. This time we bypassed the wine region which is closest to Wellington and where friends visit, and went first to a seaside resort where The Husband has memories from his childhood. His parents owned a section there in the 1960s and 70s. They used to go over and camp there in a huge canvas tent, all four boys and their parents. What chaos it must have been! There is a long safe beach, where my water-loving husband and his brothers spent hours and hours swimming and body-surfing because the waves were just perfect for it. It was too cold for swimming last week – or perhaps I should say that it was too cold for us to swim in last week! The section was sold long ago, and now has a beach-house on it, and the small resort has now expanded considerably, full of seaside baches (which is what we call small holiday homes). But the local store was still there, and it sold ice-creams, so we grabbed one and wandered down to the beach and river. It was a beautiful day and, as it was mid-week, almost completely deserted. It felt so luxurious to be there when it was so quiet, so perfect.

We then moved on to our base for the night, about an hour north, at a place called Castlepoint. I’ve been there once, I think, in the 30+ years I’ve lived in Wellington. We got a simple motel right across from the beach, with a view of the lighthouse, and we sat on the porch in the late afternoon enjoying a drink. The beach here is protected, sandy, and calm, though further out the waves were just enough for the school-girls to practice their surfing. Couples like us walked along the beach, and a few dogs were there taken on their daily walks, having a lovely time chasing balls into the surf. As the sun went down, the light on the lighthouse was gorgeous, and I had fun playing around with my camera. I wasn’t quite enthusiastic enough though to take my tripod down into the sand to get a good shot, as another photographer was doing!

Later that night, I went out onto the lawn and tried, for the first time, to see if I could photograph the Milky Way. With only a few streetlights, and the lighthouse facing the other way, the stars were stunning. I managed to get some shots, but they’re a long way from being publishable!

We feel asleep to the sound of the waves lapping against the shore. It was bliss!

We spent the next morning pottering around Castlepoint. We walked along the trails up to and around the lighthouse, investigating the rocks filled with shell fossils (according to the information placards there, they were two million years old), enjoying the morning light and the calm weather. The night before, eating a freshly-caught fish dinner in the local pub, we’d seen a photograph of the lighthouse completely swamped by waves. There was no chance of that when we were there – it was uncharacteristically calm, the sea was relatively gentle, and not even a speck of spray came near us. We explored the coves behind the lighthouse too. The light was gorgeous on the weird rock formations. As the tide came in, we decided to head to our next destination.

We stopped for a late lunch in the region’s largest town, visited the gardens and walked up and down the main street as it has been years since we did that. I’ll be quite happy if I don’t do it again for another ten years! It’s a town that services an agricultural region, and so was the same as similar towns all over New Zealand. But our overnight stay that night was about 30 minutes further on, in a small town that has, over the last 20 years or so, been renovated and reinvigorated. Lots of Wellingtonians keep weekend places in or around the town, or decide to retire there. The main street is full of little wooden buildings that have discovered new lives as restaurants, cafes or bakeries or butcheries, interesting shops and art galleries and designer clothing, a chocolate manufacturer, museums, ancient trees (which I forgot to photograph for my Tree Love posts). We stayed in a lovely renovated hotel with individually decorated rooms and, conveniently, a bar downstairs for a pre-dinner glass of wine. We were a little lazy. We did nothing more than enjoy the room, and wander the street and shops that afternoon and the next morning, pottering around, and getting ideas for home decorating or for Christmas presents (yes, I know it’s only March). But why not? It was unhurried, and very relaxed. And that afternoon, we drove back into the city feeling refreshed.

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After an invitation had been impulsively given and accepted on Friday, Saturday saw us venture over the hill for the first time in months. We spent the morning at home, while I baked a cake for dinner; though if I’m honest it wasn’t the baking that took several hours, it was having to make multiple trips to the supermarket twice to get ingredients I kept forgetting!

We usually drive over “the hill” (the Remutaka Range) in the morning or early afternoon, and it was a treat to drive over in the late afternoon, enjoying the different light on the distant Wairarapa plains as we wound our way down from the summit. We tracked cloud formations being caught by the setting sun in a halo effect but, of course, just as we drove through the little town (which uncannily reminded me of my hometown on a wintry Saturday night in the 1970s) and out the other side, and turned into their driveway lined with promising daffodils, that gorgeous light disappeared.


An early sign of spring

The man of the house was busy cooking up a curry storm in the kitchen, so pre-dinner champagne and olive oil from the trees outside (accompanied by a stunning sunset) flowed into a delicious dinner (curries, and very successful orange almond cake), lively conversation, and even the rugby result was easier to take when we commiserated together.


The next morning, after a late but yummy breakfast at the little wine town’s stylish hotel, we said goodbye and, with an hour or two to fill before a busy afternoon scheduled back in Wellington, drove down to the coast, through vibrant green farmland under sunny skies, reminiscent of the land where I grew up, though newborn lambs were the only thing missing from the winter scene, still a few weeks too early for them to arrive. We drove to the end of the road, and – along with others basking in the sunny morning – mucked around on the beach, enjoying just being out in nature, and I, of course, played around with my camera and tripod.

It was tempting to stay, but duty called, so we packed up, drove back along the country roads through the flat green fields, slowing to pass dairy cows and calves wandering along the road (such a New Zealand scene) and their Filipino farm workers, before we headed back over the hill that seems to separate everyday life from freedom, friendship, and leisure.

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