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Posts Tagged ‘Wairarapa’

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.

Daffodils

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.

P1090193

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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We met at 16. She was the foreigner, the stranger from Buffalo, New York, USA. She’d crossed the world and ended up in our little town. I was the enthusiastic sixth former, hoping for (but at the time unaware of) the opportunity to go on a similar adventure of my own. We became friends, and shared a great year. I remember the day Betsy left. Another friend and I got up early, and headed to the airport of the nearest city, ready to farewell her. January 1980: It was a gloomy morning, reflective of all our moods. It took 20 years for us to meet again, this time in Florida, in February 2000. I met her husband, and we found again we had a lot in common.

We didn’t have to wait so long for our most recent reunion. This last week, a mere 12 years since our last meeting, Betsy returned to New Zealand for the first time in 32 years. It was her husband’s first visit here. They arrived in time to sit down, with a glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and check the US election results. They were happy, we were happy, and we proceeded to have a good couple of days together. I showed them Wellington, and besides the bitter chill in the air (freezing to Floridians), the harbour city put on a good day. Yesterday we ventured over the hill to the Martinborough wine village, and tasted some wine and ate lunch amongst the vines. We laughed at the occasional linguistic difficulties – accents, and terminology. Translating rocket to arugula, and explaining fritters, learning about hush puppies (I thought they were shoes). The sky was blue, unmarred by clouds, and the sun – thankfully –warmed the bones of the travellers and residents alike. Today we said good-bye, making plans to meet again – perhaps in five years or so, and perhaps somewhere like Napa Valley, where we could indulge our shared interest in wine. Before we get out the Zimmer frames at least!

It was wrong that we had both turned 50 this year. We still felt like the teenagers we were when we had met. She at least still looks like the teenager I knew. My first US friendship. Not my last. And now there’s Craig too. But I am counting on my friendship with Betsy being the longest.

At times though I feel I have too many far-flung relationships. They take a toll; missing people who were, no … are, an important part of my life (whether I’ve met them yet or not). Yet they bring great joy too. I hope you all know that.

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I went over the hill today. (I’m not over the hill now though. Fortunately, it isn’t yet a permanent condition). It wasn’t a beautiful summers day. No, they were having a beautiful summers day down in Christchurch, amidst the liquefaction and crumbled buildings and crumbled dreams. I heard it was 30 degrees and sunny and warm there. Often, when it is a hot nor’wester in Canterbury, we also get a nor’wester here in Wellington and over the hill in the Wairarapa. But here we don’t get the lovely Cantabrian nor’wester I grew up with, the one that tortured us through university exams with thoughts of lazy days on the beach instead of studying, the one that hopefully warmed the hearts and souls of the Cantabrians in shaky, devastated Christchurch today. No, in Wellington we get an angry, blustery, gale force nor’wester, a wind that cries out for attention, brings gloomy clouds and average temperatures, and sometimes a bit of rain just to make a point.

The issue with the nor’wester is not that we had it here, or that they also had it in charming Martinborough, forcing us to eat lunch and enjoy our glass of local wine inside instead of sitting outside on the deck or in the garden next to the vines. No, the issue with the nor’wester is that it is vicious, malicious, nasty at heart, always trying to blow motorists off the Rimutaka Hill Road, the road that connects Martinborough and the rest of the rural Wairarapa with Wellington city. The road itself is scary enough. It climbs steeply, winding around and around the bush-covered hills. It is rugged country, and I cannot for the life of me fathom how the early explorers discovered this route between Wellington’s harbour and the farming province of Wairarapa.

The road is narrow, with many tight bends. The slope falls away sharply from the road, straight down to the little stream at the bottom of the hills far far below. There are roadside barriers, aimed at preventing cars from making this fatal fall. But the barriers don’t run the entire length of the road, and occasionally we learn of vehicles that don’t navigate the road safely, but plummet, terrifyingly no doubt, down the steep, wild, hill. Near the summit, there are two or three dog-leg corners with nothing edging the road except a few wooden batons held together by a wire fence. I drive cautiously around these bends. On a day like today, I drive extremely cautiously, as each time I round the corner, the car shudders as the wind slams into it; that damned nor’wester doing its best to toss me into oblivion.

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