SUMMER OF LOVE
It’s Autumn in Wellington, which means the weather is turning sour, and just like the daily temperatures, our visitor count is dropping. In fact it’s now zero. Everyone who said they’d come visit us has. It’s been the summer of love. Can I tell you about it?
Adam & Kelly
Our first visitors this summer were my sister and brother-in-law. As detailed in previous blogposts, we borrowed all the world’s fun for a week. Fears were conquered, and in turn, new fears were created, such as what if I get hit in the head with a softball someday and forget all these great memories?
Kerry & Debbie
Next off the plane were Jess’ folks, Kerry and Debbie – AKA dirty money and splitster. It was their first trip outside of North America, and after a few days of eating and drink our way through Wellington, we hopped on a ferry to the south island and promptly put ourselves in harms way. From Picton we rented kayaks and paddled two hours over the open sea to Lochmara Lodge. Beachy drinks were charged to faraway tabs. A parrot watched over us. Merriment was at an all-time high.
Following the return paddle on Sunday, I ferried back to Wellington while the Swansons continued west to Golden Bay. Photos of deserted beaches were heartlessly texted to me while I stared out my office window and daydreamed of the not-so-distant past in which wine hangovers were easily outweighed by the good company.
Later that week, we picnicked at Moa point in Wellington. When night came we laid on blankets and scanned the sky for shooting stars. Moments later, the sky lit up with a one-in-a-million meteorite and sonic boom. That’s the kind of week we had.
We maximized every day with those guys. If vacations were bocce ball tosses, there’s would be an inch from the jack. That’s as close as Kerry could get against me. 🙂
The next person through our turnstile door this summer was cupcake. Cupcake is a friend of ours from Raleigh. She’s tall and skinny with crimpy hair, and an eminence so strong, she requires only a single name. Like Madonna.
Cupcake’s visit came with stipulations. Something like, “I can only do this once in my life so it better be good.” Candy-coated threats which when said with a smile were 100% undetectable as to whether or not she meant them.
I’m only half kidding. Cupcake is a beloved friend of ours and we were grateful to host her. Whereas other visitors came without plans, cupcake came with an agenda. So after the obligatory two days of wine-hopping and exploring Wellington’s city trails, we found ourselves back on the ferry, this time en route to the fairytale beaches of Abel Tasman National Park.
The hike into Anchorage Hut is second only to the hut itself. In a country where hut can mean a sheet of plywood leaning against a dead tree, Anchorage hut is fit for a queen. Newly built in 2013, it comes with modern appointments such as flushing toilets, solar lighting, tidy bunk rooms and filtered water.
After a couple days of frolicking on the beach, it was back to Wellington for me while the girls continued south, ticking off a west coast beach lodge, sightseeing in Arthur’s Pass, thermal pools in Hamner Springs, kayaking with seals in Kaikoura and a drinking tour of Marlborough’s sauvignon blanc wine country. A special week, that one, by the sounds of it.
Her last night in town we saw Sharon Van Etten at Bodega. And although the acoustics were dodgy, the mood was jolly. Cupcake left the country the next morning both exhausted and happy, as every vacation should end. I heard that during the goodbyes, tears welled up, causing her frosting to melt down her cheeks and into the waiting cup of my sugar-addicted wife.
Bruce & Sue
Our final visitors this summer were my parents. Like Jess’ parents, mine had never left North America, so I was curious to see how they’d react to the land of kilometers, $10 pints and opposite side driving. Turns out great despite my best effort to adventure them into the ground. With Wellington in our rearview, we started their visit with a four-hour drive north to Tongariro for a long weekend of fly fishing and trekking – capped off with a soggy yet rewarding hike across New Zealand’s quintessential day hike, the Tongariro Crossing.
This was followed by a five-day bike tour from Nelson to Kaiteretere on the south island. Of all the visitor activities this summer, this bike trip was my favorite. As a DIY man, I rarely use vendors to plan adventures. However, this time I sought the help of Gentle Cycling Company to organize a supported bike tour. For a reasonable fee, they picked us up from the airport, gave us bikes and set us down a bike path with a custom itinerary to the region’s best cafes and wineries. They booked us B&Bs and transported our luggage each day. Luxury on wheels.
At the end of our five days, fat and happy (except for Jess who was squirming on the beach with food poisoning) our transportation arrived and drove us back to the airport. Our tour of the Great Taste Trail was money well spent. Despite a bit of rainy weather, I reckon it was the most fun a family can buy. Especially with that seafood chowder at the Grape Escape cafe.
And with that, our visitors were gone. Poof. Over before it began. And now it’s like old times again – Jess and me, alone, arguing about why I bought cow’s milk instead of almond milk, and looking down the open road. Thank you to our friends and family who came to see us this summer. We had the time of our lives.