A couple weekends ago we headed out to Gough’s Bay on the southeast side of the Banks Peninsula. It’s an hour and a half drive from Christchurch, on the road past Hinewai Preserve where Hugh (“Tom Bombadil”) lives.
We had rented the old shearer’s quarters of a working farm, and as we zigged and zagged down the one-lane road to the bay I wondered again what it would be like to live in such a spot. That distance from town would be just about the only thing that would convince me to keep laying hens in order to extend weeks between grocery store runs. And I guess I’d take up drinking reconstituted milk. Our friends the Summerfields who were staying the weekend with us spent the drive contemplating the lack of guard rails and probability of meeting a car coming the opposite direction, which would have certainly been a pickle.
We arrived under thick clouds, but within an hour the front cleared and we had beautiful sunny weather for the remainder of the weekend. The not-so-fancy accommodations certainly felt better under sunny skies.
The sandy beach was hugged on both sides by cliffs, augmenting the feeling of seclusion in the valley.
We stayed in one of those little buildings down in the valley. The farmer said his ancestors (English) cleared the land, but they did leave a couple patches of old growth native timber–Matai, Kahikatea, and Totara.
This particular weekend, we were NOT working and had plenty of friends about. Ian Summerfield was turning 40 and his wife Sophie organized a party, complete with a beach fire with lots of roast meat.
The 40th Birthday plan was to cook a big salmon in a fire pit, reminiscent of a Maori “hangi,” (think Hawaiian/Polynesian feast). Perhaps an “Ug, Me Man” moment for the guys?? The big leaves of kelp were to encase the food buried in the fire pit to keep it from burning.
Kelp are impressively tough, which I guess they have to be to survive the tossing waves. With enough force their leathery hides will open in the middle, making a “fish pouch.”
There we are, fish stuffed in kelp is lovingly laid in the fire pit. It cooked surprisingly fast, we should have removed it earlier.
Landmark moment–the kids are all gathered and still. The cake is being cut.
Here’s the birthday boy (Ian) and family!
Naomi spent much of her beach time in the stroller, sleeping or giggling.
I thought the farmer said this little dog’s name was Bixy, but later someone suggested that it was Betsy (which when pronounced by a Kiwi, sounds like “Bitzy.” Whatever her name, I fell in love with her. She was happy to just be part of the group, super tolerant of the kids, she didn’t steal food, and she went with me on my runs, putting me to shame that those four little legs could hoof it up the hill faster than me.
It’s the after-dinner huddle around the fire. It fell chilly in the evenings, though the days were warm.
I got out on two delicious runs up “quad bike” (four-wheeler) tracks and out into the sheep pasture. I decided that I could be happy living in such an isolated spot provided I had one good friend in the same valley and I was farming–in other words, I had work to do there.