After a grueling marathon of trading my time for money, I am ecstatic to have so much freedom! This week has been filled with blissful moments, including right now here in
my “office” – leaning against the grassy high-water bank, gentle breezes playing with my as hair as tiny waves brush the shoreline and snow capped peaks keep a watchful eye on the setting sun.
My first taste of the aforementioned freedom landed me in the front seat of Pat’s Saturday delivery van.We headed several kilometers down the road, marking time by the vineyards sprinkling the pastoral countryside. Cromwell is the agri-hub of Central Otago, and properly home to a giant fruit statue mentioned in guidebooks. We took the
requisite photo and even got to go for a short stroll around “Old Town” – the charming remains that survived the creation of a reservoir
that left a scar on many locals long ago.
Sunday was my first entire day off with Pat in over 40 days – since our anniversary. We celebrated properly! We followed up a casual morning with a bike ride along the incredible Clutha River. The emerald green water against the pale, autumn landscape is a show-stopper! We ended the first leg of our journey at the Luggate country pub where a young fiddler/pianist serenaded the crowd. After goodbyes, we pedaled a new route home, luxuriating in the late afternoon sun. All told we took in over 50 kilometers worth of spectacular vistas, and Pat fell in love with mountain biking.
On a whim, we stopped into the notorious cinema and discovered we’d make the next show if we hurried. We caught “The Social Network” on its final showing and were appropriately charmed by the mis-matched seating for which the theater is famous – you can even take in the film from the front seat of an old car! I left the theater completely satisfied wearing a smile that foreshadowed the next day’s fun.
Despite a (formerly) packed work schedule, I still religiously scoured the local community bulletin each week for cultural, fun, or healthy community opportunities. Thanks to the sharp drop-off in my work commitments, I was finally able to make the native plant nursery volunteer mornings! The people were fantastic, the views from our tea-time platform were incredible, and I had forgotten just how much I love playing in dirt!
As a double bonus, not only did I receive a vowel key containing the first ray of hope that I might wrap my tongue around New Zealand’s bewildering and prolific Maori names, BUT I also found myself in the company of avid local backpackers who hold the key to wilderness you’ll never read about in any guidebook. Score!
The unique feature of the week has been several unhurried afternoons. We managed to do some free wine tasting at the local, biodynamic vineyard. The icing on the cake was the commanding view of the lake and islands from our hillside perch, complemented by an array of quirky sculptures belonging to an outdoor exhibition being hosted there. The following day, we also lucked into a peaceful moment at the hill top war memorial overlooking the downtown. This is the end of our New Zealand beginning, and it’s been rejuvenating to see so many new sides of Wanaka!
Finally, yesterday was one of my top ten days in New Zealand. My friend Hayley and I set off across the chilly Cardrona valley before the sun began to warm it, landing in Queenstown just as shop doors were opening. We couldn’t have imagined a more laid-back or productive day. We visited “op-shops*” galore, did a Warehouse** run, found an unlikely used book, got some shells drilled for jewelry making, recovered on the lakefront, shopped some MORE, AND managed a visit to New Zealand’s “most scenic” enclave.
We fell instantly in love with rural Arrowtown as we wandered its charming streets enjoying our ice creams and the rustle of the leaves in the sunshine. We didn’t want to come home! The only casualty of the day was one of my brand new gym shoes. It fell, without my noticing, out the side door in one of three “car parks.” Ironically, I was so smitten with having gotten new shoes I had actually photographed the new alongside the old the day before. What I thought would be a photo to illustrate my excitement to friends and family has become a memorial to the short life of shoes that traveled a long and complicated road to my feet. Despite dedicated recovery efforts, I’m still a shoe down. C’est la vie! Problems like this are a sign of a happy life, no?
*”op-shop” is the New Zealand nomenclature for a second-hand store, referring to the “opportunities” that grace the shelves and racks.
**The Warehouse is New Zealand’s version of Wal-Mart.
Tonight is Pat’s last evening at The Ale House. It’s compulsory to do “The Gauntlet” upon ending employment – 7 ounces of every beer on tap followed by a three shots chosen by co-workers. Our days in Wanaka are numbered, but we’re enjoying them immensely!
More photos here.