It’s been thirty years since my cousin, Fiona, and I have spent quality time together so we have a lot of catching up to do! She and her partner Doug, have made a huge effort on their lifestyle block high in the hills behind Collingwood, building their own substantial self-sufficient home and bringing in the land. Fiona is now a bio-dynamic farmer, a beekeeper and the land and the sea allow them to live as hunter-gatherers. She only milks her cow when she needs to and a calf maintains a continual supply.
It’s pretty special for us to have our own personal guide to the Golden Bay area and Fiona is a great ambassador. The “Pupu” Springs (as they are affectionately known to the locals) are home to the clearest spring water in the world and are the largest springs in New Zealand. Contact with the water is forbidden but you can view the spectacular colours and the sand “dancing” around the bottom from the wonderful calming walk through the bush.
Golden Bay has an endless variety of golden sand beaches, alpine valleys and tranquil fishing rivers, all in close proximity to the sea. It is also unfortunately known for some of New Zealand’s largest whale strandings and Fiona always makes herself available and gets fully involved with helping the whales.
From Takaka we head out to the coast and drive through the Abel Tasman National Park, a wilderness reserve known for the 60-kilometre long trail which winds over beaches and across ridges and is New Zealand’s most popular “Great Walk”.
We head into Nelson for Easter and check-in to the Tahuna Beach campground where my huge extended family on my mother’s side is gathering for a family reunion. We share a four-bedroom house with cousins, my niece and my god-daughter and our place soon becomes party central!
My mother was one of 13 so our family is a large one and we travelled from all over the world for this special gathering, a meeting that may never happen again.
We head off to Christchurch via Kaikoura, curious to see how it all fared after the massive earthquake in November, 2016. You can still see the scars from the violence of that night when a 7.8 earthquake roared through the area. Roads were cracked and crevassed and 80 kilometres of coast was lifted out of the sea up to 4 metres in places. The quake lasted two minutes and was the second largest ever recorded in New Zealand, moving the South Island five metres closer to the North Island!!
We have a chat to a local in a cafe and she describes being totally thrown out of bed onto the floor and how the town was cut off from the world for five weeks. She talks about how the morning after there were thousands of people on the streets of their little town – with nowhere to go. All the tourists had to park up their campervans, hand in their keys and fly out in helicopters. It has taken over a year to clear the road of the 85 landslides so we feel very lucky to get through and in awe of the transformation. We take a cabin just south of Kaikoura at Peketa Beach and believe it or not, an earthquake shakes the couch we are sitting on! It was later described as “moderate” with a reading of 4.3…you wouldn’t read about it!
Favourite of the Week
My cousin Rex lives on his yacht in the Nelson marina and takes us out overnight for a sail. He’s the best storyteller I know and we have a wonderful night making MORE stories with a large fishing boat that aims right at us coming back into the harbour.
Story of the Week
In 1906 my grandfather left the coal mines of Suffolk, England, on a ship bound for Wellington, New Zealand. He was a bachelor for seven years before placing an ad in the personal column of a newspaper and urged on by workmates, my grandmother replied! They started courting and married in 1913. After bearing 13 children within 17 years she died in 1931 – my mother was 4 and there were two under her at the time! In 1989, my cousin Fiona and I instigated and helped organise the first family reunion for my Mum’s family. So this Easter, Fiona and other cousins organised the second family reunion and this time it was about my generation. I am one of 43 first cousins and of that 24 of us were present!
We had a weekend of camaraderie, hilarity, fun, food, drinking and so many shared stories! I haven’t laughed so much in ages and it left us feeling warm and fuzzy.
Some of us attended the Sunday Service at the Nelson Cathedral where the minister introduced us to the congregation. It was a great occasion to remember our parents and family members who have passed.
Easter 2018 will go down in history as a very special occasion with treasured memories for all.