I just got home from my summer holidays last night and it’s been a bit of a shock to be back in Welly, to say the least. Today it’s been all awful and stormy and sideways-rainy and I couldn’t sleep and I had to do a bunch of washing and food-getting and every time I’ve looked in the mirror I’ve thought “Wow, I look much better with a little color on me,” and then immediately wept aloud at the thought that soon I will lose this tan, e.g. my true skin color, and will go back to being a very unappealing shade of sickly yellow for the next year.
So in the spirit of denying reality, I present to you some poorly composed and dreadfully shot pictures of my Christmas in Coromandel!
Now some of you may remember that I spent my very first Christmas in Whitianga lo those many years ago. I haven’t been back up to the Coromandel Peninsula since then but have always had really fond memories of that week back then: I remember being so proud of myself for going off to spend Christmas by myself, and having so much fun at the hostel and on the beaches. I’m still friends with a couple of the people I met that week, and I know several other people because of those friends. It stands out for me as one of those really perfect weeks: nothing missing, nothing wanting, everything exactly the way it should be.
So I was a little trepidatious when, in July, Giulia asked me if I wanted to get a house up there this year for Christmas. It was going to be a very different feel: staying in slightly more remote Hahei as opposed to Whitianga, in a proper house with grownups instead of with backpackers in a hostel. Still, though, I love it up there and even in July I was aware that I was going to want a really nice holiday this year, so sure, I said, I’d love to. There was a bit of a palaver about who all was going to be going, as there often is with these sorts of group schemes, but in the end it was me and two couples: Giulia and Filippo, and Rosie and Pete.
We were all going up separately, so it was my job to get to Auckland and then somehow to the Peninsula, which involves only rudimentary public transport and also some extremely windy roads. I’m sorry to report that it also involved—and this is after months of planning, people—some confusion about my bus schedule, so I ended up getting dropped off at the terrifying Manukau mall frantically trying to get in touch with someone in Wellington who had instant internet access and who could find out which bus I was supposed to take and in which direction, as I tried to fight back tears in the broiling sun (well it felt broiling after months and months of cloud cover in Wellington) and think what the worst-case scenario would be if I missed the only bus going to the Coromandel that day.
My friend Jess at work came through for me like a champ, after much confused texting and shaky phone conversations involving passwords and confirmations and booking numbers. I now owe her coffees at Fidel’s for life, of course, but that seemed to be a small price to pay as I heaved myself onto the bus and flopped down next to a very angry teenage goth and got ready to read the new Margaret Atwood book I got for Christmas and to try not to throw up continually and thoroughly for the next four hours on tiny little curvy mountain roads.
I finally fetched up in good old Whitianga, vomit-free (just barely) passing the hostel I stayed at three years ago and remembering how to get to the tiny little ferry landing, with its wee toy-sized boat that takes three seconds to cross the water and costs two dollars. Finally feeling like I was on holiday, like I could relax and sort of shake off the year. It worked a treat: I go back to work the day after tomorrow and I don’t even remember where my office is anymore.
Giulia and Filippo picked me up on the Hahei side, having just driven up from Taupo, and we got back to the house, which is surrounded by gardens and fruit trees and singing birds and was just fantastic, perfect in every sense.
The next day Giulia and I got back on the ferry to get in supplies for the week, which, for this crew…well, wait a minute. Before I go on, you have to understand that this woman and her partner brought with them on their holiday: their own Italian coffee maker (and their own coffee), their own iced coffee shaker thing, their own homemade hazelnut biscotti, their own olive oil (two kinds), their own balsamic vinegar, their own bread pan, their own knife, their own kilo of prawns from Taupo, and a whole bunch of stuff I don’t even remember now. Giulia, who is half Italian and half Texan, made up several jugs of sweet iced tea every day, thereby making me throw myself at her feet in gratitude. Rosie made scrambled eggs for breakfast and we had fresh homemade bread for bruschetta, and also fresh homemade pizza on the grill. What I’m saying is that these people I was on holiday with took their food very seriously, which worked out well for me because I took my holiday goal of gaining five kilos, minimum, from delicious food very seriously too. Synchronicity, you know?
So anyway all there was to do in Whitianga that day was buy fifteen kilos of fresh vegetables so we could grill out every night, and wait for Rosie and Pete to rock up from Auckland that afternoon. We immediately went to the beach when they arrived and then grilled lots of yummy things for dinner, thereby setting a very comfortable precedent for the rest of the week.
Staggering under the weight of the zucchini in my bag at the ferry. I would just like to say two things here: grilled zucchini are possibly one of my favorite things in the world, and also I am fully aware that my hair is out of control here. I assure you it’s only got worse in the last week or so.
Filippo mans his battle station. We put some thinly-sliced potatoes right on the grill until they turned really crisp, basically, and then drizzled them with oil and salt and pepper. I mean I understand we basically just invented potato chips but Lord have mercy they were good.
Here are some of those veggies and prawns (which I didn’t eat because I couldn’t handle sucking out the brains, but everyone else assured me they were delicious, as they picked antennae and legs out of their teeth). We had some variation of this dinner every day we were at the house, and I seriously could eat it every night of my life from now on, it was so good.
We had lots of good times at lots of different beaches—Hahei, Hot Water Beach, etc– but I think the best one was at Cathedral Cove on Christmas Eve. I’d been there before, on a kayak trip, but hadn’t done the walk down from the carpark of course. We packed picnic lunches and our books (I was already on book two of the four I read over the week, which is possibly the most heavenly feeling in the world, putting down one book, stretching, topping up your iced tea, and then picking up the next) and spent the whole day there, camped out under some trees from whence we occasionally dared to take a dip in the very cold water.
I don’t seem to have taken any photos of the beach itself—too busy reading and eating cookies, I think—but I sure enjoyed the views on the way down. As I’m writing this it’s POURING down rain here in Wellington, and I can hardly believe that just a couple of weeks ago it was all sunny and gorgeous where I was, and the sky and sea were so so blue. Sigh.
First we see some necessary accoutrements. Not pictured: lots and lots and lots of sunscreen. Also not pictured: lots of cookies.
Tree ferns and pohutukawa…it’s Christmas in New Zealand! All that’s missing is some flax with a gigantic tui gorging itself on it—which we had plenty of back at the house, actually, along with every other type of bird that cared to make it impossible to sleep in.
Filippo, who was very pleased to be on holiday and not in a bunker in Miramar working on Avatar, helpfully points out the view.
Giulia contents herself merely with looking completely adorable.
And then we had (homemade, grilled) pizza for dinner that night. You, with all due respect, may keep your elaborate roasts and gravies and whatever else you have for Christmas Eve dinner. I will just eat your slice of homemade grilled pizza for you, and then polish it off with some fresh strawberries in sugar syrup over full-fat Greek yogurt, thanks very much. Christmas in summer? RULES.
While it feels like mostly we just lay around and ate, we actually did do lots of other things on the trip, like go for a snorkel/dive trip at Hahei beach.
Here Filippo, Giulia and I are seen on a boat being pulled by a truck to the beach entry point. Little do we know that soon I will be described by the hot dive instructor as having “the most floaty ankles I’ve ever seen” and that buoyancy will be so hard for me to control that I will end up only spending fifteen minutes underwater, needing to resurface in shame and ignominy. (I did get to see some squid while I was underwater though, so I guess it worked out okay).
I just love this picture of Giu, that’s all.
Here Rosie helpfully makes the OK sign, while Pete gets to work on a truly spectacular wetsuit tan that will be on display once he puts on his skimpy running shorts (not pictured, sadly) to run back to Purangi while the rest of us are lazy and have ice cream sandwiches in the car.
We also went for a drive to see some more local gorgeous stuff, like this very tranquil waterfall whose name, unfortunately, escapes me.
And I try never to miss an opportunity for a Hey-I’m-In-New- Zealand shot, so…
But really, this captures the whole week perfectly. In between dinners and trips to the beach, this is what there was to do there: lay around and just…let go, a little. I have been so anxious, and so worried, this past year, and I can’t quite describe what it was like to lay down those burdens for a while and to concentrate on which delicious grilled vegetable I was going to eat next, or the excellence of the book I was reading, or the sounds of the tuis going absolutely crazy in the flax. I don’t care too much about Christmas—we didn’t exchange presents or anything, and Christmas Day itself was possibly our most casual day of the week—but I found myself being very grateful that I was doing it the way I was doing it: no stress, no worry, no bother. I don’t know when that sort of thing became so precious to me, but I was pretty actively grateful the whole time we were there. It’s still raining and wailing outside–yeah, AWESOME SUMMER WEATHER, WELLINGTON–but just thinking about the beaches, or the gardens, or the silly conversations we had while topless sunbathing (they’re Italian! It’s the way of their people!) out behind the house, or the window seat by the stained glass in the kitchen over which we all fought to take naps in makes me smile, and it turned out that that’s all I could have asked for, that week, all I could have wanted.