Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Tideland - Part Three: Setting up a mooring

This blog was never intended to be a diary, but a lot has happened recently...

Motupipi River at dusk - the view from our deck

Easter weekend has just passed and we’ve now been living in Golden Bay for over a month - the realisation of a very long term plan. We’re adapting to coastal life and ‘Takaka time’ pretty easily: the constant good weather and friendliness of the people we’ve met has certainly helped.

But actually getting here turned out to be anything but easy.

Our biggest fear at the time, that our three cats would find the move and relocation stressful and unhealthy, actually turned out to be pretty-much unfounded. In fact, it was ultimately one of the easiest issues we had to overcome.

Ed and Monty struggle to adapt to their new deck

The biggest obstacles were physical: the notoriously rough stretch of water separating New Zealand’s two main Islands, and the 791m mountain pass which is modestly referred to as the Takaka ‘Hill’. And the biggest stress was to become our inability to get over either of them.

In hindsight picking the same day to move as the arrival of a tropical cyclone seems like tempting fate to the absolute extreme, but these storms are by their nature very difficult to predict, and our complex plans involving flights, ferry crossings and vehicle hire had been put in place well in advance. 

Wharariki Beach: The 'poster girl' for New Zealand tourist calendars never disappoints

Never-the-less, I flew into Takaka airport in a light plane with three bewildered felines the night before Cyclone Gita arrived, just to play it safe. Arriving at the airstrip we were immediately welcomed with 'Bay' hospitality, and gifted a free hire car to get us to our new home. Regardless of what lay in store for us over the next couple of weeks, this local generosity has remained a constant.

Several hours later, while I huddled in a sleeping bag with restlessly prowling cats in the  corner of our empty new living room, Rose was driving our packed-to-bursting hire truck onto the 2.30am ferry.
If you think this division of labour seems unfair you’re probably right, but I cope with rough seas (and they were) about as well as Rose copes with rough flights and she had no wish to share the cats suffering either in the air on in the car, to and from airports. 

My idea of paradise - beaches for miles, and the sun just won't stop...

Our first mistake was probably to seriously underestimate the time needed to pack properly. Although we’d been stowing belongings in our garage for months, the week was a maelstrom of frantically shoving it all in and out of a truck, car and trailer, (gradually without the benefit of daylight, food or sleep), in mere hours when we should have allowed days. It became clear that moving from the North to South Islands was more like immigrating to another country than we could ever have suspected.

Rose arrived with the truck at around 11am on the rainy morning of February 20th - scant hours before the hill she had just crossed was devastated by Cyclone Gita. Over 20 slips were brought down onto the road, some of them washing whole sections of it away.

We were blissfully unaware of this at the time, our new neighbourhood somehow almost completely sheltered from the force of the storm. The first evidence that other areas hadn’t been so fortunate was a power-cut that afternoon. but in our ignorance, even this was treated lightly. Our first day back on the national grid in six years and we’re without power - that’s got to be funny, hasn’t it? 

Living history - the Langford store, serving the Bainham community since 1928

Our sense of humour was to serve us well over the next fortnight. The road closure meant that we couldn’t return an expensive hire truck for over a week, and after a near-evacuation, a cut-off Takaka began to suffer food shortages and petrol rationing. 

But worse still, our house purchasers defaulted on their settlement payment, leaving us to teeter on the brink of financial ruin as we struggled to afford the mortgage and insurance on two houses.
Without going into specifics, the compassion of the vendor of our new home pretty much saved our bacon, (which was definitely off the menu as we struggled to survive). 

The daily late fee our tardy house buyers tided us over when the whole horrible business was finally concluded, but was little consolation at the time. I could say more here, but am choosing to move on after a brief warning. House sellers beware: the integrity of a contract is only worth the integrity of the person who signs it with you.

Naturally we celebrated once the money finally came through. We’ve dined at the Mussel Inn, picnicked at Wharariki Beach and I’ve cycled everywhere from Collingwood to Pohara. 
Rose posted a request on the local facebook group for firewood, adding that we would come and chainsaw/chop it ourselves. She was bombarded by offers and we’ve met some interesting and generous people while putting in the hard yards to stock up on wood for the winter. 

This was a shapeless pile of metal and plastic when we moved in...

She has also repaired our ramshackle greenhouse and we’ve insulated the entire underfloor of the house. Although autumn has officially been here for a month and daylight saving has just ended - the hot Golden Bay sun shows little sign of abating.

It hasn’t been easy getting here, but so far at least, we’re living the dream...

Who needs a garden bench when you can have a jetty to relax on?

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