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Happy New Year! by Claire Sykes

I have a very special place, which I can go to, anytime… north western Golden Bay…Here nestled in the beautiful podocarp forest teeming with birds, there sits a little wooden bach with a cosy fire. Staying here provides a very simple lifestyle, as there is no Wi-Fi, limited cell phone reception, gas hot water, rainwater and off the grid solar power.
A strange phenomenon happens when I am here, it’s like a spell is cast over me, when I open the gate and drive up. My breath is taken away and replaced with a sense of peace and serenity which lasts the entire time I am here. I lose the will to do vigorous exercise for hours, unless prompted, in other words the training goes out the window!
I am just content to walk the tracks, fish or leisurely kayak up the very picturesque rivers, the time spent here is happily governed by the tides and the weather. The moment it rains we have the fire lit and I am curled up with a book.
Totally absorbed in the spirit of the protected wetland and forest… gazing up into the majestic trees, we wait for tiny orchids to burst open near to the ground, admiring the rata in flower, watching the kereru flapping clumsily from tree to tree. I think that is what my mum used to call “just being”.
I understand this is more than seeing the sun go down; it is in fact taking a glass of wine up to the chosen sunset view point to just soak up the atmosphere. Listening and watching as the insects dance in the pink sky and the birds chortle sleepily as they begin to roost for the evening.
Leaving the rest of the time to prepare and eat yummy food some of which comes from the land, like fish and cockles, mixed with a salad of weeds, native goodies and salad from the garden. Weed smoothies are a favourite with Vitality™ New Zealand Blackcurrant caps in!
Friends visit and catch me sitting in the sun reading a book…there is a bath on the deck they say “really? You have time for that?” Of course, I reply time doesn’t matter over here. I notice they leave at the end of the day with wistfulness in their eyes. Except one dog who was freaked out by the birds and the forest!
Have you read The Exiles of Asbestos Cottage by Jim Henderson? It’s a wonderful story about Annie and Henry Chaffey living in a hut deep in North West Nelson for over forty years. Henry would walk out to Takaka or Motueka to get all their supplies with a backpack, this could take a week, Annie never came out to civilisation for all that time…what an interesting concept I really could see her logic of not wanting to get caught up in the world…
School holidays as a kid growing up in Canterbury, we had a caravan in later years, but looking back at time spent in little baches all along the east coast were very special with not a care in the world for a week or three. Not so many families venture out on these simple adventurous holidays as often now. Much more money spent on overseas trips with all the bells and whistles so you don’t need to do a thing. Are many young children now losing the thrill of camping outside and making their own entertainment? I guess this goes for adults as well…
Remember those long, slow but very eventful drives to get to the holiday destination? The ford falcon towing the caravan or the trailer, full of gear…or towing the old Holden with no motor, mum and the kids inside like a trailer, I am sure we could write a book about those times…
It is not quite like that anymore. I was driving back home after being away in paradise for a week or so and for the second time in less than a few moments apart a car came over a one way bridge when it needed to give way I slammed on the anchors and the car behind me sailed into the back of me. Happy New Year! I muttered to myself and welcome back to the fast lane of modern holiday makers.