One of the great things about having visitors from overseas is working out what to do with them! Of course, I mean that in the nicest possible way…
Thinking about … what’s special? What is it that we like to do, that they might like too? What might be the thing that sticks with them? Sometimes it’s the simplest things: Roman and Margrit still talk about the experience of picking blueberries, then sitting by a stream with a bottle of bubbles and eating them.
We’ve just been enjoying the company of Vreni and Martin. They had a week with us as they camper-vanned south – and then some unexpected later encounters!
So – the big gamble…a fishing trip! Bob Norman, one of our village friends, had arranged a fishing charter. An email to Switzerland – would they like to come with us on that? We’re thinking… this could be way outside land-locked Swiss comfort-zones. Sea-fishing. Stroppy fish. Energetic waves. Getting wet, smelly, fish-stained. Not that we mentioned any of that in the email.
“Yes” came the response.
We led into it with civilised sight-seeing: Martinborough vineyards.
Dennis and Helen’s place with its olive grove, truffle-oaks and hazel-nuts for the life-style experience complete with classic roast lamb dinner.
OK – time for the true “love-it-or-hate-it” Kiwi experience.
A sparrows-fart-start. The weather wasn’t great – and forecast to get worse, but the boat skipper thought we could get in a half-day’s fishing without too much risk to life or breakfast.
And so it worked out. There was a good run out to a relatively sheltered spot in the lee of Mana Island, with some judicious re-positioning by the skipper as the morning progressed and the weather shifted. The fish came to the party. Snapper, tarakihi, mackerel - the exhilaration of kahawai, the menace of barracouta. Vreni and Martin both fished and landed them as if born to it.
Extra joy … the birds! Three mollyhauks were with us for almost the whole morning, awaiting their feed of fish-frames. A royal albatross maintained a more regal distance.
A couple young shags did very teenage risk-taking, diving to intercept hooked fish on their way to the surface. The undersized fish we threw back had to be fast away or risk a quick recapture and instant swallow.
Of course, this being a fishing charter, the skipper and his mate did the really mucky stuff, but nonetheless, by the time we disembarked with our share of the catch filleted and bagged we were indeed properly wet, smelly, fish-stained. And they loved it! Whew!
So that evening – the final stage of the proper kiwi fishing trip – the freshest of fish, cooked the simplest of ways, and eaten with the relish of sea-enhanced appetites.
We saw Vreni and Martin off to continue their camper-vanning in the South Island, said “see you in Switzerland in May” and took off ourselves a few days later in Feierbend. From occasional phone calls we knew they were heading back up the North Island. Then we woke up one morning, parked “wild” outside the Morere Springs where we’d stopped for a hot pool the afternoon before, to see them pulling up behind us! Bubbles for breakfast in their van. More farewells and “see you in Switzerland in May” promises, and on again in our separate ways.
We headed to a friend’s place in Gisborne to overnight. We told Diane the story: “Oh, you must invite them here too!” So we phoned – and yes – all together again! Diane lent us her car the next morning for some Gisborne tiki-touring… then again we did the farewells, and “Switzerland in May” speeches.
And you know what? If Vreni and Martin are anything like us, finding that a total stranger would invite them to stay and offer Kiwi hospitality so spontaneously and generously, may be the experience that stays with them. The fishing was great. Getting up close with birds and seal cubs was special. But the kindness of strangers… somehow that’s something one never forgets.