This year is the first time Josh has ever had a birthday in summer, so I wanted to take full advantage. I had a lot of ambitious ideas, but as teaching swallowed more and more of my time those crucial planning hours evaporated in front of me. Suddenly it was Friday afternoon--the day before we had to leave--and I barely had a plan. So, at the eleventh hour, this is where we landed.
By the way, if you're looking for a cheap way to spice up any special occasion, add two types of public transport and a blindfold. Passersby were really into it, shouting, No don't go that way! Danger! Josh wouldn't stop guessing where we were going, and every time he got close I'd laugh nervously, so then I had to start laughing nervously at everything just to cover it up. It turns out I can be a really terrible liar. We got a little carried away with the game walking from the bus to the ferry, and with 5 minutes left to board we had to run to the boat. At this point I could have let him take the blindfold off, but I hate to ruin a surprise, so...instead I put one hand on my shoulder, grabbed the other and said, Josh, we're going to run.
I am married to the best sport on Earth because--we did. We ran. And no one died.
We landed on Waiheke and went straight to ziplining. Here's what I've learned from the experience: it's mildly terrifying for the first few seconds, then it's amazing. You stabilize. For a moment, careening through the air becomes normal. You look down at the canopy dipping far below you and it's breathtaking. Then your realize you're rushing at high speed towards a platform on the other side and your heart jumps into your throat like you're seconds from death. So that's the formula: mildly terrifying, then awesome, then actually terrifying.
I found the key to this last part was turning around at the last moment so you come in backwards and you can't see when you're going to stop.
If there's no time to react, there's no time to panic.
They're not kidding when they say it's addictive. That moment in the middle--that moment of amazing when you're flying through the air like a god--that's the part you come away with. After three different runs, we didn't want to stop. We were ready to zipline everywhere.
Here's the fastest zip we did, at 60 kilometers per hour. I'll warn you, I scream through a lot of it. You can tell the part when it hits "amazing" by when I start laughing in between screams.
Things go slightly wrong.
So here was where poor planning started to take its toll. After we finished zipping and hiked back to the starting point, we took a shuttle into Oneroa and walked to where we were staying for the night. I booked us a tiny cabin at a backpacker's outside of town called the Fossil Bay Lodge. Turns out, it's also a local Kindergarten. As if New Zealand wasn't already cute enough.
Unfortunately plans of us in a tiny blue cabin were never meant to be. We arrived only to realize that I'd booked for the wrong night, and they weren't expecting us until the next day. Summer Saturdays are busy, so they were completely booked up! It was going to be near impossible to find another place to stay on the island on such short notice. Thankfully, Kiwis always seem happy to roll with the punches, and the owner was able to offer us a storage space they'd been renovating into a little apartment. Our bed was just a foam mattress on the floor but it was comfortable enough, and we had our own bathroom. It turned out to be a nice setup.
The road to fanciness is long and confusing.
I planned just enough time for us to walk from our hostel to our fancy vineyard dinner reservations. Unfortunately, since I threw this all together in an hour the day before, I just printed myself a map and ran out the door. I didn't expect that the map and the directions would be so out of sync! Given the choice between the two, I usually trust a map, but in this case it was the wrong choice. It took us 20 minutes in the wrong direction!
So there we were, two minutes shy of our reservation and in the completely wrong part of town. We stopped to ask for directions and wound up catching a ride to the vineyard.
Again, a Kiwi saves the day.
Waiheke has its more modest side: it's home to plenty of lower income families and what is possibly the world's smallest used car dealership (a grand total of three cars), but it's also rife with vineyards and million dollar holiday homes. The restaurant where we had dinner was firmly on the fancy side of the spectrum.
I have to admit, as much as I live for good food and beautiful scenery to look at while I'm eating it, expensive restaurants make me feel like I'm taking a test. How do I need to speak/sit/stand/walk/order/pretend not to care about the prices/use a fork to pass? And is "pencil shavings" something I want my wine to taste like? I asked the waitress, and she didn't really get it either. The food was really delicious, but not so delicious that we didn't enjoy the next morning's normally priced breakfast even more. (Although it's really hard to compete with breakfast. #BreakfastIsSexy) The best part was the otherworldly view. I know I keep saying it, but I can't stop thinking about how bright the sun is here, and how completely that changes the mood of everything it touches. It turns shadows on the wall into detailed, ever-changing landscape paintings, and it makes everything around you seem slightly off, so it feels possible that you're not on Earth at all--that you're actually having dinner off somewhere on Naboo or in King's Landing or in some other fantasy world--that what you're looking at is not the sun, it's a star.
And we didn't walk home under the moon. It was a moon.
Some highlights of the New Year's celebrations:
Arts & crafts with pipe cleaners. It turns out pipe cleaners have lost absolutely zero of their charm since childhood.
Damper on a stick! This is bread you roast over a campfire and eat hot. The friend who introduced us to it explained that her family usually makes this on Guy Fawkes Day, but she decided to extend the tradition to New Year's. We had ours with jam, cheese and dates. I've linked to a recipe below, if you want to try it. Move over, marshmallows! You've met your rival:
Running through the streets at midnight to try to find the source of the neighborhood fireworks display and cheering with every car that passes by.
Tons and tons of rain.
Like our photos?
You can thank the talented
Josh Salim for taking most of them. Check out his other work at joshsalim.weebly.com
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