Last week was our special time together. We chose to quietly celebrate 40 years of married life in the islands of Samoa. Last week we found Paradise. No cellphone, no book, no television or radio. No grandkids. Just us. Island time. Siesta time. Conversations as the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Himself and I became willing captives in this beyond-our-Kiwi-lifestyle, traditional way of life of the friendly Samoan people.
Like Rupert Brooke the poet who visited Samoa, we were enchanted as we lay “on a mat” and looked “out on the white sand under the high palms and gentle sea, and the black line of a reef a mile out…”. We too met “the loveliest people in the world, moving and dancing like Gods and godesses. It is sheer beauty, so pure it is difficult to breathe in it.” Of course we took in the sights and familiarised ourselves with Samoan culture and history. We listened to the stories about legendary hotelier Aggie Grey and Robert Louis Stevenson who was known as Tusitala the soryteller. Film-makers have been inspired by the spectacular lagoons with their palm-fringed beaches. I must read James Michener again and see the movie Return to Paradise filmed at Matatau on Upolu Island. I didn’t need a book.The stories were there before me.
We trawled the local food and craft markets. Naturally, I was interested in what village people grew in their gardens and plantations. In our travels, I marvelled at how hard people in the villages work to live on meagre means. They fish in the lagoons and beyond the reef. They cultivate taro, breadfruit, papaya, plantains and other vegetables and fruits as food staples year-round for their large aiga (families). Their pride is reflected in their immaculately kept villages. There’s more in these islands: volcanic lava fields; the rainforests; fresh water streams and waterfalls; nature’s riot of colour repeated on the houses, churches and fale. A pod of whales cavorted on cue in the sea during one ferry trip. The turtles in Savaii were captivating.
Back at the resort into the night, there was Samoan dancing and singing and fresh game fish on the menu. It was all so leisurely. After a day in the tropical heat, a tall glass of gin, tonic and fresh lime poured over ice seemed just right. I wondered vaguely (ever so momentarily) how I would ever manage to go back to work and do all the physical gardening activities at home. Getting to know another country is exciting. Our time in Samoa was too short. We didn’t see it all but we will go back. This was our special time.
I even had to remind myself to take any photos at all such was the entranced state we found ourselves in.
Happy New Year folks. Himself and I shut the gate and left the garden (and the cat and cattle) in the capable care of our friend Trish. So many things would happen in our absence. I knew the possums would ravage the ripening peaches, that the climber beans would grow like triffids, that the courgettes would mature into marrows. We left rapidly growing grass that would be knee-high when returned and need mowing. C’est la vie! I’d just have to get over it.
We drove south to the Waikato to join Mum and my family who live near Matamata (Peter Jackson constructed the Hobbiton movie set on a local farm when he produced Lord of the Rings). Tourists still visit the site. We had a big gathering on my younger brother’s farm (where I grew up) on Christmas Day. Lots of talk and laughs. Different people gathered 02 January to celebrate my other brother’s significant birthday at his newly built home. It was nice for Mum to have her four ‘baby-boomer’ children in one place for a change. For each occasion, both sisters-in-law excelled themselves. Baked hot ham, new potatoes (my steamed heritage potatoes went down well and were subject of interest and conversation), salads, new beans, fresh strawberries, traditional Christmas pudding and custard, pavlova and trifle. The weather was so warm, we sat outside in the shade – cold drinks in hand. In this rural community, the talk inevitably turns to dairy farming.
Wearing off the Christmas excess is easier in the saying and harder in the doing. Himself and I did some day trips and walked at local tourist spots. If you ever come to New Zealand, Rotorua is a neat place to visit. We used to spend a lot of time there as kids and then later for weekend escapes. When we lived in the Waikato, himself and I used to do quite a bit a trout fishing in this region. Always we soaked in the mineral pools. The sulphur smells from the boiling mud pools and springs is always there. Below are a few photos snapped during our latest getaway.
This historic building is a museum.
Lakeside walkway – stay on the path. Great views across the lake of course, boiling sulphur springs and muddy pools. The foliage is Manuka or Tea-tree as it’s sometimes called.
My favourite place. The spa baths both public and private – different temperatures and minerals. We booked a private lakeside rocky pool (see last three photos) and soaked up the minerals and the view across Rotorua lake and watched the adult birds feed their chicks. It’s a noisy colony. A cold shower, drink lots of water and back in. Bliss. Who wants to garden?
Something really nice when we returned home hot and tired after six hours driving. Someone had mowed all our lawns! I just love my neighbour. What a nice thing to do. It more than made up for the loss of the peaches to the possums.