Wednesday, August 3, 2011

4-Wheeling in Kaikoura

Friday, May 13
South Island

The drive from Arthur's Pass to Kaikoura was fairly low-key, as we only stopped a handful of times due to heavy fog. We needed to get to Kaikoura by one o'clock for our 4-wheeler with Glenstrae Farms just south of town. 

When we arrived early, the brother who takes people out on the 4-wheelers, Ellister, had no idea we were coming. However that happened (maybe a slip of the online site that does the booking), Ellister sent us to check out the small beach up the road toward Kaikoura for a few minutes while he got things ready for our three person tour - Chris, me, and Ellister.

Hello, east coast!

Rain was threatening to make an appearance, so we got started earlier than our one o'clock tour time, one of the perks of being the only people on a tour. After suiting us up in water and mud-proof pants and jackets, as well as good old fashioned rubber boots and helmets, we were ready for our crash course in 4-wheeling. Once Ellister was satisfied we could handle steep bends and wouldn't fly off the side of a cliff, it was time to see this family's amazing farmland that edges the east coast.

Ellister was hilarious, promptly making fun of me when I stopped to get a picture of some of his sheep. He also goaded Chris into laughing with him when he made a crack about female drivers, but both men straightened and clamped their mouths shut when I turned around to cast upon them my glorious glare. It was like we'd known each other for years. He led us along grassy paths, through many gates, and over the tops of the most beautiful emerald green hills, dotted with sheep, black angus cows, and goats. He was quick to warn us about dodging the often steaming piles of - use your imagination - as hitting such a mess would spray all kinds of funk all over us. Beware also, he told us, of the neon green puddles - that ain't Gatorade.

We were taken with the awesome scenery surrounding us, and Ellister let us get off our 4-wheelers every so often to soak it in and take a few pictures. I said how it felt like we were the only ones out in the middle of beautiful nowhere, and Ellister said, wait till you see the view. He was referring to the coast.

The sheep grazed across the hills that dropped down steep cliffs to the crashing sea below, the in-between space draped with seals lazing on the rocks. It was amazing; there's little else to say. It was magical being out there.

After a break and snack of tea, coffee, and biscuits, we began heading back - the rain would be coming soon. 

 I think this may be my new favorite thing so far on this trip.

After our exhilarating ride around Family Glenstrae's farmland, we were eager to meet the woman who would be giving us room and board for the night in town.  Her name is Margaret, and I read nothing but rave reviews of her bed & breakfast, the Bayview Homestay. Upon our arrival, Margaret showed us to our part of the house, complete with full kitchen and fireplace, which we needed. She served us tea and a light snack of homemade bread, and went about her day, kindly giving us information about her hometown.

Chris and I had the most amazing meal out and were ready for some down time, but life had other plans that night. Not long after arriving back to the B&B while talking in the kitchen with Margaret and her daughter, Nicky, the phone rang. It was for me. My heart froze. At first it was difficult to decipher what our friend, Kelly was saying; her tears choked her words. It was Heidi; she wasn't doing well. She'd stopped eating and the vet had said there was nothing left to do. Her body was failing her. We cried together across continents and between a couple passes of the phone between Chris and me, the plan we'd made in the hopes that the worst wouldn't actually happen while we were away, was set into motion.  This was it. My baby girl was leaving the world, and I wasn't there. As I've blogged about her passing already, I won't dwell on the emotional details here. I excused myself to our room and began an emotional purging while Chris stayed on the line to finalize things with Kelly, and explain the situation to our hosts. Later, after he'd come back to sit with me for a while, Nicky knocked to say we had another call. I had no earthly idea who else would be calling, but when Chris told me it was Diane, I shouldn't have been surprised. We talked only a few minutes, but my friend who never sheds a tear was weeping on the other end of the line that night. It meant so much that she'd called, if only to say how sorry she was. Diane and her family had met Heidi when we were all still living in a hotel, and had taken care of her on several occasions for us. Her girls were always careful and loving with Heidi, understanding she was an older dog. Although her allergies kept her from cuddling with Heidi, Diane loved her, too.

As I lay in bed that night, I experienced a strange mix of emotions. First and foremost was sadness, guilt, and grief, but close behind was gratitude. I felt grateful that Heidi had lived as long as she did, for the friend we had in Kelly, who we totally trusted to care for Heidi in what turned out to be her final days, and for the support and love I felt coming at me from all angles. When I finally fell asleep that night, it was out of sheer exhaustion, but before I drifted off, I wondered if pretty Kaikoura would always be a sad place to remember.

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