New Zealand, November 2018

We left Victoria on November 14th, getting a direct flight from Vancouver to Auckland which was done in just under 13 hours.  It was a very easy flight and passed quickly decanting us into the airport at 5am!  We rented a car and drove about 110 km north to a tiny village called Pakiri – really just an intersection! – where we found the place where we are home-exchanging for two weeks.  Our hosts were just finishing a late breakfast when we arrived and were most hospitable.  Right off the bat they suggested a shared dinner the following evening and, during our stay, could not have been more helpful and accommodating.

Prior to coming we had not made any real plans,  just  looking forward to leaving our November weather and anticipating that the nearby Pakiri Beach would be a feature.  We have been thrilled that our time here has come together in such an interesting way.

Our accommodation is a converted 100 year old barn – very quirky but comfortable – with a very productive organic vegetable garden adjacent.  Our hosts live in the main house and the entire property is more than seven acres.   They plan to visit Canada in September and Robin is helping them plan their itinerary.

As luck would have it our time here has provided us with some amazing experiences .  Quite fortuitously each weekend there has been a charity fundraiser garden tour within striking distance and we have had a lovely time exploring almost 40 gardens, talking to the owners and seeing more of the countryside.  The first weekend was within commuting distance, but the second was in Whangarei – over an hour north of here so we decided to stay at a B&B overnight.  This tour was organized by Quarry Gardens which had been inspired by Butchart Gardens to utilize a disused quarry to make a show garden.  We had been there about 10 years previously when the project was in its infancy and were amazed at the amount they had achieved in that time.  We saw all sorts of gardens from vast oceanside estates to relatively humble back yards.  While in Whangerei we got in contact with home exchangers from 10 years ago who treated us to a memorable dinner, bed and breakfast.

There are also two NZ “Gardens of Distinction” nearby which we have visited.  At The Paddocks we met the owner, Penny, who, with her husband, Rowan,  had worked for ten years at Ayrlies, NZ’s most famous garden and had met all the world’s most famous garden personalities.  She gave us a personal tour and we loved her garden.

Then, earlier this week, we had a surprise visit from Fiona, Alimay’s sister Maida’s sister in law, and husband John, who were just at the end of a three week holiday, which had involved a tramp, scaling a mountain peak and three days kayaking in Abel Tasman Park as well as other strenuous activities.  They were driving a camper that was just one degree better than tent camping.  We had a great evening with them, delighted that from Canada and Scotland we should connect here.

We are soon off to Australia for another six weeks or so and will blog further from there.