Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas in New Zealand

I am sitting outside in the early morning sun this beautiful Boxing Day morning, drinking my second cup of tea and thinking about yesterday's "waifs and strays" dinner. It was certainly our most culturally diverse, and the only commonality was that we were all from somewhere else, travelling in NZ at this time of year. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and we feel really good about having organized it.

Lloyd has enjoyed cooking since about age 12 when he started to do more and more at home. By the time he left home he was very independent in the kitchen, and thinks that he organized his first Xmas dinner in the early 80s. This tradition became known as "waifs and strays" because the people he invited were those without family nearby and might be going without the big turkey dinner, and worse, eating dinner alone. We have carried on doing this, often at New Year's, Easter and Thanksgiving as well, in the thirty odd years that we've been together. It seemed only natural to organize a dinner at this holiday park with our fellow travellers. 

We arrived here at the Richmond Top 10 Holiday Park on the 23rd. One of the first things we did was check out the communal kitchen...was there an oven? At first we thought there were only microwaves, but closer inspection revealed (whew!) there were two countertop convection ovens. Checking the cookware was the next step, and we found only one roasting pan, but were able to augment this later with a new one from the park's central storeroom. So things were lining up as we hoped, and  the next big adventure was a mammoth grocery shopping trip where, yahoo! we found a three kg fresh turkey, so no thawing needed.

Meanwhile I decided I wanted to rent a bicycle for these few days over Xmas because "Tasman's Great Taste Trail" is nearby. This is a former railway, decommissioned in the 50s but much of the road bed was still available. My emailed inquiries late on the 23rd brought one positive reply from Nelson Cycle Hire, conveniently located at the airport which is right on one of the cycle routes. Lloyd drove me there, I selected a bike and helmet and then off I went! Our rendezvous point was "Stoke Brewery" which we estimated to be only a few km away. Well, both of us got lost and I actually arrived first in spite of a few wrong turns (the connecting cycle routes are on roads and not obviously marked). I discovered that what was marked Stoke Brewery on my cycle map is actually McCashin's Brewery, makers of Stoke ales. As a result Lloyd had trouble finding it too! I had finished my "flat white" coffee and had knit a few rounds before he finally showed up to my relief, because we only have one phone between us. He then settled into a beer tasting...

...very generous servings (about 6 oz) of four beers and one cider. I had the cider of course....very good, made from locally grown Granny Smith and Braeburn apples. I then headed off to find the coastal route to Rabbit Island, our next rendezvous point. This is a newer part of the trail, mostly gravel and Boardwalk, the wiggles along the edge of the inlet. I stopped to read all the interpretive signs and watch the birds feeding in the estuary and as a result didn't arrive at the destination for another two hours. It was a glorious cars and very few cyclists too. A quick picnic lunch, and we decided to load the bike in the car to carry on wine tasting. It was too late in the afternoon for me to try to cycle to the wineries and too much waiting for Lloyd. We went to three wineries, all delightful, and very reminiscent of our Okanagan wines...the oldest was Siefried, established by an Austrian immigrant in the early 70s.

So, back to the dinner...on Xmas Eve, after supper we wandered around the grounds to talk to people and find out who might be interested in joining us. About eight said yes, others said no, they were either leaving or joining family for dinner. But the final count was closer to 15, attracted by Lloyd's preparations in the kitchen on the day. So here is a description of our "waifs and strays"...
Ruth and Joan, lifelong friends from Australia (but Joan has lived in NZ for most of her adult life)
Peter and Veronica from Norfolk, England travelling in a camper van for the first time
Phil, a widower from England
Kevin (from France) and Helena (from Spain) who have been living in their van in this park while they work on a nearby market garden, and who said this is the first time they spent much time with other guests--that this was the first social gathering organized here
John and his wife and two delightful kids from South Korea...they've been living and working in NZ for about three years. 
A Japanese retired couple who alternate three months in NZ and three months back in Japan
And finally, some real Kiwis! Jason and his new wife of six days are travelling the South Island on a four week mountain biking holiday. They chose to come away at this time because this is their regularly scheduled summer break.

It was a splendid meal. Lloyd cooked the turkey, stuffing, and gravy and roasted new potatoes. Others provided asparagus, raw veggies, salads, kimchee and rice balls wrapped in tofu! Truly an international feast. And lots of NZ wine of course including some sparkling Sauvignon Blanc.

Here's me on my bike before I cycle back to drop it off... Behind me is our rental car and a corner of our cabin.

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