It’s amazing how you can hop in the car in New Zealand, and within a relatively small amount of time you can be somewhere that looks completely different, somewhere that offers a different perspective, somewhere that is off the beaten track and yet right at your back doorstep.
A couple of months ago I started plotting what I might organise for Mum’s 65th birthday. She was planning to celebrate her pension year birthday in Bali and well, that plan was totalled wasn’t it!?
The lovely Michelle from Off the Beaten Track had reached out to me about her business which is designed to give New Zealanders access to parts of the country and properties which may not have previously been accessible. “Our aim is to connect lovers of the great outdoors with undiscovered locations and experiences that are privately owned.”
I told her about Mum’s birthday and how I wanted to attempt to recreate a bit of a Bali experience for her, but at the same time make it authentically Kiwi. I went onto the website and found The Factory in Kaikoura. It looked epic, I was sold and the planning began.
Mum knew we were going to Kaikoura – but that was it. We hopped in the car on Monday morning and set off for the drive we’ve done countless times (which you NEVER tire of). Arrived to Sean and Skip’s amazing property to a gorgie platter and glass of bubbles and knew we were onto a good thing!
First stop on the “pension adventure” was Glenstrae Farm 4 Wheel Adventures. I knew there was no way we would get Mum on her own quad bike (she would not have got herself up the first hill, you see she’s a bit adventure averse) so we hopped on a four-seater driven by Alistair and along with brother Johnny took us on an absolute ripsnorter of an mission around their family farm – which has some of the most magical views I believe, this country has to offer.
She’d calmed down enough by the time we made our way to Hapuku Lodge to be hosted by Chris and Fiona for an absolutely stunning dinner. Full, very happy, a couple of reds in and we were quite ready for bed after a brilliant first day.
Day two was the big birthday. We were up early to go and swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura but alas the wee mates of the sea decided to take a day off (which means we will absolutely be back for that experience). We decided to head to the Peninsula Seal Colony to visit some of those delightful mammals – which Mum reckons she’s coming back as in another life…why? “Because you can lie around in the sun all day, go for a swim when you want to swim, you can eat as much as you want and you’re only annoyed by the bull once a year”. Actual quote.
Off we went to the iconic Nin’s Bin for a crayfish and some chips, sat at a picnic table, washed down the deliciousness with a glass of bubbles and quite possibly said “wow” 50 times. I love that there are countless places in this country which we will forever be spellbound by the beauty. This is one of them..
I took Mum back to The Factory where she was getting an afternoon massage (as she would’ve done in Bali), then cracked open some Coronas (I couldn’t find any Bintangs), watched the sun go down, laughed, yarned, jumped in the spa, laughed, yarned, sang – how good. She confirmed she’d had an incredibly special day for such a milestone birthday.
We’d had two days and two nights away but it was one of those classic “feels like we’ve been away for ages” type trips. Reluctantly, we jumped in the car on Wednesday to go home. We’d been to Kaikoura so many times before, and yet this time it felt like a completely new, completely different experience. The fact that we can still do that in our little country is something I don’t think you can put a price on. Good from you, New Zealand.
By Brodie Kane