28 August 2012

One weekend to rule them all

Once upon a time there was a little family, who went on a road trip, their destination: a special weekend away to celebrate the 60th birthday of their Poppa.

There was a fair bit of running around like blue-assed flies the night before, making chilli con carne for the shared nacho dinner on Saturday night, packing food, linen, towels, and the kitchen sink for the trip.

They were up bright and early on the day of the trip, making a Jamie Oliver gluten-free carrot cake for the birthday boy, there was still more packing to do and a house to clean. They made it out the door just in time to get to school assembly to see their big little guy perform with his class.

And then they were on the road.

Praying that the sellotape would hold on the make-shift repair job on the DVD player.

Doling out treats at regular intervals.


With time up their sleeve, they threw caution to the wind and took a little detour to see the Foxton Windmill up close. Delighted in an old Wellington trolley bus they found parked up on Foxton's main street.


With more time up their sleeves, they stopped off at the National Army Museum, so the boys could get down and jiggy with their army alter egos. The big boy even climbed up the biggest tank,  just cos he could.








The mummy found herself drawn away from the army gear, distracted by beautiful afternoon light on far hills.



Before reluctantly refocusing on three boys and a cannon hiding out in the tussock.



The little family hopped back in their car, chasing the sinking sun, arriving at their destination a little after 4pm.


Their home for the weekend was a quaint railway cottage in aptly-named Railway Row, with views across to the mostly disused railway station. Trains passing the house during the weekend were reminiscent of small earthquakes such was the feeling of the ground shaking under their feet.


After getting settled in, they drove back to town, inhaling the strong and unfamiliar scent of many woodfires burning in the still winter air.


The mountain, who had maintained her modesty until then, threw off her cloak of cloud, dazzling them with her nakedness as the sun sank to the west.



The little family found a quaint restaurant called OCR (Old Coach Road) only 2 minutes down the road from their house.


Tired little people still managed to gobble up a plateful of burger and chips.


The mummy was secretly thanking God for having found an amazing abundance of gluten-free food on the menu. A coincidence given her decision to go gluten-free this week? Of course not. Just another sign of His hand always at work, even in the small details of their lives.


The enchiladas went down singing hymns, and they rated the meal so highly they found themselves returning for coffees the next day, and brunch the day after that.


The atmosphere in this house-cum-restaurant relaxed and casual, and oh-so inviting.


Two little people made no complaints about jumping into their bunk beds for the night, also excited at the prospect of having their mummy and daddy sharing the room with them on the opposite bunks.


The night was long, as the mummy and daddy sat and waited for the rest of the family to arrive. There was some magazine surfing, book reading and a bit of snoozing on the couch as the minutes and hours ticked by till the quiet sound of knocking at 10pm signalled the arrival they had been waiting for.

Tired bodies hit their pillows soon after.


The next morning dawned crisp and clear. Their Poppa had chosen some walks for them all to enjoy.


Starting with an easy 15-minute loop track through an impressive rimu forest.


The dense jungle of trees and native bush a stark, dark contrast to the light filtering through from above.



It was unclear who was leading who, at times the little people were definitely the ones surging ahead this early in the day.



Having finished the short track, they hopped back in their cars and headed higher on up the mountain.


The sight of the snow-capped mountain in all her glory stole their breath away at once.


And then the beauty of Mangawhero Falls stole it away all over again.



Thousands of people had turned out for a stunning day of skiing, and were dotted across the mountain on various slopes and chair lifts. But this little family was, for now, quite oblivious to just how many there were, simply admiring the slopes from afar through their telephoto lens.


Cameras captured cameras, and the beautiful ice patterns made by flowing water through pebbly rocks.




The stunning vista was admired, and the variety of colour in the foliage exclaimed over more than once.


Little boys conquered rocks, in one giant leap for mankind.



With time on their side, the family decided to see just how far they could make it along another bush walk.


Not knowing how far they'd get, but hoping just to enjoy some lovely scenery along the way.


Scenery that was quintessentially kiwi, with umbrella ferns waving a quiet hello as they passed.


Up they climbed, up and up to the top of the ridge, until they came out into the open, and exclaimed at the display of alpine tarns before them.


The wind was chilly here, so they didn't linger but carried on with their boardwalk, boardwalk.





Then down, down, down they dropped on giant size stairs almost dwarfing the littlest people, until, in a clearing, their destination was upon them.


They were met by an equally, lovely yet different waterfall carving its way down the sheer rock face.


After eating every remaining snack they'd brought for the journey, they turned around and found themselves having to climb, climb, climb back the way they'd came.




Little feet were tiring by now, and the littlest guy, who had amazingly walked the whole 40 minutes there, ran out of steam and rode the journey home on his daddy and poppa's shoulders. It was a sterling effort on his part, commended all round by his family.


The family went gratefully back to their weekend home and cooked up a hearty meal of soup and toast for lunch, resting weary feet, and summoning all the energy they could for the afternoon's adventure still to come.


As soon as the little guy had woken from a much-needed nap, they raided their bags for every bit of warm gear they could find and headed back up to the mountain.

Despite the late hour (3pm), the mountain was still heaving with keen enthusiasts. Two kind families saw the family eyeing up the sledding area, and kindly gave away their sleds so the family was able to go sledding for free.



The girls looked on, shivering and trying to keep warm, capturing the enjoyment on their boys faces.


Once the little sled run had been conquered, it was onto the big daddy version.


One six-year old, unrecognisable from the shy, lacking in confidence boy of his earlier years, took to the sledding with absolute confidence and glee and would have stayed all day given the chance.



One not-quite three year-old did NOT enjoy the sensation of snow flying up in his face and, under duress with his eyes closed, endured three or four goes before packing a sad and retreating inside to the warmth of the nearby cafe.

The mutual consensus was that a pair of snow goggles might have helped, but this is still the same fellow already known for his inability to survive the cold, taking after his mummy there.


Having carved a few new paths in the snow, and giggled and bumped their way down the sled runs on multiple occasions, it was time for the family to head back down the mountain.



To where a hearty birthday celebration meal of nachos awaited. They toasted happy times, and absent family  not able to be there on the day.


Finishing off with the piece-de-resistance, the Jamie Oliver Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese icing.


Magic candles that kept relighting proved entertaining for all.


 With full tummies, little boys went off to bed, whilst their grown up versions enjoyed more bubbly around a round of their favourite strategy game Carcasonne together.


The next morning they walked the river walkway, trying to work up a good, hearty appetite for the brunch to come.


One little boy still had tired legs from all the exertion of the previous day and took the easy option of a free ride.


And just as quickly as it had come, the weekend was gone again.

So it was that the family went their separate ways, to their homes hours apart in opposite directions of the country.

But they left richer in life, laughter and full of memories of this one weekend that had ruled them all.



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