Rain! At last!….well sort of. When I left Apiti this morning it was overcast and damp. I put on my waterproof jacket to try to entice the rain to try harder. To no avail. I, and the surrounding countryside, just got slightly damp. Where trees sheltered the road from the wind, the ground was dry.
Some 30km of gravel road took me south over some hills and down to the Pohangina river and its valley. Well down the road a car coming the other way stopped and the driver asked me if she was on the right road for the Apiti A&P Show (agricultural and pastoral, for the benefit of overseas readers). With great authority and enthusiasm, I said: “Yes indeed. Carry on up the road for 10k to a T junction, turn left and Apiti’s 12k up the road.”
Further down the road, just as I was coming into the settlement of Pohangina, I saw a lady standing by the side of the road by a picnic area offering drinks. I pulled in and, since it was past lunch time and the nearest shop or cafe was some distance away, I was very grateful for the Up and Go breakfast drink, homemade chocolate muffin and pear Mary offered, all for $2.50.
We sat and chatted while I consumed them. A few days earlier she was out walking her dog when a TA rider stopped to ask her where he could buy a drink and food. Not for another 14km at Ashhurst, she told him much to his disappointment. So she decided to set up her stall. While the two photos below are similar, I wanted to offer you both…so you can see Mary in one and the Ruahine range across the valley.
When I got to Ashhurst, I turned right off the TA course for the last 5km of the day. This was to get to a very special rendezvous. Lynn’s birthday is tomorrow (Sunday March 1) and she was very kind about me being away from home on the day.
Well, I made other plans. I told Lynn a while back not to accept any invitations on her birthday weekend…for reasons which would become apparent closer to the time. When I stopped at home for a night on my TA ride, I left her three envelopes, with strict instructions when she should open them. The first, which she opened at noon on Friday, said she should prepare for an overnight trip on Saturday, and to pack light. The second she opened at 8 am today, which included her plane ticket to Palmerston North, with the flight departing Auckland at 12.50pm. Soon after she opened it, we spoke and I told her a little more…she’d be met at the Palmy airport by Jan, her hostess. In the third envelope, which she opened on the plane, I said we’d be meeting but I didn’t say where.
Small change of plans…Jan’s daughter Julia met Lynn when she landed and brought her to the boutique country spa and retreat that Jan and her farmer husband Dave run.
Hiwinui Country Estate, close to Palmerston North, (the photo above is from its website) is a modern expression of a classic Kiwi big farm homestead. Jan made Lynn at home, then one of her staff pampered Lynn with a facial…while I sweated up hill and down dale along the last stretch of the road. I arrived about an hour after Lynn, and as soon as I showered I was whisked off for an hour’s massage. Bliss after riding 1,300km in the past 13 days!
Feeling much the better for our beauty treatments, we met over tea looking out over the extensive farm. A delicious dinner came later…local lamb and vegetables, chocolate tart and raspberries and a bottle of excellent Quartz Reef pinot noir. As it happens, Dave’s sister and her husband own the Bendigo Station in Central Otago and started the vineyard. The station is also famous for one of its merino sheep which evaded round up and shearing for six years. It was so wooly when it was finally caught, it was called Shrek and gained worldwide fame.
So, this is how we celebrated Lynn’s birthday…