Our shoulders dropped a few inches as we descended the winding road over Takaka Hill and entered Golden Bay. Having begun a romance with this little corner of New Zealand when we visited in December, I was eager to reconnect with this amazing place. And we were both thrilled to spend the next three weeks doing a whole lot of nothing.
Golden Bay isn’t on the regular tourist circuit, which is part of its charm for me. I hesitated to even write this post for fear that it would suddenly be on more people’s radar screens. But who am I kidding? Even if all 122 followers of this blog decided to head there tomorrow, it certainly wouldn’t ruin the feel of the place.
After six weeks of road tripping around the South Island on what we came to call the “cattle drive,” I was beyond excited to return to the tranquility of Golden Bay. Don’t get me wrong, we saw some beautiful places during our self-guided tour, but with few exceptions they had all been discovered by thousands of other tourists who filled the roads, campgrounds, hostels, and huts. Although Golden Bay is by no means tourist-free during the summer, you can still go for a hike and see only one or two people the entire day.
Golden Bay sits at the northwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island. Its calm waters protected by the 30-kilometer long crescent moon shaped Farewell Spit on one end and Separation Point at the other. For three weeks our home away from home was Moonbow Beach, a 10-acre oasis perched above the bay with beach access down a short trail just outside our front door. Victoria Davis, an ex-pat Michigander who has made her home in Golden Bay for the last thirty years, and her Jack Russell terrier, Scooter, were our gracious hosts.
Victoria is an amazing woman, a tenacious political activist with a quick wit. So of course, we hit it off from the beginning.
Our days in Golden Bay were divinely simple. Each morning we would wake without an alarm clock, typically just in time to watch the sunrise spread its gold and orange fingers across the sky outside our window. Lazy mornings spent reading in bed were not uncommon. Eventually, we’d get up and enjoy our tea, coffee and breakfast on the back deck, looking out at the calm water. Later in the morning Alex would often go for a run, while I ran/walked down the beach to a large inlet that created an impenetrable barrier to longer forays except at the lowest of tides.
Around noon, we’d discuss our dinner plans then spend a few hours leisurely creating the component parts of the meal. We baked homemade bread and yummy desserts, and I even made my first ever attempt at boiled bagels (one of my favorite foods I’ve been missing dearly on this trip). Later, as the day heated up, we’d head back down to the beach for a skinny dip in the ocean. In the evening, we would often take a leisurely walk, enjoying the pink and purple hues of the sunset reflected in small pools in the rocks and sand.
Twice a week, Alex went to the local boat club for sailing lessons.
Occasionally, we might hop in the car to check out one of the many beautiful sites in the area, like the breathtaking windswept rock formations of Wharariki Beach.
We completed two 1000-piece puzzles.
That’s it. There was no schedule, no agenda, just time to do or not do as we chose.
Never in my life have I spent so much time doing as little as I did in Golden Bay. I am a doer by nature; I’ve never been good at sitting still. Like so many people I know, at home, my to do lists are a mile long. We are all so busy with our lives: work, family, friends, always on the go. It’s rare that we take the time, or perhaps more accurately, give ourselves the time and space to do nothing, to just be.
Even on this trip, I have typically had a long mental list of places I want to see or things I want to do. But there was something about our time in Golden Bay, that made doing so little feel completely natural. To my great surprise, I fell madly, deeply in love with the simplicity of it.
Leaving Golden Bay was incredibly difficult, like saying goodbye to a close friend. I had tears in my eyes as we took our last walk on the beach, enjoyed our last sunset. But my tears were not only of sadness about our departure, they were also tears of gratitude for the simple pleasures discovered here, for the time to be still, for the time to just be.