Susan, Shelley and I have been friends since our last years of high school. To be honest we didn’t really get to know each other until I came back from a year studying in Wellington, and fortunately for our friendship, we’ve shared many milestones since.
Both came to my 21st birthday. Shelley was bridesmaid to both mine and Susan’s weddings. About 18 months ago, Shelley had her baby girl, and though we do our best to keep in touch, the last time the three of us sat down together was at Shelley’s baby shower. How time flies.
It was incredible that we found one Sunday that we were all free to hang out, and it’s now December. Susan and I drove out to Shelley and Dean’s home, in Ngakuru, which is about 15 minutes away from Lake Ohakuri - a water-rich playground that was perfect for a sunny Sunday afternoon getaway. People pay good money for an afternoon like this, and here I was, just chipping in for diesel money for Susan and Adam’s truck. We even had money left over for lollies. Winning.
As we sat on their living room floor, playing with Katelyn’s trains, I noticed that the cricket was on. “Starting her young,” Shelley said with a cheeky grin. In our younger days, we would do at least one road trip to watch live cricket in the summer. I can’t remember the last game we all went to, though one time I remember bringing an inflatable couch, which was ‘borrowed’ for a few hours before we even noticed. Northern Districts beat England that day, and we got the couch back, so it was a good day all round.
Shelley’s and Dean’s house is a typical, well loved family home. I had fallen asleep on the floor (I had gone out the night before, and all my friends know that if I fall asleep in their home, we’re real friends) and woke up to the girls in the kitchen, getting ready for lunch. Katelyn sat on the bench, eyeing up the fresh tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce and grated cheese. I love watching babies eat, that messy, no holds euphoria of discovering a new taste for the first time. “Cheese,” Katelyn whispers. Some kids struggle with Mama, and here this kid knows how to ask for cheese.
Lunch was a spread of cold meats, salads, home-made mayonnaise and of course, Shelley’s favourite, tamarillo chutney. It was a recipe from her Mum, and I can’t believe that after all these years, it was the first time I had tasted it. The combination of sweet and spice tasted great with the cold meats, I am hooked!
I didn’t bring the GoPro on this trip, and I was sure to have captured some great shots. I had my phone, but I didn’t want to risk dropping it in the water. Shelley and Dean took us to a place the locals called The Squeeze, a hot water stream nestled in stunning bush. It was upstream from Orakei Korako, on the Waikato River. Dean managed to get the boat into the shallows and the girls and I set off on our adventure. OK so the water wasn’t exactly ‘hot’, more lukewarm, though the stream is fed by a hot water pool above a small waterfall upstream.
The Squeeze it turns out is a narrow passageway as you head upstream towards the waterfall. At five feet, there were times the water was up to my neck, but for the most part the water was only waist deep at best. On the way back we encountered a guided group of tourists wearing wetsuits and aqua socks, a look of shock as we walked past in our bathing suits. “Let them pass, they’re pretty much naked.” No dear, we leave the nudity to the nudists camp up the road.
Before we headed home, Dean took us to a place the locals call ‘The Pipe’. He said people had to be careful because there were two hot water pipes, one for the clothing optional, which was near the nudist camp, the other where we would have our final swim before heading home. The water was similar to a lake, warm at the top, and cooler as you go deeper. As others came and went, it was easy to forget the time, especially in spring when it gets darker much later.
I tried my best to stay awake on the drive home, but Susan knew me long enough that once I’m comfortable, sleep comes easily.
Lives get busy, and an afternoon on the water was a great time out from it all. All work and no play makes a dull life at best