Russell January 2021

For many years now a friend of mine has been trying to get me up north to stay at her farm cottage, but it’s never happened for many reasons. But this Xmas break we picked a date and stuck to it and it actually happened.

Selena picked me up in her brand new car and we headed north. Our first stop was at the Eutopia Cafe which I have driven past many times and always thought I should stop in because it looks so cool and very different. So I was really happy to be stopping there for coffee after all these years.

My joy didn’t last long, as they didn’t have any Covid check in QR codes displayed anywhere and there was no hand sanitizer anywhere and no soap in the toilet. Luckily I always have some with me and I asked for their QR code. They were quite rude about it and gave me a look that said: “this is not Auckland – we don’t have Covid”. So we didn’t stay there to drink our coffee, we took it back to the car and drunk it on the way. Turns out a week later somebody with Covid visited that cafe and it became one of the locations of interest!

In the past when I have asked Selena where her cottage is she has always said somewhere north of Whangarei, so I thought we were headed for a place near Whangarei. So when she asked me how hungry I was and would I be ok till we got to Russell because there is a nice hotel there she wanted to go to for lunch, I was very surprised but very happy to be going there for lunch. I have been to Paihia but never Russell and I had an Irish flatmate in Japan whose claim to fame was that she’d worked at the “Duke“. Which is a famous hotel in Russell and one of the earliest hotels in New Zealand apparently.

When we made it to Paihia we had a bit of a drive round to see how much it’s changed since I was there back in the early 90s. Then we headed for the car ferry that takes you from Paihia to Russell. We drove on to the pier after a really short wait up the road and then the pier MOVED! Well not really but I thought it did – turned out what I thought was the pier was actually the car ferry. Guess I was expecting something big like the Cook Strait ferry or maybe even the Devonport ferry. But this thing was more like a floating platform that moved. I was hoping to get out and move around maybe even get a drink or something – but nope – we were trapped in the car! For a whole 10 minutes LOL.

After a really great lunch in the grand old Duke of Marlborough we strolled around Russell, bought some supplies for the cottage and headed for the farm.

We took a slight detour to see one of Selena’s favourite spots where there is a house tucked in to the hillside and for some reason made me think of Hollywood and Marilyn Monroe.

Finally we made it to the farm – what a stunning place. Nobody around for miles, lots of land for cows to stroll around and a view of the ocean. So peaceful and so quiet, it was going to be very hard to leave this place.

Shortly after arriving we grabbed a few drinks and went for a stroll down to a small river that runs through Selena’s land – she called it a stroll, I’d call it a trek across dangerous terrain and wilderness. While seated by said river and enjoying the nature I saw a random cow appear out of nowhere and as I tried to remain calm it got closer and closer. Eventually I exclaimed: “COW”, which Selena thought was hilarious, because she couldn’t see the cow approaching from behind her. Till I yelled out: “There’s a COW headed for your river”. I thought I was safe on my side of the river but apparently the river didn’t make any difference to the cow and it crossed over in order to get a closer look at us which is when I took off very quickly up the steepest bit of terrain I could find knowing it couldn’t follow me. I had no idea though that this was a mountain climbing cow and the hill meant nothing to it. Selena tried her best to shoo it back to where it belongs – turns out the herd of cows don’t belong to her and had somehow broken through the boundary fence, probably lured over by the smell and sound of naive Auckland city folk (and alcohol).

That’s the cow that chased me – it didn’t want to face me once it saw the camera and we weren’t on good enough speaking terms to ask for it to pose for a photo.

The rest of my time on the farm was awesome, Selena even lit a fire for me and scared off a few curious possums. The cottage was wonderful – filled with books, plants and beautiful old furniture – and each piece had a fascinating story of where it had come from and what its history was.

Thank you Selena for a wonderful trip.

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