13 months
Mar 4:
lawn bowling
Mar 5:
hello, dahlia!
Mar 20:
Mar 26:
the low down
new zealand gallery
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farms in the land of the long white cloud
driving from Invercargill to Queensland, New Zealand; Mar 8, 2005

bromeliads & serial killers

While we were in Invercargill, we received a question/compliment (via this site) about photography. The sender, Jeanette, was soon to be making a trip to Rwanda to see gorillas and she wanted some advice about how to get great pictures (like ours, she said). Flattery works wonders on me and I gladly wrote a detailed reply in an attempt to help as much as possible.

Who would possibly want to stay somewhere
with this view? Not us, certainly.

Jeanette noticed that we were currently in New Zealand and being an Auckland resident, she generously offered to put us up for a few days at their house. Being the economically-conscious individual that I am, I jumped at the opportunity. I gleefully informed Susan that some nice folks had offered to put a pillow under our heads for free. Susan, the risk-averse half of the couple, was immediately skeptical. "You have no idea who these people are. They could just take us out back, put us down as fertilizer, and take all our stuff now that you've told them about all the camera gear we're carrying." So, I reluctantly consented to doing a bit more back and forth via email in an effort to determine whether this was a likely scenario. In the end, I convinced Susan that it would be okay, so we gratefully accepted the offer.

Two weeks later, we gave our hosts’ address to our parents with instructions to send paratroopers from the embassy if they didn’t hear from us in 2 weeks and set out on the drive to Auckland. We were a bit nervous about meeting our new "friends," and as we followed the emailed directions through some rough neighborhoods I could hear Susan mumbling something like, “Abort plan… abort plan.”

our generous hosts, Jeanette and Peter

But all worked out beautifully. The last few turns took us up and into a gorgeous neighborhood with sea views and manicured landscapes (much nicer than the likes of us deserved). Still, Susan and I agreed to leave our luggage in the trunk in case we needed to make a quick getaway. Escape plan in place, we got out of the car and as promised, they were home to greet us and ushered us into their beautiful home. Quite the opposite of serial-killers, Jeanette is an incredibly witty, successful Auckland real estate agent and her husband Peter owns a pharmacy and is one of the world's leading authorities on bromeliads. They went out of their way to make us welcome in their already comfortable home, complete with a lovely view over the city and the bay. And to top it all off, she's an incredible chef, and every (“I’ll just whip something up”) meal was fit for royalty. Heck, we weren't even planning on getting meals in the deal and all of a sudden we felt like guests on Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous (or at least Lifestyles of the Overly Generous).

Muriwai Beach

We couldn't have been happier. After logging a lot of miles in the car exploring New Zealand, it was perfect to relax for a while. And it felt like home; they welcomed us as if we were their own kids. They even took us out to Muriwai Beach to see the gannets (birds) and taught us innumerable other things about what it means to be a Kiwi - everything from the meaning of "box of birds" (see new zealand: the low down for more translations) to a lesson on Voegels bread (a national favorite, for good reason).

In a feeble attempt to return the favor, we told them everything we could about trekking to see the gorillas (see uganda: gentle giants up close), safaris (see tanzania: safari 101), and travel photography. We also gave their computer a tune-up and bumbled our way through giving some Photoshop tutorials. But without a doubt, we got the better deal. We will forever be grateful for their generosity and kindness, and we can't wait to see them again someday, somewhere.

© 2004-2012 susan & grace, all rights reserved

-- comments from readers --


Grace & Susan: Loved the article. We so enjoyed having you and it really is one of the big positives of the internet. My photos are so much better thanks for your help. The dahlias look good and would probably grow well in SF.

I also thought the snake story was hilarious because picturing it was so easy. That must be one of the many reasons why NZ is better than Aussie - no snakes!!!!

--Jeanette W. [our host, along with her husband Peter] (Auckland, New Zealand); Aug 15, 2005