My dad and Jan had picked Pukematu Lodge in Russell for their wedding. They'd fallen in love with the small town after they spent a few hours there on a previous trip to New Zealand.
The Valentine's Day wedding was planned as a cosy family affair with just me and Richard because we were travelling around the country, Jan's son Stef and his wife Gemma as they live in New Zealand, and the bride and groom.
Richard and I had never been to Russell before so as we left Orewa we decided to take the scenic road instead of the quicker road via the car ferry. Or was that because I hadn't checked which route was best first?
As it happened we throroughly enjoyed the picturesque journey. We stopped to eat a banana at Oakura, which is a lovely quiet spot with a beautiful beach. We also had a brief unintentional halt at a farm in Tutaematai. We'd only pulled over to write down the URL of the farm as a possible place to stay in future, but the guy herding the cows encouraged us to take a look around. They offered horse treks and motorbike rides and had really quirky backpacker accommodation. Well that's my spin on it, Richard said the place was musty, smelly and dirty and basically scummy. So we thanked the people for showing us round and made our escape.
We arrived in Russell at about 3pm on Thursday 12th. We booked ourselves into the Top 10 Holiday Park, which is by far the best camp site we've stayed at, and headed for a walk along the front.
Russell is a really quant fishing port with posh seafood restaurants and had a vibrant feel for such a small place. We soon bumped into my dad and Jan who had also just arrived and were settling into their luxery seafront studio at the Commodores Lodge. My dad sat down with a big smile on his face looking at the wonderful view.
On the 13th we all moved into the Pukematu Lodge. My dad and Jan went there first, then he came down to the town to show us where to go. He told me that it wasn't quite what they had expected. I asked if Jan was ok as I could see her in floods of tears. As we arrived up the private drive I started to realise maybe I'd got the wrong end of the stick to my dads comment!
My dad showed us to a room which was beautifully fitted out and had a lovely view of the sea. Richard thought it was the honeymoon suite until my dad pointed out it was our room. He then took us up some stairs to the decking area and main part. We could see that this wasn't the ordinary motel style lodge, this was a whole house and we had the use of all of it!
As I stood on the decking and turned round I couldn't believe my eyes, I've never seen such amazing views from a house. It was situated on a small penninsular so whichever way you looked or turned there was a fabulous new view of the sea, islands, beaches, trees or the town. It's so hard to describe in words or even through the pictures I took how fantastic the house and its location is. I could have stayed forever.
Later that evening Stef and Gemma arrived and we opened a bottle of wine we'd saved from our wine tasting trip in Blenheim, then headed to a restaurant on the front called Sally's for a bite to eat.
We woke up on the morning of the 14th to glorious sunshine. It was an early start as Colwyn, the owner of Pukematu Lodge, was serving breakfast at 8am on the decking. After the delicious food Richard and I headed back to bed for a couple of hours and then down to the beach to top up my tan before the wedding at 4pm.
The ceremony itself took place on the decking with the beauiful scenery as the backdrop. There was a lovely laid back atmosphere and Colwyn, who was also the celebrant, made everyone relaxed.
Colwyn interspersed the formalities with readings from each of us. The bride and groom exchanged rings and then Colwyn sang a Maori song with his guitar. At the end of the ceremony a large rainbow appeared in the distance which we thought was a nice omen for the start of a marriage.
We headed into the lounge and Jan and Gemma blew celebratory bubbles, then Jan and my dad opened the cards. Whilst waiting for the car to pick us up to take us for a meal Stef and Richard tried on Colwyn's old police helmets and I took photos of them doing impressions of the laughing policeman. The many bottles of champagne were obviously going to our heads now!
We had a lovely meal at the posh Kamakura restaurant on the front. It was the first time I'd seen my dad eat risotto. Richard enjoyed his pork until he bit into the crackling and chipped a piece of tooth. At least it didn't hurt and managed to eat the exceptional desserts which also went down well with everyone.
After a final bottle of champagne back at the lounge in Pukematu Lodge we all headed to bed.
The next morning was a little wet and windy so Colwyn made breakfast in the dining room. As a master of all trades he put his Derren Brown cap on and did a card trick. None of us could work out how he did it, but if we stay there again he'll teach us! After breakfast we were planning to go on Colwyn's boat around the Bay of Islands but with the weather a little dodgy it was postponed for a day.
So on Monday 16th we all met Colwyn by his boat. Colwyn is a great character. As well as being a celebrant and running his lodge, he's also an events organiser for fans of the New Zealand rugby union team, and was a policeman for over 20 years, serving six of them in Russell. His main love is sea fishing though and loves to get out on the water.
We headed out of Russell into the Bay of Islands towards Cape Brett which is where all the big fish are. I've never been sea fishing before and it was slightly different to fishing for tiddlers in the coventry canel when I was about eight. There were candle holder things on the back of the boat and the rods were wedged in there. On the end of the line was a plastic piece called a lure with a hook on that was dragged through the water as the boat went along. The idea being that a big fish would think it was a smaller fish and eat it.
We approached Cape Brett and saw the lighthouse and walkers hut. The water had changed in colour along our journey and was now deep turquoise. It looked really deep but Colwyn said it was only about 80 meters. We drove around a large outcrop called the hole in the rock a few times, the sea was a little rough and felt like being in a washing machine. As we went through the hole and came out the other side, Stef's rod bent right over and he grabbed it to pull the fish in. It was a sea trout and about 18-20 inches long. Stef and Colwyn got the fish aboard and put it in a container for supper later.
With all the excitment of bobbing about Jan wasn't too well so we headed out of the washing machine to calmer waters. Colwyn pulled up at Urupukapuka Island and we all hoped off the boat and had lunch at the Zane Grey cafe. By this time Jan's stomach had calmed down. After lunch we walked up a hill on the island and got some more fantastic views of the Bay of Islands and Colwyn told us a story about when he met Sir Edmond Hillary, the guy who first climbed Everest.
On the way back to Russell there were alot of gannet birds on the water which usually indicates fish around. So we set the rods up again and Colwyn got my dad to take over as skipper.
We didn't manage to catch any more fish, but we did see a shark's fin passing through the water and some little blue penguins coming up for air. We also saw some amazing houses and Colwyn pointed out which ones where owned by the rich and famous.
After a really entertaining and fully packed day my dad headed the boat to Russell and berthed it under Colwyn's instructions. Not bad at all for his first time at the wheel.