When you love someone very much in Spain, you call them “mi vida,” which means my life. I would hear my friends use it with their lovers, and I would roll my eyes and say how cheesy and dramatic it was. But perhaps deep down, my heart wondered if I would ever have a “mi vida” or if someone would ever say it to me.
Eight years later, finally confident in my own skin and my own circumstances, on the other side of the world in New Zealand, I found “mi vida.” A Chilean expat who found his way to the same place here by way of Spain too. Isn’t it funny how the universe works?
Now we have a beautiful life together, based by the sea in the quirky port town of Lyttelton, just outside of Christchurch. Could I have ever imagined this during all those lonely years? Definitely not.
“Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde, te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo: así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera, sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres, tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía, tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.” Pablo Neruda
One of my favorite things to do with my partner in crime, Giulio, is escaping back into nature for some real adventures. And if there was one spot above all others I was dying to take him to, it was to the west coast, on New Zealand’s South Island. Here just north of Fox River and Punakaiki, lies my favorite place of all time. And I knew that I wanted to stay at Fox Hut, the latest addition to the area by Canopy Camping.
Dense temperate rainforests filled with the sound of birdsong tumble down to a wild coastline home to some pretty wild kiwis of the human variety. The least populated region of New Zealand, the west coast is remote and humbling. For me, it’s a place I go to when I need to escape my thoughts, to smell the earthy refreshing air (minus the coal burning in winter – come on!), and to reconnect with myself and nature.
While Giulio had been there before, we hadn’t gone together yet, and I was dying to share my favorite corner of New Zealand with him.
There is something just so special about returning to a place you love with the one you love.
One of the best parts of the west coast in the wintertime is that you often have the best weather. Peaceful and still, no wind and blue skies are on the menu in the chillier months, and with the sandflies kept at bay, it couldn’t be a better time to visit.
While it was bucketing with rain in Canterbury, by the time we arrived on the coast a couple of hours later, the skies were clear.
Settling into Fox Hut for a couple of days (I recommend at least 3 nights to get the full experience), we shimmied into our cozy clothes, cranked the fire both inside and also for the outdoor spa. I dream of the day I have my own woodfire spa at home.
Off the gird with no wifi and no phone reception meant we could truly relax, disconnect, and unwind.
By far, my favorite way to travel around New Zealand is by car; that way, I can bring as much of my comfort items as possible. And by comfort items, I mean books and candles.
Curled up by the fire with the sound of the sea in the distance, we read through several books as we oscillated between various levels of leisure.
Would you like tea? Feel like another soak? How about a nap?
For someone addicted to work and an unabashed overachiever, sometimes I really have to force the downtime for me not to lose my marbles. Can you relate?
Fox Hut is self-catering, as we say in New Zealand, which means bring your food with you. And since there’s nothing decent to eat within approximately 100 kilometers, make sure you stop and grab everything you need on your way. Generally, I stop in Greymouth on my way to the supermarket to stock up on snacks and wine.
However, I can’t fail to mention grabbing a coffee at the Rusty Cup at the Fox River mouth nearby. During the summer months, there’s a market here too on Sundays, which I always seem to miss.
The Rusty Cup is awesome, and the guy who runs it is a legend. Sometimes he’s there; sometimes he’s not. The last time I visited, I tried to work out what time he opens and closes, to which he replied – “I go home if my sign blows over three times.” I hear you!
If you can manage to drag yourself away from Fox Hut even for a few hours, be sure to explore the coastline around Punakaiki – especially the iconic Pancake Rocks. Remember, you’ll get the best experience there at high tide when the waves smash super high on the iconic rock formations. And for god’s sake, stay on the path.
If you need a phone reception, you’ll get it around the cafe and DOC office at the Pancake Rocks.
Nestled along the edges of the Paparoa National Park, this part of New Zealand is just stunning and gives off major Jurassic Park vibes with its dense coastal jungle and funky bird life – I’m looking at you, weka!
Now home to New Zealand’s latest Great Walk, the Paparoa Track, I can’t wait to return later this summer to tackle it.
Make sure you have time to go for a walk along many of the incredible beaches in the area, especially around Woodpecker Bay – my fave of them all. I love beachcombing and looking in the tidal pools – there’s always starfish and something curious to see here on the wild coast. Beach walks with Giulio are especially interesting.
Being the partner of a celebrated chef who loves the sea means that he usually runs off climbing boulders and sliding into the tide pools chasing kelp, mussels, and seaweed, which he forages to bring home and cook.
My car was filled with huge bull kelp and all kinds of funky seaweed for the three-hour drive home. Not my favorite, especially when Giulio often nibbles the seaweed raw. Yuck!
Do you have a favorite seaside escape too? Can you relate to sharing your favorite spot with a new love? Have you been to Woodpecker Bay? Spill!