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Diary of a bach rookie

28 May 2021

Words: Ella James

Having been tasked with writing a summer guide to New Zealand’s South Island, I became painfully aware that perhaps I haven’t explored my incredible surroundings almost nearly enough. So, my boyfriend and I packed the car, puppy and all, and headed for a night away in the Marlborough Sounds.

To get to the bach in Blackwood Bay, we took the water taxi from Picton. The sea was calm; the dog was not. Luckily, it wasn’t long before we jumped onto the property’s private jetty. A wonderful bach surrounded by serene waters that were alive with starfish, rays and schools of fish. We filled the fridge with beers and jumped into the sea to cool off. We were utterly secluded, and it was paradise.

Later on, my boyfriend, the puppy and I dried off at the end of the jetty. The only thing missing was a cold beer. I ran down the crooked wooden jetty to the bach, a mirage of icy beers ahead. And a mirage it was. As per most holiday rentals, the last tenants had unplugged the fridge. Luke warm beers it was.

Back on the jetty, tepid beer in hand, the distant humming of a speedboat grew louder. “Do you pair like mussels?” we soon heard. A stocky male, arms dense with tattoos, grabbed on to the jetty with one hand, offered a bucket of gargantuan mussels in the other. For some time, the male told magical tales of the waters that surrounded us, interrupted only by the occasional insults that he spat out regarding the water taxi companies and their absurd prices. As conversation grew drier than our beer supply, the man stated, “The name’s Tussock.” Then he was gone, sailing into the distance leaving only a rather intimidating bucket of green lipped mussels.

The sun was beating down on the jetty unremorsefully, so we decided to walk up to the waterfall to cool off. The waterfall was supposedly a minute’s walk from the bach. Thirty minutes had passed without seeing so much as a trickle of water. The song Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls now seemed all too relevant. By dinnertime the remaining beers were cold and we feasted heartily on the colossal mussels. The sunset was incredible and perfectly punctuated a perfect summer’s day. Shades of pink grew more and more dramatic until complete darkness and calm.

We rose early on Sunday morning to the sounds of the ocean and the wildlife. All was gloriously peaceful, until the puppy spotted her first weka.

All too soon the water taxi arrived. One night in this haven simply wasn’t enough. Just a single night away from civilisation, with limited phone signal had done the absolute world of good. We felt refreshed, aligned and recharged. As we approached Picton on the boat, I pictured myself looking radiant and sun-kissed with tousled hair blowing in the wind. The reality? Long, matted hair with a burnt nose and shoulders. (How to spot a bach rookie.)

Car loaded, we started the journey back to Christchurch. Just minutes in, it became apparent that the car wasn’t running so smoothly. The culprit? A ginormous screw in the front right tyre. The solution was simple, just switch the punctured tyre with the spare tyre in the boot, right? My boyfriend looked solemn, knowing all too well he hadn’t the faintest idea how to change a tyre. Dog barking, boyfriend swearing, we rolled to the nearest garage where an old, leathery mechanic resolved the issue in the blink of an eye. Life was gloriously easy at the car-free bach, I thought to myself.

Back on the road, we set our sights for Christchurch.

“Ah, I’ve got some pretty hectic stomach cramps,” my boyfriend whimpered. Surely not the mussels?

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