Ōtaki Retreat

I did this trip in December 2022, but have only had a chance to post about it now.

It’s become a bit of a ritual – my annual solo retreat, one that I really look forward to and was really needed at the end of last year. 3 days, on my own, in sunny, relaxed Ōtaki, doing what I wanted, when I wanted.

It was a hot drive up, but I arrive at a little slice of kiwi paradise (there are lots of those here.) My Airbnb host is there to welcome me and help settle me into the cute little studio at the back of her section. I quickly ditch the shoes (barefoot is always better) and climb into the hammock to read my book with a cold drink and listen to the bird song.

I spend about 3 hours here. Reading my book, reflecting on 2022, thinking about what I would like 2023 to hold for me. It is both a luxury and a privilege to be able to do this.

I self cater some nachos for dinner, simple but delicious and enjoy these alfresco. I am only an hours drive from home, but the climate is so different here, warmer for sure, but more noticeably, less windy. It makes outdoor activities so much more enjoyable!

I am not far from Ōtaki Beach, so I head down after dinner to watch the sunset. It’s a large sandy beach that stretches as far as the eye can see, in both directions. The golden sun is starting to slip away behind Kāpiti Island. I go for a walk and let Mother Nature engulf me. I close my eyes and listen. I listen for some time. I expect to hear a car, voices, a dog barking, but nothing. Not even a squawking seabird. Just the rhythmic, soothing sound of the ocean, washing away the stress & busyness of the last few weeks, rejuvenating me.

 I love the slower pace of life you get on the Kāpiti Coast! Why is it so hard to be this still, this peaceful, this relaxed, at home?

Each year, when I book my trips, there is a particular draw card that takes me to that area. When I went to Waiheke, it was for the glamping and wine tour. Marlborough Sounds was for Lochmara lodge, Carrington was about the little log cabin in the country side. My reason for Ōtaki? Strawberry picking. I don’t know where the idea came from, but I decided that for this trip, I really wanted to go strawberry picking!

So the next morning, despite there being a bit of rain about, I head out to Ohau to Shirley’s Strawberries to try my luck. They were open for picking over the weekend, I am hopeful they aren’t all picked out. But it’s my lucky day! I am told they are mostly picked, but to try the first 4 rows. It’s hard to explain how (or why) I was so excited about picking some strawberries, but I was! The staff there were so friendly and the sun even came out.

I slowly wander up and down the rows, I honestly don’t think I have ever seen so many strawberries this size. They are huge! The bright red flesh stands out vividly against the leafy green foliage, making them easy to spot, but I also find, if you rustle among the leaves, there are even more delicacies to be found. It takes me a while to fill my bucket (its cardboard – always nice to see biodegradable packaging) and it’s quite hard work, there is a lot of bending involved. But when I leave 40 minutes later with my tub full of freshly picked strawberries, I am feeling very satisfied.

I drop the strawberries home, sample a few of course, and then head down to the estuary for a walk. It turns out to be more of a beach walk, perhaps I took a wrong turn, I’m good at doing that! Regardless, it’s still enjoyable. I love our beaches at home, they are rocky, wild and rugged, but sometimes you just want a sandy beach. There are plenty of those here, and this one I pretty much have to myself!

Before leaving, I make myself stop and listen again. It’s too easy to just walk or view everything through a cellphone camera. I want to make sure I am taking in as much as I can. So I find some driftwood to sit on and close my eyes. I can hear the roaring waves again. Obviously, I am on the beach, but today, they are competing with the sound of the seabirds and cicadas. I feel the cool, refreshing breeze on my face and the intensity of the sun on my feet through my black shoes. I open my eyes and see a dog, sprinting along the beach, chasing birds, having the time of it’s life.

Before heading back to my Airbnb for lunch, I decide to stop by the local dairy for a sneaky ice cream. It’s a classic kiwi blue dairy, the sort of dairy that goes hand in hand with a New Zealand Summer. I go for a kiwi classic, Hokey Pokey ice cream, in a cone. It’s creamy, delicious and melts quickly!

Back at home I participate in the great Mediterranean practice of taking a siesta. Outside on the grass of course, under the shade of a grapevine. This is bliss. Why is it so hard to do this at home? I watch puffs of clouds twist in the sky and then evaporate into nothing. There is just a bright blue canvas above me. Birds feed nearby, looking for worms and little buttercups are dotted about, their cheeky yellow blooms adorning the grass.

After a couple of hours, it’s time to get up. I can’t stay here all day. Well, actually I could if I wanted to. I love that about this trip. However, I want to get in another walk, so I head to the opposite end of Ōtaki beach this time to do the river walk. The track follows the river, it’s icy blue water looks so inviting, it’s a hot afternoon. I walk for about 3/4 of an hour. I have no agenda, no where else to be, nothing else I need to be doing. I am simply walking for the joy of walking. 

It’s my last night here, so I head to the beach again for the sunset, walking barefoot in the sand, waves lapping at my feet. The water is surprisingly not too cold!  

This has been a weekend of rest and relaxation. Food for the soul. I highly recommend taking a solo retreat!

Also, note to self, I really must put up my hammock, it’s only been sitting in my cupboard, unused, for about 7 years! I am certain I could get good use out of it in 2023.

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