A Little Olde Country Town Called Geraldine

It’s perfect weather for flying and I am excited to be heading away on this trip with the extended family. My in-laws, sister in-laws, brother in-laws and nieces and nephews. All 13 of us on the same flight. We are heading to Geraldine in South Canterbury for a wedding.

We weren’t even sure if we were going to be able to attend the wedding, but fortunately the Covid restrictions were lifted to gathering of 100 people allowed only 3 days before the wedding.

Wellington and the South Island have put on a spectacular day, the views from the plane are outstanding. Snow on the distant ranges and not a cloud in sight.

We land in Timaru and after a few dramas with the rental car we are on our way. (our booking had mysteriously been canceled the day before, not by us and the car we booked was no longer available) The company was really good though and upgraded us to a beast of a car, a huge truck-like Ute that was so much bigger than we needed, but will be fun for the next couple of days.

Driving through Timaru, I fall in love with all the blossoms. It’s lovely to travel in the Springtime. We have a family lunch before making our way to Geraldine. I am keen to get a walk in, so Daniel and I head off to Peel Forest. It is such a clear day that Daniel is able to point out Small Mount Peel, Medium Mount Peel and Big Mount Peel as we head towards the park. Apparently the climb to the top of Small Mount Peel is a day walk, the walk to the summit of Medium and Big Mount Peel requires a much higher level of fitness and a good sense of direction (that rules me out) as a lot of that track is unmarked.

There are a lot of walks you can do in this park, I pick out one called Dennistoun Bush Track. It is meant to be a flat, easy walking loop track that takes about an hour. Flat – yes, easy – yes, an hour – not even. We did this walk in about 20 minutes and I was quite disappointed it was over so quickly. The track was a bit overgrown / branches over the track in places, perhaps from a recent storm. Despite the length of this walk, it was still great to be outdoors in the fresh air, amongst the trees. It’s a perfect, still day for a walk and I admire the large old trees with twisted branches, supporting so much life.

Located in Peel Forest is The Church of the Holy Innocents. It was built in 1869 and is a gorgeous little stone church. It was damaged a few yeas back in an earthquake, but has been restored and open once again. If you like old churches, it is well worth a look.

We make our way back into Geraldine town center, encountering a typical New Zealand country road along the way.

Even though I have never lived here, visiting this place I always feel a little bit like I am coming home. With Daniel having grown up here, several visits and family in the area, the place is familiar with great memories. So it does in a way, feel like home.

We check into our accommodation, a B&B called Hewling’s Manor. It’s such a delightful place in a beautiful garden setting and sun drenched porch. There are lots of interesting antiques and details around the place, and the host, Julie, is so attentive, friendly and accommodating. She even left us some afternoon tea for our arrival. Julie also has a gorgeous rescue greyhound who we get to give lots of pats and cuddles. I am only disappointed that we didn’t get to spend more time here. The rest of the day is spent with family.

My morning begins with the yummy breakfast Julie provided, enjoyed on the sun soaked porch. It’s wedding day, Daniel is busy setting up the sound system so I spend some time at the park with my nieces and nephews. It’s funny to think this is where Daniel would have played when he was a child. After making myself feel ill from spinning on some of the playground equipment (just can’t handle it like I used to when I was a kid) I trade in the playground for the local shops. It’s nice to spend some time wandering around and doing a bit of window shopping.

My mother-in-law and I head over to Verde Cafe. I really like this place, it has great food and a good selection of Vegetarian / Vegan / Gluten free options, but what I like most is the pretty outdoor garden setting. It’s even better in the Spring when all the blossoms are out.

Next door, a local band is paying in the park so we head over and watch them for a while. Then it’s time to get ready for the Wedding. I really like Geraldine and it’s small town country vibes and slower paced lifestyle. It speaks to my soul a lot more than living in the city. I think someday, I would love to live in a place where everybody knows your name.

Exploring Geraldine

Today is a pretty chilled day; a sleep in and then we take Daniels grandma out for lunch. We head to a place called The Stables. A lovely café set in a pretty garden, it was a great setting to enjoy a meal together and catch up, sharing stories over some good food.

Our trip today is short, only about half an hour, so we are in no rush, we take our time and meander up to Geraldine, Daniel’s hometown. It’s a pretty little town, I always enjoy coming to visit.

The next day, Daniel is keen to forge a knife with his uncle, so that leaves me free to do some exploring. I start at the information centre. I want to do a bush walk, but need something local as I don’t have a vehicle. (I don’t ride a motorbike myself)

There are lots of walks you can do in Geraldine, forests walks, heritage trails and if you have a vehicle, consider checking out Peel Forest. The Geraldine Visitor Information Centre is a good place to start for maps and information on the different tracks.

I choose one that starts down by the river. It is an easy walk, it winds its way alongside the river bank and through forest.

The next part isn’t so scenic as it’s right next to the road, the traffic sounds are quite loud, but it doesn’t seem to stop the birds. They are pretty noisy too.

I then reach Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve and walk the Matai Track. Small birds are rummaging around in the leaf litter looking for grubs and the pigeons are cooing. As I get further into the forest, the traffic noises die away and are replaced by the sounds of the forest. One particular sound I always enjoy is the heavy whooshing sound of the berry gorged Kereru flying overhead. I have no idea how they can fly, they are so fat! (but beautiful)

The Matai trees I pass on the walk have an amazing hammered texture to the bark. I don’t recall seeing anything like this before.

My walk then takes me to the Kahikatea track, also in Talbot Forest. I am so captivated by New Zealand. The more I see of it, the hungrier I become to see more. There have been so many wow moments on this trip.

I then head down the main shopping street looking for some lunch. I decide on Verde Cafe, I have been there before and I really like the garden setting. There are shady trees, manicured hedges and roses. Alfresco dining, always so good.

Next on my list is the new Barkers Food Store, recently opened, just a few months ago. Barkers are famous in New Zealand for their jams, preserves and cordial. I am so impressed with this shop, so many different things to taste. I try the Seville Orange fruit spread – a tangy orange taste, the Dulce de Leche – rich, decadent and oh so good, along with a few more delectable treats.

My favourite part though is the drink station. I have grown up with Barkers Blackcurrant cordial, but had no idea they made so many different flavours, and not just berry flavours, how about redcurrent, rhubarb and rosehip or lemon, lime, cucumber and mint or dry cola. You grab a glass, choose your syrup then add either still or sparking water. I really enjoyed trying these.

There is also a café here and I couldn’t resist trying one of their sweet treats. It took me a long time to decide what I wanted though, it all looked so good. I loved how each item showcased one of their products. In the end, I settled on the mango and vanilla bean fruit silk Danish pastry.

There is also a condiment bar with a huge selection that you can help yourself too. And of course, all the items are available to purchase.

I then make my way back to check out the progress of the knife forging. It’s fascinating to watch. An intricate process that requires a lot of skill, patience and knowledge. Stabilized Wood makes beautiful, hand crafted, knives.

Tonight we are heading out to the local Geraldine Cinema 1917 is playing. Built in 1924 it still oozes charms from the past. There are couches and blankets and orchestra music is playing as we enter the theatre. Step back in time and enjoy the flicks in this gorgeous little cinema.