Monday, 15 February 2016

Puhoi Retreat

Happy Chinese New Year!! Aucklanders were blessed with two long weekends in a row, which meant only one thing - Road trips! My sister, friend and I also took this opportunity to get away of the hussle and bussle of Auckland and retreated to a beautiful little town called Puhoi. Although it's situated only 45 minutes from Auckland, this place was a world a way. 

We left Auckland on Friday afternoon. I'd taken a half day at work, working overtime for the previous three days to cover the hours just for some extra down time on Friday. It was not easy waking up half an hour earlier, and finishing half an hour later. The days seemed even longer as leaving work later meant heading straight into rush hour and sitting in traffic for yonks. But it was worth it. Well, it took us two hours slowly inching northward to Puhoi, but when we finally arrived, it was a great relief. Clouds overcasted the lush green landscape with hills rolling into the distance. It was beautiful and we all felt an immediate sense of peace. Such is the power of Mother Nature. 

We were completely starving by the time we touched down at the lodge. With the music plugged into the awesome surround sound system, we unloaded our - so typical of us - bags and boxes of food. Obviously we overpacked! With so many choices of food, we settled on making a hearty, healthy soy bean paste soup, crowned with some simply delicious hard boiled eggs. The garlic bread was the perfect accompaniment. Dipping that cheesy, crunchy bread into the hot soup was just pure bliss. 

It was so nice being able to relax and share those moments with my sisters. Time does not wait for anyone and only when you stop and glance around do you realise how far you've come, how much has happened, how much you've forgotten. 13 years we've walked together. Each passing event we shared was a brick laid down on our paths into adulthood. We all felt that this year we've finally gained some stability in our lives. We were at a good place in terms of our careers, which meant a big portion of our previous worries has been taken care of. Each of us have our own goals outside of work that we were working towards. We now have the mental capacity to dream and the time to carry out those dreams! - That's when we're not dead from work anyway. But at least we have the time to dream and plan for our dreams! This is our twenties. This is our moment. This is our decade. 

It's a bit scary thinking that we're officially heading into our late twenties this year. But that makes us so much more determined to live life to its fullest. Everyday is a balancing act between enjoying the time of being a couch potato (Yay! No more assignments and exams), being the responsible adults that we are, doing chores and adulty things, and fighting to be better person, a healthier person, a more well-rounded person. 

Anyway, this trip was great. We spent a lot of time cooking. We realised that in a way, we were becoming more and more like our parents. If this was five years ago, we probably would've just winged it and bought all our food on the way up, or find a Four Square around the corner to grab some last minute groceries. But we found ourselves packing every little thing, from salt and oil to pasta and flour, to fruits and veg, to chili sauces, soy sauces, canned food. We were so damn sorted. So much so we had to overcook because we had too much food to eat! We were even crazy enough to drive back to Auckland to grab Chinese chives and vermicelli because we wanted to make dumplings on Chinese New Year eve. We even had the special vinegary dipping sauce to go with it! 

So, the second night, we stuffed our faces with three ginormous plates of pasta. I'd mistakenly grabbed canned tomato sauce instead of tomato puree so the pasta tasted a bit too sweet. But it was satisfying nonetheless. Danced and sang and laughed into the night we did after that. We also gave each other massages which bruised and relaxed us. We got super girly (one of us) and crazy creative (two of us) with nail art. Masterpieces were created that night, and we went to bed exhausted from all the food and laughter. 

The next morning, we woke up early to go for a run around the lodge. The view was still incredible and we met our lovely neighbours. Puhoi Cafe and Cheese Store was high on the recommendation list so we thought we must stop by. The cafe was packed to its rims when we got there and were lucky to find a park. We'd called two days earlier to ask if it was possible to make a booking and were told that we'd be able to get a table easily if we got there before 11.30am. Such surprise we got though! The place was buzzing with people and any free table we saw had a "Reserved" sign on it. Eventually we got a table. The overall experience was, in all honesty, quite disappointing. Perhaps we had too high expectations with the hype all built up from other people's testimonials. But we found the sandwich average, and the cheese fondues overly salty. Blue cheese lovers will probably have enjoyed it more though! We did see that the cafe has won many awards for best ice cream in New Zealand, so we'd definitely try that next time.

For some reason, it felt like we spent the majority of our third day making dumplings! Suzy amazingly prepared the dough - mixing, lots and lots of kneading, resting, rolling! We packed those little morsels with a yummy filling of cabbage, mushroom, egg, chives and vermicelli. We made so much that we had to eat it for the next three meals. Great following New Years tradition? We also had leftover dumpling filling which we used as omelette filling for breakfast the next morning. Peter is the omelette master but he wasn't there. So I attempted to make omelette, trying to remember how he makes them and I have to say, they turned out pretty good! Was secretly proud of my effort. It was fluffy and moist and soft and spongy. So good. And we had it with the toast that we bought for breakfast (which we didn't really eat because we kept eating leftover food that we cooked). 

On the last day the weather finally cleared up so we decided to go for a walk to explore our lodge. Remembering my mum telling us that they picked plums from the lodge, we went hunting for plum trees! 

And we found plums!! We found an entire orchard. Not a very big one, but one nonetheless. One with plum, apple and pear trees! The fruits look like beautiful jewels. Discovering these made our trip super fruitful. We thoroughly enjoyed the retreat and sitting on my couch at home, I really wished we were still back there now.

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