“Ooh”, said Chris. “Ahh”, said Scott. “Pretty special isn’t it”, said Katie. “Ooh”, agreed Chris. “Ahh”, echoed Scott. It’s really rather interesting how the English language contains hundreds of thousands of words, many of them delightfully descriptive and delectably detailed, yet when presented with something so wonderful, so beautiful, so far beyond our wildest dreams, our minds reverted to some sort of primordial state and all we could utter were some sorts of vaguely undefined sounds. But to set the scene, let’s go back a few weeks and recap the surprise (Ooh) and delight (Ahh) that had gone before. If you don’t remember the full story, feel free to nip on over to our previous and first blog post, Pumpkin Cheesecake. Simply delicious – and that was just the cheesecake! If you don’t have time to read Pumpkin Cheesecake, a summary thereof, entitled Pumpkin Cheesecake: The Greatest Hits, follows for your comfort and convenience:
Pumpkin Cheesecake: The Greatest Hits
We, Scott & Chris, visited Taumarunui with friends in January 2017 to experience the RailCarts, and discovered a magnificent home and gardens, that we’d previously seen on Trade Me, was still for sale!
Amazing really, the Pumpkin Cheesecake blog post is composed of 1,519 words, consisting of 9,063 characters and spaces, yet Pumpkin Cheesecake: The Greatest Hits so succinctly summarised 1,519 words down to just 33! And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is all the evidence needed to prove that brevity beats verbosity. Why, even the word ‘brevity’ has just seven letters to nine for ‘verbosity’. But as Someone Famous who may or may not exist once said, “Why use one word where ten much more fun words will expand the mind and amuse the soul?” Or was that bemuse the soul?
Regardless of length, Pumpkin Cheesecake ended with us standing outside Property Brokers Taumarunui, our hearts aflutter, our minds astir, our knees atrembling, and our alliterative adjectives amultiplying. The helpful agent gave us the mobile number for Katie, the agent, so we immediately rang her, got her answerphone, suffered an acute attack of nerves, and hung up without leaving a message. But that was all right, as we knew she didn’t have mobile phone coverage where she lived, so we rang back and left her a message saying we were interested in Omaka. We also rang her home number and left the same message on that voicemail. In fact, we were so keen to see Omaka that if we’d had a campfire, we’d probably have sent a message in her general direction via smoke signals! Thankfully, considering we’re anti-smoking, we didn’t have to start a campfire, as shortly afterwards we received TCOOL (The Call Of Our Lives) when Katie rang back and arranged to show us Omaka the following day. We were staying in Taumarunui another night anyway, so that was okay with us – although talk about a nervous wait!
So, whilst enduring the torturous wait, we decided to drive out to Omaka with our friends and scope out the place from the outside. The short drive out from town follows the Whanganui River and is a beautiful scenic tour at any time of the year…wait, that’s just the wording in the real estate brochure. But it was certainly true, as the seven kilometres went by very quickly (no, we weren’t speeding, the Peugeot is built for comfort, not speed) and the road was surrounded by wonderful scenery. Halfway out to Omaka, we stopped alongside the road, and Chris pointed out his late Father’s farm across the Whanganui River. Chris hadn’t lived there, having been born after his Father had sold the farm, but it still felt incredibly poignant looking at the house that his Father had built and lived in for many years. In fact, seeing the house and farm gave us a warm and friendly feeling, like we were meant to be travelling this way.
We continued towards Omaka, trying to work out where it was using Google maps and googley eyes. We thought we’d roughly pinpointed it when we spotted the tops of a lot of interesting-looking trees near Herlihy’s Bluff. For those of you who haven’t experienced Herlihy’s Bluff, it’s rather large and geologically fascinating, being 15-25 million years old, and made up of alternating layers of sandstone and mudstone. As you’d expect, given its age and composition, the Bluff is unstable and a prolific disintegrator, frequently depositing large sections of itself alongside the road. Although this is highly convenient when foraging for rocks for garden edging (more of this in a future Cultivators & Country Gentlemen post!) it makes for an eerie experience if you stop and wind your window down, as you can hear the pebbles and small rocks moving and sliding – but the bluff is so vast that although you can hear it moving, it’s difficult to pinpoint where it’s moving. A local shepherd was killed in 1983 by falling rocks, and there are fierce council signs at each end of the Bluff prohibiting stopping or loitering, so best continue.
Past Herlihy’s Bluff, where we absolutely definitely probably didn’t maybe stop (you just can’t never tell), the road rose up from the Whanganui River, and after a couple of moments, a sign saying ‘Omaka Road’ appeared! We still remember the sense of seeing it for the first time – it’s interesting how, in such a situation, one’s mind goes into overdrive thinking about future possibilities. We slowly drove up Omaka Road, keeping an eye out for the entrance to Omaka. And suddenly…there it was…a large and beautifully aged Totara sign on two aged wooden poles, saying ‘Omaka’! We slowed down and gazed at the sign, the post-and-rail Totara fence, the matching gates, the stunning avenue of large and tall Liquidambar trees stretching skyward, the lady driving out the gates towards us in a silver car…oh rats, that might be the owner and we’re caught parked right across the entrance! Talk about indiscreet! So we quickly moved forwards and made out that we were tourists looking at a map – “Oooo, ist das die Forgotten World?” “Oh, you’re doing German? Uh, I mean ja! Und it’s, like totally, sehr gut!!”
As we tootled off down the road, the silver car disappeared in the opposite direction, so we went back to check out the driveway entrance again. It was very inviting and alluring! Heading down a long avenue of Liquidambar trees, the drive meandered up a tree-covered hillside. We couldn’t see where the house was, which put paid to our cunning plan to surreptitiously check the place out prior to the official viewing! So, plan thwarted, we returned to the vile villa that was our Airbnb hovel of choice, to enjoy a relaxing evening with our friends. But we couldn’t! Our hearts were aflutter, our minds astir and…oh, hang on, we’ve done that already… Well, suffice it to say that we had a lot on our minds that evening.
The following day dawned fine and clear and finely it was clear that we were finely ready to leave our clearly far from fine accommodation. Considering it had been one of the better-looking properties on Airbnb, its completely awful complete awfulness helped us realise that there might be a market for a quality b&b in the Taumarunui area, should, y’know, we end up buying a large house there. Making our way to the Property Brokers office, we eagerly met Katie and hopped into her ute, noting to ourselves that country folks drive utes and a Peugeot station wagon’s possibly not going to cut it. For the second time in as many days, we enjoyed the short drive out from town that follows the Whanganui River and was certainly a beautiful scenic tour at this time of the year.
When Katie pulled into Omaka’s entranceway, we feigned surprise at the beauty of it. Except once we’d driven through the Liquidambar avenue and up the hill, our surprise became unfeigned! (Is that a word? Spellcheck isn’t screaming, so maybe it is). Sweeping around in an arc, the drive flowed amidst mature trees and across a cattlestop onto a large parking area; there in front of us was the sight and site we’d seen in the scenes in the sales brochure: Omaka. We’ve long known that it’s best to take real estate photos with a pinch (or sometimes a small open-topped bucket) of salt, but it was clear there’d been no photographic trickery here. The house that sat before us was every bit as unique, elegant and beautiful as the photos, while the gardens that surrounded it were even better! “Ooh”, said Chris. “Ahh”, said Scott. “Pretty special isn’t it”, said Katie. “Ooh”, agreed Chris. “Ahh”, echoed Scott.
The owners weren’t home, so we didn’t get to meet them, but going by the standard of the house and grounds, they were pretty special people. Katie explained how they’d had the house designed and built in the late 1970s, using Rimu timber milled from their surrounding 5-6,000-acre farm. The husband ran the farm as well as being heavily involved in the electricity industry. The wife ran the home, raising the children, raising the beautiful gardens, and raising floristry standards nationwide. And what a credit the state of the house and grounds were to them! The house belied its nearly-40 years of age, being beautiful and beautifully up-to-date, with an effortless and timeless elegance inside and out. It just went to show, high quality intelligent architecture can easily withstand the test of time, and made a mockery of the appallingly bad cheap designs appearing with monotonous regularity around our (then) home in Cambridge.
After spending what seemed like an eternity looking around the house and grounds, Katie asked “Do you like it?”. “Ooh”, said Chris. “Ahh”, said Scott. “It’s amazing, just…amazing”, we both said. Mindful of our travelling companions who were waiting for us back in Taumarunui township, we reluctantly drew the viewing to a close. After returning to the Property Brokers Office, we chatted with Katie and agreed we’d be in touch soon. We wandered outside and joined our friends. “What was it like?”, they asked. “Ooh!”, said Chris. “Ahh!!”, said Scott. “But can we afford it?”, asked Chris. Find out if we can afford it in the next edition of The Cultivators & Country Gentlemen, coming soon!