Swapping snow for sand

Home-swap visitors from overseas refresh Justine's appreciation of the beauty around her

Home-swap visitors from overseas refresh Justine's appreciation of the beauty around her

Photo of Tolaga Bay wharf by Margaret Badger.
The village of Sixt Fer à Cheval in the French Alps.

Picture by Melissa Feeney
Cirque du Fer à Cheval in the French Alps.

PIcture by Justine Tyerman
161112 WE travel TBW

The sea at Tolaga Bay was unusually sparkly last weekend as we walked to the end of the wharf with our visitors from France. The cliffs towering above us looked even more dramatic than usual and for the first time I noticed a huge cavern hollowed out by the waves surging in and out. There was a resounding ‘whoomph’ every time the water hit the rear of the cave.

It’s good when visitors from overseas come to stay. They refresh our sense of wonder at the beauty we so often take for granted. It also encourages us to brush up on our local knowledge and become amateur tour guides for a day or two. I felt proud to tell them the 660m wharf was the longest in the Southern Hemisphere and that we were only able to walk on it thanks to the efforts of a trust who saved it from crumbling into the sea.

The couple visiting us live in Sixt Fer à Cheval in the French Alps — “un des plus beaux villages de France” — one of the most beautiful villages in France. However, Melissa and Mark are not French. They are an English couple who fell in love with the tiny alpine settlement, built a chalet across the road from a ski lift and now live there full-time — when they are not travelling the world. They are keen skiers and Sixt also happens to be part of Le Grand Massif, the fourth largest linked ski area in France.

We met them through Love Home Swap, an international home-swap club with 100,000 houses worldwide. We stayed in the self-contained apartment on the ground floor of their chalet, La Tibolire, nearly two years ago and last weekend, they came to stay with us in Gisborne. They took us skiing at Samoens in the Grand Massif and winter hiking in the Cirque du Fer à Cheval and we took them to our beaches and Cook’s Cove Walkway.

The Cirque du Fer à Cheval is a jaw-dropping horseshoe-shaped wall 5km in length with frozen waterfalls cascading off the 500m to 700m high cliffs beneath jagged peaks towering over 3000 metres.

To us, Cook’s Cove seemed a little tame by comparison but they found Te Kotere o te Whenua (the Hole-in-the-Wall) dramatic, the story of Captain Cook fascinating, Te Aitanga a Hauiti archaeological site enthralling and the sight of the Mitre Rocks awesome.

Melissa and Mark were so impressed with Tairawhiti, not to mention the fresh produce we sent them away with, they are tempted to move here depending on what happens in Europe over the next few years.

I saw our backyard in a different light too. Even the sand looked brighter . . . and it squeaked under-foot like powder snow.

• Love Home Swap: www.lovehomeswap.com, the world’s biggest home-swap club, has 100,000 houses in 190 countries.

The sea at Tolaga Bay was unusually sparkly last weekend as we walked to the end of the wharf with our visitors from France. The cliffs towering above us looked even more dramatic than usual and for the first time I noticed a huge cavern hollowed out by the waves surging in and out. There was a resounding ‘whoomph’ every time the water hit the rear of the cave.

It’s good when visitors from overseas come to stay. They refresh our sense of wonder at the beauty we so often take for granted. It also encourages us to brush up on our local knowledge and become amateur tour guides for a day or two. I felt proud to tell them the 660m wharf was the longest in the Southern Hemisphere and that we were only able to walk on it thanks to the efforts of a trust who saved it from crumbling into the sea.

The couple visiting us live in Sixt Fer à Cheval in the French Alps — “un des plus beaux villages de France” — one of the most beautiful villages in France. However, Melissa and Mark are not French. They are an English couple who fell in love with the tiny alpine settlement, built a chalet across the road from a ski lift and now live there full-time — when they are not travelling the world. They are keen skiers and Sixt also happens to be part of Le Grand Massif, the fourth largest linked ski area in France.

We met them through Love Home Swap, an international home-swap club with 100,000 houses worldwide. We stayed in the self-contained apartment on the ground floor of their chalet, La Tibolire, nearly two years ago and last weekend, they came to stay with us in Gisborne. They took us skiing at Samoens in the Grand Massif and winter hiking in the Cirque du Fer à Cheval and we took them to our beaches and Cook’s Cove Walkway.

The Cirque du Fer à Cheval is a jaw-dropping horseshoe-shaped wall 5km in length with frozen waterfalls cascading off the 500m to 700m high cliffs beneath jagged peaks towering over 3000 metres.

To us, Cook’s Cove seemed a little tame by comparison but they found Te Kotere o te Whenua (the Hole-in-the-Wall) dramatic, the story of Captain Cook fascinating, Te Aitanga a Hauiti archaeological site enthralling and the sight of the Mitre Rocks awesome.

Melissa and Mark were so impressed with Tairawhiti, not to mention the fresh produce we sent them away with, they are tempted to move here depending on what happens in Europe over the next few years.

I saw our backyard in a different light too. Even the sand looked brighter . . . and it squeaked under-foot like powder snow.

• Love Home Swap: www.lovehomeswap.com, the world’s biggest home-swap club, has 100,000 houses in 190 countries.

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