Nevis W.I., December 17th, 2012
In early January, Willi flew from St. Kitts via Miami and Washington D.C. to Tokyo to help the CEO of a Swiss high tech company, where he has an investment, to negotiate a licensing agreement. It was a quite successful trip. Returning via Switzerland and Miami, in late January, unfortunately I could not take along some of the famous wagyu beef.
As usual, we stayed in Nevis till mid March when we took a speed boat over to Reggae Beach and a taxi to Bradshaw International in St. Kitts from where AA flew us to Miami where we spent a few days visiting friends and made a few purchases for the house and for home in La Tour flying home to Geneva.
Soon after our return, the health of Uschi’s younger sister Friederike started to deteriorate rapidly. She was transferred to the Lausanne University Hospital’s palliative section where after some 10 days she left this world peacefully surrounded by her family including her 2 year old grandson.
Summer was a marvelous time at Lake Geneva, good for swimming, taking walks or naps on the terrace after a fine lunch with visitors.
In late September we left for Northern Spain for a one week trip on a fine luxury train called El Transcantabrico from San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela. This ride could have been completed in several hours, but it was done in short stretches where a luxurious bus waited to take us to visit the historic sites and also to have lunch and dinner in the top restaurants of the place. The train itself served as hotel and breakfast place. We enjoyed great seafood of the Basque region, wonderful weather and the ample green of the countryside thanks to large rainfalls in the mountainous area. We were also positively impressed with the lack of graffiti in the towns and cities.
After that, we took a taxi to Braga in Portugal from where we took another rapid train, this time to Lisbon, to visit our old friend Julio Faria de Sousa from Expo 70 times in Osaka, Japan. Staying at the fine Tiara Hotel in the Center, we enjoyed great Portuguese hospitality and food, such as bacalao (cod) and carne de porco al Alentejana, etc.
Our big trip of the year started soon after our return from Portugal, first to Japan, a few days each in Tokyo, Kyoto (Hiiragiya is always worth a 3 day stay, more is bad for the check book), Koya-san, Kobe and Osaka.
But then we headed south to New Zealand, for a whole month. Starting in Auckland, we drove in a Toyota Landcruiser to the top Cape Reinga, back on the Ninety Mile Beach actually on the sand (!) to the Bay of Islands, down to Hamilton, Cambridge to Rotorua. From there we took Highway 38 to Wairoa on the Coast, and passed the wonderfully dark blue Lake Waikaremoana. More than 100 km of that winding up and down road was gravel, and we encountered only 3 cars and one speeding school bus which I did not manage to follow, as it was traveling so fast, honking before each corner. The road goes through rain forest with large trees and many fern trees which Uschi loves so much, the weather was fine and we wanted to go to Napier anyway, so it was a great journey.
We stayed two nights at the Farm on Cape Kidnappers, a wonderfully appointed Lodge belonging to a rich American conservationist. To raise 100 kiwi per year, he has installed 10 km of an 8 foot Plexiglas fence (2 feet in the ground and 6 feet above the ground) to protect them against hedgehogs, rats, weasels, martens, etc. and also 4,000 traps which are visited daily by 2 full-time staff … Uschi got close with an aerial and the tracker got him out from under some twigs of a fallen fir tree. His name is Miharu, No. 73, 32 days old on the photo, and he will be released into some forest in NZ when he has reached 1 kg, which is the weight at which a kiwi can defend himself against any predator. http://www.capekidnappers.com/
Then we visited the other side of the North Island, around Mt. Taranaki, which looks very much like Mt Fuji.
We left for the South Island from Wellington to Picton by ferry where we took possession of another Landcruiser. We drove down the East Coast roads as far as Queenstown where we lodged at the Matakauri, a sister lodge of the Cape Kidnappers where we rested after the thousands of kilometers of driving, so far without rain… We also had booked a two day stay at the Minaret Station and the son of the owner family wrote that all was prepared for our visit, even the weather was going to be fine. I was most doubtful, the forecast on the Internet being very BAD…
We drove to the heliport on a mountain used for heli skiing, were picked up and in a great flight back to Lake Wanaka landed on 850 m in a little valley with 5 tented lodges, a Club house & staff quarters. We were the only guests, but the chef was already there with the manager’s wife. The manager had come with the pilot to receive us. The weather was quite fresh, but only slightly overcast. http://www.minaretstation.com/welcome, then click on the red square with arrow above About….
The next day we had the trip of our life, the day was like a picture book. Words fail to describe it, so please have a look at their little trailer they put together recently. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9v4kHFrFHs Tim brought up 10 Cray fish and 5 abalone, from a 45 minute dive in 12 ° C water. We four enjoyed two of the large ones weighing each over 400 g (tail meat only) for dinner. Chef Leungo from Lesotho after all had been trained in a fine Crans-Montana hotel in Switzerland…
After the diving, a flight back to the Lodge, via the back of Mt. Aspiring, which I forgot to say looks very much like the Matterhorn, and hovering over a nearly vertically falling glacier – what wonderful pilot skill.
With the attached photo sheet –all taken by Uschi except those of the grandkids, you will find a legend that explains some of the pictures and sights.
On the way home, we went to see our old friend from Kobe times, Ed Marteka, alias Uncle Ed. He now lives in Palm Springs and is in Real Estate. He is now redoing a smaller corner house very close to his large villa with all the latest gadgets – very impressive. The only thing which would make it even more TOPS would be one of those high class TOTO toilets, and of course, a real Nespresso machine … We had introduced Ed to some finer points of European cuisine in the 70s at RG mansion, and he quite took to it, even asking me about getting some more of that fabulous Chambolle Musigny 1967 or for Raclette or Viande des Grisons. Obviously he presently prefers an 8 oz cup of Starbucks which he says is great for socializing over a truly super tasty Nespresso (which he had seemingly never even heard of up until then).
Before leaving for home, we overnighted in Los Angeles where we had a great sushi dinner with Pat Wanner.
We have arrived on Nevis on Dec. 12th, after a snowy drive via the Grand St. Bernard tunnel to Aosta where we had lunch with Carla Ansermin, then drove on to Milano Linate airport from where we took Airfrance to Paris and on to St. Martin, and hence to Nevis. The grandchildren and their parents will join us again this holiday season – they will arrive here on Dec. 21st.
In closing, Uschi joins me in wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a most wonderful, happy, successful and healthy New Year of the Snake 2013!
Willi & Uschi
The webpage will be updated before Christmas to include the Snake for 2013.