Life as Assistant Lodge Manager at Poronui
I have the world’s most annoying alarm clock, but amazingly I always wake seconds before the dreaded beep so as not to wake my husband or the little people on the other side of the wall.
It’s 5.45am and I know Eve is opening her eyes too, expecting to meet me in 15 minutes. Sometimes I creep out and my husband doesn’t know if I have headed to the lodge kitchen or the stables.
Whoever arrives at the stables first collects the horses from the paddock, while the other gathers the riding tack from the tack room. I like gathering the tack, the room is always warm and smells of the beautiful leather polished and cared for the day before. It has a very nostalgic smell for me, like the smell of a horse coming in after a long winter. These smells give me goose bumps.
I was given my first pony for my eighth birthday; I achieved all levels within the New Zealand Pony Club Association and became fixed on show ponies. My parents drove me from one end of the country to the other to collect championship ribbons.
After finishing school I was extremely lucky to travel to Canada with a wonderful team of show jumpers - all New Zealand-bred horses. That was to ensure my boss, Catriona Williams (nee McLeod), had exposure for the New Zealand Olympic team. We also had two very smart eventers to profile in Europe with high hopes for Olympic selection too. I spent five valuable years training with Catriona. Then I worked for one of the countries leading dressage riders Kathrine Gorringe. Kathrine had a beautiful team of young Holstieners. We trained two incredible Grand Prix horses and some that were very young and spirited. Riding a Grand Prix horse is like sitting astride a magic carpet - you float through the air weightless whilst on an incredibly strong and powerful animal.
Now back to Poronui and the start of this story. The mornings are crisp and beautiful - we have damp noses, rosy checks, and cold toes. Sometimes we chat constantly along the trails, but mostly we are silent - enjoying the different natures of each horse, critiquing our riding styles or watching out for the many other early risers - whether they be singing birds, dawn feeding deer or glistening fish when riding the riverbanks. Eve will often say it’s great to be alive. I always agre, and think how lucky we are to have Poronui to ourselves on these mornings while everybody else is sleeping.
I came to live on Poronui in April 2001 after marrying Ben so this will be my 11th season. When I came I started by setting up the Riding School because of my previous experience, and I also waitressed in the lodge morning and night, only spending the middle of the day riding and exploring Poronui.
The following season I progressed to making picnic lunches for the riverside and waitressing again in the evenings. I worked long hours but preferred to be busy than home alone. I was teased mercilessly for having to serve and clean up after my husband Ben, a guide at Poronui who would eat with his clients at the Lodge table.
The next year I began cooking breakfast and guiding. The horse guiding grew into heli-hiking, heli-shopping excursions, art, garden and wine tours. Those were fun-filled days.
The next year I was promoted to cooking dinners and so head chef for three seasons. I thoroughly enjoyed cooking with our beautiful New Zealand produce and being artistic and creative with food.
Then baby #1 Olivia made an appearance - the first Poronui baby for many many years - so I had a season at home learning the tricks of motherhood, before returning the following summer to guide again. In 2010 Baby #2 Bonnar came along - a boy for Ben.
Today my Assistant Manager duties range from managing guest bookings and visits to daily operations - sometimes cooking, guiding, arranging flowers, coordinating weddings… the list goes on. I’m happy to use any of my skills to ensure guests have a great stay and to support Eve and all staff with our very busy seasons.
People often ask what has kept us here so long and that’s easy to answer for me – we live in a truly beautiful piece of New Zealand and we have the best guests who appreciate both us, and our country. Many guests return year after year and are so excited to see us – they love it that many of the same faces are there to greet them, saying it makes them feel ‘right at home’ and cared for.
And I will always love showing off our country, our people and our products - whether it be Poronui or local products we come across.
I love to work with my husband and together we have made many very special relationships here at Poronui. Long may it continue.