Floating near heaven – one of New Zealand’s must-stay havens
Cloud9 is as close to heaven as you can get: A swanky hilltop house perched above the sleepy historic village of Russell overlooking the Bay of Islands in northern New Zealand; looking down on to dreamy golden sand Long Beach: perfect for night-time love-making under the stars.
Some experiences in life happily float fresh in the mind forever. This is one of those. I am ushered into Cloud9 by hostess Lesley Joy. We step down into the lounge and onto whitewashed floorboards. Lesley explains how to work the flat screen tv-DVD, the wi-fi internet and how to ‘drive' the kitchen.
I can't remember a word she says. I am gaping like a goldfish at the priceless view across the balmy Pacific Ocean and the beautiful Bay of Islands. This loveable place is insatiably sexy and romantic.
It rates among the most welcome destinations in this part of the world. All the bedrooms have a cedar patio or deck that have panoramic unobstructed views of the 144 islands, bays and ocean.
I am laying in my cosy king sized bed that night with the doors open and I hear the hear the chirps of the flightless kiwi bird - the iconic New Zealand national symbol - scurrying around in the ferns and nikau palms.
The next morning I rummage through the kitchen and discover bacon, eggs, mushrooms, yummy MacKenzie Country fresh bread, fruit juice, fresh fruit platter, cereal, tea, coffee and just about anything else I would have wanted for breakfast. But I want for nothing here.
I stroll down the hill to the beach. The water is warm and I swim a tiny stretch of the flat Pacific Ocean before laying on the inviting sands under the golden sun before striding back up the steep slope to Cloud9. It already feels like home.
I crack open a lovely chilled bottle of magnificent Spy Valley Echelon bubbly - the very best of Marlborough wine - sprawl out on the deck, put my feet up and lazily gaze at the setting sun. As darkness falls, the waves keep crashing, the native birds scurry above the bush - and there's just nothing else. It is like being part of a movie but in privacy and in blissful silence.
The next day I amble down to the Russell township near the birthplace of the nation. My hurried pace of life as a journalist has slowed to a lazy gait. I pop into Janet's South Sea art gallery which is the most welcoming of three galleries in the tiny main street. I am in awe of Leslie Coleman's soft brush strokes in her iconic eye-catching and commercially appealing Kiwi coastal scenes.
But I don't want to stay away from Cloud9 too long. I buy fresh groper from the local wet fish shop to take ‘home' and cook. Another night of bliss out on the deck among the palms: not a ripple across the infinity pool, the waves gently lapping on the down on the empty beach tonight. For a time, life stands still.
I head off in my little Jucy rental the next morning, promising to spread the word and return to Cloud9 one day.