At first glance you think; not bad, maybe more bach than ‘two-story home.’ But you stagger up the near vertical driveway and stand in the corner where the advertising photo was taken and there it is, that breathtaking, million-dollar view. There are bush and sea views, yachts skipping by and a smudge of island on the horizon.
Okay, so the king-size bed so prominently displayed online is under the house, in a room knocked up between the foundation poles. So what if there’s no internal access to the main floor and no toilet down there. It’s summer my husband says, you can pee in the garden.
On the main floor every surface is covered with knick-knacks and strangely, a waist high stack of home beautiful magazines. We take the upstairs bedroom, tiny in the way of the traditional kiwi bach. We open our suitcases to unpack and reality sinks in. All the cupboards are full of the owner’s clothes. But then you lift the mold-speckled blind and ignore the grime on the frame and look at the view. Ahh the soothing view.
The kitchen is next. We’ve bought all our food, boxes of it, enough to feed family arriving soon. But like an inversion of the cupboard is bare, there’s no room. Instead the shelves are crammed with opened packets tied with clothes pegs, half eaten cereals and old spices. We’ll use the fridge, my husband the optimist says. But the shelves are held together with gaffer tape and the available space is crammed with sauces and jars and opened pickles. And then it dawns. There were no photos of the kitchen for a reason.
The food boxes join the suitcases on the floor. At least we can still cook, my husband says as he opens a cupboard and pulls out pots without handles, a buckled aluminum pan, plastic bowls and mismatched plates and a drawer full of broken implements. Hey look at the view, he says in a classic bait and switch as a giant kererū swoops past the window, hangs in mid air and falls in the joy of an air current. There’s a tiny deck some wit thought to describe as wrap-around, a single broken plastic deck lounger and rickety outdoor chairs strung with moss.
And then I remember there was a photo of the bathroom, fresh and modern with an open shower and pebble tiled walls. And a big storage cupboard, with – wait for it – the owner’s creams and lotions and nit remedies.
Of course we complained. And the owner responded. “Don't offend our hospitality any more,” she said. “Don't every bloody come to stay again. We cannot wait until you are out of our home. It had better be in the state you found it. If not better!”
So that was our holiday home on Waiheke, the summer of 2013/14. It could have been amazing. Instead we spent our time managing the mess, airing the beds speckled with mold and trying to cook like we’re in a student flat.
With Waiheke on its way to becoming the Martha’s Vineyard of the south Pacific, a little advice for renting your property: clean out your personal stuff. Don’t leave your ratty toothbrushes, your tampons, creams and razors in the bathroom cupboard. Think pristine, think super clean, think ‘first person on the moon.’ Don’t leave the closets full of your clothes. If your fridge is held together with gaffer tape get a new one and leave it clean and empty. If your pots and pans would better suit a student flat, donate them.
Bottom line: we the renters are not your friends. We are not your family and we are not your house sitters. We are paying guests. For $300 a night we should not have to squat in your messy, grubby life. But there was no misrepresenting the view. It really was the best in the world.
By Cynthia Leonard