Well folks, brace yourselves for yet another riveting update from kak! It comes to you covering the entirety of 2012 so far; beginning in New Zealand and bringing you to Antigua via Costa Rica and Utah.
Christmas of 2011 was a snowless, jolly day spent in Utah. On December 27th I boarded a plane for Auckland where I arrived on December 29th! I flew through that magical time warp where a whole 24 hours of your life just evaporate, painlessly into thin air. My new friend Lancelot was at the Auckland airport waving a piece of cardboard on which was written: kak aka kayak… Palendrome searching became a frequent passtime at Lance’s house. I scored well with: dogeeseseegod.
It was 2 a.m. on the 30th by then as my flight from Fiji to Auckland also mysteriously evaporated entirely. All passengers for that flight were whisked away on a bus to a very posh hotel with a swimming pool bar and air conditioning. We were given complimentary rooms and three meals! None of us were very disgruntled about having to wait in such style for the next flight which was 10 hours later than the original one!
On December 31st we drove to the Prana Festival on the Coromandel Peninsula where we camped in an enormous mud puddle with several hundred hippies for 3 days. Despite the constant rain of varying intensities the event was a wonderful way to kick off my NZ experience. It was quite a sober festival with lots of music throughout the day and night; yoga classes several times a day; workshops for everything from reading colours to projecting your voice and from sitar lessons to African dancing, tarot readings and comedians. The food was fabulous and the music phenomenal.
I came up with a practical new use for tampons when a lady selling her wares was plagued by a leaking awning. She was very pleased to see my tampon which plugged the hole in the vinyl perfectly and it counted as a good deed for the day for me.
I hung around Ponsonby for the next ten days practicing for our appearance and the Cafe 121 open mic night which Lance had signed us up for. Lance was hesitant when I suggested that we practice on the street with a hat in front of us but was elated to find that coins were dropped immediately and we even drew a crowd of one and a half people for the 3 songs we played!
Russell was the end of the road for my first weekend of 2012 adventure. More rain and lots of it. Tall Ships Regatta was on and I experienced my first “Hungi”; packages of meat and vegetables wrapped and cooked on coals under the ground along with lovely, enormous mussels.
In Russell I also met with some real Kiwi hospitality when a young couple invited me to pitch my tent in their front yard and, when I woke up afloat the next morning, invited me to spend the following night inside their house! I had a wonderful evening with a delightful young mum and her adorable 3 month old baby.
After a very successful open mic evening I packed the Indigo Flash (the VW polo I bought from a friend (now fiancee) of Lance’s) and set off to further my adventure. Next stop: the Upsand Downs Farm in Cheddar Valley, near Whakatane. I had already written a blurb on this so please forgive me for simply inserting it at this point. Thank you.
It’s late afternoon on day one at the Upsand Downs Farm near Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty. Tom, the cat is trying to help me type this letter. Curious Chicken just came for a visit on my deck and the horses and alpacas are grazing in the front of the house. The emu lives by himself since his mate died a few months ago and the chickens and ducks are roaming the whole property for the afternoon, before they get put to bed in the evening. Sadu, the dog, is sneaking into the house whenever he can get away with it, which is often as the doors are wide open. The geese are standing by near the gate to warn of intruders and the sheep are being sheepish. Two lawn mowing goats are tied in various locations around the 50 acre property.
Kelly is my host here. His brother, Richard also lives here and sometimes mum. Richard likes beer and smokes but I’ve yet to see Kelly have a drink or a smoke. Oh yeah, he likes beer! Richard and mum are carnivores but Kelly will only eat game meat. I’m cooking this evening. The nine year old grand daughter, whose name I’ve forgotten at this moment (goldfish) seriously stole my heart with her sassy ways.
My day started on a ladder picking plums, followed by the trimming of tree limbs along the electric fence on a near vertical pasture and replacing some broken posts. After lunch we had a horse ride around the property and I got a lesson in riding comfortably bareback. I rode Shandy, an 18 year old gray arab mare who was very good to me. Bareback with rope halters is how Kelly likes to ride. Yesterday I “free lunged” two other horses in the round pen as my introduction to the Upsand Downs.
I picked vegetables in the garden, cleaned up the kitchen a bit and picked up horse poop with the rest of my day. Soon we are going out in a wee boat on a lake or river (?) with gps as Kelly is an environmental engineer and is measuring something to do with the oscillation of the waves for a silt aeration system which is way beyond my comprehension!
My digs are super cool! I have a little cabin with a big covered deck and my own seperate bathroom. The big house is right on the top of a hill and the view is of woods, meadows and the sea.
So far it’s wonderful. My legs are already feeling tired today from walking up and down the steep fence line and then holding on to Shandy which I am supposed to learn to not do….I have to unlearn how to ride.
Yup, my gracious hosts took me along to a live kiwi release, took me sand yachting, took me riding every day, invited me out to lunch, introduced me to a slew of friends, wined and dined me and were utterly warm and welcoming. I actually shed some tears as I drove off toward the East Cape.
I spent two nights on the road, both wonderful spots before I got all the way to the South of the North Island near Wellington to visit Pearl. I met a few folks I’d been told to look up along the way; Lance’s landlady, the charming Truda’s brother and also her friend Pihi Hei. I picked up a young French hitch hiker for the final 300 km stretch who I thoroughly enjoyed and met up with again on the South Island.
After several wrong turns I found Pearl’s place; beyond the end of the road at the mouth of the Olongolongo River. Poor wee Baby Pipi wasn’t feeling so good when I arrived but the wine I brought along (having stopped for wine tasting with my hitchhiker) soothed us. The next night Pipi was with sitter and Pearl and I four wheeled it up to the “bach” where her boyfriend’s birthday party was gearing up. And a fine party it was! The view from up there was absolutely spectacular: overlooking the whole bay towards Wellington. We took a sunset 4×4 convoy down to the beach at sunset to pull up the fish net which held next morning’s fish breakfast! The party lasted all night and most of the following day and conversation had become utterly fascinating by morning but Pearl and I opted for home around noon.
I bid Pearl farewell for now and drove on to my next destination: Clara Katherine, Brian and Amanda’s boat which I’d last sat on in Banderas Bay! It wasn’t difficult to persuade Amanda to come explore South Island with me and we ferried across Cook Straight towards another farm experience but no ongoing plan. FREE!
Our host and hostess in Golden Bay near Takaka were champions! When we arrived around 5 pm wine glasses were immediately handed us as we ogled the table laden with various home made delights and were introduced to the other dinner guests, one of whom turned out to be one of NZ most famous photographers. He was exhausted after having spent the day helping rescue some of the 70 odd beached pilot whales at Farewell Spit. It is a mystery why the whales beach themselves and it would appear not to be accidental as most of the rescued whales return to beach themselves again…That night we watched some home video footage of the rescue effort including underwater images complete with sound and it was disturbing.
Once Heather felt comfortable with us she told us the story of a German WWOOFER who wrote a bad review about her on the website. She did finally get it removed after the “inspector” fellow came to the farm and checked it out. In the review the girl said that she was forced to live in a “spider infested shed”. That made us laugh as all the spiders we saw were in webs way up on the ceiling in the quaint little sleep out where we chose to stay. That night however, we laughed even harder when, just after turning out our lights, I felt something tickling my leg under the covers. I opted to ignore it but felt it again so I pulled back the covers and shone my headlamp on my leg where a black, long legged spider the diameter of a coffee mug sat frozen by the sudden light! Amanda took charge and after three attempts at shaking it off the blanket outside (a bit frantically) it finally let go. I grinned myself to sleep knowing that there aren’t any poisonous creatures in NZ…
While the creatures may not be poisonous, some of them are pesky to the extreme; notably the sand flies, as we discovered shortly thereafter on the West Coast. After four fun-filled days of morning chores and afternoon explorations, including a fair bit of frequenting of the famous Mussel Inn Brewery both as custom and entertainment we bade farewell to our hosts, picked up French Hitchhiker who had now rejoined us and headed South and West to do some “tramping”. Heaphy Track here we come! New Zealand is all strewn about with multi day tramps having huts a day apart along the way. We booked the Southern most hut for the night and thought we’d hike in leisurely, dally along the way, enjoy the beaches, picnic, drink micro brewed beer which we’d packed, arrive well before sunset, get a good bunk, eat, lounge etc. HA! We soon discovered that if inert for more than 30 seconds, one became a black blur of little wings and stingers…In the middle of one of the many swing bridges was the only spot that was bearable, if you covered every exposed bit of delicious flesh. None the less it was absolutely stunningly lush and beautiful, wet and wondrous.
We spent a few more days on South Island and headed back to Wellington where Juggler Bob was establishing his new territory and Brian was beginning to feel like an abandoned boyfriend. One more quick farewell visit to Pearl and a few days of discovering the joys and woes of hanging around in bars with street performers sussing out the next “pitch” were on the agenda in Wellington before we loaded up the Indigo Flash and started to make our way North by way of Napier to reap the fruits of the 4 day Art Deco Festival. Bob was a master at his trade and one day he persuaded me to try busking while he did one of his shows further up the road. I was confident, my voice was in form and my outfit was flapperesque but in those 40 minutes I made $12 while Bob pulled a $600 hat! There is real science to entertainment!
Bob flew out of Auckland shortly after that and I was back at Ponsonby. In Auckland I had a short, sweet visit with Brooke and Cyrus on Volpaia and Cyrus’ mum’s farm in Costa Rica came up in conversation…hence the Costa Rica detour following the NZ adventure. For my remaining days in NZ I took a drive up to Whangarei to visit some friends I’d met in Tahiti years ago. We had a merry time, sight seeing and catching up on the in between years.
After two months I was looking forward to sleeping in my own bed but I felt that I wasn’t finished with NZ. The people I met and the beautiful, lush land make up a truly magical, relaxing combination of down to earth well being. There are many more years of my life and I made many new dear friends so it is likely I will return.
Soon after I arrived I learned of the famous green stone or punamu found only in NZ. It must be gifted to you. I figured it just wasn’t meant to be as I was packing my bag and guitar into the car bound for the airport. Just then Truda came running out and placed hers around my neck. She had been “infusing” it by wearing it for a few days and I was profoundly moved by the gesture. It still hangs around my neck.
Genuine Kiwi sentence:
I tramped up to the bach with my chilly bin and there I kicked off my jandles and sipped a flat white; it was sweet as!
Up, up and away! Oh, what’s that? I was hit by an extra 24 hours but it didn’t hurt.
A short 10 days later Cam and I were taking off from Phoenix bound for San Jose Costa Rica.
We enjoyed an interesting bus ride up to the village of Puriscal and onwards towards San Rafael and eventually managed to find the farm as we four wheel drived our roller luggage along the dirt road to the farm. Once there we were welcomed warmly and made to feel very comfortable in Cyrus’ tree house in the woods just above the farm.
Here nothing is enclosed. Fresh air abounds! We were made aware of “Fang” the friendly tarantula that lives in the middle of the roof of the treehouse and left to wander down to the waterfall where we bathed our travel grime away and relaxed fully before a delightful communal dinner.
During the week we spent on the farm we participated in a Parelli Horsemanship Workshop, milked goats, planted some vegetables, did some nice walks, bathed a dog (one of 8), went to a local bull riding rodeo, met some delightful folks and pooped on a duck who insisted on laying her eggs in the outhouse…this is a whole new meaning for toilet duck…
Another interesting but much longer bus ride took us to the Nicoya Peninsula to a village called Montezuma. This was a tourist village on the Pacific Coast. It was small and quaint though and strewn with refreshing waterfalls. We rented a very cute house about 500 ft straight upwards from the beach, which was more of a rocky shore inerspersed with beach. Our lounging view was spectacular and we were joined regularly by the frangipani munching iguana and the cheese and cracker loving costarican magpies who have wicked little curlicues on their heads. We slept on the deck and listened as the howler monkeys approached and retreated. One night a skunk let off his aromatic spray in close proximity for who knows what reason and the following night I saw him INSIDE the house! Thankfully, I didn’t upset him or perhaps he had sprayed his whole supply of perfume the night before!
A few more weeks at home were refreshing before flying off once again to Antigua, where I now sit, aboard a yacht bound shortly for Rhode Island and Maine. September will see me home sweet home again. Meanwhile, I wish health and happiness to all of you my friends, family and loved ones.