Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Sunday, April 3, 2011
We arrive at Wildside Backpackers, entirely off the beaten path. It wasn’t really a backpackers, but used to be. Danny and Kathy are our hosts. Dan looks like a blonde, long-haired hippy with a loooong red beard. Kathy looks a few years older and a little rough around the edges. They have two kids, Shea and Dylan, 3 and 1. Dan shows us around the property, which is two properties in one. The entire place covered in green, they have a very large garden which constantly produces veggies, and they spin and extract honey.The whole property has old parts and bicycles laying around, useable bathtubs outside, and everything else is a step back in time. There are already two other WWOOFers there, guys from New Jersey. Jill and I jump right into jarring honey, which tastes absolutely delicious. Our entire time there we never used a drop of sugar for our tea or coffee, just honey, of course. So dinner rolls around and it’s white-tail deer stew. I guess this first meal was just an indoctrination into the type of things we’d be eating there.Game, or more generally, things caught by hand. That evening we take a hike to a secluded hot spring, and thus begins our epic time at Wildside. The naked hot spring soaking was a beautiful and memorable point in time I will never forget. Digging out a hole in this huge sandy pool with shovels, naked, and then laying in it for four hours staring at the ridiculously clear night sky. No one around, just good people along with good conversation.
What was originally 3 days turned into 6, and we found ourselves wrapped up in the extraordinary lifestyle of hunting and gathering. Every day seemed to be interesting and something new. One day we went fishing, in which seemed like a simple ride, however turned out to be a whitewater drive through the river. We were to get to the most secluded spot, I’m sure, and when we were arrived it was unreal. We rode to where the river met the ocean and no one was around. At one point while walking along the beach, mussels on the ocean rocks were spotted, this signaled the stripping of clothes to gather them off of the rocks. Without question everyone took off their clothes and got continually slammed by waves to get the most large and succulent emerald mussels. The clothes could’ve been optional, but that means we’d be walking back in wet, cold attire. I only wish I had a cameraman to tape it, because it was absolutely a hilarious, epic scene. The fishing ensued and a beautiful trout was caught. We watched the sunset and eventually made our way back to steam up our fresh mussels, and, believe it or not, I ate a lot of them (which is unheard of, if you know how I hate mussels). When in Rome? Er, when in New Zealand, rather.
It wasn't until the next day that we dressed up the fish and smoked it in Dan's rigged smoker (made from found objects). It was the best fish ever! That day we also dug up the spud bed (for 2 days), which was enough to feed the family for the entire year. I found the most amusing thing about this place was how there is a constancy of friends coming over to hang out everyday. This is where I’d met some good connections; one friend who let me choose a green stone (jade) of my choice, and another friend who offered a tour around Franz Josef Glacier (which I took a week later). The rest of our time there was spent making cucumber chutney (a damn good one), harvesting veggies, and just having a good ol time. The only downside of this place was the fact that Kathy did all of the work while Dan went off and played. It was hard to watch her in the conventional woman’s role, which is the reason why we didn’t stay longer. We could’ve easily stayed there for weeks, but it was too painful to watch that abuse. I will still say this place was completely amazing and that whomever comes by there MUST SEE IT. It may change your life.
A couple more things about this place. With beehives everywhere I managed not to use my Epi-Pen, STILL, and did learn a thing or two about honey spinning and extracting. They also made home brews, in which we drank most nights and consisted of the many fruits on the property.
Final notes: This place is called Wildside for a reason. It is, in every way, wild. It brings out the wild in any person that stays there and brings them closer to the earth. I appreciate that and am glad to have experienced it.
When getting rides to Greymouth we’d heard bad things about the town. Not many people were too fond of it and we couldn’t figure out why. I guess because there was nothing to do? Glenn (aka Gimli) was driving south and offered us a ride. He drove us right to the house. This was going to be a different experience, seeing that we were staying with complete strangers that were opening up their house to us. Heidi, the head of the house (and whom we made the most contact) was a wonderful, tranquil spirit. I instantaneously felt comfortable with her. She made us feel right at home and we pitched our tent in the backyard the first night.
That night was also very wet and cold. The days after we stayed in the house in one of her son’s rooms. We fell into a nice routine at the Pace home, roaming around during the day and making dinner at night, everyone eating together. It’s wasn’t as abnormal as one would assume with complete strangers being in their home. I did some gardening for Heidi and Jonathan (the husband) and at night we all played Scrabble. It was like being with the hippy version of the Brady Bunch.
Heidi had two sons, Ethan and David. Ethan was a kayak guide in Abel Tasman and David was home from school since the Christchurch quake (which is where his school resided). They were both so different, Ethan outgoing and David introverted, yet both very respectful and fun. They never seemed to be weirded out by two random girls crashing at their house. We spent some quality time with them, but mostly with David, who was a natural, bleached cutie. One night we went over to a friend of David's house, Morgana, for drinks and games. She lived off of the coastal road in an old sailor's house that overlooked the ocean. That is where we met other fellow travelers Matt and Jamie, the latter of which we had briefly met in Abel Tasman a week prior. A sign we were in the right place or was this island just that small?
We had a hell of a time at the Pace residence and they made us feel as welcome as their own kin. Heidi was truly a comforting woman and the most gorgeous of beings. She exuded light. By this time I realized how lucky we’d been in our travels thus far. The rain had began and we had dry shelter.
One day on a side trip we decided to go to Punakaiki to see the Pancake Rocks. It wasn't too far from Greymouth to hitch, so we went for it. Our first ride was by a cosmetician whom may have been on cocaine or meth. She was a bit nervous and shakey, eventually dropping us in the worst possible spot. It began to rain and a middle-aged man took pity on our pathetic faces and picked us up, noshing on a pink pastry. He was a bellhop at the resort next to our destination. Gold. We had a nice drive there and made our way on a short tramp near the rocks. It was cool and rainy, but we still enjoyed ourselves. Getting a ride back was easier, as three gorgeous Argentines scooped us up and dropped us at our door, yet again. Couldn't complain about the scenery.
When figuring out where we were heading next, we remembered the words of Sonya (the Maui girl in Marlborough). She had previously told us that if we were ever to go near Harhari, on the west coast, we “Must stop there.” We figured we’d see if they were taking WWOOFers. We knew absolutely nothing about this place except that they were into honey and were hunter-gatherers. They didn’t even have a website, just by “word of mouth.” This was intriguing, and when they said “Come on down” we jumped at the chance and left the next day from Greymouth. This was going to be interesting. Greymouth was interesting and very homey, but it was time to move on. I’m glad to have found a family environment in this trip. I will always have a soft spot for the Pace family.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
We arrived at our WWOOFing destination. A backpackers/pub. It looked nothing like the pictures. Definitely needed some work. The owners weren’t even around to give us the low down, so we sat around for awhile. We finally got ourselves a “Pod” via phone call by the barmaid who was angry we didn't buy anything. This pod, the place in which we slept, was basically a trailer box with bunk beds and electrical outlets. Nothing special and definitely budget. The one reason we chose this place was because we figured out the owners were gay men. I love, love, love gay men! Unfortunately after meeting these two they weren’t as lovely as we expected. There was Malcom, who was the butch and ran the business. Then there was Chris, who looked like the blonde guy from Queer Eye, who was the bitch in the partnership. They were all over the place and needed to get their shit together. We cruised the first day and joined a little soiree in the backpackers lounge that night. That day we also met Glenn, a fellow traveler, on a solo journey. We partied with him as well. I liked to call him a skinny Gimli because he had a long red beard. May as well if we’re talking LOTR.
The next day all we did was paint a wall. Seriously. All white. Whomever painted it prior needed a lesson on painting. We made that shit shine. Later that day we took a little side trip with Glenn (who had a car) to Castle Hill. This place was known for rock climbing and bouldering, or just plain fun. We also discovered they’d filmed parts of Narnia and LOTR here. Sweet! We roamed around for awhile and enjoyed ourselves. The next day we decided to leave. This place wasn’t what we expected and although we get food and board, it wasn’t anything special. We said our goodbyes without hesitation and made our way to Greymouth. Jillian had a friend who’s mother had a friend and wanted to make sure we were safe after the quake. We were also feeling aftershocks here (in Springfield), so it was no joke. Knowing nothing of these people and hoping for the best, we hitched our way there. Good thing for good people in the world. You never know where they are hiding and when you will get to meet them. This next stop was randomness at its best. The outcome was completely unknown and we were okay with that. That has been the entire mentality of this trip. Just go with it.
A perfectly painted picture and more gorgeous the closer we got to our destination. We passed the Marlborough Sounds, dozens of islands, some of which people lived and had to get to by boat. When we finally arrived in Picton we began our hitch-hiking journey. At first we didn't have much luck because of all the tourists getting off, but we were eventually picked up by Suzie, a Bahai eccentric white lady. She did most of the talking, eager to get us to work in the vineyards or to join her cult, we were unsure. She dropped us off in a spot that we later realized was the worst spot ever. Our endeavors continued with various drivers, one of which owned a vineyard that produced grapes for Kendall-Jackson, so that was interesting.
Monday, February 28, 2011
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Getting to New Zealand consisted of many hours of waiting. My ipod and computer both ran out of their batteries. Again, I was to wait in lines to go through and be processed out of Auckland customs. I had to wait an additional four hours for my bus that only came twice a day to drop off in Cambridge. Waiting on the bus for 2 1/2 hours to arrive in Cambridge. I'm tired of waiting. I want this trip to start!
Sarah is happily waiting for me at the bus drop-off point, which was essentially a grocery parking lot (flashy, eh?) At this point I just need some food and a bed. I’ve hardly slept for three days. We catch up briefly in the car, all chummy chums and then it happens. Pressurized information vomit explodes out of Sarah’s mouth about her break-up and/or everything relating and consisting of it. Being the polite Winlee I am (at first) I listen. And listen and listen. It continues throughout the evening. I wonder what I've just walked myself into while Sarah is praising Christ she has someone to mend her broken heart (or help seal her mouth shut). My ears feel like they are bleeding by this point and my eyes are bloodshot. When I finally excuse my way to bed I can’t even recall laying my head down. Out like a light.
Let me mention Sarah and my very short and sweet past. Sarah, from New Zealand, visited Honolulu in 2008. She had a very bad couchsurfing experience and I saved her from it by letting her sleep at my place and showing her my island. I spent about five days with her in total. She's an awesome chick who was on her around-the-world solo trip. Vibrant, devil-may-care attitude, fun to be around. This was not the same Sarah and I hardly know her enough to deduce the shrapnel that encompassed her.
I wake up and Sarah is gone to work. She works Monday through Friday. Her house is beautiful. Replicated after a Tuscan villa, the red and yellows are accentuated by any amount of light. She has a dog, Moses, who is untrained and a pain in my ass. I'm ecstatic to be in NZ, but It’s rainy outside. This continues for a week straight. Maybe I brought the rain from Portland. I catch up on my sleep the next few days. I’m bombarded by more break-up talk and negativity. She asked me to stay with her for a "while" because she needs the company and is afraid to live alone at the moment. I’m feeling obligated at this point, but I don’t say anything because my plans are up in the air anyhow. She’s supposed to have a job for me at the hospital and I’ve been relying upon that, mostly because I'm not sure where to even start my traveling.
She's introduced me to a lot of her friends because she feels bad that I'm sitting around bored all day. She's also asked them to show me around. All of them are wonderful, kind people.
In one of these instances I’d met a Fijian nurse named Judi whom Sarah worked with at the hospital. She owns and operates a serene property and organic farm with her husband Ian. The first day I set foot on this property I fell in love with it. Fresh hydroponic salad and juicy hothouse tomatoes all surrounded by acres upon acres of wild bush to hike. That first day I also met Jill (whom is now my travel buddy), a WWOOFer (Willing Worker On Organic Farms) from Dallas, who surprisingly has no accent. I was a little apprehensive by her at first, only because she was loud and from Texas, but we eventually connected. Days after we did some hiking and talking,realizing how similar our journeys were wondering if we'd cross paths on the South Island (a place we both planned to end up). We talked a lot about signs and the significance of them in life/travels, which we'd both seen on this particular travel journey. Shortly after we clicked, Sarah asked Jill to join our road trip, a sign in itself.