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.