Sunday, April 3, 2011

Getting Wild in Harihari

The day we began hitching to Harihari it was drizzling. I gave up on using Jillian’s holey poncho long ago and was happy to have Heidi give me an old poncho of hers. Not long after I was in the rain with this poncho did I wonder why I was still getting wet. Turns out it was so old the waterproofing was nonexistent. So I continued to get wet whilst the material stuck to my skin. Anyway…thumbs out, smiles wide (but no too wide otherwise we’d look crazy) and hopes of getting a ride quickly. A fellow named John picks us up in a van full of crap. He owns a secondhand shop in Hokitika. We ride with him there. Before he drops us, he shows us the quaint town and where his shop is. Not long after we are dropped off does Jill realize she’s left her entire purse in his car. She sprints across the bridge and returns 20 minutes later, purse in hand. It was a good thing he showed us where he worked. The next person who picked us up was a woman named Mary who was driving a half hour out of town. She’s a kayak instructor in Greymouth, and had Ethan (Heidi’s son) as a student. This is just another example of how small NZ really is. We get dropped in a random spot, not the best for getting picked up. The rain comes down harder and the wind starts up. Super awesome. We stand there for over an hour and no one stops. We ponder a pint we passed a mile back. Guess our guilt-tripping stares weren’t working. Freezing and close to losing hope, FINALLY a tiny car pulls up. In it is Doris the saint (and an elementary teacher)! She lives and works in Ross, about 45 minutes from Harihari. She owns a farm and has a bunch of cats. Lives alone. Has a nervous, unique laugh. The kind that you use when you don’t know what to say and can’t stop rambling. But it really didn’t matter because she saved our freezing asses. To top off her saintliness, she drove us completely out of her way to Harihari. That’s some good karma.

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.

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