Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Judith's Place 11th-19th January 2011

Judith’s Place 11th – 18th January 2011

We met Judith at the hairdresser’s, she is one of the stylists there and gave both Mel and I a great haircut. During the process we all got to chatting about many things, our travels and life here in Takaka. We explained that we would really like to spend some time in the area as Golden Bay appears to have much to explore of interest to us. There are stunning beaches, nice walks, lots of alternative shops and café’s and some lovely people. We also spoke about the possibility of getting some paid work in the area and how we hoped to WWOOF until we could find some jobs. By the end of our conversation, Judith had very kindly offered to take us in, explaining that her 98 year old villa was on the market and that there was a bit of gardening which needed doing to help improve the overall impact of the house to potential buyers. In truth, there is very little which could improve what is a most remarkable property. It has superbly proportioned rooms and a mature garden which has been a delight to spend time in.

We arrived with our bikes the next morning, having made the short trip round the corner from the backpackers. We stepped in through the delightful front garden, passed the wisteria, grape vines and pink, climbing roses towards the open front door. Judith has mentioned that she would be at church and that we should find out way into our room and unpack. She had left strict instructions for us not to do any work and to just relax in the sun, but you know Mel and I. After putting our stuff in our massive, high ceilinged, French style colonial bedroom with double doors leading our onto the front veranda, we made our way down the garden, set on a ¼ of an acre, through the small gate, passed the fruit trees to our place of work; the vegetable plot. There, over the coming days we would build new compost heaps, weed vast areas of ‘wandering willy’, buttercups and other small weeds, whilst being attended by the delightful Liquorish, Judith’s cat and 7 bantam hens, all of whom were delighted with the constant flow of fresh worms and open soil for dust baths.

Judith is lovely; she is really cruisey, great conversation, a brilliant cook and an all round good egg! We have enjoyed some good laughs, wine and food together. On that note, Mel has started noting down some of the recipes we have collected over the years from all the people and places we have visited. There are a few to add from this stay such as rice and peanut burgers with home made coleslaw salad, topped with peanut sauce. We have also been introduced to a new form of potato, originally grown by the Maori. It is extremely dark purple and very starchy, as versatile as our own, but with a more dense texture. Mel has cooked the delicious dessert that Terrance gave to us back in Taupo, though she attempted to make it with non-dairy additives which meant it lacked a little richness, though it was still yummy. This was on top of a delicious Banana cake she baked as a treat a couple of days before. I am such a spoiled husband!

Judith has a daughter named Scarlett who is spending time at a friends somewhere in the surrounding area and we have been lucky enough to meet her and her two dogs; Beck and Rip (both greyhound/pig-dog cross siblings) on a couple of occasions. Judith has lots of visitors to the house which has also been nice. Pat, Gaye and various other members of Judith’s extensive social network have been in and around the house. Pat is a really nice guy, well travelled and full of hilarious jokes about his time spent in England as a window cleaner. He is now a trained teacher of English as a foreign language. He is the brother of Gaye who has been kind enough to offer us some paid gardening work here which will be undertaking for her over the coming week before heading back to Nelson this Saturday. We have also managed to find some more WOOFing at another of Judith’s good friends; Theo. Theo is a mature lady with a lot of land (over 200 acres). She has been a dairy farmer for many years and when she moved to her current plot in 1959, she began planting the most enormous collection of trees and landscaped gardens. There is much to be getting on with there. We popped round for a chat the other day and she showed us her prolific citrus trees, all of which have benefitted from a special type of organic feed. A few years ago, it turns out; Theo lost a lot of lambs during the early part of the spring. Instead of wasting those lambs’ corpses, she placed 5 round the base of each citrus tree. This has clearly impacted on the crops since, as they have rich foliage and abundant fruits every year. The lemons are delicious!!

Today, the 18th of January is a very wet and miserable day, much like the day we endured on or way up to Farewell Spit last week. The difference today has been that we are not forced to spend the day out in the elements and we can enjoy a rain free, warm and cosy day catching up with blogs, emails and watching films on our computer. In fact, it has been quite exciting to see the weather forecast on the news, we have been warned that 2 cyclones are passing our way and they may produce a great deal of rain and wind. Watch this space.

A few days ago Mel and I hired a car to head back to Nelson and collect our stuff which we had left at Tahuna beach campsite. It was nice to collect our bag and to go and collect our new cycle panniers from the post office which had been sent down by Bruce from 'Adventure Cycles' in Auckland. We didn’t linger in the town for very long as we wanted to travel round a bit before coming back to Takaka.

We visited a few beaches and drove on some nasty unsealed roads, the sort of stuff we wouldn’t have had the chance to do on the bikes. It was a nice day. Once we arrived back we decided to give our cycle trailer to Judith. She needs something for running into the town and back to so shopping etc and we no longer have any call for it with the new panniers. It is good to see it going to a good home and I’m relieved to not have it dragging me back down the steep hills of the south island.

Near the town of Takaka there are some Limestone rock formations, one of which is know as Labyrinth Rocks. On Sunday Mel and I went for a long cycle ride to explore them. A couple of days previously we had been shown another, similar area of rocks when Judith had taken us on a ‘Ticki-Tour’ in Pat’s car (‘Ticki-Tour is the name given to a trip visiting somewhere or something). That evening Judith had showed us some of her favourite areas of Golden Bay. Some limestone formations called ‘The Grove’ were the most memorable for me. For those of you who have seen or visited the Temples at Angkor, you will be familiar with the crumbling ruins which are slowly being enveloped by the buttresses of trees and the many thousands of years of weathering thereupon the ancient structures. The limestone boulders and cliffs of Golden Bay are similar in appearance, though not built by man, but by millions of years of natural weathering of the rocks. There are pathways through the rocks which are augmented with palm trees, vines and wild birds. Deep greens, set off brilliantly by the different shades of rock and the dim light which was somewhere above the canopy. At ‘The Grove’ we walked up to a stunning lookout, through the boulders and cliffs and towards the lowering sun which we could see at the end of a path. Up the steps we climbed until eventually we walked out and saw what seemed like all of Golden Bay, from the mountains to our left, stretching round passed fields painted golden and green by the evening sun and out into the Tasman Sea which stretched away to our right. We could feel the warmth of the evening sun, still strong despite it being past 8pm and we took the time to breath deeply on the softest of summer evening air and take a couple of photos to help preserve the memory.

 The ‘Labyrinth Rocks’ we visited on Sunday were different in that they were mostly on the same level and had been characterised by the inclusion of many different plastic action and fairytale figures, all of which had been placed strategically on the rocks near every turn. It truly was a Labyrinth, it took Mel and I a long time to find our way out again.

That Sunday we also cycled back to one of the Bays which Judith had shown us on our drive. It has been called ‘Cornwall Haven’. It was too windy to sit in the sun, so we took a couple more photos and went for coffee on an old fishing trawler in the port. It is a novelty to drink a coffee on a fishing trawler, and even more of a novelty to drink a coffee on trawler which was at one time owned by the famous Frenchman; Jacques Cousteau.

It was a nice way to top an interesting weekend which had also included a visit to ‘The A&P Show’; a 114 year old tradition in the mould of our agricultural shows at home. There we saw all sorts of old collectable steam driven engines, classic cars and farm machinery, as well as well as prize winning farm animals, food stalls and sheep shearing competitions. We stopped to watch one of the sheep shearing competitions, naturally won by a Scotsman by the name of Stewart who finished a good minute before the other two pretenders. There were also wood chopping competitions with the usual muscle bound, beer gut laden men, carrying their axes around, but when we watched it was in fact the ladies tournament. There was a really mature looking woman who must have been in her 70s or 80s and she was ripping this log apart with serious skill! Good old New Zealand women eh?!

Anyway, I better go as Mel and I are cooking dinner this evening, we are attempting a chickpea salad and some Thai style veg.

Takaka to Farwell Spit and Back 9th-11th January 2011

Farewell Spit turned out to be a very hard slog on the bikes. It was only around 40 odd km but as it turned out they were the most rainy and windy of any which we have cycled to date in NZ. Absolutely relentless head winds and blankets and blankets of rain which soaked everything we possessed almost to the core. We were so drenched by the time we arrived in the settlement of Pakawau that we had to book into a cabin for the night, just so that we could attempt to get everything dry. Mel left me outside the only café in the area, which doubled as the booking office for the campsite and went in to ask if we could have a room as opposed to a tent site for the night. Once everyone inside the place realised what we had just been through in order to get there, she received a round of applause for her efforts. She arrived back outside and told me what had happened and we had a little chuckle on the way to our lodgings about it. The cabin itself is more of a shed really, although it does have 2 bedrooms and a kitchen, but no toilet, we would have to brave the wind and the rain in order to pay those a visit. We did mange to get everything dry in the end though, I set up a makeshift drying room in one of the bedrooms, using a ball of string and the frames of the 3 bunk beds as a makeshift clothes, tent and pannier drying area. Our trainers didn’t dry over night mind you, they had been so wet that you could literally pour the water out of them after we had removed them from our shrivelled up feet.

When we left the cabin the next morning it was a much brighter day. We walked down onto the beach and took a few pictures of ‘Farewell Spit’ from the sea shore, we decided not to attempt to cycle any further along the road and instead to head back to Takaka.


We phoned ahead in order to secure a tent site at a place called the ‘Barefoot Backpackers’. 3 hours later; we pulled up there and got set up for the night. It didn’t rain a drop on the return journey and the sky was almost clear. It gave a very different impression to the landscape that we had endured the previous day. Some great views over Golden Bay, plenty of sheep and cows to chat to on the way, and some breathtaking mountains bathed in sunshine.

That evening we picked up some fresh veg to cook from an independent farm shop on the outskirts of town, so much better than buying from a supermarket. 1 big bulb of garlic, spring onions, red cabbage, broccoli and a green pepper for $7 – that’s pretty good for NZ! During the evening Mel sat in the tent and wrote some emails while I played pool on the free pool table and watched ‘Cable Guy’ with couple of Dutch girls who were also staying at the hostel. I woke up early in order to listen to the F.A. Cup 3rd round match between Norwich City and Leyton Orient. I needn’t have bothered though as we lost 1-0, such is life.

We both needed haircuts when we arrived back in Takaka, we booked into a small hairdressers not far from where we were staying on the Saturday morning, a 10am appointment. Mel had been really looking forward to getting her hair seen to as we had not had the opportunity since before the wedding back in September. In booking the hair appointment we set the wheels in motion for one of the best weeks of the trip so far…

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Nelson - Farewell Spit, 3rd - 9th January 2011

Having been forced into staying at Tahuna Beach Holiday Park for an extra night, Mel and I were relieved to finally be on our way again on the 3rd of January. We had, in part, only stayed at the beach for that length of time because we had  been warned against not having anywhere booked for Christmas and the new year. As it turned out, as it almost always seems to turn out, the advice was wrong and there would have been accommodation had we have looked for it. That’s a point I would like to make as it is constantly being reinforced everywhere we go in the world.
“Oh, you don’t want to go there, it’ll be full of gangs, you won’t get a good welcome.”
“You better not go to Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge will kill you.”
Ipswich is a nice place, you should visit some time.”
“Oh, Nelson is a no go zone if you haven’t booked for Christmas.”
“You’ll find your journey tough today, the hills here are the worst in the world.”
All advice, all rubbish, so if your planning a journey any time soon, my advice is not to listen to anyone’s advice and make your own mind up as you go.

The Tahuna Beach Holiday was great if you are Kiwi family looking for a Kiwi holiday with lots and lots and lots of other Kiwi’s. It wasn’t for us. So, as I said, it was great to be heading off to another, less frequented area of the island.
We were cycling in pretty intense heat as we headed towards Motueka and Mel was struggling somewhat as we had to climb up some testing hills due to the conditions. By the time we reached a campsite, we were both very dehydrated, with sore bums and tired heads from having to concentrate so hard through the dust of the journey that we were really delighted to be able to jump into a nice cool swimming pool before we even thought about putting up the tent. Not only was the Motueka motel and campsite much smaller than Tahuna Beach, it had better facilities, including free internet and it was $6 cheaper a night to stay there.
We ended up staying for one night. Mel found a really good book for me in the book swap, ‘Shakespeare’, by Ivor Brown. Printed in the 1950s and hard backed, it makes an interesting read and I’m enjoying it immensely.
We decided to by-pass the seasonal work (fruit picking) office which is in the town on our way out to Takaka as we will be going back through the town on our way back to Nelson and we can enquire as to the possibility of getting work then, rather than worrying about it before we have seen Farewell Spit.
We are currently staying at a place, just on the outskirts of Takaka, a character Tavern and Backpackers called the ‘River Inn’. It wasn’t easy cycling here mind you, we had to cycle up to the highest point we have ever had to climb so far; 791 meters above sea level to be precise. It took us 2 hours of cycling, all be it with a few breaks. The 11 km down-hill on the other side was worth the job though. Sadly our cycle computer has given up the ghost, so it is impossible to say exactly how far we have travelled to date, but it is roughly 2,500 kms.
Takaka is a nice little town, with all sorts of hippy type shops and cafes. We had lunch in an organic place today, lovely food and no animals harmed in the process of making it! Afterwards we cycled to Pohuna Bay and went for a walk on the beach, before heading back through the town to collect some provisions for dinner and back to the Inn to eat, shower off the grime of the humid day and get our rest up for tomorrows cycle up to Farewell Spit itself.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

2010 memories

After such an amazing year it seems like a good idea to list some of the great achievements that both Mel and I have aspired to and realised. We started the year with lots of dreams, here is a list of all our memorable moments - 52 of them, 1 a week for the whole year! :
Wedding Day 1st September

Steve Irwin's Zoo
  1. Getting Married in Brisbane Botanic Gardens
  2. Celebrating our marriage with all of our nearest in my home county of Norfolk
  3. Getting over my fear of flying thanks to my work with Juice DBT
  4. Learned how to brew my own ale
  5. Going to Glastonbury’s 40th birthday party
  6. Directing ‘Blood Brothers’ with the brilliant Foundation group of 2010 at Sage
  7. Going to a traditional Scottish wedding in Perth (Mandy and Ally)
  8. Cycling round the entire north island of New Zealand
  9. Cuddling ‘Crumpet’ the Koala in Brisbane
  10. Going to Steve Irwin’s Zoo 
  11. Enjoying a drink with my best mate Tim Garland on my wedding day
  12. Having the guts to follow our dreams
  13. Watching Mel fly in a Tiger Moth by-plane over Surfers Paradise
  14. Climbing to the top of Mount Warning to see the sunrise
  15. Taking the 7 km cable car over Hong Kong
  16. Making new friends in New Zealand and seeing Savannah again in Australia
  17. Watching Norwich City win the League 1 title
  18. Hiking over the Tongariro Crossing
  19. Couchsurfing, WWOOFing and Warmshowering with inspirational people
  20. Staying with bee keepers and learning a little about the craft
  21. Staying on a deer farm and learning a little about velvet
  22. Mel learned to knit brilliant things for her husband
  23. Hand fed kangaroos and wallabies
  24. Kept up with this blog
  25. Saw dolphins up close and personal
  26. Learned lots of new ways to cook with lovely organic produce
  27. Leaned how to build a chicken mansion
  28. Appearing naked on stage in ‘Skitzy’ at the People’s Theatre
  29. Receiving the award and gifts for being officially the most inspirational teacher at Sage
  30. Learning how to use a chain-saw
  31. Seeing a geyser and other thermal attractions at Rotorua
  32. Meeting a long lost relative in New Zealand
  33. Being made a chief and doing a formal greeting at a Maori Marai in Rotorua
  34. Cooking food in a ‘Hangi’ (using the natural thermal heat of the earth)
  35. Staying on a farm which is also the home of some Kuni-Kuni pigs
  36. Doing a charity fun-run in Kahoe with Mel finishing 2nd in the women’s section
  37. Visiting ‘Tanemahuta’, the oldest living Kauri tree in New Zealand
  38. Touring the parliament buildings in Wellington, New Zealand
  39. Learned some Dutch in order to be able to communicate with Millhouse when we meet again
  40. Qualifying as a teacher
  41. Celebrating Christmas in the sun in Nelson, New Zealand
  42. Hiking over one of the worlds youngest volcanoes, Rangitoto island, New Zealand (600 years old)
  43. Driving the ‘Forgotten Highway’, possibly the greatest road to drive in the world
  44. Seeing sunset and sunrise at Byron Bay, New South Wales
  45. Having my family see me playing the leading man in ‘Calamity Jane’ on the national tour
  46. Staying on the largest campsite in the southern hemisphere
  47. Watching  humpback whales migrating north at Byron Bay in Australia
  48. Tim-Tam slamming on a regular basis
  49. Night Kayaking through the Bay of Islands, New Zealand
  50. Celebrating Sinter Klaas with our new Dutch friend, Viola in Gisborne, New Zealand
  51. Teaching my family how to Skype
  52. Staying happily married and still on honeymoon after four months – and counting!
Hogmanay Kiwi Style! Happy New Year for 2011