Wednesday, February 21, 2007

autumn farm

Well. firstly, sorry, no photos. The computer i am using isn't speaking to my camera and no amount of coaxing by me or the staff here can get them speak with each other. So just a load of words again for you all.

Autumn Farm has been running as a resort for gay men for over 27years and it was wonderful. I stayed for 10 days, helpx'ing, mainly working in the vegetable gardens, though i did make jam and help with meals and other chores on occasions. A 14 or so acre site with gardens, orchards, forest, a stream, a small farm and great acommodation in dormitories, little cabins and huts scattered through the grounds.

The afternoons were free and someone with a car usually ferried people off to the beach or out for short treks in the surrounding countryside.

Had the opportunity to walk through some of the famous Able Tasman National Park, through bush and along beautiful golden beaches, wading across estuaries at low tide and past huge summer campsites that are now mostly empty as the kids are now back at school. Absolutely stunning - thanks Gin for the recommendation.

Many of the guests return year after year, which gives the farm the feeling of a huge extended family. Met some wonderful people and shared some great times and left feeling more relaxed and chilled than i have done in a long time.

The bus wouldn't have picked me up until mid afternoon, so i hitch hiked again. All the way to Greymouth, which is well over 350km, cutting across the top corner of the country, turning southwards at the coast, past the Pancake rocks all piled up like they are ready to eat and down along the west coast along a little flat bit of land squeezed between the Tasman Sea and the huge towering mountains with their heads almost permanently in the clouds. Greymouth is self descriptive, even on a warm summers evening so i didn't stay long. Caught another lift this morning and am now installed at Frans Joseph and ready to climb a glacier tomorrow. It rains over 7metres a year here, so i'm probably going to get wet!!! That's a huge amount of rain, no wonder the coastline is so lush.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

no more smell

Been busy again, and little chance for internet stuff, so a bit of a catch up again. Have filled a whole memory card with pictures and am on the next one now, but unfortunately have not got it on me to download the amazing sights of geothermal activity at Rotorua. Will try and add some later.

What an amazing place. Huge bubbling ponds of mud, geysers, pools of the most amazing coloured water, steaming in the hot sunshine, some smellier than others with amazing deposits of all sorts of compounds round their edges. Bright yellow sulphur, oranges and greens, blacks and browns, white silica will have to show you the photos.

Great hostel with really great guests, we all shared our experiences and prepared ourselves for the next few days. I headed off to do white water rafting down a river that i had walked along a week or so ago. The tallest fall was 7 metres through a narrow opening in great high rocks, down into a turmultuous pool of thundering splashing water. The raft completely submerged for a few moments before bobbing back to the surface. Our guide instructed us to paddle forwards and backwards, steering us downstream through towering cliffs and a rainforest of lush vegetation for over an hour, before emerging in a large calm lagoon just next to the carpark where we caught the minibus back to base.

Hitched a ride with two fun girls from the backpackers on to Napier, the art deco capital of the country. The whole town was rebuilt in the style after a huge earthquake and fire in 1932. We phoned ahead and booked into a backpackers that was in the decomissioned prison of the town.

en route we stopped off in Taupo for a while, a wonderful sunny afternoon with a few white fluffy clouds floating about the sky. Not long after arriving we were high up in the sky in a birght yellow plane with huge black teeth painted on the front, minutes later hurtling towards the ground faster than imaginable with the most amazing view of the huge lake, farmland, town and mountains in the distance. The airstrip became larger and the sides of the lake disappeared our into the distance before Mike, my guide pulled the rip cord and we abruptly slowed, swung into a sitting position and floated calmly back to the landing site safely on the ground. Skydivig is an incredible experience, not quite as scary as bungy, but lasting a lot longer. It still feels quite amazing to have spent 45seconds hurtling downwards out of a plane and still be fine. Will be doing that one again sometime.

The prison was great, didnt sleep in a real cell, though some were available. The communal showers, washhouse and toilets were the originals, as was the site where the executions happened and where prisoners were punished in stocks until the early 60's.

Spend the day with Annie and Gladie taking in the sights of art deco Napier. We took turns reading the guide book and pointing out the architecture, stopping occasionally for food and icecreams and to take excessive numbers of pictures that will no doubt bore folk stupid back home. The sea was too rough to swim, but the local pool was only $6, including loungers, spa and piped music so we had chance to relax for a while. The museum and aquarium were also excellent, but i've written enough on that.

Recently arrived at Autumn Farm, back on the south island, for a week of helpx and a bit of fun in this wonderful, peaceful gay retreat. Its on the edge of Golden Bay, close to the west borders of the famous Able Tasman Park. Plenty of opportunity for beaches, trecking and no doubt more gardening. The weather is cold and damp,you will be pleased to hear..

Sunday, February 04, 2007

kiwi fruit country

Another helpx host, for just a quick visit. Irene and Roger have just moved and needed help sorting out what they want to do with their new garden. Easy!! Have done some fairly drastic pruning, redrawn their out of date garden plans and given them all the advice i can for the future and they are so pleased. They also own a small kiwi orchard which was great to look round and learn what i could.

In exchange got to borrow the car for a couple of days and had a good look round the area, including the great long beach of Papamoa, hundreds of hectares of kiwi and avocado fields, the local towns and even a couple of garden centres. Got to chill on the beach for an afternoon, climb another couple of smaller mountains and get incredibly lost on the unmarked roads out in the country. It all came right in the end with unexpected fiews of the sunset and a moonlight swim before getting home before it was completely dark.

Am now in Rotorua for a couple of days to see what the thermal thing is all about and it stinks of rotten eggs all the time and everywhere. MMMmmmm. According to the guide books, the water is very good for the skin. Hopefully the aroma wears off pretty quick.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Coromandel calm

escaped the hustle and bustle of the great city on a 2 hour catamaran ferry across to the Coromandel peninsula and found the best backpacker hostel so far to stay at. Modern and new wooden cabins surrounded by tropical gardens, with complimentary bbq, swimming pool and spa, all of which got well used.

Teamed up with Marlen, a german girl and went on a twilight fishing trip the night we arrived. Four hours on a mussel barge out in the bay to catch our tea. There were about 20 on the trip, and a great maori family provided us with excellent advice and shared their bait. We managed 4 snapper, enough for two evening meals, whilst the family quickly filled a large crate with all manner of fishes, including a metre long shark, which, aparently is good to eat so long as it is bled!!

Hired a car the following day and headed off to the Hot Water beach, where warm springs percolate up through the sands at low tide. It was about 50 miles away through stunning scenery and steep winding roads over summits with panoramic viewpoints for photos and deep into gorges clothed in huge tree ferns and tumbling streams. The beach was swarming with people with spades, franticaly digging holes to sit in warm water before the tide came in. We were suitably amused by the scene and tried the warm waters with our feet before moving on.

Stopped at a secluded beach for lunch and a swim, in water that was warm enough to get straight into and chilled in the sunshine for a good long while.

Cathederal cove was further down the coast so we headed there. A good 30 minute trek from the carpark along the coast before decending 168 steps, a little girl had just finished counting them as we got to the top, down onto golden sands, with green topped islands just off shore. It's called Cathederal cove because of the huge arch under the cliffs that links two bays, a very impressive cool space with beaches in warm sunshine on either side. Getting back up to the car was a killer.

As our good deed for the day we gave a lift to a hitchhiker, who turned out to be a very smelly and rather drunk chap who was camping in the middle of nowhere for no aparent reason. We dropped him off so as we could get some fresh air and decided he was probably hiding from the authorities for some reason. Went home and barbecued the remaining snapper for our tea, with tomato and avocado salad and a couple of beers.