I've been in this part of New Zealand since Tuesday (Monday, for U.S. time). So that puts me at three or so days that I've been WWOOFing! This is where I am– where the red pin is:
At this current moment, I'm at the New Plymouth public library, making use of their free wi-fi. Woohoo! New Plymouth is in the Taranaki region of New Zealand, which is the southwest coast of the North Island. It's the center of oil and gas production in the country, so not the prettiest city, but there's a beautiful view of Mt. Taranaki, an old (but still active– the last eruption was 250 years ago) volcano. It's famous because it was used as a stand-in for Mt. Fuji in The Last Samurai. It's really breathtaking. You can see it way in the distance in this shot. It's snow covered most of the year.
Bridge over a stream on the Coastal Walkway from Bell Block to New Plymouth, which I rode by bike today.
I've been WWOOFing in a tiny town about 15 minutes north of New Plymouth. The host family asked that I not blog about them for the sake of their privacy, so I'm not going to talk about the family and their life. Instead, I'll just talk about what I've been doing and general statements about where I'm staying.
Getting here was a 6 hour bus ride from Auckland. It was a beautiful ride through the part of New Zealand that was used for Hobbiton and the Shire – the Waikato region. Beautiful rolling green hillls, stunning scenery wherever you turn. I tried to take some photos while on the bus but they just didn't turn out. You can google “Waikato” and see the landscape. Here's a pic I took that I doctored a bit with Instagram, but it gives you somewhat of an idea of the region:
I got in Tuesday night and then started right away the next day. Because it's spring, it's the time for weeding and preparing gardens for planting. So the last two days, I just weeded. How WWOOFing generally seems to work is that you “work” for 4-6 hours, as arranged with your host. And in this case, I was given the choice of 4 hours each day or 6 hours for two days and then a day off, and on for the week. So I chose to do more work on the two days so I could get a day off. Also, our farm is not close to anything, so if I just did 4 hours, I'd have a whole day of not much to do.
The family is completely off the grid– using solar and wind power for all their electricity and power. They built all those systems. The house was here when they bought the place, but they've added all the sustainable living components– garden (which supplies most of what they eat except for grains, cheese… and some other things); grazing land for chickens (which provide eggs), sheep (which provide meat), goats (which provide milk), cows (which provide meat), and the random goose here and there; a wind turbine; and trees for burning wood. They eat 95% organic and really are living a sustainable (or durable) lifestyle.
I'm learning a ton from the couple (they have two school-aged kids) about how to live a sustainable life. They really uphold the principles of getting off the industrial systems of food, energy, etc. This is a great place to start my WWOOFing experience.
The food is also delicious. Even though it's not real harvest yet (we're just coming off of the winter), we've been eating great meals– meat from their livestock, potatoes, pumpkins, porridge. As they say, it's a real “peasant diet”– simple, hearty, and tasty. They're both great cooks and bakers. And they're really living life as I would like– with critiques of the current system and an attempt to live simply and protect, value, and live in harmony with the earth and environment.
The weeding has been kind of fun in a weird way. Weeding is addictive for me, especially as the neat freak that I am. Once I start, I want to go till I finish a row or an area. I love the feeling of satisfaction you get when you weed an area and see how clean and open it is. My fingers are a bit sensitive, but the hosts said that weeding with gloves makes it hard to really feel where you're working, which I totally get. So I've been getting lots of dirt under my fingernails. I feel like a real farmer. 🙂 Haha.
I'll be here until Tuesday of next week (just a week stay here) and then off to another farm, actually in the same region. It wasn't the best planning on my part, but it's got an interesting description, so I wanted to check that place out. From there, I'll keep moving south.
So I'm having a nice afternoon. I got to this town by bike. My host dropped me off about 9km (5.4 miles, I think) at a Coastal Walkway entry, and I borrowed their bike to come out here. Breathtaking views of the Tasman Sea.
The bridge above is on the walkway that I rode. It's been about 50 plus degrees here. Sunny, sometimes cloudy. A bit chilly at night. There's no heat in the house– that's just how New Zealand homes are built, apparently. And I'm sleeping in a part of the garage that they made into a room with a bathroom. Nice private facilities. So I have a really thick down comforter and a hot water bottle. Very cute– it's for their WWOOFers, especially. I'll have to post a photo of that.
So very much enjoying my first week here. Can't believe it's not even been a full week. Feels like I've been here for a long time already! If all my WWOOFing experiences are like this, I'll be a happy camper.