Well, it’s a good thing our van made it up the hill because we ended up in a beautiful spot! We found ourselves on top of the hills bordering Abel Tasman National Park, with amazing views of the Kahurangi mountains, keas flying over, wekas scuttling past and dozens of robins and bees happily flying around us.
Definitely worth driving up the steep, gravel road, even though we instantly swore not to drive the van down again until we were leaving. We had arrived at Richard’s place, a great guy with a million ideas and (unfinished) plans for this slice of paradise, and we were to help with his project of installing a micro hydro power system. So for the next two weeks, our routine consisted of waking up in a beautiful spot, having breakfast with two other WWOOFers from France, walking or driving the 4WD down a steep bush track to arrive at the river, where we would either make concrete to build a dam, bush- and streambash to arrange pipes and ropes, build a wooden flowbox or watch Richard using his digger in very perilous terrain, hoping we weren’t about to watch him hurt himself…
After four hours of work, we would scramble back up the hill to have lunch, after which we could choose to join Richard and head to town for a few hours, or stick around the house. With a composting toilet which was only for number twos, a cold outdoor shower and no power or wifi, it wasn’t the most fancy place to stay, but we didn’t mind at all as the views, the sunsets and the amazing dinners more than made up for it! When the weekend came around, we got two days off, which we spent hiking in Abel Tasman park and climbing and kayaking with friends who happened to stay nearby.
After another week of hydro system jobs in the bush, we decided it was time to change things up and drove the van back down the hill again. We spent a few days between the two free camp spots in Takaka, while meeting new climbing buddies and climbing as much as possible at Paynes Ford and working our ass off to get EcoWest Festival 2019 up and running (guess who did what..). But it didn’t take long before we decided that this WWOOFing thing had its perks, for example not having to camp in a gravel pit with 80 other people, or being parked up in a carpark with a 7am leaving time, and things like hot showers and laundry and unlimited internet to get some work done.
With what we learned from our previous WWOOFing experiences in mind, we managed to strike a pretty good deal with our next hosts: 2,5 hours of work per day in exchange for accommodation, lunch and being able to help ourselves to fruit and vegetables from the garden. Perfect, as this gave us a temporary home (a very cute mudbrick studio with kitchenette and bathroom), saved us some money for groceries but also left us with plenty of time left to do other stuff apart from the WWOOFing work.
The work consisted mainly of picking up hazelnuts, planting and maintenance in the veggie garden, pruning and thinning in the orchard and all sorts of little jobs that come with having your own lifestyle block, pretty cool to see and learn what’s involved with this kind of lifestyle. We mostly worked in the morning, with a morning tea break in between. Then after lunch I would either do some work for my remote job, or we would go climbing or cycling or hiking (as we weren’t stuck on a hill this time and could actually drive our van as well as cycle into town).
In the two weeks we’ve been here, we even managed quite a few missions beyond Takaka. I’ve been hiking in the Cobb Valley with someone from the local tramping club, a great trip up to Fenella Hut, with a big loop up on the mountain tops from there, such amazing scenery! Thomas has been out to Fyfe Gorge to go climbing as well as do some bolting and setting new routes, a new experience for him and a very cool adventure with the bushbash in and sleeping under a overhanging rock.
And this last weekend we actually managed to head out on an adventure together for a change! We rode our bikes to Mangarakau Wetlands on the West coast, a 140 km round trip from Takaka. We spent a night in the cutest lodge ever, which was fully equipped so we didn’t have to take much stuff on the bike. And who needs fancy cycle touring bags when you can just strap your sleeping bag to your bike? With a few coffee stops and treats along the way, it made for a really nice ride which we both very much enjoyed.
And that’s pretty much how sweet life is in Takaka at the moment: plenty to do, climbing buddies galore, stunning weather and heaps to explore! Thomas will be staying with our new favourite WWOOFing hosts for a bit longer as he’s actually doing some paid work there now, while I will head over to Nelson for a few days to hang out with friends, volunteer at a craft beer festival and prepare for another long hike. Life’s good!