Third Time IS a Charm!

25 Dec

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I pulled up into the driveway of a sleepy little mud-brick cottage. I was greeted by a dog named Deb. I knew that because that’s what it said on the doghouse. I noticed that there was a note on the door. It read:
Kimberly,
Welcome! I have been called away for a couple of hours. Just make yourself at home, have a cup of Tea! I WILL be home by 4.
Ps. Lots of books to read
In the front lawn there were chooks wandering about. I looked a bit further and noticed a wee cage toward the side of the yard. There was a hen and seven newborn chicks! I was overwhelmed with love. The cottage was absolutely adorable. Every moment was full of loving energy. It was quite opposite of my Tuatapere experience.
I opened the front door to the cottage and had a look around. It appeared as if it were something from the 1800s. I felt as if I were Snow White waiting for the dwarves to come home! I made myself a cuppa and had a seat in the front room. There were heaps of cobwebs in the corners of every window sill, which added character. I found a book about native trees in New Zealand and started to read. It was about 15:30, so I had about a half hour until I would know what anything was. I began to dose off. I knew in that moment that this was going to be a good thing. I was quite comfortable here.

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It was Thursday or Friday evening the week before when I had received an email. I was in Dunedin at the time, recovering from strep throat. It was from a man named Bob. He had responded to my post on the wwoof hot list. In my post I had mentioned that I would like to come to Central Otago. If you go on to read my profile, I mention several things, one of them being that I like to enjoy a beer at the end of a long day or a glass of wine. I mentioned that I also enjoy making beer. The only reason I found it important to mention that is because of my Cambridge experience. If ever I had a beer or more, (of my own beer that I purchased), Al would make a negative comment. I figured I ought to add a bit of something so that I can avoid those annoyances. To Bob, this was like a lighthouse!
The email said that he read my profile, and that there is never a shortage of home brew! That was music to my ears. I asked how many hours work he would like (so that I can avoid slave drivers), and he assured that wwoofers are never over-worked at his place. I could sense a bit of his personality in the email, and decided I should give it a try. I set out to Central Otago with a heart full of love and optimism. The drive was incredible. It was different than any other place I had ever seen. It was very dry and mountainous, and absolutely beautiful. The town was near Oturehua. It was more of a settlement. Cambrian. It was populated by about 8 people, most of which only owned holiday homes.

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Bob walked in the door at about half past four, holding daffodils and full of smiles. He was average height, perhaps shorter, full of white hair and a long white beard, and pigeon-toed. He was absolutely adorable. He greeted me with the biggest hug I had ever received and handed me the flowers. He apologized for being late and invited me to join him over tea. That was a lovely first impression, and really allowed me to see his genuine personality. Over tea I could tell this man was quite down to Earth, and thank goodness for that! I was able to tell him about my previous experiences, and we laughed together. After many more laughs, he showed me to my cottage. It was quite nice, and rested near a mountain stream with Mount St. Bathans and the Dunston Range in perfect view.
After setting up my nest, we sat down and enjoyed a home brewed beer…or two…or three. We connected quite well as far as humor and even seriousness goes. In addition, we shared many similar philosophies. We chatted until the sun set (which was about 23:00!) and then I headed off to bed. The nights were the darkest I had ever seen. I slept like a baby.

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The next day we headed to town to fetch some groceries and hit up the local pool for a swim, but mostly for a proper shower. Bob didn’t have a real shower at his place. He had an old rusty tub for washing up, but one would most likely be better off having a dip in the stream from the mountain spring! We sat down for lunch near the most beautifully blue-green colored river I have ever seen in my life. I didn’t know that rivers could be that color! I guess it is because of some sort of mineral in the water, but I am not positive about that. Alexandra was a cute “deserty” type town, founded on gold mining. It is the hottest place in the South Island as well.
We headed back to Cambrian and made some homemade beer, and drank some of the older brews. Over conversation, Bob deducted that he wanted to introduce something new every day. I had mentioned a few things that I really wanted to do in New Zealand while I am here, and he took note. I love sheep, and really really really want to bottle feed a lamb, but lamb season is almost over and my time was running out. I also want to kill and butcher something, so that I can have the proper respect and understanding for the animals that I eat. Also, I should simply know how to kill and skin an animal for survival and sustainable purposes. It wasn’t something I was keen on doing, but I knew that I had to and should.

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The next day was full of baking, beer brewing, elderflower soft drink making, weeding, planting, baby duckling hand-feeding, newborn chicken loving, and homebrew drinking! It was lovely! Bob always made it a point to take me on long walks around his property. I decided to hop on the bike and take a mini gander on my own. I love Bob, but I also love me, and need to spend ample time with myself. I ended up by this nature preserve with a little trail up a mountain. It was over a fence that was locked, so I simply climbed it so that I could have a proper adventure. I hiked up the mountain to discover the most amazing view on the other side. It was the Lauder Basin Conservation Area. It was full of mountains and a beautiful spring. I had to walk down and get in it. I sat for a while to integrate everything around me. There were heaps of hawks soaring in the air. The mountain range was breathtaking. After a fair amount of time, I headed back to feed the ducks and have some dinner (or as the New Zealanders call it, tea).

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The next day a group of school children came to check out Bob’s forest. Formerly he was a teacher, and on this day it truly came out of him. It was brilliant! The children were about ten years of age, and quite keen. Even I learned a thing or two from Bob. What I really grasped was the concept of how abundant and generous Mother Nature truly is. There are some trees that you can break a branch from and plant it, and it will root itself and grow into a tree! This leaves no excuse for the laziness of human beings.

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Another project that opened my eyes was taking junk to the dumpsite. This really disgusted me. In most places, you throw your trash and junk out and the garbage man or junk pickers come and make it “disappear”. Where does it go? And why is all that stuff on the curb? Why must man collect so much rubbish, use so much, and waste so much. We are running out of space. Where does it go?
We arrived at “The Dump”. It was a crack duck into a hill that overlooked beautiful mountains. It was a ditch that a human dug to throw rubbish in, in the most beautiful place on Earth. I wanted to vomit. That’s where the garbage goes. In most places there are landfills, so people do not have the awareness. This experience brought it to a sick reality. We, human beings, are destroying this amazing planet. I threw the trash as hard as I could, which counterintuitively released my pent up rage. I was silent the entire drive back.
Saturday came around eventually, and Bob had some surprises lined up for me. Some “firsts”. After a bit of weeding, he turned to me and said that we are switching gears. He walked into the shed and when he came out I gasped. I was not ready for this at all! He had two dead rabbits, one in each hand. He casually handed me one and said, “Here’s yours. You’re going to skin it and gut it. Watch me carefully.” I had a million thoughts. None of which wanted to do this, but my overwhelming sense of needing to do this took over. I painfully watched him skin the rabbit. It was absolutely horrifying. I struggled with this morally. Luckily when he was done the neighbor showed up. This bought me some time to feel it out. Could I do this? Couldn’t I just watch him and remember? The answer was no. I couldn’t kid myself. I needed to do this. It became clearer and clearer. My morality shifted. I owed it to all of the animals that I have eaten to do this.
The neighbor left, and we went back to the chopping block in the back yard. I had a dagger and a tomahawk, and my bare hands. I am usually more proper when it comes to being sanitary, but I had to do this with my bare hands. I won’t have gloves and sanitizer in the wilderness. I have to be grounded and as close to this animal as possible. I have to get blood on my hands. I have to smell the awful smells. As I peeled the skin from the rabbit’s body, I wanted to vomit. It was good for me though. I needed this awareness. I did well though, according to Bob. I gutted it and butchered it, then froze the meat for the dog. Luckily rabbits are an invasive species here. There are no native mammals in NZ, so unfortunately killing rabbits saves the Earth. The cycle goes: rabbits eat the native bush, native birds leave because the native bush in which they feed is gone, native animals die off, native bush dies off, and once again human beings destroyed the Earth because some idiot thought it’d be a good idea to bring over a fluffy bunny 200 years ago….anyhow…

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My surprises went from one extreme to the next. Bob had a friend who had some lambs that were still on the bottle! We headed down to the farm where we were greeted by a strong woman and her three children. With just one look at this woman I could tell she was a hard working woman. She was kind but firm. Her children listened to her perfectly. She and her 9 year old daughter walked with me down to where we would be lambing. When we arrived, two fluffy lambs were happily waiting. They ran right up to me when they saw that I had a bottle. I was totally fulfilled of my lambing fix. I LOVE sheep. There were some other animals that greeted us along the way back to the house, some alpacas, cows, goats, pigs, horses, etc.
When we got back to the house, the woman took Bob and I inside to taste some pear moonshine, then made us a cup of tea and some cake. Everyone in NZ is so hospitable! Every single place that Bob and I went to, they invited us in for tea and snacks. I will forever do this with people now!

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There was a new pub in Lauder, purchased by one of Bob’s local friends. We thanked the woman for the lambing/cake/tea/hospitality/etc. and headed to the pub. Again with the Kiwi hospitality, Bob’s friend (the owner) gave us our first round. Bob wouldn’t let me pay for the second either. After pear moonshine and two beers, we decided that would be enough for the day.
On my last day, I packed up my car. There was a German scientist coming that night, and she needed my cottage because she also had an assistant with her. I had never put up or slept in a tent before, so Bob decided to let me stay another night, but I would have to camp in the yard. I was actually quite excited to be honest. Earlier in the week I had assumed I would just go camp in Alexandra since I had a day in between hosts. My next stop would finally be the lady in Palmerston. I could only stay there five days though, because I had plans to head to Wanaka on the 15th. I would like to stay in Central Otago for a few months, and hopefully find work. Then I plan to head to Nelson/Marlborough for a wee while.
Bob met me in the backyard, and we assembled my tent together-another first for me. He showed me little tips and tricks to optimally put together my tent. After he showed me how to do it, he took it down and timed me putting it back up. This was great for two reasons; one, because I work better under pressure (not that it was real pressure-but my competitive nature makes it real), and two, because I learn from doing. After 6:37 my tent was sturdily and properly assembled. I was quite proud of myself.

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Bob and I rewarded ourselves with some home brew. I had also purchased a bottle of wine on a random day in Alexandra. (I needed a shower badly so I made a day out of it. 50km’s into town for a shower! I will NEVER take plumbing for granted!) It was Kim Crawford pinot noir. We had a lovely dinner, too many beers, and the entire bottle of wine. I would say we were quite tipsy. When the German scientist, Kata, showed up, she too had a bit of wine to share. I was quite keen to speak some German as well. There are so many Germans here in New Zealand, so I get to practice my German often.
When things stopped making sense I headed off to my tent. The sun doesn’t set until 23:00 in Cambrian, so it had to have been late because it was dark out. The darkest night skies I have ever seen were in Cambrian.
3:00am. I was wide awake. It had nothing to do with discomfort other than my need to pee. I just felt like I needed to be awake, and that I needed to be outside. I trusted that. I unzipped my tent, and then I froze. I have never seen anything like it in all of my life. The stars were blinding. There were shooting stars, nebulas, galaxies, planets, etc. I was able to see everything so clearly. I had no idea one could see outer space so clearly. I didn’t need a telescope, I just needed to exist. It was so beautiful it was eerie. I was full of chills and not from the temperature. My mind was blown. Thank goodness for this moment. Thank goodness I woke up to see this on my last night in Cambrian. I was totally blown away. After a sufficient amount of integration, I headed back into my tent, full of smiles. An hour had passed, and what a perfect hour it was. It seemed like a breath it passed so quickly.
4:30am. Apparently this is when the sun begins to awaken. I knew this not because of the light in my tent, but because of the rooster that may as well have been roosting on my face crowing in my eardrum. I hadn’t thought of the chookhouse when I pitched my tent. It was about three meters away. If I owned a gun we would have had chicken for dinner. It was incessant and never ending. My hangover began so set it. I think I may have dozed off for another hour, in between the rooster’s alarm clock.

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At 8:30 I crept out of my steamy tent, and headed inside, still a bit delirious from the drinking and lack of sleep. Bob looked terrible. I had to laugh, because I do this as well when I am disoriented from drinking the night before. He was attempting to prepare breakfast, but was actually walking around in circles not really doing anything, occasionally carrying things like the butter around, then setting it back where he picked it up. I love it. It was adorable.
He informed me that he became a bit ill from all the booze last night, and that I am trouble. That is unfortunately not the first time (nor will it be the last) that I have heard that. We struggled through breakfast, then I packed my car.
Bob’s sun is quite artistic, and has painted the most amazing picture of Cambrian. His son is named after Cambrian as well. Bob was selling prints of the painting and using the money to buy trees for his forest project. I don’t have much money, and my breathing room is becoming tighter and tighter…but I am an absolute sucker for things like that. The suggested price was $60 per print, since it is a donation. I had to buy one. I had exactly $60. How perfect?!
I purchased my print, and said the first difficult goodbye. I really enjoyed my stay with Bob. I learned more than I have ever learned by living back to the basics (no electricity, cooking on coal stoves/ovens/no toilet/shower/internet/reception), and all of the amazing things that Bob taught me. This was the experience that I absolutely needed, and the universe knew this. Bob was an angel. There was love, and some points a bit of tough love, and it was beautiful. I set off to Palmerston. Palmerston is an hour north from Dunedin, so I was heading back to the East Coast, and knew I would be heading back in the same direction on Saturday. I trusted that I would know why when I got to where I was going. I am learning to trust the universe more fully, and trust the process of life. Besides, it’s easier when one does. Worry is but a wasted emotion.
I glanced at my phone. I noticed it was exactly two months that I have been in New Zealand. I spent the beautiful drive reflecting on the beautiful experiences I have had.
After some twists and turns in, up, and around the mountains, I pulled up to the gate. “Switchback Farm. Certified Organic” is what the sign read. I opened the gate. In this moment magic was happening in the universe and being radiated into my soul. In that moment when I opened the gate, I had no idea what I was about to experience. I had no idea the knowledge and wisdom that I would obtain here. I just knew that I was meeting a woman named Cath. I closed the gate.

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