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Travel and Inspirational Blogs

Musings About WWOOFing and New Zealand so far

For me, the process of traveling is as much as learning about my environs as it is learning about myself. It has been five weeks since I’ve left the U.S. and I’ve travelled to Fiji, spent time farming in North Island, visited the Shire, and now find myself at an idyllic place in Marlborough, South Island. WWOOFing at this second farm has been an even better experience than the first. WWOOFing can be tricky, and I cannot express the importance of establishing expectations with your host ahead of time. I feel I failed at that a little bit at the first farm. WWOOFing is a delicate balance between serving your host (which you are there to do) and getting the right amounts of time off to see the local sights. Working with animals as my sole focus on the first farm required morning and evening work, effectively anchoring myself to a very small radius. I also did not have a car at the time and it made really impossible to see anything.

At this second farm there is much better of a personality fit between me and the host family, and much more structure and definition in the expectations of the work. I am not wondering how to fill my obligated five hours of work a day as I was on the last farm. I have a to-do list and I am empowered to keep myself busy on pretty much my own schedule. I wake up at 0645, take care of the pony, the horse and the donkey by 0730 and do various odd jobs required that day. Usually by 1130, I’ve had my four hours in and I eat lunch, write and nap and in the late afternoon spend another hour finishing up any projects so I get my five hours in and I have weekends off. I love the odd jobs I’ve been able to do here, from staining wood (the host is a taxidermist), to cleaning tack, weeding, laundry, child care, garden work to digging trenches and fixing up the animal water troughs. My hosts are really friendly and I feel my work is appreciated.

Weed Slayer
Weed Slayer

My accommodations at this second farm are outstanding. I have my own cottage that is completely self -contained. I can see the beach from my bed and I have access to WiFi from my cottage (big win!) There are no other WWOOFers here, which is bittersweet. At the last farm I made friends with four friendly Germans and it was a blast to do some traveling with them. At this place since there are no other WWOOFers it is much quieter, which for me right now is exactly what I need. I can walk down to the beach anytime with my journal and meditate and clear my head. With the solitude and the absolutely jaw-dropping beauty I am surrounded with, I am able to quit my soul at this place.

My morning view from my cottage. New Zealand mornings are life changing
My morning view from my cottage. New Zealand mornings are life changing
The view of the beach from the property
The view of the beach from the property

With each place I travel to, I want to be spoken too. The last few weeks I have spent a lot of time thinking about what this wild place is trying to tell me. What is about New Zealand that makes it unique, what message am I supposed to convey from my time here?

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This country is new, probably one of the newest one the planet, and it feels new. What I mean by new is that New Zealand was not settled by Europeans until the 1870’s; the indiginious Maori were here long before that but did not join the “modern” world till the British arrived in the 1800’s. As with any “new” country, there are not a ton of people from New Zealand. Most are first or second generation New Zealanders, with a large portion immigrating from Europe in the last 100 years. Dutch, German, British, Pacific Islander, you name it, it is a hodge podge of ethnicities. Perhaps that is why I have struggled to find things that explempify “New Zealand” in the way you’d find in other countries you travel too, e.g. the Brit’s have Union Jack and tea, France has Paris and Champagne ect… I think what DOES exlempify the people of New Zealand is a practical attitude, an attitude that enabled them to travel to the ends of the world and become apart of one of the most amazing landscapes on earth.

Maybe it is because the landscape is so amazing, and the country so new, I have noticed more “green” products and practices than any country I’ve visited so far. The Kiwi’s are protective of their land, GMO’s are outlawed and sustainability is a big deal.

The conclusion I am reaching is that what is speaking to me about New Zealand is the landscapes. You will not be moved by the architecture, or country-specific food, but if you let go, you can be moved, and connect with the earth in such a deep and beautiful way; a connection I find difficult to establish while entrapped by all the modern “advantages” technology has afforded us.

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-Till my next adventure, Jo-

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A Whale of a Time in Kaikoura

South Island is absolutely stunning. There are so many things to do and see it is hard to decide what to visit first. Since I am staying at a farm near Blenheim on the Eastern Coast in Marlborough, I decided I had go whale watching in Kaikoura.

Blenheim is about an hour and half drive South to Kaikoura; the drive is beautiful, following along black sand beaches that are dotted with seals and beautiful mountain views. Kaikoura is renowned for its world-class whale watching. Surrounding Kaikoura is the Hikurangi Trench. The Hikurangi Trench is deep, at it’s deepest it is about 12,300 feet – over 2 miles deep. Due to its deep waters it is home year around 10 different kinds of whales, from the elusive Blue Whale (population in the wild around 12,000) to the friendly humpback. Kaikoura is also home to a variety of dolphins, seals, albatross and other beautiful and marine life that are completely unique to this region of New Zealand.

After doing some research I found Whale Watch Kaikoua. Highly rated, focused on preserving the local marine life and using eco friendly boats, and it also comes with an with 80% refund rate if you if you do not see whales; I was sold.

I was excited to see whales and I knew that Kaikoura was beautiful, what I was not prepared for was a coastal town that was surrounded by mountains. I felt like I was viewing the Swiss Alps, and when I looked to the sea I saw this incredible sea that no one shade of color could define it.

The Mountains surrounding around Kaikoura
The Mountains surrounding around Kaikoura

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The folks at Whale Watch Kaikoura were incredible friendly, and as it happened we were in luck, there was a Blue Whale sighting earlier that morning. Blue Whales are endangered and extremely rare to see in the wild. They are the largest animal on planet earth, fully grown they are larger than a 737 airplane. The folks at Whale Watch were so excited for us. Blue Whales are only seen once in a blue moon (sorry for the pun), the lady at reception who had been working there for 20 years had only seen six in her entire time there.

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With excitement and trepidation (and prayer that I wouldn’t get sea sick) I set off on a catamaran for a 3.5 hour whale watching expedition. Within the first 20 minutes, there it was! In the water, its black and blue back reflecting from emerald waves, a beautiful Blue Whale. I felt a rush, a thrill at seeing something so magnificent in the wild. I felt like a blessed guest in someone’s home; lucky that I could observe this Blue whale dive down for krill and plankton, to emerge and breath every twenty minutes. I love feeling like a privileged observer in nature, it reminds me of how we are all apart of this planet together.

A Blue Whale Surfacing
A Blue Whale Surfacing

I saw the Blue Whale numerous times that morning, and a special treat was a pod of Dusky Dolphins that were having fun playing by our boat. Smaller, and more distinctive in color than the standard dolphin, the Dusky dolphins reminded me of sprites in the water. Frisky, with a sense of humor they jumped up and down the water, watching them filled me with so much pure, unadulterated joy. The Dusky Dolphins reminded me to be full of joy and never forget to be in wonder.

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In addition to fantastic marine life viewing, Kaikoura is a cute little town on its own, filled with great places selling tasty Crayfish and quaint little shops. it is a great place to spend a relaxing day. Make Kaikoura a must-see on your visit to New Zealand’s South Island!

– Till my next adventure- Jo

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