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Rotorua, Rotovegas, Roto.. um, nowhere?

‘Don’t drink here, traveller, from this upland flood- It’s lukewarm, full of mud

Churned by the flock-But walk a little further, go, Over the hill-top

Where the heifers are grazing, then stop

By the lone pine, and gushing from the rock

Is a spring colder than the northern snow.’ – Leonidas of Tarentum

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During my stay at Raglan I managed to arrange last minute wwoofing with a family north of Lake Rotorua. They were particularly pleased I contacted them as they were heading off for the weekend and needed a dog and cat sitter -this suited me fine. I had started to feel a little unwell and needed a couple of days to myself to plan and try and shift the sickness.

It was a straightforward drive eastward after dropping Dana off in Hamilton for her shuttle back to Auckland. I was greeted by 2 lovely dogs and a big friendly fluff-ball of a cat.P1050889.JPG Judy, the mother of the family came to welcome me and show me around their 2 acre property over a nice cup of tea. The family was Judy and Mark and sons Eben and Kim (their daughter Poppy lives in the UK).

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They established their farm in the 80’s and had built it up from nothing which was really inspiring. Although no longer housing farm animals they had an abundance of flora and a particularly well stocked veg patch. They were also trying to establish truffle growing alongside their house, which as Mark explained is a fine art and fantastically hit and miss. I found it pretty magical that a fungus can produce such a hidden valued delicacy.

A typical wwoofing day consists of 4 hours work in return for accommodation and meals. Both of which were really good! Home cooked grub and a decent nights sleep was what I truly needed. I was itching to do some work (didn’t think I’d say that) after a long time in holiday mode I really wanted to get into something practical and get some experience under my belt. It’s a win/win situation really as I can provide help for a busy family whilst I have somewhere to nest for a time.

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Amongst my tasks were weeding and tending to the vegetable plot, plaiting garlic, collecting and stacking firewood and preparation for meals. On the rainier days I was asked by Judy, who is a photo enthusiast, to scan old negatives and slides to organise her collection. Everyday was changeable and I particularly liked being outside in amongst the organically grown vegetables, with the lush smells and grubbiness there is a real job satisfaction to this kind of work. The dog Ludo and cat Tails were constant company, and I could lose myself fully into the job at hand in the warming sunlight. Talking of warming sunlight, it’s incredibly easy to get sunburnt/tanned in New Zealand due to the hole in the ozone layer. Each day is a ritual of suncream and bug spray, those relentless bugs and rose thorns have done nothing for the condition of my skin, still I’m the most tanned I’ve been in a loooooong time.DSC_0018 1

Meals were prepared predominantly from veg straight from the garden- I ate really well this week. When the daily work was done I was free to explore to many sites that were of interest nearby. My first experience of Rotorua’s beauty was in the nearby site of the Hamurana Natural Springs. With Ludo in tow we took a walk that guided us to each spring, but firstly through incredible rusty coloured redwood trees. Each spring had an unusually mysterious teal blue colour to it, and was crystal clear. So pure and endlessly interesting to watch, this really was a beautiful walk that I returned to and make sketches. Intrigued to see more woodland I also spent a day at the Whakarewarewa Forest, home to the most gorgeous redwood trees.

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After a full day of weeding (there really was an endless supply, believe me) I did the tourist thing and visited Te Puia. Te Puia is a top Rotorua attraction that boasts the world famous Pohutu Geyser, kiwi enclosure, Maori art and crafts institute and many other geothermal wonders along the way. Now, throughout the year I will wind up doing the usual tourist spots no doubt, but I also find the hidden gems through the people I meet, it’s a great balance.

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Te Puia didn’t disappoint (when I managed to finally escape the other tourists) I watched a Maori song and dance performance that was enjoyable, then spent a good few hours wandering around the chalky white and luminous green rock that housed the erupting geysers. It was alive, stunning and…smelly! a true sensory experience..

Soundtrack: Lisa Gerrard- Biking Home

 

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