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The Light Is Shining Through On You..a trip through time, valentine & sunshine

16835792_10154591122044737_1903745541043622057_oI’m still in love with Waitomo. It seems it’s becoming more interesting the longer I spend here. It’s a joy to drive through the quiet, windy roads around the lush green hills and limestone karsts that dominate the landscape. I’m at that in-between stage where part of me feels like a resident here, I feel very comfortable, and yet I still enjoy playing the tourist, going on cave tours and hanging out in the cave museum. I genuinely appreciate every day I have here, and they really do pass by so fast. After a visit to the Waitomo museum one day I picked up a few vintage information books, one about cave formations and cave fauna, one on glow-worms and one titled ‘A Trip Through Time; A Guide to Landforms Waitomo Caves – Marokopa Coast’ the book explores Waitomo by car, with stop offs en-route, all presented in a charming 80’s fashion with unrealistic illustrations and a friendly personable narrative. I love it, and decided I would take a pilgrimage to retrace these steps, also it would prove interesting to see how much, if anything, it had changed over the years. u 

I was joined by Hendrik for the weekend’s adventure starting at The Natural Bridge. I visited this area almost a year ago on my 30th  Birthday with my friend Luke, and the weather was reasonably better this time around. We walked through the awesome gorge, taking the track a little further this time to have some fun climbing in and around the karsts. Further along the road is the Piri Piri Cave. I hadn’t ventured inside before, but after a conversation with pro-caver Nick (mentioned in the last blog) I realised there was some pretty cool stuff to see down there. Armed with our head torches we took the steps leading down in to the darkness then climbed over to venture further inside. We could see there was a suggestion of steps leading us through a small passage towards what is referred to on the map as the ‘Oyster Room’ (it didn’t disappoint). It was a dry and muddy cave and we managed to find old graffiti and untouched stalactite formations.

Next stop along the road was the magnificent Marokopa Falls. A short bushwalk leads you down to the viewing platform for the waterfall, not quite satisfied enough we decided to slide on down through thick sticky mud to get to the foot of the falls. It was all part of experiencing the power close to hand, much like when you find the perfect spot for watching your favourite band from the audience- too far away and you are removed from the feeling. Returning home to remove some of the mud, we drove out to Pirongia and finished the great day over drinks with Heath & Colette.

16300439_10154540776299737_8094714491832667594_oTime for some sunshine, summer seems to have kicked in at last. Apparently it’s an unusually unsettled mix of weather here in Waitomo at the moment, days of blazing sun, then in the next moment thunderstorms, rain, and fog. Personally, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest, I’ve always enjoyed variety. The Cicada’s have started singing their calling song in the trees and the tarmac is warming up under barefoot.

Myself and Heath have always been pretty keen to enhance our photography skills, particularly in low-light and capturing the glow worms is really quite a skill. We take photographs throughout each tour that then get sent to the customer the next day, but the results vary due to the cheaper waterproof cameras we use and tricky changing conditions. Michelle had suggested we partake in a photo walk workshop around Raglan to hone our skills a little. It was really just a good excuse to have a play, Heath captured some particularly fine shots. It’s like anything, experience and practise will enhance the results.

SONY DSCI received a message from Hendrik offering to take a drive over for the night of the 14th from Matamata (Hobbiton) to cook me a special dinner. I didn’t realise at first that this coincided with Valentine’s Day (I’ve never been one to celebrate such an ‘occasion’) but the thought was touching and I decided I’d like to return a gesture, in the form of a childlike treasure hunt for when he arrived! I did have doubts as to whether it was going to all be a bit much, either a genius or ridiculous idea- it was hanging in the balance as I finished tea staining the papers ready for the treasure map illustration and clues. After some thought I decided that if I would enjoy the game myself then he probably would too…

received_10154556454349737The idea was that we could venture toward the nearby rock climbing wall, on the site of the old farm, which made for an interesting and historic walk. After an early start placing the clues in position I had a day of touring before I got to find him busy in the cottage getting dinner ready (I could get used to this?) It was time to begin the hunt, in and around the old fireplace, underneath the bridge, before leading us up the ‘stairway to heaven’ to the ‘hidden place’. Leaving the farm my car gave an almighty crunch sound, somehow I was expecting this as it was beginning to get creakier by the day. We pushed it into the layby all the while 3 cars from nowhere offered to help (don’t you just love this country). Reluctant to continue driving causing more damage we started to take a walk home. Another car soon pulled up beside us offering help, complete with farmer hat, friendly smile and offering us a cold beer-our new friend Gavin kindly dropped us home.  I’m pretty sure we’ll stay in touch as he was keen to visit Hendrik’s pub and also he has a cave on his land (would be rude not to visit sometime, right?). It was somewhat of a silver lining, knowing the car may cost a bit, but this didn’t matter now- we still had that lovely cooked dinner to look forward too- fresh fish and mussels no less. dsc_1410

There was also another bonus to my darling car breaking- that I got to spend another day with Hendrik whilst sorting it out (well, having lots of fun too) we bought some camping supplies in anticipation for the weekend ahead.

Camping and live music were the social events I’d really missed from back home. It was the epitome of fun for our group of friends to have a good old knees up over a few days. It was Hendrik’s best mate Amy’s 30th party, in the form of camping on a friend’s vast land over in Matamata. Good job I didn’t need my car for the weekend! I was picked up and we headed to the Garden Art Studio in nearby Cambridge that was going to exhibit my artwork. A diverse little gallery in wealthy Cambridge, it felt good to have my work on display and to inform me to start producing new pieces. Onward to the party and we were greeted by a pretty, smiling Amy. We pitched our tent and began meeting everyone including lovely hosts Rachael and Grant, who happen to have a superb record collection including a rare Tim Buckley vinyl (respect soared at that moment) J. Amy also had a gorgeous VW Beetle to die for- a really cool chick. dsc_1437

Adding a whole mix of fire poi, lush food, dancing to Fleetwood Mac and of course drinking, it’s fair to say it was a pretty decent occasion indeed. We were sent to sleep by the eccentric musings of Jim Morrison being piped through the window.p1090883A pleasant trickle of rain hitting the tent sent us to sleep and within a few hours we were back on the road to meet my old housemate and our ex Hobbiton co-worker Ellis. Dropping in I briefly saw Cathie (my landlord during my time at Hobbiton) and it was all smiles and hugs seeing Ellis again. We planned to hit the Karangahake Gorge walkway on this super-hot day, to view the immense towering bush and find our way through the many gold mining tunnels, each offering wonderful viewpoints when hitting the daylight again.

16836030_10211823186316009_3372041470325125618_oSeeing that we were much nearer the sunny east coast I had decided to take Michelle up on her kind offer of letting out her Bach for myself and Hendrik to stay in for a couple of nights. It is located over in Waihi – the gold mining town I visited nearly a year ago whilst WWOOFING. It has an incredibly large mining pit that raises mixed opinions from the locals, but we couldn’t help but stand fascinated and in awe of it. The Bach is just out of the township and boasts a scenic estuary outside the back door, leading towards a popular surf beach. It was yet another haven for us to spend some extended quality time together, playing games, dancing and enjoying each-others company. This would be the longest time we had spent together, and it felt very comfortable.

p1090959All this road tripping was pretty tiring (especially for the passenger who just sits there taking in the view) 😉 we found ourselves a nice pub to get some grub and beers and I lost Hendrik to a vintage pinball machine for about 30 minutes J it’s nice that we’re both into our games and geek fun. We spent around an hour constructing the best models we could make using counters, chess pieces and straws! We’d also found a very simple looking gamed called ‘Mancala’ using a basic wooden tray with hollows containing glass nuggets – it’s now my favourite game ever (I kept winning somehow) to keep it balanced though we’d hit the dartboard every so often where I’d get a beating. We had a dartboard at home for a time and I have distinct memories of our beloved cat Martin sitting comfortable directly below when we were playing, it’s a miracle those darts didn’t rebound onto him. Bless him. We also had opportunity to rekindle our love of finding interesting pieces around Waihi, souvenirs, books, and gathering ideas, particularly for his pub. It’s fun to have somewhere to design, plan and invigorate and the ideas are endlessly flowing into that place, it’s inspiring. We took a short drive out to Bowentown from a recommendation from Amy and again had a beautifully sunny day to explore the beach with it’s sea caves and soft creamy sand. We were joined only by a family catching crabs (yes, there were a few catching crabs jokes that day). Hendrik began to remove clothes and head in to the sea! It was magic, I knew we both wanted to hit the water, it was the perfect environment so I just marched on in as well. Spotaneous-happy-sunshiny-days.

p1090995It was time to head home, with the ute full of blankets, camping gear, booze and his plants in and around the dash (his babies). We took a de tour to Mount Mauganui (still on the east coast) and enjoyed a drink in a lovely colourful bar I’d been to a few times before. A pit stop at a yummy New York pizza place in Hamilton (detoxing was imminent for the next few days) and finally we headed back to the cottage. An evening was spent listening to the haunting yet uplifting voices of the Bulgarian Choir, as we had realised the night before through chance that it was something we both really enjoyed listening to and had accessed through different sources, that’s the beauty of music. What a truly amazing few days, I felt the light was truly shining through on us.

Soundtrack: Fleetwood Mac – Dreams, Moby – Inside, UB40 – Rat In Mi Kitchen, The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices – Mir Stanke Le

Book: Moby – Porcelain (autobiography)



Driving the Coromandel Peninsula


After advice from the wwoofing family in Rotorua I decided rather than drive south I would drive north and explore the Coromandel Peninsula. The Coromandel boasts pristine beaches, native forests and a laid back atmosphere, and with the sun beaming down seemed like a perfect idea to explore. I was heading towards a different wwoofing location, which was actually way up north the peninsula so it was going to be an interesting road trip and real test of my car’s strength and my driving skill. I love a good road trip, the freedom of exploration and usually driving a bunch of friends to a festival or a mini break-always remind me of good times. Rather than take the quicker, easier west road up towards Colville I went east to explore the many beaches it had to offer on this seemingly perfect beach day. I did a little research into the must see spots such as Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, also knowing I would find my own ideallic settings along the way, far away from everyone else. P1060159First stop was Whangamata beach, time for a bit of lunch and beach exploration. This beach was empty, I pulled up on an unassuming road, wandered a little looking for the beachfront and POW there it was! absolutely stunning, and NO ONE there. There are obvious tourist spots in New Zealand but also an incredible amount of finds that are real hidden gems. I know if this beach was in the UK it would be rammed day and night. After a short walk around, enjoying the solace I headed up to hot water beach. Now hot water beach is famous for the curious way you can dig yourself into the sand and bath in your very own hot water pool, a pretty cool and great way to spend a day. I didn’t do this however, as it was a flying visit but again just the odd surfer was on this tourist hub of a beach, needless to say so many of the beaches in New Zealand are great for surfing.  The road north takes you to a the famous Cathedral Cove, a picturesque site to see, but too busy for my liking! All roads were pretty decent so far, then I hit the 309. The 309 crosses 22km through the backbone of the peninsula, mostly unsealed, it showcases spectacular scenery as it winds through lush farmland, pine forests and extensive areas of beautiful native bush.

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Some say they named the 309 for the number of bends, while others say it’s the number of minutes the horse-drawn carriage used to take. It was my first proper New Zealand road driving experience, and not in a 4×4 truck, with a reasonably powerless automatic Mazda it was quite the drive. Loose gravel everywhere (loads of the roads are like this, thankfully  I don’t have a spotless car to destroy paintwork on) changing weather conditions, adding slippery and dusty additions to the drive, and of course hills, resulting in me talking to the car gently and willingly to get us through it. I finally reached Coromandel where after turning my silver car to a nice shade of brown I met with the lady I was to spend the next few days with on a solar community site, started in the late 70’s.  Now my blog’s are obviously personal and pretty detailed, but in respect of the next wwoofing site, it’s values and respecting privacy I want to give a glance at my experience rather than the intricate details. The road north of Coromandel took me through the last stop for…well… anything, at Colville. P1060205I continued the drive and around 20 minutes from here they were all quite tricky gravel roads to my Almond Hut cabin in the middle of nowhere. The cabin was handmade, basic, but full of character. Overlooking the river I went down for a wash and to cool off. It was a real thoughtful and inspiring place that just made one want to create. The community was born out of protest and rebellion in the late 70’s, searching for an alternative way of life -valuing nature, love, music and yes it was very hippy. In preparation for a big celebratory party the place seemed like it was preparing for Woodstock festival. Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young songs running through my head, it’s as though I’d been dropped into a groovey time warp. P1060169The lady looking after and directing my wwoofing jobs was very artistic and we had a connection in this and our love of music. She was very motherly and good fun to chat too, I made a frame for a sign as well as mailbox painting, generally tidying up the overall aesthetic. Everything was lovingly made and gathered, the houses all different but common in ethos. I was served healing manuka honey and Kawakawa tea to try and mend my recurring sore throat, which sadly cut my stay short as I needed antibiotics to clear it up. Highlights were definitely meeting my wwoof host, playing Bob Marley on the Marimbas with her in the bell tent, and sharing a lush stone baked pizza with a group of her friends, including 2 cool biker dudes with an interesting Australian/Dorset hybrid accent. P1060193 I feel there’s a good chance I’ll return here later in the year. I headed back down towards Waihi beach after taking a night to mend in Whitianga, and watched What We Do In The Shadows (bloody funny) and thankfully the drugs were kicking in. Waihi ‘Heart of Gold’ is notable for it’s thriving gold and silver mining. I took a walk around the ‘pit rim’ overlooking the incredible scale of the working gold mine. I’ve always been particularly interested in the process and history of gold mining, the incredible effort that is undertaken (especially back in the day) to extract the most precious of treasures. I can also blame Mario Kart, Zelda and Donkey Kong and various other computer games I grew up with for their fun mine cart inspired imagery! P1060234

My next family in Waihi were husband and wife living in a big house not far from Waihi beach. Christine, writer and EFT practitioner showed me her world of many toed cats (one of them gave birth as I was there!) DSC_0153a fun belly dancing class, and daily vinegar based liver cleansing drinks, and yes, that takes some time to get used to. Husband John liked to share his incredible experiences, many unfortunate accidents and knowledge of a wide range of areas. I also assisted in painting, gardening and advice for realistic model airplane painting for John.

Jack of all trades? Maybe not, but I’m certainly gaining tons of knowledge and experience…



Soundtrack: Joni Mitchell – Woodstock, Crosby Stills Nash & Young – Winchester Cathedral, Bob Marley – Stir It Up