After finishing the Abel Tasman track, we were pretty tired. By that point, we had camped at 15 different places in the 17 days we’d been in New Zealand — that’s a lot of setting up and taking down — so we wanted to “stay put” for a few days. So “wwoofing” does not refer to our exhausted grunts each time we picked up our backpacks, it stands for “willing workers on organic farms” and is a network of landowners who practice organic gardening or farming and who are willing to host “workers” in exchange for some labour. Wwoofing stints generally last between a week to several months, but Carolyn, the owner of Te Miko, responded to our email enquiry and was OK with us coming for just a few days. Her property is located on the west coast of the south island, near Punakaiki National Park.
I don’t know if we really managed to help Carolyn very much — we did some weeding, harvesting of beans, and levelled a new spot for her old henhouse.
Carolyn is also an artist and has a glass bead studio on her property. Since her business is slowing down and the local public radio station was looking for a new home, she offered her studio as a part-time headquarters. Thursday nights are the big “radio night” when two DJs bring their CDs (and red wine), and broadcast an eclectic show. Many locals show up for the ‘party’ as well. It was well-attended the Thursday we were there (almost 20 people showed up) and I was surprised to meet a woman from Montreal — now living “on the road” as the artistic director for Cirque du Soleil’s “Totem” show that is presently touring Australia. She had some time off as the show was being moved from Sydney to Melbourne, and was visiting a friend in Punakaiki! The theme for the radio show that week was the letter L (they are working their way through the alphabet), so we heard some Lennon, Ladysmith Black Mombaza, and a variety of music by artists and bands that start with L. The two DJs are huge fans of two Canadian artists: Leonard Cohen and Neil Young.
On Cam’s birthday, it poured rain almost all day, so we had a quiet, indoor day. Birgit and I had made an apple cake for the occasion. At one point, Kaia went to get some fresh air and reported that our tent had collapsed! Indeed it had, which meant a trip to the laundromat to dry out sleeping bags and clothes!
Continuing south down the coast, we enjoyed the magnificent coast, and stopped at the Franz Josef Glacier town.
We spent a rainy night in the tent, but this time, properly pegged and tied with guy wires, it performed very well and kept us dry! Unfortunately, all the rain meant that the paths to the glaciers were closed (due to the threat of rockslides) so we didn’t manage to see either Franz Josef or Fox glacier.
We checked out a cave/tunnel not far from the town. It had been dug to supply water for a gold sluicing operation and later used for hydro power.
We gained respect for how big the South Island really is, as we drove towards Mt. Cook, our next destination. We joked that had we been in the Andes, there would have been a road going right over the mountain range. In Norway, there would have been a tunnel blasted through. But in New Zealand, there was a long road circumventing the mountains (with lots of little one-lane bridges along the way!)