My apologies for the delayed letter my friends, I have been caught in a yoga-matic relaxation factory known as Kawai Pura Pura.
We arrived in New Zealand at around 1:00 am after an 8 hr layover in Fiji – uneventful except for More Kava! The Auckland airport had much appreciated public showers and amazing coffee. We took the first bus to the city at 6:00am and after much confusion (getting off at the wrong stop, looking the wrong way before crossing the street, almost getting hit by a car, hunting desperately for public restrooms, finding the right bus) we arrived at our Wwoofing (volun-tourism in exchange for accommodation) destination:: Kawai Pura Pura. KP is a Yoga and Spiritual Wellness retreat centre. Kind like a resort but with many permanent residents(approximately 90) and wwoofers (about 20 at any given time). We were shown around to the facilities which included a few yoga studios, a pool, the wwoofers lounge, many nature paths and our accommodation: a small caravan which we promptly passed out in. Most of the Wwoofers stay in caravans and dorms, while the guests and residents have more permanent housing. The retreat centre is located in a beautiful “secluded” grove in Albany – a suburb of Auckland. I say “secluded” because the suburban civilization has crept up around what was once an obviously isolated oasis.
We awoke after a few hours and took a 15 min walk out of our hidden grove to a shopping mall where we had excellent food court Indian food(vegetarian, as I made a dietary oath for my time at KP) and went shopping at Pak ‘n Save – a New Zealand version of Super Store (everything in NZ is the same as Canada, just with different names). That night we took part in a drum circle – kinda cheesy I thought, but Sam really enjoyed it.
The next week was filled with lots of groundskeeping work, community dinners, nature walks and yoga. On our first day off we took a day trip to Rangitoto Island and hike up the dormant volcano there, then down through some caves – a spectacular day capped off with a delicious lunch at a Hare Krishna restaurant in Auckland. A couple of days later came the highlight shift of my time at KP – my shift boss Gill (a resident beekeeper) decided he didn’t want to work too hard that afternoon, and sat us down after an hour of gardening and gave us all a spoon full of fresh honey and a beer! (KP is a supposedly alcohol and drug free community). The next day, my friend Jack brought me to his gym in town for an “Iyengar” yoga class, I snuck an hour-long heavy bag workout in before the class too! Glad to get the practise in, but I’m a little rusty, and my (shin and knuckle) bones have gotten a little soft.
A few days later we left for a three day work-stay at Satyavan – a much smaller, much more isolated version of KP, located near Karekare, NZ(NW coast of the North Island) with amazing ocean views. In exchange for an extra hour of work per day(4 total), all meals were included. The food was prepared by a sweet little old lady named Leslie who had lots of great stories and made amazing food! I ate like a king! Three huge meals a day + desserts! Just when I thought a meal was done – more food kept coming, and I kept eating! Although the food was the highlight, we did take a hike down to the Wai Karekare beach, saw some nice waterfalls and took a freezing cold dip in the ocean. My last day there, I was called upon to fish a drowned hedgehog out of a residents koi pond and fling his poor little lifeless body into the woods. Much worse ways to go, I suppose. As a happy result, I got to meet/pet the residents sheep: Lassie. Gave her noise a squeeze and nestled into her wool for a nap – just kidding!
Coming back to KP, one of the woofers, Jade (a very happy and sweet Korean girl) asked me how Satyavan was. I exclaimed joy at how good the food was and how much I ate, she replied (in her thick Korean accent): “I know! I can see your belly!” Haha! The embarrassment was worth the sound bite. That night most of the wwoofers had a party around a campfire near Gills caravan – more beer and good friends! The funniest part of the night was my friend Nico narrating my actions through song as I worked to feed the fire and consequently fell into the mud! (Maybe you had to be there).
The next night we took the bus into town for an all you can eat Hare Krishna community dinner – those folks know how to cook, and eat! I haven’t been that full for a long time! I even turned down an extra piece of carrot cake to take home, exclaiming: “I don’t think I’ll ever have to eat again!” After dinner (and before, but we missed it) was a dance party. Those folks also seem to know how to have a damn good time! Fast, upbeat, base heavy music with only one lyrical verse (maybe you know it) repeated over and over:
Super easy to remember song lyrics, super good music, and amazingly good food! Maybe I’ll join! Kidding again! Still have no time for religion, besides – no one asked me to convert anyway! Snubbing aside, we had a great night!
On Oct 31 we had a community dinner and open mic night. So many talented musicians at KP! Two days later was our last day. After we said goodbye to all our friends, we went out for lunch and I celebrated 15 days of vegetarianism with a meal of (free range) eggs, bacon, sausage, hash brown, tomato and toast! Absence makes the heart grow fonder! Next stop: Waiheke Island, NZ!
PS: Did I mention New Zealand has amazing coffee and a cafe nearly every block? Heaven! If you wanted to sum up NZ so far in two words it would be Yoga and Coffee!