Our last work away in New Zealand was at Onuku Farm Hostel and Campground, outside Akaroa, about a 2 hour drive from Christchurch. This one could be the most beautiful workaway yet (Check out the numerous pictures on Instagram)! The hostel/farm is located on the side of a mountain overlooking Akaroa Bay (famous for it’s native “Hector Dolphins” the smallest and rarest Dolphin species on Earth). Lush green and blue scenery, tons of sheep, cattle, chickens and one goose that seemed to have amorous intentions towards Sam!
The Hostel manger – Sol, picked us up from town and on the ride to the farm tried to pull a trick on us: convincing us that this was a nudist colony and we should have read the webpage more carefully – haha! He and the others had us fooled right up to the moment we arrived and saw everybody fully clothed! After settling in to our caravan residence, we were invited down to the ocean for a swim and Paua (mollusks) fishing. hike I swam, Sol and some other guests dove down to the ocean floor and pryed the mollusks off their rocks! Sam and I left back to the hostel while the others shucked them on the beach. I, however, joined back in to help cook and was rewarded with some delicious Paua fried in butter, garlic, olive oil and chilli! So far, we love it here!
In the morning, we enjoyed a yoga session in front of a breathtaking vista then ate breakfast in our outdoor kitchen. We were joined for our oats by our new flat mates: a mama hen and her baby chick – “Teri and Lil’ Quinn” as Sam soon named them. As our time went on at Onuku, the chickens got more comfortable with us, even coming right up on the kitchen table to beg for food! Sam was quite enamoured with them from the start and grew more and more fond, always leaving some scraps on the ground for them when they missed mealtime. My 3hr shift started at 10am – I cleaned the campsite and moved firewood. After work We bought fresh eggs and fresh bread! After lunch we chilled and digested in a hammock right next to a family of sheep! In the late afternoon I went for a run. As I ran along the ridge of the mountain, crowds of shy sheep dispersed in front of me – so neat! The scenery was enough to distract me from the run a few times. Dinner was eggs, fresh bread and veggies. After dinner Sam wanted to go feed the cows an old banana. Although the internet assured her that cows love bananas, this particular heffer sniffed at it, ignored it in favour of more grass, then took a big shit as if to say “That’s what I think of your banana Sam!”.
Onuku has a few great hiking trails filled with stunning scenery that we took advantage of. Most notable is “The Ridge Walk” – a 75 minute, uphill walk to the mountain peak that overlooks the mouth of Akaroa Bay. The view at the end was intense. Massive blue ocean gated behind the opposing green mountain sides of The bay (again, check out the photos on Instagram). We were up so high, I felt like it was all within reach. Trying to think that this view had always been here but I was only now perceiving it into existence. Mesmerizing. Fulfilling.
A few days in to our stay we were treated to a Dolphin Swimming trip by the hotel owners ($110 dollars for guests, free for wwoofers!) We woke up early but it was raining and our trip was postponed for an hour – almost cancelled. When the rain let up we took an old Land Rover Army truck down to the bay with two other couples and boarded a small boat. At first dolphin sightings were few and far between but eventually we found some. They would come right up and playfully swim along the boat. We got our flippers on and jumped in – man was that water cold! As I swam around dolphins would come up and check me out before quickly swimming away – “Crazy looking land dolphin, he can barely swim!”. One of the most surreal experiences of my life! Back in the boat we were treated to a hot cup of tea and a granola bar. On our way back we explored the jagged cliff coastline, especially neat was the “Elephants Head” cliffside (a cliffside in the shape of an elephants head in case that’s unclear). More dolphins swam with the boat on the way back, a few even did jumps for us! We took a nice hot shower when we got back, as we had almost froze to death. That night all the wwoofers took the Army Truck to town to go to see “Magnificent Beasts and Where to Find Them”. Good movie! Had a lot of fun and ate a lot of junk food.
On our second to last day we set our alarms and woke up at 3:45am! Today was the day we would hike to the end of The Ridge Walk to see the sunrise. After a quick coffee we set out in the dark of night. I enjoyed the walk, perhaps somewhat more than Sam did! As we reached the peak of the hill we could see the sky light up in faint orange and the wind increased tenfold. Climbing over three ridges of rocks, each higher than the last, we reached the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean. We settled down on the edge of the cliff and watched The daybreak. It was freezing cold and windy but the view was worth it! Turquoise blue sky highlighted by intense orange clouds, below the ocean reflected deep dark blue and above the night sky retreated in a soft violet wave. This is better than any tv show or movie could ever be. Once the glowing orb broke the horizon it didn’t take long for it to rise into full luminosity. We held on watching for as long as we could. Well, maybe I did, Sam was freezing cold and could have done without the whole experience. As we stood up to leave, the sheer force of the wind was more clear. I felt so invigorated by the cold gusts, I stood, leaning into the wind and meditating on all the great moments of our trip. New Zealand has been great to us, although time and money were persistent issues, we couldn’t have done it any better. The people we met, the places we’ve seen and the things we’ve done will stay in our hearts forever.