Friday, March 14, 2014

Waipara: Spears, sculptures, clamming and chutney.

After my time traveling about Nelson and the Golden Bay I took another friend's very persistent advice and decided to visit the farm he worked at WOOFing for a year, about 2 years prior.  For those unfamiliar with WOOFing, (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), it's an exchange where people work as farm hands and learn about sustainable agricultural practices through experience in exchange for free room and board.  My friend had been urging me to visit this particular farm since before I even stepped foot in the country and I thought for sure I would never get around to it, because it was nowhere near the trail, but as plans rearrange, we adapt.  I emailed the proprietors of the Waipara Gardens, William and Sarah, and asked if I was welcome to pitch a tent in their yard for 2 nights while on my way to Christchurch in an effort to save some money, as well as see this land of make-believe.  I also explained my years of farmhand experience and told them not to be shy about putting me to work, as I am a fan of earning my keep.

Welcome to Waipara wine country!!!
  The bus ride was pleasant as it wound its way down the east coast giving wonderful images to gaze upon out the window. Rough surfs, sea lions, that ever too interesting person you always seems to get stuck next to while riding public transportation.  The ride was long enough we stopped for a lunch break. Maybe an hour after lunch the bus slowed down on the highway, pulled to the side of the road, and my name was called out. "McDonald, this is your stop."

 I gathered my daypack, made my way down the narrow isle trying not to trip on appendages that were spilling over into it, and acted cool as a cucumber while I heard people making comments like,
"Is this really a stop?"
"Are you serious?" and 

 This bus stop was in the middle of nothing. I swear the driver just pulled over where a small paved road intersected with the highway.  I heard the whistle of a classic Clint Eastwood spaghetti western as I stepped off the bus to get my backpack front the undercarriage.  The driver must have read the confusion on my face when he asked "So are you here to work on a winery?" "No," I replied, still playing the part of the cucumber. "Just visiting."
  "Do you know where you are going?"
  "Not exactly, but I have an address. I will figure it out."

 He smiled, as if to say "paydirt." He had hit slightly confused, possibly clueless traveler gold. "If you cross the highway," he instructs while pointing toward the intersection, "and go just beyond those railroad tracks you will find a coffee house. Stop in there, tell them where you need to be, and they will give you directions. It's a small town, they will know where to send you."
  Did he really just tell me to cross the highway, and then the railroad tracks? Oh man!!! My life is so good!!! You cannot make this stuff up!  So I did exactly as instructed.  It was too familiar a scene for me, having spent a good portion of my childhood growing up in a town of less than 200 people. (A small fact you may not have known. Yes I went to school in a 2 room school house for K-6…do I make more sense to you now?).  A couple locals who were gathered around cups of mid-day coffee and tale telling said I had less than 1 kilometer to walk to get to the Waipara Gardens.

 I had a difficult time finding the correct driveway, as I was warned I might, and once to the front door was greeted by 3 young men…holding spears.  Actually in the process of making spears out of nails, twine, tape, and sticks. Ummmmmm….ya….SPEARS!!!!

  They were prepping to go down to the river and spear hunt for flounder. I found William and introduced myself.  He seemed to be busy so he offered for me to stick around and wait, or go fishing with the boys.  I had enough time to set my bag at the door and climb in the car. Away we went!

Here they are. The great spear fishermen of Waipara.
Jan (German), Mark (USA), and Matt (German)
  The boys didn't catch anything, but it was a fun introduction to the company I would be keeping for the next couple of days, and just being on a farm, actually staying and not just tramping across it, made me feel at home.  When we returned I had time to set up my tent, make acquaintance with the 4 girls who were also WOOFing in the area at neighboring vineyards, and then help with dinner. Oh how I have missed being on an organic farm.  The entire day based around conversations of food, ethical and sustainable practices, working together in a kitchen to create a meal.  That co-creation of a meal is one of my favorite ways to bond with people.  It's a form of magic. After the meal is prepared the dancing around each other in the kitchen swivels its way to the dinner table where you gather around the feast, facing each other, and actually engage in uninterrupted conversation.  Since I was the newcomer that night, and not a WOOFer, I had a lot of questions to answer, and I had a great time doing it!

  The following morning William took me to a local sculptor's studio, which Sarah had arranged the night before.  As soon as she found out I was a sculptor she was on the phone!  We drove past vineyard after vineyard, up into the hills at the location of an old rock quarry which Raymond Herber had turned into a sculpture park.  His studio space was everything I have ever dreamed of…literally. He is doing exactly what i would love to be doing for a living.  It was inspirational just to see it actually happening. He was working on his forge when we arrived and seemed relatively busy so we didn't talk too much, mostly I walked around the sculpture park and ogled his work.  Some of it quite whimsical and reminding me a bit of Dr. Suess contraptions.

The kicking machine
Which you are actually allowed to use. Crank it up and release the kick!

I wanted to climb on it!

This sculpture, along with many others, was kinetic.  Spoons, all positioned the same direction, would catch the wind and rotate the spheres.

I believe this was made of old railroad ties.

An ingenious way to light a path.

Also wind kinetic.

Hop on this bike to run the fan, and pruning shears positions just above your head.

He had just finished this piece which I believe was about to be installed in Waipara Wine Valley.

  Oh! How exciting!  You can imagine now the gears turning in my head of the potential for my own forge and foundry space out in the countryside.  Thank you Raymond, for lending me your time and the beauty of your creations. Absolutely fantastic!

  And now for some farm photos.

Zucchini blossoms. Yum!!

The plum chutney we made. I need to get this recipe!!!!!

One local winery we delivered produce to.

Crazy horned turkeys. Man they are pretty!

The ducks.

  The following day I was suppose to head to Christchurch, which I had intended to do in the early morning, but twist my arm, the boys had rearranged their work schedule that day to go clamming at low tide during the morning and had convinced me to go along on the adventure.  We entered Macintosh beach through a friend's private property.

Not a clam!
   While raking it was pretty common to unearth a crab rather than a clam, and they generally weren't terribly pleased with it.  This would also occur when feeling in the sand for clams with your feet. Several dance moves were invented this day, at the avoidance of the angry pinchers.

Raking, raking, la la  la!

Nice one Mark!!!

I think this mussel is a wee bit confused.

  After the clamming, another arm twisting to get me to stay long enough for lunch.  Which was great, but a bit gritty because we didn't give them a proper 24 hour fresh water soaking.  But the italian white wine sauce was phenomenal!!!

 A million thanks for the hospitality and memories William and Sarah!!!


  1. So inspiring, Saratops - I am biting at the bit to get adventuring again. :)

  2. Wow I loved this post, the crabbing, sculptures, farm, sounds like a dream.