A tramp in Motueka, NZ

Moment of awesome

New Zealand is known for incredible hikes and its breathtaking landscape. Having been in Christchurch for about six days, I hadn’t had the opportunity to enjoy this side of kiwi life. Luckily for me, my old friend Sarah invited me to go ‘tramping’. At first I thought she was, in true Kiwi fashion, joking about the word ‘tramping’. I thought it was a bit harsh to keep calling me a tramp each opportunity she got. Anyway, not to ruin the mood I went along with it. We packed our gear and set out for a two day hike, uhm, tramp. Joining us was Sarah’s colleague Kim. We drove to Arthur’s Pass where we climbed ‘Avalanche Peak’. The first two hours we climbed straight up the face of the mountain until we hit the tree line. We continued to the top of the mountain from where we had a spectacular view of the peaks around us. After walking along the ridge, we had a treacherous descended into the valley where we were happy to find the hut we were staying the night. The next day our tremendous experience continued when we followed the river, passing through the meadows and got back to our car. My first experience tramping in NZ was nothing short from amazing! IT WAS AWESOME!

PS, I found out (through an Australian friend) that tramping is a combination of ‘tracking’ and ‘camping’. Mystery solved.

Read more about this week’s adventures, my WWOOF experience, and tons of pictures. Read More

You’d think I’d run out of friends to visit abroad, but as chance has it two good Frisbee friends of mine live in Darfield (just outside of Christchurch) for six months. Before heading up to Motueka for my WWOOF experience, I passed by them to see where they live. Willemijn works as a doctor in a local medical center and Fred is an entrepreneur and houseman (breaking the social norms, I love it). They stay in a small cabin on a beautiful property with a backdrop on Arthur’s Pass. Cherry and plum trees are scattered across the land and provide ample opportunity for daily fruit picking. I came over for dinner and it was so comforting to talk to people I have known for so long. It was almost surreal to be catching up with the latest social developments in Amsterdam while in NZ. I had a blast!

Armed with a bag of handpicked cherries and plums, I set out for my 6h drive to Motueka to join a WWOOF farm. This was my first farming experience and it honestly came as quite a shock. I’m staying in a Yuk (a sort of Mongolian nomad tent), the place can best be described as chaotic, but no worries about flushing the toilet as it’s a compost toilet. There is a young Kiwi girl staying in a caravan and my direct neighbor, Rene, lives in his boat that he’s been trying to fix up for the past 3 years. Roaming around are three sheep, three pastors (not to be confused with lamas apparently), chicken, and a kiwi fruit orchid – how stereotypical! Don’t let the romantic notion of being on a farm fool you; it’s far from luxurious. My first task on the farm was a humbling one: I scooped horse shit for 3 hours to make compost for the chicken. Welcome to rural life! Other tasks include fencing, weeding, stacking wood, digging water pipes, and building sheds. The farm is a permaculture, which, I found out, is a term to describe a chaotic style of farming where you try to juggle a seemingly uncountable number of tasks (from fruit picking to trimming sheep, to having a veggie garden and everything that comes with that). I was warned – in her email the owner mentioned she bought the land 4 years ago but it was still chaotic. ‘How bad can it be?’, I thought. Pretty bad, as I quickly found out. Her house is absolutely stashed with stuff. She has three shoes racks (which I find astonishing for someone who walks around barefoot), and I was surprised to see a pogo stick stand next to an outside tub and 5 broken wheel barrels. On Saturday a German, American, and an Italian joined the farm, along with an Austrian woman. It’s been a lot more fun since their arrival and our lunches have been quite fun. I’m glad for the experience, but doubt I’d do it again. One of my insights is that I love working in teams where every member can excel in his/her own capacity. Also the stories we share are quite interesting. For example, the lady who owns the farm doesn’t only work on the land (I have actually yet to see her contribute, but let’s not get into that), she is also a part time herbalist and undertaker. Quite the career moves!

In other news, I bought my ticket back home. I leave Auckland on 2 April for a frisbee tournament one hour from Manila, Philippines. 11 April I land back in the country that, to my satisfaction, launched an abortion fund for foreign NGOs this week. I’m looking forward to be united with my friends and family again and ready to pick up live where I left it. But first, I have some traveling to do!

Earth porn

Panoramic view on top of Avalanche Peak.

Food for the hungry soul

Documentary: Undefeated (2011)

2012 winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. A movie about the struggles of a Memphis HS football team that attempts to have its first winning season. It shows the struggles and obstacles the team and its players go through and how the coach guides these young men through their lives of poverty.

A word of wisdom

“Confidence is overrated. Confidence comes from repeatedly doing the same task and achieve the similar results. To do something for the first time takes COURAGE, which is way more important.”

Debbie Millman – An American writer, educator, artist and designer. She has had a hand in 20% of all products in US grocery stores.

Dash for cash – Grocery shopping (1/2)

In the article on Food at the market I shared some tips and tricks on how to drastically save money on food – produce in particular. For those who are not semi-retired vegan plant eater such as myself, or just does not have the time to go to the market because of a demanding job, the grocery store comes to the rescue. Just like my best friend’s ex-girlfriends, grocery stores come in all shapes and sizes (and budget requirements). You are faced with three choices:

  1. The self-aware, high-end, expensive option. This stores is better decorated than your very own living room. Every item has been symmetrically positioned by a well-trained staff. More brands of cereal are available than you knew existed. You pay top Dollar for this nutritional shopping experience. Is it practical and easy? Ow yes! Worth the money? Usually no, unless you are very busy or very lazy. Both are valid excuses.
  2. The housewarming option. After moving into your cool new place, this one is perfect in the event of throwing a big party. You don’t want to buy all your snacks at the expensive grocery store, because you don’t want to remortgage your house just to see everyone gnawing away your hard-earned money. On the other hand, you are not going to buy the absolute worst quality just to save a buck. No, you seat yourself warm and cozy right in the middle; you get the best of both worlds (price and quality). And guess what? Everyone respects your solid decision-making.
  3. The dirt-cheap, yet surprisingly good option. This is where it’s at! You don’t go here often, but you indulge in bulk shopping like you are on crack! The shopping experience is by no stretch of the imagination a walk in the park – it’s quite a torturous experience. Wherever you live, the stores is always on the other side of town, you can forget about free samples or yummy hummus and cheese as an in-between shopping snack, you have to sit through listening to Kelly Clarkson songs on repeat, and don’t get the illusion you can go through checkout within 20 minutes. Yet, we love the dirt cheap, don’t we? Once every few months, you muster up the motivation to get your car and do some bulk shopping. Say hello to a trunk load of 30 pound bags of rice, gallon-size bottles of olive oil, and filling up your oversize cart with ‘buy 6, pay 5’ deals.

Despite the ordeal of shopping at the cheap stores I love it there. In one trip, you can get most of your shopping done for weeks. Wherever you buy your rice and flour the quality is usually pretty much the same. Why pay for the more expensive option? Moreover, you only have to make a trip for the basics every so often, because you don’t exactly run out of 20 pounds of rise very quickly – unless, of course, you also decide to feed your local HS football team.

For some reason I always soar with achievement when I buy in bulk. There is something profoundly satisfying about loading up these big bags into your pantry. Every time you fill up your little can from the big bag I think to myself, “this food is basically free.” HAPPY SAVING.

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