IMGP8307What’s this? A camera?

In Rangiora I fell in love with a nine-month-old doe named Pipi. She’s a small goat, near the bottom of the herd, and since her mother and brother were sold to another farm she’s a bit lonely, having no “herd friends.” Bottle-fed as a kid, she connects with humans instinctively. She’ll look into your eyes differently and she knows her name more than the others. Sometimes she’s looking for love, and she’ll come up to you and put her head against your leg, wanting to be petted. Pipi is the dearest and sweetest little goat I have ever met. The day I left the Rangiora farm I was inexplicably sad and nostalgic, and whatever the cause may have been, I am calling the reason Pipi. I never said a proper goodbye to her and I miss her like the Dickens.

IMGP8358The most important thing I learned at Tricolore Goats was that each goat has an incredibly distinct personality and has to be treated as such. They’re smart and clever beings and developing a relationship with each one is the beauty of a small-scale herd. The ones I got to know best were the milking goats: Lily, a massive but gentle white doe, Lilja, second-in-command of the herd, Gracie, a sweetheart and veritable milk-machine rescued from a dairy farm, Sky, headstrong and gorgeous and my favourite to milk, and Mallow and Bonnie, two smaller light-brown does. An example of how smart these lovelies are? They know in what order they go in and will walk straight up to the correct milking stand and wait to be milked. Here are photos of Lily, Mallow, and Sky, in that order:

IMGP8321IMGP8326IMGP8300In a way, I felt my WWOOF journey came full circle at Sarah and Steve’s farmlet. Their farm was at the top of my wishlist at the beginning, and I couldn’t arrange a visit that fit with their schedule the first time round but was lucky enough to be able to make it work later on. Considering that the reason I considered WWOOFing in the first place was to have a chance to work on a goat farm, now I can officially say that I’ve achieved that goal.

IMGP8296Sarah and Steve are an expat English couple who’ve lived in Canterbury for the past ten years. They’ve never been back to England. Steve’s a forensic nurse and Sarah’s a former high school/ESL teacher. She grew up on a farm and said that when she started working with goats again, things clicked into place and suddenly she was doing what she was meant to be doing. I had some very interesting conversations with them about life in this modern world, and was glad to meet their wonderful daughters Clem and Chloe, and Chloe’s boyfriend Jayden.

I loved all my farm duties relating to goats, be it herding them, feeding them, or milking them. Goats need shelter in cold weather or rain, so a barn is crucial for them, and we put coats on a couple of the needier ones at night.

IMGP8348Gracie with her coat, in the pen by the barn.

IMGP8329Also, I am finally a competent milker after practice every day for a week! Unlike cows or sheep, goats can continue to produce milk for years after they kid, so it isn’t necessary to breed yearly to get milk. Just one of the many amazing things about these animals. With our daily milking, I also learned a new cream cheese recipe and an incredibly simple process for making goat’s milk soap.

IMGP8350The herd is a mix of Nubians who don’t have the sort of warm fur best for winter, so Sarah’s started a breeding program with a hardier breed to get a mix that’s right for the southern climate. Nubians have floppy ears and a couple of the cross-bred ones now have funny ears that stick straight out! There are also a couple feral goat offspring – Snoopy’s a little wether that’s much smaller and stubbier than the others. There are some beautiful goats with horns, but because goats are quite mean to each other Sarah has started disbudding (de-horning) them while very young. In the long run it means less injuries to each other and the farmer. It’s no secret that the goats who currently have horns are at the top of the herd, since they have the ability to bash the others out of the way.

IMGP8319Part of the herd, with Jilly at the front. Jilly got really sick that week with bottle-jaw, a symptom of something else.  While Sarah prefers to use natural methods, antibiotics and other treatments are used when absolutely necessary to keep the goat healthy. 


Tikki, who, after jumping the fence, we tied at mealtimes so she wouldn’t steal food.

The only task I came to occasionally dread was feeding the bucks (JJ, Harry, and Arrow, the only gentleman of the bunch). They were in season while I was there so were a) more rambunctious than usual since they were craving sex and b) stinky as hell. Really, the bucks themselves were fine once I learned to deal with them as a goat would (push ’em around and show ’em who’s boss). But I have never smelled a more pungent and pervasive smell in my life. Inevitably I’d brush against one of them and my clothes would retain the odor and I’d smell it the rest of the day. One day they broke through the secondary safety gate and I had to struggle to get them back in with Jayden… THAT was a pain. I did find it funny that Jayden seemed to resent the bucks a lot more than I did though… perhaps he succumbed to a bit of male competition!

IMGP8305All in all, I learned a ton about natural goatkeeping from Sarah and she was very generous with her wealth of knowledge about the animals. Though I tried to write some of it down I’m sure a lot of it has already escaped my brain. Guess I’m gonna have to seek out goats again!


After my parents and I finished our trip, I was supposed to wwoof at an organic kiwifruit orchard for a week or two. Unfortunately the hosts kept me waiting and then finally cancelled on very short notice. Not really the best etiquette and I was suddenly stressed and without a place to stay.

But as they say, all things happen for a reason, and fortunately my previous hosts Rikki and John decided to take me in. It turned out to be an incredibly good week which I hadn’t realized I’d needed – to be somewhere familiar, among familiar faces, and to relax from jumping from place to place for a bit. I met an adorable French couple (Ben and Sam) and spent the week making preserves (tomato chutney and crabapple jelly), feta cheese, and cleaning up the garden between plantings.

During my stay there I also experienced more rain in a short period than I have ever experienced in my life. (Hence the lack of photos!) It rained and rained and rained and then it rained some more. It was incredible. Nearby, Nelson and Richmond underwent some scary flooding which luckily didn’t happen where we were. As a result we were stuck inside for the better part of four days… so lots of indoor kitchen-ey jobs! (Sidenote: because of this, I never did make it to Abel Tasman National Park. But whatever – can’t do it all, and I got to see Stewart Island’s beautiful coast, so I’m not complaining.)

IMGP8278The breaking of the rain was an otherworldly experience – an ethereal foggy yellow sunset in one direction, a clear blue sky in another, a vivid rainbow in yet another. What incredible skies. I have a couple photos but really they’re not that good and don’t show anywhere near what it was like.

IMGP8260IMGP8267 Later in the week, John and I went to borrow a trailer and a ram from a nearby friend/neighbour to impregnate two of the ewes. We also loaded up two of the lambs to take them to the butcher. That was hard – you are taking them to their death, of course, and the animals don’t like being loaded on to the trailer and driven down the highway. They are nervous and reluctant and they know something’s afoot.

John and Rikki had wanted to do homekill (way less stress on the animal, for one thing) but for various reasons it didn’t turn out to be feasible, at least this time round. I know John found it really hard to do this with the lambs and he was more quiet than usual on the ride home. On the plus side, at least he and Rikki are confronting the realities of killing for meat head on and doing the best they can by having their own animals living good lives. In an ideal world the animal wouldn’t have anything to fear if it was slaughtered on the property – so maybe they’ll get there sometime in the future.

At the end of my stay, John and Rikki headed south to visit family, and I housesat for a couple days until the other housesitter was able to come. She was a tiny, nimble, incredibly spritely woman named Margaret, in her mid-70s. Margaret is a force to be reckoned with! She does heaps of gardening around the area and keeps busier than what would appear humanly possible. In talking with her I learned a few snippets of her incredible life: she grew up on a farm and wanted to be a farmer like her father. He died young, in his forties, and she became a librarian instead since her mother/society wasn’t all that accepting of female farmers. Later on after raising her children she moved to England on her own and worked there for eight years. She came back to Auckland for awhile, and on the side got into photography and started selling prints and art cards around the city too. Now she’s back in Richmond to be closer to her daughter and granddaughter, nurturing her artist/gardener side.

Anyways, we got along really well and had many great conversations in the twenty-some hours we were sharing the house for. I am really glad I got to meet her, and if I make it to seventy-five I sure hope I can take a page from her book!

Time was running out so we rushed through much of Canterbury, since we wanted to see Abel Tasman National Park. (When we got to Abel Tasman it was bucketing rain so we didn’t see it anyways… but that’s another story.)

We drove pretty much straight to Akaroa, stopping only at Lake Tekapo for an obligatory stop at the Church of the Good Shepherd. It’s a quaint little stone church set on the edge of the lake (the window at the back therefore has a magical view). Unfortunately it’s quiet majesty gets stifled by tour bus crowds, but it’s still a neat sight.

IMGP8177By the time we drove through the Banks Peninsula, it was foggy and misty and you couldn’t see a thing! Winding roads bring you along Lake Ellesmere, past Little River into the little settlement of Akaroa, in a deep harbour. On the way we stopped at the boutique cheesery Barry’s Bay Cheese to stock up a variety of havarti, gouda, and cheddar-types. Mmm.

IMGP8200IMGP8188IMGP8196Akaroa’s a cute little town with some French influence, so the streets have French names and the houses are pretty and quaint. We even had French-inspired cuisine for dinner! Fortunately the weather started to lift around sunset so we at least got a better sense of what the town looks like. By morning the fog was gone and we stepped out of our adorable cottage-like hostel to a beautiful day, the drive back featuring some splendid views of the rolling hills. We took a rural road through to Lyttelton and Dyer’s Pass through to Christchurch for some more epic views. Along the way we encountered plenty of training cyclists and a parade of beautifully maintained old cars! They just kept coming like our own private vintage auto show! That was pretty special.

IMGP8182IMGP8204IMGP8211IMGP8220It was neat going through Christchurch again – every time I’m there I find another cool initiative happening to revive the city post-quake. This time there was a impromptu dance square installation in tribute to the many lost evening spaces/businesses.

IMGP8226Before arriving at Hanmer Springs for the night we stopped for lunch at Brew Moon Cafe, home of the microbrewery I wwoofed at back in February. Great food and a chance to show the fam what I’d been up to there. Of course, it was also a chance to taste all the yummy beers: Luna Wit (Belgian wheat), Ole Mole (reddish ale flavoured with Mexican mole spices), Dark Side (of the Moon) Porter, Hop Head Organic IPA, Amberley Pale Ale, and Broomfield Brown.

IMGP8232After a relaxing night at the Hanmer Hot Springs (an indulgence!!) we headed straight up to Motueka on the northern coast. Along the way were brief stops at the Lake Rotoroa and Lake Rotoiti, both part of Nelson Lakes National Park. They were peaceful and quiet and seemed like a great place to get away from it all; I suspect the tramping over there’s good too. For some reason it also felt a lot like parts of Canada.

IMGP8238IMGP8236IMGP8241Motueka was supposed to be our gateway to Abel Tasman National Park, but it rained, and rained, and rained some more. It was actually a good thing that we didn’t hold out for good weather, because the rain continued and even caused flooding in the Nelson area a few days later! Seriously, I have never seen that much rain at once. Ever. We still drove to parts of the coast for the sake of it but had to imagine what the lush greenery and clear beaches would have looked like on a nice day!

IMGP8245Anyways, as a result we instead took a windy road over Takaka Hill to the town of the same name, a laid back artsy hippie sort of place with a few art galleries and a lot of handpainted signs. It’s home to the Wholemeal Cafe, which is in a renovated theatre with welcoming tall ceilings, warm colours, and retro movie posters on the walls.

IMGP8249Nearby to Takaka are the spiritually significant Te Waikoropupū Springs, massive freshwater springs that produce over 14, 000 litres of water per second. That’s a lot! The water, even in the rain, was unbelievably clear, but hard to photograph. I’ve cheated and boosted the colours below to give you an idea!

IMGP8250IMGP8251Our home for two nights in Motueka was an organic farmstay called Treedimensions. It’s run by an expat German named Dieter and its mascot is an overly friendly cat named Georgia. Great little peaceful place to be, even in the rain, as there is an incredibly diverse number of fruit varieties (over 700!) and extensive food gardens. We only had a short conversation with our host but he was fascinating and had a wealth of knowledge and insight.

And then, as the rain continued, off my folks went to the North Island!

IMGP7966The day-long drive from Te Anau to Mount Cook absolutely floored me. Like the description I read recently in a photobook about Central Otago, the region’s got New Zealand’s “most potent” landscapes. The autumn colours and dry landscapes were magnificent and completely different from anywhere else I’ve seen in this country.

IMGP7949IMGP7983IMGP7987We did a detour to go through Alexandra and Clyde, then up through Cromwell and the Lindis Pass. There’s some interesting gold rush history in the region and the smaller towns have their fair share of historic buildings. Alex has a “shaky bridge” from one stony river cliff’s edge to the other, and Cromwell has a small historic precinct overlooking the convergence of two rivers.

IMGP7905IMGP7939IMGP7970IMGP7979There’s also plenty of fruit and vineyards in this region and you can stop along the highway at most orchards to drop coins in an honesty box and enjoy fresh stonefruit on the rest of your drive.

We stayed the night at a hostel located on a sheep farm near Omarama (Buscot Station). They run about 2500 merino and 3000 cattle and are well-established in the modern farming era of irrigation and big operations. The hostel owner, Tony, was full of stories and anecdotes – he’s travelled much of the world on small tours – but also had pretty staunch views on most political/environmental subjects. Once he got going he never quite stopped.

IMGP8031IMGP8051IMGP8055A slight detour to the Clay Cliffs was well worth it – these massive cliffs rise out of the landscape in total contrast to their surroundings. My parents started talking with a lovely older French couple who also stumbled upon the cliffs, leading to a nice spontaneous friendship! Who knows, maybe they’ll houseswap someday.

IMGP8069IMGP8082IMGP8117Mount Cook was a glorious two-day mountain stop with unreal turquoise glacial lakes. Nothing quite beats waking up and watching the sun rise in pink and orange hues over the snowcapped peaks. After a rather insane rainstorm, we were able to hike the Hooker Valley Glacier walk, a fairly level trail through beautiful scenery that takes you to the foot of the glacier. You can also drive up the Tasman Valley for a lookout near the Tasman Glacier – this one was my favourite as it seems so otherworldly. In fact, dare I say it, I think I actually liked it more than Franz Josef and Fox!

IMGP8100IMGP8133IMGP8141IMGP8151Mount Cook Village itself is a weird little place. Construction/commercialism is heavily regulated by the Department of Conservation, so all the buildings are the exact same colour and structure and material no matter how high or low-scale their interiors might be. I’m guessing the longstanding/monolithic Hermitage hotel also has something to do with this in a roundabout way. My favourite spot was The Old Mountaineers Cafe, which had wonderfully nostalgic black and white historic photos of mountaineering in the region. Good spot to while away the afternoon sipping coffee.

IMGP7797Milford Sound is the Great Big Thing on the South Island. More than any other landmark, the famous Mitre Peak seems to grace more tourism images, postcards, and advertisements than anything else.

The good thing is that it’s not really possible to be underwhelmed by Milford. After all, it’s an incredible landscape with massive cliffs and peaks rising straight out of the sea. But it does suffer from over-exposure I think. For me, one of the best parts about travel is wandering into the sort of landscape that takes your breath away, and it’s harder to have your breath taken away when you’ve been told what to expect. Regardless, though Milford didn’t quite have the sudden awe factor, it nevertheless floored me with its grandiose scenery. Here’s another photo to see the contrast in atmosphere with clouds:

IMGP7674The drive to Milford is two and a bit hours and I thought it’d be a harder drive than it was. I guess I was expecting more twists and turns and terrifying drop-offs, but the reality is that this road is so well-travelled that it’s got pretty incredible infrastructure. It’s actually fairly straightforward until you get to the Homer Tunnel, a 1km tunnel blasted through the mountain that upon exit has you winding down a snake-like series of twists and turns until you arrive at sea level once again.

Along the drive there’s plenty of scenic stops such as the Eglinton Valley (a flat grassy field with massive peaks all ’round), the valley’s lookout, the Mirror Lakes (pretty self-explanatory… they are rather small), and the Chasm. The latter is an impossibly deep crevasse formed by thousands of years of water, forming some interestingly shaped rocks.

IMGP7656We also went slightly off the main road to walk to the Lake Marian waterfalls, a long series of waterfalls running ferociously through the bush. The Milford region gets an incredible amount of rain each year – nearly 7 metres, on average 182 days per annum. As a result there’s plenty of waterfalls, and when it rains there’s even more.

IMGP7634Actually, part of me had hoped that it’d be raining when we took the boat out into the fjord (technically it’s a fjord, not a sound), as that way we could appreciate the true power of the rainfall through the many waterfalls that stream down the mountainsides. As it was, it was fairly sunny and striking, which had its own benefits – you could fully appreciate the height of the peaks and the vegetation (it’s amazing what these trees grow on). On the way back Dad and I decided to stop at the Discovery Centre, a floating underwater observatory that lets you see some of the sealife. Because there’s a freshwater layer above the saltwater, it blocks the light going in. That means the water underneath is especially dark, so it attracts species that would normally be much deeper down. Rather interesting to take a peak at these special creatures.


(To give you a sense of the size of the peaks, that white dot is a fairly big boat!)

IMGP7789IMGP7743IMGP7748IMGP7759We overnighted at the Milford Lodge and had an animated discussion with an Australian family, then packed up the next morning. On the way back to Te Anau we stopped for a 3 hour hike to Key Summit, which partly crosses the Routeburn track.

IMGP7849 IMGP7826IMGP7838I had wanted to do the three-day Routeburn but the Kepler won out on that battle, so it was neat to do at least part of it. Key Summit has some incredible alpine scenery and little alpine lakes, plus a half-hour nature walk at the top where you can learn more about the unique vegetation. From the viewpoint you can even see the aforementioned Lake Marian. Definitely a highlight – it’s great when day walks yield such spectacular results!

After spending most of my New Zealand journey at small or rural places with New Zealanders, crossing into the Queenstown area reminded me of just how traveled this country is. Not that there were huge crowds of tourists like you get in big cities, but there are a LOT of travelers, and the towns of Queenstown and Wanaka seem less typical Kiwi as a result.

Before getting to Wanaka we drove through the magnificent Haast Pass and took plenty of time to stop on the way for:
– Thunder Creek Falls
– Fantail Falls, named after the wee little bird
– the Blue Pools (in autumn you can see trout swim through the crystal clear water, but we were too early)
– a picnic at Cameron Flat. Most people seem to drive straight through but after stopping and admiring the valley I think it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been.

IMGP7303IMGP7319IMGP7351Wanaka is New Zealand’s Canmore – plenty of ski bums and wealthy retirees and a fairly uppity town centre for a tiny place. Upon arrival we splurged at the excellent Relishes Cafe featuring such delicacies as “Central Otago stonefruit with basil pannacotta.” Our stay there was a bit of a refueling/relaxing stop, so I only did a short walk up to Mount Iron for some stellar views of the surrounding region and also enjoyed the lovely lookout from Rippon Vineyard. The day we left we had hoped to walk the Rob Roy Glacier valley walk (supposedly amazing), but the bridge was closed so we walked to the Diamond Lake lookout instead. It turned out to be fine because the Mount Aspiring area has such stunning scenery that it’s pretty much impossible to be disappointed!

IMGP7376_stitchIMGP7382IMGP7404IMGP7365Wanaka’s little gem is Cinema Paradiso (the sign’s just like the movie), which has a hodgepodge collection of old sofas, theatre seats, and two cars (if you feel like pretending you’re at the drive-in). We were especially delighted by the freshly baked giant cookies and homemade ice cream at intermission. It felt somehow important and cathartic to go to the cinema since I had just found out about Roger Ebert passing away.

We took the scenic (and windy) road to Queenstown through the Cardrona Valley, picking up a friendly French hitchhiker on the way. Cardrona itself is a tiny town with a few quaint and adorable historic buildings.

IMGP7431IMGP7446_stitchIMGP7462IMGP7463I’ve written about Queenstown here already, but this time I was lucky to go a little further alongside Lake Wakitipu to Glenorchy. This area has been used in many films including Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia, and it’s easy to see why. The landscape has a grandiose, fantastical quality.

IMGP7599Halfway to Glenorchy was our accommodation for the night, which is the most welcoming, beautiful, inspiring, and overall incredible place I have ever paid to stay at anywhere on any of my travels. It’s called Little Paradise Lodge and it’s run by a Swiss-Filipino couple.  Thomas (Swiss) is the genius artist/jack-of-many-trades behind the property and Christy (Filipino) hosts each of her guests with more genuine hospitality than I thought humanly possible. Among its many handmade treasures are furniture pieces carved out of massive pieces of pine, goatskin rugs (Thomas is a hunter; he went to kayak across the lake to hunt deer the day after we arrived), stone mural mosaics on most of the common area walls, an aquarium for the toilet cistern, and old-school kitsch in the bedrooms like a VHS television, endless National Geographics, and even a taxidermied hawk above the master bed. Everything is made of natural materials, and everything functional has been transformed into a work of art.

And that’s just the house. Venture outside and you can wander through the magnificent gardens, featuring all manner of gorgeous botanicals (including 3000 rose bushes) and some of Thomas’s mindblowing sculptural art. There’s a subtle touch of environmentalism through written stone messages about such things as overpopulation and the decline of bees.

IMGP7518-001IMGP7527-001IMGP7577IMGP7582IMGP7583IMGP7570One night was far too short. I do hope I can return back there someday.

In addition to simply being behind on the blog, I upped the speed of travel over the past couple weeks since I roadtripped with my parents through parts of the South Island. Compared to the pace I’ve been going at since I arrived in September, it was breakneck speed! I thought I’d pick the highlights and put ’em up here under the label “Southern Roadtrip.” As of right now, my parents have headed north and I am taking a few days “rest” in Nelson before my next WWOOF. For now I am completely bagged and tired of traveling and frankly a bit homesick after spending time with family, but so it goes.

IMGP7131It was really great to have family around to spend time with (since in Canada we live stupidly far apart), plus with a rental car we got to see places I wouldn’t necessarily be able to see on my own. We spent the first week going down the notoriously rainy West Coast. It lived up to its namesake at times but some sort of miracle allowed us to have spectacular weather when we most needed it.

IMGP6888IMGP6949After Mom and Dad arrived in Christchurch we headed straight to Arthur’s Pass for a couple nights, seeing the magnificent Castle Hill rock formations on the way. While there we did the Bealey Spur hike which has magnificent panoramic views over a glacial river valley, snowy mountains in the background.

IMGP6907We took a short sidetrip up to the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki, which although geologically stunning and scientifically fascinating, was also insanely trafficked with tourists. It was like being at Niagara Falls. I can’t say I enjoyed the crowds! That being said, glimpses of the gorgeous rainforest of Paparoa National Park in the distance convinced me it’d be a stunning place to explore.

IMGP6976IMGP7006Down through Hokitika we drove around Lake Kaniere and to the Hokitika gorge, then decided to go on to a tiny town called Ross which has remnants of the gold rush era in the form of abandoned infrastructure (eg. the mining cottage shown below) and not-so-abandoned massive dredging pond.

IMGP7077IMGP7065I have to say, while I expected the West Coast to be a bit more “rugged” with independent Kiwi-types, since we went through it so fast most of the spots we saw were so inundated with tourism that it didn’t come across that way at all. I saw perhaps a small taste of it at the Bushman’s Centre where Dad received a rambling lecture about the hazards of 1080 poison use on possums from an enthused local. While I agree that it can’t be good to be putting sodium fluoroacetate into the wild, he was a little overzealous…

IMGP7092IMGP7095IMGP7157IMGP7240IMGP7267Both Fox and Franz Josef glaciers were stunning when the sun finally decided to shine, as was Lake Matheson. But the best part for me was getting a recommendation from a couple Aucklanders to check out the Curly Bait Whitebait Company on the drive south, who run a neat little foodstall off the coast and who’ve won a smattering of food-related acclaim. A fantastically hospitable Maori woman showed us the ins-and-outs of whitebait, tiny little migratory fish that are cooked whole in patties and served with mint sauce for the ultimate Kiwi culinary experience. Pretty darn good!