Category Archives: New Zealand

Takaka: A Home for my Heart

While venturing through the world, now and then I come across places on my travels which I find it difficult to put down on pen and paper. Even though the yearning to write about these magnificent places is so strong, I cower away because a fear takes hold of me – a fear that I won’t be able to do these beautiful places justice with my words.

Takaka is one of those places. Nestled within Golden Bay, at the top of the South Island, Takaka emits a warmth unknown to me before now. Surrounding Takaka are waterfalls, trekking routes in the nearby Abel Tasman and an abundance of idyllic beaches stretching from one end of Golden Bay to the other. For two months I lived in this little hippie haven without noting down all the wonder I saw before my eyes, and I scold myself each day for delaying it. But now, I must write, before I leave this beautiful place and my memory starts to trick me, as memories often do. So, where do I begin?

As I wander down the main street, hippies dance around my steps while their bare feet lick the ground beneath them, large grins taking over their faces as they pass, but not without shouting a greeting in my direction. Concrete gives way to green spaces as nature and man made developments collide and I wander into the communal gardens just off the main road. Here groups of people lie baking in the afternoon sun, soft words flowing from their mouths and laughter kissing their lips. A guy with a rugged beard sits in the shade under a towering tree strumming softly on his guitar. The people nod in my direction as I walk past, their infectious, carefree vibes passing into my soul without them knowing.

The community is brimming with creativity which is showcased every Saturday at the Village Market. Locals make necklaces bearing beautiful, locally sourced stones, or tapestry they have crafted with their own hands. Many sell fresh, homegrown fruit and vegetables for a reasonable price – encouraging locals to support one another rather than the corporate supermarket. Some individuals showcase their wood carving talents, selling anything from large tables to small, intricate decorations. Others venture around the world during the winter months, buying handmade goods from Nepali and Indian tribes to sell to Takaka locals or travellers passing through.

In the dull light of the evening sun people gather in the park to slackline, to practice yoga with just acquainted friends, or come together for a jam session on digeridoos and guitars. An incredible flow of infectious energy bounces from one person to the next. There are no barriers in communication here and everyone is always welcome, emphasising a yearning for the collective community which used to dominate our cultures. People wave, smile and shout greetings in your direction, they urge you to join in with whatever they’re up to – to live communally. A world without strangers, a world where every stranger is simply a friend you haven’t met yet.

Takaka is a cosy bubble of individuals who care; about issues bigger than themselves, about the wider world, as well as about one another, and who project that in their everyday lives. People are passionate about the environment, about living off of locally, if not self grown, produce, about caring for one another and maintaining a welcoming and happy atmosphere for others to be a part of.

We created something special here – a pocket in the world where people gather after work to play music, to chat, to interact and connect with other like-minded humans rather than separate from each other and choose a TV screen as their companion instead. Takaka, for me, has been a breath of fresh air. Away from the constant competition and rivalry so often at play in Western societies, and rather a shift in focus to what is important – connecting with like-minded souls, experiencing life with them and in turn reinitating that laughter and sense of belonging which we all desire.

To conclude this incredible experience, I went with these beautiful people to Luminate Festival – a 7 day festival heavily focused on caring for Mother Earth, natural healing and stripping back the hardships of life to genuine connection and a whole lot of love!

I cannot tell you with words – for I do not have the words – but this experience changed the way I see life, opened my eyes to so many incredible paths and made me passionate about what I know to be important in this world. The connections and bonds I made there are indescribable – a safe haven of people whose energy constantly bounced off each other and in turn offered a home for my heart. A group of people who inspire me to take what we experienced in that environment out in to the world and spread the love, energy and knowledge with everyone I meet. I feel passionate to share this with others – to show them that we can live a fulfilled life without feeling the need to be part of a system which encourages competitiveness, stressful routines and vetting ourselves against our fellow human beings. Our energy is only strengthened by connecting with others – we must not segregate ourselves. I feel honoured to have been part of such a beautiful journey with these incredible, passionate souls who continue to inspire me everyday.

Takaka and my experience in this beautiful, eco-orientated town has instilled an important shift within me – one which, if you let it, New Zealand as a whole encourages within everyone. It is a passion to step back from the direction which most Western societies are heading towards – by that I mean obsessive consumerist tendencies stemming from corporate businesses manipulating our desires – and taking a step back towards the ways of our ancestors. Thus, becoming re-affiliated with nature, exchanging some of our precious time spent using technology with valuable human interactions from which we can learn and grow.

Takaka emits a magic from its core. A magic which, if you give yourself the time to pause here and immerse yourself in all which it has to offer, will stay with you long after you leave its gentle streets.

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Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman

Be weird. Be wonderful. 🙂

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Stewart Island

Stewart Island is a truly magical area of New Zealand situated only an hours ferry ride from the south coast of South Island. As we approached the island by boat, the dazzling colours of the surrounding forest paired with the harmonious sounds of a plethora of wildlife ushered us into a hidden paradise – immediately we felt we had ventured to an, almost, sacred place.

Renown for its bird life, the island attracts many bird watching enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Oban township itself is the only residential area on the island, which is
otherwise dotted with DOC huts and tramping routes through the magnificent wilderness. The local boozer in Oban is an old fashioned hotel which boasts a stunning view across the shore. The pub is constantly alive with the warm hum of chatter and gleaming eyes of the locals who are on their 5th pint of the day. Donned with black and white photographs of Stewart Island from decades past, the pub emits a welcoming atmosphere, creating a harmonious space for locals and visitors alike. To top it off, they serve the best Blue Cod and chips we have tasted in New Zealand thus far..so it’s worth a visit, if only for that reason!

The 3 day Great Walk around a small portion of Stewart Island ranges from beautiful, golden beaches to day long tramping through the thick forest which is populated with a wide range of native bird species. At every rustle within the forest, we found ourselves pausing, searching for the unmistakable shape of a Kiwi. We weren’t so lucky on our 3 day tramping expedition but, on our last day, we took a boat over to Ulva Island – a protected
wildlife sanctuary. There is no accommodation on Ulva Island and no humans reside there – the island is purely for the array of bird life and other wildlife who inhabit the forests and beaches. Void of any pests, the islands wildlife live a luxurious life and prosper there. It was within these forests we heard a loud rustle in the trees beside our path, and turned around to see a large brown kiwi pecking into the ground in search of his next meal – the Kiwi wasn’t bothered by human presence and carried on for the next 5 minutes in close proximity to us.

Stewart Island is one of those very rare places left on Earth which is yet to be ruined by humans. The magical atmosphere, which encompasses you while you’re visiting, stems from a knowledge that wildlife and nature continue to rule the roost of this beautiful island. It is, as of yet, much too isolated to be a target of commercial building, despite its attraction for tourists. I would urge anyone visiting New Zealand to witness the phenomenon of Stewart Island, and maybe as you do so, you might notice how magnificent the natural world is, void of any of our own fine tunings.

 

Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman

Be weird. Be wonderful. 🙂

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Wanaka – A Pocket of Paradise

Wanaka is a little slice of paradise in the South Island of New Zealand. The idyllic town is situated on the lakefront and away from the hyper buzz of Queenstown. If Queenstown is your Friday night, Wanaka is your Sunday morning – slow paced, calm, and bubbling with an infectiously homely vibe. The scenery truly is second to none and the community is a tight knit group of families who welcome newcomers during the winter season. It’s peaceful here, and it’s the kind of place where you can always hear the birds chirping over the sound of car engines.

It’s not surprising Wanaka is so popular. In the winter months, the quaint town is crawling with seasonnaires spending their days up at either Treble Cone or Cardrona Mountain, and their nights either serving or enjoying drinks in local bars. Comparatively, throughout the hotter months, Wanaka is a fleeting  breath of fresh air for travellers experiencing New Zealand through the means of Kiwi Experience, or something similar. Fleeting it may be but, for many, its impression will be ever lasting.

Nestled among a valley of mountains, Wanaka boasts scenery which makes it difficult not to stop and stare. For a town with no traffic lights and where traffic is a rarity, venturing anywhere usually takes longer than expected – for no other reason than it is breathtakingly beautiful. It feels rude not to take a minute out of your day to stop and appreciate the beauty of nature. There are dozens of spots surrounding Wanaka itself where you can escape to, and chances are – as there are so many tranquil and hidden spots – they won’t be crammed with people, in fact more likely than not you’ll end up basking in your own solitude.

An unrivalled paradise for the outdoors fanatic, there truly is something for everyone – on a casual Saturday afternoon  you might witness para gliders landing in the centre of town, jet skiers and kayaks on the lake and people paddling out to Ruby Island. It is a constant hub of activity  with bars lining the lakefront where people huddle after their days to grab a cold beer, while soaking up the last hour of the days sunlight. In a nutshell, Wanaka allows you to spend the day skiing up at the glorious nearby mountains, to then return to the lake side and enjoy a BBQ with some beers in the evening sunshine. It is a bubble of activity coupled with a chilled vibe.

Naturally, the individuals who decide to build a life here all have a passion for nature and the outdoors. With such immense beauty and the opportunity to try numerous, exciting new sports, why would you want to stay indoors?! The people who have built a life here create and reflect the towns chilled out bubble. Rather than the common sight of people in suits heading to work, it’s much more likely to witness people wandering around barefoot and in shorts – even in winter. There is a distinct lack of competition in terms of consumerist items, and in its place a passion for second hand goods, for sharing and passing on, for lending a hand when you can – a beautiful community outlook which is getting rarer and rarer to find.

Living in Wanaka is a lifestyle choice – for most, it’s not the place to chase your dream job, but it is the spot to secure the dream lifestyle. Wanaka means having the ability to take powder days off work when the mountains get a big dump of snow. It’s the place where, for your kids, school skiing is pretty much compulsory for one day a week throughout winter. Wanaka is a much needed breath of fresh air – one away from obsessive academic pressure often put on kids, and in its place a redirected emphasis on the importance of lifestyle, and balance. The mountains, the lake, the beautiful hikes…they are all calling you, and it would be rude to say no.

So yes, living in Wanaka may mean sacrificing a fast paced career but, I have found, that living in this pocket of the world inspires individuals to go beyond the rat race, to take their own ideas and creations and release them into the world. In my eyes, Wanaka reminds each person to step back from that consumerist lifestyle we are all too easily caught up in, connect with nature, and take a minute for yourself. Go on an adventure, or simply sit outside and enjoy the beautifully peaceful place the lucky people who live here get to call home. On a hot, sunny day at 5pm, there are few places I’d rather be than sat at the lakefront with an ice cold cider!

An endless playground for the adventurous souls. A nonjudgmental haven for the dreamers of this life.  A roaring fire for those harboring that creative spark, just waiting for it to ignite.

 

Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman

Be weird. Be wonderful. 🙂

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