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Krista's Travels

WWOOF Host #7, Karamea

USA | Thursday, 26 March 2009 | Views [634] | Comments [1]

The beach at Karamea

The beach at Karamea

I travelled from the retreat center on March 18, to a very rainy very cold day on the northwest coast of the south island. Hamish and Margaret, my hosts, aren't in the wwoof program either, and in fact are good friends of my ex-housemate Lynne. It worked out that I stayed for a week and worked with them all week and they fed me and housed me so it was pretty much the same as wwoofing, except we got to gossip about Lynne (just kidding, Lynne). I'd been looking forward to this visit for a long time but put it off until my arms had healed enough to do light work and be of some service. Hamish and Margaret have a lovely farm right on the edge of extensive estuaries that lead to the open ocean eventually. I had a few great walks on the mud flats right out their back door with the dog Fern as my companion. They have sheep, which I got to see sheared, an impressive feat if you've ever seen it! They have many chickens and sell eggs to the cafe. They have cattle on a different property, which I never saw, but ate the predecesors of in several meals (yum). They have a beautiful garden for home consumption and an orchard. Since it is that season, we were processing pears and apples and asian pears like crazy (and eating them, my favorite was making baked apples and drinking the fresh pressed pear juice). They have two main commercial crops: tea tree oil and feijoa fruits. The feijoa weren't in season but I ate quite a bit of it from the freezer, a very delicious orangy pulp that reminds me of a kiwifruit. By the way: you can't say kiwi here...I made mistake of telling my bus driver I needed to eat my kiwis (they were getting too soft in my lunch sack)...and she said "kiwiFRUIT! kiwis are people and birds!"

The tea tree was really what I was so excited to see. It makes a wonderful essential oil that is one of these miracle plants with cure-all properties, or so it seems. Mainly it is used as an anti-biotic, anti-fungal, good to relieve the itch on mosquito bites, good to put on cuts and scrapes, etc. I use it a bit at home but now I'll use it much more because I've fallen in love with the plant. I got to help harvest and distill the oil, and even bottled up and labelled some bottles of oil. I think I would be quite content doing such all summer long if they lived next door to me! The distilling process is basically thus: you pack a large metal drum as tightly as possible with the small tea tree branches, and strap on a tight fitting lid. You have a fire heating up a large hot water boiler that pipes hot steam into the bottom of the drum of plant matter. The steam works its way up and up, and out the top is a pipe that collects the oils and steam water and travells sideways. Cold water comes into that pipe from the other end and mingles halfway, and at the end you get all this liquid dripping out. After an hour of maintaining the right hot steam to cold water balance and feeding more and more wood into the fire, you get a big bucked of liquid. You decant off the oil, which sits on top of the water and do a few more little steps to just make sure you've got all the water off the oil, and bottle it up. Viola! And then you start all over again, until the sun goes down. Very fun.

I didn't get to see any of the sights around Karamea, which was a disappointment, but only a minor one, because I had a great time at the farm and getting to know my new friends and their crazy dog. They seem to be quite well liked in the community and have people stopping by every day (some days many people in and out) and usually end up having tea or coffee or lunch with them. People that came to do work for them ate lunch with them also, rather than sitting with their own sack lunch or going into town. I don't know if this is just the new zealand hospitality way or just that everyone working for them were their friends, but it was nice nonetheless!

I returned to Wangapeka Retreat Center after that for another 8 days. I did work trade for 5 days and a solitary retreat for 3 days up at one of the cabins. That was a very meaningful experience for me. I had a chance to completely focus on being mindful in everything I do for three entire days. It helped that the weather was fantastic and there were no distractions from other people, and that nature was all around me. Still, it was challenging hard work and I feel there is lots to learn from this sort of work. I went on slow walks every day, meditated, did my yoga routine, ate my meals without multitasking, appreciating every bite slowly, read alot of buddhist philosophy, and wrote several letters plus a fair amount in my journal. There is so much to share and say but I feel it might be more appropriate on a one-on-one basis since not everyone is interested in meditation, buddhism, and yoga! I'll just end by saying I am in a lovely space right now, very in the present moment, and really enjoying myself. Cheers!



Getty really envious, Krista.

  Chris Apr 16, 2009 3:06 AM

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