Friday, February 11, 2011

Life in Motueka (and adventures that ensued)

I met the “Organic Breadman lady” at the Nelson Saturday market and once people had dispersed she packed up the trailer and toted me (and all of my life possessions) back to her place in Motueka. Claire and her family were away on a weekend camping trip, but she had snuck away for the day to run the Breadman stall and drop me back home. She showed me my campervan (see “Happiness” post for pictures) and I settled in for the night. In addition to the campervan, there are three sleep outs on the property that hosted: an old Kiwi guy, a French couple, and another couple that was American and German. There was also one German girl in a tent next to my campervan. We all shared a kitchen toilet/shower area attached to the main house, but had our separate little areas on the property that were divided by lots of beautiful vegetation and some creative fencing.

Some travelers hanging out around two of the sleep-outs.

I introduced myself to the other tenants and then worked out plans for a ride up to Paynes Ford for some Sunday climbing. There was a possibility of heading up that evening, but I didn’t have a tent to camp in and wound up finding a ride with some others for the next morning instead. This worked out perfectly because I was pretty excited to put my clothes in drawers and get to sleep in my own bed, in my own space - with a locking door and everything!

I went climbing the next day with some fine folks I met through Vertical Limits (the Nelson indoor climbing gym). The employees have a habit of kicking everyone out at the end of their busy Thursday nights, saying it’s “beer o’clock” so we all can retreat to the Free House, a local church-turned-pub with a great atmosphere! I’m not sure there are many more welcoming environments than a bunch of climbers bonding over a post-climbing beer, so whenever in Nelson I have made it a habit to attend!

We (Rieke, Sjoerd, Brad and I) drove up over Takaka Hill (a long, windy, narrow road you need to navigate every time you head north to Takaka or beyond. In this case we were going to Paynes Ford (the same place I climbed with Dave & co. back in December), which is a few kilometers south of Takaka, but still on the other side of the treacherous hill.

The four of us climbed together for most of the day, trying some routes I hadn’t been on before. In the afternoon, we happened upon a wall where many others from Vertical Limits were hanging out, and I got to meet some new friendly faces from the gym! I had a good day climbing and getting to know everyone, though I didn’t really feel like I was pushing myself to climb super hard. They dropped me back in Motueka on their way back to Nelson, and I told everyone to let me know who was going back over the hill the next weekend (and wanted to give me a ride)!

That evening, I arrived back at home base and found everyone hanging out in the front yard. Some of the other tenants had a few friends over for a bit of a party and our host family was visiting too. I joined in, met the kiddos, and got to know the host family a bit. I even ended up taking over some nanny duties and put Bree and Riley to bed!

I spent the next week enjoying some solitude on a trip that is so often spent with other people. It’s amazing that even though I am traveling alone, I constantly find myself surrounded by others! Whether it is a traveling companion or just other backpackers in a hostel, most of my days include many interactions with other people. Where I was staying, there were 6 other tenants, the two children I was there to nanny, their parents, a charmingly friendly dog, and a cuddly cat. I chatted with the others when I saw them, but was quite happy to be able to do whatever I wanted for a while! I slept in, worked on some blog updates, took trips into town, swam a lot, made some creative meals, caught up with some friends and family on Skype, started (and finished) a book, got to know the kids a little, helped to relocate a giant pile of firewood, attended Laughter Yoga, and very much enjoyed a bit of time away from constant travel! (Yes, I am aware of the irony of taking a holiday away from my holiday, but sometimes you just need to take a step back!) It was lovely.

Sunrise at the saltwater baths.

The next weekend proved even more fun than the first! I again spent Saturday trying to find a ride up to Paynes Ford as I knew many people were planning to climb on Sunday (and Monday - since it was a national holiday). By Saturday evening, I had found a ride with Brad and Hannahbess (another familiar face from Nelson) for the morning, and an invitation to attend a party with a bunch of climbers in Marahau first. I borrowed a tent from the kids I was nannying and had an hour to pack (and shower, and take my laundry off the line), and we stopped at the grocery store on the way so I would have something to contribute to the BBQ that night.

In addition to creative construction using bamboo from the property (there was a massive sun awning fashioned for the occasion, and we made lots of skewers for kebabs), we had fun socializing, putting a huge spread of all the food contributions together for an impressive meal, singing along to the sounds of a talented musician who happened to have his guitar and amp along, and topping off the evening with some stargazing before camping out in the yard!

As if Saturday night wasn’t enjoyable enough, we all seemed to decide we didn’t want the fun to end. After combining whatever food was around for breakfast (and again coming up with an impressive selection), a couple slacklines were set up and archery gear was brought out! These entertained us all for a while until interest shifted to playing some volleyball, followed by some childhood yard games! The afternoon was somewhat lazy with some reading/chilling on the front porch, but also included a trip to the swimming hole up the creek a bit. Of course, I can’t leave out the entertainment of Bonbon, the miniature horse who thinks he’s a dog and invites himself into the house! Somehow we scrounged together another tasty meal for dinner (I think we were having too much fun to remember lunch) and began an evening of some awesome board games! We didn’t actually have boards but I had fun facilitating Things (one I know from the states) from memory, and Hannahbess led some combination of whisper-down-the-lane with writing and drawing. It was a wonderful night with lots of laughter, and ended with at least 7 of us cuddling on the living room floor to sleep. Any group of people that can be that comfortable with each other is definitely worthwhile to spend some time with!

Trying out my slacklining skills.

On Monday we finally headed up over the hill to Paynes for some climbing! It was a great day and I felt like I was able to push myself a little harder this time. We introduced Hannahbess to the world of outdoor climbing (it was her first time) and met up with people from the party in Marahau, as well as some that had come for the weekend at Paynes. Those that were there for the whole weekend were a bit tired by Monday afternoon, and Hannahbess had had enough for the day, so Brad and I decided to climb one more route before we called it quits. We said we’d meet up with everybody at the swimming hole when we were done and went to find a highly recommended route on the next wall.

Hannahbess on her first ever outdoor lead climb!

I liked the sound of the description for “Rat up a Drainpipe” which is rated a 20 (a bit harder than I typically lead outdoors) so I decided to give it a go and try to work my way up it. It seemed like it should be my kind of climb as it was more technical than strength-based, so we found the start and I headed up.

About a third of the way up the wall, Brad mentioned something about maybe the route being a bit more to the left, but I was pretty certain I was on the right one (ahem, probably too stubborn to listen) and it was a bit too late to move over at that point. I started to second guess myself when I realized I had used 4 of the 6 quickdraws (the carabiners you hang on the wall to clip your rope into) I was supposed to need before I even reached the halfway point! I had Brad lower me a couple times to back-clean a bit (take some of the quickdraws I didn’t need anymore so I could use them later) and continued to work my way upwards (slowly, very slowly, but surely). I took a rest at nearly every quickdraw, sometimes spending at least 20 minutes trying to work out the next move (or hangdoggin’ it and trying to regain some strength)! The route was well protected (having a bolt to clip your quickdraw into very close to each of the hard parts) but certainly challenging and sustained!

By the time I finished, Brad informed me that I had actually climbed “Bilbo’s Great Adventure” which is located directly next to “Rat up a Drainpipe” and shares the starting bolt. “Bilbo’s Great Adventure,” however, is rated a 21 and is way beyond any level I have lead outdoors in the past! By the end I was completely knackered (pardon the kiwi-sim, but it’s so much more descriptive than “exhausted”) and collapsed into a pile to regain some energy in order to belay Brad. The climb took me at least an hour and a half and when I came down I must have chugged more than a liter of water after being on the wall in the sun that long! Luckily I had set up a toprope for Brad so it only took him half an hour (which is still pretty lengthy for a single-pitch climb)! We felt awful that Hannahbess was waiting for us for a ride, but there wasn’t much we could do once I had started the route (besides bailing and abandoning gear). It was definitely a mistake that I climbed it, but I don’t know the last time I felt so accomplished! I’ve learned over the years that you’re never going to improve unless you push yourself to step outside of your comfort zone, and boy, can that be exhilarating! I was chatting with someone last night who mentioned how the route should probably now be called “Kirstin’s Great Adventure”… I’m in favor of that! :)

We returned to this side of Takaka Hill that night and I took over “mommy” duties first thing the next morning. Claire was in Christchurch for the week studying midwifery, and I was pretending to be her by getting the kids ready for school and taking them there in the morning, then picking them up at the end of the day and taking care of snack and homework time. I hung out sometimes in the evenings, but their dad, Kevin, was there to make dinner so my duties didn’t last all that long. I had time off during the day so I could maintain my swimming habit, Skype with my family, try to plan my next adventure, read my book, and run some errands.

Maggie and I wait for the school bell to ring...

One night that week we had a birthday gathering for the German girl whose tent was next to my caravan. She made pizzas in the outdoor brick pizza oven for all the tenants and we sang happy birthday to her in French, German, English, and American Sign Language simultaneously. It was a nice multicultural experience among a lovely group of travelers!

Thursday I asked to borrow the car (for which the keys had been given to me for the week anyway) to join my friends down in Nelson for the weekly climbing night. I realized on my way there that it was the first time (aside from dropping the kids off at school) that I was driving a car in NZ by myself. I had the windows down and the music on and it was a beautiful feeling that I hadn’t had in quite some time! It’s moments like that where I wish I had taken others’ advice and gotten a car when I arrived in NZ, but I keep reminding myself of the reasons why I didn’t. Still, it is nice to enjoy a good drive when the opportunity comes along!

That weekend I attended the Blues Brews and BBQs festival in Blenheim and spent an afternoon in my favorite swimming hole in Nelson – yet another enjoyable weekend! It was some point during that week or weekend that I realized I actually have some friends in Nelson. Friends who I would like to see again! I have had a few friends I met traveling (Louise being the prime example) who I am sure I will stay in touch with, but it’s a different feeling to have local friends. Yes, there are a number of travelers in the group I spend time with, but for the most part they are based out of or around the same area of the country. It was as if I suddenly had a reason to stay, though I had already made plans to move on.

I headed back to Motueka after the weekend (since I had a place to stay without paying for a hostel every night), and waited to figure out plans with Louise for my next upcoming adventure. She was meant to come down from the North Island sometime that week, so I caught up on some blogging, organizing pictures, planning and scheduling in the meantime. We figured out some general plans and I decided to head back to Nelson for perhaps my last Thursday night climb before I met up with Lou on the weekend.

Quite excited to receive my first overseas mail!

I found a ride from a climbing buddy coming through Motueka on the way to Nelson, and another climber let me couchsurf in Nelson for the next few days! We attended a few get-togethers with climbing folks that weekend which included BBQs, pasta, slacklines, dancing, circus counterbalancing, fire pois, games, guitars, singing, random neighbors, a limbo contest, sweet corn on the grill, and some farewells to my Nelson friends. Louise was invited to couchsurf with me for my last night in Nelson before we started our next adventure together, and got to meet some of my climber friends too!

Trying to remember my color guard skills... 

My experience in Motueka was certainly a positive one, and it was nice being in one place for a while where I could develop some semblance of a routine – or at least some regular friends to spend time with! My host family invited me back if ever I’m in the area, and I definitely hope to see some of my Nelson friends again! I had an interesting conversation with Rieke (a fellow climber/traveler) about meeting people along the way. I talked about some of the travelers I’ve met in hostels or various other situations, and she said she really looks to get to know Kiwis instead of fellow travelers. She said she liked living in once place for a while because it allowed her to get to know people well enough to have a reason to come back for a visit. I thought that was a very good point, and feel that I have been able to achieve that in Nelson. I started to wonder if I should stick around some more, but I began to realize that the group I befriended is quite transient. There are always travelers in the group, and people come and go quite frequently. I feel like my leaving is not unexpected and in a way it’s nice to move on before the group changes too drastically. I will miss our spontaneous playful interactions, but I’m sure there are always new people to meet wherever I settle next!

Impromptu dance party? Yes, please!


  1. awesomeness. i love reading about your adventures. keep living it up.. and well done on "kirstin's great adventure!" :)

  2. Thanks, lovely! I love that you follow my adventures! Hope life is good with you!!


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