Next stop was a farm just outside Raglan, a cool laid back surf town on the West coast. Our hosts were Linda and Brian who have 300 acres of land where we stayed and who had just taken over another 700 acres down the road. Linda also owns and operates a cafe and herb nursery. The house was built around 6 years ago on top of a hill giving anyone staying there amazing (and i really mean amazing) 360 degree views over the beautiful, remote countryside. We were quite bowled over when we first arrived particularly when we saw where we would be staying. We had our own seperate living area equipt with living room, bathroom and two, yes two, bedrooms! Bliss.
The work was very simple; clearing weeds from a few patches of land that Linda wanted to use for growing herbs. We kept ourselves entertained by adopting alter egos of Charlie (Dimock - me) and Alan (Titchmarsh - Dom) and the sheer number of weeds made it oddly satisfying when we had cleared a good area. Whilst working I cheated death not once but twice. The first incident involved a white tailed spider (native and deadly) sneakily perching on my hand, in a panic i flicked it off forgetting that i should actually kill it but i felt better when Dominic later discovered one (possible the same cheeky blighter) and smashing it three times with a spade. The second incident involved touching an electric fence whilst trying to scramble to the top of a hill, oh how Dominic did laugh. Besides these unforttunate events we got to experience something of a working farmlife, sometimes accompanying Brian on his quad bike out into the fields to solve the mystery of why some water troughs weren't filling up and witnessing first hand the sheep shearing.It took three (very sweaty) guys one day to shear 700 sheep. The farm was also home to many animals; friendly sheepdogs, two shy cats, five puppies who hadn't even opened their eyes yet, sheep, cows and a posse of impossibly cute piglets who we were told are often spotted climbing (haha) the fruit trees for food. I think i'm starting to become a litle bit of an animal lover (excluding cats).
Around Raglan are a number of black sand beaches which are home to many a cool surfer dude. We watched some guys practising at Manu Bay... oh to have grown up surfing *sigh*. Suppose Raglan is a little like newquay really. We spent one afternoon at the elegant Bridal veil falls where we watched the waterfall meet the pool and the colours we could see were just gorgeous.
What With being Lord of the Rings fans (albeit me a newbie) we thought it necessary to venture to Hobbiton. We can't really say much about this because we signed a legal discliamer and "as condition of your access you are bound by a legal obligation of confidentiality" and we don't really fancy being sued. However, we had a fab time, Dom walked in the footsteps of Gandalf (for a second i think he thought he actually was Gandalf) and we're both excited about The Hobbit (part 1) being released in December. The sheer effort and detail that goes into creating a set is astonishing, we shall show you peeps the photos when the film is released and say "we've been there nah ner nah-ner ner!" We felt the gift shop and cafe at the entrance of the tour was lacking in tacky, touristy charisma. All of the merchandise that were for sale were rare, expensive ornaments. I picked up some hobbit ears thinking they would be a great souvenier but when i realised they were $51.99 (aaprox £28) i thought i'd rather keep my own ears thank you very much. The cafe didn't play LOTR music to whet your appeite nor did it sell corresponding snacks....where were the Lord of the onion rings?
We had a very pleasent time exploring the nooks and crannies of Hamilton Gardens. This consisted of many themed gardens including Chinese, Maori, Italian Rennaissence, sustainable family, Indian, and an 18th Century English garden where Dominic thought it necessary to sing "pull down your pants and suffocate the ants in an English country garden" and thanks to that i've had it in my head ever since.
On Saturday night we ventured out into the Raglan par-tay scene and watched two uber cool bands play at the Yot Club. The Hollowgrinders were playing funky surf rock and later the Drab Doo Riffs entertained us with quirky, fast-paced, sci-fi rock. This mish mash of a band included an amy winehouse look alike, a skinny indie bloke playing harmonica and vocals, a hardcore rocker on bass and a red headed waif on lead guitar. They were wicked, google them if you get chance (Trouble was my favourite song). Some (Dominic) may say i got a little too into the party spirit and over indluged on the old Sav blanc. Dominic may have had to tactfully park our van to hide any incriminating evidence.
To kill a bit of time between leaving Raglan and our next HelpX destination (who couldn't accomodate us straight away) we Spent four nights camping in Tauranga. The weather was sweet as. Tauranga/Mount Manganui is the first place in New Zealand that we've felt like we were on a resort in Spain or something, with many bars, restaurants and hotels (this wasn't a bad thing). Dominic wanted to climb Mount Manganui which i was also happy to do, just not at noon with temperatures soaring over 30 degrees. So as we circled the winding, steep paths to the summit, loosing probably half my body weight in sweat, i kept very quiet as i secretly cursed Dom and his stupid ideas. However, the views from the top were pretty great looking out to the coastline. We didn't spot any floating cargo from Rena who had recently sunk nearby and had unfortunately contaminated the very inviting sea. I decided I would make friends with Dominic again when he sugested we treat ourselves to an 'all you can eat' chinese buffet which included sushi and green tea, yum and we spent the afternoon basking in the glorious sunshine on the beach watching people play volleyball.