The smell of hot whitebait sammies wafted through the air, and the sound of the amplified banjo met the ears of residents and visitors at Motueka’s weekly market. Such a variety of goods available, one can hardly call it a ‘farmers market’; the term seems utterly out of date here where anything from Kumbucha scoby’s to organic clothing and oriental food to fermented pesto can be sampled and purchased from stallholders who know their own products and have a clear passion for their trade.
As I walk through the town, traditionally known for being an agricultural town and gateway to the enormous Abel Tasman National Park, I feel there’s a lot more to this place than meets the eye. I spent just five weeks living a short drive from the centre, and I have been both inspired and fascinated by the people that live in the Nelson region. Being a huge producing area for fruits and veggies, Motueka increases its population during the harvest months, normally being a town of 7,593 (2013 Census), this grows as Papua New Guineans, Europeans and South Americans come for picking time, drawing in a new energy to the thriving economy here.
Besides being an area boasting delicious fresh food and wine making, there are also a great many artists in the area; just a short drive along the Motueka highway and signs to galleries and craft cafés can be seen, showcasing art from pottery to paintings, wood carving and textiles and much more besides. I’ve met small communities grouping together to form organic wholesale co-operatives, creating learning workshops on unusual skills and for the first time I even saw a ‘Koha campsite’! What an encouraging and spirit warming place it has been to spend time.
Motueka, translated from the Maori, means ‘island of bush with Weka birds’ which in my experience is an appropriate name; every morning on the smallholding where I was HelpXing, I’d feed the horses their hay and throw out some kibble for the chickens when- out of nowhere- Weka birds and their young chicks would swoop in and try to get a feed! Such flighty little creatures, these birds have a soft set of feathers and can be seen all over the area; just beautiful, and so, I’m glad to say, are the people here.
Statistics and fact from: http://www.motuekaonline.org.nz/about-motueka.html
A walk in a nearby park filled with Oak, Beach, Ash and Chestnut trees reveals the last vestiges of summer are slowly disappearing day by day. Though the sight of greenery and decay can be seen as woeful, this is the perfect time for leaf peeping and getting some fresh Autumnal air through the windpipes.
Around October many colds and other sickly viruses float around in stuffy spaces when people are feeling run down and partied-out after a season of fast paced action. But there is hope in sight! Research from Dr Mercola implies that walking barefoot allows people to pick up electrons from the ground which help keep our immune systems in check and improve our overall health:
“Your immune system functions optimally when your body has an adequate supply of electrons, which are easily and naturally obtained by barefoot contact with the Earth.
Research indicates that electrons from the Earth have antioxidant effects that can protect your body from inflammation and its many well-documented health consequences. For most of our evolutionary history, humans have had continuous contact with the Earth.
It is only recently that substances such as asphalt, wood, rugs, and plastics have separated us from this contact.”
Indeed, there is much evidence to suggest that on a day to day basis, most of us will walk around in socks and shoes and most often on tarmac or un-organic flooring of some kind. The research continues to suggest that not only is barefoot walking beneficial for picking up electrons, but that it is good for the foot and its muscles; strengthening the bones and increasing overall flexibility all the way up the leg.
Personally, I like to walk barefoot amongst the grass and crispy leaves for sensory enjoyment. It feels truly refreshing to press my (usually very squashed) wide feet into the soft brown earth, to feel with my soles the moving of life under the soil, to spread my toes and get air between those ignored little figures. People wonder and sometimes ask “does it not hurt, stepping on a prickle or stone?” it does, a little, but never enough to put me off. And it is good to feel a sting or stub once in a while, to alert your feet, to spread them out like the beautiful petals of a flower.
So, next time you’re out and about with the birds and the trees I urge you to kick of your shoes and bound fearlessly amongst it; do not step gingerly my friend, half the benefits of the action are in the vigour of which you go about it.
“DOWN IT FRESHER!” There I was, cornered amongst the ironing boards of a humid student flat, 30 odd students crammed into a kitchen- lounge in our ‘beach party’ themed get-up, attempting to intoxicate myself for the fifth night in a row. Loud music sounded though someones very swanky looking MacBook Air from atop the fridge and a hap-hazard game of beer pong was taking place amongst the havok.
“WHO WANTS SHOTTSSS?!” Yelled a daring Dutchman wearing a bandana from across the room. He lunged himself hither and thither with a bottle of Glens Vodka in each hand, freely dispensing it wherever it was wanted. Shoulder top wrestling commenced outside while a seemingly sober group of people attempted ‘Ultimate Frisbee’ with their flat mates crockery. All this before we even leave campus.
After some time of increased drunken debauchery around the student village, the hoard dispersed to find the bus stop… where is it? When does the bus come? Which stop do we need and where are we even going? So many questions to which no one had any decipherable answer.
After much consulting with a (clearly very distressed and fed-up) bus driver, we reached our destination- the nightclub! Hurrah! But look, the que stretches halfway down the street forcing many desperate punters to find a quiet alleyway in which to empty their bladders and throw away old bottles of back-washed pre-drink. Inside, the club was full and booming; while waiting in line for a drink I observed awkward hook-ups… they looked so nervous and afraid of each other I begin to wonder what the actual point of the whole exercise is “there’s no point” confirmed my Norweigen flatmate “It’s just the alcohol”.
Anyway, enough about the sweaty clubs and filthy hangovers, that’s half the challenge; the other half is trying to work out where you need to be for your enrollment, how the library works (it’s very futuristic if there’s anything to be said from it), and where to buy food and aspirins. It’s all very confusing and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so clueless in my twenty years but at least we’re all in it together, eating food from Iceland and signing up to way too many societies and clubs in the midst of the Freshers Fair.
Though it was a fun week and I met so many interesting, witty and vivacious young people all living within four hundred meters of me, let’s just say I’m glad it’s over. That is, until next year when I’ll probably find myself being a club promoter or warden of some description to pay for the rent. Until then, I’ll let my liver rest and put my brain in gear for some hard-out study time!
Recently I was disgruntled and annoyed to see vaginal odour altering sprays advertised on the television. I’ve always known such a product is on the market; it has been for fifty years or more. But the question is, do we really need them, and are women being targeted over the insecurity that their flower smells less than fruity?
I argue that no, women do not need such sprays and may actually be damaging to the ph balance of the vagina! A simple daily rinse with water in the shower is all that is needed to keep ones genitals clean… thats why women have discharge, to keep everything tip-top on the inside. To ‘seal in’ odour or give the vagina a ‘scented freshness’ is frankly damaging and may cause unnecessary irritation.
The other point I’d like to make about such products is that I believe them to be targeting women’s insecurities. What is the most sensitive and taboo subject for women? Vagina smell you say? Let’s cash in! How obtuse of the product creators to make us feel we have to buy their product so our genitals are more appealing. What’s more, a similar search on the same search engine for mens penis sprays had less than half the results, few of which targeted smell, but rather, ‘lasting longer in bed’ (another play on insecurities, but still not as damaging as being told you need to ‘block odour’ everyday).
I will just extract a quote from Germaine Greer: “Vaginal secretions are the subject of a vast folklore; the huge advertising campaigns for deodorants and sweeteners of the vulvar area deliberately play upon female misgivings about the acceptability of natural tastes and odours. One vaginal deodorant is even flavoured with peppermint to provide an illusion of freshness and inhumanity. Others are metholated. The vaginal is described as a problem preventing some of the niceness of being close. The excessive use of douches with chemical additives is actually harmful to the natural balance of organisms existing in the vagina, and yet no doctor has dared to denounce it openly.”-The Female Eunuch Page 290, (published 1970).
The popularity and money being made by the products concerns me. They is not only unnecessary and damaging to women’s bodies, but damaging to the psyche too; as if women do not have enough trouble in shaving, plucking, waxing, and buying pretty lacy panties, we are now expected to deodorize and flavour our flaps too. Men don’t have to put up with this, and I’m having none of it!
Just over a month ago a Dutch firm E-Njoint BV brought out the new E-spliff. The product is nicotine, tobacco and THC free, but is still supposedly has the medicinal benefits of of real marijuana. I’m not sure how that can be as the vapors contain plant based products and propylene glycerol. Still, the manufacturers claim that is is selling well for many summer festivals and events and they are producing over 10,000 a day so it must be popular with people wanting to replace their pot smoking habit or enjoy a legal high of some sort.
It does raise questions for me though… I feel that the government have not fully considered the ethics of having such a product on the market. Surely the E-Spliff stylizes the consumption of recreational drugs through it’s neon green light-up leaf and sleek tubing? Is it not obvious that people who buy this product have smoked marijuana and may use it as a replacement while dealers are thin on the ground? To ignore the demographic this product is marketed at is to ignore a huge culture of people who may use the drug for medicinal purposes such a pain relief, insomnia and muscle spasm as well as those taking recreational drugs. But it is the THC content in marijuana which can alleviate these problems, so surely the vaporising E-spliff is just an accessory?
I believe having this product on the market in the UK yet disallowing people to grow their own hemp and marijuana plants seems backwards; it’s almost like making growing your own poppies illegal, but legalizing Heroin and Morphine as a recreational drug.
Either way, I think in selling this product in a country that comes down heavily on drug takers, dealers, and growers, it is contradicting the reason for actually making marijuana a class B drug and surely inhaling glycerol vapours isn’t all that good either?
The famously Art-Deco city of Napier in the Hawkes Bay region of the North Island is among one of the quirkiest and most colourful towns I have had the pleasure of visiting on my trip. I stumbled upon Toad Hall Backpackers when looking for a different hostel , but I am so glad I came across the former instead; as soon as I walked into the foyer feeling a little bedraggled from my journey I could see it was a place where fun was being had. With bright orange walls and comfy sofas to seat plenty of guests the hostel also had a pool table, a piano, and a much-loved Twister mat parcel taped to the floor. Along with the good vibes of the high ceiling rooms I was greeted by a friendly receptionist who showed me around. A dorm room was very cheap and consisted of only two beds so I had the space to myself throughout my stay. The whole hostel has a sense of space and light with high sash windows letting in plenty of air; a far cry from many of the stuffy, claustrophobic hostels I had previously stayed in like sardines in a tin.
I was making my usual, cheap backpackers dinner of rice and vegetables when the utensils began to shudder on the counter top and load vibrations pervaded through the walls. I glanced around in confusion for a short time before sticking my head out of the window and remembering that just next door is an independent music venue for touring bands of different genres. That night was DEADFEST, the punk-rock festival of Napier and before long punks from all over the country descended on the hostel ; the kitchen was full of pink Mohawks, tartan trousers, safety pinned clothes and studded boots. Band members milled around finding their rooms after unloading their equipment and instruments at The Cabana next door.
The place came alive with musicians and groupies chatting with backpackers like myself and sharing ciders and whiskey mixers around. I thought how refreshing it is to be in a place where people actually face to face socialize rather than stay glued to their SMART phones or tablets connected to the nearest WIFI in their own virtual world.
I am what one might call an ‘Old-Style’ backpacker in that I travel without means of contact. If I want to let my folks back home know how I’m doing, I’ll send a postcard or find a computer at a local library to email once in a while. All at once I fest the hostel was alive with like-minded people and took the opportunity to put myself out there and make myself known. “Sixty-five guests staying tonight and you wouldn’t know it” said Ruthie, the proud owner of the hostel as she took her shot at pool “It’s like a Tardis in here, it’s great.” I couldn’t agree more. Four ciders and two games of pool later I made my way over to The Cabana, it was only $5 to get in- money well spent I’d say!
There were two stages inside pumping out punk-rock to fans, everyone in the venue was dressed in at least some black, with eccentric hair and customized vests.
After throwing myself around and being elbowed in the face and ribs to a sufficiency I was invited backstage to some band memebers; when I say backstage I mean behind the black curtain where the white breeze-block walls were adorned with marker-pen signatures and band names where I saw that Salmonella Dub had played before; a well respected kiwi band. The whole venue had a sense of good times past, with it’s walls clad with posters of previous bands and themed nights I could tell many interesting characters had been through its doors.
Sometime later in the early hours of the morning I staggered back to the hostel- a difficult ten metre walk when one is heavily intoxicated, and unsurprisingly lost a game of pool to whoever was still up before eventually retreating to bed.
I am still convinced there is no better city than Napier in which to nurse a hangover. I began by aimlessly wandering the streets lined with pastel coloured 1930’s buildings and found myself in the midst of the local farmers market which happens every Saturday. The smell of warm pretzels and fresh coffee floated through the air and after finding some tea I reclined on a grassy patch of one of the many town squares with bright flowers and a water fountain at it’s centre. Locals are friendly and it’s easy to strike up a conversation with a stranger ; I have since met up with one of the band members in Wellington and he showed me the sights.
The coastal city of Napier is undoubtedly one of my favourite urban destinations and if you enjoy quality socializing and travelling ‘Old- style’ I believe it’s the place for you too.
It had been a warm and humid week in late May when my Father and I drove to a small hamlet just north of Dolgellau in mid Wales. We journeyed to appreciate some fresh mountain air and knock off another mountain peak; Mt. Y Garn was our challenge. We found a pleasant campsite next to an Abby ruin, and feeling groggy from our nine hour drive, we set up camp and cooked some rice on the gas stove whilst watching the evening sun cast it’s light on Cadair Idris .
While I perched on the back of the beaten-up Ford Fiesta, sipping on pear cider, I was struck by the deep green of my surroundings and felt that summer was finally beginning to appear, manifesting itself with the smell of rich, peaty soil, birdsong in the trees and luscious grasses underfoot.
After a cold night under canvas, we woke to bright sunshine pouring into the valley and glistening morning dew.
“Today’s the day” I said, rising to make porridge “we climb a mountain!”
Eventually, long after breakfast, the two of us were booted up and ready to go; we were only missing one thing. With Led Zeppelin blazing from the car stereo we drove back to Dollgellau . It was still early on Sunday morning and the town appeared subdued. Striding along the quiet streets, our eyes scanned for a bakery- we were in desperate need of traditional Welsh Bara Brith, to help fuel our climb.
Upon entering A café-bakery, a friendly woman greeted us from behind the counter.
“Morning, we’d like to buy some Bara Brith and two crusty white rolls please.”
“We only have Bara Brith in the other bakery round the corner I’m afraid, it’s open tomorrow morning though.”
“ah” I paused, “ unfortunately, we’re leaving tomorrow morning” I couldn’t hide my disappointment.
Eager to please, the kind lady offered to borrow the keys and fetch us a loaf from the other bakery; we gladly accepted. Quest for Bara Brith- over!
Driving closer to Y Garn we psyched ourselves up to the challenge ahead, as the 629m peak towered above us. After parking and deciding on a suitable route, we were raring to go. Dad set a steady pace upward, taking us through thick woodlands and past sheep lying amongst bluebells and moss. At time our walk was beautifully accompanied by the distant sound of a majestic waterfall.
There were very few clouds and the sun beat down on us, causing me to break for some serious sun cream application. There were clear views over to the Barmouth estuary as we reached around 520 metres, and we scrabbled over a slate and stone wall to take a short cut to the peak. My Dad always comes up with ‘short-cuts’, not all of which lead to the right place…. At times the ascent was so steep that I was utterly breathless and concentrating only on my next step; at others I could fully appreciate my surroundings and breathe lungfulls of cool, Welsh air.
After around three and a half hours of walking, Dad and I finally reached the summit of Mt Y garn where I proudly placed my stone atop the Cairn. After peering through binoculars at birds of prey and surrounding peaks, we found a less windy spot for lunch and sheltered against a large rock with spectacular views towards the Rhinog’s .
My Father, wearing a black woolly hat despite the hot sun, boiled the kettle for cuppa-soups with crusty rolls, not forgetting hearty chunks of Bara Brith for afters. Having lunch on a mountain side was by far the most peaceful outing of my year; half way through A-level exam stress it was exactly what I needed.
After some time I Reluctantly donned my sweaty walking boots, having attempted to dry my socks in the sun, and we began the decent. In the woods near the bottom we took a detour to The Black Falls to cool off . I hurriedly changed into my swimming costume, completely in awe of the beautiful waterfall, plunge pools and mossy rocks which stretched almost quarter of a mile through the mountain side pine forest. I threw myself into the dark waters, and beneath the freezing flow was the coldest water I have ever experienced. My head stung, in the icy water, freshly melted off the mountain. My skin began to go numb, yet I relished the precious moment, feeling like an osmotic being as I floated slowly round the deepest plunge pool.
Even Dad found it cold; unbearably so, and didn’t stay in for as long as me. His numb feet scrambled atop a rock. Triumphant and grinning, he turned to ask me; “Rhobell Fawr next year?”
“You bet!” I smiled.