Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Motor Home Farm

Nov. 25, 2012

We wandered around Russell a bit more (finding a lovely chocolatier who just opened that day – how do we manage that all the time?) and took the ferry across.  Our plan was to head to Kawakawa and then maybe beyond.  (Kawakawa has these incredible designer bathrooms that are known across the Northland and are even mentioned in all the guide books – but I’ll write a blog about them later on.)

We explored Kawakawa a bit, an artsy little town with murals and mosaics and, as mentioned before, the all important designer bathrooms.  Much of the artwork around town, as well as the entrance gate to the town, was also designed by the Austrian artist Hundertwasser.  Several storefronts also were changed to add mosaics, and the sidewalk was turned into its own piece of artwork.  

It's kind of like a tiny town designed by Antonio Gaudi!

There was an incredible mural designed and executed by the art teacher and her students at a nearby elementary school – apparently the design was used as a backdrop for a school production, entered into local contests, and won first prize.  Then someone came up with the idea of reproducing it on panels to be hung as a mural in Kawakawa, and so that’s what happened (with some grants and donations).  Gorgeous mixed media mural – painted background embellished with cut metal, plywood cutouts, and ceramics.  It has a wonderful flow, and is just beautiful.  I’ll try to contact the teacher (the email address was up there too) and we can correspond.

We found out there’s an old steam train that still runs from Kawakawa – a short hour trip – and decided that would be a fun activity for tomorrow.  That meant finding somewhere to spend the night.  We wandered into a lovely artsy store, and after chatting with the proprietor she suggested we try the motor home farm, a bit north of town.  We had seen this as we drove by, and laughed – are they growing motor homes there?  Is this where old motor homes go to live out their last days?  It was just a funny phrase to build on, but we headed the few kilometers north to check it out.

I don’t even know how to describe this experience. We pulled in at the sign, and parked amidst a number of caravans, only one of which was occupied.  (And that was a renovated school bus, with a Dutch couple who have been living in this bus for 2 years, traveling NZ – there are two sections that pull out to expand the living room and the bedroom – it’s absolutely incredible and gorgeous inside, with beautiful wood paneling and cabinets!)  Anyway, the couple greeted us, and no one was sure who was the owner.  There were a few men giving a cow an injection, and we waited patiently until they completed the task.

Turns out the owner, named Grey, is renting out spaces at $10 a night – our kind of price!  We had electricity, bathrooms, and a shower that didn’t work – for our morning shower, we hiked up to the house, past two hysterically barking dogs, and showered in the spare bathroom after Grey’s wife came out to greet us.  Uh huh.  Really.  (This is after I went into the shower by the van, found neither shower worked, and came out wrapped in a towel to find out what was going on.)

There were only the two caravans, us and the bus people, who stayed the night.  Grey showed us that we could go through the gate, into the paddock (pasture) and back, to have a bit of a hike and visit the two-day-old baby alpaca.  So we wandered past the field of geese, bypassed the horses, and ended up in what I can only describe as the graveyard for farm equipment.  Seriously, aging and rusting tractors and balers and who knows what else, all gathered in one section – along with a French fry machine, claiming it makes fries in 45 seconds.  There were parts of bicycles, a few washing machines, broken toilets, and a few abandoned cars.  Plus two white and one brown fully grown alpacas, and a tiny skinny little white alpaca who was very curious about us, and he gave a few prancing steps toward us before following his mother in the other direction.

Then on beyond the alpaca, another gate led us to the sheep – they greeted us with a few “ba-a-a-ahs” in husky voices, and a few babies looked up and said hello.  I tried getting the babies to come over for a pet and a photo, but they weren’t going for it.  Then we noticed one baby sheep (not newborn, but still quite young) who had been adventurous and gotten himself out of the pen and into the field on the other side of the fence – he was beginning to get a bit frantic with his ba-a-a-ahs, trying to get his mother to help him out.  She ignored him, knowing he had to learn from his mistake – but Richard and I tried to figure out how to get into the pen to walk across and help little lost guy.  (Couldn’t seem to get the chain off the nail holding the gate shut.)  We started walking around the pen, but then little lost guy figured out how to climb under the fencing wire, and was reunited with his mum.  So we didn’t need to rescue him.

All this with bunnies running and hopping up and down the hills and hiding under abandoned equipment and piles of wood and galvanized metal, geese quacking in the distance, and the local pookah birds flying by.  And, of course, walking carefully to avoid the various animals’, uh, leavings.

So then we walked back through the machinery cemetery, past the various corrals of animals, and back to our caravan sitting amidst the parked (and maybe abandoned) other camping caravans.

It was an experience!!!  Quite the place!  Grey told us that he’s half Maori (and there was a waka, a canoe, up in front).  A few people came by in the morning for a horse ride through the hills.  We did sleep well, and we’ll probably always laugh about the motor home farm for years to come!

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