Day 267-270: Westport to Karamea, New Zealand

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October 23rd 2009
Published: October 23rd 2009
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Westport to Karamea

Tuesday, October 20th

We slept a little late and woke refreshed and ready for our big day. After breakfast we left Westport, heading for Karamea, 100km to the north. We were very excited, looking forward to learning some new skills and hopefully finding a different way of life.

It took us two hours to get up there. Welcome to Karamea, population 650 (+2). When we arrived we found that Bruce was in Westport for the day so we sat reading our building manuals and drinking tea in the sun. We met Paul, the owner of the land and the guy we hope to learn some permaculture skills from. He’s a very friendly Aussie bloke who has lived in Karamea for the last eight years. We joined him and two other people on a tour of the land and the backpackers nearby. One of the people we met was a nice British fellow called Tim. He was hoping to join us on the building project. Paul has a community radio station running from the backpackers as well as a small cinema that shows movies on Friday nights. The whole place is run by volunteer travelers (as apposed to staff and tourists)
Parked in front of Bruce's placeParked in front of Bruce's placeParked in front of Bruce's place

our home for the next two months
with various people bringing various skills to the table. It's all very interesting and inspiring.

Later we had a cup of tea while looking out over the sheep pasture. We enjoyed the last of the sun while Ferdi played some guitar for the sheep. They didn't seem to take any notice though. The sun was nowhere near the horizon and it was already 7pm, so we went in to Bruce's place and made dinner for four. Bruce and Giuseppe (the other member of the team) was still not home when Tim popped by to chat to Bruce.

We sat enjoying wine and chatting when in walked Bruce and Giuseppe, all smiles and very happy to see us. After all the introductions we shared more wine while Bruce filled us in on what's new. He said that we'd not be Wwoof-ing, we'd be building apprentices. That meant we'd be able to focus on building fulltime without any interruptions from outside. He said our timing was absolutely perfect because everything finally came together over the last few days and we could start the course and various building projects (more on these later) almost immediately. We were buzzing with excitement, the energy of the group clearly visible. We only went to bed past midnight, very excited but also very tired.

Today's highlights:
1. Arriving in Karamea.
2. Meeting Paul.
3. Seeing Bruce again and meeting more of the group.
4. Sharing wine and hearing the plans for the near future.

Wednesday, October 21st

After our late night we slept late. We had the day to do as we pleased and when we finally woke, both Giuseppe and Bruce had already left. We made breakfast, updated our blog, then Talita crawled back into bed while Ferdi sat designing a temporary cabinet for the Boesman. Giuseppe came back from fishing with a good-sized fish for dinner and we cooked a quick lunch of noodles.

After lunch we drove to the Global Gypsy, a shop in town where Bruce and Giuseppe works part time to help pay the bills. Bruce was busy working on the boat he'd been building and we stood around in typical South African fashion, one working and the other five watching. During our apprenticeship he'll teach us to build the same boat as well.

We drove back home, had a shower, prepared a soup, then went to Rongo Backpackers. They have a "pot luck" every Wednesday evening and everyone brings a dish. There were more than twenty people and we ate like kings and queens.

After midnight we arrived home to find Bruce gone. Moments later he arrived. He'd been out fishing and caught three good sized Flounder for the next night's dinner. Living off the land! Awesome!

Today's highlights:
1. Enjoying the fantastic food at Rongo.
2. Bruce brining in the Flounder.

Thursday, October 22nd

We woke to a rainy and wet morning. After breakfast we went to the Global Gypsy shop. We put two picnic benches together on the lawn and Bruce proceeded to start our first lesson. It was very informal and Bruce told us the theory behind the building process. After lunch the sun came out and we played a bit of frisbee during our lunch break. The pieces were coming together and we started to understand how simple but ingenious the building techniques are.

Just after 5pm we called it a day, went home for a nap and prepared dinner. We made mash and peas and cooked the three Flounder. After dinner we went to Bruce's best friend Chris to watch a DVD on permaculture. The DVD was insanely boring but the information was good and we got a good idea of what permaculture was all about.

Today's highlights:
1. Stating our first day of "classes".

Friday, October 23rd

The apprentices met Bruce in town and together with a couple of rock climbers, Dave (a Kiwi) and Plat (a Russian); we drove out to the tree where Bruce plans to build the tree house. We had to hike into the jungle for about 10mins to reach the area where there were a couple of trees to choose from. After looking at our options we settled on climbing the one that the group had a positive gut feel about.

While Dave was setting up the gear Plat climbed a big part of the tree (twice) without any ropes or support. He's one crazy Russian! When he was ready Dave climbed up, fixing anchors as he went, while Tim belayed him. When Dave was up Tim made his way up too, taking a video camera and a stills camera. We hung out below for about two hours as they measured and photographed the area 25m up. There were about a billion Sandflies buzzing around us. Luckily we were dressed in long pants and shirts. Bruce was almost bouncing of the trees with excitement. He'd been waiting for this day for nearly three months.

Plat was the first down, followed by Tim who came crashing down through the foliage, clearing a path with a machete as he went. The falling vines and branches got caught together and he ended up in a nest of his own creation. Soon everyone was on the ground and we packed up and hiked back to the van.

We said goodbye to Dave, dropped off Plat and drove to Paddy's place. He is an Irish artist/hermit who lives 30mins out of town. Bruce plans to build him a barn-style studio/home because the place he lives in currently is cold, dark and so full of art that one can barely move in there. Patty came out to meet us and we went into the forest where Bruce cut up a fallen tree and we carried it out. It's unbelievable how heavy a smallish log can be, almost 100kg. It was a good lesson in where and how you get your logs! Once out of the forest Bruce demonstrated how to safely fell a tree, then we went to inspect the proposed building site. Patty invited all five of us into his home for "a cuppa" and we slowly and carefully made our way into his place. It is literally so full of art you can't stand up straight or turn around without bumping into something. He's an unbelievable artist, working in wood, metal, paint and pretty much anything that comes to mind. He's even made a few guitars, a cello, and restored a 1924 violin. He plays ten instruments and has never had a music lesson. A truly diverse and amazing artist, we were honored to be invited into his sanctuary.

After Paddy played us a bit of Irish fiddle we said goodbye and headed home. We cooked dinner, then watched through all of the pictures from the day. We had a shower then crawled into our soft and comfy bed.

Today's highlights:
1. Seeing the tree.
2. Visiting Paddy and seeing his art.

Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


Tim trying the Irish FiddleTim trying the Irish Fiddle
Tim trying the Irish Fiddle

Check out Paddy and his art in the background

6th February 2010

Bruce Log Homes NZ ?
Hi Enjoyed your web page and photos I have never met Bruce but helped him with the classes and Log Homes International site We emailed briefly a while back. Do you know how the treehouse is coming along or maybe a current email address for Bruce? Cheers ChuckBubba the Redneck Poodle
7th February 2010

Hi there. We've lost contact with Bruce of late. He doesn't respond to any emails to the address we have. To the best of our knowledge the tree house project has been cancelled. You can try Bruce on Cheers

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