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Finding Christina Helene

For New Years 2017 to 2018 I tagged along with Claire, Tiger & Geoff up to Takaka to visit their friend Charlie and his family. This meant the four of us got to take a road trip in the Sugar Cube! We drove up the West Coast and stayed in the Slaughter House to break up the long drive. The next day, as the 6 turns inland, we passed Buller Gorge and stopped to admire the view. It was a gorgeous day, and last time I took this road trip with Claire in August it was rainy and felt like a completely different world.

Here you can see where the cliff is cut tall enough to allow the busses to drive under its edge

At the Slaughter House, Claire cooked us all delicious Whitebait patties for breakfast that had been caught by a local in Hoki.

Whitebait are tiny little white fish that go for $100/ kilo and are infamous in the West Coast. During the season you will see people in most rivers with a particular whitebaiting net hoping to catch some white gold.

I absolutely love Takaka and this area of New Zealand. I wish I had more time to spend here. As a backpacker without a car, it’s impossible to get to without hitching. Since so many backpackers hitch in the area, they’ve made hitchhiker bus stops that consist of a bench with a sign with a thumbs up on them.

My first trip up to Takaka in August was rainy and cold. The streets of Takaka were empty and lonely. The night we stayed in Annie’s Hostel, we went to get food at the only place open and found out there was a full moon party going on that night. Being without a car, the four of us woofers succumbed to going back to the hostel, eating dinner and having a ball getting to know each other. It was a really bonding night that I won’t forget.

The Takaka area is known for its crops and hops. Claire made sure to take us to one of the breweries on our road trip. I’ve seen the hops dormant in the winter and full in the summer, both times with sheep roaming underneath snacking on delicious droppings.

On the New Years trip, the weather was beautiful and the streets were full of hippies, campervans and tourists. Shops were open and life was alive in the city. I even found the Dancing Sands Distillery!


With the weather being so nice, Claire encouraged us to do the Grove Tree Walk. You hear a lot here “this looks just like Jurassic Park!” From someone who just came from Hawai’i (where they actually filmed Jurassic Park) and Thailand (where I read Jurassic Park), I can say for the most part that’s not true – except at this walk.

Charlie lives up in the hills of Takaka. He has an olive grove where he makes his own olive oil, some cows, dogs, a wonderful wonderful cat, chooks, sometimes bunnies, a beautiful wife and daughter who adds whatever animals to the family that are different every time I’m there. She wants to be a vet some day, and I think she will be amazing at it.

You could roam on Charlie’s property for a day and countless treasures. On one wander through the apple orchard and olive trees, I found a swing hanging from a tree above beautiful wild white flowers. I sat and enjoyed the scenery of the valley while the sun rose and the day began.

For New Years, everyone had their own sleeping arrangements. Some were in little huts behind the main house, some were in teepees, some were in the big barn, and I got to sleep in a tent by myself for the first time in my life.

There was an outside hot tub that was fueled by fire, as well as a cold bath so you could hop in and out of both

On New Years Eve, everyone dressed up in costumes from the various movies and theater shows Charlie has worked on. We danced in the barn under the light of the disco ball to Michael Jackson. The kids blew bubbles and played on the roof, and the adults acted like children trying to lift each other up while they stood on broomsticks. It was the perfect, playful way to welcome a new year.

One of the day trips we took while staying at Charlie was to the actual location of Dancing Sands of the Waikoropupū Springs (aka Pupu Springs, pronounced poo poo.) This is the location the Dancing Sands vodka is named after. With a visibility of 63 meters, you can see to the bottom of these blue blue springs. We played with Tiger’s polarized sunglass lenses for our photos.

Happy 2018 everyone! May all your resolutions come true this year.


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