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A buddha statue 'looking out' over Golden Bay

Living between hippies in Golden Bay

Golden Bay is New Zealand’s paradise for hippies.

After the Queen Charlotte Track we return to Nelson, back to the Foot Prints Lodge, close to the beach, where we find-out that Lorain, the Irish girl, and Massut (Iran) are still there. They’ve got some company of James (UK), Corry (Canada) and Antony (New Zealand). With an international company like that, there is only one solution: playing Shithead. An English card game, played around the whole world. There is no winner, just one looser: the Shithead.

Being the only ones with a car, we fire up Oesga and race to the city to get a three liter cask of wine, a bag of nachos, a big piece of cheese and some sour cream. Back at the hostel we grate the cheese over the nachos, place in in the oven for a couple of minutes and we’re ready to play cards till the sun rises again.

Takaka Hill

The next couple of days we relax on Nelson’s beach, hike to the Center of New Zealand and make plans for the next part of the trip. This time: Golden Bay: New Zealand’s paradise for hippies. The journey is a challenge on its own. To get to Golden Bay we have to pass Takaka Hill. Not too high with its 791 meters, but full of sharp curves and steep climbs. So steep that Oesga is having a hard time making it to the top. Probably because it’s not only Mickey and me on this trip. James is accompanying us. For days he’s planning to make it to the Abal Tasman National Park to go mountain biking, but for the same amount of days he hasn’t succeeded in leaving his bed in time to actually get there.

As soon as we reach Golden Bay we make a little stop in Takaka, capital of this area, where is becomes clear why this is a hippy paradise. The shops are full of clothes, made out of hemp and the streets are full of locals with long hair, walking around barefooted in jeans out of the sixties. Walls are covered with posters to save the environment, to eat biological food or to come and play some music and dance around the campfire.

Hemp between the corn

We leave Takaka for what it is and follow our journey to the River Inn, an old, scruffy bar annex hotel that looks like something of a John Wayne movie. The owner, Amanda, explains why Golen Bay is a paradise for hippies: ,,There is shit loads of hemp between all the corn you see on the fields around you. The police let it be. Every now and then they act like they care and take away a few plants, but it’s show. It’s for the outsiders. What they confiscated is nothing. See: they did it after everybody harvested. What they took, wasn’t harversted in time.”

Golden Bay isn’t a paradise for hippies only. The beaches actually have a golden color, due to the erosion of all the iron in the ground. It has two national parks and one nature reserve: Abel Tasman, Kahurangi National Park and Farewell Spit. Kahurangi is known for the Heaphy Track, a 69 kilometer long hike, named after Charles Heaphy, founder of the New Zealand Company. Farewell Spit is a 35 kilometer long plain, covered with sand and tortured by squalls of 80 kilometers an hour.

Farewell Spitt

We leave Farewell Spitt for what is it is and jump on a mountain bike to Pupu Springs, where we have lunch and do play a rock throwing contest, before we head back to the River Inn, where we find out that precisely this weekend they organize the final party of the fishing competition, raising money for charity with a fish auction. . The bar is packed with smelly fishermen. We pinch our nose and decide to join inn: bidding money on lobsters and tune. Without any success, because the fishermen are overbidding us every time. Hungry as we are we buy a barbecue meal at the bar: a half boiled potato and a greasy peace of lamb and a tasteless sausage. As a thank you we leave 5 dollars a person behind for a rescue helicopter. Hoping that that one will do a better job than the cook did on our food.

You’ll find the rest of my New Zealand stories on my travel / countries page.

I wrote this story in 2008; now I'm finally taking the time to translate it into English.

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