Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fiordland Expedition

A few weeks ago, Tim and I set out on an epic adventure through beautiful and rugged Fiordland.  For nine days we hiked the Hollyford track from deep in the Hollyford valley, to the sea at Martin's bay and back again.  It was an incredible experience, one that I will remember for the rest of my life.  Here is the first short film from Big Island Productions titled River Mouth.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

After Barrier

Barrier was such an epic experience, living in nature that it was hard for any trip or adventure to live up.  After we left, it was a bit of a culture shock just  just driving on paved roads and being around people.  After a short visit to Waiheke Island, a few days in the volcanic Waitakere Ranges, a road trip to Taranaki on the North Island's West coast, and a Surf trip to the East coast,  we began a new chapter of our trip .  A new chapter in which we got back to wwoofing, did some fruit picking, learned some new skills, and got to explore some beautiful territory.  Check it out.

Waiheke Island was beautiful but not exciting.  We went there intending to work on a vineyard picking grapes, but when that fell through and there was no surfing or convenient dive spots, it didn't make sense to stay there even though  it was so nice.  In these shots are a view of Stoney Ridge Vineyard, some land and a secluded beach on the more isolated side of the island that we drove to, a nice beach that we paddled to in our friend's kayak which we still had at the time, a nice sunset, and a view from the island back to Auckland city.
After we left Waiheke, we camped for a few nights in the Waitakere Ranges regional park.  This area of land was formed by an off-shore underwater volcano, giving the coast a blanket of black sand and the land of jagged cliffs, a vast and lunar feel.  The  Ranges are protected as a Regional Park extending a great distance up the coast and they have many hiking trails and beaches to explore.  These shots are from the trails over Mt. Zion and Karekare beach

Then we headed to Raglan and Taranaki.  Raglan is one of the top surf destinations in NZ featuring lots of left-hand point breaks.  Taranaki is known for its rugged coast surrounding Mt. Egmont.  Here we found some great spots and interesting sand/beach patterns.  Unfortunately we hit some bad weather and had to head back north to Tauranga to return the kayak and seek some shelter.

Next we had our first trip to the East coast, where we are now. We surfed in four different regions of the coast in four days and saw loads of spots in between, it was great.  One spot was especially amazing, we hiked with our boards along the coast for about forty five minutes to Stingray Bay which I got to surf by myself on perfect, consistent, peeling waves for two hours, it was some of the best surf I've had in New Zealand...Epic. 

Stingray Bay

Then we settled in a little bit at a farm in Gisborne, picking organic Persimmons and Kiwifruit.  We stayed there for one month, picked loads of fruit, packed  them for export, and got to earn some cash to continue on the journey.  We surfed a few times a week, and had a hike to Cook's cove where Captain James Cook named this beautiful area.  Also pictured are the side-by-side green and gold kiwifruit, the gold ones are delicious and not sour tasting at all but they must be grown under a special licence obtained from the company that created the variety. One of the pictures is of a wind machine which is used as frost protection and blows the warmer air towards the ground to protect fruit and flowers from frost damage.

Continuing on our farm tour down the east coast, we stayed for a week at Zidkeen farm where we learned the work of a fence contractor, a very important NZ farm  trade, and got to do some work assisting Paddy the farm owner who is a working Bee-Keeper.  We first moved some of these hives to their new winter location under the cover of night while the bees were asleep, then came back the next day to check the frames.  First, the hives must be smoked, which makes the bees calm, then the covers are removed and each frame is pulled out to check if the bees in that hive are producing honey.  In the pictures are healthy frames, full of honey and properly capped to seal and preserve the honey that is good and no action needs to be taken.  But when we find bad frames where the cells are empty and some are filled with drones in an attempt to make a new queen, we need to replace these frames with leftover frames  full of honey from last season so that the bees will have enough food to survive the winter and properly make a new queen if they need one.

After we left the bee keepers' we spent two weeks on the most picturesque farm we had been to thus far.  The place was immaculate, from the pristine farmland, to the perfectly maintained fences, breathtaking views, the massive acreage of the farm itself, and the luxurious homestead were all outstanding.  The farm was raising sheep and cattle, and it was our introduction to working with livestock.  We got the experience of mustering (herding) the sheep and cattle into the yards where we administered necessary treatments (for worms, lice, etc.), taged/marked them for gender, and  even steered a bull.  We also had the opportunity to assist in sheering the ewes (female sheep), the task we performed is called rousing which entails sorting of the wool after it has been sheered, removing dag (clumps of poo) from the wool, and filling up the sheerer's pens with more sheep once they have emptied them as we had to sheer close to 300 ewes.  It was quite a long job and took about four hours, but this was nothing considering the farm had around 2,000 head of sheep.  Sheep and cattle farmers use dogs bred and trained especially for mustering the animals, it is amazing to see them doing their work.  The farmer controls the dogs using commands and the dogs know exactly what they are doing as they maneuver the livestock down a road or across any terrain which can be quite steep as you can see in the pictures.  The  farm is situated in the hills of Mahanga overlooking the Mahia peninsula.  All of the pictures were taken from the property which show just how expansive it was, it stretched four kilometers up the coast.  There is also one image of olives on the tree which we picked and were going to be brined and aged in local olive oil to be eaten as table olives.  We also got some epic surfing in at some the many local surf spots in the area.

And lastly where we are at now.  Wairunga is an amazing family-run farm, golf course, and accommodation.  They also have sheep and cattle which we have got to help muster and do scanning, where with a veterinarian and a scanning machine similar to Ultrasound the ewes are scanned to determine whether they will give birth to one, two, or zero lambs.  With this information the ewes are separated and are fed accordingly as to how many  lambs they are carrying.  We have also played many rounds of golf on their nine hole course which the family designed and built themselves.  The course is unique in that the grounds are maintained not by lawnmowers and greens keepers, but by sheep!  Only the greens need to be mowed, and the only drawback to this system is that you might find a bit of poo lying next to your ball, no worries just flick it aside and off you go.  Although the greens fees are only ten dollars per round, the course is closed durring the winter so we have had the course and its experience all to ourselves.  In addition to some beautiful hiking trails around the property, we have also got to brush up on our shotgun skills with a few rounds of shooting clays, it's a blast.

And next we are making one more stop on the North Island in Castle Point, then on to the South Island where we will be staying at a high country station (farm) and doing some mean snowboarding.  I just picked up a '04 Burton Custom X on Trademe and ready to go! Im super stoked! 

Oh, and I cut my beard..

One Love, Miss you guys!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Great Barrier Island

Just a few weeks ago I retuned to the New Zealand mainland from Great Barrier Island after almost a month and a half, and what an unbelievable experience it was, it was the most beautiful and isolated place i've ever been.  The entire island is "off the grid" so everyone who lives there uses some combination of solar panels, windmills, hydroelectric dams, solar hot water heaters, and generators to power their homes and small number of shops and restaurants.  This among other factors give the island a simplicity and laid-backness.  Tim and I spent most of our time there surfing the most epic spot called Okiwi, they say that the waves are "world class" and they definitely are. We had many days of perfectly clean overhead barrels, it was unreal.  We also did loads of fishing and speardiving, catching our food for the night and continuing to live the simplest life possible just getting down with nature.  Did lots of kayaking and hiking as well, which was amazing, very beautiful, meditative, and awakening walks through native forests and epic and relaxing paddles as well.  So many of these places we went to were so insanely beautiful that they suck you in and captivate you like an energy vortex, it is so amazing. It was really a trip filled with beauty, nature, great waves, catching food, and simple living. So Great!  I took so many pictures that I have to break them up by region of the island.  The first, Haratonga, was where we spent our first night on the island and returned again to experience the natural and beautiful setting of the campground and the unbelievable hiking trails along the coast.  This is also from where we launched our kayak to paddle nearly 20km around Arid island (Rakitu) and the eastern coastline.  Views of Arid island are also included, the island has a U-shape in the middle, and there are three families that live there permanently.

The second, Awana, was another amazing campground, where we stayed.  There were many breathtaking views here making it one of the many unbelievable GBI Vortexes.  

Next, is all the photos from the many hikes we did up and around Mt Hobson (Hirakimata) as well as to waterfalls and hot springs.  

All of the Nature and Wildlife shots are next.  Each plant and remarkable view I saw, seemed to have a character and spirit of its own..

Okiwi is where we spent most of our time on The Barrier.  The campsite is surrounded by Whangapoua estuary and on the other side is the beach and surf break.  Offshore you can see the rocky point where the waves break, and beyond that the side of Arid Island, looking so majestic in the distance.  Towards the end of the slideshow are pictures from our hikes just north of Okiwi where we walked through farmland trying to discover some new beaches and interesting places, I think we found some pretty good ones!  And of course the many amazing sunsets, full moons, and sunrises,  that we experienced there.  

 Next, is Port Fitzroy, where we did most of our fishing and diving.  We also got to travel by boat to one of the "Broken Islands" where we helped place and set rat traps to help in their eradication from the island in hopes of one day being able to have native birds return there.

Lastly, are all the other amazing beaches and bays where we went to camp, go fishing, and hang out and enjoy the spectacular views! What an amazingly beautiful place GBI is!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Coromandel - Coromandel Gold

Coromandel was a land of beauty, full of magnificent beaches, which we diligently checked out nearly every day. We worked for a lovely family, on their home family farm, growing organic fruits and vegetables that were outstandingly delicious and full of flavour. They sold their produce themselves at the town's saturday farmer's market as well as directly to gourmet local restaurants as they were the premier organic vegetables in the happening town of Whitianga. These gourmet vege's they were selling to the restaurants included several varieties of tomatoes, endive, red and green onions, handpicked salad mix, as well as courgette (zuccini) flowers which two competing restaurants both had on their menus and stuffed with their own preparation of goat cheese and herbs. On our last night in Whitianga, we were treated with another unbelievable sunset, which was locally named Coromandel Gold after one of the region's best homegrown Herbs!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Taurranga - Surfing The Mount

It just so happened that we came to stay at The Mount during the week of the biggest summer swell. We Surfed the Mount Manganui beaches everyday we were there, it was pumping. Twice, we got to travel by boat to nearby Matakana Island to get after some early morning un-crowded waves with our Friend Vinnie whit whom we were staying as well as wife Kim, and daughters Olivia and Maya. They are fortunate to get to live in a large and beautiful house on the beach and were delighted to have us come and stay with them. We really enjoyed the accommodation as well as playing, singing, dancing, and having swimming races in the pool with the girls and their cousins and friends. Everyone we met there was so incredibly nice and fully supported our traveling mind-set. At the end of our time with them, Kim and Vinnie offered to let Tim and I take their two-person ocean kayak with us on our next adventures. We were stoked and happily accepted their offer as we were hoping to have access to a kayak at our next destinations, Coromandel, Great Barrier Island, and Waiheke Island. So, with our gear "all sussed out" we departed to The Coromandel with plans to return to The Mount!


We started off our three weeks in "Magical Mangawhai" attending an awesome show with two bands we had been waiting to see live since we both came to New Zealand.  The Black Seeds with Katchafire opening was a musical experience of Epic proportions.  Katchafire treated the crowd by playing all their old school favorites with everyone singing along, and The Black Seeds put on a true performance coming out to deep bass and traversing many different genres of music throughout their set.  The next week, at the same venue, the Mangawhai Tavern, we saw Fat Freddy's Drop who also astounded the crowd with an excellent performance of truly unique sound (their song "The Raft" plays in the slideshow background).  Working on historical Tara Road at the Avocado orchards, we worked picking avos, doing a bit of brick-laying, and a massive job of clearing fallen Cypress trees that had been interfering with power lines using chainsaws and tractor we completed the job in just three weeks.  We also had quite a bit of time to visit the many beaches pretty much every afternoon, do an unbelievable hike through the Mangawhai Heads Cliffs where we encountered Kawakawa plants directly related to the Kava plants we had been farming back in Hawaii, and do some camping and fishing at Te Aria and Forestry beaches on the Pakiri Coast.  As it was tradition at the farm for wwoofers to leave their mark in the hut where we slept, we did a "Hawaiian Style" painting montage to go out with class.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Barrier

Tomorrow, Tim and I will be taking a Ferry to Great Barrier Island.  Equipped with two-person Kayak, Camping gear, Surfboard/BodyBoard, Spear-Fishing, Fly-Fishing, and Surf Cast Fishing gear, as well as enough food to last us a while and to supplement the Fish we will be catching we will be headed out to camp, explore, and experience The Barrier for a whole month.  Should be Fun! As I will be out in the wilderness I wont be able to make any Blog posts until I get back to NZ mainland so please be patient!  As always please feel free to make any comments on the Blog or send any feedback to me personally at aaronbelson@gmail.com  Cheers!

Monday, January 31, 2011


Leaving the north point, we headed south along the western side of the Northland, known as 90-mile Beach.  We took a short ferry ride into the district of Hokianga, a series of small beach towns along the Hokianga harbor.  The first few shots, looking across to the sand dunes, are taken from the southern headland of the harbor where it meets the Tasman Sea.  Then, after driving along the motorway, the only town road, seeing the steep hills in the distance, we arrived at our second farm, the home of Gail and John Aiken.  They are diligent farmers, dedicated to the practices of Permaculture and Biodynamics.  With a lovely home and two beautiful and abundant gardens, they nearly fully sustain themselves, their family, and one or two wwoofers week after week.  We learned a great deal from them about their farming lifestyle and how the principles of Permaculture (Earth care, People care, and Fair share) can make a big difference in how we live, consume, and give back to the Earth.  The pictures from their farm include: the view from their home atop the hill on Claussen rd., tomato and bean rows, beds of onions and garlic, a freshly cultivated bed waiting to be planted, dahlia flowers, native strawberry, tomatillos, zucchini, pumpkin, chili, healthy chickens ("chooks"), their swimming hole, and dog Carra waiting to fetch.  They also had a gorgeous sunset view.  After leaving, we drove through a native Kauri forest and stopped for a dip at a swimming hole and stream.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Rarawa to Tapotupotu

As we continued North towards Cape Reinga, the north point, we stopped for one night at Rarawa campground.  It was nice, set back from the beach amongst the pine trees with a beautiful bright white sand beach with sand that squeaked under your feet.  Then, continuing north, we stopped at the last camp on the east coast, Tapotupotu (Tapo-tu-potu).  It was glorious, with the bay facing north, we surfed some real nice waves off to the left side, then set up our camp.  The next day we Hiked from Tapotupotu  to Cape Reinga. We had breathtaking views the entire way.  Cape Reinga is a very sacred place for Maori, it is said to be the place from where the spirit leaves to the "underworld".  Geographically it is also the meeting point of the Pacific Ocean (east) and the Tasman Sea (west).  After stopping for lunch at  the sandy bay one valley in, we returned back to the camp, fixed dinner, and were rewarded with an unbelievable sunset, it had also been Christmas day.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Otamuri to Matai

After we left the First farm, we started heading north, camping at a few Department of Conservation campgrounds.  They were unbelievable! The first one was called Otamuri and although we only stayed one night we got to hike all around the area and got some great pics!  The second camp called Matai Bay was also remarkable, we stayed for three nights, did lots of Fishing and hanging out on the beach which was beautiful.  

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mount Manganui Hike

On our way up North, we stopped in Tauranga and went for a Hike up Mount Manganui.  Check it out!
Mount Manganui Hike, originally uploaded by tacobelson.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pickin Up The Van!

Pickin Up The Van!, originally uploaded by tacobelson.
After seeing pictures of the van on "Trademe" (Kiwi eBay) Tim and I knew we had to get it. We flew down to Wellington a few days later and picked it up, and headed back up north, and it's been crusin ever since!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Kia Ora! Welcome!

This is where I will share Pictures and Happenings from my Travels in New Zealand! Here, I have put together a slideshow of Pictures and Music from the first month and a half of my trip here in NZ. I have been truly Blessed with the fortune and ease with which life has been rolling along for me right now, there is no place I'd rather be! I hope you enjoy the blog and feel free to comment! One Love!