Have You Been to Rongolia Yet?

This is a blog post from a few years ago…only the names have been changed to protect the guilty….

So much has happened since my last post that I don’t know where to begin. My circumstances have changed. My outlook on life has changed. Hell, I’ve changed.

These changes have all been changes for the better, even though it might not seem like it to some people.

The place I ended up WWOOFing at was Rongo Backpackers in Karamea. Karamea is the northernmost town on the West Coast of the South Island – the last stop before the wilderness, if you will.

My time at Rongo was the most amazing time of my life without a shadow of a doubt. My work there was mainly changing beds, cleaning, gardening, taking bookings, showing guests around, keeping the fire going – but on top of that there was so much more.

They run a radio station out of what used to be the old ambulance shed (Rongo, before being a backpackers’ hostel, was a maternity hospital) and I had plenty of opportunities to play radio shows.

Sometimes I and the other volunteers (Rongolians, to give us our proper title) would have DJ parties where we’d each play a song in turn, often aided by the wonder of alcohol. As well as that there were plenty of opportunities to carry out creative projects of our own design.

The owner, Paul, is an amazing and inspirational man and allows volunteers to use anything they can find lying around the premises to make anything they like. There’s so much room for creative expression at Rongo which is why there’s such a beautiful energy to it. Being in such a creatively nurturing environment is one of the things that makes Rongo such a unique and incredible place.

There’s such a sense of belonging and community there. I felt welcome from the moment I arrived and anybody who knows me well can vouch for the fact that I get very anxious about new people and places. I felt none of my usual anxiety at Rongo, perhaps aided by the large amount of teamwork involved in running the place. On top of that, there were themed meals, potluck dinners, plenty of drunken times and a large portion of time spent in the kitchen to help keep me busy and mix with people.

I met so many amazing people while I was there; people from all over the world who shared their travel stories with me and people with whom I bonded only to have to say heartbreaking goodbyes to them soon after. I will never forget these people – they helped to make Rongo the amazing experience it was for me and without them I’d never have realised the things I’ve come to realise about myself.

There is no experience I’ve ever had that has had so much impact on me as a person. I found a part of myself at Rongo that I never knew existed; a part I never would have found if it weren’t for the amazing stroke of luck that led to me being taken on there as a WWOOFer. I’m stronger, more independent and more at peace with myself than I ever could have imagined.

Since leaving Rongo in mid-November with the intention of meeting Dick in Wellington, I’ve been on an adventure to Hokitika with Roger, a boy I met at Rongo who was staying there as a guestomer. Roger lives in Wellington so I decided to get a lift with him so I didn’t have to mission round on buses for days on end. The reason for our visit to Hokitika was to buy some pounamu (greenstone) for Roger’s Oma, who is a carver. After purchasing some stone we then drove through the Lewis Pass, camped there for a night and then drove to Kaikoura which has been one of my favourite parts of New Zealand so far.

It was at this point that I ended my relationship with Dick. I’m not going to go into reasons here because those of you who are going to know will already know by now and I don’t think it’s right to air these things in such a public way. It’s our business, after all.

The day after Kaikoura, Roger and I caught the ferry from Picton to Wellington where we stayed for a week in Roger’s house. I had an introduction to the city in the form of a Ninja-themed party, a few bars, some ace restaurants (not to mention that creepy Thai place!), a drunken night of frizbee and sandbag shot put and a lot of lazing about watching TV. I also went for a short shopping excursion, but found that my time in Karamea has left me unable to deal with large groups of people or built-up areas what with it being so remote so I got bored pretty quickly! Wellington is a cool place but it’s going to take me a while to get used to city life again.

After Wellington we drove up to Hawke’s Bay where we stayed with a friend of Roger’s for a week. While we were there we went swimming in a river, swimming off Ocean Beach, checked out the Maraetotara Dam, went for an ace Thai meal, explored Napier, caught up with friends of Roger’s and generally enjoyed the beautiful Hawke’s Bay weather. I was also introduced to Deepak Chopra in the form of one of his lectures on DVD. It’s really interesting stuff – especially his ideas on duality.

We left Hawke’s Bay for Auckland after that and stayed with Roger’s dad and stepmum for a few days. In that time I bought some new clothes (thanksfully – I was sick of wearing rags!), caught up with my cousin Betty who lives there with her boyfriend, George, and went to Bethells Beach for a swim. That beach is amazing; black sand, huge waves and the sun was beating down on us. Thankfully there was a nice breeze so it wasn’t too hot to play frizbee. My attempts at swimming were thwarted by an incredibly strong current and my desire to live.

We’re now in Whangerai staying with Roger’s Oma and Opa. Whangerai is in Northland; pretty high up on the North Island and as such has a beautiful climate. I say this while it’s raining outside, of course, but it’s still very warm and after days of being too hot it’s quite a relief to have some rain to cool you down. We were going to check out the beach today but that may have to wait until tomorrow now.

I’ll leave you with a few photos of my time at Rongo.

Taylor and I - Halloween at Rongo
Sanae, Sam and I
Taylor and Paul on lamb docking day
Me and Taylor doing a radio show
The night Sam ended his week-long detox
More retox

About LivinginPeaceProject

Paul Murray is the founder of the LivinginPeace Project. www.livinginpeace.com Paul originally from Australia, but have been living in New Zealand for 14 years. Before that he was in Japan for a decade working as a journalist. He met his wife Sanae in Japan and they married in 2008.
This entry was posted in Art, Business, Education, Environment, Funny, Heaphy Track, Hilarious, Historical, Humor, Humour, Kahurangi National Park, Karamea, LivinginPeace Project, New Zealand, Permaculture, Photography, Social Commentary, Tramping, Travel, Uncategorized, West Coast and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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