So! I'm finally posting about the place I've been living for the last month! I really haven't had much free time and I've spent much of it so far on cleaning up photos instead of writing, but I better get to it before I forget, eh? For those who haven't seen my pictures, there's tons up over at Picasa: http://picasaweb.google.com/mr.intensity
Earthwise Valley is a small volunteer run sustainable community located in Tuateawa on the Coromandel Peninsula east of Auckland. For those unfamiliar with NZ, Auckland is on the northern side of the North Island. Coromandel is about 2 - 3 hours away from Auckland, and is rather lightly populated. It is mostly covered by native forests, though there are plenty of farms and ranches as well. Tuateawa is no more than a collection of 15 or so houses on large properties, about an hour away from the nearest stores or gas stations, and two hours from Thames.
On my first day, Dave picked me up in Coromandel town where we drove for about an hour to Tuateawa. We briefly looked at the valley the group refers to as "the land" before heading on to the house where we were all staying. The program accommodates up to ten volunteers, but I was the seventh volunteer for this season. We all work together, though often in teams of two or three. We eat lunch and dinner together, with three food teams rotating each day. And we typically take trips together. So quite the group atmosphere. Fortunately, I enjoy the company of all the other volunteers, so this always around thing works out well.
Our day starts leisurely around 7am. Some days I try some yoga with a few of the other volunteers, others I sleep in till 8. The yoga really helps relieve the stiffness and soreness from the hard work from the day before. By 8:30 or 9 we are ready to go, put some boots and long pants on, and either head to the land, or work on projects around the house. Lunch is usually around 1pm, then more projects until 5:30 or 6. There's a tiny bit of downtime before dinner, and a tiny bit afterward. By 9, the Internet is off and downtime is usually over. We typically either play a game or watch a movie before people start dozing off by 11.
Each week has on average five project days, with the other two either being recreational trips or downtime to recover. The rec trips can still be rather tiring, so it took some getting used to when I first arrived. I think I slept for 12 hours my first free day, about five days after I arrived. But the trips have all been a lot of fun, and I'll be sure to talk about them soon.
The view off our back porch is stunningly beautiful. We eat lunch, and when there's still enough light dinner as well outside. The temperature has been very pleasant, and never very hot. It's now starting to get a little chilly and windy at night. But frustrating enough, it's been unusually dry during the month I've been here. This is bad, since our water supply is based on rainfall and is running rather low. As autumn approaches, the rains should pick up, and hopefully we'll not have to worry about the hassle of running out. While the temperature is almost always in the 60s or 70s, the wind can be rather cool (and it can be really windy here). The sun, however, feels much hotter than back home, and sure enough the ozone hole is worse over NZ than over Australia. Everyone here has a rather dark, though healthy looking, tan. And even I am losing much of my pastiness. But sunscreen is often essential unless we're spending most of the day working in the shade. Fortunately, there's so many trees around that shade can often be found.
The last thing that bears mentioning in this post is the NZ sky. While my whole first week the sky was constantly cloudy, I finally got pictures of a starry night sky, and spent half an hour staring at the Milky Way. There's a huge swath that visibly crosses the sky, with thousands of stars filling the sky. The Southern Cross is almost always visible in NZ, and interestingly enough so is Orion, though the constellation is flipped from what people in the US and Europe are used to. Anyways, that's enough for tonight. Cheers!