Back in the Buller

February 18, 2007

We’ve been having a great time in NZ, in fact we’ve been spoiled rotten by our whole trip so far. The past few weeks have been great – after heading south from the North Island, I’ve been reunited with my other, surrogate family, including Nadia and her daugther Sara. I first met the latter when I was 19 and she was 11; she now has two beautiful kids who are around the same age as a lot of the children I met when I first visited Old Man Mountain (a small farm-cum-alternative lifestyle centre-cum-creche-cum I don’t know what in the Buller Gorge) back in 1990. Her sis Alice also has a daughter. It doesn’t make me feel old or anything.

Nope, not at all.

We spent a good chunk of the weekend on the Mighty Buller river itself, as friends of Nadia and Sara arrived for a birthday weekend. Many of them were involved with a rafting business so had all the gear. We cruised beautiful stretches of the river, either on the river, or in the great fun ‘duckies’, aka inflatable kayaks. As well as the gentle cruises though, we also wrangled with some nice rapids, including going over Araki Falls, a wee waterfall just down from Old Man Mountain that qualifies as a Grade 4 rapid. Woo! Fran’s brother Alex will be surprised at her outdoorsy activities.

Finally worked out how to embed the YouTube video. Looks a bit unimpressive like that, but it was still a lot of fun in a great weekend of rafting (longer ‘wave train’ rapids are the best, and even better in a duckie, especially if you can paddled back up into a wave and surf it).

(As an aside, we’ve been having a very cool set of water-related experiences on this trip. The previous weekend we’d all piled on the small yacht of another friend of Nadia’s and gone scalloping out in Golden Bay. Got ourselves a good haul, spent hours shucking them then had a great feed. Though I must admit I find their little wee tubes a tad disconcerting.)

We’re hoping to buy a cheap car today so we can get around the country more easily. I always used to hitch, but Fran’s not keen. The buses are pretty expensive, so a banger for around 170 seems like a good idea, despite my aversion to cars. Funny, it’s that irony again – using a polluting machine to allow you to access the wonders of nature. And to and fro from OMM and Sara’s place up in the north of the South Island too.

Getting back to OMM, where I’d lived for a year in 1994-1995 and stayed for a few months again in 1997, was an emotional experience. I had such strong memories of the place, stretching back 16 years, and such solid mental images, getting back to reality was a bit of a shock. The vibe there has inevitably changed – all Nadia’s kids, as well as two of Susie’s three, and all three of Jilly’s, have left home. So there isn’t a chaotic swirl of youthful energy seething and rushing through the farm any more. Furthermore, I was somewhat overwhelmed by how much everything has grown there; my mental topography was thrown completely by the new walls of undergrowth. Amazing how much trees can grow in 10 years, especially in the fecund Buller, which is wet and green and dominated by nature – by vast walls of wonderful native bush, which is constantly trying to reclaim hand cleared by human hand.

The place is as striking as ever, but very different. Everything is definitely in transition, notably for Nadia who, free of the constant demands of resident kids, is moving into being a full-time healer, something she’s been building towards with several years of training in homeopathy and neuro-link, something I’m just learning about. (A quick Google says: “This system is based on the neurophysiology principle that the brain governs the optimum function of all the body’s systems.” It relates closely to the holistic approach of homeopathy, something else I’m still learning about.)

Anyway, an old banger is waiting for us out there, so after this slightly rushed, somewhat addled blog entry we’d better head off across town and meet it. Never owned a car before, so it’s an exciting/somewhat worrying prospect.


7 Responses to “Back in the Buller”

  1. Sue Says:

    Wow – OMM, the memories come flooding back… falling off my chair when you wrote a postcard (yes, handwritten, three weeks in the waiting).
    Wasn’t that when you were full on vegan, yet you hunted and ate your own wildlife? That always impressed me (no, really) beef pattie lover that I am. Funny what you remember isn’t it? Love to you both from the West Dulwich massive.
    S+M xxx

  2. Jo Says:

    Rushed entries are just fine!
    Sounds like such an amazing place, it must be odd returning after 10 years, especially with all those kids running around. I’m very jealous – off to bed to dream of mountains and old men, i mean.. well.. of New Zealand perhaps.
    Going to check out your video on youtube first though.
    lots of love

  3. Hope that YouTube vid is working, as my brother said it wasn’t (seems ok to me).

    Sue – you’ll never believe it, but on the wall in the hut I used to live in is a letter & pic from you from 1994!

  4. Anne & Dan Says:

    Hey Dan & Fran!
    Paul kindly passed us your blog… wow and how the pictures are tumbling me into a vacum of home sickness. Especially the Blue Mountains and Byron Bay. Sigh… Glad to see you kids having such a wonderful time. I’m coming over for a couple of weeks in September to Queensland, though I guess you’ll probably both have gone by then. Anyway, keeping on living the dream.
    Anne & Dan

  5. Hey Anne and Dan – how are you doing? Fab being back down under. Moving on in April; plan is to go to Mexico for a few months. Back home in July. Yikes!

  6. G Says:

    Dan & Fran

    hey guys – sounds bloody great. how long you staying.

    i’m just back from slovenia and hannah is off in italy all the time – we never see each other. nancy is 4 now and at school –

    i’m doing a writing residency and you can check my inane comments at and keep up with my art stuff on my website

    miss you guys
    the cardiff posse

  7. Hey Gord

    I like your bitter piece about “too many…” on your blog. Heh.

    Staying in NZ until late April we reckon. Bought a shiddy car that will hopefully get us around the country over the next few months. It’s got Dual Overhead Cam Shafts or something. Whatever that means.

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