Free living

Nelson and I have embarked on a bit of a challenge since we arrived in NZ. With inspiration from our friend Oscar we’ve trying to live for free, or as close to it as possible. Its not that we’re cheap (although one of us does have a bit of a stingy side). By consuming less we are lessening our impact on the earth. When we do consume, by trading goods or services instead of money whenever possible we are deliberately stepping out of a global economy that expolits people and planet.

I know that sounds drastice, but it makes sense to me. If I need milk, and am lucky enough to live in a spot where there is a dairy farmer, I have two choices. I can buy milk from the store with money. My dollar goes to support the transportation, packaging, marketing of the product but also, the banking system and tax systems. I don’t want to support all of these things, I just want some milk. Buying milk directly from the farmer solves the first lot of problems, but bartering goods or services in exchange for the milk solves them all.

Don’t get me wrong we still both have credit cards, bank accounts, and bills. But, we’ve been eliminating them little by little.

Some things are hard. Waikato University and The School for Intern ational Training currently don’t have a tuition exchange for vegetables. Although, its a good idea, and one I think you’ll see more of in the future.

Some things are easy. We ride bikes or hitch whenever feasible. We grow our own veggies. We’ve opted out of cell phones.

Another thing that’s been pretty easy is for us is housing. We haven’t paid rent in a year through a combination of house sitting and working for accomodation. Our latest stint in in a beautiful house in town (don’t worry we still have the house truck as a weekend getaway at the beach). We’ve been house sitting for about a month now and I realized that I never even mentioned it yet to you faithful blog readers. We signed up for a house sitting network a few months ago hoping to find something long term in Raglan. We’ve gotten tons of offers for other areas of NZ, but none for Raglan until now. Not really that surprising considering what a tourist town Raglan is during the summer.

Anyway, finally we got a contact for a house sit in Raglan. Liz is away for 6 weeks until June 7th. Perfect because Nelson and I both fly out on the 15th. She is super sweet and offered us any food in the cupboards and use of her car. Not to mention tha thte house is gorgeous. Free internet. TV for the first time in months. A cute cat. And the view! Living for free is fun.

Our bedroom.

Our living room.
Fagan the cat.

The view from our house.

Dining room/ Kitchen.

Te Toto Gorge

A month of rainy weather has made everyone at Solscape a bit stir crazy.

The ocean has been grumpy. The online surf reports that we check religiously have a maximum swell height of 20 ft. The waves here in Raglan have been off the charts all week. The thought of surfing a 20 ft + wave (or double and a half overheader) makes me crap my pants. But some people don’t seem to be fazed (sp?). Three days ago a beginner surfer got swept out to open sea by the current. He started at the beach, and luckily the coast guard happened to spot him at the river mouth as they finished their patrols for the day.
Angry Ocean
The waves don’t look so big from here.

Needless to say, we haven’t been in the water much. There was however, a brief bit of sunshine yesterday that inspired Lenny and I to hop in his car and seek out some pictures. Just down the coast from us is an amazing little spot that I can’t believe I never visited until now. I am reminded again of how amazing New Zealand is and how lucky we are to have found this place. Beautiful.
Lenny, excited about a few sun rays.

Dani gets some air.

Clouds roll in over Te Toto.

Lenny looks out over Te Toto.

I think I am addicted to taking photos of dead trees.

Windswept trees.

Dani, in hippy pants, looking thoughtful.

Silly place to store a boat.

Dear New Zealand,

Simply putting a picture of English policemen with funny hats on a bag of hamburger rolls does not make them English muffins. While those little guys are admittedly rather cute, I quote one Mr. Thomas when I request, nay, demand “nooks and crannies”. Without a nook or a cranny to be seen, the product you have been promoting as “English Muffins” is no more than a bag of oddly shaped white bread dinner rolls. New Zealand bakers, you can do better.

Kind Regards,

[Editor’s Note: Breaking news. According to our sources they apparently don’t even have English muffins in the UK or Canadian bacon in Canada. What is the world coming to?]


It has been rainy and cold for the past week. And by rainy, I don’t just mean the occasional shower. I mean a constat light rain punctuated by heavy downpours that seem to occur just as I am stepping out of the house. The winter weather has me rethinking our car-free lifestyle. It is much less fun to hitch or bike when you spend the rest of the day shivering. Luckily, only 5 weeks until I venture to the northern heisphere. Just in time.

Age Defying Revitilization

People try all sorts of things to reclaim their youth. Three rainy days indoors have found me reading too many ladies magazines and the ads for facelifts, age-defying creams, and body part firmers are no less offensive here than they are in the states. Men are no different than women in the search for eternal youth. Some men jump out of airplanes or buy a sports car on their fortieth and others date women 15 years their junior. Well, as Nelson already had the latter covered, rejuvination for his 41st came in the form of a caving trip to Waitomo.

We have both done a bit of caving before, and unlike many of the tourists who come to Waitomo we were not in search of an action-packed adrenaline boosting day of adventure (where you descend a well-lit ramp, follow a boardwalk guided tour through the caves, and participate in blackwater rafting with 50 of your not so dearest friends). We were looking for something a more initmate and mellow, and a bit less….um kitchy.

We came across Green Glow Eco Tours, a new company begun by Paul, a 25 year veteran caver tired of doing the touristy thing. He specializes in private tours that cater to the clients’ individual needs in a private cave he leases. It was sweet.

We saw stalactites and mites, glow worms, wettas, and crystals. We did three rappels, the longest one about 100ft. Nelson graciously said “Dani, you can go first”, which gave him a few minutes to collect himself for the descent.

It turns out Paul is not only an expert in spelunking, but knew tons about the natural history of the area. His endless knowledge of cave geology and biology kept Nelson enraptured, while his knowledge in cave photography helped produce these gorgeous gems. (He too fell in love with the G10).

All in all, it was an incredible day. Does Nelson feel that he has reclaimed some of his youth? “What are you talking about?” He replies. Youth is in the eye of the beholder and age is only a number. Like a stinky piece of cheese, he only seems to get better with age.

Our first rappell. 100 mts. If you look closely you can see Nelson in a red jacket about 1/3 of the way down.

Abseiling inside a cave.

Glow worm mucus. Yum.

At the mouth of the cave.

Tiny stalactites called “straws”. So delicate, but each one takes about 100 years to grow an inch.

A tight spot. Not posed, we actually crawled through there.

Inside the cave under the glow worms.