…Or so we’d been told. However, this is the aftermath of what greeted us when we first arrived in Nelson.
Ha! Kiwis sure do love a great joke! But you know what they DON’T joke about, ever? Freedom camping in non-self-contained vehicles. We learned the hard way that if you park in a lot near an empty field, with no signage prohibiting anything but litter…that you just can’t. Even if you get there really late and wake up to meditate early by the rushing creek…when you get back to your van, there will be a ticket. Humph. Angry face and $200 later we had learned a valuable lesson: Don’t rely on signs! Look up the regulations for parking and freedom camping for each specific city you are considering, and to play it safe, get a self-contained sticker for your vehicle.
Nelson also saved us in a way. When our plans in Golden Bay fell through, we had to scramble to find WiFi to figure out where to go next. We ideally wanted to stay with another family with children after having so much fun with the Wards in Waipu, but would anyone be able to take us last minute? We got lucky, and the first family we messaged responded within 15 minutes and invited us for the following morning.
We arrived at the home of Karin and Alistair and fortunately the Honda was JUST able to make it up the long and steep driveway without sputtering out. We met their young sons Conor and Kael – like the supergreen, except they changed the spelling to avoid being TOO green.
The property is spectacular, with rolling hills, a native bush walk, barn and fields, gardens, and the house itself was custom designed for the previous owners by an esteemed New Zealand architect. It is a very open layout with high ceilings, walls of glass, and an office in the loft. The WWOOFer accommodation is a completely separate building with 2 bedrooms, full kitchen, sitting area, access to the pool deck, and a home gym/ping pong room.
The highlight of the property has to be the custom built mountain bike training track that Alistair had carved into one of their hillsides. Alistair is the owner of Gravity Nelson, a mountain bike rental, guide, tourism and training company. He started the company in Bolivia, where the family had lived until moving back to Alistair’s home country a couple years back. They live and breathe biking!
When they’re not living and breathing mud, spokes and adrenaline, the family is usually involved in some sort of musical pursuit. Karin is Karin Gembus, one of the original members of the girl punk rock band Spitboy which was founded in the early 90s in the San Francisco bay area. Conor takes weekly private guitar lessons (from a fellow van-dweller, respect.) and Kael is already adept at the drums.
The work we did varied depending on the needs of the family over our 3 weeks there. All those glass windows and walls certainly don’t clean themselves, and the bush walk was teeming with invasive plant annoyances. For several days straight we spent 5 hours scouring the woods to clear gorse, blackberry brambles, and nettles.
But then, there was the building. And I discovered what the big deal is about power tools: they ROCK! Through connections Alistair has in Nelson, there was a seemingly endless supply of heat-treated wooden pallets, and we were given assignments.
My favorite by far was the bookshelf. And yep, I built the Golden Spiral right in. We are proud nerds.
For a couple days, our work extended to different activities with Conor and Kael as they finished up their summer holidays. They had workout sessions with Jeff and Max, a fellow Workawayer from France, and with me they painted. My darling mum had sent all of my painting supplies in a care package for Christmas, because it turns out being a traveling shoe-artist is legit! I showed the boys my method for doing any new design and they took it and ran. Look how creative they both were and how fantastic their shoes turned out!
The food really deserves a special mention here, and I must give a shout-out to Conor and Kael. Two years ago, the boys decided on their own to become vegan, despite their parents eating animal products at almost every meal. They are both animal lovers, but Conor decided first, did his own research, and made the switch. His brother followed shortly after. They are not arrogant or preachy, they just know their reasons. Dinners most evenings were elaborate flavorful vegan treats (meat off the grill for others) complimented by various hot sauces and veggies from the garden.
I even got to do some real cooking myself! During out last week, Karin went away to a farm to do some horse-sitting, leaving the kitchen vacant. Here are some things I served to weary hosts and Workawayers!
On days off, we had lots of different things to do. We went into Nelson on Super Bowl Monday and Max watched his first ever American Football game.
Being stable in one place for several weeks also gave us the opportunity to get some things done without the pressure to move every few days. I was able to complete 2 new shoe designs and ship an order back to the states!
Alistair also organized a day for us all to borrow bikes from Gravity and try out one of Nelson’s many renowned mountain biking trails.
There were also newly-hatched peeps, ping pong, and the pool to keep us occupied, so can’t say we ever got bored!
And one evening, we were invited to accompany the family on a dinner cruise hosted by their friends on their sailboat. This really deserves its own story, but here are a few teaser photos!
Nelson certainly makes the list of top 5 places I would choose to live in New Zealand. If I can hope to be so lucky.
Check out the full gallery here!
Want to Workaway with Karin, Alistair and the boys? Check out their Workaway profile here!
If you’re interested in doing some mountain biking, definitely follow Gravity Nelson on Facebook and reach out with questions!
**Thanks for reading! I claim to represent no other’s opinions than my own. All experiences are my own, unless otherwise stated.**