We found ourselves on a shuttle bus from Christchurch, the driver a sweet little man who was full of stories and fun facts along the way to our destination. After a two hour drive and soaking in scenes of blue skies, rolling hills, turquoise seas, blanketing clouds, and sunshine - we found ourselves in Akaroa - an extinct volcano, now erupting with a vibrant culture.
Waiting on the front bench at the local supermarket, we sat in anticipation of who the face of “Sol” would be, the Onuku Farm workaway host who was to be collecting us at 12noon. After 15 minutes of playing a game of guess who, an old New Zealand military vehicle pulled into the carpark, a dark haired, olive skinned male emerged wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and boots. We think we have our man. He walked towards us, looked at our massive backpacks beside us and said with a friendly smile, “You guys must be our new woofers! I’m popping inside to grab some food, feel free to throw your bags in the back of the car”.
After ten minutes of driving up the side of steep rolling green hills, we arrived at Onuku (meaning rainbow in Maori) Farm Hostel. Only 3km’s out of the town centre, but instantly we felt as though we were now part of a completely new and magical world. Neither of us spoke for a few minutes, our eyes darting between the hundreds of black and white sheep that surrounded us, free-roaming chickens, and the breathtaking views 500 metres above the glistening ocean.
Hidden and secluded amongst trees and bushes, Sol showed us to an old 70’s style caravan, with a makeshift decking area, kitchen, and outdoor shower - we dropped our belongings here, our new little home for the next two weeks. Sol invited us back to the main reception area, which did not look like your typical motel “reception” at all. A cosy communal room with a fireplace, games, blankets, artwork on the walls, and hundreds of books. We had no idea that many good times would be spent here in the weeks to come - making new friends, drinking wonderful coffee, and learning so much about others life experiences and culture.
Sol quite quickly made us both feel very relaxed and welcomed. We were fed some lunch, introduced to our fellow Korean work-awayer, the legendary Gouen, and it was explained to us that in exchange for our accomodation at Onuku, we would be helping out with jobs around the farm and preparing the hostel for opening in a weeks’ time. Kirk couldn’t wait to start putting his carpenter skills to use, and was keen to hear that the farm needed a few new picnic tables built!
After a few hours we met Sol’s beautiful wife Jana - a petite, blonde, & pregnant women, the manager of Onuku Farm Hostel, expecting a baby girl any-day now!
We had a wonderful first afternoon, exploring the farmland and meeting new friends - Rodriegez (our awesome Onuku beer-buddy and all-round legend), Jeff (the owner of Onuku Farm who had thousands of wild & fun stories to share about his life here in Akaroa), Goosey, Duck, and Mish’s new favourite sheep (CSI, as pictured) - it was only day one, and already we found ourselves in such a warm and open-minded family environment - we slept well and happy that night and knew that there were good times to come.
Itching to explore our surroundings, the following afternoon we laced up our hiking boots and headed off along one of the many trails that are accessible from the farm. After an extremely steep incline hike, we found ourselves in a scene straight from Lord of the Rings - this was real middle earth. We passed by hundreds of fluffy sheep and the curious eyes of baby lambs, before emerging from the tree-line to a windblown hill-top sprinkled with huge rocks, and views for days. We followed the loosely marked trail, winding around one corner, and over the next, making our way to the cliff-edge. A huge pile of boulders stood proud, offering incredible views of the harbour below, for those game enough to climb atop - we had reached Lookout Rock. We took some bloody awesome photos, and climbed back down the hill, super happy and super hungry.
The following week at Onuku brought us many happy times - sharing cold nights by the fire with chess-game battles, watching kiwi movies projected onto a big white sheet,devouring wood-oven pizza's, sharing delicious Latvian desserts baked by Jana’s masterchef of a mum, and sneaking out on clear nights for some astro-photography. One night while shooting the stars, we noticed a red-glow in the sky. Could it be the aurora was up? Kirk checked the online forecast and yes, it was expected to reach 6kp(G2), within the next hour. If we wanted to capture this, we needed to move fast! In a mad and excited hurry, we rugged up in our warmest clothes, packed up our backpack and camera gear, and ventured up the steepest hill that we were hoping would reward us with the best sighting of the southern lights.
After a fast and gruelling scramble up hill, our legs burning and our faces frozen from the cold wind, we couldn’t have been more thrilled to start shooting, successfully capturing the beauty of the glowing green & pink colours of the aurora, dancing in the sky.
Every single day we were overwhelmed with how much this little town of Akaroa had to offer and how many different adventures were to be had. Ridge hikes where we found ourselves climbing above the clouds, spending the afternoon down at a little swimming beach collecting Paua shells, playing with the countless animals around the farm, and when the wet weather came - learning from Jana how to bake our own bread.
It was only three days before our departure, and Jana and Sol brought home a beautiful new member of the Onuku Farm family, teeny-tiny baby Ella-Ursula. Just in time for cuddles before we had to leave! There are so many summer time activities that we will be returning for in future at Onuku - swimming with the dolphins that come out to play, exploring the many caves via kayak, and enjoying the sunshine, glistening waters & many friendly faces who will be greatly missed.
To see Onuku Farm in action, check-out our YouTube video via the link below: