E-mail me: chapinbk@gmail.com Snail-mail me: PO Box 1455, Nantucket, MA 02554

Journey to Wiapara

Still on the Farm

Grapes & Wine


Stewart Island


Picton & Wellington

Home Again

~ Journey to Wiapara ~

Before I begin this excerpt, let me take a moment to say that I've been living at John McCaskey's ranch for over a week now. This is the first opportunity I've had to write anything. John drove into Christchurch yesterday to deliver wool and wine and I had a chance to walk around the city for the afternoon. While there, I bought all the required plugs and adaptors for my computer so that it works through foreign electrical outlets.

It's cold here! I expected the summer to be well under way by the time I arrived but it's just not. Although all of the trees are in full bloom and the grass is growing profusely, the weather is abismal. For the past week, it has rained about half of the time and the temperature hasn't risen above 20 degrees C (about 70 degrees F). When the sun is out though, it's HOT! I've been wearing my hat and smothering myself with sunblock but even those precautions seem only to have minimal effect. Once the summer is here, I'll make a point of spending as much time in the shade as is possible.

Since I haven't been able to contact you until now, I'm going to take a few minutes to inform you of what I've been doing since I arrived. I flew into Aukland on the morning of the 23rd. My travels went without hitch except that I would have liked to stay in Los Angeles a bit longer (maybe I'll hang out there for a while on my way back). After taking a taxi into the city, I found Queen street (the main drag) without difficulty and managed to locate Bruce O'Halloran's bicycle shop. Well! I won't say anything bad about the poor fellow, but he seems to have dragged every haggered, disabled, non-English speaking person in the city of Aukland directly off the street and into his tiny two room apartment. After being introduced to the motley crew and dropping my belongings off at his apartment, Bruce allowed me the afternoon to explore the city.

Aukland is amazingly new and clean! Although the locals wouldn't agree with me, there seems to be very little wrong with the place. My first impression was that everybody is young. Perhaps it was only the time of day, but the throngs of people on the street were composed mostly of my piers -- I couldn't believe my eyes. Since then, I've begun to notice an older populous as well, but first impressions are paramount. Also, the New Zealanders seem to pride themselves on keeping everything green. Lush trees and parks are abundant throughout the city. Even in the "worst part of town", the streets were all relatively clean and well lined with successful businesses.

That night at Bruce's apartment, we had a highly conservative vegetarian meal (the biggest salad I've ever seen and pumpkin soup). After dinner, I began to get a better feel for Bruce's goal. His statement about trying to create a "spritual oasis" in the city is probably most accurate. Both his apartment and his bicycle shop (as I found out later) are located in the thickest, most problematic area of Aukland. Although I hate to make the comparison, his philosophy and attitude struck me as remarkably like my father's except that Bruce seems to behave like some kind of missionary who wants to reform the evil masses.

Anyhow, after meditating with Bruce and the three other students, everyone set up their beds on the cramped floor and went almost immediately to sleep at the tender hour of 9:00 (thanks to jet lag, I did as well). The next day I worked in the bicycle shop, helping to clean and sort tools. After lunch, I packed everything that I would need into my one camping backpack and told Bruce that I was on my way South to Christchurch.

After walking through the city all afternoon, I finally made my way to the base of what seemed from a distance to be a great, green, mound surrounded by suburbs. There, I found a beautifully landscaped path which twisted back and forth about 100 ft. up where it opened into an enormous field set in a volcanic crater. Upon finding a group of people playing rugby and hacky sack, I joined in and learned a few things about their most popular sport. The name of the New Zealand rugby team is the All Blacks and it seems to be the biggest thing going for them. Apparently, the All Blacks have been number 1 in the world for as long as anyone can remember. In fact, now that I've had a chance to read the paper and watch the news at John McCaskey's ranch, it seems that rugby is even bigger to them than their political issues which always seem to turn up as second rate news.

As the sun went down, I scaled the rest of the finely manicured path and found a plaque at the top explaining its history. The rock upon which I had been climbing was named Mt. Eden and although it was formed volcanically, it had not been active since the late 1800s. After finding a cozy grove in the base of a crater, I broke out my camping gear and went to sleep.

The next morning (Monday, the 25th), I started out early and hiked across the greater part of South Aukland. I ate breakfast at a nice cafe where they were playing Taj Mahal, bought myself staple provisions for the day. At around 11:00 AM, a kindly old gentleman approached me on the street. After informing me that he had a son about my age who was working in Tennessee, he invited me in for tea. However, I was enjoying my walk and I didn't want to lose momentum so I politely declined his offer. Just as I was nearing a bridge adjacent to Manukau Harbor, a police officer honked his horn at me and offered me a ride. He told me that there was a footpath beneath the bridge but because of the holiday (Labour Day), he wasn't busy and would be happy to drive me across. After leaving me in a town on the far side of the bridge, I set out again for the small city of Papatoetoe. By around 4:00, I was about there when a fellow in a mustang convertable stopped at a corner and offered me a ride. He told me that the city was relatively dangerous at night and recommended a motor park nearby. After being dropped in the middle of the city, I made my travel plans for the next day, bought a small tent for future travels, and manged to find the motor park without too much trouble.

After a safe night at the park, I hiked back to the center of town and bought a bus ticket to the train station. I had decided that although the city was beautiful, I would have to pay for transportation eventually if I was to make it all the way down to Christchurch. At the train station in Papakura, there was a five hour layover until 8:00 PM when the train left. In the extra time that I had, I met a plethora of unusual people including, a girl my age who ended her shift just as I was leaving the cafe where she worked (very pretty, we walked around the city together), a relatively nieve guy, also around my age, who seemed to be homeless, jobless, and clueless (he asked such profound questions that my generalizations seemed to appease him), a group of three Brazilian girls in a bandstand who were on tour and temporarily enrolled in a local school, and a man from New Zealand's indigineous Mauri tribe who waited with me at the train station until I left. Except for the young lady (who of course I was charmed by), my impression of Papakura was like something out of the Twilight Zone. First of all, the place was deserted (period). Every market and gift shop on the main street was open but there was no one around. Secondly, the place was newly built (like the other counties in Aukland) but it was surrounded by slums. The crossover from decently manicured city streets to abismally dirty and depressing residential suburbs was like night and day. It was as though the city had sprung up over night but the locals couldn't afford to support it. Needless to say, after skirting the outer limits of the city, I quickly retreated to the center where I found a sheltered park.

When the train finally arrived, I was happy to retreat to my comfortable seat for the overnight ride. When I return to Aukland, I'm going to make a point of travelling during the day because I don't think I got my money's worth by travelling at night. The train arrived in Wellington at 8:30 AM the next morning (a 12 and a half hour journey!). I ate a hearty breakfast at a 24 hour diner in the city square and the fellow who had worked there all night offered to drive me to the boat as his shift was just ending. I'm sorry that I didn't stay longer in Wellington. The city seemed to be very prosperous and friendly (not to mention that it was on the very southern tip of the North Island -- VERY scenic).

The boat which brought me to Picton (northern tip of South Island) was almost identical to the lug of a vessel which brought us up to Prince Edward Island. The cruise was three hours long and it was beautiful. If you look at a map, you'll see what I mean. At both the beginning and the end, we navigated a series of volcanic (by now you've probably begun to wonder about all of this volcanic activity -- your answer is that all of New Zealand is indeed volcanic) islands jutting up on either side of the channel. They could most easily be describe by comparing them to the islands which are scattered throughout the Caribbean. Picton was a tourist attraction. I stayed there long enough to eat a meal before departing on my connecting train to Christchurch which arrived at about 4:00 PM. This left me just enough time to find John McCaskey's ranch, Glenmark Wines.

My stay at the ranch has been pleasant enough. John owns both a restaurant and a winery so it goes without saying that he has an appreciation for fine dining. Between the good food and the comfortable accomidations, I couldn't ask for anything more. My room is in a mobile home parked in his garage. I have a stove, a refrigerator, a sumptuous feather comforter, and even an extra bed.

My front porch

Work is hard, but not without reward. When I'm not doing farm work, I live up to my claims as a landscaper by weeding gardens and cutting the lawn. So far I've learned how to; irrigate the crops (grapes), feed the cows (hoisting hay bails by tractor), shear the sheep, package and deliver wool, disassemble and reconstruct fences (although I already have some fencing skills given our time at Quaise Pasture), and taste wine (need I say that there is still much to be learned!).

Tea a biscuits 4 times a day

They sheared, I sorted - VERY oily

John McCaskey is a reasonable fellow. He believes strongly in working hard and playing hard. Given his assets, there are always people around (agents, secretaries, customers, children running around on the lawn). I've finished two books (The Once and Future King, and Disclosure by Michael Crichton -- nothing less than a thrilling best seller).

Home sweet home; I made the mistake of taking this picture after I had packed to leave. I'll take a picture of all my junk on the next roll of film.