There’s a late-afternoon purple haze over the sea, and a driftwood fire crackling deliciously in the clay stove. Three fantails are chirruping and flitting around by the full-length panoramic windows. Out of the corner of my eye I see a swinging movement outside, and I’m recalling with a grateful smile a place and time not so long ago (in Bolivia) when that could’ve been a spider monkey!
This was Shambhala, an off-the-grid eco-hostel, an oasis of peace and calm, another place I feel lucky to have found out about and experienced, a perfect cosy retreat from a 3-day rare Golden Bay storm. It feels like it’s delivered me at a poignant time back to the arms of something I was introduced to about 20 years ago and then more deeply 5 years ago: Tibetan Buddhism and meditation. Some places quickly start to feel like home and this is one of them, so I stayed here three times after my short visits to the nearby intentional communities; the last time working for five days for my accommodation and food.
During those three stays fantastic conversations seemed to be on tap; some places just attract awesome people! The two hiatuses involved some wonderful solo freedom camping, and a very special roadtrip to Farewell Spit with my new ‘little sister’ Ruby!
We followed Shambhala with the only thing that could compete… it would seem absurd to leave New Zealand without multi-day ‘tramping’ staying in backcountry huts:
A snowy flat tussock ridge, sweeping views, icy wind and clear sunshine. In my head there’s an orchestral film score playing. A Kea! Swooping curiously right over our heads, bright red wing undersides, before perching arrogantly close-by. Magical. 🙂
Hut to ourselves, feeling like kids on a sleepover: in candlelight, mattresses excitedly pulled up close to the wood burner’s heat!
Honey-coloured sun and stillness, arms out to the sides, fingers skimming the long tussock grasses, walking along the ridge, mountain range one side, snowcapped mountain valley the other side, feeling so peaceful. Treasures of snow in little pockets where the day’s sun hasn’t reached.
The compensation for having to depart Golden Bay was a final warm clear night camping right on the beach, and reuniting with a few more people who have quickly become very dear to me. I found it harder than they all know to leave!
I have so much love for the many people I’ve connected with on my travels through New Zealand and South America; you’ve all had more of an effect on me than you know, and I’ve felt so much love from you in return. I’m not sure how much I’ll be blogging in the last month of these travels, but this has been my constant invisible companion whilst in those crests or troughs between one wave of hugs and smiles and the next.