Hack' n Stay
May 03, 2017 | 7 Minute Read
After the lengthy but leisurely hike at Canaan Downs, we got on the road again and continued our trek west. We had to stop for more food and gas, and ended up in a little town I fell in love with called Takaka.
Takaka is a small little town mostly clustered around the main highway as you drive through. There are lots of adorable little shops, cafes, and restaurants, and even a tiny theater built into the back of big shop that seemed to have one movie on display at a time. We had lunch at a little restaurant and bar near the grocery store. We were incredibly hungry, and I ended up with a giant pizza that I ate all of greedily. It looked home-made, but tasted great and was very indulgent. After lunch, we went to the post office (which was a gift shop that handled parcels as well), and got to see some more of the town including an impressive marine life mural. Thankfully, our plans would involve coming back here, so I’d be able to experience more of it later.
Our main destination was to a place called Te Hapu that came recommended by friends, but it was a several hours drive over single-lane gravel roads that would take the better part of a day, so we found another campsite in-between to break up the journey. This one wasn’t too far from Takaka, and was called Hack n’ Stay. I’m not entirely sure the origin behind the name, but in addition to a camper van site, it was also a homestay and a horse riding barn. I used to ride horses when I was younger (for nearly ten years in total!), so I was looking forward to spending time around them again.
But, unfortunately, a huge downpour started as we arrived and didn’t let up the entire night. Riding the horses would be possible, if the weather let up, for $95 for a 2.5 hour ride on the beach. That seemed steep, and wasn’t helped by the fact that just parking our van on site was $15 per person. This fee included use of their showers, which wasn’t needed by this point but still welcome, use of their outdoor BBQ (which wasn’t available due to the rain!) and a tiny kitchen on the side of the house. We ended up needing to bring in our own portable gas cookers to make our soup and tea for the night.
We were put off by the price initially, but we would quickly learn that $12-20 per person fees for parking our van at a place with toilets (even “drop” toilets) was the norm in New Zealand. We’ve paid modest camping fees in our smaller trips elsewhere, but were also able to find ample free parking. Not so much in the South Island. But perhaps more on this later.
Despite the rain, we slept pretty comfortably, and woke up to abundant sunshine the next day. This lifted our spirits quite a bit, and we were able to explore more of the place. It was actually a cute little area, and a lot of it was under development. The homestay doubled as a WWOOFing spot, and seemed to be staffed entirely by young German women who were chopping wood, tending the gardens, building out more campsites and caring for the horses. I have a hunch that the owner is also an artist, as all the signage everywhere was colorfully painted and decorated.
Loïc and I took advantage of the sunshine and our early wake-up and followed the signs leading down to the beach. This trail was pretty worse for wear from all the horses and the rain, and we sloshed through quite a bit of mud just making our way down. It was a much longer trail than we expected in the end, so that was our hiking quota for the day. But once we arrived at the beach, it was pristine. The shine was signing, the waves were steady but calm, and we were among the only ones there. We walked around for a bit before taking a seat on some driftwood and just enjoying the sun and the view.
Indeed, the trail is primarily made for and used by horses so expect mud and puddles but watching the sunrise on the Golden Bay is a nice reward. Oh and don’t forget to stop by the yellow couch at the top of the hill for a nice view of the surroundings.
Some horse riders were also taking advantage of the conditions and galloping back and forth on the beach. I was pretty jealous! Even the horses seemed to be enjoying it. We also saw a bit of a strange sight as a truck went back and forth along the beach with two horses tied to the back, keeping at a steady trot. My guess was the driver wanted to acclimate the horses to the waves and get them used to being on the beach and in the water, but it still seemed a slightly mean way to do it.
After the beach, we made our way up through the mud again and back to the farm, where a lesson was going on. We stopped to watch for a bit and the owner and I talked about the proper way to hold the reins during a trot (they used thick ropes instead of leather, which I found different). The owner had an interesting way of explaining how to hold the reins and communicate what you want from the horse. After the trotting lesson, another horse was brought in to be trained for vaulting, or gymnastics on horseback. I’ve only seen this briefly through videos online or from a childhood visit to the circus, but never in person. The horse was broken in, but hadn’t been trained for this, so the owner lead it around in a walk while two girls took turns getting on and off the horse and doing various spins and tricks on its back. Loïc and I sat to watch, and the owner was happy to explain to us what was going on throughout the training. Even for a mild training session, it was pretty entertaining.
Unfortunately we had to get going to put a dent in our way to Te Hapu.
I’m a bit worried of the state of the gravel road ahead of us given it was pouring all night long, but our little van managed small streams before so surely some mud won’t be a problem.