Granity. Not much of a name,  but it’s not much of a town. It is less than half a kilometer long and then half as wide. If you blinked you would miss it. But let me tell you, Granity Sands Backpackers is something else.

This is Eamonn and my first WWOOFing experience and we had no idea what to expect. We had done research online, joined the organization, and emailed heaps of WWOOF hosts. We received very few responses, probably due to lack of internet access, but no matter the reason, it was frustrating. Finally, we had sorted something out in a different location… but even that fell through and we were clutching at straws (never trust a plan too fully). Back to the beginning again.

Luck was with us that final day using the free Wi Fi in Hanmer Public library. We opened the WWOOF book, found a host and Eamonn picked up the phone. Five minutes later, Sande in Granity was expecting us on Friday. Woohoo!! We had no clue what we would be doing, how long we would be expected to work, how many meals for the work, etc….we were the blind leading the blind. No matter, we were excited to be moving on.

Arriving at Granity Sands Backpackers we were accosted by a rainbow of fairly faded colors. The whole property is surrounded by a multi-coloured picket fence that is badly in need of a new coat of paint and the house was a bright blue. Unsure of where to enter the eye-catching blue house, we hesitated on the overgrown pathway. After a few moments, a wraith-like figure floated through the gate behind us and told us to pop in the house. It was our host Sande. She is slightly below average height, cropped greying hair, spry and slight. But FULL of life. And quit eccentric. A medium sized dog followed at her heels.

In the first five minutes of meeting her, we learned that the dog, Jack, had been rescued just yesterday from being put down. Jack and Sande seemed as if they had been with each other for years. Such a great fit. It has been wonderful to see their bond grow stronger every day.

Sande  laid down the law: 4 hours of work around her house and garden for three meals a day and a place to sleep. We could cook, or she would cook for us. We decided that was fair enough and said we would stay. We also met our Super WWOOFer, Jasna from Slovenia. She had already been WWOOFing here for a few days. Sande pulled out some homemade frozen soup to thaw for lunch and we set to work with Jasna leading the way.

Since arriving we have weeded the many overrun flower beds, tidied the pathways, fed chickens, painted her bright blue house a lighter creamier blue and done many other small tasks around the place. We are kept busy and entertained. If Jasna and I are working in the same area we inevitably start discussing what we want to cook for dinner and then for dessert after that. (We have also discovered our taste in movies and books is similar.)

Our off duty hours are spent hiking the local trails, card games, cooking, watching movies, and playing in and around the ocean that is at our  back doorstep. Oh yeah, the ocean is just behind her house. I have been falling asleep, waking up, doing chores, and relaxing to the sound of crashing waves. It is magical.

Our host has continued to surprise us with her spryness, wry humor (nearly mean, but not quite), and her vivacity, as well as her eccentricity. See, she has been fighting throat cancer. She hasn’t been taking it lying down. It’s rather amazing to see how open she is about her situation and how much energy she has despite the whole affair.

A new WWOOFer has arrived, Karen from Germany. She arrived on a day when Sande was gone, so we were in charge of showing her the ropes. We had fun discussing what terrible tasks we could give her…. She fit right in. We’ve been continuing our routine of working and having fun. But alas, it is time to continue our journey. Karen will just have to take over for us. Jasna, Eamonn and I are going to leave on Monday. We’ve decided that we will travel north to Karamea where one end of the Great Walk called the Heaphy track begins. We will do one day trip and then drive Jasna down to her next WWOOF spot. Eamonn and I are hoping to have another gig set up as well. We’ll just have to see. So far, the standard for WWOOF hosts has been set very high.