One of the (many!) things that makes our volunteering experience unique is the emphasis that we place on recreation activities. Recreation is the 're-creation of self' and is an essential and integral aspect of life. Playfulness is one important measure of intelligence in many animals! We believe that positive aspects result from recreation (health, fitness, stamina, friendship, teamspirit, fun, self-confidence...) and the variety available to the Valley community is enormous for at least three reasons:
- our location is central to many different landscapes and a range of sub-climates - within a few hours drive we have rainforest, snowy mountains, active volcanoes, white-sand pacific beaches, mountain lakes, raging rivers, surfing coasts, several large cities, many small rural towns, and a huge collection of subtropical islands.
- more options are available to a group of friends who understand each other and can plan adventures, food, accommodation etc. and act as a team.
- our trips are set-up to take advantage of best weather and best times for individual locations - we often go mid-week when most people are working, and so have locations to ourselves - want to make the only footprints on a 3 mile beach? walk in peace and quiet where you'd otherwise be among hundreds of other tourists?
Our staff has a considerable depth of experience in many adventurous and low-key recreation activities. We love the outdoors and we savour the best that NZ has to offer. While you are volunteering with us you will get a 1 or 2 day organised trip every week and a 5-7 day 'Epic trip' every 5 to 6 weeks. All extra equipment and instruction for these activities is provided. As well as that you will get 1 or 2 free days per week for whatever other activities (or relaxation!) you would like to do.
So our recreation calendar for a 6-week period typically looks something like this:
|Week 5||Epic Trip|
People often ask how a group of very different people can recreate together - "won't I slow the group down?" or "won't they slow me down?" are common concerns. In reality there are many opportunities to run great trips that accommodate average fitness and ability, and still allow the "adrenalin junkies to get their fix" as well! Many people find that the experience of recreating with a group of new friends who support each other to achieve group goals is far more rewarding than a lot of the "bums on seats" tourism operations that you can do by yourself. Fit, strong people can carry a bit extra, paddle a bit harder, or use their surplus energy to cook up some Haute Cuisine over the fire, or entertain, at the days end.
Here’s a sampling of some of the activities we get up to:
The Webster Dictionary defines the word Epic as: "An adjective - EPIC, heroic, larger-than-life. Very imposing or impressive; surpassing the ordinary (especially in size or scale); as in ‘an epic voyage’; ‘of heroic proportions’.”
Our Epic Trips are the big ones, the trips we do when we're confident everybody in the group is ready for some extended R & R. Normally these trips are run every 4-6 weeks but as we're at the mercy of many factors, not least of all, the fickle New Zealand weather, our trip planning is, by necessity, flexible.
Epic Trips might take the form of:
* multiday backcountry hiking, either camping or staying in mountain lodges
* extended seakayaking between and around islands, or on any of NZ's several large freshwater lakes
* a week staying on the skifield, where people can explore their individual loves of snowboarding or skiing, building a snowman/woman/creature thingie,... or perfecting their mountain photography
* road-trips where the aim may be to include several different adventures, like caving, abseiling, horse riding, and learning to 'stand up' at a surf school
And guess what?
Sometimes we just go sightseeing, or lay on the beach : >
The goal with our Epic Trips are to show people a new part of New Zealand and of themselves, extend people abilities to "stretch our wings" a little, and to just simply have some well-earned fun. Why well earned? Because we're working hard in the interim weeks to get Valley projects completed to make time for the trips!
Hiking & Camping
New Zealand is a mecca for bushwalking/daywalking and back-country, multi-day walks. Apart from the forest walking required in the Valley, we enjoy tramping and hiking throughout the diverse landscapes of New Zealand. Many of New Zealand’s most special landscapes and great natural features can only be accessed on foot.
Trips range as far as our legs desire, from the seaside to mountain peaks, from one hour to many days duration, which gives us the opportunity to camp in fantastic wilderness locations such as on lake shores, mountain passes, or deep in remote forests. Our 1, 2 and 4 person tents allow the group to pick-up and relocate our home to any place we care to be. Cooking over an open fire, playing a guitar under the southern stars, or sleeping on a beach offers freedoms few people experience elsewhere.
Cruising to offshore islands, multi-day trips on pristine lakes, river journeys, fishing up the coast, day trips to marine reserves - seakayaks are a wonderful way to explore an island nation such as New Zealand!
Seakayaking gives access to a wide range of habitats and the frequent sighting of penguins and sometimes seals and sea lions, not to mention sharks, makes every trip different and memorable. As well as paddling to special wildlife islands, our trips frequent freshwater mountain lakes where trout of legendary proportions make their way onto our campfires, and jumping off rocks is pretty much mandatory. You can see some more photos of our seakayking expiditions on the recreation photo page.
Swimming & Diving
The local beaches and hotpools provide a rich range of options for those who love water. Beyond the Valley, our recreation programme sees participants swimming, canoeing and seakayaking, scuba diving, snorkelling, lazing on beaches, learning to surf, visiting islands and generally getting very wet - often! Some of the best snorkelling and scuba diving around the upper North Island are within a one-hour drive, and we can access marine reserves, offshore islands, and many, many beaches. Swimming with dolphins is also possible in the upper North Island, where large families of dolphins breed, and whales are also occasional visitors.
There are surf-schools on both the East and West Coasts and many volunteers have enjoyed learning to 'stand-up' for the first time - most schools offer a "we'll get you up or your money back" deal, so surfing for the first time can be quite a buzz.
Wildlife Island Visits
Our island trips offer the opportunity to see some of New Zealand's natural habitats almost entirely 'untouched by human hands'. We visit wildlife reserves and other conservation projects, for the inspiration of sharing in other successful preservation work. Surrounded by rich fishing grounds and cut off from the mainstream of evolutionary change islands are often deemed ‘natural treasure houses' and more than 700 islands punctuate the seas surrounding New Zealand. The great majority of birds that are considered to be endangered inhabit oceanic islands, and this pattern is especially true for New Zealand. In fact, New Zealand contained approximately 11% of the world's endangered birds. Stepping onto some offshore islands is like stepping back to a time before humans reached New Zealand, as the islands have been relatively inaccessible to possums, rats, cats, stoats and other destructive non-native species.
About half of New Zealand’s offshore islands are reserves of some kind, and public visits to most island reserves are restricted in order to protect the rare plants and animals. Tight restrictions on anything taken to the island have so far prevented any pest stowaways in food and personal baggage. Our trips to such wildlife islands are often highly inspiring periods for those of us who are passionate about ecological recovery & protection. The islands also offer access to some of New Zealand's most pristine beaches, with opportunities for day hiking, tramping, sometimes camping and exploration by seakayaks.
Horse rides and treks offer a great way to see the varied landscapes of New Zealand. One of New Zealand’s great strengths is our relatively low population density. This means large areas of wilderness and rural areas with few people... a situation ideal for horse-riding and horse trekking. Horse riding operations offer 1 or 2 hour, half day and multiday options. Opportunities include farm riding, treks through forests and bush, and along beaches. We prefer operators that cater for a range of abilities and provide safety helmets and well cared-for horses.
As our trips range across the North Island, through Northland, Bay of Plenty, Auckland, Waikato, Waitomo, Taupo and Tongariro National Park, there are a wide range of landscapes and operators available for riding. However, since it is often only a few people in the group who are keen to go riding, it depends on the trip schedule if we can squeeze it in, and it is also one of the external activites at your own expense.
The Valley is a wonderful place for anyone on a healing or meditative path. The goal of helping people develop their own internal understanding, and find inner peace, is central to the Valley's broader vision. There are many quiet spots for yoga or sitting practices.
Other Recreation Activities
Reading is a favourite Valley pastime, and the Sanctuary has a growing library with everything from environmental textbooks to thriller novels. When you come to the Valley please do bring a few favourite titles for yourself and others. Another favourite is evening board games. Whether you love chess, cards, scrabble or Risk, long evenings without TV are ideal for some good competitive or group gaming.
We also like to have a bonfire once a while in the evening. There are few things as universally appealing as staring into the embers of a fire under a starry sky, listening to owls, insects and collective good-natured bullshit : >
Art and Music
The Coromandel Peninsula has a strong art community (the beautiful landscape and sea seems to attract a range of crafts from carving to pottery and provides inspiration in numerous forms), and local galleries and artists have impressive displays and shops. Our day trips often stop in on these places of interest.
Music is very central to the Valley's volunteer community. People bring mp3 players, CD walkmans and even vinyl records to share with each other, and instruments to make music. Please feel free to bring your favourite instrument to the Valley - most folk get over their shyness fast, and some regret not having 'packed their piano'! Drums, fiddles, guitars, flutes, harmonicas, wonderful voices, and improvised instruments such as bucket-drums, homemade shakers and spoons have all put in an appearance at the Valley's evening jam sessions. These tend to be frequent and spontaneous, often brought on by a bonfire, a full moon, or both.