It was a sunny day on Christmas eve, when I first set foot in Takaka.
Me and the guys had just crossed the Cook Strait and docked in the South Island of New Zealand, and swiftly found a job in a vineyard around Nelson, even if during holiday time. On that sunny day, though, we decided to have a trip over the Takaka hill, from which you have a stunning view over the Tasman Bay. Nevertheless, something magic awaited for me over the ridge.
Takaka is a little town laying among lush green lawns, in between the mountains, the sea of the Golden Bay and the Abel Tasman National Park. The first settlers arrived here lured by a decent amount of gold and other minerals, but the bay was later strikingly shaped by the hippie communities that moved to the area during the 60’s and 70’s.
Matter of fact, the culture of a laid back, peaceful and sustainable life survived until our days, and that’s why I instantly fell in love with this place. As soon as we got into a coffee bar, I asked whether there was any vacancy: long story short, in two days I started working in town.
The accommodation has been another striking factor, which made me decide to move over here for a while. Laying along the Takaka River, there’s a small community of people who is allowed to live in their tents and makeshift huts. I found this quite surprising, since in New Zealand there’s a tough set of laws which prevent people to sleep in public domains, even when just parking somewhere with their car. Eventually, I found out that, even this being the subject of an harsh debate in the local community, this is a tradition yet to be broken.
I have always felt home in the woods. Could I take place anywhere else, then?
The days went beautifully by. Working in town made me feel part of this lovely community since the very beginning, and the more I engaged with the people, the more a sense of peace and harmony possessed me. There has to be something magic in the air, or beneath the ground of this valley, since I have seen this spell of love being cast not only on myself, but on everyone who set foot for a couple of days in town. Many travellers actually settled here, not having such lovely place to come back to, or just having found here the love they never experienced anywhere else.
Indeed, the town owns the nickname of Stuck-aka. You just can’t leave. This feeling of being lost within, yet free and ecstatic, it’s perfectly represented by the Labyrinth Rocks, a maze of limestone formations just on the outskirt of town, which surely would enchant the inner child within yourself.
I haven’t still figured out whether is the place itself, that attracts people of a sweet nature and a kind attitude, or it takes out this positive side which lays, more or less silent, within anyone of us. I have always fancied to be born earlier, and being a young man during the 60’s/70’s: I think the time I have spent here will be the time of my life when I got closer to that. The vibe of love and peace hanging in the air took me to relate to many beautiful people, and spend a truly enriching time with them. I got to know some of them quite deeply, and some others only for a few moments, but I have equally loved them for the time being, and I perceived the feeling was reciprocal.
Another inspiring side of the life in Takaka is that it seems to attract characters very, very talented with music. On every moment, every day, people spontaneously gathered and played music in the gardens, or at the FrontSeat, an epic venue in town. A bit of a wifi bar, a bit of a laundry, a bit of a dvd rental, the FrontSeat is just a place of natural communion: managed by the wise and charming Genevieve, here you could find many instruments available to anybody, and you can bet there’s always someone playing them. What can you possibly desire, other than participating to a jam session every time you need to wash your clothes, charge your device or just sip your coffee? That’s just simple life at its best.
Last but not least, the Golden Bay boast some of the most beautiful spots of the South Island. Other than the renowned Abel Tasman National Park, the road going all the way down the coast takes you to the breathtaking scenery of the Cape Farewell, and the majestic formations of Wharariki Beach. The wandering among sand dunes, caves, seals’ colonies and ruby-watered creeks it’s simply worth an Hemingway’s romance.
At this time, I have unfortunately already broken the magic, and left the Golden Bay, in my endless pursue of hidden treasures. The time I have spent here, though, will always be one of the best of my life, and I will carry the lessons of love I have learnt here forever with me.
Photography: Matteo Fabi