All Blacks, Bungys, and An Active Volcano

It’s funny how quickly time passes. Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months. Before you know it a whole year has passed. My year in New Zealand was by far the best learning experience of my life. It wasn’t all easy, oh there were many hard times to be had, but every hurdle jumped was another adventure waiting to happen. I wouldn’t change a thing about my year in New Zealand, except maybe extend it. My last couple months in the country were spent exploring, getting the adrenaline pumping, and making sure I experienced as much as I could. There was no shortage of fun to be had.

For my birthday my work gave me a ticket to see the All Blacks vs South Africa game in Dunedin. It was an awesome game, my seat was smack in the center of the field so I had a great view of the whole game. Seeing the All Blacks perform the Haka live before the game was quite impressive as well. My trip would not have been complete without seeing a game. The other part needed to make sure my year was completed, was the Nevis Bungy.

All Blacks All Blacks

I grew up in a house where every Sunday night my mother would have control of the television so she could watch The Amazing Race. It was a show I always loved to curl up and watch with her. Seeing all the different places in the world these teams got to travel, and all the different tasks they had to complete was something I always found really cool. There was one episode on when I was around twelve where the teams had to complete the Nevis Bungy jump in Queenstown. It was a 134 meter bungy, as soon as I saw it on the TV, that was it. I needed to go to New Zealand.

My last day in Queenstown, before leaving to drive back to Auckland, I paid the hefty sum of money to have elastics tied around my ankles before jumping into a gorge. I’m not going to lie, I was shaking in my boots as I climbed into the small gondola cart that would carry me to the jump station that was suspended over the gorge. This was the third bungy I was to do. While living in Canada I jumped the 45 meter bungy in Nanaimo on two separate occasions, so I should be a pro now, right? Wrong. As I sat down and waited while being harnessed in and had my ankles tied up the anticipation grew. The other jumpers looked at me as if I was a bit crazy as I sat there laughing and grinning away. Secretly, I was absolutely terrified- But that makes it more fun! The adrenaline pumped through my entire body as I slowly shuffled up to the edge. 134 meters is a long way to fall, especially when you have to willingly make the jump. My knees locked and I told myself how crazy I was, I took a deep breath and launched myself towards the ground. I laughed in relief when I felt the cord begin to gently stretch and slow me down. It’s always good when the bungy cords do their job. I still get the jitters thinking it. The jump was everything I had imagined, and more.

Nevis Bungy Nevis Bungy Nevis Bungy

Leaving Queenstown was hard. It had become home. So many memories were made in Cabin 22. Audrey, Becky and I had really made that place our own. It was sad to say goodbye. The hardest goodbye though was probably the one I said to Lil Red. I sold my precious car in Queenstown before we left. It broke my heart to see it go. I cried. A lot. That car meant so much to me. When I was travelling alone it was Lil Red that I talked to. We went on so many adventures together, all over the country. I will never forget that car. I hope the new owners take good care of it!

Saying goodbye to workmates  Lil Red

My last two weeks in New Zealand were spent driving (in a rental car :(  ) back up to Auckland, with Audrey and her boyfriend, Rob. We drove up the West Coast to see the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, then up to Punakaki to see the Pancake Rocks (limestone formations that were formed from the ocean pounding against the rock face for so many years). We drove through Arthur’s Pass, a beautiful drive through the mountains, that brought us over to the East Coast, to Christchurch.

Pancake RocksPunakaki Pancake Rocks Arthur's Pass Arthur's Pass

Christchurch was a sight to see. We spent a day walking through the city, I was hoping to feel an earthquake while we were there, but that didn’t happen. It was almost depressing to walk through such a beautiful city that showed signs of destruction in every direction. The amount of damage the two big earthquakes did to Christchurch was impressive. There were whole buildings left in rubble, fenced off, waiting to be cleared and rebuilt. The city center has made an effort to rebuild. There was a neat little section where the shops have all been put into shipping crates, at least one side of each shop is full glass. Each crate was painted in a bright colour. It was nice to see things are getting better. The Cathedral on the other hand is fully blocked off, waiting to be knocked down.

Christchurch Cathedral Christchurch Christchurch

We drove the rest of the way up on the East Coast, camping our way along. We took the Ferry across to Wellington where we spent a day at the Te Papa museum. It was definitely the coolest museum I have been in. There was a giant interactive floor map of the country. You could walk across the map and as you would step on tiles they would light up and display photos of the area on the wall. My other favourite part of the museum was the colossal squid. It is the only colossal squid on display in the world. It had to be at least 4 meters long, and still considered a small one.

Te Papa Museum Te Papa Museum

After Wellington we took a long drive down some quieter areas just so I could go to  Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. It does look like I have just pounded my fingers on random keys for ages, but really, that is the name of a hill in New Zealand. It is recognized as the longest place name in an English speaking country, and the second longest place name in the world. It translates from Maori to  “The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one”.

Longest Place Name

We spent the next few days travelling the North Island visiting different places. We drove around Lake Waikaremoana looking for a free campsite, but by the time we found the free site it was pitch black out and the area, in the middle of the woods, looked a little on the sketchy side. The fact that there was only one site being used, didn’t help us feel comfortable. It was the perfect murder scenario. We decided to not risk the chance of being shot by the hunter in the next tent over and we drove back out to a paid site where we set up camp for the night instead. It was a much more populated area and we were able to rest without thinking about whether or not we would wake up in the morning.

A couple days were saved for the Coromandel, just because Audrey and I had loved it so much the time we travelled it together. We spent time driving around and enjoying the lush, green scenery before heading down to Hot Water Beach for an evening soak. We didn’t have a shovel though and the night air was a bit cold so we spent most of the time rolling around in shallow pools of water, willing them to get deeper.

The Top Ten Holiday Park at Hot Water Beach wanted to charge over twenty dollars a person for us to pitch one tent. We were not up for spending over 60$ to set up a little 4 man tent. We hopped back in the car and drove off in hunt of a different location. We found a sign for Mill Creek Park a bit up the road so we took the turn off to check it out. It turned out it was not just a campground but also a Bird and Animal Park. We booked in for eight dollars each. That gave us full access to the Bird park and rest of the animals, as well as shower and kitchen facilities. We spent hours wandering through the park, following peacocks, talking to the macaws, petting the donkey, cooing over the week old piglets, and taking photos of all the different animals. It was an eight dollars well spent. This was the most enjoyable campground I stayed at during my year.

Bird Park Bird Park

The next day we packed up our camp site and headed over to Cathedral Cove for a day of snorkelling.  Audrey and I swam from buoy to buoy along the Gemstone Bay Marine Trail, reading about the different marine life in the area. We then trekked over to Stingray Bay to do some snorkelling with the masses of stingrays found there. There was one point where just standing in knee deep water I counted 13 stingrays sitting at my feet. It was a good thing I had a wetsuit on. I didn’t want to go out like Steve Irwin, a stingray barb through the heart.

Snorkelling Snorkelling

We stopped in Rotorua on our way back to Auckland to do the Zorb. The Zorb is a giant hamster ball that you sit in then get pushed down a hill. Audrey, Rob, and I all climbed into one Zorb, while the worker added a decent amount of warm water to the ball before pushing us all down the hill. It was a great laugh for sure.

Zorbing

I hung around Auckland for a few days, revisiting places I had enjoyed in my first few months in the country, and catching up with Andy. It was kind of nice being back, it just seemed so familiar. We decided to head off again though after a couple days. The weather was forecasting beautiful sunshine for Taupo and Tongariro National Park so we made our way down to attack the Tongariro Crossing.

The nineteen and a half kilometre trek over an active volcano is often claimed to be one of the ten best day treks in the world. I can see why. The scenery was absolutely stunning, there wasn’t one moment that passed during the entire hike that I was not in awe of my surroundings. The volcano, which had erupted in August was still smoking while we hiked across. There were signs posted asking hikers to keep stops to a minimum as the volcano was still active. We hiked through a valley, up a volcano, through a crater filled with snow, around lakes, and back down the other side. I cannot begin to express the brilliance of this trek. I am still left breathless now thinking back to how incredible the day was- Even if I did walk away with my face sunburnt to a crisp.

665434_10151199410173847_912289584_o 617237_10151199403468847_2039462942_o 57358_10151199407103847_1876016846_o 1034_10151199409863847_1710860812_n

Saying goodbye to New Zealand was heartbreaking. I cried as I got off the bus at the airport. I didn’t want to leave. The whole year had been so amazing I didn’t want it to end. It took all my effort not to let tears roll down my cheeks as I checked through customs and waited for my plane. I suppose though, where one journey ends, another begins. The story isn’t over yet, the setting has just changed.

Let my Australia adventure begin!

The Forgotten World Highway and The Kitten I’ll Never Forget

After a few more weeks of being back in Auckland I decided to pack up again and head south. Back on the road, on my own once again. The day was dreary as I headed out. The rain poured down as my windshield wipers worked hard to push the water away at full speed.  I went back through Rotorua and Taupo, then down around Lake Taupo, making a few stops along the way at The Honey Hive and a volcano museum. I was making my way towards the Teranaki Region but decided to spend the night at the start of the Forgotten World Highway, in hopes the weather would clear up for the rest of my journey.

I awoke bright and early the next day to set off on the second half of the drive. My final destination was a small town called Eltham, where I had been in contact with a local about working for my accommodation. The drive was only supposed to take two hours, but I decided to pick my way along, taking my time and enjoying the sights. Guy, who I was to be staying with, was working until five that evening so I was in no rush. I stopped near the start of the Forgotten World Highway at “Lauren’s Lavender Farm & Café”, for some breakfast. The sun was warm and the scent of lavender wafted through the air as I sat and nibbled my way through a piece of home made quiche. I chatted with the owner, who’s name I was surprised to discover, was not Lauren. I did not find out until afterwards, while reading about the farm online, that Lauren was a member of their family who passed away in 2001.

After having a wonderful conversation with the owner and enjoying a most delicious breakfast, I was back on the road. There weren’t many houses along the 150 kilometre highway. It was so peaceful. Just the gorgeous rolling mountains, my little red car, and me.  I stopped for many photos along the way, and, at one point, I stopped for two hours to try and catch a kitten.

I was driving along a dirt section of the highway, absolutely nothing but nature for miles around. All of a sudden a little, black, fuzzy face and two big, green eyes peered out at me from the grass along the side of the road. Puzzled, I put the car in reverse to take another look at the little face. It was a kitten. It couldn’t have been more than a couple months old. I pulled over and climbed out. There was no way a little kitten like that should be living in the middle of no where. There were no other cats to be seen. I slowly approached the kitten, hoping it would let me pick it up. I thought maybe I could take it to the nearest town and search for someone willing to look after it. The kitten ran off into the bush before I could get too close. I looked to see where it had gone, the hill was near vertical and it ran down to a stream. There was a lot of the bush all along the muddy slope. The kitten had disappeared out of site. I peered down into the tangles of branches, hoping to spot the small creature. Suddenly, I heard a sound, a mewing came from the entanglement below. It was the most sad, scared, mew I had ever heard. I ran back to my car and pulled on my hiking shoes. I then grabbed my whistle, just in case I got stuck. I found a stream that ran under the road, down to the river, so I used the rock bed to scramble down to the bottom. The kitten cries persisted as I made my way down to the river. From there I made my way over to the hill, the branches weren’t quite as thick from this side. I slid between branches and crawled over fallen logs. I found sturdy roots to hold as I inched my way back up the hill, towards the source of the cries. A flick of a black tail, and a glint of those green eyes, the frightened kitten took off, disappearing again.

I waited in silence, standing totally still, hoping the little animal would come back out to investigate. It didn’t. After a couple minutes the cries started up again. I mimicked the calls, encouraging the kitten to continue mewing. I clambered forward again. Slowly, calmly, trying not to startle the animal for a third time. I eventually hit a wall. The branches became so thickly twisted together there was no chance I would be able to climb through them. I tried going around- no luck. I tried the other side- still, no luck. I went back to the river and tried to take it on from a slightly higher point. That didn’t work either. I eventually climbed back up to the road. from the top I scanned down the side of the slope, trying to seek out the best path towards my goal.

Up and down the stream bed I went. From the river to the road, and back again. Searching, climbing, mewing. My heart was starting to break. That poor kitten, all alone, no food, a fast running river the only source of water nearby. I had no idea how to convince the small feline that I was just there to help. I sat on the top of the hill for a while. Watching, waiting, hoping the black fur ball would come and approach me. When that didn’t work I had to think again. I went back to my car and pulled out a loaf of bread and my bottle of water. I don’t really know much about cats, I’ve only ever had dogs. I had to make up steps as I went, I had no idea what I was doing. I soaked some bread with water and tossed it into the tangle of branched below. Suddenly, those big green eyes reappeared. With much hesitation the cat made its way towards the bread. Looking at me, taking a step, stopping to look at me again, inching forwards a bit more, and so on. The kitten made it to the bread and started to nibble. I let this go on for a while before doing some inching of my own. I slid on my heels, one bit at a time, stopping whenever the kitten looked up. I was so close, but I guess the little creature thought so too, and it took off again.

I had now been there over an hour, trying to save that small creature. “I’M JUST TRYING TO HELP YOU!” I cried out. Partly out of frustration, partly out of desperation. If I didn’t help that cat, who would? Still so small, how could it take care and survive in the middle of nowhere? The nights were starting to get cool, would the little kitten freeze? I needed to do more. I grabbed more bread, and a towel from my car and made my way back towards the place where the kitten had last been. I laid down the towel on top of the branches, placed the bread on top of it. I propped some branches up against the blanket and held onto one edge. I was creating a sort of trap. I thought, maybe if the cat would walk onto the towel to eat, I could quickly through the towel over it and grab it. Yes, the poor little animal would be absolutely terrified, but I would unwrap the towel once we were in the car, I would put out more bread, give it some water. Make up for my terrifying actions.

I sat there for ages, the cat wouldn’t come near my towel trap. I was running out of ideas. I came so close so many times, but never got close enough. After losing sight of the kitten again, no sign for ages, I decided it was time to go. I had been on the hunt for over two hours by that point. My feet were soaked from the stream, I was covered in mud and scratches from all my scrambling, and my heart was broken. I cried as I headed back to my car, defeated. So badly I wanted to save that small creature, but I couldn’t manage. I had no idea what else I could do. I left some more bread on the slope, and made a trail up to the road. I then made a nice pile of bread along the roadside. All I can hope is that that little kitten would make its way to that pile, and someone else would drive by and spot it and maybe they would have more luck saving that poor little animal. But for me, it was time to walk away. People tell me I can’t save the world, I guess they were right. I can’t even save a cat. I hate giving up.

I continued my journey along the highway, trying not to feel too sad about leaving the cat behind. I let myself disappear in the beautiful scenery once again. I had to move forward. Driving through that amazing landscape was a good way to calm down a bit. It’s hard not to feel at peace there. I stopped for some more photos when I came to a tunnel through the hill. This wasn’t just any tunnel though. It was really just a whole cut through the giant lump of land. There were wooden beams evenly spread out throughout the tunnel, the rest was just pure rock face. It was no doubt the coolest tunnel I have ever been through.

   

I arrived at Guy’s house a bit after five. He had called me an hour earlier saying he would be late but told me where the spare key was and just to let myself in. I was on a hunt for the key when he arrived home. Luckily, I hadn’t been searching long when he arrived home. Guy introduced himself and asked me how the drive was, we chatted as he went to unlock the door. Turns out he couldn’t find the spare key either. Or his keys for that matter. He went around back and checked all the windows, finally finding one that was unlocked. He pulled himself through the small window and came back around to unlock the door for me. It was a rather entertaining first impression that was just the start to an awesome week in Eltham.

Glow Worms, Hot Streams & Geysers in a City

The day after arriving back in Auckland from my trip with Audrey it was time to take on another adventure, this time with Andy. We had already planned it out before I had taken off with Audrey, so it was just a matter of packing up and heading off. We had three days and two nights to fill with fun and stories to tell. The challenge to have as good of a time as Audrey and I had had arisen, and Andy and I accepted the challenge. In less than 24 hours after returning from one trip, I was off again, this time heading to Raglan.

Raglan is a popular surf spot on a huge black sand beach. The day we went was overcast and we only had a couple hours to spend so we just walked along the beach, jumped along the sand dunes, and stepped on crunchy shells. It was neat to watch all the surfers wait so patiently for the perfect wave before they rode it into shore. The grace in which they caught the waves was incredible. Not something I have the balance or skill to do.

We then drove to Bridal Veil Falls where we hiked into the woods to admire the cascade of water. The light reflected off the mist, creating rainbows at the base of the falls. It was so peaceful and serene. We hiked down the stairs from the top of the 55 meter waterfall, down to the bottom, where we sat and admired and prepared ourselves for the hike back up.

As the day came to an end we realized we needed to find somewhere to set up camp. We drove to Waitomo and cruised down back roads, trying to find a spot out of the way where we could pitch our tent and sleep undisturbed. We weren’t having much luck finding a spot so in the end Andy decided we would be camping in a field. There were no cows in the paddock we settled on, and it was out of sight of houses and main roads. I was a little unsure about the whole situation, but as the sun sank lower and lower, and the sky grew dimmer and dimmer, I didn’t have much choice. We decided against having a fire that night so instead we sat in the tent playing card games and talking the night away.

We had no issues with where we camped. Every time a car drove by I would hold my breath, expecting it to be someone coming to holler at us, but it never was. We rose with the sun, packed the car back up, and drove away from the field leaving no trace that we had been there.

We made our way to Cave World, the company with whom we were to do our black water rafting adventure. We booked ourselves in for later that afternoon, and then we went for a drive to kill some time. I was so excited to do the Black Water Rafting, the wait was brutal. I counted down the minutes until I would be entering a hole in the ground. It doesn’t sound very exciting when I put it that way, but really, it was awesome!

When the time finally rolled around, Andy and I met up with the crew of other excited people and we were on our way. We had to stop first to get wetsuits and helmets. That was the worst part. Nobody likes pulling on cold, wet, neoprene. It was not a pleasant feeling, but I knew it would be well worth it. Once we were all geared up we each chose a black inner tube and made the climb into darkness.

We splashed through shin deep water until there was no light to be seen from the cave opening. Our guides told everyone to turn off their flashlights at that point. It’s a good thing no one was terrified of the dark. We followed the instructions we were given, and upon entering complete darkness the cave was filled with “oohs” and “aahs” as we all turned our eyes to what lay above us. Like stars on a clear night the cave was lit up by little glow worms. As we sat there gazing up, we were told that it’s not actually the worm that glows, it’s their poo. The guide then smashed his tube on the water creating a loud bang. The amount of glowing specs tripled from that. It takes “having the crap scared out of you” to a whole new level.

We were given the opportunity to wriggle our way into a little alcove where a big waterfall was hidden. Of course, I volunteered to go first. Looking up, I couldn’t see the top of it, I still don’t know how high up it went, but it was still very cool.

The next part of the adventure consisted of us hopping into our tubes, falling backwards over a little waterfall, then floating down the river. Everyone had their lights out, and we all just laid back and enjoyed the glowing poo. It was one of the coolest things I have done so far.

We finished our cave trip, got the photos then headed off to Taupo. It was evening by the time we arrived there, and we still hadn’t decided where we would set up camp. We stopped at Huka Falls to watch the masses of water being pushed down the river. It was pretty impressive.

Our next stop was Kerosene Creek, a hot water river about halfway between Rotorua and Taupo. I checked online and someone said there was a good camping spot there, so we hopped into the car and took off to find it. We had some trouble finding the turn off for the creek, as locals love to take down any signs people put up. They don’t want it to become overrun by tourists. We eventually found it and made our way down the extremely unkempt dirt road. We hiked into the woods, along the trail that had been stamped down. We spotted the river, steam rising off it. We grabbed our swimsuits, or “togs” as they say here” and jumped on in. It wasn’t the best smelling water I had ever swum in, but it was certainly the warmest.

When we began feeling lightheaded from the heat we jumped out and brought down our camping gear. We set up the tent and put all our belongings in it before jumping back into that stinky, warm creek, with the stinky, warm waterfall.

For dinner that night we used a knife to cut the tops off canned spaghetti. We placed the cans in the fire until they were nice and hot. We poured the spaghetti onto slices of bread and chowed down. It was a delicious campfire dinner.

The next morning we packed up our gear, went for another soak then headed off to Rotorua. Rotorua is a very neat town, geysers have popped up all over the place and there are bubbling mud pools found in the center of town. We spent a couple hours wandering through, checking out all the spots where steam was pouring from the ground.

We decided to spend a bit of money and have some more fun in RotoVegas. We bought tickets to take a gondola ride up the mountain, where we hopped aboard the skyswing. The swing was hoisted fifty meters above the ground where we were then dropped to swing back and forth over the edge of the mountain. It was a great thrill and a good way to get out adrenaline pumping before we hit the luge.

At the luge track we strapped on helmets and grabbed out karts, hopped on, and took off down the track. Andy and I raced down the hills, passing other lugers and trying not to run into young children. We took our corners sharp, putting our karts on their sides. Run after run, we went down the hill, pushing our limits and going faster with each run. Finally, the last run of the day, I beat Andy to the bottom. He had passed me in his kart, absolutely flying, went to take a turn, and didn’t make it. He went straight into the big dirt piles beside the track. I laughed as I watched him spin out and crash like the characters in Mario Kart games. Don’t worry though, he wasn’t hurt, and I was the champion.

We left Rotorua behind and made out way back Auckland. It was a great trip and we had a lot of fun. It was cool to be able to travel like that with someone who knew the area, knew a lot of the places we went, yet at the same time, was still fascinated by some of the things we did, such as Kerosene Creek and the glow worm caves. Our three day adventure was an awesome thrill, and with that I was ready to hit the roads again.

Canadians on The Coromandel

After working many long, hard hours campaigning for Red Cross and not earning a cent I decided it was time to call it quits. I had some money in the bank and had gotten a phone call from another Canadian girl, Audrey, who is in New Zealand on the same work exchange program as I. We had met up when she was fresh meat in New Zealand and we went out for drinks before she left on her tour bus the next day. We kept in touch as we had gotten along so well, so when she arrived back in Auckland ready for adventure I was all set to join in.

It was a Friday morning and I hadn’t even slept it. My phone was ringing and it was Audrey on the other end. She was asking if I wanted to go to Hot Water Beach, over on the Coromandel Peninsula.I figured I may as well, I had exhausted Auckland and was intching to go out and explore more. I had been planning to head to the Coromandel a few days later anyway, so this was the perfect opportunity! We decided to go on a trip for a few days and do the whole peninsula. I packed up my car, picked up Audrey, then we were off on a road trip. First stop: Hot Water Beach.

When people talked about Hot Water Beach, I nodded my head thinking it was neat, but probably just a little warm at best. I never expected it to be as hot as it was. I almost burned my feet at one point as I was looking for a spot to plunk down and dig my sitting hole- Turns out I had walked into the spring water which can be as hot as 64 degrees Celsius (147 F.). Audrey, myself and a friend of Audreys, Bruce, tested different spots around the spring as if we were all Goldie Locks. Some spots were too hot. Others were too cold. It took a bit, but we eventually found a spot that was just right. Now, the funny thing about this beach is that there aren’t many people swimming, or sunbathing. Everyone digs big pits in the sand to sit in. The warm water from the spring rises up through the sand creating your own little hot tub. The deeper you dig, the hotter the water gets. It was a little tricky to teach myself not to dig my toes into the sand, they kept getting burned.

After spending the better part of the evening getting wrinkled like prunes Audrey, Bruce, and I climbed out of our sandy spa to go dry off and head for Narnia. It was only a ten minute drive, then a forty minute walk through the woods before we were in Narnia. We didn’t even go through the wardrobe! No, no, we were at Cathedral Cove, a scene from the second Narnia movie. It was a beautiful beach, so amazing and breathtaking it felt as magical as a magical world would.

    

We spent the night at the holiday park by the beach. We had a few drinks with some backpackers from the tour bus, and all exchanged tales of our journeys to date. We all crashed out one by one, but as always, I was the last one up. I finally hit the hay at 4:30 AM as the other backpacker I had been chatting with was just as wiped as I was. we said our goodbyes and went  our separate ways. He had it rougher than I did though. He had to be back up and on the bus for 7:30. I didn’t have to be gone until 10:00.

Much to my dismay, I ended up kicking my day off at 7:30 anyway. The majority of backpackers in the hostel dorm were from the tour bus, so I was woken up as they all packed out to hop aboard the bus. Audrey was also up, and there was no chance at falling back asleep, so we loaded up the car and headed off. Not sure where we were going, or where we would end up.

Well we drove for hours, sticking to the east coast as much as possible. We stopped in one town to buy some meat pies, then hung out at a sandy beach to make sandwiches for lunch. We Oohed and Ahhed at every hill we crested and every lookout we came across. As much as I loved my trip up north in November, it sure was nice having someone to chat with and share the experience with. Photos of New Zealand make the country look beautiful, no doubt, but even so they don’t compare at all to the real beauty of the country.

We continued out drive up the peninsula heading North the whole time. Winding our way up and down mountains and along rivers and streams to Coromandel Town. We thought about stopping there, but no, there was still farther north we could go. To the tip of the peninsula we went. It was a 30  kilometre drive on a windy, narrow, dirt road. We were constantly in awe as we drove, taking an hour to complete the drive. We went slowly as the road was a steep hill on one side, and a plummet to the ocean on the other. We wound around hill after hill, careful to make sure no cars were coming around the corner in the other direction. The road was not quite two lanes so every time we met someone we had to slowly creep past each other, cautious not to pull over too far and fall to our doom. We almost decided to turn around and head back at one point when the road had a pull off spot. I’m sure glad we didn’t. Just as we came around the next corner, below us was a beautiful sandy beach. We figured there may be more so we continued to pick our way along further, seeing if there was a place we could camp.

  

We made it to Port Jackson, mission accomplished. There was even a camp site too. We paid the nine dollar fee and set up our tent right along the beach. It was the perfect camp site, and the hot sun was there to make up for it’s absence over my Christmas camping trip. Audrey and I wandered down the beach, taking it all in, then went for a nap as we were both exhausted. We had found a little piece of paradise.

                                  

We had a great day in Port Jackson and we didn’t get rained on that night either. Once more when morning rolled around we loaded up the car and were off again. The drive back down that dirt road went a lot quicker than it had the previous day, we were back on paved roads before we knew it. I quite enjoy those dirt roads, I’m not sure how much my car loves me for it though.

Highway 309 was a road I had read about and thought would be a fun drive. Audrey and I headed out of Coromandel Town after grabbing some breakfast and we went to find this road. We found the turn off for Highway 309 as we headed South. There was a sign hanging pointing us in the right direction. It was just an old rickety wooden sign, but the painted on “HIGHWAY 309” were unmistakeable. We took the left and continued on our way.

We passed some cars pulled over by a bunch of wild pigs, wondering why there were so many, but we kept driving to The Waterworks park. It’s a park that is full of little structures built for your water amusement. It’s a lot of artsy stuff, but we thought it would be fun. Audrey and I are both a bit cheap though, so neither of us were willing to pay the 20$ admission fee for it. We did however grab a pamphlet on the highway, reading through to see that the wild pigs are one of the attractions along the way. We decided to turn back and check it out.

We parked up the car and walked over to check out the squealy little creatures and have a chat with the man running the show. The man had a lot of land that he had turned into a wild pig reserve. He doesn’t eat them or sell them, he simply said “They’re my mates”. We got to hold some of the three week old piglets that were running around, and pet some of the big fatties who were bathing in the sun. It was quite a show that was happening. As we chatted with the farmer I couldn’t help but compare him to the chicken farmer from Napoleon Dynamite. He was walking around the pigs in his bare feet, which were black and filthy. It really didn’t help with my phobia of feet. We slipped away when another car load of people arrived and we headed for Castle Rock.

   

 

Castle Rock was the next stop along the way. The pamphlet made it sound like a really common hike, one that would have a well marked track and lots of people on it. Nope. Audrey and I weren’t even sure if we had found the right spot. We followed the directions the pig farmer had given us, which led us up a bumpy logging road. We went as far as we could up the road then pulled as far off the road as we could. There were deep ditched on either side of the narrow, dirt road, not so much as a spot to park to hike. But we went with it anyway, threw on our hiking shoes and made the trek up the mountain.

   

 

It wasn’t a long hike, but the trail was extremely muddy, not very well defined, and steep. It was fun though. We ripped up the trail, only meeting one German couple along the way, hitting the top in under an hour. It was a beautiful view and a good spot to relax, not another soul around for ages.

   If you look really closely you can see my car!

(If you look REALLY closely you can see my car parked on the dirt road!)

 

Once we made it back down to the car we decided to go for something a little more refreshing. Why not hit the Waiau Falls. We drove up and parked, went to test the water, and made ourselves some lunch. There were a couple kids jumping from the top of the waterfall, they tried to convince us to join in, but we opted out.

  

 

We made it back to Hot Water Beach that night for another quick soak in the spring after making our last stop at Cooks Beach. It was a beautiful, long, sandy beach. The sun was low in the sky and there weren’t too many people left around. We walked the length before heading back to the car. We still needed to find a place to crash for the night.

 

Audrey and I stayed in our little dug out spa until the sun had set. We then made the walk back out to the car to head off in search of a bed. My car was the only one left in the lot by the time we made it out. As we climbed in a figure crossed the road and made his way over to the car. The man introduced himself and offered us a place to stay. “My friend and I own all that land over there, you can just stay here for free if you like”, the smell of alcohol just wafted towards us as he talked. “We just saw that you were the only car left and we wanted to make sure you didn’t have any problems getting it started.” He told us before he walked away. We closed the car doors and locked them as soon as he turned around. Some people just give off creepy vibes, he was one of them. I shoved the key into the ignition and turned. Nothing. I tried my other key, still nothing. Audrey and I exchanged, looks, the same thought running through our minds, had he done something so our car wouldn’t start? We didn’t want that to be the case so I tried once more. Breath held, fingers crossed, the car started. We both let out a sigh of relief as we drove off down the road.

We hadn’t taken into consideration that most camp grounds close up their offices by 9pm. So we we hit the 10pm mark we were quickly losing hope. We drove and drove, hoping to find somewhere. Finally we reached the town of Tairua, and with it we found a hostel. The town was dead, not a car or human life form in site. We followed signs down to a hostel, we parked the car and went to see if it was open.

The kitchen door was open, so we let ourselves in. Audrey went upstairs where she found some backpackers who pointed us in the direction of reception. We wandered down the hallway, slowly, creeping, hairs standing on end. There was no one in the office. We rung the bell, no answer. We picked up the phone and dialled the number listed. We heard the phone ring, it was the phone in the office. We were both a little on edge so we hung up quickly and were prepared to scurry off when finally a lady approached from across the property.

We booked into a room and brought all our stuff in, still a bit nervous. I’m not sure what exactly it was about the hostel. Maybe the fact we arrived so late, maybe the lack of activity happening in the hostel, maybe the spooky moans of the old house settling. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but we were both glad we survived the night. No one was murdered, no bloody messages scrawled on the walls, everything was fine, and the sun shone bright the next morning.

Relieved to make it out alive, we headed off for our next and final stop before making our way back to Auckland. Whangamata has another one of those beautiful, sand, New Zealand beaches. We spent some time there soaking up the sun and contemplating swimming (which neither of us did in the end).

 

 

All in all it was a great trip. Many fun adventures and wonderful experiences. I was sad it had to end, but Audrey and I have plans to explore more together and surely find some more shenanigans to get into.

 

A Little Sun, A Lot of Rain, and The Best and Worst of Toilets

Christmas has come and gone and we have begun a new year, twenty-twelve. With the ending of twenty-eleven come a few stories about the holiday and the wonderful camping trip I went on.

Christmas Eve was spent wrapping presents and relaxing. Also it was spent breaking into a hostel.

One present that I had wrapped of my own was for my friend, Will. We had shared a room in the hostel when I was first in Auckland. We had hung out almost every day and he helped be buy my car, checking it out to make sure it wouldn’t break down before it was off the lot. Lately Will has been difficult to get ahold of. He works constantly as a bouncer at a bunch of Auckland bars and clubs so he’s out all night and sleeps all day. I really wanted to get him his present before I left to go camping but I could not reach him. So I decided that desperate times call for desperate measures. I drove into town and went to the hostel where he is still living. I went to reception and explained to the girl working (who was also Canadian and who I had had previous run-ins with) what was going on. I figured she would take the present and leave a message for him. Instead she gave me the key to his room. I took the elevator up and went and knocked on his door. Sadly, there was no answer. I decided to hang the present on the door, but on a second thought I changed my mind. After all, things can get stolen pretty easily at hostels. I figured I just open up his room and set the present on his bed. I hadn’t even signed the gift, but he would have known it was from me. Turns out he didn’t even have to guess. I unlocked and opened the door and stood there almost looking as stunned as Will did. He was sitting on his bed, in a total daze. I gave him his present and we sat and chatted for a bit. He thought it was hilarious, yet creepy that I was able to get a key to his room. I left to head back to Andy’s to get ready for Christmas day.

This year was a very different kind of Christmas for me. It was the first time I wasn’t spending the holiday with my family, and it was summer opposed to winter. Even the Christmas trees here are all long pine needles instead of short ones. I thought Christmas would be an extra difficult part of this trip for me where I would become super homesick, especially since I would be spending the day with a family who I had never met. Fortunately, I was wrong. Christmas was a lot of fun! Spending it with Andy’s family was so totally different from the average Christmas I was used to that I wasn’t homesick! Instead of turkey and mashed potatoes we had ham and four different kinds of salads. There wasn’t even pie for dessert! Everyone wore shorts or summer dresses and we all sat either around the living room or out on the deck in the sunshine. It was not nearly the formal dinner I was used to.

We did a $30 gift exchange, which was fun, I got a little clock, it’s cute, but I don’t really have a use for it. Andy got me another present too (actually, three). We exchanged presents at his house, and I was super excited when I opened the box up. I got a nice sweater, which was awesome because I only brought one over with me. The other thing in the box was a Polarizing filter for my camera. I was so totally excited, I had wanted one so badly, it makes a world of difference when I take some of my photos now. I was just bouncing around because of it, I thought it was an amazing present so I was stunned when I found out there was more.

I ran out to my car to grab some laundry that needed to be done before we headed up north. When I opened the car door I noticed a triangular piece of foam on the floor of the driver’s seat. I pointed it out to Andy because I didn’t have a clue what it was, he didn’t seem to either. As I reached down a flash of white caught my eye, there was a booklet in the driver’s door pocket, which I definitely hadn’t left there. I pick it up and on the cover is a picture of a car stereo. My immediate reaction was to glance at my stereo and to my surprise it was brand new. I looked over at Andy who was just grinning. He had gotten up at 4 AM to replace my car stereo because mine wasn’t very good. He replaced my speakers too. The black foam that had originally caught my eye was foam from the inside of the car door that Andy had missed when pitting the door back together. I almost cried, it was quite a Christmas present.

Once we were all set and ready, Andy and I took off to Whananaki to grab a camp site. We chose to leave on Christmas day because boxing day is when everyone from Auckland heads north for vacation. It was a good choice too, we hardly had any traffic to deal with. The other reason that made it a good choice was that we got one of the last camp sites left. Even so, we were on the opposite side of the camp ground from the rest of Andy’s family.

We set up our tent then walked down to see everyone, who like us, had left right away. Now, I have been camping numerous times growing up, but never like this family camps. There were two carports attached with a big 3-room tent on either side. Andy’s parents had one tent and his Sister and brother in law had the other. The two carports were used as a kitchen and a dining area. There were 2 gas fridges, a gas stove, barbecue, sink, tables, you name it, they had it.

      

The three sites around this big tent set-up were sites belonging to Andy’s other brother and his sister in law and their two kids, his uncle, and his cousin. Once one more site had emptied in the area Andy and I moved our tent up there too. It was some pretty impressive camping. Did I mention there was also a shower tent with huge solar heated water bags for warm showers?

The camp site was a beautiful spot, right on a sandy beach, surrounded behind by rolling hills. It’s a shame it rained all week. It was cold and dreary but we didn’t let that bring us down. The whole family basically sat around in one of the carparks playing games of Rummy-O and Asshole. It was a lot of fun and there were lots of laughs. It reminded me of spending rainy days with my family at The Lake, everyone crammed into the little camp playing games. The rain wasn’t really an issue because of the fancy set up, until the thunder and lightning came. The night before New Years Eve the thunder rumbled, the lightning struck, and the rain came pouring down. I have always loved those kinds of storms, but spending one in a tent was new. With every flash of lightening the outline of all the bags in the tent became visible. The ocean roared, when you could hear it over the crashing thunder, and the rain didn’t falter from its total downpour. It was hard to sleep that night, but sleep did eventually come. And so did a 6 AM wake up call.
The tent Andy and I were in made it through the night, his parents however, weren’t so lucky. Everything in their tent was absolutely drenched. We had to pull everything out to dry and put a tarp over top, hoping that would prevent further leaks. The poor guys camping beside Andy and I had a rough night. There were 4 guys and a little 2-man tent. They two who slept in the tent must have regretted it. The two in the car may have been more squished, but at least they were dry. One of the tent-sleepers had woken up in the middle of the night and had realized the tent was leaking, so he went out to the car, not bothering to wake his friend. When his friend woke up the next morning he swung his feet over the side of the mattress to discover water up to his ankles. I’m glad that didn’t happen to us.

The clouds seemed to have drained themselves and as morning grew closer to afternoon the sky began to clear. Andy and I had made plans that day to go do a couple things, so we were glad it was going to be nice out for us. We packed up lunches for the day and got our hiking shoes all set and ready to go. I went to the car to start it and nothing happened. I tried again, the car turned on, so the battery wasn’t dead, but the engine wouldn’t turn. We tried and tried to start the car, many campers came and offered the small amount of knowledge they knew. Andy and I were about to resort to knocking on tents in search of a mechanic when one lady came by and told us to use jumpers. We weren’t sure how that would help as it wasn’t the battery, but we tried anyways. Andy’s brother, Blake came by and hooked up his car to mine, we started the car and pumped the gas. We could tell it was so close but it just wouldn’t go. After a few minutes of constant pumping of the gas the engine finally turned. White smoke poured out of the exhaust. The way the wind had been blowing last night all the rain had gotten blown right under the hood of my poor little car. We let it run until the smoke stopped before finally taking it out. We stalled a couple times trying to slowly leave the campground. The car would go fast, but she sure didn’t like the slow speeds. She started running smoothly once we got her onto the road and we were off on our adventure.
Our first stop wasn’t a planned stop at all. We had barely left the area we had been camping in when we got stopped by a flooded road. We considered crossing, but the water was up to the bumper of a flatbed tow truck, I didn’t think my car would make it. We turned around after watching a couple people try and struggle through it and we headed down a dirt road instead, just a minor detour. Then off to the Hundertwasser toilets we went.

I was more excited that I should have been to get to these toilets. I had to pee before we even left the campsite, but I decided to hold it instead of using the outhouse. I hate outhouses. I have had a fear of them since I was little, the thought of being trapped inside that small, filthy room. The possibility of falling into the poo tank. The thought of the floor caving in and again, falling into the poo tank. Or even just the image of the flies coming back up out of the tank and running into your bum as you were doing your duties. There are so many reasons to not like outhouses. I was relieved I had a bottle of hand sanitizer as there is never anywhere to wash your hands after using one of these treacherous toilets. Even if there was, I would still feel the need to take a hot shower after leaving the toilet. So, no, I did not use the outhouse that morning. I held, and held, for the winding trip to the magnificent Hundertwasser toilets. I never really thought of a washroom as being a nice place, a tourist attraction, a piece of art even, until I saw this one. Pieces of coloured glass and tiles formed the walls- every colour and pattern imaginable. There was so much to look at as you sat down to do your stuff that it made you wonder if that is how your father imagined every toilet he used- spending as long as possible in that tiny room. I never expected to go from using the most disgusting toilets to the most impressive one in the span of a day. Too bad I had to go back to the campsite and to the outhouses again later.

   

Our next stop was the Kauri Forest. We went to Visit Tane Mahuta, the biggest of the Kauris. He stood 51.5 meters tall and was 13.8 meters around. It does not compare to the 75 meter tall douglas fir I saw in British Columbia, however this kauri tree is 4.8 meters bigger around. Kauris are some fat trees. The second biggest Kauri was only 29.9 meters tall, but he made up for it in being 16.4 meters around. They are very impressive trees, to say the least. The stroll through the forest was a wonderful walk through the New Zealand bush. It was all in all an enjoyable day.

      

The next day was New Years Eve and yet another dreary day. Unfortunately, many campers had packed up and left due to the bad weather, so there wasn’t much partying happening. We sat around playing card games all night and eating s’mores cooked over the gas stove. It was fun, but no big booming party for us. Five minutes before the midnight countdown Andy and I joined his sister and brother-in-law in strolling over to another campsite where a large group of people weren’t letting the weather get them too down. We didn’t know any of the people there so we stood on the outside and counted down with them, pretending to be a part of it. We got some hugs from random strangers who were too drunk to care, we cheered and screamed out the traditional “HAPPY NEW YEARS!”, we celebrated being among the first people in theworld to celebrate the New Year, and then we went back for another game of Rummy-O. It wasn’t the most eventful of New Years, but it was still fun. It rained everywhere across the country that night, so at least I managed to stay dry.


That is how my new year began.

Merry Christmas, Happy Summer

Well, my apologies for the long wait. I kept telling myself not enough had happened to make writing worth it, and now I almost have too much to say! The past month has been less of living the dream, and more of facing reality. I came to a very abrupt realization that I needed a job when my bank account had dwindled down to double digits. Between gas and groceries those two digits just kept getting closer and closer to just being one, single digit. It was time to find a job.

I spent days handing out resumes (or better known here as CV’s), and hours filling out application forms. It was a long process and it would be nice if I could say it paid off. But here I sit, one month later, on the couch of the same Kiwi who took me to Piha my first week here- I don’t know where I would be without this guy, he’s been great!  I mean, I do have a job. Actually, I have two, but here lies the issue: One I make no money at, the other I don’t start work until February. See the problem?

The first job I scored is one teaching swimming lessons. I managed to get this job fairly easily as I had done all my instructor training back in Canada. It’s a shame really that there are no lessons over the Christmas break. I thought I may have some luck there as it’s summer, but no, there are no lessons to be taught until February. I went through my interviews and even taught a class to show I knew what I was doing. I was hired quickly and I’m excited to start, I just have to make money to hold me over until then. This is where job number two comes in.

The second job I scored was one I applied for out of desperation. I had seen their “Hiring” ads on three different websites and on the job board at the work exchange office. I read the posting numerous times but always passed over it as I never really understood what the job was for. They said lots about making money, it being a good job for backpackers, and things like that. It never said WHAT the job was. So it took me a while to apply. Two days later I got a call and an interview was set up. It was the shortest interview of my life. 5 minutes. It wasn’t even really an interview, it was more or less Slade (the guy doing the interview) talking at a million miles an hour. He then told me  to come back the next day for an “Observation day”. I was told to wear shoes that were comfortable to walk in, wear black pants, and to bring a lunch. I still had no idea what the job consisted of. It wasn’t until the next day that I discovered what I had gotten myself into. Door-to-door campaigning. Yay?

I arrived for Observation at 11pm. Filled out some paper work, then met the people I would be working with. I was handed a red jacket to wear and was told I would be following around Michelle, the team leader, for the day. We drove out to into the suburbs and parked on the street in front of some houses. Our job was to go door-to-door trying to find people who would sign up to become monthly donors for New Zealand Red Cross.

I survived the day and was congratulated on being someone who fit the job. I was welcomed on board and started work the next day. It’s a brutal job. Most nights I’m not out of the office until after 9pm. It makes for a long day, especially considering I’m only paid on commission. For each sign up I get, I receive twice the amount of a months donation as pay. For example, if I sign someone up for twenty dollars a month, I make forty dollars. Sounds decent enough, it’s a shame nobody ever wants to sign up. In two weeks of working 10 hour days, I made a mere $130. If pay keeps going this way there is no chance I will be able to afford a place to live. I need to find a new job.

Enough about jobs, let’s talk about some fun things I have gotten up to! Andy (The kiwi I’m currently staying with), has taken me a couple fun places now. One day we went skating then played some pool. Another day we went and played frisbee golf at One Tree Hill then proceeded to make a giant sheep out of rocks in the crater of the volcano. That was a lot of laughs. Last week we went up to Waiwera to go to the hot pools. I have never been in a pool, a pool big enough to swim lengths in, that was as hot as a hot tub. There were also waterslides and a movie pool where movies were played on a big projector screen. Yet another fun day!

One night we went to Franklin road in Ponsonby (a suburb of Auckland), to look at all the Christmas lights. I was kind of disappointed at how few houses here put up Christmas lights and decorations. This street however was spectacular. Every house was brightly lit, each one a bit more flashy than the previous. One house had a car totally wrapped up in lights, while another had live music playing on the front porch. Even though it’s summer, that night felt a little more like Christmas.

I love Christmas time, it’s always been my favourite time of year. I love doing the Christmas baking with mom, shopping at all the craft fairs, trying to come up with the funniest yet most awesome gift for dad, wrapping presents, trying to convince my sister to let me wake her up early on Christmas morning, driving around with the family looking at all the Christmas lights, endless attempts at allnighters with my brother every Christmas Eve, and decorating the tree. The list could go on forever, really. AS you can see though, a lot of my favourite things to do with Christmas involve my family… all my family who are on the other side of the world from me. It makes it a hard time for me, I wound’t quite say I’m homesick, but I do miss my family and am sad not to be spending Christmas with them. It’s the first year we haven’t all been together as a family. I suppose it had to happen at some point though, right? Still doesn’t make it much easier.

It is now Christmas day here, as Andy has just pointed out to me. It is 12:11 AM. Sure doesn’t feel like Christmas. I spent all night wrapping up Andy’s presents. I wanted to wrap, so he let me do it for him, he didn’t mind one bit. I spent an hour last weekend picking out wrapping paper and ribbons. I wanted the presents to look awesome. I take pride in wrapping the presents.

I’m going to Andy’s parents house for Christmas dinner (it’s actually lunch). Apparently there will be quite a few family members there so it will probably be a bit crazy for me, overwhelming too. I’m glad that I have people to spend the holiday with though. It will probably be lots of fun too. Later tomorrow evening we’re heading up north to Whananaki to go camping. The campsite is right along this gorgeous beach. It’s in just a small little town, I stopped there when I went up North last month. We’ll be there for New Years too, I’m excited for it. I haven’t been camping in years. It’s odd to think about going to the beach at this time of year. Wearing shorts and tank tops at the same time as santa hats, it’s just odd. Summer in December… hmm. I’ll have to make sure my camera is super charged up since I won’t have any way to charge it once we’re there.

Anyhow, I suppose I should catch some sleep, Santa won’t come if I’m still awake!

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, everyone!

Where Seas Collide

Well, I am now back in Auckland after finishing up my trip North. It really was a great trip, but I now need a job. Reality Check: Money doesn’t last as long as I thought it would. I’m sure skydiving in Kerikeri didn’t help with money saving though. However, it was well worth the money!

The Skydive Zone in Kerikeri was absolutely amazing. Plummeting to the ground at terminal velocity from 16 000 feet was so much fun!  I want to do it over and over again. Too bad it’s $420 NZD per jump. I paid a bit extra as well so I could get a video of my jump as well as photos. It was money well spent. I have wanted to go skydiving for years now. I finally got to! Next time, I hope to jump over Fox and Franz Jospeh Glaciers on the South Island, from 18 000 feet. I’ll have to save my pennies for that one!

I spent that night again in my car, and began the drive up 90 Mile Beach early the next morning. I drove down the ramp onto the beach and drove 20 feet and got stuck. A couple older fellows who walk the beach each morning helped me dig out my car and sat and talked with me for an hour or so to let the tide go out a smidgeon further before I tried again. I tore down the beach with the music blasting, it was so peaceful and there was just something so thrilling about the whole situation. AT one point along the drive there was a bit rock out crop and a little paved path over a section of it, I drove my car up the ramp only to discover it ended halfway across. Too bad I was already so far. I just took my little car and kept on driving over those rocks. No Mercy! I’m surprised I didn’t absolutely destroy that little, red car of mine. I made it all the way to the end of the beach before turning around to head back. Too bad I got stuck again. I sat digging my way out- well, trying to.

Lucky for me, I wasn’t the only one who decided to drive the whole way. After 15 minutes of digging I was approached by none other than a fellow Canadian, Serge. We chatted for a couple minutes, he laughed a lot about the whole situation. He had seen me drive over the rocks earlier and had followed. He thought I had to be a crazy kiwi with the way I was driving, guess I surprised him. He brought his van around and pulled my car out and onto firmer sand. We sat on the beach and chatted for hours. The tide started coming in, so we set up camp, it was another night in my little car.

When sun came up and the tide went out I took off, back up the beach I went. I made it as far as the rock bluff I had driven over the previous day before getting stuck for a third time. I decided not to try driving up the rock face which I had driven down, so I darted around it as the waves went out. I shot across to the other side and sunk in. This time however I managed to dig myself out. Serge drove up behind me and laughed a bit. I was determined to save myself though. It wasn’t difficult to do. I managed to get off the beach without getting stuck again. Off to Cape Reigna I went.

Cape Reigna was quite a site to see. It’s the most northern part of New Zealand, and standing at the lighthouse you can watch the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide. The Pacific is a much deeper blue than the Tasman Sea, so it’s very neat. There is a signpost by the lighthouse. On the post it had different locations around the world with distances marked. Standing at that post I was 11, 222 Kilometres from Vancouver. I guess I’m not that far from home after all.

After my drive up to the Cape I headed on over to the Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes. They really are giant. I had to drive up a long gravel road where I got trapped by a herd of sheep being rounded over to a new field. I have never heard so many BAA’s at once. They can be quite noisy. All the sheep would peek in my car windows ass they passed on by, it was a bit amusing. Once all the sheep- and the sheep dog- had finally passed, I made my way to the dunes. There was a little stand set up at the bottom of the dunes where I was able to rent a sandboard and hike up the dunes.

(Yes, the little tiny dot on the top of the furthest dune is people. you can click on the picture to make it bigger).

Hiking up the dune was extremely exhausting. I cannot put into words how exhausting it was to hike up. The sand slips beneath your feet, making progress slow. I had to sit and take a breather before finally going down, knowing that I would just have to hike right back up again.

The effort was well worth it though. Jumping on that board and flying down was so much fun! I suppose it’s the same as tobogganing, but without the cold. There was no worry of getting snow down my jacket (partially because there was no snow, partially because I wasn’t wearing a jacket). The sand was hot though, at some points I thought my feet were about to burn.

I met a backpacker from Germany who was also doing the sand dune sledding. We chatted a bit and exchanged numbers as we were both heading back to Auckland. We did end up meeting up again a couple days later and went for MacDonald’s ice cream at 1Am. We chatted as we watched endless amounts of drunk people come stumbling in. One guy even came in, in wrestling spandex and did the Haka in the middle of the restaurant. It was pretty amusing.

Anyway, back to my sandboarding story…

As I was heading out to my car after I had returned from the sandboarding, I ran into a guy,Jason, in the parking lot. He struck up a conversation and we got talking, he’s a kiwi and it was his day off. By then end of it all, I had agreed to go out on the sand dunes on his ATV. I have never been on one of those before, but it was lots of fun. I even got to drive! I lived through it, even though I thought I would die going down some of the near-vertical slopes of dunes, but I didn’t. He dropped me back off at my car, I said thanks, and then I was on my way back to Auckland. It’s time to find a job.

Money never lasts as long as you think it will. This was a really fun one for me to discover. I went to withdraw my daily limit from the bank when the “Insufficient Funds” message popped up. It was a little shocking as I thought I had a lot more money left than that. So now I am preserving as much money as possible as I go out and apply for jobs. I think every store in the area now has my resume. Hopefully someone decides to give this poor Canadian a job!

Six Minute Showers and Camping in Cars

Well, I have left John’s place and continued my way north. The work I did over the past few days was fairly easy, it was quite a nice way to save money really. Work til noon then have the rest of the day to do what I please. The whole time I was staying with John the only thing I had to pay for was my internet which I had to go into town for. The house I was working at was incredible. It was a 7 million dollar summer home which belongs to John’s daughter and her husband. They created Vodka called “42 Below”, and it was so popular and doing so well Bacardi bought it from them for 130 million dollars.  I wish I had that kind of money!

I left Tutukaka this morning with only a quarter tank of gas. I had tried to get some there, but apparently something went wrong with the petrol delivery and the gas station had none left! I was on edge driving north trying to scout out the next nearest gas station. I barely made it. I arrived in Whananaki after my fuel light had been on for a good few minutes. I rolled up to the gas station only to see a sign saying they had no petrol either. I went inside anyways to talk with the lady working. Luck was on my side after I explained the situation. She had a 10 litre tank stored away in case of an emergency like this. I had to pay a bit extra just as it was the last of the petrol around, but it was better than being stranded and having to hitch to a gas station and back.

I continued driving north, hunting for the next petrol station where I could fill up and buy one of those red containers to fill up as well. I learned my lesson. I just barely made it to the next station. I chatted with the lady who owns the station, it turns out they’re the only ones left on the coast. All the small towns had to close down their stations as bigger ones were open along the highway. The locals all put in money and effort to have the station re-opened. I got off lucky again. I filled my tank and one of those red containers. Bought a bungee cord and strapped it in. Now there is much less pressure about whether or not I’ll make it to my destinations.

The owner of the station was very friendly and before I left she suggested I take a drive along the beaches as they are quite nice. She said to me, “Just follow the road up over the hill then continue the road along the beach. The road goes right along the coast”. What I didn’t realize as I followed her directions was that when she said, “the road goes along the beach”, she actually meant, “The road IS the beach”. I took my little red car driving along the sand using the same principals as if I were driving on snow. I got a little stuck at one point as my tires sunk into the sand, but I put the car in reverse and slowly freed myself. There’s something thrilling about driving on a beach, maybe just because it’s so new to me. I mean, sure, I knew some people drove on sand and beaches and all, but I had never heard of the road being the beach. I’m not sure what happens when the tide is in.

As I continued on my journey I counted four roadkills in less than two minutes. I can’t get over the amount of road kill here. It’s all possums, rabbits, and what surprised me most, birds. At least half the roadkill is birds. And they’re not even flightless birds! I don’t know why they don’t fly away, it just seems silly to me… maybe the birds here are just depressed and suicidal. I guess I’ll never know.

I caution myself when there are birds on the road. I used to just drive along, knowing they would fly out of the way, but because birds here apparently don’t do that, I give them extra time to run. I almost hit two hawks today. Both were feasting on possums along the road. The second hawk I came across tried to take the possum with him but changed his mind. I watched the head animal lift a little then flop back down. I felt like I was living a National Geographic film.  I swerved to avoid the dead animal.

Further down the road I had the choice of continuing straight to drive on the highway or turning right to head down a dirt road. Of course I chose the dirt road. It was quite a long one at that but the views I had and the things I saw were well worth it. As I drove up this dirt road all of a sudden a big sheep poked its head out. I looked around, expecting to see a fence, but apparently this one had gotten out! And so had her baby. I must have startled the ewe as she took off running, a little white fluff popped out of grass and ran along beside her. It was very cute. I pulled over and pulled out my camera. I rolled down the windows and crept the car around the corner to where the two sheep were catching their breath in some grass. I climbed out of my car and knelt to take a couple shots. The white balls of wool started at me, you could tell they were startled. The took off running again. But they were running down the road. I got back in my car and followed. It must have been quite a sight to see a full grown sheep and a tiny lamb running as fast as they could with a little car poking along behind them. Eventually they found a spot where they could climb back through the fence and back into their pasture. Just think, if I hadn’t startled them so much maybe the farmer would still be missing two sheep. Maybe they were his favourite sheep.

I have just now decided that nothing feels better than to pull on a sweater and sweatpants as soon as they come out of the drier. I drove as far as Russell today and decided to call it quits around six. It’s a very quaint town, and everyone has been quite friendly. I had some dinner than wandered through town looking for a place to stay the night. There were a lot of lodges and B&B’s, but I wasn’t willing to pay that kind of money. Even though I haven’t gotten as far as buying a sleeping bag, I decided to spend the night at a campervan park, in my car. I’ll just curl up in my sweats and a towel and hope it doesn’t get too cold tonight. Luckily this park had showers and laundry facilities. The showers run for six minutes at a time, and every six minutes costs fifty cents. The 1.50 I spent was well worth it. Eighteen minutes of steamy, hot water. The laundry was five dollars but the clean clothes were much needed as well.

I am now sitting in the dining area at the Campervan Park, chatting with a group from Australia. There are two families here on vacation. Two couples in their sixties, with their kids. They are quite a funny bunch, very friendly and engaged in conversation with me as soon as I sat down. They all think it’s great that I’m over here doing what I’m doing at the age of 18. One of the girls is from Canada; she’s married to one of the sons. They all think it’s wonderful there’s another Canadian here. They are really quite hilarious though and are calling me “Lorza” just to be funny. I had to write a portion about them as they asked if I had mentioned them in my blog, when I said no they made quite a show, Hanging upside down, making roaring noises and kicking tables and chairs- just to give me something to write about.It’s nice to have so many people to laugh with, even if they are all decades older than me.