March 28thSo, here I am, hardly caught up on my blog but having a jolly old time here in NZ. I've been keeping a journal on my computer but can't seem to copy and paste things straight into this blog. It's a shame I'm not better at technology and the simple steps I'm sure it takes to make things easier. So anyway, I'm gonna start with today and go back in time if you will. I'm currently in Richmond- a small town outside of Nelson- it's a lovely place on the South Island. YES- I made it to the South Island! It is beautiful here. I've been working on a farm for over a week now. Debbie & Warren's 10-acre farm. It is as nice a life as one could imagine. They are surrounded by about 75% mountains and 25% ocean. The sunrise and sunset light and scenery are truly breathtaking. Debbie & Warren have ostriches, lamb, sheep, goats, chickens, birds, and their sweet dog Missy to keep them company on this fine piece of land. They tend a large flower, fruit and vegetable garden. I laughed the first day or two when Warren would complain of a few cars going by throughout the day. But now that I've gotten accustomed to the peace and quiet I've found myself turning my head and wondering who on earth is driving past their home. It will be a shock going back to cars and the street lights.
They live across the street from the largest estuary on the South Island. Many birds come here from Alaska and other parts of the world during the winter. Nelson is known as one of the sunniest places in NZ.
I've learned how to make fresh basil pesto, why peppers are different colors (and different prices in the market), and that I'm more of a city girl than I realized. I'm really loving learning things from the ground up and plan to make some changes in my day to day life when I return to the city.
Sunday, March 8th
So I've been traveling on a "Stray" bus pass through NZ the past few days. Stray prides themselves on going to out of the way places in NZ to see the places less traveled and catch more of the beauty of these islands. Our driver, Rorey, otherwise known as "Beggans" has been cluing us in on the ins/outs of this beautiful country. We even made a quick stop at his Mum's house in the suburbs of Hamilton, located on the North Island.
What a day. My new friend, Tanja, from Finland and I stayed in Raglan an extra night so we could take in more of this beautiful beach city. We're so glad we stayed. There is an amazing view no matter what 360 degrees you look from....beaches, mountains, surfers, tropical rain forests, and more. After hitching a ride towards the heart of Raglan town from our hostel, I had a visit at the church just on the edge of town. The congregation comprised of 22 people including the pastor, pianist, and a family also visiting from Portsmouth, OH and a guy from NYC. What a small world it truly is! The Portsmouth family was there on "holiday" from their new home in northern NZ. They moved here as missionaries about a year ago.
Tanja and I went to the harbor that afternoon to watch kite surfers- one which was William, the older guy I met from NYC earlier that day. How did we get to the harbor? Again, we hitched a ride with a lovely native couple Catherine and her husband Ashlee. They toured us all around that afternoon showing us the best views of the ocean. The typical New Zealander, or "Kiwi" as they call them, are very friendly people and sincerely go out of their way to help you with directions, a ride, or whatever you might need at the time. It's been amazing receiving their kindness and a great lesson on how to treat others.
I've had many, many accents running through my head and haven't been able to keep them all straight. A lot of people are here from England, Ireland, Germany, Finland, and Canada. Not too many US Citizens.
This country is very environmentally friendly too. They recycle everything, with recycle bins next to most "rubbish" bins on the street, switches on each power outlet, and toilet flushing options: 1/2 flush or a full flush! What a great idear!
Monday, March 9th
Got on another Stray bus with our driver, Blair, and headed for the town of Waitomo. Known for their caves and imported Angora Bunnies (straight from Germany). I got to pet some Angora Bunnies and watch one being sheared. Apparently they'll overheat and die if they're not sheared at least 2-3 times a year. They put the bunny in a sort of "pilates like body, rope stretching device and shear away. It sounds painful but really it's been inspected and okayed by the SPCA and the bunnies seem to like it. The rest of the day was spent hitchhiking with Tanja into the closest town 20 minutes away by car. There were no grocery stores in Waitomo. So they should also be known as the town of "little food". And no worries- Tanja hitchhikes a lot in Finland - it's safe to do here in NZ too as long as you're with a friend or two. Okay, so I'm taking some risks. It's been fun.
Tuesday, March 10th
The next morning still in Waitomo- I explored the "Lost World". This was an amazing experience of "Abseiling" (aka repelling) over 300 meters underground into a cave. There were four of us including our guide. We first hiked to the location, geared up, had some chocolate, and hiked to our abseiling location. I love how they find a way to make chocolate a part of many experiences here. Once we made it to the bottom of the cave, we hiked through the cave and explored the underground world. Glow worms and interesting rock formations abound. Four hours later we climbed out of the cave and made our way back. Our eyes took a bit to adjust to the bright sunlight.
Met back with Tanja about 11:30 that morning and chilled. We saw the most beautiful rainbow after a short rain. It was worth every minute of being in Waitomo for so many days. We went into town for a burger, chips, & beer for dinner.
Wednesday, March 11th
I was stuck in Waitomo for another day- no seats available on the Stray Bus. Tanja headed north to Auckland with a friend and I stuck around for another Stray bus to head further south. No more hitchhiking for me. Only with a friend or two.
Thursday, March 12th
Cougar, the Stray bus driver picked me up from Juno Backpackers in Waitomo. She was a great tour guide and welcomed me to the group of Strays. We headed to Maketu where we stayed for an evening of Maori Culture, a Maori show, and traditional dinner. Yum. Fish, chicken, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and peas, all slowly cooked together in the ground Maori style. They taught us some of their Hauka dance, then slept "Maori" style, as they called it, on the floor in one big room.
Friday, March 13th
Stopped in Taupo for a few days.
Monday, March 16th
Hiked the Tongariro Crossing in eight hours. It was amazing. It's so hard putting words to what I've gotten to see. But this is truly one of God's best pieces of art. It was the hardest hike I've ever done but worth every step.
Friday, March 20th - March 27th
Wwoof-ing (Willing workers on Organic Farms) With Debbie & Warren. I've been learning all kinds of things in the garden and kitchen. Is there anything fresher than walking in the backyard, picking veggies right from the vine and steaming them up in the kitchen to eat less than an hour later? I've also learned how to make basil pesto straight from the garden chef style thanks to Debbie.
Warren made his infamous Mussel Curry Dish that was super delicious. Mussels are quite popular and once again fresh from a friend's farm in Marlborough.