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Surfs Up!

After the short work stays, it was mid January, the height of summer. It was time for more beaches and I had figured out what I wanted to do: Surf. Having never surfed before I went for lessons in Raglan, a town on the northern west coast known for surfing… and not much else.

I love surfing, and Raglan had a really nice vibe that was easy to slip into. I signed up for two days, but ended up staying a week!

Despite the surfing schools assurance that “surfing is easy, and most people stand up on the first try,” my standard position for the first two days was as above. Although I had a rocky start, it was a great experience, and I progressed pretty fast. By the end I could easily stand on the board.

 

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The good side of work stays

After a while in Rotorua I was feeling restless again, so I made my way south.  The farm stay I had found on short notice  was in Peka Peka, in the Wellington Provence.

I got my own little cottage to live in, on a small farm-esk property complete with chickens, a sheep, a cat that permanently  adopted me, and peacocks.

Can you say peacock egg omelets?

My three days there was short, but fun and relaxed.  One of my grueling work duties was to walk her dog, Jude, on the beach.

Funky Driftwood on said beach with Kapiti island in the background.

Fantastic view from the bluffs behind the house.

Sunsets before storms are the best.

Here is a view of Kapiti island from down the coast a bit, near Paraparaumu, where my next stay was.

Although it was equally short, it was also fun. I stayed with an English/Kiwi couple whose passions were folk music and fine wine, and they shared plenty of both with me. I’ve been treated well by everyone I’ve stayed with in NZ, and these last two hosts are great examples of how interesting and enjoyable this kind of situation can be. Plus, those feelings are mutual. It’s obvious that the people who host couchsurfing or woofers love having new and foreign people around, and I’m sure my attempts to contribute as a guest set the stage for even greater hospitality. Even though the old stories and wine I get might be more special to me than the help around the house I’m giving to them, we both come out on top.

 

 

 

 

 

Boiling Mud and Human Hamster Balls

I decided to move to Rotorua around the 6th of Jan. I tried hitch hiking long distance for the first time and got there in just a few hours! Rotorua is best known for the constant thermal activity in the area. Unfortunately because of this, it smells of sulfur most of the time. Besides the smell, it’s like a lot of NZ towns, nice, not impressively engaging, but not bad for a few days of wandering. And that’s mostly what I did, hung out at the hostel with cool people and wandered around.

This awesome graffiti is of Maori Tiki spirits.

The city park is built around the thermal activity. Here is a thermal mud pool sunken into the ground. You can just see the bubble about to boil. There are also clear thermal baths for soaking that are more inviting, but still share the sulfur smell.

One of the many great, creepy looking lakes.

Besides the city park there’s a few national park attractions where the cooler stuff is. Below is the Lady Knox geyser, set off everyday buy adding soap to break surface tension which is cool, but also cheating.

Devils Bath, a fluorescent green, hot, acid filled lake.

One of the main reasons I came to Rotorua was for Zorbing. Zorbing is an extreme sport of sorts inwhich you squeez into a giant plastic ball, and roll down hills. It may not be the most extreme, but it’s damn fun!

Two Zorbs rolling.

Me just after zorbing. You can go dry and strapped in, or what I did where the zorb is filled with water and you tumble around like a wash cycle.

Holiday Chill.

I left my work stay early on the 24th. My family had come over for the holidays and I went north to Auckland to meet them.

My mom, sister and brother stayed for ten days. As much as I was thriving on my independence, it was very nice to see them. Christmas and New Years is somewhat calm here, compared with the states in the sense that few things are open, and there is less shoved in your face. It was a nice change, but did leave a bit to be desired if you were looking for festivities. We spent the holidays fairly quietly, while touring around the north island. I found myself back in the Coromandel, but spent a couple days in a different  town, Tairua. We went to a nice beach, and got really nice sunburns. Another place we got to was Waitomo Caves, South of Hamilton. It’s a cool spot with large caves to hike through, and heaps of Glow Worms you can see by boat on an under ground river. We also spent some time around Auckland. First in the city itself, then on the north shore across the bay which had a surprisingly different neighborhood feel to it.

Traveling with the family was luxury time for me, we stayed in hotels, ate out, and had a rental car. The car was especially awesome. not only for exploring all the cool areas of Auckland, but leisurely state of travel instead of buses. Also I am now skilled at driving on the “wrong side” of the road.  It was cool to have the Family come over, and I didn’t realize how much i liked seeing them until they left. They flew home on the 4th of January, and I was back to my bunk beds and instant noodles.

Next to New Plymouth

We left Tongariro Park on the 11th or 12th of December. And headed vaguely West.

Our destination was New Plymouth, situated behind Mt. Taranaki shown  in the distance. To get there we took part of the “Forgotten World Highway” Named because it passes through an area that was left out when redrawing boundaries, technically leaving it out of NZ.  The few people who live in this area have even made their own passport stamp. It wound around the  hills like above, down through valleys with tropical plants, on sketchy gravel (or “metal” as they say here) roads where we had to dodge trucks. Since the idea of large interstate highways is scarce in NZ, the drive took forever.  When we finally made it to New Plymouth, we found the Ariki backpackers. Actually one of the best I had stayed in so far, with nice owners, good space, and right next to the library for free wifi. New Plymouth isn’t the most interesting city, but nice enough, and being full of stoners, my tie dye received  much praise. Since Chris had a hole in his lef\g from climbing Mt. Doom, and I had nowhere to go, Lena, Chris and I stayed there for a few days.

While there, we climbed a “volcanic point” (tiny volcano) with a new friend from the hostel. Not very tall, but the trail was only a chain attached to the rocks.

From the top you have a great view of an old factory…. And the city in the background. The factory supposedly is famous too, but I don’t know why.

One of the cool parts of the area are the beaches. We hit up back beach with black sand and awesome almost island bits with caves. I had meant to go swimming, but was entirely distracted by exploring, and mostly sea lions!

There were at least 3-4 sea lions (not seals?) within throwing distance. It was really awesome to hang out with them up close. The one on the left was chasing a snorkeler, the one to the right is doing a back bend which I interpreted as What the hell are you doing on my rock?

 

On about the 16th of December, I parted with my traveling friends and headed north on the west coast to Hamilton.I had found a work stay up there, helping an older couple garden. It was pretty calm place, and I stayed there until just before Christmas.

 

Road trippin to Middle Earth

Yet another retroactive post, this is the continuation of my time with Chris and Lena. From Coromandel, we drove straight south through Tauranga, Rotorua, and Taupo, (again, map time), and ended up in the Tongariro National Park. The main town in the area is National Park, whitch is really just a lodge, cafe, and petrel station, and the only attraction is the natural scenery, which by the way, is glorious!

To save money (and be awesome) we were camping during this part of the trip. Besides the 20 minutes when we took the above picture, it rained continuously for two days- stifling the awesomeness a bit.

The main achievement you can do is the Tongariro alpine Crossing.

We decided to do the trail on the 3rd day, regardless, fuck the rain…

I Awoke at 5:30 that morning, to find a perfectly crisp, bright sky!

We only went up half way, then back (mostly since the car was at one end, and the quickest way back from the other is the trail, and taking an average of 6 hours one way, we weren’t keen to go for double).

It really was a spectacular tramp! There were great, sketchy bits of trail that were nothing more than climbing around on rocks, interspersed with scenic  valleys with board walks.

Yes yes, but what about Lord of the Rings?  The landscape the trail goes through is where they filmed Mordor. You might recognize Mt. Doom.

Once you get to the middle of the trail, you can choose to climb to the crater. There is no path for this part, and it is mostly scrambling up the very sandy, steep hillside of the volcano.

Here’s a shot of the inside of the volcano.

It took up about 2-3 hours to make it half way up the trail, and another 3ish from there to the crater. It was a grueling trek, but for those who are mad enough to start, it’s worth it to finish.

I really enjoyed being there, and it is one of the highlights of my trip so far, especially considering that I hadn’t planed to be in that part of the country at all.

The Coromandel

Fantastic sunset, from the hostel in Coromande ltown.

My new friends /chauffeurs Chris and Lena.

On the East side of the peninsula, Hot Water Beach (low tide), there’s sand under there, I swear.

Beautiful Cathedral Cove beach with the natural tunnel of rock connecting to another cove.

The government has left a sign persuading you to stay out of the “cathedral” it’s point made stronger with a fence.  being solid rock, and at low tide, I I hopped over to explore, and certainly I was not the first. Afterword, however, I noticed that the rock nearby was a sand stone soft enough I could crush it in my hand. I then developed doubt of how safe I actually was.