A Travellerspoint blog

These are the days

A month in the life of Wanaka

sunny

These are the days where I arrived for 3 and stayed for 30. The song is almost the opposite of the sunny, fun, optimism of the last month, but also it reminds me of the UK which in other news, is where I will be living again from April (more on that later.)

So I had been in Wanaka a week in my last entry. I had got to know a few people, enjoyed the amazing views of the lake and mountains and found myself a wwoofing position so I could stay in town and pay a lot less money for the privilege.

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My wwoofing host was Sam, a guy who owned a removals company and had just returned from a few months in Hong Kong so needed help with getting his veggie garden back up to scratch. How to describe Sam...he is different thats for sure. Lets just say at our first meeting he informed me that money was soon going to be worthless as all the economies were going to crash again very soon (i.e. by the New Year - not looking so good now) and that Prince Phillip was involved in a paedophile ring. Now I don't know enough about either of these topics to be sure of the reality but it gives you a flavour of some of our conversations. I would go for a pessimistic conspiracy theorist with knowledge of the econom, but also a nice guy and a good cook. On the wwoofing side, Sam was very generous. I was expected to do 3 hours of work a day for my food and accommodation. Most of this was gardening, but on a couple of days when he couldn't get any men to help him, I also assisted with the moving. Generally this meant work in the morning and then wandering along the lake front into town in the afternoon.

Luckily I had a few things to keep me busy. I had an interview for the Cambridge Mathematics Education Project to become a resource developer for A-level maths. This meant I spent quite a lot of time preparing and organising a Skype interview (instead of the 12.15 interview in Cambridge they wanted despite the fact my letter specifically stated I was in NZ!) Also I had made a few friends, Steve is a Canadian guy who spends his summers in Wanaka - he lives at the backpackers I had been staying at and so was often there for a chat when I went in to arrange using their internet for my interview. Also he introduced me to Jan, an English guy who had also spent a lot of his time in Wanaka, and quite conveniently (when you want to drink nice beer by the lake) works at a liquor store.

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Through Jan, I got to meet a really fun group of people and whilst I was wwoofing got to spend lots of time down by the lake with them, at a dinner that turned into a party (apparently if there is 6 of you it is a party), and my favourite - a bus party. Sam (different to above) has a bus he is converting into a place to live. We all headed out to his campground to have much food and beer, although it was mostly outside the bus since the weather continued to be pretty awesome.

Having not heard back from the interview I had vaguely made some plans that involved being in NZ for longer than the I originally thought. Then suddenly a response to my query meant that it appeared I had got the job after all, they just had neglected to tell me that part! With plans quickly changing and lack of enthusiasm for any more gardening, I decided to finish wwoofing and head back to Hollys backpackers. Despite baking some of my awesome shortbread and sharing it with the owners there was going to be no room over the Christmas period as they were all fully booked. This is how I managed to spend my last week or so rent free by staying with Jan, Ingela and Kajsa.

Now I was no longer wwoofing there was lots of time for fun. I did some gorge jumping, a road trip to Queenstown, buying Christmas presents for an awesome game, more swimming, lots of eating, Christmas day climbing and celebrating Christmas twice. Ingela and Kajsa are Swedish, so they celebrate on the 24th. This meant we had a Christmas breakfast together and they opened their presents, before we did lots of shopping for the next day. On the 25th after climbing we produced so much food. Everyone was in charge of a dish and we had a great meal before descending in to present stealing (a game), beer pong and possibly a tequila shot or two...

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This meant that Boxing Day was spent as it should be - watching lots of bad films, and a quick swim in the lake. In the mean time, my job had been sorted and confirmed and I will be starting work in Cambridge at the beginning of April when I return from my trip, earlier than planned, but late enough to get my snowboarding course in. Despite rearranging my flights so I can spend an extra few weeks in NZ I realised it was probably time to leave Wanaka. In my last couple of days I managed to squeeze in the stuff I still hadn't done, so this meant a hike to the top of Roy's Peak - I think I lost some fitness over Christmas - it was hard work, and a skydive which was freaking amazing! You ring up, go along, and suddenly you are in the tiny plane strapped to a stranger and there's not a lot you can do to stop it. It was as the plane door opened I decided this wasn't a good idea, but suddenly you are sitting on the edge with your legs dangling out the plane and you realise it is going to happen, so you better just do what your instructor tells you. Then your stomach just disappears as you drop initially and then it's incredible. The scenery is amazing around Wanaka, in the plane on the way up you could see Mount Aspiring and Mount Cook, which is the highest mountain in NZ and not that close to where we were. As you are falling you take in the mountains, Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, which is pretty special. You freefall for 45 seconds, but it feels much longer and my once the parachute had opened my instructor let me take charge of the controls and send us left and right and round round before taking over for the landing. If you ever need an adrenaline boost, then this is the answer.

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Last night was my final evening and so me Jan and Steve spent a final hour or two on the beach with some beers before going out for dinner. I left a gift of nice coffee for the house to say thanks for letting me stay as I have not seen a group of people more desperate for coffee since Mum circa 2005 in Korea. Ingela actually hugged the coffee when she saw it :)

So now I am in Dunedin and tomorrow will be heading to Oamaru to meet back up with Maddy and Kat for New Year and hopefully another epic adventure or two.

Posted by SpannaB 00:46 Archived in New Zealand Tagged wanaka Comments (2)

Photosynthesis

Wwoofing, Little Brown Kiwi and ice cream

sunny

The title of this entry does not reflect the amount of sun we have been having, although right now it is gorgeous in Wanaka. More that I've been enjoying doing lots of different things in the last few weeks as well as introducing the wonderful Mr Frank Turner to a few more people, which usually involves playing them this song (and in the case of the students on the Little Brown Kiwi trip hearing me sing it with the guitar round the camp fire!)

Since I last wrote I have been spending very little money - yay! This is because I have spent over 2 weeks wwoofing in Rangiora, just outside of Christchurch and a week being a temporary guide with Little Brown Kiwi. I quickly found myself feeling at home with the Parkers, who consist of Caroline, Murray, their daughter Nikki and her dog Loci. They have 20 horses as well as many other animals, grow and sell peony flowers and are on their way to building a new house on their land as well as having ordinary jobs. Definitely busy people! I was kept well occupied with a large amount of horse poo shovelling (you should see my muscles!) as well as helping to build a fence, gardening, cutting and selling the flowers, and a small amount of baking - purely for my hosts of course...

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They really treated me as part of their family for the time I was there. Both by being taken out for a delicious greek meal to celebrate selling their house, to Murray constantly being rude to me (or me to him..) Once I mentioned cooking and baking, Nikki quickly offered to drive me to the supermarket to pick up anything I needed, so I enjoyed creating some of my favourite chocolate based recipes, as well as cooking for everyone. You really miss cooking when you can't do it properly for months on end.

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Turns out I was quite useful, so they invited me to stay a little longer even though they had another wwoofer arriving. I kept staying longer and longer - finally leaving the day before my trip with LBK started. With a warm invitation to return anytime, Nikki drove us into Christchurch to drop me off/sample the awesome souvlaki from the greek food truck in the restart mall. We even managed to squeeze in some frozen yoghurt for dessert.

Road tripping with Loci :)

Finally bored of having to sit on my bag to close it, I decided to send my climbing stuff back to the UK as I hadn't used it much. With that done, I met up with Henry and Paddy from LBK fresh from their trip in Queenstown. They got me up to speed on the week we were going to spend with students from DBIS school in Hong Kong. The next 7 days was non stop from early morning (sometimes before 6), til midnight (usually with a beer, so not so bad). We had a great group of 35 kids from 13 - 16 who had a full on trip starting in Kaikoura with seal/dolphin swimming, whale watching and learning about the Maori culture, (and awesome Hokey Pokey!) then heading to the Abel Tasman National Park with a short stop for the bus to break down, as well as some paintball. Then an awesome 3 day expedition involving half the students hiking for two days, and a the others kayaking. Then a swap for the final day to get all the way home. We had some great weather, good humour, yummy food, lots of fun, and some crazy strong winds for the final section of kayaking which meant we really deserved the wine that evening..large_DSCN3183.jpg

Our group practicing our kayaking skills!

With the expedition over we still had two more days to cram in some extra fun. Awesome white water rafting and then to Hanmer for the obligatory soak in the hot springs before a final dinner and reflection on the trip. It was a little different being on the trip from the other side. Definitely longer days for starter, but different roles as well. I found myself using my 'teacher voice' a couple of times instead of being the relaxed one. The students were loads of fun, and it's quite nice getting to know a group from scratch and they all have lots of interesting questions for you. I very kindly had lots of hugs as they left as well as some invitations to go to Hong Kong.

After saying goodbye at the airport, the three of us went for a end of trip dinner - more yummy Indian food - before finally getting to go to bed without the prospect of being up at the crack of dawn. The next day Paddy and Henry were flying home but they kindly dropped me off in ChCh as I was going to stay one night before heading on.

Now I am in Wanaka, which is beautiful. I initially booked for three nights, but having no other plans I have ended up staying a week so far and am moving out of the hostel and into a wwoofing position tomorrow so I can stay longer. It's a great little town with the mountains and the lake dominating the landscape. I have already done several day walks and been climbing (stylishly I might add) and may yet end up skydiving.... you'll have to wait for the next entry!

Posted by SpannaB 18:45 Archived in New Zealand Tagged wwoofing Comments (2)

Mountain Sound

Road trip with Maddy and Kat

So I set out from Karamea with Kat and Maddy having known them for about 3 days. I already had a pretty good feeling given we had already slid down the side of caves together and had a massive geek out and scared other people away. Still it’s pretty awesome when you meet people that you can just be your crazy weird self with straight away.

We headed to Renwick (the Sav Blanc capital of NZ), which I have already made people jealous with through certain photos on Facebook. We cycled round the vineyards, ate in an English pub and consumed quite a lot of fudge. Then, with a stop to look at the baby seals we headed to Kaikoura. A pretty funky hostel, we found ourselves sleeping in hobbit holes! Unfortunately most activities in Kaikoura cost upwards of $100 since they are mostly based around whales and seals. We went for the free option and took a walk around the peninsula when I realised I had done the walk before with UWC on my first trip to NZ and the bushes and native grasses that were growing had been planted by us! Pretty cool to see how they had grown. With lots more seals to watch, it took a few hours and we were pretty hungry towards the end. Luckily there was a rather yummy ice cream place in town – home made hokey pokey anyone?

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Endless fudge, cute seals and bushes planted by UWC 4 years ago!

We now had a plan to do a hike which involved heading to the summit of Mount Fyffe. It was classified as a ‘route’ by DOC (Department of Conservation), which means that it might not be well marked, and the track not well maintained. We were actually putting two different walks together so me and my friend Google tried to find some more information. I found that we would have multiple river crossings on our first day, and an impressive sounding scree slope on day two…

After ensuring we had enough instant noodles for our trip, we set out along the Kowhai River to head up the valley to the first hut. Google didn’t lie – we had a lot of river crossings. After walking up the stony river bed for quite a while, we found a track that gave us an easier path, however every time it came back to the river it was quite hard to find the other side and I am sure we spent more time walking in the riverbed than we should. After a map misread - ‘this river’s coming in here, so the hut must be round the corner..’ (it wasn’t) – we arrived at the Kowhai hut. This hut is classified as a back country hut, so much less snazzy than the ones on the Heaphy Track. It was a gorgeous day, but was we needed the fire to keep water and help boil some water for drinking. Having had success with an axe on the Heaphy, I was all about chopping the wood. However, the axe was very blunt and so I started a battle between the wood and myself to get it small enough to get in the tiny fire. Generally the wood won, but I got a few pieces ready for later. Then the clouds started to roll in, and the ghosts and ghouls appeared. (It was Halloween)

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Or, we made a quality horror film. (We did - but I don't have good enough internet to upload it yet)

The next day was an amazing day of hiking. More river crossings, (though way fewer than yesterday), scrambling up rocks, and then the scree slope. It was big, and steep. I got to what I thought was going to be the top and found it continued although at a much more reasonable gradient. This meant rest time, and a square or three of Whitaker’s dark chocolate, mmmmm. From here we confidently thought it was just along the ridgeline to the summit. WRONG! Along a ridge, down a bit and then up another scree slope. Then up the path to the summit. NOPE!

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Further along the top, the next peak must be the summit…you can see how this goes. We thought we had made the summit of Mount Fyffe at least three or four times before we finally saw the marker. The views had been stunning all day and now we had a full 360˚ view of the Southern Alps, the Kaikoura peninsula, the sea and even the North Island (we think). However it had been 8 hours of hiking and we still had to get down to the hut.

On our way down we met someone heading to the top – bad news – the hut was full. The backcountry huts require a pass to stay, but you cannot book when you are going. This hut, has a very easy path to it (not ours!) and is pretty popular as a stopover instead of getting up and down Mount Fyffe in a day. We arrived and all 8 beds were taken. We sat outside feeling moderately annoyed by these ‘day hikers’ who had only had to walk 2 or 3 hours to get there. Either way it looked like we’d be on the floor, although I was pretty tempted to sleep on the veranda outside. Then one of the guys already there suggested we make mattresses with the dry grass in the little room off the side. We had already put that out of the equation given its floor is concrete and would have been freezing! However, with the three of us and the Dad and his two very cute little boys helping we made our beds.

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It was a good thing we did as 5 more people turned up after us! I think they had quite a squash on the floor of the hut, whereas we had luxury camping. Despite planning a lie in, 16 people in a hut for 8 doesn’t really allow that, so we were heading on our way back to the car by around 8. With about 4 dodgy knees between the 3 of us, it was a bit painful but not too long and the soon the car was in sight. With a genius plan already formed, we headed to Hanmer to soak in their famous hot springs and eat a ton of delicious Indian food.

Maddy and Kat already had a plan for Christchurch as Maddy’s cousin lives there. On our way we stopped to go to another winery! It was all in the name of buying a present... Anyway I was in for the shock of my life as we did some blind taste testing and I chose a Chardonnay over a Sauvignon Blanc!!! My head exploded and I didn't know what was right or wrong anymore - these issues will be here for a while I think. To help me get over the shock a bought a bottle :)

In Christchurch we found me a hostel before heading out to explore the city. It is very odd with the whole of the centre still effectively a building site, and many buildings boarded up or knocked down. They have done some very funky things to try and liven up the centre of town, with plenty of graffiti art and a city wide mini golf course amongst others. At the ReStart Mall - shops in shipping containers – we had the most deliciously, huge lunch of falafel from a Greek food truck and mixed berry frozen yoghurt for dessert. Over the next couple of days we did some shopping – no I cannot fit anything more in my bag – and a trip to Akaroa, a little town on the Banks Peninsula. Then it was time for us to part as I had arranged my next wwoofing placement in Rangiora, about half an hour out of Christchurch.

It was a very awesome week of road trip and hiking. The name of this blog comes from an Of Monsters and Men song, inspired by the dominant scenery of the Southern Alps, and the fact we used this song to produce a quality video whilst doing our Mout Fyffe epic which I'll try and upload when I can.

Posted by SpannaB 22:18 Archived in New Zealand Tagged hiking kaikoura mt_fyffe Comments (2)

Wanderlust

A hike through New Zealand

all seasons in one day

On leaving my wwoofing post my hosts kindly dropped me in sunny Raglan where I was immediately asked if I wanted to go surfing...now. The hostel was fantastic, with its own surfboards and kayaks to hire and a slackline out the back. I spent a few days surfing each morning and relaxing. The added bonus of the hostel was a hot tub which was great to jump into after getting back from the ocean. This is where I first had a chat with someone sitting next to me about walking the Tongariro crossing (which takes you past Mount Doom). Later that day we introduced ourselves and made a tentative plan to go walk the hike together. By the next day our party had grown and after surfing we did some planning to get us down to the Tongariro National Park.

The next day Jen, Seb, Seb and myself set out to Hamilton to pick up a hire car and head to the centre of the North Island. Our road trip took us past the Waitomo glow worm caves (too expensive) so we climbed a tree instead.

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We arrived in National Park Village to stay at a soulless YHA, and found it was like a ghost town. In the morning about 20 of us were picked up and driven by a bus driver full of dire warnings about the difficulty of the hike. Our amusement grew as sign after sign warned us of the danger we were facing.

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The weather was not ideal and the peaks of Tongariro and Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom) were nowhere to be seen. The wind was pretty nippy too. We got a bit of respite near the crater lakes where we stopped for lunch and of course once we started down the otherside it became much nicer. Cue hundreds of photos and some sledging down the slope between the paths.
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After Seb and Jen left us to head back to Raglan, we made our plans to try and head to Wellington the next day.
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My first attempt at hitchhiking was a big fail and we ended up on the bus all the way to Wellington to stay in the worst hostel I have been in, unfortunately run by some Brits! Wellington however is a very funky city and we saw 3 different bands in two nights and ate some delicious food on Cuba Street.

My plan after the Tongariro crossing was to head south and then do some more wwoofing. Seb's was to go and walk the Heaphy Track which is one of New Zealand's 9 'Great Walks'. As I had done nothing to sort my next move out, it was decided that I would go to. This meant buying a sleeping bag and then trying to fit it into my already very full pack! The Heaphy Track is in the north-west of the South Island and quite far from anywhere. We took the ferry across the Cook Straight and eventually ended up in Takaka, in Golden Bay. After the Wellington hostel, this was far nicer but slightly amusing given there were more wwoofers than guests. In two days we did some climbing, biking and swimming as well as buy some delicious freeze dried food for the hike.

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The Heaphy Track is a 4 day hike that takes you from Golden Bay, through the mountains to arrive on the west coast. The landscape you walk through is quite different on each day, and the at night you stay in the huts provided on route. Given you have to take a sleeping bag and 4 days worth of food, it is not a small pack you set off with, and definitely the heaviest I have ever hiked with. 7 other people started off on the same day as us, so each night you meet up with them at the hut, eat chocolate and play cards.
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The final hut is where you finally arrive onto the west coast and me and Seb took the opportunity to freshen up and headed out for a swim. The kiwi's we were trekking with thought we were crazy! It is in a beautiful location and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset as well as our freeze dried food, having finished all the fresh stuff.

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The final day takes you along the coast to where the track joins with the road, and we were very grateful to sit in a van to be taken to Rongo's backpackers for a hot shower and a meal at the pub.

After putting it off, I needed to make some plans as I want to do some more wwoofing. However, a couple of relaxing days in Karamea seemed to come first to rest my well hiked feet and knees. The amount of walking I have done in the last 10 days inspired the name of the blog - another Frank Turner song for you!

Now having parted company with Seb, I have met a couple of girls who I will drive with across to Kaikoura. Still no real plans, but this seems to be working out for me in New Zealand so far. I have been here almost a month now, but it seems so much longer. Already thinking about moving my flight further back though....

Posted by SpannaB 21:47 Archived in New Zealand Tagged tongariro raglan mt_doom heaphy_track Comments (3)

A Design For Life

Clowning around

all seasons in one day

So after an awesome weekend in Singapore (thanks guys!) and a few days sorting myself out in Auckland I headed down to my first Wwoofing experience with ‘a family of circus performers who live in the bush’ as it stated on their wwoofing profile. From Hamilton I got a local bus towards Raglan where I was being picked up from a random bus stop in the middle of nowhere.

From that point I have fed chickens, pigs, moved chickens and pigs to a new home, collected eggs, planted every vegetable imaginable, built raised vegetable plot, filled them with compost, walked through the bush and slept in a circus caravan!

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This is the caravan where I slept (the clown cave) and the beds me and Damien built in the garden.

The house has the longest drive I have ever been down, and so although it’s only 30 minutes or so to Raglan, you could be miles from anywhere. Initially you get to the ‘gypsy camp’ where there are lorries, vans and caravans for when they are on the road with the circus. This is where I am living. Then you head up to the house past the orchard with the pigs. Whilst I have been here, the family have been Damien and his brother Paddy, and Damien’s son Mattias and his girlfriend Po. They seem a very independent family with the wife and daughter currently in Europe for an extended length of time.

Their lifestyle is impressive. They are not on mains electricity or gas or water. They have solar panels and a generator, gas bottles and various water collecting devices. They grow vegetables and herbs, eat their own eggs from the chickens, get their milk fresh from a farm down the road and fresh bread each morning made by Paddy. This sounds relatively simple but recreating the set up they have would take a huge amount of time and effort. Their house is decorated in a way I appreciate (lots of bright colours), but it’s little things like the tiles in the kitchen area are various smashed pottery bits that they kept, including old mug handles for hooks, just shows how much they recycle. Both Paddy and Damien have a huge range of skills, whilst I was there Paddy was finishing a beautiful kitchen worktop made of wood and marble. It had cost him about $70 so far. Damien talked about he much money you can save if you don’t need to pay people like builders, mechanics, plumbers etc. This means the garage, woodshed and various tables and random places in the garden are filled with all sorts of tools, bits of wood, and bits and pieces of complete randomness. Paddy showed me a book by a guy called John Seymour who is an English man who wrote a self-sufficiency how to book which they use as their ‘bible’.

Given you are suddenly in a strangers home for 24 hours a day, there is always going to be a little bit of awkwardness. However, by then end of the week I think I have fitted in well. I hope I have been useful. To me it seems to have been a pretty productive week, and I like to think that I show a bit of initiative when there is something I can do to help out. I have learnt about their lifestyle both here at their home and when they are on the road as Circus Aoteroa, which Damien and Paddy own. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to practice any circus tricks :( They do have a practice area in their house, in the section they built. A two storey open section where they have a static trapeze and silks hung, and then hoops, hats, rings and all sorts of circus apparel lying around. Very cool, and I want one in my future house! But not really used whilst I was there, and I can’t remember any tricks on the silks so I would have not been able to do much without help.

I have no wwoofing experience to compare it to, but I have been very well looked after in most respects. Food has been excellent with Paddy cooking a delicious dinner every night. He does the catering on the road, so cooking for one extra, even a veggie person was no trouble. I was worried I would be cold in my caravan, the weather hasn’t been great, but with all the blankets I was given I have been very cosy - although getting up in the morning has been difficult! It’s only really my hair that has not been having a good week, as they do not shower very frequently to preserve water. But generally it has been lovely to have the time to lose yourself in 2 hours of planting seedlings and to spend time thinking about how good it would be to be able to have this sort of set up yourself. Hence going old school for the title of the piece. I have definitely taken some inspiration from their way of life.

Posted by SpannaB 21:28 Archived in New Zealand Tagged circus c wwoofing Comments (3)

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