Intro Picture

Intro Picture
Hi! My name is Anne. Welcome to my traveling blog! Read the latest stories below or check out the list of previous stories in the blog archive on the right!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A year in New Zealand!

Another blog post that I've been putting off writing for way too long... In the meantime I lost a paper with names of people who gave me rides, and I even lost a phone while hitchhiking which I then started using for that purpose. I bought a new one later on but I only have a few names in it, so unfortunately quite a few people are forgotten. Though that is also because they have been mostly short and forgettable, and the thrill of hitchhiking is leaving me somewhat here in New Zealand. Truth is, I haven't felt like writing for the blog for quite some time now. There are a few reasons for that. One of them is that I don't feel like something very interesting has happened for quite some time. New Zealand is a beautiful country, but of course with that comes a boatload of tourists, many of whom hitchhike as well, though most buy a car. There are hitchhikers everywhere, and as a result I feel like I am simply one person among many, not much more interesting than any of them. When I was hitchhiking in Canada and especially the United States, I hardly saw any hitchhikers, and as a result it made me feel a little special. I know that that is ego talking, but it added something to the experience, and definitely helped me feel motivated to write a blog for others to follow.

Another reason I haven't written much in my blog is that I've been having mood swings. There are moments where I feel happy and full of joy because I am here and get to do this. And then there are moments where I feel lonely and sad, partly because I miss my friends and family, and partly because I wish I had a special someone to share these experiences with, and I know the chances of that happening are small. I know that some people think I am a social butterfly because I hitchhike, but that is far from the truth. I am in fact a very introverted person. That doesn't mean I don't do well in social situations, because I can, but it means that social situations drain my energy. And I regain that energy by spending time alone. Hitchhiking for me creates a fantastic balance of socializing during the ride, which can last from anywhere between ten minutes to even a few days like that one time when I got picked up by a Quebecois soldier in Canada that drove from Quebec City to Edmonton. But once the ride is over I get out and I am alone again, and I can take however much time I want to recharge for the next ride. But right now I have nearly run out of money. I have arranged and received a working holiday visa for Australia, and I need money to get into the country, which means that for the past few months I have been mostly stationary. Unfortunately finding and keeping work has been hard and all that time has not left me with the money I need. I have three months left (I also got an extension to my visa in NZ, thankfully!) to save the money required, which means even more time spent stationary. The great downside of working in NZ is that most seasonal jobs are offered through hostels, meaning you have to stay in one to be eligible for a job. With hostels come shared rooms and people every where, all the time, which makes it incredibly hard for me to find time to recharge. So I find myself in a weird place where I would like to be social sometimes but where I just don't feel like I have the energy to do so. I shut myself off to try to regain that energy, and that in turn makes it harder to make friends and potentially find someone to share my life with, even for however long, and I end up feeling quite frustrated and wishing I was on the move or at least had a room to myself but knowing that I don't really have the money for either at the moment. On top of that the jobs suck. I am doing wrapping and pruning on the vineyards in Blenheim for the last few weeks, and it is the first time I simply can't keep up with the speed of some of the other workers who are mostly from Asia or Vanuatu and who have tons of experience. In order to keep up I often skip the short breaks and cut my lunch break in half, so I can quickly stuff some fruit and bread in my mouth before hurrying back to my row of grapevines, and even then I always fall behind. It's also hard work and my right hand has been hurting ever since I started. I got fired two times for being too slow and took a break of a week to let my hand recover, which I really needed because when I went to lie down on my bed the dull muscle ache turned into something far worse. I think the blood has trouble reaching my fingers and they fall asleep. I often wake up at night with a throbbing pain in my thumb, index and middle finger that can't be ignored and which quite literally feel like they are broken until I sit up for a few minutes so the blood can get back into them. By the time morning comes I am often still in pain and I can't close my hand properly until I am almost at work and have to start again.

The last reason I haven't been writing in my blog much has a more positive reason however, and that is because my inspiration has been drawn to another writing project that I have started a few months ago. A few friends and my close family already know, but I'll share it with the rest of you as well now that I am a little further along and it is a project I feel I can finish given enough time. The other project I've been working on and off on for the past few months is a fictional novel set during and after the First World War. The working title for it right now is 'Echoes of the Great War', but it might change if I can come up with something better. It follows the story of Peter, a German farmer who joined up shortly after the outbreak of the war and arrives at the front just in time for the First Battle of the Marne river, which ended in failure and sent the German army on the retreat toward the river Aisne, where the first trenches were soon dug. Peter is there with a childhood friend, Karl, and together they will experience the horrors of the first true industrial-scale war which has introduced new things to the world such as chemical warfare, the introduction of fighter and bomber planes, flamethrowers, the first tanks, large-scale use of submarines, and post traumatic stress syndrome.
The book will start after the war, when Peter has returned home and tries to pick up the pieces of his old life, and will write an after-the-fact journal about his wartime experiences.
Right now I am nearing about fifty pages, though I am not nearly done and have set no goal for the amount of pages I'd like. It will simply take however much it takes. But if and when it gets done I hope to be able to sell it as an eBook, and possibly on the road as I continue my travels.

I've seen some sights and another part of NZ since the last post. I've been to the Coromandel. In the last post I talked about sleeping in a little shed serving as a bus stop. The next day I moved back on the road and found a ride when a man walked along who was going to be picked up by his boss by the bus stop. He saw me hitching and walked up to talk to me, and then he offered to call his boss to see if I could get a ride with them to Te Puke. The boss said yeah, and I got into the car with them when he showed up around five minutes later. They had a good laugh when I told them I slept in the bus stop. The man who talked to me first told me that if I had asked for a place to stay at his place, which was just up the road from the bus stop, he would have given me one. But oh well! I didn't sleep very good in the bus stop, but it's a nice story at any rate and I'm OK with that!
When they dropped me off in Te Puke I sat in the library for a little bit before moving to the edge of town where I resumed hitching. It didn't take very long for a German girl called Liza to pick me up. She had a few days left in New Zealand before having to return home and she was looking for a nice place to spend that time. She had a town in mind that was just south of Auckland, for which she had to bypass the Coromandel peninsula, but she wasn't dead-set on it. When I talked about my destination in the Coromandel, Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach, which is in the top 10 of best beaches in the world, she was sold and decided to drive me there instead. We made it to Hot Water Beach at the end of the day, but you have to be there two hours from either side of the low tide if you want to dig your own hot pool, which of course is the primary attraction of Hot Water Beach. We missed out on that window that day, so we decided to find a free camping ground for the night since the sun was falling fast now. It took an hour or so as well as some backtracking the way we came before we found one, where she parked her car and I put up my tent for the night. There were more people there, a group of girls and an older woman who was staying there on a semi-permanent basis which we talked to for the rest of the night before retiring to bed. The next day Liza had to return to Auckland so she didn't get to see Hot Water Beach at it's best unfortunately. I said goodbye to her in the morning before setting up on the road once again. It took a long time before any ride was offered, but when it did it set me up for the next few days. It was a couple, the guy from Canada, the girl's origin I can't quite remember. But they had the same plans as me to see Hot Water Beach at it's best, as well as Cathedral Cove. We missed another window for Hot Water Beach, so we decided to go up to the town of Hahei, the town just a walking distance from Cathedral Cove. There we found a hostel to stay at situated on a camping resort, which we booked for a few days. There we met an American woman in her thirties, and a German woman who was somewhere over fifty, as well as (I think) British man who was also somewhere in his fifties who was staying there for two more nights. This man was a very 'interesting' individual. He was very much into music and played a guitar when I first met him. He was an artistic hippie type with a serious case of paranoia towards conspiracy theories. He quickly alienated everyone with his speeches about how Americans are all Jewish zombies (because circumcision is very popular there apparently, which I never would have guessed but which seems to be true) who blindly follow the government and the Illuminati in a bid for world domination. In the end nobody could take him seriously. He seemed like a decent sort but was definitely someone who lets his convictions get in the way of his social interactions too much.
But the American and German woman we got along with very well. I had my own room in the hostel which was very nice to have for a change. Later that night I went to dinner with the American and German woman, as the couple I had come there with had already left for food when I got out of my room later. But Hahei is small and only has very few places to go, so we ended up in the same place as the couple and spent some time with them there before going back to the hostel together.
The following day we all went to Hot Water Beach together. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of that, since it was raining when we got there. It was quite cold while we were walking along the beach, but we weren't the only ones to show up that day. Even during a very overcast day and forecasted rain the beach was swarming with people who were digging hot pools. Luckily you don't have to dig deep, the hot water is very close to the surface. After a while people struck the hot water, and people started connecting the various little pools together to form a single bigger one. And let me tell you, the name Hot Water Beach is not an overstatement! The water can be scalding hot, and it's extremely important to let the sea water get into the pool to cool it off. Even when it was mixed with the cold sea water there were spots in the pool that you couldn't stand or sit on for very long. Every few seconds someone would jump up and scream in pain and run off unto the cold sand or into the sea which was very funny to see, until I had to do the same a few times lol. Even though it was raining nobody was complaining about the cold any more!

We stayed for about an hour before going back to the hostel where we spent the rest of the day. The next day everybody was leaving. The British conspiracy guy had already left that day, but I still had another night planned so I would be left alone in the hostel the next day. I said goodbye to everyone in the morning and then used the afternoon to visit Cathedral Cove since the weather had cleared up quite nicely. It was about an hour of walking to get to the start of the trail leading down to the Cove. Here I met some Quebecois guys and girls I had met in Napier while working, and I joined them on the half hour walk to get down the trail to the Cove, which offered some nice views of the sea and led through some fields and woods before descending down a cliff and ending on the beach. I stayed for an hour or two walking around on the beach, moving through the huge cave going through the cliff that sticks out across the two beaches, and spent some time swimming in the sea. I'm a little paranoid when it comes to swimming in the sea here in New Zealand though, because I know there are sharks in the water I can't help but keep an eye on the horizon for any fins heading my way haha. The beach is beautiful though. I'm a sucker for cool rock formations, and Cathedral Cove has plenty of them. On one side of the beach there is even a very thin waterfall, so as far as beaches go Cathedral Cove has plenty of everything!

The walk down to Cathedral Cove.

Right side of Cathedral Cove.

The right side of Cathedral Cove.

The left side of Cathedral Cove.

The next day I decided to move on, and make a tour around the Coromandel Peninsula.
I walked to the border of Hahei and started hitching. It took me maybe twenty minutes to get a ride from a guy who was late for work, but who didn't make much of an effort to get there any faster. In fact, he had bypassed his job by coming to Hahei to drop off a hitchhiker at the parking place at Cathedral Cove. On the way back he saw me standing there and decided to drive me to a ferry that would take me across the water to another town so I could continue my way up the Peninsula... But to get me there he had to bypass his job a second time. So he kept finding excuses not to go to work, but at the same time he was driving like a race car driver to get there faster... My heart was beating somewhere up in my throat because of the way he was driving around these blinding corners on the coast while telling me I shouldn't worry because he knew these roads like the back of his hands. It did nothing to reassure me as all I could see in my head was a car coming from the other direction crashing into us. True to his word though he got me to my destination safe and sound, though it felt like he did everything in his power not to. I thanked him and bought a ferry ticket from the ferryman. It was just a three minute crossing to get to Whitianga, but an hour worth of driving if you decided not to use the ferry. Luckily for me that's not a problem since I have no car that I need to get anywhere. In Whitianga I bought some food before walking to the edge of town, but I decided I had found a suitable place to hitch from standing next to the beach, since the edge of town was nowhere in sight. And as luck would have it, I got another ride, straight to Coromandel Town.
The man giving me a ride was James, a Maori man who I talked to comfortably during the drive to his home town. He told me about the Maori art he made and offered to show it to me when we got to town, which I happily accepted. He had a little workshop in his garage filled with tools on one side, and an exposition on the other. I made pictures of it with my phone, but I lost it days later on my way to Auckland. But he had made carved Maori statues and puppets of wood, traditional Maori instruments, and also worked with the greenstone Jade. He is also a tattoo artist and does Maori Ta Moko tattoos. Next to that he was very passionate about Maori music, which he was also performing.
He was very humble about all of his work but clearly very passionate. Two days later I was told by one of his acquaintances that he is in fact a big name in bringing back Maori art, music and culture and one of the more famous people in New Zealand because of that! But speaking to James himself, I never would have guessed that. He was too down to earth and humble to even begin to guess at the importance of his work. So please, go visit his website if you want to know more about him and his work! He has his hands in many things and is a very talented person. You can find it here:

Me and James outside of his workshop.

James also offered me a place to stay for the night after showing me his workshop and his art, and I gladly accepted. That night he was visited by the acquaintance I mentioned above, who came along with his girlfriend, and we got to talking. The day after the next day they would go for a hike to the Pinnacles Scenic Reserve, which I also had in mind as my next destination after the American woman in Hahei had mentioned it to me earlier. Unfortunately it's been a while and I forgot their names, which I feel very bad about. But in the course of traveling you meet many people, and though I try to remember I have to write them down (I am very bad with names to begin with). James allowed me to stay a second night so I could leave with his friends towards the Pinnacles. I spent the next day exploring Coromandel Town and doing a short hike through the woods, and that second evening I spent with James and his kids I made them Dutch-style pancakes with raisins and apple pieces as my way of saying thanks. The next morning I said goodbye to James and his kids and drove with his two friends to Thames, where we met up with two other people who came with us for the hike. They were very well-prepared people and offered me a smaller spare backpack and a waterproof bag in which I could keep a spare set of clothes, my travel chess set etc. because the plan for us was not to follow the main hiking trails, but to follow the river up to the hut at the top where we would spend the night. The river had parts in it where we couldn't walk and would have to swim, so we would get wet without a doubt. I was very happy to be able to leave my heavy backpack in Thames for the duration of our two-day hike in the Pinnacles. The only problem I had was my hiking boots, which is the only pair of footwear I have, and which were bound to get soaked as well. I tried taking them off and carrying them around my neck but with rocks everywhere I was slowing everybody down too much, so eventually I said 'screw it' and put my boots back on so we could keep a pace that would get us to the hut shortly after dark. It was a six hour trek or something like that, following the river, pushing through the brush on occasion, climbing up rocks and hard to get to places, and swimming through the water on other occasions. It was a good off-trail hike that I really, really enjoyed.
By the time we reached the hut the sun had set and we had been walking through the dark for about an hour, soaked through and getting cold. The hut was a huge affair with two dorm rooms that could house 40 people each, for a total of 80 people. It was good to change out of my wet clothes and into dry ones, even though they got a little bit wet. We had also run out of water and I was extremely thirsty. The hut had running water but it was recommended to cook the water before drinking it. But that high up in the hills in a protected scenic reserve I wasn't too worried about the quality of the water. I drank a ton of water without cooking it and thankfully didn't suffer any negative effects from it.
There was a school group in the hut that night which had one of the dorms to themselves, while we spent the night in the other dorm with the teachers. My sleeping bag had gotten a little wet as well but it was still dry enough to keep me warm, and I slept extremely well. The next day we followed one of the main trails back down. When we got back to Thames I was allowed to take a shower at the house of the people who loaned me their backpack. When I finally had a good set of dry clothes back on it felt great. I said goodbye to everyone late in the afternoon, and decided to find a hostel in Thames so I could do my laundry and give my boots a chance to dry out. I stayed in Thames for two nights, after which my boots were completely dry and I was rested and ready to move on. The next destination was Auckland, which I got to in two rides. But unfortunately I lost my cellphone in one of them, and I had no way of getting it back since the phone was locked with a symbol that you had to know to get it to work. I lost all my contacts, pictures, etc. when that phone slid out of my pocket when I sat down in the car. I bought a new one in Auckland later on for 60 dollars, one that wasn't as good as my old one but one that I could stand to lose if it happens again.

The start of the hike.

We also met a French guy who was doing the same thing. This was his camping spot for the night. You can see his hammock on the left.

Occasionally we had to cut through the woods.

And occasionally we had to swim to go forward.

The backpack I used had a lot of trapped air and unfortunately acted like a bit of a flotation device. That would have been nice if I wasn't carrying it on my back, but as it was it floated up to the back of my head and it was pushing my face underwater. In this picture I had a bit of good footing under water so I could keep my head up better.

Unlike in this picture.

A lot of times we had to help each other to climb up the slippery rocks. If you slipped you could easily break something or hit your head on a sharp rock, so patience and care needed to be taken.

Not the greatest of pictures, but small slippery paths like this had to be used as well. There wasn't a lot of room for missteps.

By now the sun was starting to go down.

The next pictures are from the following day.

A very foggy and cloudy day greeted us the next morning.

On the way down we found this big fallen Kauri tree.

I wanted to keep my shirt dry but still decided to wear my poncho in hopes of keeping a little bit warmer. It didn't help much. But luckily the walking kept me warm enough.

Cool little streams like this were scattered throughout the reserve.

I think this is a Kauri tree too. It was huge!

Back at the start of the river we followed up to the hut.

I then made my way back to Auckland and stayed there for a few weeks in some sort of apathy. I don't know exactly why but I found it difficult to find the energy to pack my backpack and get out of the city. I woke up day after day saying 'tomorrow I'll leave', and then the next morning I'd wake up feeling drained and unwilling, and I extended my stay another night. And another night. And another night, for nearly three weeks. In hindsight this was quite the drain on my money reserve and I shouldn't have done that, and now it annoys me that I did. But after that I made my way up north for a final visit to Mark, Sally-Anne and Maya, who I stayed with for six weeks shortly after coming to New Zealand. It took me two days to get there. But I stayed in the same hostel that I stayed in when I first arrived in New Zealand and made use of the time by downloading as many movies and TV shows as I could with their unlimited (though fairly slow) Wi-Fi. When I finally felt like getting a move on again I headed north to Mark and Sally and Maya. It took me two days to get there. I spent a night in Keri Keri, close to the Bay of Islands. I didn't feel like paying for a hostel again and decided to hide in the park and sleep there. But when I got there, there were still too many people up and moving around, even at 23:00 o'clock. So I went back to walking around for a bit trying to find a nice secluded spot, which I didn't find. Adjacent to this park is a high school or elementary school or something like that, and part of this park is a soccer field. As I was walking on the soccer field I noticed there were lights on in what looked like the dressing room next to the field, but nobody was around anymore so I decided to check it out. The door to one of the dressing rooms was unlocked and it was comfortably warm inside, and I decided to try and spend the night there. It even had toilets inside so I had my own personal bathroom for the night. I was going to get up at around 7 the next morning so nobody would find me, but I wasn't too worried about it. It was a saturday night, and I doubted anybody would be there that early on a sunday morning. I hung up my jacket and rolled out my mattress and sleeping bag on one of the benches inside and went to sleep. Nobody found me, and the next morning I made the final stretch to just beyond Kaitaia, from where I called Sally and told her that I was close by. She sent Mark to come and pick me up, and so I was among friends once again! :)

The dressing room in which I slept. Only the clothes in the back of the picture aren't mine, but I left them as is. I left everything just as I found it, and unless someone there sees this picture I doubt anyone will ever know I was there.

They had me stay with a neighbor for around two nights as they didn't have enough room for me in their new place. The last night I spent in their new place before they dropped me off in Kaitaia. It was good to see them again, and to hang out with them for a few days. In Kaitaia I went back to the hostel I stayed in when I had been weeding Kumara fields, which was now being managed by two new women. I paid for the first night but then asked them if I could work for accommodation, which they allowed. They had various jobs they needed doing around the hostel. I was one of the few people staying there outside of the working season and I had a room to myself for most of the nights. There were two nights where I shared the room with a Chinese girl, which kind of felt like an intrusion after having the room to myself for a few days and after having shared rooms for so long in New Zealand I am extremely happy whenever I have a room to myself now. Not having to deal with other people every waking hour, or with snoring people at night, is a blessing I've come to miss more than anything else. I stayed there for that time so I could meet Maya, who was living in Kaitaia now but who had not replied to my message yet. I didn't want to be back on the road only to hear from her once I had left. In the end I did meet up with her and Ray, and we spent an afternoon hanging out. Winter was starting to set in and it was getting colder, and Maya gave me two long-sleeve shirts to help keep me warm, which I really appreciated because I know she doesn't have much herself.

After meeting with my friends up north I headed back down to Auckland, where I was going to meet up with Tierney, a Scottish girl I met in Paihia months ago and who I stayed in contact with. She organized a road trip along the east coast of the north island, a place that apparently not many people visit because it is more isolated in nature. Through Facebook she had found two guys with a car willing to make the trip, and with me that made four. It took me two days to get to Auckland, having to spend a night in Whangarei, where I found a place in a small park to hide myself and sleep out in the open. It was a very cold night and I dressed up quite a bit to stay warm, but in the morning I was still cold. My sleeping bag was now quickly outrunning it's usefulness.

Preparing to head out of the Burger King and find a place to sleep in Whangarei.

The next day I made it back to Auckland after waking up thoroughly chilled. I had to walk for a long time to get to the south side of Whangarei and when I got there it started to rain, so I took shelter at a motel for about half an hour before deciding to try my luck. I needed to get to Auckland by night if I wanted to go on the road trip to the east cape. It took maybe an hour before I finally got a ride from a Japanese guy called Hire who, as luck would have it, was driving straight to Auckland. He dropped me off at the north side of the city, where I had to wait for a little while as Tierney and the two guys made their way to me. I used the time to get some Greek food. When they got there I was introduced to Steven, a German guy, and David from Slovakia. After a quick stop at the local Pak'n'Save for food we went on our way. It must have been around 7 o'clock by this time, and already dark, but we decided to go as far as we could that night. We drove for several hours and made our way down to either Tauranga or Te Puke, I don't quite remember. There we tried to find a place to sleep and, close to midnight, ended up on a campground. The following morning we paid for our spot that night and drove on to Whakatane, where we decided to do a hike that would take an hour or two.

But first, breakfast! (Pictures thanks to Steven)

After walking for a while we ended up stopping here for a little while because it was so beautiful. I had to climb up into a tree for this picture. While we were resting here for a bit I saw movement in the water below. When I looked closer it turned out to be a stingray!

Said stingray. His tail is a bit blurry but you can see it vaguely.

During the walk we encountered a Canadian couple who we talked to for a while. They had just made the move to New Zealand and were living in Ohope, where the hike we were doing ended. They invited us back to their place for a beer later that night. From Ohope we managed to get a ride back to Whakatane and the car. It was very lucky that we happened to meet a woman on the beach who was walking her dog and was going that way. She was Scottish by origin and so she and Tierney got into a conversation and it ended up with us getting a ride. Later that night we ended up driving to Ohope again to visit the Canadian couple, Danyel and Ashley, and had a really good time with them. At the end we decided to drive on to the next town, which I think was Opotiki. There we were allowed to set up our tents behind a fastfood place for the night. It pissed off some campground owners because apparently we weren't the first to be allowed to do so, and they were losing out on money. But we were very happy with it.

Tierney and me slept in our own tents while Steven and David shared the car.

Me preparing noodles. My gas stove always has some excess fuel when I first turn it on and it results in a big flame like this. As the fire gets hotter the flame becomes smaller until it becomes blue and is hardly visible sometimes.

The next day we had a long drive ahead as we drove all the way to Te Araroa to see New Zealand's biggest pohutukawa tree, called Te Waha-o-rerekohu which is around 600 years old. We did have a few stops along the way however, like when we saw a waterfall in the distance which we wanted to check out.

Only the very top was visible from the road. It took about a five minute walk to get there through a cow pasture. There was a sign saying people could walk through that pasture though :)

Besides, we seemed like a welcome distraction. The cows followed us through their pasture lol.

Te Waha-o-rerekohu. It's massive!

It had a sign telling people not to climb on it. Which I didn't see until I had already climbed onto it... My bad.

From there it was a relatively short drive to a lighthouse nearby which we also decided to visit.

When we were done here we needed to go back to the town of Te Atararoa. We were nearing the end of the trip, but we decided to visit one last place close to Gisborne. On the way back we encountered some horses grazing by the beach.

For the last night of the trip we managed to get onto a campground late at night. While Steven and David slept in the car again, Tierney and me decided to camp under the open sky that night. We walked off the campground towards the nearby beach and put down our sleeping bags there. It was Tierney's first night under the stars! She didn't sleep very well because of the noises. But I was tired enough that I fell asleep in minutes. The next day it was cloudy again, but luckily we didn't have any rain.

Getting our gear together for a night under the stars!

Waking up in the morning :)

The next day we used for a last hike before going back north.

In the morning Steven went to go surfing. He had his own surfboard which we had in one side of the car, effectively blocking the windows on that side.

We also went for a quick walk up the cliff side to have a better look of the beach.

When we got farther down on the far side of the hike we encountered this cool little cave leading t the sea.

After the long weekend was done we had to start going back up north towards Auckland. Tierney had arranged for work in Te Puke and would get out there. I was getting kind of low on money again as well and decided to get out in Te Puke as well to try to find work too. We booked a dorm room for two weeks in a hostel, and managed to find a kiwi-picking job within days. Unfortunately it rained a lot in these two weeks, and I didn't get to work enough to make my stay in Te Puke worthwhile financially. I ended up losing more money than I earned there. Fortunately the other people in the hostel were very nice and we got along with them very well. But after two weeks the picking season ended, and it would be several weeks before another job would start, so it was time to move on again. Tierney had to get back to Auckland because she was going to go back home in about a week. She was going to visit some friends up north before her flight back to Scotland. But I wanted to get to the south island, and set off in that direction. I managed to get to Gisborne in a day after four rides, where I stayed in a hostel situated in an old church. It was a very nice place and there seemed to be work there so I decided to check that out for a few days, but I didn't manage to find anything, and so I moved on.

It took me three rides to get to Wellington. The last guy who dropped me off in the city was a strange man. We got along OK at first, but after a while he started to withdraw more and more until finally we sat in an awkward silence, when he shut himself down entirely. He was giving me a bit of a strange vibe at that point, and when he dropped me off in Wellington he seemed to be in a hurry to drive off. I don't know what happened there. It felt weird, but nothing bad happened. I stayed in Wellington for a few days as well trying to find work, but still didn't find anything so I started to look elsewhere. I found out that there was vineyard work going on in Blenheim on the south island, and since seasonal jobs like this are usually easy to find I decided to get out of Wellington and hop over to the south island. Of course once I got to Blenheim I finally got a reply on one of the job applications I had sent out, but it was too late to go back as far as I was concerned. I've been in Blenheim since then, trying to work when I can. But it was much harder to find a job than I anticipated. All the companies were basically looking for experienced wrappers and pruners, neither of which I had any experience in. I managed to find a company that offered to give people training, but it would be unpaid. I didn't trust it entirely but I had little choice and decided to go for it. I ended up getting screwed over. I did three days of work for free only to get sent off at the end of it. Since the contract didn't say they were legally obliged to hire me afterwards they simply used me to get free work out of it. The only upside was that now I could say I had some experience, which made it easier to find another job. I rotated through two other companies because I wasn't fast enough for their standards, each after about a week... Finally I managed to find another company that hired me and I worked for them for two weeks. I still wasn't the fastest of the bunch (this company had a whole bunch of Thai people working for them who are insaaanely fast due to having nearly 10 years of experience), I was fast enough. Unfortunately after two weeks the job was done, and right now I'm out of a job again... Winter pruning is over, and I have to wait for a new job to start, for which they will hire me again.  The end result of all this is that I still haven't really made any money, and I will stay here for another two months at least hoping to work as much as I can. All in all the last few months have been a time of mixed feelings. The road trip was great, and so was seeing friends again, but there is definitely a feeling that the temporary nature of many of my experiences here are getting to me occasionally. But then there are moments of great joy where I feel very happy to be here and to be doing what I'm doing. Even currently with the shitty job situation and the moments where my hand has been hurting like crazy all night, there are moments where I don't want to be anywhere else. The moment where I groggily sit in the van going to work at six in the morning with a still throbbing hand and feelings of loneliness occupying my mind is then put aside momentarily when I look out the window and see snow-covered mountains obscured by swirling clouds, and the chatter of the Thai people in the back who try to make jokes with me in broken English and I feel blessed to have this experience. But I really do hope the work situation is going to pick up soon, because I am going to need all the money I can get to get to Australia in December, and time is running out. Wish me luck!

Oh, and on a final note: I have set up a Facebook page for those wishing an easier way to follow my blog. I also put pictures, thoughts, quotes pertaining to travel etc. on there, so it's not just links to my blog whenever I update it. You can go to the page here and like it to follow me: