Thursday, May 28, 2009

Aussie x 2 and home to Oregon

I have been back in Oregon for four days now, and boy was it nice to get back to summertime! It's been in the 70's + here since I got back and the sun has been shining. Its a nice change from winter in the southern hemisphere. 

I spent my last 10 days down under in Aussie (May 13-23), with Anne again in Sydney and NSW. I was feeling ready to go home and starting to count down the days, but neverless I had an enjoyable and very active time. My stress fracture was finally not giving me problems walking, and so walking we went! During the visit, we logged at least 100km (about 70 miles), backpacking and hiking. The weather was great for it, nice and cool (for OZ) in the 60's and 70's. NZ had been in the 30's and 40's, so it was enjoyable. We went on a 3-day bushwalking trip to the Blue Mts., and joined 3 students from Anne's UNSW Outdoors Club for two of the days. It was great to be with some locals that knew the trails and viewpoints. We also did one 30km day (18 miles) on the costal track, which had some beautiful cliff and beach views. 

After my 10 days in Sydney, I had a long 50+ journey back to good old USA, with one night back in NZ. Now I am getting ready for my graduation from Linfield this Sunday, May 31. 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Road to Wellington

After WWOOFing for two weeks in Northland, I was ready to be on the move again and I was craving new adventures and travel. I am not sure how I am going to handle being home for three months at once after my journeys! I left Baylys Beach and Trish behind, and decided to hitch the 180km from Dargaville to Auckland. My hitchhiking luck persisted, and I got picked up by a German 24-M traveler, in the second car that passed me. He happened to be going all the way to Auckland, and was able to drop me at Tori's (mate from OB) house so I could get my camera I accidentally left there two weeks before. One of the benefits to hitching is that often the driver offers to drop me wherever I need to be in the town or city, so I get front door service to backpackers or friends. You can't pay a bus to do that!

After a brief stop in Auckland for a couple hours, I bussed to Tauranga. Hitching out of cities is difficult, and I don't like hitching in the later afternoon/evening in the dark. Winter has arrived here in the southern hemisphere, and the sun sets around 5:30pm. Anyway, I got into Tauranga in the evening, where Dee's mom picked me up. Nadine (Dee) is Susie's friend from Christchurch I have been staying with, and when my parents were in NZ two years ago they stayed with her family for a time, as well as Susie spending a month holiday with them. Therefore, I was the last in the family to visit, and it was something I didn't want to leave the country without doing. I spent two nights there and it was great to be with a family. Elsie, her mom, did my laundry and sent me away with a packed lunch :-) I felt well taken care of! The day I spent there I went to The Mount, a popular summer holiday destination with surfing beaches. I climbed Mt. Maunganui (only 250m) and soaked at the salt water thermal pools at the base afterwards.

Then next day I got an early start on a bus to Rotorua, a very touristy destination with thermal springs being the major attraction. I decided I needed some exercise, and wanted to take advantage of the hundreds of kilometers of mountain bike trails through native forest. I wanted to take advantage of the time I had the bike (5hrs), and that I did. Mountain biking can be quite extreme on single tracks, and without much experience it can be quite tricky, especially with mud and slippery surfaces after rain. I had the mountain to myself and only saw one other rider the whole time. I had a great time, but boy was I sore 30km later.... But I loved it! I only took one tumble over the handle bars, and have a colorful bruise on my leg to prove it :-P

After one night in Rotorua, two girls from my hostel with a van dropped me off two hours south, in a small town, Tarangi. I spent two nights at a great little backpackers there, where I had a double bed to myself in a share room! I decided to go rafting with German, Canadian, and Australian girls, and the four of us enjoyed the cold river and impressive scenery. I was a little disappointed by the class 3 rapids, it seamed quite mellow and un-extreme, but then again everything after ob feels that way to me. Neverless, it was a fun day, and the 4 hr half-day trip included a soak in the thermal pools and hot tomato soup afterwards.

Yesterday I decided to have one final hurrah of hitchhiking, the 322 km journey south from Taurangi to Wellington. Again, I couldn't believe my luck when not more than 5 minutes after holding my thumb up, a woman stopped who was going all the way to Wellington. She said she normally doesn't pick up hitchhikers, but I looked nice so on a whim she stopped. I get that response frequently, by the way. After starting on our way, she apologized for needing to make two stops, one at a cafe to get a late, and another at the icebreaker outlet store. I laughed and agreed to the stops, which were right up my alley. Icebreaker is the NZ brand that sells marino wool products, similar to smartwool. The products are so good, but expensive. I had a fun little shopping spree, and was very happy with my purchases. Sue then dropped me at Dane's door (ob watchmate again) where I was planning on staying for two nights, and insisted on giving me her cell number in case I needed anything while I was in Welly. She also offered up her spare room should my friend's flat not work out.

I have been amazed by all the kind people I have meet while traveling, both Kiwis and other travelers alike. I have made so many friends and connections here in NZ, it will be very sad to say goodbye for good and go back to the other side of the globe. It is such an easy country to travel around alone, and relatively safe too. It was such a good choice for my first true longer solo travel experience. I can't believe I have just 3 days left here... I know I will be back for sure someday, more likely sooner than later. I have a long list of things I still want to do in the country. The list is probably longer than my original list... but so it goes.

Stay tuned as my journey continues... It's not over yet! Tomorrow I am going to the national museum, Te Papa, and viewing the Monet exhibit currently on display. I fly back to Christchurch tomorrow evening (Monday 11 May), and back to see Anne in Sydney again May 13-23. Following my 1o days in Aussie, I return to Oregon for my graduation for a week, and finally June 1st I fly home with my fam to PSG.

It has come to my attention (thanks Gillian!) that some of my terminology is a bit confusing, so I thought I would do a brief Kiwi lingo guide for you.


kiwi- new zealand resident
kiwi fruit- the real thing, the eatable fruit. don't forget the 'fruit' part.
aussie- australia
tramping- backpacking in america
backpacking- traveling around with a backpack, normally staying in 'backpackers'
backpacker- hostel
togs- swimwear
yankees- what kiwis call Americans
mate- friend
tea- dinner
scroggin- trailmix
zed- how you pronounce 'Z'
pudding- dessert

Saturday, May 9, 2009

WWOOFing in Northland

Here area few pictures from Baylys Beach, one of the two places I spent a week at recently WWOOFing in Northland.

The first week I stayed at a remote backpackers outside Kerikeri, The Welcome Swallow, and did 4 hrs of housekeeping a day to earn my room and board. It was a beautiful little piece of bush, but quite far from anything. I had a fun adventure when I went exploring one day with a British couple staying at the backpackers. We went on a nice scenic coastal drive, and then headed to a thermal springs 45 min south. After a lovely soak at the local establishment, it was dark for our drive back. Not 10 min into the drive, the couple's van stopped, due to electrical problems. Luckily were were close to a driveway, so I knocked on the door and asked for assistance. The kind family helped us push the van into their driveway, and then proceeded to invite us in for dinner and offered us their two spare bedrooms for the night. We had a great night there, chatting and listening to music. The next morning we brought the van into a shop and the problem was fixed and we continued on our way back to the backpackers.

After a week at the backpackers, I hitched down to Dargaville, the cumera (sweet potato) capitol of NZ. I met Trish, my next host, and her work, and she took me to her home 12km away in Baylys Beach, as small coastal community of a couple hundred residents. Trish didn't have much work for me at her home, and I felt a little bad about that, but I had a great stay. She had a lot of family close by, and I got to meet the grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. I went netting for fish in the ocean with the family, as well as watched a 'hunt' the cousins were in, which is some type of British sport where hounds are released and chase hares on a farm, and participants ride horses to follow and watch the hounds... Baylys Beach is known for its 100km long drivable sand beach (see the photos above). I drove the beach numerous times, well I was a passenger driving along the shores at low tide. It was quite a stunning beach, another amazing little place in NZ.


Sailing in action. Here was the easy part, just letting the wind do its job. As long as there was wind of course...

Lunch in a tree with 14 was quite a project... lettuce and bread kept dropping down. Luckily I was the highest so I dropped things but nothing fell on me :-)

The whole gang tramping at sunset. Like I said, we made the most of daylight hours...
Aw, what a pretty sunrise.
We made it to the top! Yea!

I just got my CD of OB pictures that one of my watchmates put together, there are over 1000 picts total, and a few slide shows to music that are great! here are a few of my favorite ones, but there are so many to choose from!

Remember if you click on the small image the picture will enlarge.