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Adventures in taking the road less travelled...
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until further notice.
You can subscribe to the new blog through the rss feed.
Always finding ourselves back in Napier
15.02.2011 - 17.02.2011 18 °C
We stayed the following night at the Waikaramoana motor camp, relaxing, watching John Safran videos on my laptop and organizing our stuff. The girls got back from their hike the following afternoon and we then played tetras with all the bags in order to fit them all into their little station wagon. We did manage it, and the five of us began the drive to Wairoa. The road was windy and alternated between gravel and pavement. The poor little car had to stop every 15 - 20 minutes to let the engine cool down, so it was slow going. When we eventually got to Wairoa, James and I got out and the girls continued on their journey.
From Wairoa we were trying to hitch back to Napier. We stood by the petrol station on the edge of town for what seemed like ages and after about an hour and a bit we gave up. After sitting on a desolate bench which seemed like it would break under our weight any moment, we decided to walk along the highway and look for a place we could freedom camp.
As we were walking along, and by this point we had given up on hitching, a car pulled up and asked us if we needed a ride. Angela (a Canadian) and Frank (a German) are a couple who are living and working as fruit pickers on a kiwi orchard which was nearby. They drove us to the orchard, and after clearing it with their bosses, we were allowed to set our tent up at their place.
They have done the same sort of thing that James and I want to do, working and living in both New Zealand and Australia. Angela and I discussed all the Canadian delicacies that we miss - such as Caesars and Caramilk bars, which thoroughly confused James. Despite what he thinks, vodka and tomatoe/clam juice is a winning combination.
The next day was rainy and one of the other workers at the orchard thought he might be going to Napier. We waited around for both the rain to stop and for him to get a phone call which decided if he was going or not. In the end the rain didn't stop, and he didn't need to go to Napier. After lunch we decided it was now or never, so we headed to the highway and started to hitch.
After about twenty minutes we got picked up by a Kiwi/ Irish couple who now live in Ireland but were visiting her father in Wairoa. They took us all the way to Napier. The road from Wairoa to Napier is a windy mountainous one, and it took all my personal strength and effort to remain cheerful and talkative despite how horrendously motion sick I was.
When we arrived in Napier we found that all the camp sites were fully booked, so we ended up staying in a hostel. This is the first hostel we have stayed in, and it was called "The Stables." It ended up being a rather good deal despite the higher cost due to the unlimited internet access.
The next day we were all ready to go early in the morning but then were captured by a nap on the couches sitting on the hostels porch. At about one in the afternoon we did manage to get moving and got a ride with a man to Hastings who was about to go on a three day trail ride with his standard bred horse.
In Hastings - which is a rather grim town - we toured all the dollar stores before meeting up with Brian who is staying in Hastings to work as a seasonal fruit worker. We hung out at a local dive bar and in the park until evening set it. Then we piled into his friends car and drove all the way back to Napier to see a band.
After living in a tent for the last several weeks, we have gotten into the habit of rising and sleeping with the sun - meaning that by ten o clock we were dead tired. After the gig ended - which was awesome by the way - we took our bags to the marine parade in Napier and set up tent behind a bush. Which could have been well camouflaged if perhaps we were not right next to a jogging path.
12.03.2011 - 13.02.2011 28 °C
We woke early and prepared for our kayak journey. We were driven about another twenty minutes through the national park until we got to the part of the lake where the kayaks are kept. We were lucky that all our stuff fit into the waterproof storage areas of the kayak and into my dry bag. After being given our lifejackets and waterproof skirt thing, we were shown where to do on a vague map, and sent on our way.
Kayaks are much more difficult to paddle than canoes.
Well, not more difficult, but certainly more tiring. Especially for a girl with all of one muscle in her arms. We set off at a slow pace and stayed near to the shore of the lake since the wind was making the lake rather choppy.
"The waves on the lake can get up to six feet high," we were told. I think if I saw a six foot high wave coming for me - in a small plastic water craft that I am strapped into - my own panicking heart would shake the thing enough to flip it.
We didn't get any six foot waves though. At one point we had to leave the shore to cross over a large bay through the open water. The water was so choppy, and our little kayak was being bounced around so much that I actually started to get sea sick. Despite my burning arms, we had to keep paddling, because the kayak is much more stable if you are moving than if you are still. We did eventually make it to the other shore, which we had to follow until we got to a point called "the narrows."
We were warned by another kayaker that the narrows were especially rough today, so when we came to a nice little safe docking spot right at the entrance to the narrows, we decided it was a good place for a rest and for a lunch break.
Lunch was peanut butter and strawberry jam tortillas and granola bars. Despite the super high energy sugar rush that lunch should have provided, we opted for a nap instead. Best. Nap. Ever. Although perhaps napping on the rocks, with no shade, in the full New Zealand sun is probably not a good idea. As a result of all my recent time being spent outdoors, my hair is now so sun bleached blonde, and my skin is so dark (my tan has rendered me the same colour as my Samoan co-worker) that I look like one of those plastic girls with an unlimited fabutan account and too much peroxide. But its all natural.
After our nap, we decided to take on the narrows. Which were not that rough at all. In fact they were probably calmer than our open water crossing from earlier in the morning. After going through the narrows we began exploring the various little bays that were en route to the Korakora campground where we were meeting up with the girls.
Firstly, you should know that Lake Waikaramoana was created when a massive landslide took the top of one of the nearby mountains and blocked a massive river. As rain water collected more and more, this massive and deep lake was formed. Due to the way in which it was created, at the bottom of the lake still stands a petrified wood forest, of the trees which lived here before the landslide. When the water levels are low, you can see dozens of these trees poking out of the water.
The water was pretty high, but we could still see a few tree tops sticking out from the water. We stopped so that James could go for a swim, and he confirmed that the tree we saw went down deep into the water.
After our rest and swim break, we continued on to search for the campground. Some DOC people in a jet boat came over and pointed us in the general direction, but even with their assistance it still took us quite a while to find the campground and its docking point. After a few wrong turns, we eventually found it. Eva, Ruth and Rebecca were already there.
The evening was spent chatting with the girls, and with the older American couple who also showed up later. After dinner, a considerable amount of time was spent rat proofing our possessions, as we saw two massive rats run around the site. Also, when my friends Bryan and Jen did this walk earlier, Jen had her rain jacket bitten through by a rat despite her diligently separating and tying up the food.
We kept all the food and rubbish in one of the waterproof holds of the kayak, so as to keep away unwelcome rat visitors. However, something was investigating our tent in the night, although I'm not sure if it was a rat, possum, or perhaps even the angry black swam who seemed to live at the camp ground.
James is afraid of rats.
Which is why when we woke up in the morning our tent was lopsided and collapsing. A result of his kicking and shaking the tent walls to scare away our visitors.
The next morning after breakfast and saying goodbye to the others, we set back off in the kayak to head back to the docks. The water was so calm and was perfectly still. We could see right to the bottom in some of the more shallow areas, and the water reflected the shoreline and the sky like a mirror. After a leisurely paddle through the narrows, we stopped at our nap spot for lunch and another rest. This time I did get a small sunburn despite putting on sun cream.
After napping, we decided to head back. Unfortunately, the wind had picked up a bit making the water more choppy, but still not as choppy as the day before. After an exhausting paddle through the open area, we were both completely exhausted and ready to dock the kayak and be on solid ground.
We kept on paddling and although it seemed like the shore never got any closer, we did eventually make it back. We camped at the Waikaramoana motor camp in wait for the girls to finish their walk a day later. Hopefully we can somehow squeeze all of us into their car so we don't have to try to hitch up this desolate dirt road.
10.02.2011 - 11.02.2011 27 °C
We left Auckland early in the morning, and despite Auckland's rubbish public transport systems doing its best to mess up our plans, we still managed to get our bus on time (just). The reason we are taking the bus today, and not hitch hiking is that previsouly we had planning to go on the Great Walk around Lake Waikaramoana with my friend Eva and her friends Rebecca and Ruth. Since we had a planned start date, we had to make sure we got there on time.
Due to my ankle, and its various shades of black and blue, we are not able to do the hike. I was really upset about this, changing plans is always annoying for me and in New Zealand its especially hard to make a new plan that is suitable for those with sprained ankles. We sat, looking through the lonely planet, and I was getting super frustrated because everything that sounded interesting was some sort of outdoor activity, requiring all your limbs.
It was after a frustrating visit to a doctors receptionist - where I learned that I can't afford the doctor - and the following trip to the pharmacist (much more helpful than a doctor anyways, and free) that we were given the advice to do the lake by kayak instead.
The night before our bus to Rotorua I called up some of the holiday parks in the national park and was directed to a local man who rented kayaks. I arranged with him to pick us up in the nearby town of Wairoa on the 11th. We planned to start our kayak trip on the 12th, meet up with my friends at their second campsite, and kayak back to the holiday park on the 13th. The perfect compromise.
Since James has not been to Rotorua and I have, I gave him a tour of the town park where who can see a variety of geothermal activity without paying any entrance fee. I also took him to the cheap ice cream joint in town. After our short visit and a picnic lunch, we headed to the motorway and found some cardboard to make our next sign: Napier.
Napier is a town that was destroyed by an earth quake and then completely rebuilt in the art nouveau style. It is a really pretty place and is surrounded by vineyards and fruit orchards.
Our first ride was with a lawyer named Ian who works in Rotorua but lives in Taupo. He took us to Taupo and drove us to a good spot to get a ride to Napier. Before we found a good spot to stop and wait for a ride we had to cross a bridge. As we walked across the bridge, and before we even finished making the sign, or even start holding it out - we already had a ride stop for us.
An older couple from Napier had stopped for us at the other side of the bridge as we were crossing. They had done heaps of hitching in their younger days, and were keen to pick up hitch hikers now. They had even hitch hiked across Canada and America when they were younger. They took us all the way into Napier, past a massive car accident involving a semi truck.
Once we arrived in Napier I called up the cheapest place in town that allowed tent sites but were told that all their tent spaces were full. However, they didn't expect me to pull the pity card. "Oh, your full? Well do you know any other place in town were we can camp because I have a sprained ankle and can not walk well." They made an exception for us.
The next day we booked a bus from Napier to Wairoa in order to ensure that we got there in time for the shuttle. Our ride was waiting for us in Wairoa and he took us down the windy dirt road that leads to the Te Urewera national park. I was releaved when we finally arrived because I was starting to get motion sickness in his van.
We stayed at the Big Bush Holiday Park who are the friends of the man we rented the kayaks from, and who were generous enough to let us stay for free since we were pitching a tent. They had great facilities with a kitchen, hot showers, and a sitting room with television and comfy couches which was a huge luxury and a nice way to escape the tent for once.
The next day we set an alarm to wake early. Time to kayak.
I met a Possum! Good for you.
05.02.2011 - 08.02.2011 25 °C
Reatihi. Hard to hitch to, and potentially really hard to hitch out of. We returned from our canoe journey to the holiday part at around mid afternoon and had hot showers and a hot meal. We then said goodbye to Nils and Thomas and prepared our sign, and our patience for what we thought would be a very difficult hitch out of Reatihi. James was even preparing his very typical English whinge about how we would never get out of the town. Mid complaint, a massive semi truck pulled up behind him (as I always hold the sign since I am a girl and people are much more willing to stop for me) without him even noticing.
We passed our packs up to the driver and climbed up the ladder into the lorry. Al, the truck driver, was going as far as Taupo. We drove through the beautiful Tongariro park and later had stunning views of lake Taupo from high up in the lorry. After Al dropped off the truck for the evening, he gave us a ride to the centre of town in his car.
When he got into town, the information centre was already closed and all the hostels were very expensive. We wanted to camp, but the nearest freedom camping spot was about a half hour walk away and my ankle was in no condition for walking. Luckily the pharmacy was still open and I could buy a stretch bandage for it.
Soon it had gotten dark and we still had not found a place to camp. We eventually walked into the park, where you were not supposed to camp but we decided to try to be sneaky anyways. We started to set up when we heard people - a security guard. He had not seen us but we decided to, instead of being sneaky to go speak to him instead. He had no problem with us camping out, as long as we were gone before 8 am, since a festival was going to be held in the park the next day. He even offered to keep an eye on us to make sure no one messed with our tent. So nice!
That night we had to strategically tie up our bags and food since we had spotted several possums in the area. Possums were introduced to New Zealand from Australia in the 1800's to establish a fur trade, but they have no natural predators and are now one of the major pests in New Zealand. They destroy native bush and eat birds eggs.
The next morning we were up bright and early and set off. We waited quite a while to find a ride, perhaps due to the early hour. Eventually, Ross stopped for us. He was heading back to Auckland and we could have ridden the whole way with him, but we decided that since I didn't have to work after all, that we would go to Raglan to relax for a few days instead. Ross was super cool and had been to both Winnipeg (my city) and Bristol (James' city) for his work. He dropped us off in Tirau where the motorway split.
Here we stopped for a nice coffee and cake break whilst making our new sign: Raglan. When we headed off we were soon picked up by Jenny who works at the Warehouse (its sort of like Walmart) in Hamilton and who was on her way back from the Ragamuffin festival which is held in Rotorua. She dropped us off in Hamilton, and from there it wasn't long before Reb and his friend picked us up in their jeep and took us the rest of the way to Raglan. They had both met in the army and had just finished some sort of training camp.
Once arriving in Raglan it was a three kilometre walk down the beaches to the cheap ($5) campground which was pretty much a paddock that we shared with a herd of sheep. It had toilet facilities and, unfortunately, only cold showers.
Raglan is famous for surfing and has some of the best surf beaches in New Zealand. Neither James nor I surf though, so it was mostly a relaxation spot for us. The town is really small, but it really cute. It has amazing cafes and art and antique shops where we spent most of our time when we weren't hanging out with the sheep.
We stayed in Raglan for just two days before heading back to Auckland. On the way to central Raglan my pity inspiring limp got us a ride into the town centre with a mum and her small daughter. From there we were picked up by Hamish who owns a night club in Hamilton. From Hamilton we got a ride with another truck driver who took us to Bombay (just outside Auckland) and who told us heaps of hilarious stories of the antics truck drivers get up to. From Bombay we got a ride with a buddhist women whose name was too challenging for me to remember, who was kind enough to take us to the suburb of Auckland that we needed to get to, despite it being out of her way.
Now time for rest and healing.