A Travellerspoint blog

AUCK or bust

Alternative title: swerve violently if you love birds

sunny 20 °C

After a hard night of sweaty tropical New Years partying in a random vineyard in Gisborne, we crawled out of our tents to face the day. After our morning ritual of looking through photos to determine what had happened the night before, we began the routine end of festival chores. Breakfast beer, munching on shapes (a ghetto cracker brand that we are all addicted to), packing up our stuff, removing the random hairy drunk guy who had passed out in one of our tents, and making our hitch hiking signs.

AUCK (or bust!)
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The girls (Gloria, Diane, Susanna, and Sylvia) had lost their car keys the night previously, so were going nowhere in a hurry. Luckily they found them later on though. Camille stayed in Gisborne and started her own adventure southward, while Joe, James, and I began hitching back to Auckland.

We ended up taking the most obscure route back to Auckland, but I still made it back to the city in time for work, and had an epic adventure along the way, so no regrets. Here is a map of our route. As you can see, it is slightly nonsensical.

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We began our journey by walking down the main road of Gisborne in the direction of the motor way. We were passed by heaps of (probably) still drunk revellers on their way back home. The honking and shouting were driving us nuts, which may explain why we decided to take the first ride that stopped for us, even though they were going technically in the opposite direction.

The sheep shearer (who can shear a sheep in 30 seconds) from Napier, drove us in the direction of Napier (the opposite way of Auckland) but dropped us off at a place that connected with a much more major highway than we would have originally taken, thus increasing our chances of finding another ride. Our next ride, an experienced hiker from Auckland picked us up on his way to do more hiking near Taupo. He only had room for two in his car, so our group split up with James and I taking the ride. He dropped us off near Taupo on what seemed to be a very deserted looking highway, so James and I started walking along the windy road. It was only maybe 10 - 15 minutes however before another car came to a screeching halt directly in front of us.

The incredibly bubbly girl from Wellington who picked us up works with Peter Jackson studios on the new Hobbit movie and instructed us on how to become elven extras. She was amazingly good fun, and had a mild panic attack whenever a bird wandered into the road.... slamming on the brakes and honking her horn. I think at one point a little bird may have gotten injured during this journey, but we told her that she missed it because I don't know the sort of emotional anguish the poor girl would have suffered if she had known. It would have been more logical to get off at Taupo and stay along the main motorway, but we really enjoyed her company, so we decided to stay on with her until Tauranga.

We were then dropped off in a suburb of Tauranga called Bethlehem, where New Zealanders flock before the holidays to post their Christmas cards, so that the post mark will say Bethlehem on it. From here we walked about 10 minutes and worried about how dark it was getting when a retired couple from Wellington stopped and took us to their bach near Katikati and let us camp in their yard. We experienced some of the most amazing hospitality there! They brought us out a small dinner and some beers, and the next morning made us coffee before dropping us back off at the main highway.

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Our campsite in the yard
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The view from our tent

The next morning was also very successful, and it only took about 15 minutes before two friends picked us up who were on their way to pick up their sister from the airport. They dropped us near the airport in Auckland, and then it was only a matter of public transportation before I was back home and ready to start my shift at the cafe!

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James packing up and getting ready for the final leg of our adventure!

Posted by Jadabond 13:29 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

New Years in New Zealand - One I will never remember

Alternative Title: I apologize if I have offended you in any way, I can not recall the last 24 hours

sunny 28 °C

Gisborne. The first city to see the sun rise in New Zealand. The first city to see the sun rise in the world. And the best place to spend New Years in the world. Gisborne. Also the home of the Rhythm and vines music festival. Three days of camping, drinking, electronica, and sunshine.

I departed Auckland at 10 am the morning of the 27th with Alex from France. The day previous I had returned from camping in the Coromandels to immediately work a double shift. I returned home after midnight, only to have to do laundry and pack for my next adventure. Needless to say, I was not the most talkative travel partner for Alex as I could not keep my eyes open for very long despite a very good effort to stay awake. The drive to Gisborne took about seven hours, and it rained the entire way. Not a good sign for a camping festival! But as soon as we passed through the mountains, the sky cleared and there was no more rain.

I arrived at the campsite before Gloria and her entourage, so I picked out a decent spot and set up my poor little tent despite the intense wind. It held. Best forty dollars ever spent. Gloria, Diane, Susanna, and Sylvia soon arrived and after quickly getting set up, we headed out to the first night of music at the BW camping festival. New Zealanders are weird at festivals.... namely because they are so SO pushy. It was mostly impossible to dance at all due to the fear that I would be pushed over and trampled to death if I ever lost my footing. The madness began that evening as we randomly picked up some lost American/Danish dood, who stayed near to us the entire night and was impossible to lose. I was the unwelcoming victim of many of his drunken hugs.

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Gloria and Susanna at our campsite.

The next day I met back up with Alex to explore the region. New Zealand festivals are also weird in that each day the music did not start until the evening. so all during the day you were left to your own devices. We drove out to a natural water slide and a waterfall. The rockslide was at a portion of the river that couldn't decide if it wanted to be a waterfall or merely a slope. In the end it turned out to be an amazing place to slide down into the pool below.

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Alex getting ready to slide down the rock slope

The waterfall was one of the more beautiful ones that I have seen in New Zealand yet. It was in a really peaceful location and you could walk right up behind the falls. I obviously did not do that. It would ruin my hair. :P

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I got back to the campground to find some very intoxicated campmates. But soon I caught up. I'm not sure what exactly happened during those hours in the campground, but I am sure I made many many new friends. Anyway, there are many interesting photos. Joe and Camille hitch hiked the Gisborne that day as well and we snuck them into the campground just in time to get some potentially embarrassing photos of them as well. The festival site is located in a vineyard outside of Gisborne, and it was necessary to take a shuttle bus to the site. A really really long bus ride actually. The bus rides always turned out to be sources of song and hilarity. Eventually we made it to R and V, but soon mostly got separated from each other. One photo exists of the team. In the end, it was Diane and I that stayed together, pushed out way to the front of the Naked and Famous, and Chromeo stage, had our picture taken for the paper, and were then removed by security after some drunk girls tried to fight us for no reason.

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The next day James also arrived after hitchhiking from Auckland, and with the help of the entire security staff at R and V being incredibly confused, it was also easy to sneak him into the campground. The final day of the festival, New Years Eve, Joe and Camille also joined us at the festival. We got separated from my original camp buddies, but it was still epic to ring in the new year with James, Joe, and Camille on the top of a hill overlooking a vineyard and a crazy festival. I believe the festival was also epic for Gloria and company, as they managed to lose their purse which contained their car keys. (They did find it the next day though, thank goodness!)

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Camille
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James and Joe, New Years on the hill

The next morning after little sleep, we prepared to part ways. I had to leave rather early in order to hitch hike back to Auckland in time for work the next day. The beginning of the next adventure......

Posted by Jadabond 15:54 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new years gisborne r&v Comments (0)

C is for Christmas. It's also for Camping. Or Cathedral Cove

Alternative heading: A festive celebration of wild camping and people smuggling

sunny 20 °C

I came back to Auckland from Sam's beach house in Leigh in the afternoon of Christmas Eve. I hitch hiked back with a surfer dude from Auckland who's business it is to build custom race cars. This was my first hitch hiking experience, and it was good practice as Leigh is only about an hour north of Auckland. I was picked up after only standing on the road for about two minutes. I think only two or three other cars passed me before I was picked up.

That night was a Christmas of preparations followed by an evening of silliness. Joe's roommate had brought home some new friends he had made at a local bar (they were bartenders) and the evening progressed into one which can be summarized by the following mental picture:

Four strangers stand around a kitchen sink.
Laughing at inappropriate jokes.
Drinking southern comfort straight up out of plastic cups.
Eating spaghetti straight from the strainer which still sits in the sink....
.....with their hands.

Merry Christmas!

I stayed the night at Copeland Castle (the home of my besties Joe and Nils) for an easy departure the next morning....Christmas day. We departed at around 7 am in Reese's van. The back stuffed full of groceries and alcohol.... at a ratio of about 1:4, and our camping pacs. Reese and Joe were in the front of the van... in the only two real seats. While Patrick, Nils, and I were stuffed into the back like human cargo.

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Bryce and Joe packing the van
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Don't let them see you!

We stopped for a rest in Coromandel town. Here we picked up Camille and James... two other couchsurfers and friends of the castle. (The name of the house Joe and Nils live in, and which I am an honorary member... mostly because I randomly show up and do their dishes). We also met up with Remco, and his brother and cousin. We stuffed Camille and James into Remcos car, and headed off to the beach. As you do on Christmas!

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Chugga chugga chugga.... Shoe! Shoe!
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Having fun and lunch on the beach. The beginning of many bottles of wine.....

After this we went to visit Amanda. A couch surfer from the USA who very generously offered for us to come spend Christmas with her and her family who were over visiting from the States in their bach they had rented in Hahei. They didn't even mind that 10 random, dirty, young people crashed their family Christmas. A prize goes to the Zeisset family for their epic amounts of Christmas spirit!

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Christmas group photo!

We were even invited to spend the night in their bach which we did after a bonfire on the nearby beach. The next morning we packed up and set out to cathedral cove. An epic hike with our packs and food later, and we were at the most stunningly beautiful location. We spent all boxing day there and wild camped on the beach that night. The next morning, after showering in a waterfall, our group split up. Some heading on more adventures, and some, like me... rocking up late to work with hand in their hair.

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Contemplative
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FRRIIIEEENNNDDD!
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Campsite! <3

Posted by Jadabond 03:15 Archived in New Zealand Tagged cathedral cove hahei coromandel Comments (0)

Celebrating Christmas in New Zealand

Sweat and Sunscreen Mandatory

sunny 28 °C

This is not the first Christmas that I have spent in a tropical environment, but it was definitely the weirdest. Despite speaking the same language, being a colony of the same country, and having many cultural similarities - a Kiwi christmas is definitely a completely different creature than a Canadian christmas.

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Anne and I sweating it out at the Auckland Christmas parade

Firstly, and most obviously is the weather. Its hot. And sunny. And all the schools are having their summer break at the moment. Which means loads of families are heading to their bachs (beach houses) and spending their summer vacation engaging in various summer activities. Like BBQ's, or swimming in the sea, or water sports. So is it really a surprise that Santa would want to also take part in these activities? The result is santa decoriations in shop windows and on buildings, of santa wearing flip flops and lazing in his hammock, or of santa donning his red and white wet suit and going surfing or jet skiing.

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(Photo stolen from Kyle Snowdon)

Another favourite Kiwi christmas decoration that I spotted was this one: A holiday wreath which was decorating the street lights in a small town in the Coromandel region. Look closely to see what is decorating this holiday wreath. Yes, thats right... flip flops, or as the Kiwi's would call them, Jandels.

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The second very obvious difference between Kiwis and Canadians during the Christmas season is their shopping habits. Kiwi culture is generally more relaxed than North American culture, and this is very obvious in how they shop. When I lived in Canada and worked at a small cafe in a mall, we would be swamped with customers lining up and being generally horribly disagreeable people for about 6 weeks leading up to Christmas. Here in New Zealand, the shop I work in was quiet enough for me to be bored out of my face in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Even on boxing day, when it was a bit busier, there was still no need for more than three people in the store. Most stores actually shut down for most of the holiday season, and it is not uncommon to see that some have closed for 4 weeks of holidays! That would be retail suicide in North America. But here, during the holidays, the shops and cities are quieter a everyone wants to escape to the sea side with their families.

A few weeks before Christmas was the Auckland Christmas parade. I remember watching the Canadian Christmas parade on television when I was a child and marvelling at the intricate floats and world class marching bands. I don't know if I can use those same adjectives for the Auckland Christmas parade, but it was a spectacle none the less.

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A Christmas Kiwi, complete with Santa hat and jandels
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Someone forget to tell these guys that this is a Christmas parade, not a Halloween parade
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New Zealand is in a recession, I hope that explains the recycling of costumes that is obviously happening here

So I did Christmas eve the Kiwi way. At a beach house, in the sun, eating fish and chips. Some Kiwi friends of mine had rented a beach house and were celebrating Christmas with friends. I went up on the 23rd, for some scuba diving in Goat Island (more on that later) and stayed until Christmas eve. The house was about an hour north of Auckland on the east coast of New Zealand. We spent the evening hanging out on the beach and hiking around the coast line. I have to admit, it didn't really feel like Christmas, but it was still very lovely to hang out with interesting people and share food with new and old friends. And isn't that what Christmas is about anyways?

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Lilac enjoying the view
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Taking a break on our Leigh costal walk
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The beach near the house

Posted by Jadabond 15:22 Archived in New Zealand Tagged auckland christmas parade leigh Comments (0)

Hiking up Mt. Eden (Maungawhau)

Dormant volcanoes are ideal for sliding

overcast 20 °C

I have been absolutely swamped with taking care of life activities since arriving in Auckland just over a week ago, and yesterday I had my very first (almost) day off. So of course, instead of resting myself, I decided that a hike up one of the many volcanoes in Auckland city was in order.

Mount Eden is the highest natural point in Auckland. The volcano is currently dormant and has not erupted in 15,000 years. Meaning that the 50 metre deep cone of the volcano would make a perfect sledding ground. Except for that there is no snow in Auckland. And also that if two people were to sled at the same time they would most certainly have a head one collision at the point of the cone.

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I met up with a friend Anne from Germany who has lived in Auckland for about 4 months now, and her two friends who recently arrived. Anne has a car, which is pretty much a necessity in Auckland, which made the 5 KM drive into the suburbs of Auckland extremely quick and easy.

It was actually a really easy hike, and there were even people jogging up and down the volcano. Keeners. The walk way up to the summit has a small forested area which is really quite atmospheric, and from the summit you can get great views of Auckland, from harbour to harbour. Unfortunately, it was raining and foggy the day we climbed up, but you can still sort of see the skyline.

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Luckily we managed to get to the summit before the bus load of tourists arrived, so we managed to get a little moment of piece and quiet to enjoy the views.

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Posted by Jadabond 11:54 Archived in New Zealand Tagged auckland mteden Comments (0)

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