A Travellerspoint blog

Goodbye NZ!

After two weeks in Nelson, I found a cheap flight from Christchurch to Sydney and decided it was time to try out a new country. I once again packed up my backpack; it seems that mere hours after I arrive at a hostel my clothes, books and other belongings are strewn about my space in a haphazard manner reminiscent of my room back in Queenstown. I grudgingly booked a bus from Nelson to Christchurch (I was highly sick of long bus rides by this point), said really hard goodbyes to Alex and Alyssa, and boarded an early-morning Greyhound headed south. Fortunately for me, the bus ride was all down the Eastern coast of New Zealand, and when I was jostled awake I would open my eyes to an extremely blue sky, turquoise ocean and sunbathing seals.

6 hours later I arrived in Christchurch for the first time (not including the brief airport visit a month prior) and was met with scenes of total devastation. The city is now a complete ghost town; everywhere is roped off and tagged with “inspected” signs indicating whether or not the building is safe. A statue of Jesus stood amongst a pile of rubbish and bricks while the church behind it had half crumbled to the ground. The city centre is totally closed off and soldiers are stationed throughout the city. I stopped to ask these soldiers for directions to the nearest information site and they responded with a simple “It’s not there anymore.” I had watched the news countless times, I had heard about how many people were killed in that earthquake and how many lives and homes were totally destroyed, but it wasn’t until I walked amongst the ruins and rubble that was once a city that I truly understood the magnitude of damage the earthquake had produced.

As my flight was to leave at 6 am the next morning I figured the easiest thing to do was to head to the airport and sleep there instead of struggling to find a hostel and then a bus the next morning. So I boarded a bus and headed to the airport, where I would spend the next 14 hours of my life. I spent the first while watching movies on my laptop; the few hours were spent reading my book in the airport bar, and by the time I left I was a little on the tipsy side of things. When I finally settled myself upon the floor to try to sleep in order to pass the time faster, I realized I had become the epitome of homeless: smelly (I was in need of a shower after spending all day on a bus), drunk, and sleeping in an airport. I have no hesitation in saying that it was the worst sleep of my life; I was huddled in a ball amongst my backpack, using my towel as a blanket and a backpack as a pillow. I probably slept about two hours before I resigned myself to giving up and going to check my luggage. When it was time to board my plane, I said goodbye to New Zealand with a feeling of sadness – this beautiful country had been my home for the past five months, a place where I had seen amazing things and met wonderful people. The plane took off and I left New Zealand behind.

Posted by bgriffs 23:05 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Nelson

My plan for Nelson had been quite simple: arrive, find a job, stay a while, save money, head to Australia with said saved money. It seemed like an achievable plan, and I was eager to create a life for myself in a new city. An added bonus to being in Nelson was that Alex, my boyfriend I met in Queenstown who I was not expecting to see for several months, had decided to relocate there as well. I was delighted to be reunited with him and I was fairly certain that I would be able to find a job rather quickly: I therefore arrived in Nelson with high hopes. After a day of pure loafing about the beach and Alyssa’s flat I set about finding suitable occupation, and though I handed out many a resume, both in person and online, many businesses told me that they were no longer hiring and I realized that my search may end up being in vain. I grew slightly discouraged as days passed and my phone didn’t ring with employers falling over themselves to hire me. In fact, I spent most days doing very little, lounging at the beach, taking pictures, and reading books. (I’m sure many of you reading this are rather incredulous at the idea of me being displeased with such a relaxed lifestyle, but there is nothing worse than not having a job when you really want to be working!) As days passed by and I remained nothing more than an unemployed drifter sleeping on a sofa bed, I realized I may need to form another plan of action. I considered returning to Queenstown, because I craved the company of so many familiar faces and of the simplicity of my lifestyle there, but I knew that Queenstown was no place in which to save money; I myself was a walking example of that. After my experiences of traveling solo and the loneliness that accompanies it, I was reluctant to relocate to a new city and try this yet again. Therefore I came up with the plan that if I was unable to find a job in a week, it was time to head to Australia to visit the numerous people I knew there at the time. I continued to hold onto hope that someone would at least offer me an interview, and after a few days of waiting, I was contacted by a marketing group called Savvy Direct to come in. Excited at the prospect of working a job like no other I had experienced, I was slightly sobered to learn that I would be going to people’s homes to ask for money for charity. At first I was all for it because the representative told me that we were fundraising for Red Cross; I had been hoping to volunteer in the earthquake-ravaged Christchurch for a while but the city was literally full to the brim with volunteers, so fundraising for Red Cross would be a good way to contribute. I was apprehensive at the idea of asking strangers to donate in the privacy of their own homes but I figured that I would give the job a chance.
The next day I had my job trial, where I would shadow the woman who interviewed me as she went about the door-to-door fundraising. I was slightly disgruntled to learn that we were not campaigning for Red Cross today; instead we were fundraising for the IHC, a charity that helps families with intellectually handicapped children (still a worthwhile cause of course, but I couldn’t help feeling misled). We drove to a less desirable area of town and started knocking on doors. By the looks of many of the houses, these people had no extra money to be donating monthly to charities; by the smell of many of the houses, these people apparently had no extra money to even buy soap. Yet I followed my companion around, attempting to keep up with her extremely brisk stride and getting more and more annoyed with her overly peppy attitude and frequent use of kiwi slang. I have never been able to be particularly convincing at feigning interest when people tell me things I do not care to know, and, in my opinion, neither was this other fundraiser. I wasn’t sure if the people we petitioned could sense it, but I knew there was very little sincerity in her voice as she spoke to them about their grandchildren, upcoming operations, or anything else they felt comfortable telling a total stranger. At some houses we lingered while she gave them the whole speech about the monthly donation, at others she quickly explained our presence and we went on our way. When I asked her why she was doing this for some people and not others, her answer was that the last house she had given the short version to smelled terrible and she didn’t want to stand there any longer. (In my opinion, many of the houses smelled pretty bad; some were reminiscent of the unidentifiable musk that lingered in our closet-rooms back in Te Anau). I went into the day with a positive attitude, but after an hour I realized I did not have the kind of personality that was needed to succeed at this job (i.e.: an overly fake enthusiasm), and I was soon freed of my trial. I spent the rest of the day looking up flights to Australia.
I would have left the following day, because I had found Nelson to be a less than entertaining city when the only people you knew in it worked all day long. Unfortunately, I was unaware that in order to enter Australia on a tourist visa, which I would be acquiring at the border, one has to have proof of a flight out of the country. At the present time, I had no such flight booked; I had decided that after a few weeks in Australia it would be time to head back home, but the date had yet to be confirmed and I hadn’t even begun to look at flights. By this point I had moved into a hostel as not to overstay my welcome at Alyssa’s, and the perpetual boredom I was experiencing started to cost me $27 a night. My only respite from my days spent in the company of books was Alex, when he was not at work, and Alyssa, when she had finished a hard day of apple picking. As it stands, I am in a limbo between New Zealand and Australia: as soon as I have a flight booked back home, I can head to Sydney to begin my condensed Australian adventure.

The Beach

The following is a short description of the beach I have spent so much time at since I arrived in Nelson. I wrote it in my journal one day while I was there, and I didn’t think it was long or important enough to warrant its own entry.

Having been experiencing the rocky beaches of the lower South Island for the majority of my time in New Zealand, imagine my delight at the soft, sandy expanse of Tahunaki Beach in Nelson. The beach seems to stretch on forever, and the beautiful turquoise ocean that accompanies it only completes the image of total peace and serenity. I have already spent many happy days here, basking in the sun after a rainy summer down south in Queenstown. It is a perfect place to sit and read a book, people watch, and generally enjoy yourself. The water is actually temperate enough to swim in; unbelievably refreshing after having the hot sun beat down on you. The beach is littered with interesting shells, often so perfect looking they appear fake. The shoreline looks like a graveyard for the hermit crabs that are unknowingly shaken from their cozy shell homes by rambunctious children or simply tossed out of them by the tide. Some of these crabs are still intact, tiny and broken amongst the kelp and sea foam, while others are merely dried-out shells of their former selves, brutally ravaged by the seagulls that scour the beach looking for their next meal. Small fish dart around your ankles in the shallow waters and barnacles line the walls of the raised motorway that accompanies the beaches side; there is life everywhere.

Posted by bgriffs 00:45 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

From Top to Bottom

Auckland to Nelson

I stayed at Lochiel Estates for three days while I plotted my next move. My pointless excursion to the North Island, complete with busses and planes, had left my pockets considerably lighter and my spirits considerably lower: I was experiencing what it was like to be homeless, jobless, and totally alone in a country very far from home. While I find the nomadic nature of traveling exciting and I love the anticipation of the unknown, I was looking forward to having a plan again. I decided that it would make the most sense for me to head to Nelson, a city at the top of the South Island, where I could see some people I knew and perhaps look for a job. I once again thanked Liz and Gary for their hospitality and caught a ride back to Auckland with their son Rob. I was on the move again.
I spent the night in Auckland at a hostel strategically placed close to the bus station, for the next day I was to catch a 7:35 AM bus that would take me from Auckland all the way down to Wellington. The ride would take the good part of 13 hours, and I had an arsenal of entertainment prepared: IPod, books, episodes of Friends on my laptop. After 13 hours of looking at farmland, I was relieved to pull into Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. Unfortunately I did not have the foresight to book a bed ahead of time and the city was currently stuffed with Christchurch earthquake refugees. This led to difficulty finding a bed, yet somehow also led to my staying in a hostel room completely alone. The likening of the room to a jail cell did not help the feeling of isolation I had been experiencing since I had left Lochiel Estates. They say you learn a lot about yourself when you travel; I have learned that I prefer not to travel alone. I missed the company of my former travel companion and friend Erika, who had left for home back in January when we were still in Queenstown. The foray to the North Island had been my first time traveling without her in New Zealand and I was considerably lonely.
The next morning I rose early and was greeted by a sunny Wellington morning. This, plus the knowledge that I would be in Nelson tonight, helped to raise my spirits as I hastily threw my things together and prepared to catch the shuttle that would bring me to the Interislander Ferry, the ferry service that connects the North and South Islands. I boarded the boat and left Wellington behind.
The Interislander Ferry goes from Wellington to Picton, and vice versa, in three hours. The journey is not long, but you would never know that by the number of things they have happening on the boat. There is a movie theatre, a food court, a lounge, and a kids play area. After experiencing a 13 hour bus journey with none of these amenities, I found it highly unnecessary for a 3 hour journey. Personally, I was content to sit on the outside deck, snap a few pictures, and read my book (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, for anyone who is remotely curious) for the duration of the journey. My favorite part of the Interislander experience was when we pulled into the harbor at Picton: you could see thousands of pale, eerie jellyfish floating in the water at the boat’s sides. Once off the ferry I learned that the next bus to Nelson wasn’t for several hours, and with this knowledge I settled myself beneath a large palm tree, basked in the sun, and waited.
Disgruntled though I was to find myself boarding yet another bus, I was relieved that my island-hopping was now over. In a few short hours I would be in Nelson and I could halt the nomadic nature of the past few days. I slept the jostled, uncomfortable sleep of a bus traveler as we sped towards Nelson, and I was relieved to receive a text message from my friend Alyssa offering her couch. After depositing my heavy bag on the floor, I thankfully took the glass of wine she offered me as I told her the tales of my travels. That night, stretched out and comfortable on the sofa bed, I slept the sleep of the content.

Posted by bgriffs 15:05 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

The Great Escape

After deciding that I could take the isolation and boredom no longer, I gave my boss a hasty excuse for my departure, packed my bags, and plotted my escape. I had no question to where I would go: Liz and Gary’s winery was not too far from where I was, and they had already graciously invited me back into their home. The only problem was getting there. There was no transport service from Glinks Gully to Dargaville, where there would be a bus to Whangarei. I knew my only option was to amble through the acres of farmland, laden down with my heavy backpack. So I shouldered my backpack of burden and on a Thursday morning around 8 am, I left the farming life behind after a mere three days. I feel no embarrassment in admitting I only lasted three days simply because the work was neither challenging nor interesting. I was not leaving because I had been bested; I was leaving because I was bored.
As I started my slow walk, I thought of the giant hill that awaited me around the corner. My backpack would surely hinder my ascent of such a large hill. As I was contemplating this, a man drove by on an ATV and made the kind of remark that no one carrying an extremely heavy bag cares to hear: “That looks heavy!” (Thank you, Captain Obvious). However, I quickly forgave him for his lame joke when he offered to give me a lift to the top of the aforementioned large hill. (I feel that here I should mention I am aware that hitch hiking can be extremely dangerous, and in many countries I would never even think to attempt it. However, many people I have met in my travels here in New Zealand have said that it is so easy and they have never had a bad experience doing so, so I decided to give it a whirl. Also, if anything were to happen, I’m pretty sure my backpack could knock out a grown man. There are a lot of books in the bottom). As we sped up the hill that I was so dreading, a new worry came over me: that I was going to simply topple off the back of the ATV due to the weight of the backpack that was strapped to me. I remained seated all the way to the top, though, and after thanking the stranger for his kindness, I continued plodding along the road to Dargaville. The walk was not completely unpleasant: the sun was shining, it was turning out to be a beautiful morning, and I had my IPod to listen to. As I trundled down the road I thought to myself how easy and pleasant that minute of hitch hiking had been. Not walking with my backpack sure beat walking with it. I decided that if another person were to offer me a lift, I would take it, mostly because at the rate I was walking, I was going to be in Dargaville by next Tuesday. Not even ten minutes after I made this decision a car pulled up and asked if I would like a ride. They were farmers and as we drove all the way to town they told me many stories about the area which I pretended to be very interested in, even though I wasn’t feeling particularly warmly towards the kumara-laden lands. Unfortunately, they gave me some unwelcome news: the bus I had been planning on catching from Dargaville to Whangarei was a work bus and only left at 7:30 AM, a time which had long since passed. I had planned on catching it at noon; the Internet had lied to me. This left me with only one option to get to Whangarei – hitch hiking. I would have to continue my possibly dangerous (yet gloriously free!) mode of transportation the whole way. After I was dropped on the other side of Dargaville, it was about 5 minutes before I was picked up again…people must feel sorry for a young girl who is carrying a backpack that is equal to her height and double her weight. This time it was a large milk truck that picked me up. The driver and I chatted about traveling for the 50 minute drive to Whangarei, and once I was deposited there I figured I would be able to find a bus. Though reveling in the awesome free transportation I had just experienced, I figured it was time to stop being a freeloader and get on public transport. (I also feel it should be mentioned that I literally hitch hiked from the west coast to the east coast at the top of the North Island in about 2 hours, using an ATV, a car, and a semi truck). I caught a bus from Whangarei to Kaiwaka, where Liz came to pick me up. The first leg of my journey was finally over and the kumaras were thankfully far, far away.

Posted by bgriffs 15:02 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Dargaville/Glinks Gully

Or, A VERY Brief Period In Which I Realize I Am Not A Farmer

The scenery is classic New Zealand: acres of rolling hills, lots of sheep, handfuls of cows, the occasional goat. The sun has just risen over the ocean, and instead of savouring the beautiful moment, I am grumbling, half-asleep, in a car that drives me towards a seemingly endless field where I am to spend the next 9 hours. Recently I had the bright idea to leave behind the comfortable, familiar life I had in Queenstown and move up north to pursue six weeks of vegetable harvesting. I can sense you rolling your eyes, and I understand why. I am not the kind of person that comes to mind when you imagine tractors and dirt. However, I have grown tired of a life in the hospitality industry; serving people is redundant and I was really looking for something to challenge me both mentally and physically. Hence the farming idea: long days of physical labour, good character building experience, good way to save money, you know the drill. However, what I was not counting on was the complete and total isolation that I was walking into.
Upon my arrival in Dargaville, I was excited about the prospect of living on the beach and doing a hard day's work. I was relieved that I did not live within Dargaville itself: the main attraction of the town is a large Warehouse (like our Wal-Mart) and Woolworth's (grocery store). The town itself is dusty and dull; I got the impression that no one in Dargaville really wanted to be there. I was certainly smug as we headed towards the beautiful beach house I knew was waiting for me (thank you, Google). Imagine my horror, when, I realized a terrible thing: there was no cell phone service anywhere near the house. (In fact, there was NOTHING anywhere near the house. It was a 20 minute drive from Dargaville, which barely counts) Don't get me wrong - I am not a spoiled child whose cell phone is basically another limb. I merely like being able to contact people whenever I please, and having this ability robbed from me so unexpectedly was a highly unpleasant experience. I was relieved to learn that there was internet access, but still, the loss of my phone was like a physical blow. Travelling alone in a foreign country very far from home, you grow dependent on things that link you to others.
Cue the first day of farm work. Kumara, the vegetable I was hired to harvest, is similar in texture and taste to our yam, differing in shape and color. The kumara is purple and varies in size and shape. In general, the kumara is a rather knobbly, asymmetrical vegetable, ranging from a crab-apple size to a rugby-ball size. Large harvesting machines pulled by tractors scour kumara fields, and it was upon one of these harvesting machines that I found myself, freezing in the wind, as I dug through the soil on the conveyor belt. Once a kumara was located, you were to free it from any impeding roots and mud (quite a difficult task when the ground was wet) and place it on a higher conveyor belt, where it plodded along until it was gently dropped into a large crate. So much for my physically and mentally challenging work ... I have never been so bored in my life. I didn't even have to walk! I just stood on the machine and got pulled around, like a child in a wagon. Due to the fact that there was no mental cognition involved in the work, I found myself daydreaming, and came to the conclusion that the act of extruding the kumara from the soil made me feel like I was in a Herbology class at Hogwarts (yes, I know, I'm a nerd). I also found myself pitying the earthworms that were clinging on for dear life to the soil which we were rapidly tearing apart with our hands. My fellow harvesters looked about as pleased with the work as I felt, although the grimaces on their faces may have been there because of the dirt and dust that was constantly being hurtled into our eyes.
After a day of this monotonous work, with me spending my breaks relishing the one bar of phone service I could get, we returned to the beach house. I was exhausted and the dirtiest I had ever been in my life. (The second day, I was smart enough to wear sunglasses to protect my eyes from flecks of dirt and dust, with the result being an almost tan line of dirt on my face.) Even the insides of my ears were dirty.
They say you learn something new every day .... I learned that I never want to be a farmer. And if I happen to see a kumara again, I just might hit someone in the face with it.

Posted by bgriffs 00:15 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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