Saturday, September 26, 2009

Moving on


So I've been in Waihi Beach for almost three weeks now!! Hard to believe it's been that long actually. It passed pretty quickly considering I was somewhat bored what with not having a car and town being a 40 minute walk away. And the boredom tends to lead to homesickness and the "why am I here?" questions. I've definitely been dealing with some culture shock/distance issues this week especially. And the rain didn't help. But all in all it was a nice break from the craziness of traveling, a great chance to test out my cooking skills (turns out I'm not so bad) and the family was really great. But I'm excited to move on!!

I will be leaving here on Tuesday to head back to Rotorua where I will catch the Stray bus. From there we head down to Taupo, sky-diving capital of New Zealand. I really want to sky-dive, but unfortunately I kinda need to save my money for food for the coming weeks. (But don't worry mom, I'll make sure I do it sometime.) The next morning, if the weather is nice, we will do the Tongariro Crossing. It's an 18km. alpine walk by/over/in the general vicinity of Mt. Doom. Or whatever the real name of the mountain is. It's supposed to be extremely beautiful. The conditions aren't safe at the top if the weather's off so I really hope it's nice so I get to do it.

That night we will stay in National Park. I don't really know what's there yet, but the next day we head to Wellington where I will stay and look for a job!!! I'm really excited to see Wellington as I didn't really see any of it the first time we went through because we got there late at night and left early the next morning. But most everyone I've talked to says it is a great city for young, creative people. The people are supposed to be very friendly and interesting (unlike Auckland) and the only bad thing I've heard about it is it's supposed to be very windy. "Windy Welly" they call it. So we'll see how it goes!! I'm really hoping to find a job as a barista in a cafe or something. That would probably be the easiest thing for me to get (since I've kind of spent some time doing it before :-)) and it's a great way to meet people.

So wish me luck!!! I'll keep you updated on my travels down to Wellington and my successes (hopefully) there!!

Love you and miss you all. Tons.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Waihi Beach Wwoofing

Hello! Just wanted to throw an update out there to let you all know that I'm doing alright! I'm still at the house in Waihi Beach where I'm wwoofing. I will be here till the 29th so a little less than two more weeks.

So far it's going well. The house is beautiful. They live up in the hills above Waihi Beach. They have a gorgeous view of the hills and the ocean. It's a pretty long walk to the town or beach from their house, but I think I might tackle it one of these days. David drove me down to the beach two days
ago on his day off and I spent a couple hours walking along and watching the crazy surfers, which was cool. The rest of the family, besides David, left on Monday for Australia and will be back next Friday, the 25th. It's been pretty quiet, but nice. Getting a little bored and running out of things to read, but hanging in there. Before they all left Karen (Donna's sister who basically runs the house) showed me around the town of Waihi Beach and Waihi (yes, they are separate towns.) Waihi Beach is tiny and there's not much to do besides walk along the beach. Waihi has a giant gold mine. Karen asked me if I wanted to go see the hole and I said "sure" not thinking it would be quite that big. I didn't have my camera with me, but it was huge. I guess they're planning to turn the hole into a lake when they're finished and they project it will take ten years to fill. I didn't think people still mined gold anywhere, but apparently it's still very profitable in New Zealand. She also took me to this pancake restaurant that was AMAZING. So I got a chance to get out of the house a bit before they left, which was nice.

Last night I cooked parmesan chicken and it was definitely a hit! David told Karen on the phone that she has some competition so she said I'll have to make it again for them when they get back. Too bad that's basically the only thing I can cook. But it is a good opportunity to try some more things out! Other than that I'm just doing some light cleaning and playing with the puppies!

The puppies are great. Their names are Jessie and Frankie. Jessie is the collie. Frankie is the white puff ball. They are both two-years-old and pretty darn cute. Frankie loves to play tug-o-war. He can be a bit much now and then and I love dogs so that's saying something, but when he calms down he can be pretty nice. We even had a cuddle session last night. But he does go from naught to agitated and loud in less than a second. Jessie is a sweetheart. She loves to play catch. They both seem to be pretty excited to see me every morning so I think that's a good sign.

So that's what I'm doing now! Sorry this isn't quite as exciting as the adventure-packed blogs I usually post! After this I will hop back on the Stray bus and head to Wellington where I will hopefully find a job and a place to live. But I will update again before I leave here!

Love, Laura

P.S. Sorry I can't really get more photos up here. They take FOREVER to upload on here. But I have more on Facebook so check there. Also, I will be happy to show all of them when I get back!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Waitomo Caves!

I forgot to write about the caves!! Geez!! I've done so much it's been nuts. On the way from Raglan to Maketu we stopped in Waitomo which is famous for it's caves. You can do something called black water rafting, but I just did a cheaper cave tour. We went thru one cave on a boat and looked at glowworms... awesome creatures that apparently are only in New Zealand and Australia, or these kind are anyway. We each got a helmet with a light on it and when we went into the cave we could only see a few of them. Then we turned off our lights and got in this raft and he took us down the river in the cave a ways till we got to this waterfall. We didn't go down the waterfall thank god. But by the time we got back up to where we started we could see thousands of glowworms on the ceiling and walls of the cave. It was so cool!!! Like looking at stars very far away. No pictures because it was dark, but they are supposed to send us some eventually.

The glowworms are awesome tho. They send down this little beaded, sticky string with a light on it. Bugs are attracted to the light and get caught on the string. Once they catch one I think they eat it and then they wrap themselves up in a cocoon and hatch later as a weird type of fly. And then I think they get eaten by other glowworms. Slightly cannibalistic, but really pretty. :-)

We went in another cave too, which was just a walking tour. There was once a river in that one as well (it's how the caves were formed: water eroding the limestone), but it hasn't run thru it for thousands of years. But there were awesome stalactites and stalagmites to see and a twenty thousand year old skeleton of the now extinct bird that preceded the kiwi!! Got some good pictures there (like the one at the top of this post.)

Sorry I forgot to insert this into my blog before!! Was just looking thru my pictures and remembered!! I'll try to get some of those up here. :-)

Love, Laura

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Northern Exposure

Hello everyone!!

Sorry it has been so long since I last updated!! Maybe it hasn't been that long, but I have been crazy busy!! I will attempt now to update you on everything I've done. Here goes.

I left Christchurch about a week and a half ago. From there we went to Kaikoura and I swam with dolphins! This wasn't like Seaworld swimming with dolphins so get that image out of your head. These were wild dusky dolphins. We got wetsuits and snorkels everything and went out in a boat to where the guides had located the dophin pod and there were tons jumping out of the water. It was beautiful. I'd never snorkeled before so I was a little nervous, but it was easy. You just slide into the water when they blow the whistle (to signal that the propellers were off) put your face in the water and sing. Yup. The dolphins are attracted to things that are dolphin-like and interesting, so if you swim with your hands at your side and make noise they come right up to you. There were about 300-400 dolphins in this pod. The guide said that for every one dolphin we saw jumping on the surface there were probably 4 underneath. And sure enough when we got in the water there were tons. A couple of times up to 4 would get within a foot of me and I'd freak out a little bit like "oh my god it's working!" but it was so amazing!!! I definitely want to go again sometime.

So that was Kaikoura pretty much. After that we went up and took the ferry across the Cook Strait to Wellington. We got there at night and left bright and early the next morning tho so I don't know much about Wellington other than the skyline is pretty. I am still thinking about settling there, but I wanted to get up and travel the rest of the north island first so that's why I left right away.

The next day we had a 10-hour ride to Auckland. That was terrible. I was so sick of the bus that even tho I wasn't particularly interested in Auckland I got off the bus for a day and hung around. Auckland is alright. Apparently it's the fourth biggest city in the world by land mass. Definitely not by people, but as many people live in Auckland as the whole of the south island (about 1.3 million.) The day I was there I walked around a bit, found an art gallery and some really pretty gardens near the university, but I figure if the gardens are my favorite part about the city, I probably don't want to live in Auckland. We'll see if this logic holds for Wellington, but everyone agrees Wellington has a much less industrial feel. It's supposed to be a hub of young people and creativity. But anyway, Auckland was okay.

The next day (Wednesday) I headed up on the bus to the Bay of Islands, which is the area north of Auckland. We stayed in Paihia for the night, which was a beautiful seaside town. Not much there, but I almost thought about staying there and looking for work. We went on a boat tour there that was included with the stray pass. It was nice but they promised dolphins and we didn't see any. I definitely got my fix already, but it was kind of a bummer for other people.

The next day we headed north to Cape Reinga which isn't actually the northern most point in New Zealand, but it is for tourists. You can actually see the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea collide and there was one of those signs there that points in different directions and labels how many km's to various world cities. It was pretty windy, but nice. Then we headed down Ninety-Mile Beach, which is actually more like 90km. We went sand-boarding which consists of lying on your stomach on a foam board and sliding down the hill, and digging your toes in to stop before you hit the stream. It was way fun. After that we actually proceeded to drive down the beach itself for about 70 km. Like on the sand. It was a little weird. I'm not sure how I felt about that environmentally, but apparently it is a legally recognized road. So there you go. But we saw Albatross (an unbelievably large bird) and wild horses on the beach. Pretty cool. We went back down to Paihia again that night.

The next day we went back to Auckland (yay.) But we left early the next day for Hahei, which is on the Coromandel Penninsula on the East coast. It's just a tiny beach town, but it was cool. It's famous for Cathedral Cove where portions of Prince Caspian (from the Chronicles of Narnia) was filmed. It was about a two-hour walk to Cathedral Cove. Well worth it. There was a huge arch in the rock you could walk thru. Very pretty. We also watched the full moon rise over the ocean, which was gorgeous.

The next day we went over to the West coast to Raglan, which is famous for surfing. I'm chicken, however, and trying to watch my money so I didn't go for the surf lesson. Plus there are tons of places to surf all over the country (and will be slightly warmer in summer.) We stayed in a hostel that was up in the hills tho so I didn't really see much of the city of Raglan, but had a nice relaxing day at the cabin-style lodging. We watched the sunset which was really nice. It's not often you get a group of twenty people who are usually loud and boisterous to sit quietly and collectively forget about the time, lost in the view. It was very serene.

The next day we went back over to the East coast to Maketu. I'm still not sure if there is actually a town called Maketu. I might have blinked when we went by, but the purpose of coming here was for a "Maori Cultural Experience," which turned out to be very cool. It was this old Maori guy called Uncle Boys who ran the place. They fed us as soon as we got there and then we watched a performance. They do traditional dances here called the haka (for men) and the poi (for women.) The All-Blacks (New Zealand's rugby team and a big fracking deal) do the haka before every game. I think it's a warrior challenge type thing. The poi is a cute dance about a ball on a string (called a poi) that was originally used by warriors to strengthen their forearms and fell out of use as the wars dies down and was picked up by women. Anyway, they taught us these dances and we performed them. It was cute and I got some of it on video I think. We spent the night in there traditional meeting house and Uncle Boys told us all about his tribe. It was really neat and interesting as I hadn't learned too much about Maori culture yet. It raised some more questions for me tho because I can't really figure out what their religion is about. They say they are very spiritual and he showed us their four gods, but they also seem to be very influenced by Christianity. I will have to do some more research and figure this out...

After that I took the bus to Rotorua and got off and took a regional bus to Tauranga where I got picked up by the family I'm wwoofing with!! Yes, I'm wwoofing. I'm not farming tho. Just house-sitting and taking care of two dogs. This woman (Donna) and her husband (David) live with Donna's sister and her two kids. Everyone but David is going on holiday to Australia for 11 days leaving David to run the business (a bookstore!) and needing someone else to watch the house and the dogs. I'm here now and will be for three weeks. It's a little odd living in someone else's house, but I think it will be a good chance to rest and relax after the craziness of traveling. Not to mention a good way to wait a bit for tourism season to start and the job market to pick up before I need to work.

So that's what I've been up to!! Sorry about the length!

Love you and miss you!!