New Zealand [week 16]

I didn't take many photos during our sixteenth and penultimate week travelling around New Zealand, so this will be a shorty. Stay tuned for something more substantial next week.


We were supposed to leave Kaikoura on Sunday but completely failed to get a ride. After three hours standing by the side of the road, I swallowed my remaining pride and phoned our ex-host, who came and rescued us. She was lovely enough to let us stay another night and we caught a bus the following morning, after breakfast on the beach.


Because we arrived a day late, we had to condense our sightseeing tour of Nelson into a single afternoon. This included visiting a giant concrete needle claiming to mark "The Centre of New Zealand" which, very suspiciously, was located at the top of a picturesque hill. I did some research afterwards and learned the actual centre lies 22 miles away from the needle, in the middle of some anonymous bushland, inaccessible to everyone.


We also visited Nelson Cathedral, which was less of a total sham.


On Tuesday morning we left Nelson and made our way to a small farm on the outskirts of Richmond, where we spent three days working in the orchard, picking pears.


Our job was to track down the pears the professional pickers had missed during the main harvest, which had concluded the week before. This generally meant they were really hard to see or really high in the trees. Even so, we managed to fill about ten crates, not including the multitudes I ate myself.


The locals gave us a hand.


Hoping to grab some cheap lambs, our host took us to a livestock auction on Wednesday. The auctioneer spoke extremely quickly and reacted to the most subtle gestures from the audience of farmers which somehow constituted bids. It reached the stage where I was scared to cough or blink through fear of accidentally buying a pen of sheep.


On Friday we left the farm: our last helpx of the trip, and our last taste of employment for the foreseeable future.

New Zealand [week 15]

Cyclone Lusi briefly threatened to disrupt our passage to the South Island but ultimately came to nothing. We arrived in Picton unscathed before zipping down the coast to Kaikoura, where we spent the rest of the week.


The crossing was cold and grey and you couldn't see much, so I took a few obligatory scenery shots and spent the rest of the trip reading inside.


When we arrived in Kaikoura, it was colder and greyer still. The waves were amazing.


The clouds parted in time to reveal our dwellings for the next week: a bed and breakfast on a patch of farmland sandwiched between the mountains and the sea.


My main job was feeding the various animals every morning. Shadow the goat was happy to eat the most festering of scraps.


As was Sushi the pig, whose salivating mouth overflowed as he wobbled towards the pile of old lettuce, egg shells and teabags.


The ducks had an extreme fear of animals that weren't ducks, and an extreme love of pellets, meaning they were simultaneously terrified and delighted to see me invade their pen every morning. Their xenophobia was warranted as falcons are common and they're occasionally ambushed.


There were also three dogs, three horses, two alpacas and many chickens. 


Jobs like scooping up horse excrement are made a lot more tolerable by surroundings like this.


We found this washed up on the beach after the storm. I thought it might be a dolphin but apparently it isn't. Does anyone know what it is? Thanks.


Friday was Sam's birthday, so we did some awesome stuff to celebrate. The first was piloting a small plane, which is something you can do surprisingly cheaply in Kaikoura. To begin, we were given a short lesson on how planes work...


...then Sam was introduced to the controls. Like a driving instructor, the (actual) pilot had his own set to prevent Sam killing us all. To her credit, he didn't have to touch them once during take off, which I thought was quite impressive.


We had twenty minutes in the sky and it was brilliant. She was allowed to go anywhere she fancied (within reason, no landing at major international airports) and spent most of the time circling the peninsula.


Awesome.


After the flight, we spent a couple of hours exploring the peninsula on foot.


I've done this walk a couple of times before, most recently in October with my mum, but it's always great.


We had to carefully plan our route to avoid stepping on sleeping seals. Seals have big yellow teeth and are intimidating bastards when they want to be.


To round off the day, we had dinner at the fanciest restaurant in town, courtesy of Sam's mother, which was amazing. Sam was a lot happier with her lamb than she looks. Thanks Sam's mum!

New Zealand [week 14]

Week fourteen was our last on the North Island. We celebrated by travelling the entire length of the island from north to south, a journey of more than 1000 kilometres. I took too many photos along the way.


We began the week with a bus tour to the northernmost extremity of New Zealand: Cape Reinga. Being a huge travel snob, I felt slightly uneasy about the idea of going on a bus tour, but we'd been told by several people it was the best way to see the cape. Sure enough, it ended up being quite good.


The trip began with a long drive up Ninety Mile Beach, a wide, montone stretch of sand with more cars and buses driving along it than many of New Zealand's actual roads.


At the end of the beach emerged Te Paki sand dunes, where we were given toboggans and bodyboards to play with for half an hour. I managed five slides.


Next stop was Cape Reinga itself. The road stops just short of the cape and visitors must trudge the final kilometre or so on foot. The coastline was stunning.


Cape Reinga is where the Tasman Sea (the body of water between New Zealand and Australia) meets the Pacific Ocean. The swirling teal whirlpools beyond the lighthouse mark the collision zone, which apparently gets a lot more dramatic on stormy days.


On the return leg we stopped briefly at Houhora, a secluded harbour with flat, crystal clear water.


Back at the farm, life continued as before. We spent time weeding, painting, rearranging firewood and stacking hay bails.


Great face.


Bonding.


We were taught how to herd cows using dogs and various machines.


Then we got to play on the machines around the paddock.


Our time at the farm was cut short by a close friend of our hosts falling seriously ill. They were kind enough to invite us to stay with another family friend for a few nights instead. Our new hosts - expats from Nottingham - owned a small block of holiday apartments by the sea on the Karikari peninsula.


We were given a few easy jobs in exchange for a cabin less than a minute's walk from the white sand beach, where we spent all our free time.


It was bloody nice.


Their dog had the flattest back I have ever seen and we were quick to exploit this.


We finally began our long migration south on Wednesday, beginning with an epic six-car, seven-hour hitch to Auckland. There were times between rides I wasn't sure we'd make it and I was completely elated when we finally did.


Hungover, we caught a bus to Wellington early the next day. The trip lasted twelve painful hours.


And so we arrived back in the city we started ten weeks ago. The North Island is sometimes badmouthed by South Islanders for having "too many people" or "too few mountains" but this only goes to show how completely spoiled this country is in both regards. The North Island is amazing and we've had an unforgettable time here.

New Zealand [week 13]

In contrast to the craziness of the previous seven days, week 13 couldn't help but feel a little subdued. This wasn't a bad thing: idleness felt great after almost a month of constant movement. The real victims here are you, the readers, for having to endure this account of it.


Our hosts disappeared to Auckland for the weekend without leaving us any work to do, which was fine by us. Pictured is one of the amazing gardens we shared with the other cottages.


We spent a fair amount of time watching TV. Sam introduced me to "Summer Heights High", a brilliant Australian comedy series, and I introduced her to "Andrew Marr's History of the World", which has Andrew Marr in it.


Feeling slightly guilty about our inactivity, we decided to leave the cottage and track down some local waterfalls we'd been told about. After nearly two hours of walking we reached the first, which was a bit modest.


The second was a proper waterfall. I'm obsessed with swimming outdoors so despite the fact it was an overcast day and the water was as freezing as it was opaque, I plopped in anyway. I made it to the waterfall and onto the slippery rocks behind it, which offered a unique and loud perspective of the falls.


Our hosts returned and we did some more painting before setting off to our next helpx down the road in Kaitaia. Described by one of our hitchhike drivers as "Kerikeri's poor cousin", Kaitaia doesn't have much going for it except for being exceptionally far north (type Kaitaia into Google maps). Luckily, our new hosts live just outside town on a cattle farm, where we will reside for the next week.


Sam and Tess (here they say "Tiss") the dog.


After months of putting it off, I finally applied for my Australian visa yesterday. I had been putting it off because I didn't want to spend $420 on anything, least of all a document allowing me to enter a country my country used to own. Fortunately it was approved almost immediately, which took the edge off the trauma. I'm going to Australia!