the sulphuric smell of the town greeted me the moment I stepped down the bus. I had been thinking of cancelling the rest of my trip and change my plane ticket to return home earlier… but, WHAT WAS I THINKING?! how could I’ve possibly thought of not coming at least to Rotorua?! this magical place seems to have everything… but of course you need a month and thousands of dollars to do it all: from bouncing inside a ball, to getting a deep tissue massage; from riding the shotover jet, to riding a horse… all kinds of activities, for all kinds of people, of all ages.
Funky Green Voyager was going to be my new home for at least two weeks, and the long-termers and staff were going to be my new family.
I was introduced to them. the long-termers were Mark (England), Tom (N. Ireland), and Dave (Scotland). the staff were the couple Astrid and Kyle (managers, Germany and Canada respectively), Nick (manager, USA), Angela (cleaner, Canada), Andrea (cleaner, Germany), and Jack (cleaner whom I was replacing, USA). they all seemed to be a well formed group of friends, and though most of them were really nice from the beginning, I knew it would be tough to enter the group, specially if I was here to “fill” someone else’s place.
I got settled in my dorm, unpacking and using the lockers they provide (where you cannot really LOCK your stuff) to really feel at home. that night I met a Belgian couple that had been in Ahipara and had met Anna and Jeronimo (the Germans) as well.
the first day I went out to town, I had to see where things were: the great and very-loved op-shops, souvenir shops, supermarkets, three dollar shops and, of course, McDonalds.
on the way back to the hostel I was thinking I should buy some credit for my mobile and text Anna and Jeronimo to see where in NZ they might be… but I didn’t have to do that, the moment I walked in the hostel I saw their backs in the smoking gazebo… I really couldn’t believe it! I didn’t have to see their faces and they didn’t have to see mine, they knew it was me when I said “I was going to send you a text today”… Anna jumped and ran to hug me!
I was very happy to see them! I was not starting to work until Monday, so it was good to have someone I knew with whom to hang and do the touristy stuff in the meantime. and in fact, that night we went to The Polynesian Spa to get into some rotten-egg smelling hot pools… WONDERFUL (one of the good things of Rotorua is that you can fart and blame it on the town’s natural odours).
next day we went to Wai-O-Tapu to see all the geothermal pools. unfortunately, it was a crappy weather day, so besides getting soaked, we couldn’t really see the colours. it really is worth going, though! it’s beautiful!
Anna and Jeronimo filled me in with the Swedish’s (Robert and Sebastian) update… they had been in contact with Sebastian, in fact they had all stayed in Kerikeri at the same place where Chris and I did (where we met the Vanuatuans and Maori). they had stopped walking the Te Araroa Track and were now moving by bus or hitchhiking. apparently they were near Auckland now, so that meant they might come to Rotorua any time soon.
“oh! you should tell them to stay here if they come to Rotorua… I’ll probably be here for more than two weeks anyways” I said to Jeronimo, trying to sound as casual as possible.
the next days we took it easy. I started working from 10 to 12 every day, being the Mexican Cinderella. after work we just relaxed in the hostel or walked around town… we would play games at night with some of the guests and some of the staff. we met great people, specially Meredith from China and Laura from Germany, who would hang with us at night.
Anna and Jeronimo were looking for a place where they could stay and work, and on Wednesday they left to a private home they found near town. Meredith left that day as well to continue her travels in Taupo and Napier.
little by little I was blending in with the Funky Green family. on Thursday some of us went to celebrate Mark’s birthday. we started having a couple of beers at his work (the climbing wall) and then headed to The Brew.
the main plan was to end the night in a bar called Lava Bar, but it was around 1am, the birthday boy was a wee bit drunk, and we all decided to call it a night and just go home… and man, was I glad we did that… the moment I entered the hostel kitchen, the first thing I saw was Robert walking towards me saying something… I flung my arms around him with a loud “heeeey! good to see you again!”.
they had been waiting since a little after 10pm in the hostel to get a room. unfortunately, the office closes at 10 and they couldn’t find anyone. the good thing is that they asked for “Karen the Mexican” and that gave them immediate access to the facilities by one of the guests. but Sebastian left to find somewhere to sleep other than the common room of the hostel, and Robert then got a bed in my dorm… I couldn’t sleep that night, I guess I was just too excited of finally having him here.
next morning we both woke up pretty early, and he set off to the shops to buy stuff for breakfast. Sebastian arrived just in time for it. we talked and they filled me in their walking and non-walking adventures. then they waited in the hostel until I was done with my duties, and we went for a walk in town and along the lakefront. Robert was hyper, he couldn’t stop laughing or talking, he said he was just happy.
we met with Anna and Jero to have some lunch, and then we went to the hostel to hang and talk some more the five of us.
that night would be TACO NIGHT, and no, not Mexican style tacos… it was going to be the Swedish Taco Night, Robert would not even let me make the tortillas. they invited people to join in something like a trade “we cook, you just pay your share, we all have fun”.
so the three of us set off to the supermarket to buy all the stuff. I tried HARD to take over and cook as Mexican as possible, but I gave up with Robert’s stubbornness and they ended up buying their “Old El (fucking) Paso” shit. at cooking time all I did was the guacamole and I let them do their “tacos” (which were more like Tex-Mex burritos… with sour cream… yuck!), and I promised I wouldn’t bitch about them – hard task.
the night went smooth. we were all happy eating, talking, playing games… it felt really good to have them home. they are both helping all the time, having fun, bringing people together, being silly, or having great conversations… I didn’t want them to leave, ever… but I knew their policy, they don’t stay for more than two nights (maximum three) in one place. that meant I needed to make the most out of the few days we had together – and this time I was definitely getting an email address.
on Saturday again they waited for me to finish my chores, and then we walked to the drift karts to have a small race which Sebastian won. we walked back home through the park with hot pools (which you can only see, not touch), and we just relaxed in the hostel. Robert and I were together all the time just getting to know each other. that evening they decided to stay one more night! lucky me, I had yet one whole day to get to know him a little bit more.
on Sunday morning they went to the Redwoods to do a small hike while I worked. when they came back again we were just relaxing and playing games in the hostel. the days were very pretty, but I really didn’t feel like doing anything else than being with Robert. our time together was coming to an end and I still didn’t have his email address… that day we decided we would look for something to do together in another country. we both still want to travel, we want to work, and most importantly, we want to get to know each other. yes! I’m guessing this might come as a shock to my close friends that read this (if they read this)… apparently, I will no longer be travelling alone… I know it sounds crazy, but it feels right.
they left next morning quite early. I’m one of those persons that feels sad when saying goodbye to other people… surprisingly, I was not sad… in fact, I was happy (weird). again, I knew I would see him someday, and I knew that we both had to end this trip our own way before starting a new one together.
that day Anna and Jero came to visit. we went for a stroll in town, but I was just too tired and unable to talk much with them.
the next couple of weeks in Rotorua were cool, funny, bizarre, stressful… just a combo of emotions because A LOT of thing happened.
Meredith came back, and we went along with Angela and more people to Mount Maunganui with Mark.
Angela and Andrea were leaving on the 15th and invited me to join them on their road-trip, and I said yes… I would like to see more places, and specially say goodbye to my Kiwi family in Wellington.
I also met the owners (who were on holidays when I first arrived) and I was surprised of how nice they really are. I had created a very different image of them. the manager Astrid (who seemed to be bitching about everything, now that I think about it) would say horrible things of them and call them names as often as possible… I’m not sure if she meant them or if she was just trying to play the “cool manager” with a “I’m on your side” kind of crap… the worst part of this, is that the owners trust her with their business and probably have no idea that she speaks shit of them behind their backs… it makes me sick… honestly guys, if you have nothing good to say about other people it’s actually better if you keep your mouth shut!
it also happened that Astrid started to act super weird with us the cleaners. one day from laughing together and her being all hyper and almost stripping in the common room, she went to throwing things around and bitching later on on Facebook about HER being her only best friend… first I thought she was having marital problems, but then she would not come and hang with us in the common room. we then got told that she was upset because we didn’t invite her to the shops one day (a day that SHE was working). I think things got worse when the owner offered me to stay as a manager for the next three or four months (when the current managers left), and also the fact that he said in front of her that I have a better English than her… so, of course, she didn’t want to see me near her… hey! it’s not my fault that my English is better…
I seriously thought about the job offer… it would be a great opportunity to learn the art of hostel managing, especially if I wanted to have a hostel myself, and it would be a payed job (which was something I wanted in NZ long time ago). that being said, it meant that I would actually have money to continue travelling or at least that I wouldn’t go back home bankrupted. the tricky part was that I would have to apply for a visitor visa extension, and I had already been here three months, went out, came back again and was actually questioned about my motives for coming back; I would have to change my plane ticket, which was a big expense; though I wouldn’t have to pay for accommodation, but yes for food and stuff… so I was really, REALLY considering it. I asked Robert if he would come back to Rotorua for three more months and work here, and he said yes… but something didn’t feel right… Robert was not crazy about NZ, and I was already tired of being here. I needed chaos and less green. I wanted to travel with him but going forward, not going back. and though the thought of earning money was appealing, I had to follow my heart – as corny as it may sound. so I refused the offer, and continued my search for a place where we both could go.
so back to the plan of road-tripping with Angela and Andrea on the 15th.
I was absolutely getting along with everyone in the FG family – except, obviously, for Astrid.
Angela and I would spend hours together listening to good music and watching videos in the winter garden. Andrea unfortunately was not feeling very well, so she would usually be in her room. but we would all hang in the common room to talk, have beers, play games and be a happy family at night.
I used my Mexican-hippie skills to braid Andreas hair with coloured threads… then I found out that people charge like $30.00 for that… damn!
the owners invited us one night to have dinner at their place and watch the rugby match.
Andrea, Angela and I went to the Redwoods for a walk before leaving the city.
Angela and I had a terrible roommate, who we named Mr. Snores, for FOUR nights! a Malaysian guy that came with his girlfriend (who wisely asked for a “female” room, bless her) and was an openly snorer: “hello, my name is ‘Ching’ and I snore BIG TIME”… “hello Ching(atumadre)!”
we had to change rooms the last night after not being able to sleep the previous three nights… and his stupid girlfriend was stealing blankets from other rooms and changing dorms and beds as she pleased, without asking or even telling us that she had done that… so we had to guess if someone was using that bed, or not, and changing sheets… I just wanted to slap her!
when my days in Rotorua were coming to an end, I finally met someone that was going to Hobbiton and back to Rotorua… he was going in the morning, so I had to ask for permission to skip work… lucky for me, Nick (aka The Corndog, because he was calling me a beaner all the time) was working that morning, and let me go!
I would’ve definitely regretted going back home and not visiting Hobbiton, especially if I consider myself a good LOTR fan. I will not lie, it is FUCKING expensive, but TOTALLY worth it! the guides are super nice, the Green Dragon is awesome, everything looks ready for filming… just perfect!
Anna and Jero came to say goodbye on Saturday. and that night, our last night, the owners invited us to their house to eat pizza and say goodbye as a family… everyone was leaving soon. we (the three cleaners) were leaving next day, Kyle and Astrid like 3-5 days after us, Nick like 5 days after Kyle and Astrid… even the long-termers were leaving soon as well.
the next day we trained the new cleaners, packed our stuff, and went to the owners’ house once more to celebrate her birthday.
then, with a couple of pictures, saying thanks, and lots of kisses and hugs, we set off to our new adventure in the Tiki Love Bus…
Rotorua/Funky Green, we will miss you…