Funky Green Biatches

after living and working in Rotorua for a while, the three cleaners of the Funky Green Voyager decided to go out and “explore the world”.
my coworkers had been there for three months already, I had only been there three weeks… yet my time in NZ was coming to an end and I thought I should still travel yet a little bit more and try to get to Wellington to say goodbye to my Kiwi family.

we started our trip heading to Taupo along with Nick (who had now a romance with Andrea), and we stayed there at the Blackcurrant Backpackers for one night.

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next morning we said goodbye to Nick, he had to go back to Rotorua and then he and Andrea were going to travel in Australia for some months, so Andrea wanted to see as much as possible of NZ as well.
we then toured around the city, especially at the lakefront and then headed directly to Napier.

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we had another job for accommodation waiting for us in Napier, this time for the owner of the Stables Lodge Backpackers. this hostel was mainly inhabited by longtermers working in the area. I cannot really say I felt at home there, maybe the fact that my time was running out made me antisocial, but I really didn’t feel like making new friends and the place was not appealing to me either (not that it’s not nice, it’s just not my style).

we started working the next day. we had to work three days from 11 to 5 and that would give us six nights at the hostel. the owner picked us up and took us to her house where she has horses, a cute dog, citrus trees, and a veggie garden among other things. we had to do some gardening chores. at lunchtime she found out I was Mexican and asked me if I knew how to make flour tortillas, and I proudly answered YES (thank you Shireen). she asked me if I could teach her how to make them next day in the morning before going for a horse ride.

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so the next day I was sent directly to the kitchen to show her how to make tortillas, but she had to go here and there, so I just made them and wrote down the recipe and cooking method for her. when she finally came back, she was happy with all the tortilla making, and – to make me feel like a TRUE Mexican maid – she then asked me if I could wash her car in the afternoon after we came back from the horse ride.

Nugget

Nugget

before we left she asked me if I could cook a Mexican dish for them to have next day for dinner, so again, the Mexican maid would be present.

so my last day of work I spent it in the kitchen. I was really looking forward to doing some outdoor chores that involved physical labour, but nothing… I was indoors all the time, standing in the kitchen…

the rest of the days in Napier were slow and I was not really feeling very well, so while Andrea and Angela went out to town to walk and shop, I would stay in the hostel skyping, writing, or baking bread…

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the day we left Napier we headed first to Temata Peak, near Havelock North, to take a view of the area from above.

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then we went to the longest place name in the world

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we ended up in Dannevirke, the “Viking” city of New Zealand, looking for a place to stay, but no luck… so we drove all the way to Palmerston North to spend the night there.

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the tiki love bus

next morning we went to Mangatainoka to visit the Tui brewery. if you are not familiarised with this beer, well, let me tell you that it’s not NZ’s best but the advertisement sure is! Tui is promoted through a humorous advertising campaign which uses stereotypes, heavy irony and the phrase “Yeah Right”. these advertisements have caused some controversy, such as a billboard stating “Camilla for Queen? Yeah Right” and one stating “Aucklanders are people too. Yeah Right”. others to have made the news include “Dad’s new husband seems nice – Yeah Right” and “I nvr txt whl drvn – yeah right” among others. the brewery has a huge magnetic billboard where you can put whichever phrase you want making your own “Yea Right” Tui ad… the result:

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after our little fun time we went to Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre to finally see some living kiwi birds (not like the dried ones in the museums).

Angela and Andrea trying to get the perfect shot

Angela and Andrea trying to get the perfect shot

and then all the way to Wellington where I was dropped off at my Kiwi Family’s house.

my adventures with my Funky Green Co-Biatches came to an end. we would still see each other in Wellington the next days, but soon Andrea would leave for Australia, and I would leave the country in a little less than two weeks as well… I will miss them for sure, it has been fun!

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more northland

I left Ahipara on Monday, August 12th.
Riah gave me a ride to the hostel where Chris had stayed in Kaitaia. and with a big hug, we said goodbye.

I had booked the Harrisons Cape Runner tour for that day along with a night in the hostel. when I arrived there, two other girls were doing the same: checking in for one night, doing the Cape Reinga tour, staying in room number six. their names: Cally (from South Africa) and Sara (from USA).

we hopped into the bus, which was full of cute, older people. most of them part of a group of friends from Wellington.

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we started the tour stopping at Ancient Kauri Kingdom, a coffee shop with lots of souvenirs and Kauri wood stuff… FYI Kauri trees are the largest (by volume) but not tallest species of trees in New Zealand, standing up to 50m tall in the emergent layer above the forest’s main canopy. It has been estimated that before 1840, the kauri forests of northern New Zealand occupied at least 12,000 square kilometres. today, there is only 4 per cent of uncut forest left… SAD!
after this, the tour took us to Houhora Heads, a very small town mostly occupied by people living in trailer homes.

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then they took us to Rarawa Beach… a beautiful place that might be super cool for camping in summer!

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then we had the biggest ice cream ever in Te Kao before arriving to Cape Reinga.

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The name comes from the Māori word ‘Reinga’ that means ‘Underworld’, referring to the belief that the cape is the point where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld. it’s also the point where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet.

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we then had lunch at Tapotupotu Bay, where a group of dolphins was waiting for us riding the waves.

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we headed after this to Te Paki Stream & Sand Dunes, where obviously the only ones to do tobogganing where us three… we had SO much fun!

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and then to ride along the Ninety Mile Beach in the bus from north to south.

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we returned to the hostel and the three of us decided to go have something to eat and buy some wine for the night… the night went smooth with some card games and talks… they invited me to join their roadtrip, and that was good for me because they were going south to Auckland through the west coast, and I really wanted to see that. so I agreed, thinking that maybe I could get dropped off at a very nice beach.

next morning we woke up very early to leave Kaitaia.
we drove all the way to Kohukohu to take the ferry, but we missed it by two minutes, so we returned to the town to try and use the library’s wifi… but oh surprise… no wifi.
so we just sat there relaxing for a couple of minutes and then we went back to the port to hop on the ferry.
I had three options to be dropped off at: Opononi, Omapere, or Dargaville.
I thought of staying on Omapere because it seems beautiful, but since we drove past it to get to the “Labyrinth Woodworks, Maze & Puzzle Museum”, I thought it was too much driving for the girls to take me back, and I really wanted to see this huge Kauri tree called “Tane Mahuta”… so I told them that I would stay in Dargaville instead… though I had the feeling it was going to be a VERY boring town…

so, we saw the maze place first. to be horribly honest, I would’ve saved those four dollars for a good pie or something… it’s not worth going… it’s not even a maze! it’s just a zigzag thing where you cannot even get lost…

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we then drove to Tane Mahuta… it’s a very short walk, but it is pretty amazing to see a tree that size! Especially after knowing that they are sort of extinct because they used them all for construction and other things.

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after this I got dropped off in Dargaville… and as I thought, it was a town with nothing interesting (there’s not even a McDonalds!!!)…
I went to the Greenhouse Backpackers, which used to be a school where the current owner attended… I asked Daren (the owner) if there was someone else staying here, and he said that there was only this guy called Bruno… I froze… “Bruno?” I asked… “yes, he’s a Maori guy that is selling his book”… “whaaat?! I’ve met this guy in Auckland! and I’ve met his daughter in Kerikeri!” and sure thing, Tuhoe “Bruno” Isaac was in the dorm, and of course he recognised me and greeted me happily telling me that he had seen Whai, and that she told her we met!

I went out to town – first to the library to use the wifi and tell mom and dad that I’m still alive, then to grab something to eat, and then to the supermarket to buy some things for dinner.

then I just relaxed in the hostel. writing, and talking a little bit with Bruno and with this other older guy called Willy, who is originally from Croatia. the evening passed, and I finally bought Bruno’s (very expensive) book… I thought our “friendship” history gave me the right to have a long and beautiful dedication and autograph along with our picture taken… but all I got was:

To Karen ch... Tuhoe Isaac Best Wishes 13/8/2013

To Karen
ch…
Tuhoe Isaac
Best Wishes
13/8/2013

damn! after all we’ve been through…

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next morning I took the shuttle to arrive in Whangarei and went directly to the YHA… I still had to kill some time to go serve in the Meditation Centre a week from that day (on the 21st), and I still needed to figure out how the hell I was going to get there…

I wrote a text message to Paul the Dutch to see if he was still living there, and he told me that Chris had arrived that day and was staying with him. in the hostel I met this really cool girl from England called Emma, with whom I went to the supermarket and had dinner back in the hostel.

next day I met with Chris. we walked around town and then decided to go up the mountain, where the YHA is, to the lookout… but stopped in the hostel for a cup of tea. there we met a Maori guy called Chazz who offered to take us up in his car. we walked down and went to Paul’s house, where Chris was going to cook dinner for him and his flatmate. So the four of us were hanging, having some wine, talking, and eating… fun times!

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on Friday I got picked up by John, my kiwi mom’s brother… or in other words, my kiwi uncle… I was going to stay with them (John, Shireen, and Patrick) in their beautiful house in Ngunguru until the meditation course started.

my time with them was happy and relaxing. uncle John took me on a rowboat to the beach the day I got there, we went to see Patrick play football on Saturday, I cooked Mexican breakfast on Sunday and then went for a walk to the lighthouse on Kukutauwhao Island and a visit to the beach in Matapouri.

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Kukutauwhao Island

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the following days I basically stayed at home. I was getting tired of travelling and spending so much money. I thought of changing my flight to go back home when the meditation course ended, but the “penalty” for changing dates was something around NZ$300… so I decided I’d better spend those dollars in something worth visiting… and besides, I was already in this part of the world and I would definitely regret not visiting more places once I got back home.
I gave up on serving in the meditation course as well. it was just difficult to get there without a car. I needed to go to Auckland to take another bus that would drop me on a town between Auckland and where I was now… just stupid… instead I found a job opportunity on the BBH website: Rotorua’s Funky Green Voyager needed a cleaner in exchange for accommodation, wifi, and laundry… “well, I’ve never been to Rotorua… from there I might be able to go to Hobbiton! ooh! and get into one of those stinky hot pools!… and just for cleaning? bitch please! I’m THE Mexican maid! ok… I’m calling them NOW”… I got accepted immediately, they had just posted the ad when I called, so I took it as a sign… I even got a free bus ticket from a Brazilian guy that is now in Spain and is definitely not using his “nakedbus passport” with seven trips left… everything was set… I was arriving in Rotorua on Friday, and even my uncles let me stay with them until that day! Orsome!!!

so I just relaxed and enjoyed the days in beautiful Ngunguru with this beautiful family! I cooked a Mexican dinner for my uncles and their neighbours. Shireen gave me a recipe for making TORTILLAS… that’s right, an English woman teaching a MEXICAN this! outrageous!

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on Thursday I went to visit another kauri tree, his name: Tane Moana. it turned out that this small walk is part of the Te Araroa Track that the Swedish were walking… so before going there I did the math in my head and I thought that I was right on time to meet them face to face in that forest… if that happened, I don’t know what I would think or do… I was breaking with my meditation vows of not generating new cravings, but for some reason I could not stop thinking of that cute, very blonde guy…
of course, I didn’t meet anyone, and I didn’t hear anything other than the pīwakawakas that were around me… the meditation “guru” in my head said “see, I told you… now you feel miserable because your craving turned out to be just that, a craving”… and although I did have my hopes high, I didn’t feel miserable like my imaginary teacher said… I knew I would see him again, though the fact that they are WALKING made things very complicated in times and stuff…

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I said goodbye to the family that night, and next morning Shireen took me to the bus stop in Whangarei.

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the shortest marriage

Chris and I had prepared a couple of cardboard signs to start our hitchhiking adventure with a little sense of humour… so this is what we had to show our possible drivers:

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we were standing on a crossroad near the exit to the motorway… we walked there and stood for about 20 min when our first driver stopped.

her name is Susan, she saw us standing there, read our signs and decided to come back for us. she did not have to go to Whangarei or any other place other than her house in Auckland. and still she picked us up, and drove all the way to Warkworth.
she was ONE CRAZY CHICK! in the good way… she was all hyper turning the volume up with every song, laughing and saying that everything was a sign or a good omen… simply nuts!

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pink: Susan

in Warkworth we got picked up by Peter, a guy that lives in Whangarei. again we only had to wait for 20 min. he was a very nice guy, interested in what we are doing in NZ and stuff. he dropped us off at the iSite where Sophie (the German girl from Auckland) was waiting for her bag to arrive.

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green: Peter

we got picked up by the owner of the hostel where we were going to stay. there we met Paul, a very fun Dutch guy that is working in Whangarei. we were all in the same room. that night, after dinner and joking that we were like a married couple (though we were just beginning), we just had beers and played some card games.

next morning Sophie appeared, she switched hostels and was given the extra bed in our room. so the four of us went to see the waterfall and walk a little bit along the forest. we then went to the supermarket to buy stuff to have a BBQ at night.

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honeymooners

honeymooners

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Paul went to rugby training, we got into the hot tub, and I got a message from Flavia saying she had a campervan until sunday so she was coming our way.

when Paul came back we had our BBQ with some nice beers.

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then Flavia arrived, we had some more beers with her, and then went to sleep… or did we…
it turned out that Paul and Sophie hooked up with a terrible teenager strategy that actually worked!!! she was complaining of having the upper bunk, so she simply went into Paul’s bed telling him she was not moving… I thought that was pretty lame, but after they were both in the same bed, we just started listening to this smacking and saliva sounds… very inappropriate! I did tell them that there is a big, heated, and lonely common room where they could go, but they didn’t reply… at least they stopped making sounds… for a while… at around 4 am I heard Chris telling them off because he couldn’t sleep…

next morning the five of us went to have breakfast… and then we left Paul with his new girl to take Flavia to the falls, and hit the road.

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we drove mostly along the coast, stopping every now and then to take pictures, see a beach, have coffee or a cigarette… until we reached the town of Russell and stayed at a holiday park for the night.

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Russell

next morning we had breakfast at the beach, and then crossed on the ferry to get to Paihia. we stopped there to take a look around and then continued to Kerikeri were we got dropped off at Aranga Backpackers and said goodbye to Flavia.

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orange: campervan route

orange: Flavia

we stayed in Kerikeri for a whole week, a result of our indecision of how and where to go next and the shitty weather.

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we did some walks around the area, seeing the Rainbow Falls, the Maori village and the old English houses.

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the hostel was packed with people mainly from the Pacific Islands. men and women from Vanuatu, Tonga, Kiribati, and some Maori were living there for the fruit picking season. there were also some Germans that had jobs in the area.
it was a funny hostel because we were all divided by ethnic groups: from hut 1-7 Vanuatuans, 8-9 Asian, 10-11 Europeans (or white butts), 12-14 Kiribatians, 15-24 Maori girls and others not working in farms, 41-76 Tongans and Maori boys… and the rest, who knows…

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we immediately made friends with everyone.
the Vanuatuans were shy but very, very friendly. my favourites: Manuel, Kevin and Douglas.
the Maori guys were just amazing, open and friendly… and you won’t believe this, but remember I told you about the Maori guy selling his book? well, his daughter Whai was living there!
and my favourite German was Timo.

Manuel

Chris and Manuel

on the back: Douglas and Kevin

on the back: Douglas and Kevin

Jordan and Jesse

Jordan and Jesse

Whai

Whai

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Timo

we were playing cards almost every night, drinking a lot of wine because is cheaper than beer, cooking amazing German and Mexican meals, I gave a haircut to Timo and Whai, and I got a marriage proposal from Manuel… yes! first time in my life… and he was insisting A LOT!

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so after a week we decided to leave, and Timo had offered us a ride to Whangaroa because he was going near there.

yellow: Timo

yellow: Timo

Whangaroa was a dream! a very small town with literally NOTHING, but just beautiful! I wanted to stay there forever. and the backpackers, one of the prettiest I’ve seen.

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we said goodbye to Timo, and then walked around town.

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next day, our marriage dissolved abruptly… for some reason Chris was ignoring me and being a complete dick, and sadly it was affecting me terribly. after being so close this past two weeks, we now were acting like complete strangers…

I started stressing out because I didn’t know what was going to happen with the rest of the Northland trip. I was not going to hitchhike by myself, so I needed him… but why would I want to continue travelling with a person who is being a jerk? that night I confronted him, but like a teen girl he said “nothing”… “fine!” I thought, I’m definitely NOT going to beg for his attention.

next day I talked to the manager, a very sweet french girl called Oceane. I asked her about the bus or other means of transportation to get to Ahipara (where Whai is from), and after telling me what my options were, she said that she might be going to 90 Mile Beach on Thursday, so she could probably give me a ride to Kaitaia.

I confronted Chris again that day, telling him that if I do not get a ride, he cannot leave me hitchhiking by myself. he agreed… he would come with me to Kaitaia and there we would split, but he also wanted to stay in Whangaroa for a couple more days. when Oceane told me that she was going I felt a relief that I would no longer have to be with Chris… but in he end, he decided he wanted to come as well… bugger…

next morning we were friends again… like if nothing had happened. Oceane gave us a lift telling us what was cool in every town we crossed… a great travel guide!

blue: Oceane

blue: Oceane

I had contacted a host from Couch Surfing in Ahipara, so I was going to meet her in Kaitaia that afternoon, and Chris needed to find a hostel. so, like old times (or more like two days ago) we went together to find a hostel, leave our stuff, and go find something to eat. then he came with me to meet my host Riah, and we said goodbye with a big, big hug… not knowing if we would ever meet again…

total time of marriage: 15 days

the hard goodbyes

we arrived in Queenstown again on Thursday evening.
I had booked the nights left at The Flaming Kiwi to go back where I had made friends before, and in fact, the first people I saw were Yin and Alex.
Yin had been touring around Queenstown and it’s surroundings, and on Friday she was going to try the burgers at Fergburger (everyone I’ve met that has been to Queenstown talks of this burgers as “the best ever”), so I told her I would join her to try them as well.

then I went with Jon to find him a hostel because The Flaming Kiwi had no beds left. he stayed at another at the end of the road, but just for the night, because next day he was starting to work for accommodation at the X-Base Backpackers.

Joel came home after work and we cooked some dinner for the both of us. again, we were back in our little routine of cooking and watching movies all night.

next day I went with Yin to have lunch at Fergburger… Jon had told me they were a little bit overrated, but to be honest, they ARE very good… I didn’t find any exaggeration on people’s description of them… we shared a “Southern Swine” (beef, bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, avocado, aioli, and tomato relish) and a “Little Lamby” (lamb – sorry Lamberto -, mint jelly, lettuce, tomato, red onion, avocado, aioli, and tomato relish)… they were incredible!

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of course, after that, we were about to have food coma, so we decided to walk a little bit on the lakeside.

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we found a playground and stopped there to sit on the swings… I’m guessing its been like 10 years since I’ve swung myself on one of this things… it was a great feeling to do it… though I almost puked…

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we then met with Jon and Cam (the Canadian) to have ice cream and talk some nonsense.

back in the hostel I waited for Joel to come from work to go buy groceries. we decided to cook some Mexican tacos, and I have no idea how I managed to eat them after the gross lunch I had… but I did… and of course, I had food coma again.

next day we didn’t do much… we walked around town, then visited Jon in his new home to say hi and give him back some of his stuff (yeah! like a divorce), went to do more groceries, cooked dinner and watched more movies.

Sunday, my last day in Queenstown… I woke up pretty sad because of it… I had now a routine and friends to hang with here in Queenstown… though it’s still not my favourite New Zealand city, and I wouldn’t live here unless I got my dream job or something super special, I still got some sort of feeling of “belonging” which I totally attribute to the fact of having many friends in such a small area.

so, Jon came to visit and to take the rest of his stuff from the car. we talked a little bit, hugged a lot, and said our goodbyes (briefly because he had to go to work)… I’m going to miss him A LOT… Mr. Pee-Pee is now a very important part of my life… this two weeks traveling together we’ve experienced all kinds of emotions and lived all kinds of experiences: from stress to peace, angry to happy, bizarre to ordinary, but above all we had a lot of FUN! we were like a 60 year-old married couple, in fact, several people we met along the way asked us if we were together haha… we argued, agreed, and disagreed like such, all the time!

I then said my goodbyes to Joel… again, hugging a lot… I am going to miss him too, in a very different way than Jon, but still a lot… we got very close in very little time, and he’s of course a very important part of my life too… we said we might see each other again, if Joel finds a car in the next few days, it is possible that he might ride to Christchurch where I will be the next couple of weeks… we’ll see what happens… but, goodbye for now… to both…

the big loop

Jon and I started the second part of the road trip heading towards the Catlins.

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we decided to go this way because apparently the weather was going to turn bad and the Catlins is a place you want to visit with shiny sun in order to see all the beautiful places it has… FYI the Catlins is sort of a national reserve where few people leave and is mainly composed by farms, but it’s got different spots to visit such as waterfalls, beaches, the slope point (southern most point of the South Island), the petrified forest, penguins, seals, shipwrecks, etc.

so we drove from the hostel to Balclutha taking as many scenic roads as possible… I was driving, and after Balclutha we started seeing signposts of towns we had already passed… something was not right… when I told this to my “copilot” he just said “feels like we are going in circles, doesn’t it?” haha and since Jon has proved to be lousy reading maps, it was certainly a fact that we were lost… again… we had to U-ey… again… but no harm done, we just lost like an hour with this detour (maybe less) and got back on track.

236 km

236 km

I think we were both tired, or just not really in the mood for doing any touristic stuff, because we did not stop in all the spots the Catlins has.

we got there and drove through all the exits and just detoured to see the Purakaunui Falls.

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then we drove again stopping maybe a couple of times to take pictures of the landscape, but not really caring what was out there.
we got to a village called Papatowai where we stopped for some petrol (just in case) and where we searched for a gypsy caravan that Architect Tim Heath (from Dunedin) recommended we stop to take a look at what this guy creates… but unfortunately it was closed… for winter (though it was still Autumn).

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back in the car again… we now started looking for a place to stay. it was getting dark and we were getting tired.
we stopped at a place called Penguin Paradise Holiday Lodge at a village called Waikawa.

93 km

93 km

it was a small place with a kitchen, dining room, lounge area, and two bedrooms in what seemed to be a house once upon a time; one washroom, laundry, toilet, and another bedroom in what seemed to be a renovated/new area of the original house; and another little cottage outside with four beds; a quite big but forgotten garden; and a big parking lot.
there was a French couple staying in one of the rooms, but I think we were all minding our own businesses so we didn’t interact much with them.
there was a phone inside the house that we had to use to call the owner and tell her we were staying there for the night. she doesn’t live in that house, but she obviously lives near by because when we called her she said she would come later in the night to charge us.
the house was very complete, the kitchen had almost every appliance and tool to cook with, a fireplace with logs, games and books, she had pictures of the places in the Catlins, and maps, and pamphlets of different attractions in New Zealand… the whole thing (the small house in the Catlins) made me realise how much I would like to have something like this!

the owner came. she is a beautiful Japanese girl with awesome greenish eyes. she told us what was around to visit, and made us feel at home. when I told her about her eyes (that I’ve never seen a Japanese with that eye colour) she said that it IS very strange, and that when she was a kid her friends in Japan would tease her saying that she ate more bread than rice… so cute!

that night we just cooked dinner and went off to bed.

next morning we set off to explore the Catlins (this time for real).

83 km

83 km

first we went down to Curio Bay where the petrified forest is. I had no idea what to expect, I was imagining all petrifaction possibilities: on a cliff, on the floor, standing, laying… it’s funny to get there, see it from above and see logs lying on the rocks, get closer, touch the brown log and find that it is in fact, petrified… the colour and texture are of real wood, and when you touch it it’s another sensation than the one your mind originally had for you.

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then we drove to Slope Point, or the southernmost point of the South Island. it is right inside a sheep farm, so you need to be careful not to step on sheepshit and also take in consideration that due to farming stuff this area is closed all September and all October.

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on the way (in or out) you can see some windswept trees and get an idea of how hard wind blows there.

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and then we drove out of the Catlins into Invercargill.
we stopped at a McDonalds to have some of its free wifi, and why not, have a hamburger too… but, well, money is not your best friend while you travel, you need to spend as less as possible and get as much as you can… and that’s what we did, by ordering this:

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yeah… puke!

we didn’t tour around Invercargill. after eating we went to the supermarket and off towards Te Anau.

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165 km

we stopped at several places to take pictures and admire the landscape.

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we reached Manapouri, and since it was getting dark, we decided to stay there at a hostel that seemed really nice: Freestone Backpackers.

the place is brilliant! it’s a whole piece of land on a mountain. there’s the main house at the top, where the owners live. they have the office there too and a computer with internet, also, that’s the wifi area.
this guys built several huts all around their land, and they have all kinds of rooms (for couples, for groups of friends, and dorms). every room has a little stove and sink. there’s a common hut on the bottom of the hill with showers, toilets, laundry and a fridge… that was a little bit inconvenient… if we fancied a cup of tea with milk, or a piece of bread with cheese, we had to walk all the way down to get the milk, or to get the cheese… if only they had mini fridges inside the huts, the place would be perfect!

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being there and seeing the family that owned the place just fed my idea of having my own backpackers someday.

we shared our room with two other French guys that were leaving very early to do the Milford Sound tour. we cooked dinner, had a little chat with the French, and then off to bed.

next morning we toured a little bit around Manapouri, then drove to Te Anau where we stopped to ask for information in the iSite.

92 km

92 km

Manapouri

Manapouri

Te Anau

Te Anau

we decided to do halfway to Milford Sound just to get to the mirror lakes to make it quick and drive during daylight back to Queenstown.

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and Queenstown greeted us like this:

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240 km

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overall we made a big loop from Queenstown to Queenstown.

910 km

910 km

the great zigzag

my road trip with Jon started one Sunday evening.
we weren’t sure where to go first… we thought of passing through Akaroa and then drive towards Timaru to spend the night there, but the guy from the car rental company suggested we go towards the lakes (inland Canterbury) because it would take us 3 hours driving to and out of Akaroa and then a couple more hours to get to Timaru, when driving directly to Lake Tekapo would take us 3-4 hours.

so that’s what we did in the end, and since we needed to get to Queenstown to a party on Saturday, apparently we had a LOT of time to wander around before getting to our first final destination.

225 km

225 km

it would be my “second” time driving and Jon’s first. I had been in Chch for a little over a month which meant I knew the city a little bit better, so I was the one in charged of taking us out of it.

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I was so tense… and the steering wheel was not aligned so we had to hold on harder bending it a little bit to the right… the weather was not helping either, a storm had started so it was raining quite heavily.

we got to a small town called Ashburton where we filled up the food stack and switched places in the car… bad idea (Jon is going to hate me for this if he reads it)… I was panicking… not that I am Fittipaldi or anything, but a 23 year old KID driving for the first time on the wrong side of the car, and on the wrong side of the road, while it was raining was a terrible mistake: one hand on the wheel, looking at the scenery, stepping on the white lines of the left side (my side) every now and then, sort of afraid when another car came the other way… he actually drove out of the pavement a couple of times stepping on the roadside grass… he was just very confident and that’s what freaked me out the most! so on next stop I told him how I felt and I continued driving for the day… and yes, like an old woman!

we got to Lake Tekapo at around 7. we drove to a backpackers where we got a tween suite with two beds and a heater… we went to the kitchen to prepare dinner, sat to decide where our next stop would be, and then used the computer to send couch surfing requests to people in Oamaru, where we would be arriving on Tuesday.

next morning we took our time to leave the hostel. we went to the small village to have coffee with our new friend from Ireland, Rachel. she is travelling by bus through the South Island and was leaving soon towards Wanaka and then to Queenstown. we then went back to the hostel to grab our stuff and check the couch surfing requests before leaving. we had one reply from a girl that seemed very cool, but she said she could not host us those days but that we should ask her friend, whom we will call Ursula, and so we did! then we drove to the parking lot of the hot pools to make a small walk up the hill and “see” all the lake and its beautiful surroundings… but, the weather was still shitty so we couldn’t really see much…

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after this we drove towards Mount Cook.

1103 km

103 km

Jon was driving all the time, he was more concerned this time which made me very happy.

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we stopped on the iSite of Lake Pukaki to ask for info and admire the sort of turquoise colour of the lake… simply amazing!

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then took the road towards Mt. Cook Village, we got there around 5:30 pm and it was already dark.

the YHA hostel there is beautiful! it’s a huge log cabin with lots of rooms and an enormous kitchen and lounge area.
after having dinner we sat in the lounge next to the fire. there we met 3 girls that were working there, one German, one French and one Estonian; there were also two young people traveling together like Jon and me, Tin (21, Danish) and Freddy (23, Swedish); and in our room was a very nice Italian that I brought to the international meeting in the common room, Gian Lucca.

next morning, after a shitty weather, we woke up to this:

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we grabbed our stuff and got prepared to do the Hooker Valley Track. this track gets you to a lake on the skirts of Mount Cook, and it’s not really a track, it’s a walk… even my grandmother could do it, but it’s really nice.

we did the track with Gian Lucca. he is such a NICE person!!! I enjoyed every moment with him… great talks, good jokes, having fun taking pictures! I really, really liked him!

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at the end we just sat down and enjoyed the view…

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then we went back to the car with a new friend from the states, his name is Joe and he has been travelling all around the world… 43 years old, with a young spirit and mind, he doesn’t look his age AT ALL!

back in the hostel I checked my email and saw that Ursula had replied YES, but that she has no phone, no internet at home, and she forgot to give us her address. so I sent her another message with the hopes of her reading it on time asking for her address. we then said goodbye to our new friends, I was sad to let Gian go… he is travelling the opposite direction that we are, but we gave each other heads-up on what to see and we exchanged emails because we are both going p be in Melbourne the same dates! so hopefully I will see him again!

we then started our way towards Oamaru. I was driving this time.

210 km

210 km

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we took a small detour to the Clay Cliffs, place recommended by Gian. it’s a crazy place, where the mountains have been sort of carved out creating stalagmites of mud. the Clay Cliffs are the result of millions of years of erosion on layers of silt and gravel that were exposed by the Osler fault line.

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we didn’t stay there for a long time because we were afraid of the sun setting and not being able to see the elephant rocks near Oamaru.
so we continued our way…

when we got to the detour to go to the elephant rocks we started following the signposts… if there where any… and Jon was supposed to be the copilot, and read the map to get us to the different places we wanted to visit… after driving for a while we did a U-ey (U turn) because we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere and the signs were starting to get confusing, and then we got to a bigger road that seemed to be THE one, but now Jon was sleeping, the sun was setting and I was driving through the exit to the freaking elephant rocks because we were not going to be able to see anything, and I really wanted to get to Oamaru.

in Oamaru we stopped at the McDonald’s to have free wifi, and why not, a burger now that we were there… after all, accommodation was going to be free… or was it…
Ursula had NOT replied anything!!!
we texted the friend that recommended her to us, we sent several last-minute requests to hosts in the city, I even texted Lizzie because I knew that Mark’s family was from Oamaru, so maybe they could find us a place to stay? NOTHING… NADA… we were homeless… so we had to drive to a hostel and pay… after spending more than $10 in McDonald’s…

the hostel was nice, but I was gutted and tired, so I didn’t even try to socialise this time… everybody, including Jon, was watching a movie in one of the common rooms… antisocial karenula went to the empty common room upstairs.

next morning we got a message from one of the last-minute requests we sent. she asked us to come as soon as possible because she might have to go out… so we went to her house, which is quite near the centre, and saw this beautiful blue house with a garden that needed some care, but otherwise very pretty… we knocked on the door and waited for her to come open…

[here comes the good part (part one of the good part)]

she greeted us happily and with a big hug (I’m also a hugger so I found that really nice of her… kiwis don’t usually do that with strangers). she’s a nice lady with half her teeth missing, crooked nose, and what seemed to be her somewhat-fat belly was something else that has been hanging there for a looooong time (if you know what I mean)… we entered the house, the first thing I saw was a box of rotten apricots right next to the main entrance, the smell was intense but it didn’t only come from that box… it was the house’s smell, of humidity and dust and fungus… there were boxes with stuff everywhere, all kinds of stuff… this woman is a hoarder! every room, every corner had something… many things… papers, books, old things, new things, antiques, clothes, fabrics, boxes, boxes, and boxes… we had to jump over things to get to another place… I remembered that on her profile she mentions she’s got a cat… well, I was afraid that the cat might be under the pile of sh…tuff! maybe the smell was not of an old house, might be from the cat rotting somewhere!!! I sort of didn’t want to stay there, but she had kindly texted me and it would’ve been very rude to visit her house and say no in the end… so we toughened up!
we went to the car to get our things and we tried to tell her we wanted to go to the centre, walk around, go to the supermarket and all, but she started talking about so many things… I honestly missed half of the conversation… I just got certain key things like “the Chch earthquake was a terrorist attack”, ” I don’t know if the earthquake set off the bombs or the bombs set off the earthquake”… “aura”, “reiki”, “light”, and “healing”… and all this time getting a step closer to the door to go out and do our stuff in the city.
when we finally got out of the house… we met the cat!!! I was so relieved!

and off we were to walk around Oamaru…
the town is beautiful! the architecture is very old, the buildings are made out of stone, so it’s a big change from what I’ve been seeing all around New Zealand – except for the broken buildings of Christchurch.

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we stopped at the Salvation Army family store gym favourite stores in the world) to look for a cassette with cord to play our iPods in the car (yes… a car with cassette player)… and we couldn’t find one there, but we did find this (our new companion):

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after a walk and lunch Jon decided to go to the movies, but I didn’t feel like it, so I went to the library to use the computers and start sending more couch surfing requests for Dunedin, where we would be arriving the next day. I then went to get the car to pick Jon up and go to the supermarket.

we got home and cooked for ourselves because our host had already had dinner, she had two friends there, one using a computer, another one watching TV, and our host using another computer too… we asked her if we could use her kitchenware to cook and she said “yes, but only if you clean them… and if you can clean my dishes too would be great”… no comments… then we sat and started talking more with her, I then made some tea and asked her if I could use her milk, she said it was her friend’s milk (the one watching TV), that I should ask him… so I went to ask him, saw that he had already a cup of some hot drink, he said I could use some of his milk, and when I came back to the kitchen I got told off “you should’ve offered a cup of tea to him too”, and I said “yeah, but I saw he already has a cup of tea”, and she said “well, next time you should offer”… again, no comments… she was a very nice lady but somewhat patronising, she had great stories to tell, about herself and the imaginary world she lives in, but she could be a little pain now and then.
after this, we didn’t want to be there anymore, so at 9pm we said goodnight with the excuse that next morning we were going to get up very early to see the sunrise in the Koekohe Beach.

[and here comes the other good part (part two of the good part)]

we got into the room, it was a 2X3 room with a small bed and barely any place on the floor (due to all the collection of stuff)… Jon had a sleeping bag so it was I who had to sleep in the bed… I honestly didn’t want to do that! we took a mattress out from the pile of mattresses that were my bed, and put it on the remaining spot of floor for Jon. then, when Jon was already tugged in his bag, I lifted the covers of the bed to get in, and… well… the dead cat would’ve been better… it was full of dust, and PUBES!!! they were not chest hairs, nor any kind of facial hair because they were right in the middle of the mattress… I started laughing madly! Jon had to get up to see it for himself! I could NOT believe this…. who knows how long those sheets had been there without being thrown into the washing machine… if she ever does that… if she even has one! and again, the whole smell of humidity and fungus was all around the room and the blankets and sheets… call me pedigree girl if you want, but THOSE are not sanitary conditions to live in… I toughened up… again… and decided to grab another cover and sleep on top of the bed not getting in it… but it was so early!!! we would have to pass out for nine hours not to notice where we were… but NO! Jon (aka Mr. Pee-Pee) woke up at TWO am to go pee and woke me up… he came back and he started snoring!!! I could not believe it! I was not able to sleep at all! with his snores and my imagination going to places where I could see the spores in the atmosphere going into my system… it was just too much… I started snapping my fingers to make Jon stop, but I only woke him up and made him grumpy haha… it serves him right, I thought… after four hours of making friends with the spores I was asleep again…but, o shit… it was time to wake up!

I grabbed my stuff and ran out of the house… I couldn’t stay there another minute… got into the car and started coughing… I felt ill, like if I had smoked three packages of cigarettes the night before… my lungs were whistling, my head hurt… it was bad! when Jon came into the car he just said “you don’t really realise what you are breathing inside the house until you come out and breathe AIR!”.

Jon drove this time.

38 km

38 km

we got to see the sunrise next to the Moeraki boulders.
I started feeling very nauseous, I really wanted to throw up… this was not right, how can that lady live there?!
the sunrise was beautiful! lots of beautiful colours, and is very interesting to see the boulders, naturally made by the ocean more than 60 million years ago… so beautiful!

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we drove again and detoured to see Shag Point… oh yes, it exists, and no, we didn’t shag… it’s a beautiful drive next to the coast, and there were supposed to be penguins and seals, but we didn’t see any.

16 km

16 km

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again we drove taking now and then the scenic routes marked on the map or on signposts… on one of them, we saw the signs of the Orokonui Ecosanctuary so we decided to visit it and see what it was all about.
it turned out to be a beautiful place! the building was amazing, combining wood, and steel, and containers… it was brilliant! the light that came through the windows and the orientation of the building to have the view to the park… it was all perfect! so perfect that I asked the woman from reception if she knew who the architect was… she gave me his name, phone number, and even told me the office is in the centre of Dunedin… very accommodating!

we then drove to Port Chalmers, which is the port city of Dunedin.

61 km

61 km

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and then we got to the main city centre.

14 km

14 km

our first stop was the library to check our couch surfing requests… several people had replied that they couldn’t host us… we started sending requests to people in Queenstown, it was already Thursday and we were getting there on Saturday, so we’d better do it then.
while in the library I got two messages from two hosts in Dunedin. the first was from a girl named Maud telling us that she was able to host us, and gave us her address. the second one from a guy named Dan, a local kiwi that was willing to host us too, though he had a couple of surfers in his house at the moment. we said we already had a host but that we were in the library, so we asked him if he would like to join us for a coffee, and he accepted…
we met with him in the octagon, and he took us to one of his mates’ coffee shop. after that, he took us everywhere… he toured the city with us being a great guide! he would tell us curious facts, history facts, showed us his flat, inside the cathedral… he was awesome!

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after our little tour with Dan, we went to the supermarket, bought a little snack and some things for dinner, and headed towards Maud’s house…
since we arrived there early we went to the beach to sit, have our lunch, and watch the sunset…

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we then arrived to the house… it’s a beautiful little house on the hill with ocean view and an amazing garden. they grow their own veggies, have chickens, fruit trees… everything! I loved it!

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and Maud is just awesome! she is a beautiful person in every aspect, I felt as though I’ve known her for a long time and that was a very nice feeling!
she prepared dinner for us with Jon as a helper… I didn’t do anything to be honest, but because I was told that everything was ok…
after dinner one of her flatmates came home, Dave. he sat with us and we were all chatting and drinking together all night!
they are both very pleasant people, warm, caring… it’s just delightful to be with them!

the next day we went to the city centre again…I called the architect’s office, and I was told that he was in a meeting but they took my name and number and said that HE will call me back. Jon wanted to be in the library all day so we went there. at around three pm I got the call from the architect… karenula had a date!
so then we had a quick lunch and Jon went back to the library and I walked to meet with Architect Tim Heath in his office.

I knocked on the door and the architect himself opened it. he greeted me shaking hands, and invited me to sit down… it was a very small but cosy office, apparently the only people working there are the architect, Hannah who was in the office too, and someone else that was not there for the moment. the three of us sat down to talk. Tim said “Hannah, this might be the closest we’ll ever get to Luis Barragan” I wanted to hug him!!! we started talking about a lot of things… I wanted to ask them so much of what they do and how they do it, but mainly I was the one being asked questions, about my travels, my life as an architect back home, what my plans were… they seemed to be very interested in this peculiar being from an exotic land that could speak their both languages: English and architecture. they started giving me advise on what to visit and where to stop in this trip with Jon. they even gave me a map where they highlighted all the routes I should take! they were very nice and I was very grateful for that. in the end we talked little about architecture, but enough to understand their design process and ideas… I REALLY liked them and what they do!

I met with Jon again. we went to the supermarket to buy dinner, it was our time to cook for Maud. we were going to make a typical kiwi dinner (and my favourite): stake with a side dish of pumpkin, kumara, and potatoes!

after dinner we grabbed the car with Maud and went to a bar where a local band was playing, it was the last gig of the band because the lead singer was going back to The States to live. the band was amazing! and the lead singer was sooooo cute! I fell in love a little bit… he had it all (even wife and kids)!!

with Maud (and my love on the back)

with Maud (and my love on the back)

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after that we went to another bar where they had a Latin Night… so of course I was singing with all my strength “la vida es un carnaval” and all the Juan Luis Guerra y sus 4/40 songs… after dancing, and singing, and drinking Corona, we went back to the house to sleep.

next morning we said goodbye to our wonderful hosts! I didn’t want to leave, though Dunedin is not my favourite city (maybe because of the weather we had all the time: cold, windy, and cloudy), I did love what I lived and saw there for two days! I guess I would need to give it a chance… and, we drove to Queenstown to get to the party…

316 km

316 km

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overall, this is how we moved in seven days:

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983 km