Intro Picture

Intro Picture
Hi! My name is Anne. Welcome to my traveling blog! Read the latest stories below or check out the list of previous stories in the blog archive on the right!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Going North

It's been a while since the last post, and plenty has happened in the meantime. I'm struggling to find places with free wifi that aren't limited to 50 MB's (that I burn through all too quickly) so I can upload pictures and video's and write posts, though I hope that will get better with time. My old tactic of sitting at a McDonalds sipping a Coke doesn't cut it here I'm afraid. Right now the local library is my best friend, because they do offer seemingly unlimited wifi and thus allows me to write this post and upload pictures and video's :)

Anyway, I got out of Auckland after a string of bus-rides that left me pretty confused, and even stranded out of the way (though the friendly bus driver drove me back to where I needed to be for free), but eventually I made it to the edge of the city and I managed to find a small road leading outwards and up North, though it was a small sideroute with not a ton of traffic. I could have gone for the #1 highway, but the map I had of Auckland didn't show the edges of the city and so I couldn't really see where I was headed, so I ended up on the 'wrong side of town', at a much smaller country road.
Thankfully I only had to wait for about 20 minutes untill my very first NZ ride showed up, and got me to Helensville. Calvin was his name, and he offered me a place to stay if I couldn't get another ride. Before he dropped me off he showed me where he lived, and then drove me to the edge of town.

It wasn't long there untill Michael showed up, who was a great help. Not only did he drive me to Orewa, but he helped me get a map of New Zealand's North Island with all the towns and roads on it. Because he was an AA member he could get me the map for free.
When he dropped me off I already had my next ride within three cars of passing me by. Jane was a woman nearing her 50's I think, who told me about her Dutch soon-to-be daughter in law, who she was about to meet for the first time at her son's wedding. Her and her son had gotten estranged, and it was clear it was eating her up inside. I hope that soon they will be able to mend things, whatever has occurred in the past. Jane dropped me off in Wellsford, and left me to go on my way.
Today's goal was the city of Whangarei, and though the day was nearing it's end I managed to get there thanks to Eamon, who I had a very interesting conversation with. He did studies in native Maori traditions and the like, and looked for ways to incorporate them into our modern society, looking for any way they could be of help to solve today's problems. We talked about different kinds of things like that and ended up talking about money and the importance we place on it, and I told him about the Alan Watts video I uploaded on my Youtube channel. He left me his card, and later on I sent him an email with the link to the video. He dropped me off in front of a small backpackers hotel, and it was here that I stayed for 5 more nights due to the rainy weather.

Not much happened in this time. I walked into town daily looking for internet, and trying to look for a job online that could keep me out of the bad weather for a while. Days are still short too, with the sun going down at 6, and going up some time at 6 in the morning too. That is quite a lot of darkness, and it would be nice to stay somewhere till the days grow a bit longer and the weather a bit better.
I found a potential job in Ahipara, and that was to be my next goal. We exchanged an email or two, and I was asked to call. But I couldn't use the local payphones as they didn't accept cash, and I keep only a small prepaid cellphone for emergencies that I wasn't going to use for this. So I decided I would visit personally.
After the 5 days of rain in Whangarei I was pretty fed up with the place, and so I was glad to head back out on the road again. I walked for a while to try and get to the edge of the city, which I thought I had found, and set my pack upon the ground to start hitching once more.
After about 15 minutes a car pulled over. In it was Pietta (not sure of the spelling there), and she told me I wasn't in the right spot. Turns out the city stretched out for a good while longer. But she could get me to the edge of town, and so she did. She dropped me off at a stretch of highway, with enough room for cars to pull over. It wasn't the best spot to be, but I made it work.
After a little while I was rescued from this place by Simon and Jo, and they were a great ride. An older couple from the South Island, they were going up north to do some house-sitting. They were very interested and enthusiastic, and we had a great time for as long as the ride lasted. They left me their card and told me to call them or look them up when I got to the South Island, and left me on a stretch of road close to a garage and gas station, with little else in sight.

Another 5 minute wait and I was on my way again. Hitchhiking has been incredibly easy so far! Even getting out of a big city like Auckland didn't take longer than 20 minutes. I might simply have been lucky there, but I'll find out soon enough. There's not a ton of places to go north of Auckland, and eventually I'll have to pass through it again on my way south.
Anyway, this time I got a ride from a girl somewhere around my own age, called Diana. She was a very cheerful person and fun to talk to, and soon I learned that her grandfather (who she called Opa, which is Dutch for grandfather) was an immigrant from the Netherlands who had moved here a few years after the second World War.
She was going to stop at his place for the afternoon and after dinner would drive on to Kaitaia, which was my goal for the day (or perhaps even Ahipara, which is only a 10-minute drive from Kaitaia, if there was still time). She offered to take me along and meet him and her sister, who lived in with her grandfather to take care of him. Being a traveler with no big plans and timetables I intend to make the most of every opportunity that is presented to me, and so I joined her for the afternoon.

She told me I could expect some jokes about her bringing along her boyfriend and similarly styled jokes, and indeed there were quite a few. It was funny though, and I had a good laugh with all of them. Her grandfather has dementia, and we had the same conversation for quite a few times. I didn't mind, I had a good time. In the afternoon we sat outside in the garden looking at the fish-pond for a while, and I helped repairing a shed door which was knocked out of it's sliders. Diana, her sister Mellanie and their grandfather were all very friendly. Unfortunately I can't quite recall his name anymore though. They gave me lunch and later on I met their parents who came over for dinner, which was great. I ate till I couldn't eat no more, and had a pleasant conversation with Diana's dad. 
In the evening Diana drove me to Kaitaia, and along the way I found out she had some similar interests to mine concerning videogames, us both having played The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and having great memories of it. When we got to Kaitaia she helped me find a hostel for the night (they felt uncomfortable leaving me somewhere to just camp as I had planned, and I figured I could use a place to do the laundry). It is days like this that make hitchhiking so great.

Next day I planned to get to Ahipara, but first I went to look for a store that sold Coleman fuel, having been unlucky in that regard in both Auckland and Whangarei. I managed to find some in Kaitaia and filled my MSR fuel bottle. I still had fuel left over though, and I couldn't take it with me. So I adressed the first two men I saw walking across the car park and asked them if either of them used that kind of fuel, and one of them actually did. So I gave what I had left over to him and hoisted my pack upon my back and set out to find the road to Ahipara.
It wasn't too far off, and I found a nice spot at a bridge with a beautiful view. I bent over to put my pack on the ground, and before I could have stood upright again a car had already pulled over.
Bob was retiree who already knew where I was going before I could say anything, and helped me put my pack in the back of his car. A 10-minute drive later, and we were in Ahipara, my only ride for the day. He helped me find the hostel that I had found the job offer of, and dropped me off at the parking in front of it.

This is the view when you leave Kaitaia towards Ahipara. Beautiful eh?

When I went inside and introduced myself I learned that the job had already been given away to a girl who had stayed there and had asked if there was an opening. I was too late, and though that was unfortunate, it also was very fortunate, as it led to the events of the coming few days. I often wonder while I'm hitchhiking if things turn out the way they should, as if things are led by a fate of some kind, as if things just had to turn out a certain way. Usually where one door closes, another opens, and great things happen.
I decided to make use of the good weather and find a place to camp for the next few days. The hostel was situated at the front of the 90-Mile Beach, which stretched off to the right, and could be seen for a great distance. To the left was a long stretch of beach as well, with a cliff-like corner at what seemed would be walking distance for the day, and so I decided to follow the beach and see what was up there.

Kaitaia Beach.

Fresh water flowing out into the ocean.

I had a pretty long walk but eventually found a nice hamlet at the beach that would give me protection from the high tide that I was warned about by a friendly man on the beach. I wasn't quite at the bend yet, but I decided this place was good enough, and so I set up my tent for the night. To the sides of my tent were steep hills covered in low-growing trees, in front the beach and the ocean, and in the back I had a big sanddune rising at least a hundred meters high. I did some more walking around at the beach, and before I cooked dinner I decided to have a look from atop the sanddune. Before I was halfway up my legs were dead-tired and I felt like I could collapse, and I had to take several breaks before I managed to get up there. My endurance has a long way to go haha, I've been too static at home. It was a good view up there from where I could see more of the 90-Mile Beach, but after a while I decided to head back down to cook my noodles. 
The sun was setting fast, and it was dark before I was done. I did the dishes in the ocean and set them out to dry during the night. The previous day I had finished a book called The Road Back by Erich Maria Remarque, which is the sequal to All Quiet On The Western Front, one of my all-time favourites, and today I decided I would re-read Walden, Or Life In The Woods by Henry David Thoreau for the second time, the last time I read it being back in Canada. It is heavy reading, and back home I don't have the concentration to read it and properly absorb it. Too many distractions. But out here, all there was to distract me was the sound of the birds and the ocean in the background, and I read all evening. During the night the high tide set in, and the following morning I could see no cars or people would be able to reach this place untill at least noon.

My tent as seen from the sand dune.

The top of the sand dune.

I decided to go for a swim in the ocean. And with no people around, who needs a swim suit? 
So I stripped down and headed for the water. I looked and walked around for a bit to find a good spot, and that's when I saw them. Two people walking down the beach, heading my direction, with just a low dune between us. Apparently they had stayed the night a bit further down the beach, which is ofcourse just my luck haha. I should have kept walking and I would have passed them by, but instead I decided to take a quick run back to the tent. And so it was that when these people passed the low dune and looked to the hamlet where my tent was, they saw my beautiful white ass on a jog for cover. I know this because I heard one of them give a surprised shout. At this I decided I could just as well go for a walking pace, there was nowhere to duck and at this point, I honestly didn't care all that much anymore. As soon as they were out of sight, I headed back for the beach and went for a swim.
Apart from those two people, I didn't see anybody else for the entire morning, though I went on a bit of a hike along the beach. I paid for that morning of walking around that evening, because ofcourse I was very sunburned. My upper legs were red like lobsters, and so was my back, and I still feel them today (this was 2 days ago). That night though, I settled myself in my sleeping bag and watched a movie called Tracks, the true story of a woman on a two-thousand mile camel hike through Australia. As you might expect from a hiking movie it was a bit slow in parts, but it was a good and interesting watch.

Enjoying the cold ocean water and the fresh air.

The road to home.

Ahipara Beach.

Later in the afternoon when it became more crowded I went to the top of a small hill on the beach to do some more reading too.

The EReader I use now is very useful indeed. I can keep an entire library on me, and the battery lasts very long.

Sunset on the beach.

The next morning I had run out of food and water, and so I packed up my stuff and headed back for Ahipara. I was tired, not having slept very well the past two nights (getting used again to sleeping on the ground is going to take a little while), and so my pace was slow. I walked for maybe a kilometer or so when I heard a car pull up beside me. In it were two men, who asked me if I could use a ride to town. And that I could. 
They introduced themselves as the Natives, Kana and Honkee (I'm completely sure that you don't spell it like this at all), and they were on an emergency trip. That emergency being that they had run out of beer. And so ofcourse they had to brave the high tides back to town. Where I was the high tide was ok, with room to walk and drive. But further on their was no room left at all, and the ocean water reached all the way across to the cliff-side. Before we got to the town, the car got swamped with water and the engine shut off. Honkee tried pushing the car along and we got a few meters further and bit more out of the water, but he had to jump back into the car and close the door because there was a big wave about to hit the car. He didn't quite make it in time and much of the water got inside, flooding the car floor. It was all a great bit of fun, and the three of us had a good laugh. What's even better, I got it all on camera.

After a while of sitting there Kana got the car to work again and we manage to make it to Ahipara.
Before we got the beer I was already invited back to their place. They lived in a collection of shacks down at the beach, beyond where I was camping. This was another one of those opportunities not to be wasted, and of which I wanted to make the most. And so it was that I headed back to where I had just come from, to an afternoon of drinking beer and getting quite a bit drunk. I met their cousins who they hadn't seen for a while, and it wasn't long before the beer was gone. Kana and me headed back to Ahipara to get another case, this one on me. We got a bottle of something else too, Ruby something. 
We didn't quite finish it all off, but we got a long way! Sometime in the afternoon everybody split up, heading back to their respective shacks. I had been shown a place to sleep on a couch in one of them too, something that looked like a communal kitchen but which I didn't see anyone use. I went to lie down and relax a little bit as Kana (who lived right next door) went to sleep. It was around three o'clock and I hadn't decided on sleeping too, but I didn't wake up untill the sun was already going down. I got outside and saw nobody around, and it getting a bit cold, I took out my sleeping bag and went to sleep a bit more.

At midnight I heard someone stumbling around inside the shack. It was Kana looking for more beer, and he invited me to watch a DVD with him. That surprised me, because I had been told they didn't have an electricity line up here. It turns out he had solar panels on the roof that were hooked up to a battery, and the DVD player was a stereo-like device with a small screen that it was hard to seen anything on in any clear detail. The movie that was on was The Italian Job, and despite some hiccups from the DVD player it was fun to watch still. 
I had not eaten anything since some time early that morning when I had some slices of bread, and at this point I was very hungry. Kana was too, and despite not feeling like it he got up to cook some food. He made eggs with some type of meat that smelled like bacon but wasn't, and after a while he presented me with a plate covered in greasy fluid, poached egg and the meat, all covered in that grease. It didn't look very appetizing, to say the least, but not wanting to be a bad guest I started to eat.
I managed to get in most of it, but after one last bite of egg I almost had to throw up. I had to swallow back some egg that had come up, and I decided to pretend I was full. The rest was given to the dog, who ate it all with great satisfaction. After that movie I went back to sleep again, and didn't get up until it was almost afternoon again. Honkee was going to drive me back to Ahipara that day, but when I looked him up further down on the beach he told me he wouldn't go until the tide had come up and he had been diving for seafood, and so I had some time to kill. I walked up and down the beach, before eventually sitting down to read some more of Walden untill Honkee showed up to drive me to Ahipara. The weather was turning bad at this point, and it was starting to rain. I gave Honkee some gas money so he could get back to the shacks, and then he dropped me off at the edge of Ahipara.

The couch I slept on.

'My' shack.

The inside of Kana's shack.

My third sunset on the Ahipara beach.

With the help of my new inflatable pillow the couch slept extremely well!

On my last day on the beach I went to explore their ocean-side community a bit further.

Shacks really describe them the best. But it keeps them out of the weather and they all seemed more than happy to live there, even going so far as to call it Paradise with no hint of irony. It's not something I'm used to seeing but I can definitely see the appeal of living there, being free of taxes and other irksome obligations, and beautiful nature all around you.

By now it was raining steadily and I hastened to put a cover over my backpack and to put on my jacket before assuming my position at the side of the road. The first car to pass pulled over but could only take me as far as a junction further down the road, in the middle of nowhere. I declined, opting to wait for another car. That took a while, and I was gradually getting soaked, until finally another car pulled over and drove me to Ahipara. She was a doctor called Sarah, and she ended up giving me her and her mom's phone numbers for when I was ever down in Ahipara again. She pointed me to a potential summer job as well, which I'll look into further down the road. She dropped me off at an ATM because I needed to take up some more cash (I can't use my bank card anywhere except ATM's, so I always need to carry a sufficient amount of cash on me), and then I set off to find the other hostel in town. The one I stayed in previously was pretty good though the internet was very limited (to 50 MB's of data), so I figured I'd have a look at the other one. That one didn't have any internet it turns out, and it was kind of weird smelling and definitely dirtier and more run-down than the other hostel, but the guy running it was very nice, an old man with a long white beard and long hair and wearing a funky beanie hat, and so I decided to stay there. It was 7 bucks cheaper too, though that doesn't amount to much. I got myself a dorm room, and that's where I've been for two nights now. I will probably move on again tomorrow, to try and reach Cape Reinga, if the weather improves.

Untill next time!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The start of my New Zealand adventures

After a little longer than 2 years I am finally on the road again! Or, at least, will be tomorrow.
I am currently already in Auckland, New Zealand, and have been for 5 days now. But unfortunately the weather is extremely rainy, and this has kept me in hostels for the largest part of my time so far.
Tomorrow will be a pretty nice day, and the day after should be ok-ish, but after that it is another 5 days of forecasted rain. Where I will spend those days I am not sure yet. Tomorrow however I will try to hitchhike out of here, going up north from Auckland to try and get to the north-most tip of New Zealand for no specific reason other than that it is the complete north, and that will give me the added goal of reaching the utter south-end of the country. It should be doable within a day, after which I will camp there and await the weather of the next day before planning on where to go next.

But what have I been up to so far?
Despite the rain, I HAVE been doing things. The first day I slept through most of the day, as I had a very long trip to get here: I'd been awake for at least 30 hours, suffering through 24 hours of flying with a single 2-hour stop in Kuala Lumpur. I didn't feel great physically, as the weekend before leaving I've caught something or other giving me nausea and the runs. By the time of leaving on wednesday this had largely passed, but not completely. Airplane food certainly didn't help.
So on the first day I woke up at 15:30 and managed to get some food and a power adapter so that I can make use of the sockets here. I talked with some people in the hostel, and went back to bed pretty early in my single room. I spent two nights in the single room before having to switch to a dorm-room, but by then I'd recovered from the trip ok and the company was welcome.
On Friday I walked downtown to check out the stores and just generally have a look around. I found a small shopping centre, and while I was checking out the second floor I came to the conclusion all the stores were closed. Right before I was about to turn around, I saw a homeless man lying on the floor asleep, oblivious to the world around him. I decided to help him out.

I walked back down and started to look for places I could get him something to eat. I saw a convenience store where I bought a 2,5 liter jug of pineapple juice, and I ordered a pepperoni pizza at Domino's. Then I wanted to find two cups so we could share a drink, and set out looking for them while the pizza was being made ready. I checked out a store where they sold fruit-drinks and stuff like that, but they wouldn't give me any cups. I offered to buy two for a dollar or two, but I was told that wasn't possible and it would cost 7 bucks per cup. Hearing that I walked out, and tried somewhere else. I found another convenience store that had a coffee counter, which unfortunately was closed. I walked in to see if someone in the store could still help me. A woman somewhere in her 50's came over to me, and explaining what I wanted to do she gave me two cups as she carefully looked around to see if nobody was watching. Apparently giving me the cups could get her in trouble, but she helped me out anyway. Having all that I wanted, I went to give it all to the homeless man.
When I woke him up he was startled, probably expecting the police to send him off, but instead he got me. I gave him the pizza and poured the both of us a drink, and as he woke up we got to talking.
After a minute I sat down next to him, and thus we sat there talking for quite a while about life on the streets, what I had come to New Zealand for, and life on the road. An hour or so later I said goodbye to Inhaka (I'm not sure if I spelled that correctly, but he told me he was also known as Big John) and went back to the hostel, fulfilled after having been able to pay forward some of all of the help I've been given during all my hitchhiking.

Yesterday I spent the better part of the day at the Auckland historical museum, which was really interesting. The ground floor was all about Maori life, and held the biggest interest for me. The second floor had exhibits about nature, the local wildlife, vulcanoes etc. and the third floor was about New Zealand's history of war: the New Zealand Wars, the Boer war, WW1 and WW2. I saw a small alcove about Vietnam and UN troops too. The biggest attraction there were the two WW2 fighter planes they still had, a British Spitfire and a Japanese 'Zero'. But overall, I liked the Maori tribal stuff the best.

The outside of the Auckland Museum.

Some Maori woodcarvings. Unfortunately the GoPro isn't all that useful indoors.

A house filled with great carvings.

A head bust of a Maori warrior.

Restauration work being carried out.

There were schools on a field trip too.

An old-school raft!

There were a lot of old weapons, armours, shields and tools on display.

Old armour.

These were put over doorways to ward off evil.

A long ship.

Weapons on display.

Shields and spears.

This was something very special: an icepick used by Edmund Hillary during his ascent of Mount Everest, where he became the first to ever reach the top along with Tenzing Norgay.

This one was rather weird to look at: it's a cast of a Pompeii victim. When he was discovered the excavators put a mold on him to preserve his shape and posture. This is a cast of that mold. He was discovered sitting up against a wall with his hands covering his mouth so he wouldn't breathe in the smoke.

Part of the WW2 exhibit, the uniform of a Japanese pilot.

And his 'Zero' fighter plane.

The Spitfire.

A display of weapons of the New Zealand wars.

Part of the WW1 display.

An artillery piece.

Hall of fallen soldiers.

Soldiers in Greece, WW2.

Today my habit of extending my stay at the hostel with a day at a time bit me in the ass, as it turned out all the rooms had been fully booked. That meant I had to pack up all my stuff and find somewhere else to stay. Thankfully I had seen another hostel just a hundred meters or so away in a little sidestreet, and I figured I'd try my luck there. I was in luck, there was still room in a 4-bed dorm room. When I entered the room someone was already there, a British guy called Scott. He's a very friendly and socially pro-active guy, and he immediately invited me along on a walk to Mount Eden, a local vulcano about an hours walk away. Our neighbour was going along as well, and before we left we got another roommate from Norway. Now we were four, and so we headed out.
It was a brisk walk that immediately taught me how out of shape I am as we headed uphill. I have some training ahead of me! Thankfully the way up wasn't too long, and the view well worth it.

The Mount Eden vulcano.

And to top it off, a video :)

After staying on the top for a while taking in the view of the city we headed back down. Along the way we decided we'd all pitch in some money for dinner. It turns out Leo, our Norwegian roommate, is actually a professional cook, and he was willing to cook us all dinner. So we went to a big supermarket to get our ingredients, and tonight we had a very good stew with potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, peas and all kinds of good stuff.
I had a shower before dinner and managed to do the laundry here, and now I am all set to head out tomorrow. Hopefully I will have some interesting stories to tell when I next return. See you all then!