I remember distinctly, sitting in the mom van on the way to the airport. The vehicle was hot from the humid 75 degree weather. I was sweating and wanted so badly to be out of the vehicle. Finally, we arrived after a 45 minute race through traffic to Los Angeles International Airport. Both bags on my person, I walked confidently to the Air New Zealand desk. As I stood there, my bag was weighed and then tossed onto the ramp where all bags go at the airport. Up the escalator, the line for security was short. Thankfully, there were no problems in line. I was officially in the terminal waiting to board the airplane.
When it was time to board, the end of the plane had to go first. My ticket was for a seat at the very end of the plane. Literally, the last row in the middle of the center aisle. At least I was close to the bathroom. One thing I loved about Air New Zealand was the touch screen televisions. I watched three movies and listened to a bunch of random NZ music. Mostly, my experience was positive – despite sitting down for about 12 hours with little movement. As it came time to land, I had a sudden euphoric feeling shoot through my body. I was finally here. I am in New Zealand.
I WAS DENIED!
Spoiler alert; I did get into the country.
I did learn that you cannot wear your hat into the scanning booth. Therefore, I had to go get my passport looked at by the customs person at the information desk. Little did I know that you don’t get your passport stamped anymore. Luckily for me because I was wearing my hat I got my passport stamped and Molly did not. Ha!
After getting through customs we then had to wait in a very long, long, long line. Customs had to check to make sure that my tent, and hiking boots were all set to get into the country. We had to wait for about 20 minutes in line and then about another 10 minutes to get my boots. Essentially, the washed my boots and checked my tent. Everything “passed”.
Finally after we got through line all I wanted was an iced coffee and some Dunkin’ Donuts. I’m not usually one to eat Dunkin’ Donuts, but it looked like it was the only cheap available option that was not McDonalds. Well I learned the hard way that New Zealand doesn’t really do “iced coffee” and their bagels and cream cheese are really bad.
Molly and I ran outside to catch a bus and ended up paying for one that we didn’t even need to get on. We definitely felt like tourists…
After much discussing and looking at Google maps, we finally made it to the train station and traveled to Pukekohe. We walked all the way to the subway in town and waited two hours for Laurel our first host. While sitting at Subway, we were offered to stay at two households, all while just sitting at outside the shop. This country is just so nice 👍🏼
Now many of you who have listened to my stories know that our stay with Laurel was interesting to say the least. My mother always told me if I had nothing nice to say don’t say it at all. Well I will say, that Laurel did feed us very well and she let us have time to ourselves. We enjoyed Blacksand beaches, the Maranda Hot Springs, and got first-hand experience on how to hitchhike in New Zealand.
Molly and I spent about nine days with Laurel and we decided at the end to go back to Auckland for one night, stay in a hostel, and then take a bus all the way to New Plymouth.
While staying in Auckland, we went out to eat, went to some Irish bars for beer, and decided to check out some late night city scene. Let’s just say that I’m definitely a country boy and do not really like cities very much.
We hopped on the bus the next morning that was about 6 1/2 to 7 hours long. Thankfully the bus stopped multiple times for us to go to the bathroom, eat lunch, and just take a break. After many miles of twisty turns, ocean views, and pastures, on pastures and pastures of animals we finally arrived in New Plymouth.
Holly, my wonderful friend from hut life in the White Mountains was our gracious host. Holly is a very educated, well spoken, talented yoga-enthusiast, beautiful, whole, and a wonderful person. I signed up for her yoga classes with the Yoga Project, took her recommendations and ran around the coastal highway, and explored the downtown area.
New Plymouth is rich in history, and it has wonderful views of the ocean and Taranaki. While in town, we were able to explore Tropfest, a small film festival in the local park. Additionally, we explored museums, street art, local art, and good restaurants.
To stay with Holly was relaxing, and a breath of fresh air from the chaos of the week before.
Toward the end of our stay, we made plans to visit a wonderful couple in Maxwell, about 20 minutes outside Whanganui. Robi and Malcolm were wonderful hosts. They are both actively involved in education and economic growth in their community. They have a wealth of knowledge and were very organized. Robi taught us about Mauri culture.
One day, we visited Robi’s Marea – where we learned about the ceremonies and other festivities that go on within their community. It was super interesting to learn about Mauri culture and learn some Mauri phrases.
We spent a week planting agapanthus plants, burying stones in the ground, stacking wood and helping out around the house with dishes and cleaning. We stayed in a caravan behind the house, had our own bathroom, refrigerator and personal space. They had a wonderful dog named Paku. He was such a pleasure to have about.
On my birthday – which I celebrated twice – once in New Zealand and again on my birthday in the US. We took the day off to explore Whanganui. We walked a long ways for a good breakfast joint, walked along the river, explored a glass blowing demonstration, viewed some art galleries, walked to an elevator that brought us to a tower over looking the city and did some minor food shopping.
The next day, Robi and Malcom took us to the ocean and we had a BBQ over a fire on the beach. It was a beautiful, windy day by the sea.
Our next journey would bring us to Wellington and then Christchurch. We booked a flight out of Wellington. When we arrived to the airport, we quickly realized the “Lord of the Rings” features. It was a simple airport. To get on our flight, we had to walk on the tarmac. That was the first time I’ve ever experienced walking outside to board a plane. On the flight, we were given complementary chocolate cupcakes and water. It was a surprise to both Molly and me.
Once we arrived in Christchurch, we took a bus to our hostel. We met up with my friend Abby and Hope who were also exploring New Zealand. It was fun to meet up with friends while exploring the city. Molly and I had a wonderful burger at this place called Burgerfuel. Everything was so delicious.
The next day, we boarded a bus and traveled about 7 hours to Wanaka. On the way, the bus driver informed us of the various waterways and man-made lakes that provide New Zealand with hydropower and local energy. We had some fascinating information about Mt. Cook and the Southern Alps. Luckily, it was nice enough to get some views of the water and the mountain ranges.
It was nice seeing some friends and meeting other like-minded travelers they have met along their journey. We also stayed with Randall, Amanda and Dexter, a family that lives in Hawea Flat, close to Wanaka. Randall is from Sunapee area and knows many locals, including Pam Perkins, Kathy Lowe Block, and Bubba Williams.
While staying with Randall, we stayed in a Tipi on their property. It was super cool – I’ve never slept in a tipi before. We used Molly’s LUCI light to light up the tipi in fun colors. While we stayed with Randall, we helped remove nets over some plants, helped install the dome of their yurt, cleaned up some work space and widened a space for a propane tank. Overall, it was such a nice and brief stay. We even took Betsy down to John’s Creek for a swim.
While we had some time off, Paddy, Alyssa and I went for a quick 30-minute hike up the Breast Hill Track to a cool peak. The views were incredible. Then, we ran into the crystal clear and very cold Lake Hawea water. Certainly worth the swim, especially on a hot day.
After Wanaka, it was time to move on to a new WWOOFing host. We met up with Biz and Ben on Lake Hayes. The family was wonderful – very generous, did not work us too hard and provided us with wonderful food, a place to stay and gave us freedom to do what we wanted.
One day, we went to their rooftop apartment in Queenstown. We helped plant some trees on the patio and then had time to explore QT. We met up with Flo – a cool friend of Holly’s traveling around the world. We went into a cool clothing shop, wine tasting shop and a gen store. We hitched a ride with a cool chick from Australia and a local New Zealand 🇳🇿 guy heading to arrowtown for the night. He told us about the Blue Door.
The Blue Door has an event every Wednesday night where a local band plays and has an open mic. Naturally, I met another band who was watching in the audience. The guitar players wife convinced me to sing with them and of course I did. I ended up singing Wagon Wheel – it was funny because I was definitely a few beers deep and the audience was too. Overall, not a bad performance. We enjoyed a fire afterwards with some locals and made a great night out of it.
We had many smal projects while staying with the family, such as building fence, stacking wood, clearing debris and old fences, cleaning the house, polishing furniture, cleaning a deer statue and filling in an old pool.
Oh and we bought a car. His name is Old Greg!
It’s sad to be leaving this wonderful home, but I’m excited to tramp this week with Paddy, Alyssa, and friends. I am headed to the Fiordland National Park to explore the Routeburn, Gertrude Saddle and Caples Track. I’m praying the weather is nice and hoping for some really cool pictures. I’m sure I’ll have a few stories to share as well.
It’s been over a month, I’m still alive, happy and ready for more exploration.
Sorry not sorry for so much writing.