Archive for January, 2013

New Zealand Slide Show

3 Days Until India!

We have survived New Zealand and even managed to have some fun towards the end of our time here. Now we have 3 days before we head to India, and we are really excited. We picked up our visas today from the embassy so it’s official! We have a bus back to Auckland tomorrow then we’re flying out to India. We decided to stay in India for a shorter time so we’d have money to do a ton of fun things. We want to do a camel safari in the desert, do some whitewater rafting, and go tiger spotting in a national park, just to name a few. Not to mention all of the ancient temples and forts we’ll be able to see! We’ll also be there for Holi, the Hindu festival that celebrates the beginning of spring. They celebrate by throwing colorful paints at each other. I’m really excited for that! We’ll also be in Dharamsala, the city where the Tibetan government is in exile, for Tibetan New Year. I’m pretty nervous for the first couple days where I’m sure I’ll be a bit culture shocked, but I am really, really excited!

The Kiwi Bird

The Kiwi Bird

I would be willing to pay no more than $4 to see a small, flightless, nocturnal bird. Unfortunately the place charged $30 so this will be the extent of my interaction with New Zealand’s national bird.

10 Really Fun Things I’ve Done in New Zealand (Not in Any Particular Order)

1. Beaches

In New Zealand, you’re never more than a half hour drive away from the coast. Liza and I have seen many beautiful sunsets like the one in the picture.

Fun Fact:

Minnesota has about 9 times as much coastline as New Zealand!

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2. Camping

There are no dangerous animals in New Zealand so you don’t have to worry about getting mauled by a bear in your sleep when you’re camping here. Plus, with all of New Zealand’s natural beauty there’re plenty of great places to camp.

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3. Hobbiton

Hobbiton is where the hobbits live in the Lord of the Rings movies. I’m not the world’s biggest Lord of the Rings fan (I believe that title belongs to Liza), but it’s nice to feel tall with all the hobbit sized houses (or Hobbit Holes as I’m sure Liza will yell at me for not using the proper name) around.

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4. Lord of the Rings Tour

It made Liza happy plus we got to go a day without worrying about anything. 

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5. Our 2nd WWOOFing Host

Earl, our 2nd WWOOFing host, was incredibly nice. He was working on subsistence farming, and I felt like I was really making a difference. He also made the world’s best bread, and I stole his recipe!

6. Working in Franz Josef

This is what we’re doing now. We’re working at a place called the Rainforest Retreat. It’s more of a hotel than a retreat. Liza and I have been doing house keeping in exchange for food and a room. The other house keepers are really nice. Most of them are from the Philippines and spend all day asking me questions about basketball.

7. Hiking to a View Point in Franz Josef

There are a ton of fun hikes nearby that start within walking distance of where we’re staying. It rains a lot here, but whenever we get a nice day we try to do one. We’ve done two so far.

 

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8. Hiking to a Gorge in Franz Josef

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9. Warm New  Year’s Eve

It was weird being outside on New Year’s Eve in shorts and a t-shirt. Picton, the town we were in, had a big celebration with a band playing whiny teenager covers of not whiny teenager songs. Then at midnight there were fireworks. It was pretty fun!

10. Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman wasn’t nearly as intense or isolated as Cajas was in Ecuador, but it was still very beautiful despite being so touristy.

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Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park

Just One of the Many Lord of the Rings Scenes We’ve Replicated (Against My Free Will)

Just One of the Many Lord of the Rings Scenes We've Replicated (Against My Free Will)

5 Things That are Still Bothering Me about New Zealand

Okay New Zealand has not been all bad, and I promise that after this I’ll put up some pictures and write about some of the fun things we’ve done. These are just a couple things that have been frequently causing me grumpy-ness:

1. Prices/Businesses

People told me that New Zealand would be a bit more expensive than I was used to. I can now tell you, for sure, that New Zealand is WAY more expensive than you’re used to. Worse than that, though, is that the businesses seem to be dedicated wholly to making the business owner maximum profit at the expense of his employees and customers. “Food” is the next victim on my list anyways so I’ll use a restaurant experience to demonstrate this. When you walk into a restaurant, don’t expect do be seated and given a menu. There are no hosts or waiters. The only staff in one person at the counter taking orders and one cook. Next you’ll look at a menu only to see that the very cheapest thing is $12. You need to be careful ordering because everything is going to cost extra. Don’t expect free ketchup, refills, or sides. Some places charge extra if you want to take your food to go, and some places charge extra if you want to eat there due to “limited dining space.” Also, I already posted the picture of the place charging 15% extra because it was the day after a holiday. Then, since there’re only two people working in the entire restaurant, it takes really long for the food to come. This is just an example. All the businesses are like this: understaffed and overpriced.

2. Food

They eat mostly British food in New Zealand. How is it that the British colonized India just to make their food have flavor, and it still tastes like nothing, absolutely nothing?

3.“Free Spirits”

Okay I get it, you’re a free spirit, but you’re in a restaurant. Put on a shirt and shoes. The food is hard enough to choke down as it is without looking at your hairy feet and pimply back.

4.Other Travelers

I didn’t have much experience with “people” in Ecuador so this might not just apply to New Zealand, but all travelers in general. My peers seem to me to mostly be people who had trouble making friends in high school, who dropped out of college, and now have their daddy’s credit card because they need to travel to “find themselves.” So they go around repeating what they heard their professor say in their first semester, freshman political science class and proclaiming that the world would be a better place if everybody was like them. There would be fewer wars, which is great, but there would be a lot fewer of all of the things that allow society to function too. In all fairness, we have met some nice, generally interesting people as well.

5. “WWOOFing” in New Zealand

WWOOF stands for world wide opportunities on organic farms. When I looked online for pictures of this, I saw people all over the world working on organic farms. I made the fatal error of assuming that I would also be working on organic farms. However, in New Zealand, WWOOFing has taken on a new meaning. WWOOFing hosts in New Zealand have consistently been business owners who don’t want to pay their employees and people who want a free, personal landscaper. I’m bummed about this because the website made it look like I would be learning about sustainable agriculture and making a difference and stuff.

Sorry I just needed to get that off my chest. Now I can start talking about all the fun we’ve had!

10th Time’s the Charm… I Hope

Last time I wrote was on Christmas, and since then a lot has happened but not much has changed. We were either going to get that job picking grapes or leave early. We called the guy about the grape picking job for the first time on the 22nd of December. He said to call him back tomorrow. We did. He said to call him on the 26th. Then I called him only to be asked to call back on the 3rd of January. By that point I was sick of this guy telling me to call him back later so we decided to get our visa and leave right after that. We’d just need something to do for the next two to three weeks while our visa was processed. We looked for other nearby jobs, nearby farms to wwoof on, and a couchsurfing host. The only success we had was a couchsurfing host who offered to put us up for one night. That would have been more effort than it was worth since we would have had to carry our stuff all the way across town. Plus when I talked to him on the phone all he did was say how I must be since I’m an American and how he is because he’s from New Zealand. I honestly would rather have worked for free on a farm than listen to that guy talk all night. So we turned to our last resort, camping. There were some big discounts at stores the week after Christmas so we got a cheap camping stove, a cooler, and some other supplies. We bought food for a week and found a cheap, nearby campsite to hitchhike to. All we had to do was Orbitz and change our ticket. The website’s information made it sound like it should have cost way, way less than they actually wanted to charge us due to a bunch of little things in the fine print. Well now we didn’t have the money to change our ticket and we couldn’t just go camping without any idea of what to do when we got back. We needed a long term solution. So we went back and found a hotel to stay in for a couple nights while we figured something else out. Liza found several ads for cherry picking jobs on the eastern part of the south island, including one where you’d register with one agency and farms would call if they needed workers. It seemed a bit too unsure, but it was the best we had and we couldn’t afford to just stay in hotels or hostels much longer. We booked the next ferry ticket available to the south island and planned on hitchhiking from where the ferry landed to the city with the cherry picking jobs on the eastern half of the island. While we were trying to hitchhike some lady comes outside and shouts at us to go somewhere else because she’s sick of seeing hitchhikers. I’ve heard a lot about how friendly the people in New Zealand are, but I’m still looking for those people. Anyways, this made Liza sad, and at this we’d been out in the sun for a couple hours trying to catch a ride so we decided to find a cafe or something in the shade where we could check our e-mails. When we checked we found an e-mail from a wwoof host on the western part of the south island working on a nature retreat. We decided that that seemed more for sure than the cherry picking work so we decided to to head that way instead. We took a bus to the nearby city of Nelson where we could bus to the retreat from. Nelson is also near Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand’s most beautiful park. We decided to take a day to see that, and booked our bus tickets online. The next morning we showed up at the bus stop to be told by the driver, “You aren’t on my list. This isn’t my problem. I’m running late.” Then he drove off. The people working at the bus station luckily called somebody to drive us there. The park itself was alright, but I’ve heard so much about New Zealand’s natural beauty so it was a bit of a disappointment. I got some nice pictures, but I would consider that a national park. It had one heavily traveled, nicely paved path with frequent campsites and even a hostel. On top of that, they had water taxis to bring you to your campsite or hostel. That’s right. You could take a bus to the water taxi to your hostel, stay in a nice room there, and say you’ve experienced New Zealand’s natural beauty. Also, I know New Zealand is struggling with invasive species, but seeing the path lined with animal traps was a bit off-putting to see at a national park. This was the 2nd of December. That night, after returning from the park, we booked our ticket to Franz Josef where our host is. Shortly after we got a call saying that there was a problem with the road and that they changed our bus to the 5th. This upset me because we had already been staying in hotels and hostels for too long and two more days would stress us financially even more. We sucked it up and waited until the 5th. We had to wake up really early to catch our bus at 7AM. When we got to the bus stop, though, they told us our bus was cancelled because the road was flooded and we couldn’t get changed to a different bus or get our money back because we didn’t spend an extra $100 each on a refundable ticket. New Zealand’s south island only has two roads. One on the west coast and one on the east coast. There is no alternative route or anything. So now we were tired, cranky, and now we didn’t have a place to stay or anywhere to go. I did some snooping and found that the flooding occurred on the 1st. That’s right. They knew our bus wasn’t going to be operational, but they sold us the ticket anyways. Then they never told us it was cancelled and refused to give us a refund. I explained that to the guy on the help line and at least got us credit for a different bus or the bus to Franz Josef on the 9th which should run. We still didn’t have a plan so we found a place to stay for the night to try to figure something out. When we were still going to Franz Josef we intended to stay the whole time here, but after the bus company screwing us over twice, we just wanted to leave. We looked into just sucking it up and paying to leave early, but that seemed ridiculously expensive. The days passed with us still having no plan (but much less money) until yesterday when we realized that its almost the 9th so we’re going to go work in Franz Josef and heading to India in early February. As you can see this is like our 10th plan so I’m really hoping this one works. If not I’m going to the store, buying 6 fun noodles and an ore, making a raft, and leaving New Zealand.

For Real?

For Real?

This is an actual sign I saw in a restaurant on January 2nd. January 2nd. Not January 1st or December 31st, but January 2nd.