Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Zealand Part II


New Zealand

More of the Shaky Isles!

Springtime in NZ

I followed the signs in the Auckland airport to the ‘All Departures’ gate to catch my flight to Christchurch. I was asked to fill out a Departures card....’For a domestic flight?’ I asked. Oh no. There is another terminal for domestic departures and it was either a 15 minute wait for the shuttle or a 15 minute walk. I was already running I ran. I arrived just in time to hear the announcement that my flight was delayed. What a surprise!

An hour and a half later, I landed in Christchurch. I could take a shuttle for $20, a taxi for $40 or a public bus for $7. All three of these options seemed ridiculously expensive after SE Asia of course, so I opted for the bus.

I got to the Bus Exchange where I was to call Anthony, my very first couch surfing host ( but could I find a payphone anywhere? No. And when I finally did, would it take coins? Nuh uh. So I had to use my credit card again after already spending $10 in Auckland just to call Tash for 5 minutes and was freezing with just my bunny hug, light pants and sandals! Why didn't I wear jeans on the plane or buy REAL shoes before I left? I guess I had forgotten what cold felt like after 6 months of heat in SE Asia.

While I sat waiting for Anthony, I noticed a seagull stroll by me. This seagull looked...PRISTINE. Its feathers were so white and it’s beak so red. After being exposed to so many animals that were mangy, diseased and unkempt in Asia, this seagull looked like it belonged to the royal family.

I stayed up chatting with Anthony and his roommate, Michelle, until I finally collapsed into bed at 1 AM. The entire journey from Denpasar ended up lasting 20 opposed to the original duration of 9 hours.

The next day, Anthony took me to Sumner Beach! A quaint little town by the ocean. We had a fabulous lunch there – eggs Benedict, apricot coconut crisp and espressos! I don't have any photos of this leg of my journey because my camera equipment was locked up in my baggage....which was lost somewhere between Australia and NZ (of course).

Michelle, Anthony and I went for breakfast the next morning before Michelle drove me to the airport. I hope that someday I will be able to return the hospitality to them.

When they announced that my flight to Rotorua was delayed, I actually laughed out loud after all that had already happened. I had specified a window seat on the flight to Rotorua, and had another chuckle when I realized my 'window seat' had no actual window!

I can't explain what a comfort it is knowing that someone you love is waiting for you at your destination. I had landed by plane, arrived by bus, tuk-tuk, sangthaw, boat etc. in so many places not knowing what to expect, where to go or who to trust completely alone. Although it's exciting and adventurous, it makes you appreciate a friendly face so much more. Knowing Tash was waiting for me at the airport when I arrived had me smiling the whole plane ride!

We had met and became fast friends way back in 1995 in Camrose, Alberta. The last time we had seen each other was in Edmonton about 4 years prior but had always stayed close through letters, email and telephone calls. At that time, her and her husband, Jono, had both graduated from Rhodes in South Africa and were immigrating to New Zealand with plans to later move to Australia. And here they were, livin' it! New Zealand provides a pretty beautiful life for those who take advantage of it, and they are a prime example of that.

The car ride from Rotorua was filled with stories, laughter and making up for all our lost time. We got to Whakatane (pronounced 'fuckatawny' mom had fun with that one ) and met Jono for a coffee at 'The Bean', where they roast their coffee beans in-house - I was in love with Whakatane already!

Their home was exactly as I had envisioned..cozy, comfortable and full of character. I spent the next 3 weeks there looking for work, editing photos, visiting and EATING! It wasn't until my clothes from Canada arrived and I tried to put on my favourite jeans that I realized just how MUCH I had been eating. I blame Tash. Her cooking was out of this world, gourmet, scrumptious and irrefutably deee-lish!

One weekend when Jono was away, Tash and I watched all of the Harry Potter movies back to back while eating curry, cookies, popcorn and drinking chai all wrapped up in arm warmers, housecoats and slippers. Divine!

I then spent a couple of weeks in Tauranga, which is also situated in the Bay of Plenty. The homeowner, Lisa, owned a pet sitting co. as well as a dog kennel so it was an absolute dreamy housesit for me! I took care of about 6 dogs for 2 weeks as well as Pickle, the cat. I was walking for about 3 hours every day so each of them could get a good jaunt in. It was so nice to have them around and they kept me reallllly busy!

At the end of it, Tash and Jono came to Tauranga to pick me up and we went to Mt. Maunganui. Tash and I walked up the mountain and quite typically, Jono ran! The summit offers a view of the vast ocean scape, paragliders, grazing sheep and surrounding city.

Kate and Graham Currie, Tash and Jono's friends from Hamilton came to visit that weekend in Whakatane. When they arrived, I was on my 'bird walk' – an amazing hike right beside their place – lots of stairs and elevated views. A great workout for someone who spends most of their time in front of a laptop.

We had a serious spread that night with much laughter and many stories of Jono and Graham's homeland, South Africa, as well as little tidbits about the Maori culture from Kate, the only Kiwi of the bunch.

Kate, Tash and I had a lovely morning drinking tea over girl chat and then got dressed and went to the carnival across the street. Tash and I giggled and screamed like little girls on the Rock and Roll! We then went to Ohope Beach for coffee and lunch and a walk at Otiwarari Bay. The beach was beautiful – so many seashells and so smooth. I was madly in love with life in New Zealand.

The next morning, we had another bbq but this time with French toast! We ate in their cute little backyard complete with garden, lots of flowers and trees. Jono would surprise Tash with things like making a flower bed or converting the garden path from straight to curvy.

I returned to Tauranga for another housesit taking care of 2 dogs and 3 cats. Pam worked with Lisa (my last housesit) and her parents were going 'across the ditch' to Australia. During this time I was going up to Auckland trying to find a company to sponsor me so I could stay in NZ without having to return home to obtain a work visa. This proved much harder than I had hoped.

By this time, Cait had arrived in NZ! I had met her in Thailand with Ada at the beginning of my trip and we had gone on to travel to Cambodia together. She had just spent 4 months in Thailand teaching English and we found a place in St. Helier's Bay, Auckland with 5 awesome roomies. I stayed with her when I was there and we got to catch up on all our travel adventures since we last saw one another.

My last house sit was in Muriwai Beach with 2 dogs, Neo and Pixie and Mog, the cat. I had no idea what a dramatically stunning place this was going to be. When I went down to the beach for the first time with the dogs, I was overtaken by the 50km of black sand beach, tumultuous waves and stormy nuanced sky.

The dogs and I went to the beach everyday to frolic in the surf and run up and down the beach...ok that was more them than me, but I had fun watching!

Cait came up to visit and we had a lovely day of eating ice cream, hanging with the dogs, checking out the Gannet colony and later making dinner and watching a quirky movie.

I came back down to Whakatane just in time for Halloween! Apparently Kiwis aren't big on dressing up for Halloween, so Tash was determined to show her friends what a great time they were missing out on. We decorated the entire house and Tash baked up a storm of Halloween goodies.

There was a vampire, a ghost, a smurf, a mummy, pirates, a Barbie, the Joker, hippies, a fly, an oyster catcher ( and the cat in the hat!

There was limbo, there was dancing, there was eating and drinking - a great party made by the spectacular people who attended and hosted the event.

And then it came....the 3 months in NZ that I had to secure a work visa and a job were up. If I had any hope of working in NZ, I was to return to Canada to apply for and obtain the visa. I returned home November, 2009, 9 months after I had set out to SE Asia, hoping only to stay for 5 least that was the plan.

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