Tag Archives: Hostel

Haere Ra Aotearoa

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So ends our little sojourn in Noble Zealand; six months and one week since we arrived, and 22 hours until we leave.

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And what a time we’ve had. No car crashes, no thefts (touch wood), no more tattoos, two birthdays, one lost wallet, one submerged watch, two pierced ears, a lot of pies, and a fair few hellos and goodbyes. Although we’d like to think we now understand the meaning of life and we are fully qualified to impart our VAST knowledge onto others, we’re pretty sure this is not the case. So instead of a ‘here’s what we’ve learnt’ polemic, we thought a little summary of the best and the rest might be more palatable…

HOSTEL

Best: The Tree House, Hokianga, North Island. Exactly what it says on the tin, a hostel in a tree house. Remote, quiet, beautiful.

Worst: Any Base X hostel. Only suitable if you’re 18, enjoy listening to Journey and Bon Jovi on repeat and don’t mind the reek of adolescence. 

The Tree House, Hokianga - for some reason the only picture we took here was in the garden. Duh.

The Tree House, Hokianga – for some reason the only picture we took here was in the garden. Duh.

CAMPSITE

Best: Gillespie’s Beach, Just outside Fox, South Island. Camping at a beach on the wild west coast with the Southern Alps a seeming stone’s throw away, this was unrivaled in terms of scenery.

Worst: Donegal’s, Kaikoura, South Island. The campsite is a car park. Have you ever tried putting pegs into gravel? It DOESN’T WORK.

Dawn at Gillespie's Beach. Told you it was good..!

Dawn at Gillespie’s Beach. Told you it was good..!

OK.. Base X might’ve been terrible, but we did manage to make lasagna.

DRIVE

Best: Miford Sound, Fjordland, South Island. There are few drives in the world where the scale and beauty of the scenery makes you stop, drop your jaw on the floor, and release a volley of expletives at every turn. But this one will. You have been warned.

Worst: Wairariki Beach, Golden Bay, South Island. As if driving alongside a sheer cliff drop isn’t terrifying enough, much of the road had crumbled and caved in down the hillside so you had to crawl along the wrong side of the road hoping desperately that it would hold. Not the most relaxing of drives.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Doing a victory handstand because the scenery was SO GOOD!

Doing a victory handstand on the Fjordland / Milford drive because the scenery was SO GOOD!

FOOD

Best: Anything at Blue Carrot Catering – especially the pork belly, savory muffins and RASPBERRY CHEESECAKE. Nyom.

Worst: Packet noodles and processed cheese sandwiches. Our stable diet for about 2 months. When everything you eat is yellow, there is something SERIOUSLY wrong.

PUB

Best: The Mussel Inn, Golden Bay, South Island. Quaint, homely, eco-friendly (standard), brews it’s own beers and serves seafood. What more could you want?

Worst: The Queens Street Tavern, Auckland, North Island. You know when you arrive in a new city and you don’t know where to go and you somehow end up in a dodgy pub with evil stares and pokie machines? Well, that about summarizes our experience in the QST. Bad shout.

The Mussel Inn

DRINK

Best: A Porsche Margarita – a sparkling tasty treat given as a free birthday offering after our shift at Flying Burrito Brothers.

Worst:  Michelada – Another FBB concoction but this time they didn’t do so well.This Tex-Mex mix of Sol, lemon juice and salt is about as far from the bona fide Mexican drink as you can get. Don’t try this at home.

PINT

Best: Macs Ginger Brew – delicious alcoholic ginger beer. Crabbies better watch out.

Worst: Boundary Road Lawn Ranger – Beer with lime added in the bottle. Tastes like an alcopop gone wrong.

BOOK

Best: The Gods Drink Whiskey, Stephen T. Asma – a somewhat irreverent yet highly informative study on the application of Buddhism in Cambodia. Maybe not the best ‘relax-with-a-good-story’ read, but stuffed with facts and ridiculously well written.

Worst: Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps, Barbara and Alan Pease. Don’t. Just don’t.

FILM

Best: The Intouchables – Yes, yes, we know this is French. But it’s still AWESOME.

Worst: Lymelife – Another depressing American Beauty spin-off starring Macaulay Culkin’s brothers. There is a reason why they aren’t famous.

MEMORY

Best: Starting off Christmas day with a glass of bubbles, a Bavarian sausage and the paddling pool. There’s a first time for everything…!

Worst: Being really hungry and having no money in Dunedin but consoling ourselves in the knowledge that there was a packet of cookies on the back seat of the car. However, what we didn’t know was that there was actually both a bag with cookies in it and a bag of rubbish on the back seat of the car. Somehow, SOMEONE had managed to mix up the bags earlier, and we ended up with no cookies, smelly rubbish and A WHOLE LOT OF ANGER.

Dunedin - site of the cookie fiasco

Dunedin – site of the cookie fiasco

 

TOP 3 TRIP TUNES

(please note how it sounds like the lyrics are, ‘tidy as a sunbed’. See also if you can find the part that sounds like ‘shit job, thriller’. We never tired of this)

We may still be unaware of the meaning of life and path to follow and so on and so forth, but what we do know is that our trip would not have been what it was without all the people that we met and helped us on the way. They know who they are, but just in case they don’t, we would like to thank them…

Hobnob, Carl, Fiona, Anita, Jacqueline and all the extras at Prospect Terrace – home from home; Bart and Lucy, Parker, Tux and Boots; Randolph, Laura, Helena, Ira and Aly and the AIR BED; Miss Alice Mahy and Josh, Clover and Sabbath; Rosie Bates, her lovely housemates and the soft grass in the back garden; Gordon, Nicole, Aidy, Mark, Stefan, Kir, Hayden and everyone working at Blue Carrot; Dawie, Rahul, Bernie, Kuldeep, Joe, Josephine and the other Flying Burrito Brothers; Siggy, Marina, Ole, Amy, Sophie, Jostein and Rafa – the dream team; Mama Bilton and Jeffies old, new, future and honorary – Adam, Barbara, Georgie, Igor, Jasmine, Clare, Kim, Tawanda, Jen, Vaughn, Jeff, Oz, Mothership, Tonka and Tinkerbell; Anna and Simon, the brains behind the Masterton Expedition as well as the expedition-eers themselves, Lester, Charlie and other dice-weilding crazies; Joe the photographer who picked us up and managed to score us two free ferry tickets; Tom from the Welsh Bar and his disgusting cocktails; Soren and Thomas – we’ll see you at Rosskilde; Sam the German hitchhiker who was amazing company and knew Quentin in Berlin; Mel and Ollie – laughed so much; Tim Fox intrepid explorer – next time we’ll see you in Cali; All the people who picked us up when hitchhiking and the many that casually offered us a place to stay when we were stuck.

(Some of) The Dream Team

(Some of) The Dream Team

Standard night in at Jefferson…

If we’ve forgotten anyone, we’re mighty mighty sorry and did not do it intentionally (unless you’re the guy who picked us up, drove like a maniac and then dropped us off miles from anywhere.. argughgugh). We’ve had a blast.

Churr.

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Pacific Ring of Fire

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No, this ‘ent the drinking game. (I’m being serious!) Nor is it the aftermath of a southern hemisphere curry. It’s actually a chain of volcanoes running for 250km through NZ’s North Island. Pretty big deal.

Even bigger deal is Pacific Ring of Fire master, the Oruanui eruption. Blowing it’s top 26,500 years ago, this former molten mess of lava, ash and pumice in fact collapsed, and created a 606 sq km lake in it’s place – Lake Taupo. And that’s where we are, in the town of Taupo (pop 21,040) on the shores of the enormous lake. Although the surrounding area is apparently still volcanically active (eeep!), the lake looks like an enormous millpond; speckled with sailing boats, jet ski’s, random lost skydivers, and a pontoon made for whacking golf balls onto. In a word, it’s lush.

The mountains you can see in the background (above) are part of the Tongariro National Park. The Tongariro River in fact flows into the Lake on the south side, and the Waikato flows from it on the north east side (at Taupo). The Waikato is known as an absolute beast i.e. that’s a hella lotta water for a hella lotta time. You can see this in the Huka Falls (below) where something like 5 Olympic pools worth of water fall every minute. Nyom, how relevant.

Anyway, we’ve settled here for a bit, working in a hostel in return for free accommodation. Seriously, knocking on people’s doors and saying ‘housekeeeeepeeeng’ is genuinely very fun. Place is great, work is horrendous, juggling is fun, sunsets are unreal.

Here are a few photys to keep you amused.


North by Northwest

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What do you think of when you hear ‘Northlands’?

How about ‘The Far North’?

Believe us, it is just about as remote as it sounds. Although not quite Elephant-Graveyard-from-The-Lion-King, it’s pretty darned isolated.

Having left the sunny surfing climes of the Russell and Paihia, we moved west towards the Hokianga Harbour. Only about 2 hours drive from the tourist trap Bay of Islands, this area feels wholly different – almost as though it has  evolved on it’s own, completely independent of the mainstream. The we-aint-seen-new-blood-in-here-for-years tone was set at Ngawha Hot Springs, where we drove in, freaked out at the weathered sheds and dirty, smelly, bubbling pools of natural hot water, and promptly turned around and drove out again.

*Confession*: Over-active imagination Imogen (‘It was too much like Deliverance‘) was definitely more scared than Celyn.

We perked up though. For a start, the 10-minute ferry ride from Rawene (population 440) to Kohukohu (population 190 – does that go up to 192 if we stay there?) was beautiful. Streaming rays of sun bounced off the thick, brown water of the channel (which eventually turns into the Tasman sea) and our little chugging vehicle ferry powered it’s way between the two piers. We found a place to sleep at The Tree House, a true rainforest lodge which we shared with ducks, doves and the odd Tui if we were lucky. This was a find. As the concept of time seems to have been left somewhere on the other side of the water, we inevitably ended up staying for longer than planned.

This did, however, give us a chance to explore the town of Kohukohu. Heralded as the ‘last fully-preserved Victorian village in New Zealand’, we decided to spend the night at quaint little Coke (as it is known to the locals). Nice place. Nice night. But there was one thing that we noticed about the town, which in fact echoed with our impression of Russell.

It just didn’t seem that old.

Were we disappointed? Not sure. Perhaps we, as European citizens, are spoilt by the abundance of staggeringly impressive historical buildings right on our doorstep, or maybe we are grossly uneducated about the history of NZ, but we can’t help but feel a little bit … indifferent to the late 19th-century architecture and grid-square layouts of the towns that we have come across. However, we know that we didn’t travel across the world to compare European and Oceaniac architecture, and as has already been proven, our breath has been taken away by the more than impressive natural scenery. Verdict? Let’s stop complaining, start educating ourselves, and get outdoors!

One last point about the Northlands? EVERY ONE IS EVEN NICER THAN THE NICE PEOPLE THAT WE CAME ACROSS IN AUCKLAND! Serious. There’s something in the water or something. Staying at hippy-haven  we met (and were fed by) a great group of Frenchies as well as coming across Phil-from-Tredegar working on the ferry. There were also the two German hitchhikers who entertained us from the Hokianga Harbour all the way back down to Auckland. Nice NICE nice.

Listening to:

Chet Faker, Cigarettes and Chocolate

Courtesy of Patrick and Timon – standard German guys having an unbelievably good taste in electronic music. JAH!

Grim up north, is it?

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It’s grim up north, right?

Well, no.

In fact, this statement couldn’t actually be more wrong. For a start, north, as it is commonly known to us northern hemisphere-ers, is equated with cold. Not so much here. Go a couple of hundred kilometers north and you’re closer to the equator. Which means sun. WIN. Add to that mile upon mile of dramatic volcanic scenery; mountains which go right up to the sparkling Pacific Ocean and suddenly fall away to reveal golden sandy coves and hidden bays. You get my drift?

So after a fair bit of life admin (yes that still exists on the other side of the world) and catching up with old friends in Auckland, we put Rosie through her paces and drove the 200 odd (some very odd) km to the northern town of Whangerei (pronunced ‘Fan-gerr-aay). Thankfully, she was great, aside from a few ‘surface’ hiccups. (Such as the heating being stuck on full blast, so every time we make a journey, we emerge looking as though we had just hiked in gale force winds to the South Pole and back. Meh.)

The town itself is a little bit nondescript, it is described in the guide-book as ‘somewhere in the middle of the pretty to ugly spectrum’. Nice. However, the beauty of the area lies in what you find around it. We shacked up in a cute wee hostel a couple of km out of the town (**Little Earth Lodge – run by a guy from Birmingham with a NZ accent and his Japanese wife. Clean rooms, Balinese furniture, loads of hippy outdoors-y types. We definitely recommend it!**) and first things first, we CELEBRATED CELYN’S BIRTHDAY! Massive thank you to everyone who was super-duper organised and sent a card, there was quite a collection (and we BOTH got emotional. Oh you guys).

In not-so-typical birthday fashion, on the morning of his birthday, we went caving. The hostel is right next to the ‘Abbey Caves‘ which, despite their slightly uninspiring name, are incredible. We were advised to borrow sexy croc-esqe shoes and helmets, much to our amusement, but we soon found out that they were more than necessary. The 3 caves (Organ, Middle and Ivy) were PROPER DARK CAVES LIKE! The caverns didn’t look much from the outside but as soon as you climbed in, they opened up into enormous rooms. Not only did we have to clamber over rocks and scale enormous walls (no word of hyperbole), but also we had to wade through icy cave water up to our brea-/che-sts (and for the vertically challenged amongst us, necks). There were stalactites and stalagmites everywhere which had formed in crazy, almost sculpture-like poses. However, the most magical aspect was that if we turned our torches off, instead of plunging ourselves into ‘The Descent’-esque darkness, the ceilings and walls were lit up by hundreds of tiny glowworms. It was beautiful.

Emerging semi-scathed from the caves, we hopped back into Rosie and with a minor detour into town (Cel wanted a birthday perforation…or 2) we headed to the world-renowned Whangerei Falls. Word on the street is that they are photogenic but overhyped and there are many more in NZ that top this one. However, when you can hear them and feel the spray before you even see them, we thought that this was one sight that was well worth the trip, even on a dull day. Add to this the enchanting Kauri forest – made up of enormous Kauri trees, native to New Zealand, revered in Maori legend and some up to 500 years old – and you’ve got a winner.

As if this weren’t enough, on a whim we drove up the coast past Tutukaka and onto Matapouri and Whale Bay. If these are just names to you, google them.

No seriously, set on the coast, these are some of those ‘hidden bays’ that we were telling you about. As we arrived, the sun miraculously made an appearance, and we were treated to spectacular views over the ocean. Now I know we’ve been working hard on trying to get to grips with Celyn’s camera, but even with a smart SLR, the colour of the photos just doesn’t do it justice. So it’s up to you to imagine the turquoise-blue sea; a medley of greens and purples on the mountains; grey sand transforming into a bright, almost unnatural yellow sand; and the most ridiculous pink and orange sky, starting on the horizon and gradually spreading as far as you can see, so that even the roads seem to turn the most delightful shade of magenta.  Red sky at night and all that, we decided this was a good omen for the weather!

So that was Cel’s birthday, fairly standard? For the time being we’re heading further north still, towards the seaside town of Russell (described by Dickens in the 19th-century as full of ‘the refuse of society’. We’ll fit right in!). And then on to visit the Bay of Islands and (fingers crossed) to catch a ride and camp on one.

A bientot!

Listening to:

Natty, Man Like I

Jack Johnson, In Between Dreams

(Surf music in the car to pretend that it was sunny. So far, it seems to have worked!)