Sunday, October 28, 2012

Weekend of the trunk monkey

Sorry. But I have no pics for this post. Next time, pictures. It's a promise.
So I had the weekend off from the winery and decided to drive down to Devonport to hang out with the Canadian divers I met a week ago.
Since, I was heading down there, I offered to give the girls I'm working with a ride too. Devonport is just a short ferry ride from Auckland for them. Plus, we've all been working our butts off, literally. After work, we're hanging in a barn in the evening, bathing in an outdoor shower, and freezing to death each night.
We were all ready for a piece of civilization.

I had a great weekend and it was completely worth the 6 hour round trip drive.
Partly, because I became an honorary trunk monkey.
Here's a hilarious YouTube video/commercial about a trunk monkey.
Trunk monkey por vida!

The first night in Devonport I went to a pub called the Patriot and hung out with the guys over some beers and a pop rock cover band. Devonport is a really small, boutique town in the north harbor of greater Auckland. So the night scene is a bit low key but it felt like a rave compared to the barn.

The next day I walked with one of the Canucks  all over Devonport. We went to the top of north head, checked out the old fort and cannons. Then moseyed down to a beautiful beach. It was low tide and we walked into the ocean about 50 yards and the water was still not up to my knees.
On our way back to Devonport center we stopped at a pub and played some pool and had a few pints. The pool tables and balls are tiny here. I'm no good at pool normally, but with the targets being miniature I sucked even more than usual.The bet was, he had to sink all of his balls before I could get a single one in. It had to be a complete shutout. It was close. I didn't win by much, but I did win, and my opponent had to drink his next pint while sitting under a table. Yeah, I trolled him..... He was a really good sport about it!
That night we joined up with the others for dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Mexico. How did they come up with the name?!? Haha
The food was really good, not quite good ol' Cali style. This place was a little fancy. We sipped some very expensive tequila. Totally new concept to me...aren't you supposed to just shoot it? And I macked on an incredibly good pumpkin taco. Wait did I say pumpkin taco? Yup. I gambled and won on that one.
Good times were had.
Sunday morning we returned to the Stone Oven for breakfast and more amazing coffee, just like the morning before. Then we headed west to Muriwai beach to do some surfing.
I was definitely over confident in my surfing abilities. By a million percent.
This beach was nothing like the little baby beach I had long boarded at in Maui.
This beach had Big Boy Waves. And a ripping current. I couldn't even paddle out past the first break. Not even with a navy diver trying to manually tow me in. The divers did great. One is an avid surfer and he was shredding some of the curls. The beginner was catching wave after wave....I was very impressed.
That's alright, me and my bruised ego caught a few rollers and I even stood up a few times and rode them the whole way in. I also got smacked around by my board, wrapped up in my leash, and slammed into the sandy bottom floor.
Good times!
After surfing we had just enough time to drive back to Devonport and grab some dinner before I had to meet the girls at the ferry and start our drive back north to Parou Bay winery.
It was definitely hard to leave the good life of fun, beer and all things civilized to return to a job where I do a thousand squats by 2 pm and couldn't even get all the dirt outta my fingers after my
weekend off. But I'm having an amazing time with everything I do. From pumpkin tacos to migrant is good.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

But... I'm on vacation...

So I finally got some work here. Which is awesome. With my car problems and vacation expenses and the price of...well everything, I need the money.
So last night I had a 4 hour shift at the Roadrunner bar in Paihia. The owner Mike was extremely nice! Showed me the ropes and how to pour a decent beer and  make a double rum and coke.
I know what your thinking, cus I thought the same thing.
Surely, with my all my years of imbibing I would know these things already. That's what I thought too.
And don't call me Shirley.
But there's a way to pour a beer at home and its definitely different from how you pour it from a tap. I had a great time. Thank god it was slow. With mostly locals, who were kind and patient and let me off the hook for the first few pours that were a bit foamy.
The locals even have their own handles (mugs). So they walk in say "32 Lion Red" and I grab their frosty mug, pour them a beer and try to understand their kiwi accent.
I kept thinking of England, and their laws against pouring a beer with too much head.

It was so slow, I got off my shift an hour early and took the car ferry over to Russel where I'm working for a week or two at a winery.
Vineyard at sunset

Not in the fun, pour some glasses of wine way. I'm pruning, weeding, thinning, taping and rubbing the vines. It's not super hard. But it's very repetitive and I'm REALLY sore. My back and legs are killing me. I crab/duck walk to a vine, then weed around it, then strip all but one vine. Get up off your ass and duck/crab walk to the next vine. I'm probably averaging about 2.5 plants a minute. Yeah, I'm killing it. Ungh! The three of us are doing 1,000 plants (give or take a hundred) each day.
The little house and the barn 

Plus it's almost summer and its good for the bikini bod.  I basically power squat or lunge a couple times a minute for 8 hours a day. When I need a break I scoot on my butt to the next plant.
I'm working for an Indian couple. They're very nice and I'm staying on the property while I work here.
There are 2 other ladies working with me. They're also really nice and we hang out in the barn after work. It's Sophia from Chile and Miriam from Germany.

The vineyard is beautiful and has a private beach a short drive from the main house.
For now I'm just making some money and doing work. I need the would be really sweet to be back in Auckland for Halloween.
Plus, I'm on vacation...
So I may only be here a week, instead of the 2 I planned.
Tomorrow I'll have photos of this beautiful winery and and the great people I'm working with.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Night rider and the far north

So, I left Matouri bay and once again started towards Cape Reinga. I was tired from only sleeping a few hours the night before. So by the time I got to 90 mile beach I was ready for a nap. I pulled into an almost empty holiday park and snoozed away in my car while it continued to rain for most of the afternoon.
90 mile beach the following day. Still freezing, but no rain. 
When I woke up it was still too cold and windy to go to the beach so I hung out made some dinner and ended up meeting another nice stranger, Steve Hale, in the park's tv room.
While we watched tv, I chatted with Steve, a local writer who was traveling with his dad for an article. In exchange for some of my whiskey, actually, most of it (very Hemingway of him) he promised to send me a copy of one of his books. I picked his book titled Kiwi Man Caves. So stoked. It should be in the mail any day now...
The next day the niners were playing. So into Kaitaia I drove, to hole up for a few hours, watch my boys in red and gold and eat kiwi nachos. Go Niners!
*shake fist at what kiwis call nachos*
Then all the way north. Cape Reinga or bust!
Looking west from Cape Reinga

I got there in time for sunset and it was gorgeous! Cold. But gorgeous all the same.

Cape Reinga is the most northernly point of New Zealand (that is accessible). It's also where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman sea meet. There are some wicked waves out there.

Local fisherman with a giant snapper at Cape Reinga light house
The light house at Cape Reinga
Then I drove back south through the night to find somewhere to sleep.
This was my first time driving in the dark.
Driving at night makes you an animal killer.
All sorts of animals run through the street and before you have time to see's all over.
I was told to aim for possums. I swear! Because they kill so much of the native flora and fauna. But it's still pretty disgusting when it happens.
After my second hit and run (they were about 15 minutes apart)...
I became a stone cold possum slayer.
Night Rider!
On to more pleasant things. I got tired and crashed at another holiday park then the next day made my way down the west coast of northland and stopped for a few photo ops and small walks.
A coastal walk near Opinono. The island in the background is just one giant sand dune. How I want to roll down you giant sand dune! "As...... You..... Wish....!"

Pretty walk on the coast of Opinono, no giant sand dunes tho...
Then onto yet another holiday park. THIS ONE IS AWESOME!
It has a zip line and trampolines and a rope swing over the river! So much fun! Kauri Holiday Park. Ungh!
Zip lining it at sunset

River at the holiday park

Tomorrow I head back north up the coast to hike in the Kauri forest before heading back to Russel to work at the vineyard.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Matouri Bay and my lucky lure

Let me start by saying a found a stowaway lure in my camping gear. After my wheel bearing went out I hung it from my rearview mirror and have had good luck ever since.
My lucky charm

So, I woke up at the holiday park in Paihia and decided to make another try to head north up to Cape Reinga.
My first stop was back at Kerikeri where I was first sidetracked a few days ago with an oil change and a job interview. 
In Kerikeri I went to the historic stone house which was pretty but a little boring.
Wishing well at the stone house

Then onto Rainbow  Falls which was another gorgeous waterfall that completely lived up to it's name by having a constant rainbow in its mist.
Rainbow Falls
Rainbow falls from the river

I tried to capture it in my photos, but like most things here, my pictures just don't do it justice.Then I walked along the river for about an hour and a half. It was beautiful and the day was incredibly warm and sunny.  
Looking goofy in front of the falls haha

Then back on the road and on to my first stop for my trek north for the day. The first place in my itinerary was Matouri Bay to see the Rainbow Warrior monument and I'm happy to say I didn't make it any further than that.
I drove down a steep cliff to Matouri bay. It's a tiny bay with a beautiful beach. There's not much in the small, green valley besides the beach and the holiday park campgrounds.
I pulled up in the parking lot. I woke up tired that morning, having a day where all I wanted to do was go to sleep in a soft bed and have a warm room all to myself. One of those days where I wish I could teleport home for 8 hours. Have a beer with friends and sleep in a real house. 
So, I pulled up in the parking lot and thought about just crawling into the back of my car and napping. 
Instead, I dragged myself out of my car and walked over the grassy burm to the beach. 
When I sat down on the beach and looked out into the ocean I saw a pod of dolphins right next to the shore. Swimming, jumping, and slapping the water with the their tails. It was amazing. I've never seen dolphins so close.
If you look very closely, you can see a dolphin tail

I walked up and down the beach trying to get a good photo of them. I think I may have one where you can see a tiny tail or a few dorsal fins, but not much more. 
After about 30 minutes I booked a night at the holiday park and went back to watch the dolphins. There was an older couple digging for shellfish. So I struck up a conversation with them and asked what they were getting and how to cook them. Then I grabbed about 30 for myself with plans to make them for dinner. I'm STILL not sure what they were called, pippers or puppies? I don't know, the kiwi accent can be hard to understand.
When I went to the kitchen to cook them I met about 20 guys. Apparently the New Zealand navy dive team was training at Matouri beach for a few days. They fed me a delicious dinner and invited me to their caravans and chalets for beers. They were all so nice and friendly. There were some Maori's, Canadians, Kiwi's and Australians.
He let me take a pic as long as I promised to blur his face :) And not post it on facebook. AND make sure there were no beers visible.

A handful of them went out after dark on a training mission to clear a landing lane at Matouri beach. The rest of the crew was supposed to try and spot them, with sentries placed along the beach and on the hill.  My mission, as I was told, was to get the rest of the guys at camp drunk and distract them from the team's maneuvers. Mission accomplished.
Although I think it was me they got drunk, but that's a minor detail.
These guys had heaps of seafood they had caught and they cut open a raw, totally fresh sea urchin for me to try. Incredibly tasty, actually.
Apparently the dolphins had been in the bay all day. So I watched a video of some of the guys holding onto the front of their boat underwater and swimming/driving with them. Amazing. There are no words to describe how awesome it looked.
When the mission was over I got to sit in on their debriefing. So cool.
Then it was time to party into the wee hours. I learned some cool kiwi slang, a few points on rugby, how to 2 step, and lots of off-color jokes. I also learned that November 20 is kick a ginger day.  I guess it's from South Park because they were surprised I didn't know about it before. Apparently they take it seriously here and a couple of us were issued fair warning.
I also learned that surprisingly, I have red hair?
A the end of the night, there was just a few of us left standing. One kiwi nicknamed boomhower, cuz you couldn't understand 90% of what he said and the 3 Canadians. They invited me to a Maori beach house to go surfing with them in a few weeks. I really hope I can go.
It was late, and I had plans to get up at 6:30am to tag along with some of the guys out onto their boat to see the dolphins. I gave back the jacket I had been borrowing and the owner gave me his appellate as a souvenir. Bad Ass.
He also sang the Canadian National Anthem

As everyone went to bed I ended up joking about how cold I've been sleeping in my car. One guy was so awesome. He told me to grab my sleeping bag and bunk down in their caravan.  Warmest night in a week.
The next morning it was pouring. So no boat ride for me. Over coffee I exchanged info with some of the guys. They were leaving for a mission in Milford Sound but they're staying near Auckland and we hope to hang out again while they're here. I never made it to the Rainbow Warrior memorial, but it's just a good excuse to come back this way again. What a totally crazy, surprising and amazing day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Working 9-5, maybe?

The past few days have been slow. I've been holed up at a Holiday Park in Paihia.

Beach view from my campground

Beach view, deux

I camped here last night and had plans to drive north today but I was sidetracked by minor logistics. Things like job searching and getting sorely needed work done on my car.
*fist shake that my wagon has 6" of clearance and I can't even change the oil *
I kinda, sorta, totally, immensely, unfathomably, miss my truck.
My baby.
 xoxoxo my sweet Armadillo.Thank you J Crew for looking after her while I'm gone!!
So, I decided to write a post with somewhat random thoughts and photos.

I'm trying to get a pic of the stars here. Trying.
If you don't like it, don't blame me. Blame my dwindling budget and the kiwi who sold me a car with 2 torn CV boots.
*fist shake that I test drove my car in a parking garage and couldn't hear the obvious clack of crappy CV boots*

Borrowing the immortal words of Monty Python-
"And now for something completey different".
A quick update:
I applied for a Jr Ranger job in the south island. I am very underqualified, but I went for it.
I applied for a job in Waitoma as a black water rafting, abseiling, glow worm cave, tour guide. They contacted me for more info and I hope to hear from them in a couple of days.
In the meantime, I backtracked to Russel today to interview for a temporary job at a winery. Pruning and weeding for their spring season. It's a 2 week job, and it pays! Which sounds redundant, but here there is a ton of unskilled temp work available, but only in exchange for accomodation. No money at all!
I think I got the job. They'll call me tomorrow if I'm selected for the 2 weeks of back breaking labor...fingers crossed!
I enquired around Paihia today for some, ANY temporary work. If I'm lucky, I may have a 4 hour shift next week pouring delicous beer for the discerning patron at a place called the Road Runner Tavern.

So, with time on my side I checked out Hurua falls just outside of Paihia.

                                                   Hurau falls

I call this one "Hurua Falls + 1"
After Wharangei Falls, Hurua falls was kinda anti-climatic. Still pretty though.
Hurua falls, again

There were birds everywhere on this ledge by the falls.
I think this one was their king.

So I drove all around today. Up to Kerikeri on my way north until I got sidetracked by incredibly nice strangers and a $95 oil change. SCORE.
Then back down to Russel for my vineyard interview. So, I decided it was a good day to grab a beer and fries and watch monday night football (at 1:30pm on Tuesday) then camp at the holiday park again because it has hot showers and a kitchen. Ungh!
Back at camp, I rented a kayak for an hour and had a blast.
It was my 3rd time in a kayak and my 1st time on the ocean with it. Although really I was in a harbour.


Beaching the kayak to give the old shoulder a break

I don't miss a singe opportunity to document my goofy face!

The wind was strong and the water kinda choppy, at least it seemed that way...
Then, I was back to camp. And enjoying the sunset.

                          But not before I put my kayak away and sipped a few Double Brown beers.

I call this one "kayaks at rest"

Now to sleep in my freezing car. Its a little colder tonight. Last night I slept on my air matress with 2 pairs of socks, a beanie wrapped around my feet, my sweats with pants over them, 2 long sleeved shirts, a regular shirt, a sweatshirt and my fluffy jacket on. I stuffed my running hoodie and thermal over me inside my bag. My rain jacket was wrapped around the outside of my bag and I put my sweater between my torso and my air matress. Then I completely zipped up my sleeping bag until there was not a single tiny gap (not even to breathe) and I was actually warm enough to sleep through the night.
I'm hoping for the same luck tonight.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Whrom Whangarei to Whananaki

The "wh" is pronounced like an "f" in maori.
Which means the town of Whakapapa is funny to slip into conversation. ha.ha.ha.
Today I had an amazing day.
I drove from Whangarei to Whananaki. With several jaw dropping side trips.
My first stop on the way was just 10 minutes out of town at the Whangarei Falls. You can park at the top of the falls and then walk a short trail to the bottom.
Whangarei Falls
Whangarei Falls

The river trail

Guess who?

From the bottom of the falls, you can take another trail that meanders along the river and comes to yet more trails. I followed these trails to a canopy walkway through a Kauri forest and up to another waterfall.
It was incredibly beautiful and peaceful. I only saw 2 other people for the first hour up the Kauri forest trail. There was no one at the second waterfall.
Kauri Forest Trail
Falls at the top of the trail

From there I drove along the coast with a few beachside stops that I had planned from reading my lonely planet guide book. The roads here are very narrow and winding and people seem to drive them way too fast. Luckily there's not a lot of cars on them and I rarely have to pull onto the shoulder (like a good grandma) to let people pass me. While driving from the falls to my next destination, I saw a sign for a lighthouse walk. The turn flew by me at 40kph, haha, and I almost kept on going.
But I decided to turn around and take a look and here's what I found at the end of a gravel one lane road.

Top of the first hill

A vista point on a side trail

I walked up a small, bright green, grassy hill. Once at the top I looked down and found twin coves back to back. One cove was black rock, the other was golden sand, both with turqoise water.

Where these two coves meet theres a small land bridge to another island that is only accesible at low tide. The lighthouse sits on top of Tutukaka island.

On a beach between the coves

View from the lighthouse
Now, if I were a lighthouse enthusiast, a lover of lighthouses if you will, I would have been REALLY disappointed in this one. The lighthouse was a tiny white shack about 6 feet tall with a tall light on the top.
The hike up was pretty steep and the whole thing took about an hour and a half, not including photo stops and water breaks. I was so glad I didn't keep driving. I'm starting to think there are no wrong turns in NZ. Everything here is stunning. Just getting lost and driving around like a fool, which I've done, makes for awesome sightseeing.

Back on the beach between the coves
From the lighthouse reserve park I drove north along the coast to a beach I read about in lonely planet. This one was called Whale and was a short 10 minute hike from the pullout. It was a very pretty, secluded beach, but the day was getting cold and I only spent 45 minutes enjoying the view here.

Whale Beach

Whale Beach
The ocean here looks like bright and warm tropical water. It begs you to swim in it. It wants you to drink fruity cocktails on its sand. It lies.
It's as cold as ice. It's like northern California ocean in the winter. I stick my toes in and I need hot chocolate and my mommy.

View from my campsite in Whanaki
I took the looooong way, or as I like to call it, the scenic way, to my camp that night. I camped at another DOC (department of conservation). This one was at Otamure beach in north Whanaki. It was a great site. I parked on a big grassy meadow and walked 50 feet to the beach just in time to watch the sunset.

All these amazing places were within 2.5 hours drive from eachother. It was a completely fantasticly mind blowing day. Then I slept like a baby on my new air mattress that I had to blow up manually because I forgot to buy a pump. Old school baby.