Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mmmm...Fresh oranges

So, a quick update for my fans around the world. I've made it safely to Wairoa and am now staying with Annie and Graham at Lancaster Citrus. The have about eight acres of navel and valencia oranges, tangelos, mandarins, lemons, limes, and I'm sure things I've forgotten. And bees. So they have fresh honey. And yes, oranges do taste better right off the tree.

So I'll be helping with any number of things in the next couple weeks. Picking, mowing, tractor-driving, chopping wood, minding their store and who knows what else. Lots of fun, and they are great hosts. They've got a couple cats, three dogs (including a six-week-old black lab-terrier mix that's so cute you could throw up), 2 pigs and lots of chickens.

Sounds like I also might get invited to go deer hunting with Annie's son. His preferred method is called "spotlighting" and apparently takes place at night and involves a motorbike.

Lastly, I may night have much internet access in the coming week or two. Maybe every few days. Annie and Graham's computer seems to be on the fritz, and it's quite a walk to use the computer I'm at right now (and it costs $3 for five minutes). But I'll give you updates and plenty of photos when I get to another major city, for sure. And of course you can always give me a call, (if calling from the US) dial 011 6421 0257 9885.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hostel - Stables Lodge, Napier

Of all the times to be getting over a cold, it had to be this one. This hostel had about 20 women from across Europe and only one other guy to fight for them with. A gorgeous German checked in right behind me. I had two hot Norwegians in my room. But that doesn't matter shit when you can't carry on a conversation without sounding like you just smoked three packs of cigarettes and gargled razor blades; the constant sniffling and coughing doesn't get you far either. The cold is on its way out, but not quite gone.

Pros: Good kitchen, free fruit and bread, only $15, hot-European-chick haven

Cons: Room smelled kinda funky, hostel is several blocks from the city center

Web site

And one other note on being sick--Medicine here is ridiculously expensive! A 20-pack of sudafed is like $16.50! Not cool at all. However, getting a high dose of vitamin C is cheap as hell. Kiwifruit are less than 10 cents a piece.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hostels three and four

Verandahs, Auckland

I spent one night here on my way from Paihia to Rotorua. It's outside the central business district, in Ponsonby, so it's much quieter, and a good place to relax. It's essentially just an old victorian house that's been turned into a hostel.

Pros: Quiet, no bunk beds, cool part of town, no TV

Cons: Far from the bus terminal, no supermarket within walking distance

Web site

Funky Green Voyager, Rotorua

My favorite hostel so far, Funky Green sits in a residential neighborhood south of the city center. It is very cosy and welcoming.

Pros: Good atmosphere, comfy beds, beer fridge, helpful staff, no TV

Cons: A bit of a hike from the bus terminal, but it is worth it

Web site

Monday, September 24, 2007

You have spoken

Well, unanimously, my readers want me to hit the farm. So, later this week, I'll be heading to Wairoa, a town of about 5,000, to work at a local citrus orchard. I'll be there about two weeks and will get room and board in exchange for my help. Looking forward to it!

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The Maori are New Zealand's indigenous people, having settled here about 1,000 years ago. That makes New Zealand the last major land mass to be settled by humans. The Maori have assimilated well into Western culture, but have a strong grip on their cultural heritage.

Last night, I went to a cultural event that included presentations on Maori song and dance, weapons, tattoos, and ended in a hangi, or a meal steam-cooked in the ground. Very impressive and lots of fun.

Our meal is cooking

Traditional Maori canoe

I couldnt get lots of good photos because it was really dark, but lastly, here's a brief video of a haka that they performed. A haka is a Maori group dance.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


I've been in Rotorua since Friday, but haven't ventured out to do all that much so far. There are tons of ways to lose your money in this city (which could easily be mistaken for an American city, except for the sulfur), but since I've had a wicked cold, I have mostly been relaxing at the hostel, trying to get better. Tonight, I'm going to a Maori cultural event, complete with hangi.

But for now, here are a couple photos of a local park that's filled with geothermal activity. Kinda weird to watch mud boil...

Friday, September 21, 2007


Hostels: the nightly home of the backpacker. They can range from dirty shitholes seemingly built on top of an anthill to damn-near 3-star hotels. I'm at my fourth hostel of my trip and have already seen quite a range. I'll tell you a bit about each of them, and future homes, as I remember.

Nomads Fat Camel, Auckland

The Fat Camel is a popular spot for folks' first nights in New Zealand. It's convenient to public transportation and the city center.

Pros: Good location in downtown Auckland; free (small) dinner; bar is a good place to meet other backpackers

Cons: Needs to be refurbished quite a bit: new paint, mattresses, etc.; mattresses are just thin foam sheets; seedy part of town ("massage" parlor right next door)

Web site

Saltwater Lodge, Paihia, Bay of Islands

Saltwater Lodge opened in 2001. It's just a block from the beach and is in great condition.

Pros: Good character; very clean; great kitchen and community room; very helpful desk staff

Cons: Some guests opt to enjoy the large movie collection too much.

Web site

I'll profile more soon.

First, a poll. Should I:

A- Get a job somewhere on the north island for a couple weeks before heading south. I have a couple opportunities to work on farms.
B- Head south now to Wellington and then the south island for some awesome scenery and maybe some skiing.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bits and pieces

Some random items from my first week+ in New Zealand.

Ferns They're everywhere! The place is just covered with ferns.

Free-range livestock I haven't had a steak yet to prove whether my theory is true, but I bet the cows here are delicious, as they just roam free and eat grass all day. Same with sheep. And they're EVERYWHERE. I think I've seen more cows in the last five days than in my entire life.

Coffee Lattes are a particular favorite here. They come in big bowls and are loaded with milk.

Dorms Sharing a bedroom with 5 other people is not as hard as the unexperienced might think.

Geography No one has any idea where Nebraska is.

Demographics I can count the Americans I've met so far on one hand. Many Canadians. Tons of Brits (mostly English) and Germans. Several Japanese, Aussies and Irish. And at least one: Pole, Hong Konger, Romanian, Brasilian, Italian, Chilean, Dutch, Malaysian, countless others. The diversity is exciting.

And the not so good It's rained a lot in the last 24 hours, and I have a pretty good cold going on here. I feel sorry for my roommates as I sniff, hack and cough through the night.

Be sure to check out my photo album for pictures I haven't posted to the blog. Some good ones there.

I'm back in Auckland for the night. Next stop: Rotorua! Famous for its hot springs, sulfuric odor, maori culture and plenty of ways to harm oneself.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Holy crap, what a day!

For those of you who are living vicariously through me, let me say that we had a hell of a day today!

I had my first fish and chips in New Zealand.

What? Not good enough for you? You want something exciting and fun?

Fine. It was on the way home from a day trip to the top of the country, Cape Reinga.

Not impressed with extreme locations, eh?

I also went to a kauri tree forest. Huge trees...comparable with giant redwoods. Also saw some 45,000 year old kauri wood, such as this old trunk that's become a staircase.

What? Seriously? Not good enough?

Shit, what does it take?

Our bus drove the length of 90 Mile Beach to get to the top of the country. Actually it's only 50 miles, but incredible still.

Not doing it, eh?

We saw baby seals.

Yea, yea it's still not enough, I know.

OK then, I've got one more. At the end of the beach, there are sand dunes.

We went down them on body boards.

Now, by this, I don't mean we ran up and down some 30-foot hill, laughing and sliding into eachother.

We hiked up a 280-foot sand dune and went down, one at a time, at 20 miles an hour. Do it wrong and you break your wrists, ribs or face.

Imagine a football field covered with sand. OK, now put it at a 40-degree angle. Now climb up it, while 30+ mph winds are trying to throw you back down the dune.

I'll probably be picking sand out of my ears for the next week, and it's totally worth it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Northward bound

Even on the bus ride north from Auckland, I had some stunning views. And I'm not even in the "best" part of the country yet! (I apologize for the quality of these...I need to get the lighting adjusted on my camera.)

And even though it rained last night, the morning was amazing.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Kiwis love their beer. So do I. I've already spent something like 1,200 bucks on beer so far here. OK, so that's a bit of an exageration, but beer and I have definitely gotten some quality time together.

I present to you exibit one. Tui

Not the best beer you can get here, but much better than the typical American brew. It's named for a local bird. It looks like it has balls on its chin.

I'm doing my share to keep that brewery in business.

Speaking of breweries, I toured one yesterday--The Lion Red factory. It was like going to the Willy Wonka factory. It was really cool...about a 90 minute tour with some cool exibits and such. And of course tasting--20 minutes worth. We got to serve ourselves from the tap. Plenty of Lion Red and Steinlager (which is much better out of the tap than in those shitty green bottles).

Anywho, tomorrow, I'm off to Paihia, in the Bay of Islands. Lots of cool stuff to do there, I hear. Hopefully the weather will be nice.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

More fun in Auckland

Having some drinks in the hostel bar

On Thursday, Murray from Canadia and Mark from England and I went to Rangitoto Island, which is a volcano in the harbor. We climbed to the top and checked out some lava caves...very cool, and a great taste of what's surely to come in the rest of the country.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's official...

First day in the City of Sails

Auckland is a lot like other cities. It feels like a lot of American cities I've been in, except everyone is on the left. Some good things to see, though. I hopped on a free day-tour bus around town with some folks from my hostel. Later, some of us went up to the Sky Tower and watched the sunset. Night ended with free dinner and a few beers at the hostel bar, but I was in bed by 9:30, because I was just wiped. Today, I think I'll be going to one of the museums, because it's free, and just some more exploring by foot. Tonight we'll actually go out properly.

Oh, and the ceremony has been will come soone (it takes awhile to upload).

Lots of volcanoes in Auckland (45 I think)

From atop the Sky Tower.

Monday, September 10, 2007


G'day from Auckland! More on that to come soon...

On Sunday, I had a six-hour layover in Los Angeles, where I met up with my friend Paul and his wife-to-be Liz. We went down to Manhattan Beach and had dinner.

Then they dropped me off at LAX to catch my flight. However, I left my hooded sweatshirt in their car. Damn! It's only about 55 degrees here now, so I have to go buy one.

Much more to come soon, including the official Corporate Whore No More ceremony!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Peace out Omaha

Less than a day left at home. I spent it doing something very worthwhile--watching the Nebraska game. They won, but not honorably.

I'm happy to leave Omaha. I've spent all buy my college years here, and it's just not that exciting any more. Of course I'll miss my friends and family, but they know how to buy a plane ticket.

To Omaha's credit, it's done a lot of growing up in the last several years. The improvements are amazing, and I'm sure there will be plenty more new things to see around here when I come back. But for now, I've got a lot of other new things to see for now, adios Omaha.

Friday, September 07, 2007

I'm stuffed

I'm now past the 48-hour mark...I'm getting very excited, and just a little nervous.

I'm also all packed up and ready to go. Below is the entire contents of my backpack. There isn't much here, I realize. I would rather buy a few extra things when I get there than haul a ton of crap across the country and an ocean.

Click the photo for an interactive packing list.


Along with all this is my money. Now I'm not one to normally talk about my finances, but for the sake of future travelers who may be using me as a resource, I think it's important. My savings goal was $12,000 to $12,500. Amazingly, with the help of my second job, and some side work, I've surpassed that and have more than $14,000 that I can spend on whatever I please. (I have a separate account I've set aside for whenever I settle again). I've saved all that up only since January. Goes to show what the power of focus--and living with your parents--can do.

Now, I don't intend to blow through all that money in the next nine months. I am going to spend prudently, and through a combination of working for a paycheck and working for room and board, I hope to spend maybe a third of my savings. The remainder will go toward continued travels in (I currently believe) Asia, starting next (Northern) summer.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Put me on the plane already!

Well I'll be damned. I came to the oddest realization today: I'm burnt out on pre-trip researching. My usual barrage of travel blogs and forums just isn't doing it for me anymore.

I need to be on that plane already--thank god it's only a couple days away. Being on an airplane heading to some cool destination puts me in my happy place. I love the smell of jet fuel. I even like airplane food. If it weren't costing a small fortune, I'd totally be on the inaugural A380 flight from Sydney to Singapore. I'll just have to settle for 12 hours on a 777.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


So it's a Tuesday...and I just took a nap at 1 in the afternoon. Holy shit this unemployment thing is awesome!

Well, I pretty much don't have a choice but to sit at home and sleep, because I don't have health insurance again until I leave. So this week's mission is to stay indoors and out of traffic as much as possible.

But seriously, I'm getting more and more pumped for this trip! Only five days remain before I depart. Now back to my TV watching...