Feasting on Pad Thai

Current Location: Kanchanaburi, Thailand

It’s been a long week, at least it feels that way.  Hanging out in the hostel in Bangkok for a week waiting for things to arrive kinda slowed me down.  Fortunately for me the people at the hostel are really cool, watched a bunch of movies and basically chilled out for a week with them.  I got back on the road yesterday catching the train up to Kanchanaburi, infamous for where the bridge over River Kwai was built.

Short history lesson stolen from a guide book.

About 60,000 Allied POWs were shipped up from the captured Southeast Asian territories to work on the link between Thailand-Burma, these were later augmented by 200,000 conscripted Asian laborers.  By the time it was completed, after 15 months, it had earned the nickname, the Death Railway; an estimated 16,000 POW’s and 100,000 Asian laborers died while working on it

I was keen to see this re-created bridge along with the animal sanctuary here, where they let you pet tigers (how crazy is that.)

On a down note, I was traveling with a girl yesterday who was leaving from the same hostel I was up here.  We got here just fine and rented a couple of bicycles to get around town.  They had baskets in the front of the bicycles where we stuffed our bags, a couple of guys drove by on a motorbike and snatched her bag.  Spent half the day with the police sorting everything out.  Lesson learned to never take the backpack off the back, and invest in a money belt.

Heading back to Bangkok to spend the weekend with some friends of my cousins hopefully.  Then off to Cambodia early next week.

Happy thanksgiving to everyone, same request as I had last year.  Have a couple extra pieces of turkey for me, and an extra slice of pie.


Current Location: Auckland, Aotearoa

Where to begin when it all comes to an end?  The list would be too long to name everyone to thanks who I’ve met and has helped me along the way here in New Zealand, which isn’t to say that I’m not thankful for I truly am to everyone.  The people I’ve met have made this trip for me without doubt.  While New Zealand is naturally quite beautiful the people make it a magical place to be.  I’ve done so much this trip that trying to list it all would be quite the arduous task which I’ll not bore anyone with, suffice to say that it wouldn’t have been possible without the wwoofing hosts.

Someone found this webpage using the search term “is wwoofing a good idea?”  I would have to answer with an emphatic yes.  I have had nothing but good experiences and good times with the people that have opened their houses and lives to me.  I wrote once about making yourself at home in a strangers house, an idea I still find wonderful.  Living the life of a hosteler you are somewhat removed from the true kiwi experience while the life of a wwoofer you are immersed in the kiwi way of life, if you let yourself go.

A sometimes added benefit of wwoofing is getting to really meet other travellers.  I’ve spoken to some people about the transientness of hosteling, always having the same conversation over and over again with each new roommate it sometimes gets tiring.  While wwoofing really allows you a false sense of permanence which allows you to really get to know your fellow wwoofer.  Without wwoofing I would never have met Alex, Anne, Jack, and Elizabeth for which my life would be poorer.

I think I love New Zealand, it wouldn’t take much to get me to move here.  I find it very difficult to say goodbye, more so than when I left Hawai’i.  Probably because I knew that I would return there soon, if the future holds New Zealand for me I can’t say.  I’ve already considered coming back on a tourist visa but only half-heatedly just to soothe my mind.  Doing New Zealand by bicycle was my way of doing this uniquely which is what scares me about SE. Asia which I take on the title of backpacker.  I read an article about backpacking recently about how nothing is unique anymore, it’s like legions of lemmings all armed with their lonely planet guide books all doing the same things, staying in the same places.  Where is the sense of adventure that existed 40 years ago?  I left my lonely planet guide book back in Christchurch in favor of getting lost where possible and the chance to ask random people for advice when I needed it instead of relying on a book.

I’ve done over 8000km in New Zealand.  My bicycle computer broke around Wellington, the second time around, and I couldn’t be bothered to fix it.  I know what my average speed is so I know how long each days cycle ride should be which is good enough for me.  Most people are gobsmacked when I tell them how far I’ve ridden or what I’ve managed to accomplish in New Zealand.  To which I reply that what I’ve done is nothing special and there is no reason they can’t do the same thing.  It’s something I truly believe at this point, it only takes the will to finish something, the body will follow where the mind goes.  I’m not sure anyone believes me when I tell them this but anyone can do this, it’s that simple.

Wwoofing has me thinking a lot about the intersections in life and where the road takes you.  Superman posed the question “2 years ago, did you have any idea you would have been doing something like that right now?”  In all honesty I would have to answer no to that question, I had no clue what my last 18 months would have held for me.  I’ve tried to stick to the philosophy that I take any opportunity that presents itself to me and I think it really has done me well.  I’ve enjoyed staying at wwoofing gigs for an average of 3 weeks each place, it gives us the opportunity to really get to know one another, which is good and bad as it makes leaving all the harder each time.

I leave with a list of random things regarding New Zealand.

Favorite Cities in New Zealand:

  • Big City: Christchurch
  • Mid Size: Rotorua
  • Little: I’ve liked most of the little towns but I’d have to say that Pongaroa was the most charming.  Good people abound in the small towns

Favorite Place: Up until a month ago it was the Coromandel Peninsula but my time in the Bay of Islands was simply amazing.

Favorite Camping: Fantail Bay, Coromandel Peninsula.  Incredible place.

Things I Won’t Miss:

  • Sandflies: good riddance to them
  • Magpies: attacked twice, Damn birds.

Most Unusual Item I’ve Seen a Backpacker Carry: A compound bow, by a hunter crazy canuck.

Favorite Hostel: Purple Cow, Wanaka.  Immaculately run and a great view.

Favorite Stretch to Ride: Caitlins, South Island.

To sum up New Zealand, “Sweet as, bro”

edit: last batch of pictures added for New Zealand.

Empty Alley

Last Leg

Current Location: Paihia, Aotearoa

I sort of said goodbye this morning to Alex, Miranda, and the silly Austrian Elizabeth.  Alex and Miranda had the next set of wwoofers come in last night as I had been planning on leaving the day before that on my way down the coast but postponed it to get a decent day sailing on the boat.  It probably turned out to be the right decision as we got to go fishing yesterday and I landed about 5 fish the largest one being 10lbs.  We had an absolutely amazing day on the boat with perfect weather and enough fish to feed 7 people and my big one left to smoke this morning before I left.

The day before that we went on a horse trek with Miranda and Elizabeth. Elizabeth is an accomplished rider unlike me so had a much easier time than I did. We got to ford some rivers and gallop up hills this time.  I managed to do much better this time and stay on the horse the entire time and had much more control than the last time thanks to some tips from Elizabeth.

The reason I ‘kinda’ said goodbye to Alex and  Miranda is I’m sticking around in Paihia until Wednesday night to go sailing on Mr. Wolf in the club race.  So I’ll be hanging around Paihia for a few days, mostly because I’m in no rush to get back to Auckland sooner than I have to.  Tentatively the plan is to leave on the 20th to Thailand which it turns out isn’t that far away, fortunately it should take me 2 or 3 days to make it back to Auckland leaving me one or two days to sort everything out and get ready for the next leg of the trip.

At the Races

It has continued to be a pretty fun time here at Roseburn farms.  I’ve extended my stay here by a couple of weeks to see the boat job completed.  We took the boat out of the water the second day of my stay here and ever since then I’ve been down to the boat just about every day.  I’ve done a fair amount of sanding on the boat and painting along with other miscellaneous tasks.  The only real problem working on the boat is finding enough fair weather days to get the job completed.  So far I think in the last 20 days  we’ve probably had 3 good days of weather which has gotten really frustrating for Alex.  But the job is almost done, we should be back in the water by Saturday if everything goes to plan; something I wouldn’t count on at this point.

I also got to go for my second horse ride, this time I’ve learned that galloping up a hill is tons of fun once again, but galloping downhill is a lot more scary and lead to my first fall from a horse (that I can remember.)  Yacht racing has also been on the agenda for the last few Wednesday nights and a Friday race.  We’ve been sailing on the Kantime, a friend of Alex and Miranda, sails that boat but they need the extra crew so we’ve been pretty welcome.  Our first race we came in 3rd, on the second race we came in second, and this past Wednesday we came in first.  My main goal during the race my main goal is to not get thrown off the boat and not to be garroted by the ropes flying around.  I’ve really only been successful at the ropes one.  I managed to almost fall out of the boat on the first race, we did a tack and I was a bit late getting over to the other side of the boat, we got hit by a gust of wind and the boat went at a 45 degree angle while I was trying to clamber over and my feet just went out from under me, fortunately the railing caught me and I pulled myself over to the other side.  The other neat thing about the sailing is we actually get to do things, I’ve hoisted sails, jibbed, and cranked sheets till my shoulders hurt, super fun.

Anyway, New Zealand is just about done.  I’ve added a few more pictures.

Kite Sail

City Slicker

It’s been a pretty intense week or so.  As soon as we dropped Jack off at the bus terminal we came back to the farm to move some stock around and check things out.  It being calving season Alex has been sure to check on the heifers on a daily basis to see if any of them are having birthing issues.  As we were riding around on the quad we saw one heifer with two hooves sticking out of her so Alex knew something might be wrong.  We went back to the house to get some gear and to give her a few hours to see if the birthing would happen naturally, but by the time we went back nothing had progressed so he decided to assist the birthing.  We managed to get her in the head bail and at that point it got pretty messy.  It’s not as scientific as I would have thought to assist in the birth, we basically strapped some ropes to the calfs feet and pulled, it took 3 of us to do it but finally he was brought into the world.  He got dubbed Mr. Heavy as Alex tells me he’s a beast of a boy.  We had to nurse him through the first few days because the mum was too stressed out from the birthing.  A week later and the calf is doing perfectly.

The day before that incident we got to dock 140-some-odd lambs.  Docking is the process of cutting off the tails of the lambs to keep them clean on the backside.  The job of Jack and I was to catch each lamb and run them through the procession of things needing to be done ending with the chop.  It was interesting work, something that only happens once a year so I was pretty lucky to get to try it.  We finished up the day with Jack and I wrangling a couple of rams, Alex’s only warning was be careful, they can shatter your knee.  It’s a pretty intense warning as you’re in the pen with them. 

To get the lambs all in one place was fun as well, we got to do it on horse back instead of on a quad or by foot.  Miranda gave me a quick rundown on how to turn and how to stop.  With that we were off into the far reaches of the farm to collect up the lambs and their mums.  We all did pretty well I thought as Jack and I are no experienced riders and managed to get them all rounded up after a few hours of riding.  At one point it was me pushing a whole mob of sheep by myself and I let myself pretend I was a cowboy, pretty awesome.  At the end of the ride there is a particular hill the horses are used to galloping up which was crazy.  We all sat there and the only advice given to me was to hold on, it’s really quite surprising how fast a horse goes from sitting to full blast.  I laughed my head off the entire way up the hill, I realize now I’ve cantered before on a horse, but never galloped.  Try it if you get the chance, it’s amazing.

I’m On a Boat

Current Location:Kerikeri, Aotearoa

After a few days in Kerikeri trying to find a wwoofing gig I was about to give up as every place I called or emailed came back with a reply that things were full which was pretty disheartening.  I actually got to the point where I figured there were too many Germans wwoofing for me to find anything in this area so I was about to hit the road and make it to Whakatane.  Fortunately I got an email the morning I was to leave that a spot had opened up on a farm down the road so that’s where I find myself these next few weeks.

I’m hosted by Alex and Miranda, a kiwi and a dutch (respectively.)  There’s also another wwoofer here from the UK, Jack, who has just arrived in New Zealand.  The first day that I arrived we quickly got to work and finished up the day, for our evening entertainment we went and did some possum control, read hunting possums.  It was a lot of fun, we walked through the bush with our headlamps looking for the possums to stare back at us at which point we take some pot shots at them with the .22 or Alex would give em hell with a shotgun.  We ended the night after putting down a total of 4 and one injured.  Possums here are quite a pest that kill a lot of the native flora and fauna.  Common control methods usually involve 1080, a poison, which New Zealand consumes 80% of the worlds supply of 1080.  It’s a highly contested control method due to second kill effects.  Hopefully at some point the use of it ends or is greatly reduced.

After a few days on the farm we got to go for a cruise and try our hand at fishing on Alexs yacht.  Being in the bay of islands is probably the perfect place to go sailing at this time of year as we have had perfect weather.  We managed to catch only a little bait fish so we ended the day just having a good time cruising around the bay a bit.  We got the boat out of the water now and have spent the last several days sanding it down and getting it cleaned up so we can repaint it.

This would be the first real commercial farm I’ve gotten to work on so it’s an interesting perspective than the other farms that I’ve wwoofed on but the work is nice and hard and the playing is also a lot of fun.  This weekend we get to dock lambs and ride some horses around the farm, should be lots of fun.

Long Way ‘Round

Current Location: Houhora, Aotearoa

Just a quick note to say that I made it to the cape today. I’m getting properly drunk and had my celebratory pizza.

I’ll post pictures in the next few days.

Far North

Current Location:Kaitaia, Aotearoa

Finished the last long climb of the tour today, just shy of 400 meters, I thought the hill would never end.  Fortunately it did and let me fly down for a good 5km.  I think the rest of the hills on the way back down to Auckland stay around 200 meters which is encouraging.

The last few days have been brilliant riding, and I’ll push on halfway up to the cape today and finish off the rest of it either tomorrow or the following day (I’d really like decent weather when I head up there.)  I’ve been riding though mostly deserted holiday towns and empty roads, which I enjoy a whole lot more than Auckland city streets.

Highlight of yesterdays ride was going through what is probably the oldest Kauri forest left in New Zealand with the oldest Kauri being Tane Mahuta “Lord of the Forest”, age estimated at 2000 years old.  I thought it would be like riding through the Avenue of the Giants in California and to some extent it was.  But when I did the hike to see Tane Mahuta it takes your breath away.

I tend to find myself smiling when telling people I have 1 or 2 days left in this ride.  I’ve gotten a lot of ‘good on ya’ and ‘brilliant’ from people I’ve run into. Time to finish this.