“It is the drink of men who think and feel or fear nor fetter – Who do not drink to senseless sink, but drink to think the better.” Anonymous
I haven’t even been in New Zealand a week, but it already feels like home. I have always been a bit of a nomad (a.k.a. couch surfer) so it doesn’t take me very long to acclimate. I also think it has been a pretty easy transition because Maura (for those of you who don’t know, that would be Mike and Laura) have welcomed me with open arms and shown me the ropes. I am getting a crash course kiwi-style!
We haven’t wasted anytime since I have arrived. Last Friday we hopped in their Holden Vectra (a.k.a. the shaggin’ wagon) and headed to Raglan, which is located on the West coast by the Tasman Sea. We spent the day swimming in the ocean and playing Frisbee. Raglan is one of New Zealand's premier surfing places in the world and I have been told that Jack Johnson has a house there and often surfs! That same day we hiked Bridal Veil Falls. The falls are 55 meters high (180 feet) and are often regarded as being the most spectacular waterfalls on the North Island. That night I attended my first kiwi BBQ and met Maura’s group of friends. I experienced everything from stubbies to kiwi sausage (which is a staple here) to backyard cricket.
On Saturday, we headed to Tauranga for the Blues, Brews & BBQs festival. Tauranga is located in Bay of Plenty region and is home of the largest port in New Zealand. The festival had a decent blues line-up and we enjoyed local ales as we soaked up the sun (or I mean got burnt.) A few of my local favorites were Mac’s Ales, Tuatara Brewery, and Green Man Brewery. Well let’s be honest, after the first couple they all tasted delicious. After a day of consuming high content alcohol, we headed to the beach and swam in Pacific Ocean. That evening with stayed with Mike’s (or known here as Mank, which is Mike + Yankee = Mank) co-worker’s parents house in the hills of Tauranga. The Millers own Millhenge Ferns, which is a nursery that grows a variety of native plants. They grow black tree ferns, which are also known as mamaku. I thought they were palm trees, but instead they are New Zealand’s tallest tree fern, growing up to 20 meters high. The Millers are self-sufficient and grow all of their own food and raise their own cattle. We enjoyed Deb’s homegrown strawberries and blueberries and I swear they were those most delicious that I have ever tasted in my life. We camped in their yard and sat up all night learning about each other cultures.
Our crew got up early the next morning and headed back to town to hike Mount Maunganui (officially known by its Maori name Mauao), which is an extinct volcanic cone. According to Maori legend, this hill was a pononga [slave] to a mountain called Otanewainuku. Locals simply call it “The Mount.” The hike was short, but intense. The view of city and the Bay of Plenty was breathtaking. After the hike, we scoped out a gelato shop and then hit the road for home. On our way we stopped at McLaren Falls for a quick dip. I also attempted to pet a wild sheep while we were there, but no such luck!
We had a great weekend exploring the North Island and this week has been a little back to reality. I got my IRD # (SSN), set up my bank account with WestPac, applied for my library card and also got my CBD card (my membership card for a local bar.) I have been applying for jobs like crazy the last couple days and have set up appointments with local placement agencies. Keep your fingers crossed that I can get some work…or I will be coming home very soon!
(Which means goodbye in Maori)
View from the Mount