Keep digging

Another day gone by here in Waiheke, another garden cleared of weeds. On top of clearing another garden of weeds I also transplanted a Hydrangea bush/small tree thing. All in all, another good 5-6 hours of work complete. The skies didn’t open up and rain as they constantly threatened to, but the sun was absent the entire day.

That didn’t stop me from taking a walk once my work was complete, around 3pm. I’d contemplated going for another drive to a different section of the island or giving my hip a try at this whole ‘walking’ thing again. I haven’t had any pain in the last couple of days and only mild soreness remains, so why not? Naturally, rather than work my way up to it I went a little bit further than planned. Beaches look closer than they actually are, okay?

I began my walk with overcast skies, my jacket, water bottle and a chocolate bar for energy (one of 5 I bought in Auckland – mmmm chocolate). I had only planned to walk to the nearby beach and back. I got to the beach in about 10 minutes of steady downhill walking along the road. The beach was completely devoid of people, I had it to myself.

I walked along the beach to the point, because my curiosity asked I ‘wonder what is around the corner?’

Oh look, another beach! A really nice big one, that looks nearby. Okay, it’s hard to see in this picture, but it’s there really. I figure I’ll just go there for a bit, it doesn’t look far and my leg is doing well.

There is a beach there, really!

Naturally, it turned out the beach was quite a bit further than expected, and the rocks weren’t the most easy to scramble over. Still, I made it in one piece, though the last 5 minutes I was harassed by a bird that didn’t enjoy my presence.

The red eyes mean it’s evil. Actually it just made a lot of noise and followed behind for a few minutes, making noise the entire time. I guess it didn’t like me.

I made it to the far beach. Now I know why the chicken crossed the road – to take a picture from the other side.

The beach was empty so I relaxed on a bench, read a book and enjoy the quiet (once the angry bird left me alone). I also noticed that someone had kindly taken the time reserve the bench for me. How very kind of them!

Afterwards I decided to hike it back a different way. Naturally, I got sidetracked once or twice, all in the name of exploration, really. I did make it back in time for dinner, and so far my hip doesn’t feel like it’s being stabbed with an ice-pick, so it’s an improvement over Auckland!

A drive to Onetangi

After finishing up my work for the day in mid-afternoon, the sun was out and I set off for a drive. I headed about 15 minutes north to the far end of the island and the largest beach – Onetangi. It didn’t take long for me to find something I liked: a place to sit, enjoy a drink and read for a bit. Oh, and a fantastic view.

Being middle of winter there weren’t many people around but the few that were out and about were enjoying the great weather of the day – sunshine and about 16C. Great for a stroll on the beach where some people had their dogs out playing.

After about 2 hours enjoying the relaxing area and walking the beach I hopped back into my car and set off on the Seaview Road back to ‘home’. And took some pictures along the way. 🙂

Waiheke is known for it’s wineries, of which there are many (more than a dozen I believe). It’s not high season for them just yet so things looked pretty quiet.

And once I got back to the Rocky Bay area where I’m staying, I took a picture of the view near the house. Not too shabby…:)

First day of work

Today I got my first full working day at WWOOFing. Work while WWOOFing can range greatly depending on where you are – you might be helping with livestock, trimming plants on a winery, or in my case, helping around a home. I arrived here yesterday afternoon after a pleasant ferry ride from Auckland.

 

Mine’s the poorly parked one. It was a gorgeous day, so I relaxed and read on the top deck for the 45 minute sailing.

As you can tell, it was a pretty quiet ferry. I made it to Waiheke Island without issue and drove about 20 minutes to find my WWOOFing family for the week. After numerous winding roads and a very steep driveway, I found them. Since I arrived in the afternoon, work was pretty minimal the first day – it began in earnest on Friday. Here was my task – weeding this:

It rained during the night, so everything was nice and extra soggy for me too. But, I got to work.

And, after about 5 hours of weeding, I was finished!

Those bricks were hiding amongst the weeds. 🙂 After a delicious afternoon lunch, I had the afternoon off to explore the island, which I took full advantage of!

Sun, Sails and Skin

While I did indeed make it over to Waiheke Island today in one piece and have settled in with a friendly family here on the island, my last day in Auckland was relatively eventful. It started normally for me, waking up, showering, having breakfast – I’ve been eating through my bread and a 1kg tub of Peanut Butter – and then heading out for the day. I hit the Auckland Central Library first to check email and the like, and from there I decided I would do something for my last day – do a harbour tour. While my hip is healing it’s still not 100%, so I figured a tour by boat would be a good way to spend a day, and wasn’t too expensive. It had the added bonus of giving me a free return ticket to Devonport, an small town on the opposite shore that has a nice boardwalk. So I bought my ticket for 130pm and off I went.

I didn’t make it far from the Library (Queen Street – the main street downtown) before I noticed a very large crowd of people lining the streets. Not knowing what they were waiting for, naturally I stop and wait with them. A few minutes later, it was a parade coming down the hill. Not a typical parade, but a topless parade, I kid you not. Promoting the Erotica Expo or something going on this or next weekend, I’m not quite sure. Quite unexpected, and there was something for men and women alike in the crowd. Either way, no pictures to be posted here, sorry. 😛

After the parade passed I made my way down to the harbour area and stocked up on chocolate. I grabbed something called a Cadbury Moro. It’s description was Chocolate, Caramel and Nougat – they really should have called it a ‘Mars’ bar, but that name is already taken…

Mars?

It is interesting reading about the Moro, as Mars bars do indeed exist here as well – the Moro is largely a Kiwi favourite, and sells more than any other Cadbury chocolate here. Not surprisingly, it also outsells the Mars bar. Still, tasty.

On the boat, it was a beautiful day so as we left the harbour area I took some shots.

The tour itself was a bit lackluster – I couldn’t hear half of what was being said and I think it was a recording anyways – somewhat bland. But, it was enjoyable sitting on the top deck of the boat (if a wee bit chilly with the wind), and enjoying the scenery. We eventually made it to our one brief stopping spot – Rangitoto Island.

An ancient volcano (as are most hills in this area), Rangitoto’s main attraction is the hour long hike to the peak – I wasn’t in any condition to attempt that, and the tour I was on only stopped for 10 minutes, so no such attempt was made by myself. Another time perhaps. On a clear day it supposedly gives great views of Auckland and the other surrounding islands (there are many!).

Our little boat made our way around a few other spots in the sizable harbour before passing under the large Harbour bridge, the main link from Auckland to the North Shore.

Once back on shore, I quickly hopped onto a nearby ferry to get me over to Devonport. There, I took about an hour walking around the downtown and surrounding neighbourhood. It was suitably quaint and peaceful.

After that, exhausted from my much busier day than normal, I headed back to my hostel for dinner with my roommate Peter and a couple others from the hostel, before packing my stuff and falling asleep for the last time (for now) in Auckland City!

Where is Waiheke?

Today is my last full day in Auckland. I’ll hopefully get out and wander a bit more around the downtown today as my hip is slowly healing, and take a few nice pictures to put up here, but for now I’m content eating, reading and relaxing. It’s been a slower start here than I would have preferred or normally experienced when travelling – my injury has really slowed me down to a frustrating crawl. Still, I had set these days in Auckland aside in order to get everything set up that I needed to, and I think I succeeded. I’m ready to move on.

So my first destination won’t be too far away, it’s a place called Waiheke Island (I think it’s pronounced Wa-HEEK-ee). It’s actually only about 30km from Auckland – but it’s by ferry to get there. I’m not sure how long I’ll be on the island – probably a week, but we’ll see how it goes. Specifically, the WWOOFing experience I have set up. I’m going to be staying with my first host family! I don’t honestly know a ton about them, but I don’t believe it’s large scale farming they do, more small homestead style work. But, I’ll see when I get there tomorrow! Either way, I’m excited to be doing something ‘productive’ soon once again.

I’ve heard nothing but good things about Waiheke from those at the hostel that have been – they describe it as peaceful, quiet, friendly and relaxing. That, and a winelover’s haven apparently. I guess I’ll have to start liking wine?

Plus I get to take a ferry ride tomorrow. Yay ferries!

Penny for your thoughts?

No longer has any meaning here in New Zealand – they have completely scrapped the 1 cent coin. Actually, they’ve gone one step further and gotten rid of the 5 cent coin as well. I didn’t actually realize it until a few days in, when looking through my change and thinking…where are all the useless coins? Everything is useful:

You can probably make them all out, but from left to right it goes 10c, 20c, 50c, $1, $2. So somewhat similar to Canadian/US denominations, but with the elimination of 1c and 5c parts it simplifies things considerably. Back in Canada I came to loathe change – Anything less than 25c, and I’d simply take it home and toss it in a box. After 4 years, I collected the change in that box, rolled it, and took it to the bank – I had ~$80 of change sitting there.

Part of this simplification is handled by the tax system – New Zealand has a GST very similar to Canada’s GST/PST/HST – 15%, but instead of adding the tax to the displayed price, ALL of New Zealand’s prices already have the taxes included. It’s such an elegant and simple system, and you always know what you are going to pay when you buy something. No more mental math required to find out if buying something that costs $90 will require you to break out $100, or $120 to pay. All in all, it’s wonderful!

I’ve also come to enjoy another simplicity of New Zealand monetary culture – tipping. Tipping here? Non-existent. Wait staff are paid full wages, unlike North America, so tipping is not expected nor common at all (the two places that I’ve paid by Credit, you aren’t even given the option). And since the value of the meal often is a nice round monetary number, walking out after putting a $10 bill down on the table for a $10 meal is as simple as can be. I rather quite like this kind of sophistication! 🙂

Cars are fun

Being able to drive again, I quickly remember how much I miss having a set of wheels. All of a sudden I’m no longer restricted to bus schedules and routes (though Auckland’s bus system has been good to me), I have the freedom to go wherever I want whenever. Not that I have grand plans right now, I’m still in Auckland until the 4th, after which I am going to head over to one of the nearby islands for a week of work. That’s right, I found work on a small farm on Waiheke Island! I’ll be joining a family of 3 and help them weed, trim, and various other farming like activities (pick rocks?).

I found another very inexpensive part of Kiwi life – car insurance. It’s interesting, unlike most (nearly all?) developed countries – car insurance isn’t required here. Still a sensible investment though, in the event you do decide to pile into someone. But with the numerous low cost imports on the road, most people only opt for 3rd party insurance. This means prices on it are incredibly low – It will cost me $128NZ (so barely $100CAD) for a full year of 3rd party collision insurance. Going up to full comprehensive still isn’t too bad – $800NZD/year for me, but not much sense given my car is only worth $2000NZD. I’ll just avoid getting into an accident in the meantime.

Which so far, hasn’t been too bad! I’m adjusting to driving on the left, signalling with my right hand instead of left (I’ve still operated the wipers, which is now on the left, erroneously a few times), and learning to beware of Kiwis general lack of ability to signal pretty well so far. There has just been one daunting task so far – the roundabouts.

Now, I’m not entirely unfamiliar with roundabouts. Sarnia had one afterall, though the amount of traffic on it is nearly non-existent. That didn’t stop me from going round and round on it once or twice for amusement. Here, roundabouts are fairly common, especially getting onto and off of the freeway. This means fast moving traffic. This means terror to someone learning to simply drive on the correct side of the road. Because of course, the roundabout operates in the opposite direction as in Canada. There aren’t any new or odd rules (that I’ve been able to figure out), but the quantity of cars and the speed they are moving entering and exiting mean that things are quite a bit more daunting. Here is a typical example (completely to scale by the way and 100% accurate).

 

I’ve only been stuck going round the merry-go-round once so far. For the next few days though, the car will likely remain parked as I finish up my time here in Auckland and try and get my leg healed up (ie I’m not going to be doing much the next few days – lounging around mostly!).

Wheels!

So I once again have a set of 4 wheels and several tons of steel at my disposal.

Not going to win any beauty contests, but I don’t think I did too badly! It’s a 1996 Honda Accord Station wagon. I originally was thinking about getting a normal, small sedan, but after talking to a few people at the hostel, decided to move up to station wagon. The reason being is that sleeping in your wagon is a great way to save money in the summer – and there are some really awesome places to do just that in the south island. Nothing like waking up to the beach outside your car or something similar. Since the costs were pretty much identical (though gas will likely be slightly more), the savings I can make by sleeping in here instead of a hostel are pretty substantial. And it’s not a bad looking car for the money either – $2000NZD got me a Honda with 185,000km.

The interesting thing about the kilometers though – they can’t always be trusted here. The vast majority of cars in NZ are imported, used, from Japan. Apparently it’s pretty normal for the odometer to come looking…a little too good. I got my car at the Ellerslie Car Fair, a MASSIVE market of private sale cars put on every Sunday. There were probably 500+ cars there today, ranging from ~1000NZD to near new cars. The majority were under $5K though. And it was interesting the range. Seeing 1995 cars with under 100,000km is highly, highly suspect, given they might only be asking $4000 for it. Pretty much if it was too good to be true, avoid. I got mine a thorough inspection before, and while the car isn’t perfect (passenger door kinda squeaky with the lock, brakes need replacement soon), it was in pretty good overall shape. Hence, I took it! I hope that it lasts the year, and sees me around both islands. It drives smoothly without funny noises. Plus, has quite a few nice little amenities, like automatic climate control, power windows and locks and a tape deck!

By the way, I totally rocked the parallel parking on the backward streets here, on my first attempt and everything.