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Published: February 15th 2016
My first stop after Wellie was one of the oldest official townships in NZ - Wanganui. Wanganui was incredibly historic, vibrant and had a deeply rooted cultural backdrop. The strong Maori culture and tradition was clearly present and I found it to be a very open-minded and welcoming town as well! I was working for accommodation at a small, family owned hostel and guesthouse, close to the town centre. I worked for Rory (a kiwi man) and his canadian wife Barb. Their son Barnie was also around quite a bit and we ended up working together on a few tasks during my weeklong stay there. The house had mostly elderly guests staying there so I spent most of my time in Wanganui by myself or with Spud the family dog. There was this massive trampoline in the backyard so I spent a lot of time bouncing around there as well. Although the weather wasn't on my side on many days, I tried to make the most of it and did a few walks round the bush. The Wanganui river is iconic but it was a bit dirtier than I expected it to be. I found out that many livestock farms in
the area are along the river so naturally, all the waste from the animals tends to flow into the river. What a shame!
After Wanganui, I was expected to help out with a family (through a network called HELPX) in a city north west in the region of Taranaki, called New Plymouth. Its a bit of a long story and although I had already confirmed when I would be arriving, the family flaked on me and I haven't heard back from them since my last correspondence with them (which was a few days before they were expecting me). I've sent the appropriate feedback to the network as it really is such a silly and stressful situation for any traveller and backpacker to be in considering that confirmation was already given and I was depending on them for accommodation. Anyway... luckily, this year, I have extensively developed my "thinking on my feet" skills and have learnt how to deal with unforeseeable challenges quite well (especially when in a strange town with no one that I know) so I found a place to stay last minute and ended up really loving New Plymouth. I made some really cool friends at the
hostel I was staying at, found out that it was only steps away from the beach and that there was an incredible surf beach around the corner as well. Needless to say, I spent the entire week I was in NP in the water. I swam for hours every day and when I wasn't swimming, I was body boarding or surfing. It was pure bliss! The stressful situation ended up turning into one of the most memorable stays in NZ! Oli heard about the family flaking on me and the incredible surf in NP and decided to join me for a couple days. He drove down and we spent two days hiking up this incredibly scaring rock called parututu and then rewarded ourselves with a relaxing swim. We also surfed the day before we headed back to Auckland. It was our best surf together yet!
Sue (Oli's mom) and Paul (stepdad) welcomed me back into their lovely home and insisted that I stay with them until I fly out of NZ. I've been loving staying with them. They're so much fun and we spend lots of time cooking meals together and having drinks out on the deck with their
new kitty Rudie. Oli's brother and sister (Jo and Richie) and Oli and I spent Waitangi day (the anniversary of the day the treaty between the settlers and the Maori were signed) at Rainbow's end (NZ's most famous and only amusement park). Seeing Oli's terrified face and hearing the sharp screams of terror as we rode the rollercoasters was so hilarious. Then again, I had the exact same face and sported similar, if not worse, screams, so jokes on me.
Oli and I decided to head up north for one last weekend getaway. We spent a day and night in a small town called Paihia. Paihia was something out of a movie - absolute paradise. We spent a portion of the day riding jet skis and let me just tell you - it was so terrifying (but also very exhilarating). In our defence, the area we were riding them in had a lot of waves so needless to say, it was bumpy as can be. There was one point of the ride where we were actually in the air for about 3 seconds because we hit three consecutive waves head on. I almost fell off it! Another couple we were riding with actually ended up falling off theirs. We were riding with them one second and the next second, we look over and its just a jet ski floating along the surface and two heads bobbin along. Luckily, they were ok! As scary as that experience sounds, it was so much fun. We got to do our own water tour of the bay of islands (the area that Paihia is located in) and take in the amazing beauty that is New Zealand.
What have I been doing to wrap up all this adventure and excitement? Well, I've spent the last few days reuniting with old Auckland friends and saying my goodbyes (or see you laters for all you optimists) one by one. Its been a bit sad but I know I'm going to cherish each and every one of these people and all the incredible memories we've shared this past year. I fly out in just about 4 days! I'm spending my last night in NZ with Oli's family - we're having a big meal together and I couldn't think of a better way to wrap up this amazing experience.
Stay tuned for my last entry …
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