Ralph Waldo Emerson

The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon.

Friday, November 30, 2007


Oh lord have mercy, I'm having fun. The American crew that I happened upon at the pseudo-hippie commune has been honed down and awesomed out. Yesterday Olivia and I spent the morning working exceptionally hard as extras in "Bride-Flight", some Dutch movie that's being filmed in a Queenstown winery. We left Wanaka at 5am with a few others that were doing the extra work and after the typical movie-set hours of eating and shuffling about found ourselves cast as vineyard workers on their smoke break. I have to give a big thank you to my tobacco-happy friends who so kindly assissted me in learning the art of smoking naturally in recent months (you know who you are). Your kind and patient assistance provided me with the opportunity to earn $120 for going through half a pack of herbal cigarettes and talking crap with my current best travel buddy. Now that is good stuff. With our wads of cash in hand, Olivia and I took off to Queenstown with nothing but our jackets and purses and no real plan of how long we'd stay or how we'd even get home. Travelling in South Island New Zealand gives you an incredible sense of security, though, and so such things tend to work out. I mean, you've essentially got all all the community of college minus the all night cram sessions.

So we wandered into a little park and proceeded to spend the afternoon collecting friends. Jeff and Jim (the other half of our US Team) had left Wanaka in the morning and happened to show up at the same park with similarly little on their agenda, then came Mark the English builder with his buddy's dog; a photographer; a juggler; some crazy kids who manipulated us into buying them KFC and lord knows how many others. 6 hours later we were all sun burned and happy and just as devoid of plans. And that's just how it goes here, things are slower, people aren't as busy and are up for anything, even just lazing about in a park for hours on end. Perhaps it also helps that many of us are jobless, homeless and kidless, but just let me idealize here.

So after a night of dancing; the crew and I decided Qtown was the place to be, at least for this week, and Olivia and I hitched a ride back to Wanaka to pack our stuff, say our goodbyes and head back to Qtown. The guys'll be there too and we're all itching for a couple days hiking in the woods as well as some good r&r on the beach. The Flying Kiwi bus picks me up next Saturday, and I'm quite certain I'll be able to occupy myself until then.

Friday, November 23, 2007

new pics/new digs

For more pics go to:

Alright, lemme give you the fly by: I had 5 freaking awesome, magic, sea air filled days at Le Bons Bay Backpackers; another night in Christchurch; a week out on the road and in the woods with Flying Kiwi Tours and now am chilling out in Wanaka before heading into a week of extra work on a film in Queenstown. Whew.

It feels like Le Bons Bay was months and months ago, but suffice it to say that I’m totally in love. It’s just one of those places that seems to be locked in its own awesome little world where neighbors help each other out, kids go outside to play for hours and people try to live a clean, self-sustaining life on their rolling acres of farmland. Weird. When Gary, the owner, asked if they’d be seeing me around again I thought he was joking. YES.

But after 5 days I had to pack up my stuff so I could get to Christchurch and hop on my Flying Kiwi bus. Without getting into the nitty gritty details, I worked out a deal with them where I get to travel around in exchange for some work. I’m not usually a bus tour type of girl, but I totally love their way of doing things. We camp out every night either in the bush or in designated camps, have communal cooking out of the kitchen rig attached to the back of the bus and have a stock of bikes on the top of the bus that we pull down every day or so. Nothing like flying down a mountain at top speeds in the rain when you know a nice warm bus will soon be rounding the corner to pack you up and take you to some cool new place. The people, too, are of a different variety. In order for things to work, everybody has to lend a hand, so people really man up and work together—particularly when we did the Routeburn track. The guides on the trip are both newbies and so when they bought our food I don’t think they were quite thinking straight (at least that’s what they told us afterwards). I mean honestly, who brings fresh eggs on a trek? And pancake mix? Really? You got a fold out griddle you want to whip out of your bag? Ray Jardine would be appalled. But even so, after a couple days of trekking and swallowing down meals of spaghetti and instant potatoes, the crew of hikers were inseparable…which in traveler terms means we will make every effort to make a solid Facebook group.

So after the bus passed through Queenstown and people went about their requisite sky diving and bungee jumping adventures, I said my goodbyes and got dropped off in Wanaka to wait for the next bus to pass through. I’d been hearing about Wanaka for a while, and so far it’s definitely lived up to the hype. After spending a couple days wandering around the hills with a German guy from the trip, Axel, he headed off back to Christchurch and I got myself a job of sorts. I don’t really know what to call the place I’m living and working in, it’s not really a house, though there are about 12 of us sleeping here on random mattresses and bunks. It’s called the “Old Gym” and apparently it was the place to be for pro skiers back in the 90s. In fact the gym equipment is still all laid out right next to the broken down indoor rock climbing wall.

Besides Fiona, there’s a whole eclectic assortment of characters living in the house that have proven extremely entertaining. Team America is four people strong, with Nicole the hippie, Olivia the ski bum, Jeff the cute college boy and me. We pulled together a white trash Thanksgiving that was far tastier than it had any right to be. That was mostly because Team Germany has a resident chef that threw a stunning homemade lasagna in with our frozen food assortment. We like him a lot. Team Taiwan unfortunately had to leave a couple days after I came, but their contributions in the fried rice category were much appreciated. We’re a happy little commune here on the outskirts of town and have had many good nights around the bonfire or out in town at one of the three local bars. And, as ever and always, the trampoline out back provides hours of entertainment. What is with this country and trampolines?

So that’s about it for now. I’ve been working my butt off the last couple days with the rest of the crew so that this next week we’ll be free to do extra work on a Dutch-New Zealand movie that’s filming right outside of Queenstown. I’m sure it’ll be my big break, the critics will be going bonkers over Vineyard worker #42, you just wait and see. Happy travels wherever you all are.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Life is Thoroughly Excellent.

I could not have imagined a better series of days or kinder, more hospitable people. The Guy Fawkes holiday turned out to be a pyro maniac’s dream: a whole weekend of fireworks randomly going off all over the city. I spent mine with Pete and Elaine, a couple which had come through the restaurant a few weeks back. To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t even remember what they looked like. I just looked in my journal where I write down my contacts and saw “Come stay with us in Christchurch!” written under their names. I didn’t remember not liking them, so thought it was worth a shot.
So, Saturday afternoon a friendly woman shot up to my backpackers in a royal blue mini cooper at the scheduled time, said “Kari! Jump on in” and so I did. Before I knew it we were flying through the lovely countryside, passing quaint farms as we chatted away. The place we got to was anything but quaint. A gated drive flanked by statues of lions opened up to a very new, very modern home complete with purebred Doberman. I walked in the house and her 10 and 11-year-old girls grabbed my hands and gave me a tour of the indoor pool, movie room, 6 bedrooms and 6½ baths. As they demonstrated the fingerprint activated front door and magnetized doorframes, I realized Tekapo was a very long way away.
But the best part was definitely the 11 acres that surrounded the house. We bounded around on their trampoline (yes! Another trampoline!), went sailing through the air on their flying fox (a machine, not a mammal), fed their horses, rode their scooters, explored their various forts, went for a hay ride, drove a tractor, found a mama duck and her nest, swam in the pool, met Pete’s 3 kids, had dinner, greeted friends and family, drank a lot (the adults anyhow), set off fireworks and as they all partied on I struggled into Elaine’s massage room/my room and collapsed. Kiwis have endurance, my lord.
Monday morning we said our goodbyes, dropped the girls off at school and then Elaine returned me to my backpackers before speeding off in her hot little car. Some people have got this life thing down.
I had one more night in Christchurch before I was set to leave for a peninsula to the southeast called Akaroa so I spent the day exploring the museum, botanic gardens and art galleries. Absolutely gorgeous—made me fall in love with Christchurch. As did the further fireworks displays on the pier that night with a group of lively Germans and Dutch from my hostel.
And now I’m here on said peninsula at a place called Le Bon Bay Backpackers. I had seen the signs for the place in a couple of other hostels and heard nothing but sterling reports about people’s experiences there. The little town nearby was once a French settlement, and so the whole place is full of cheesy yet appealing wannabe French restaurants, hotels and businesses. The hostel owners told me to wait for them between Le Touriste Shoppe and Le Bon CafĂ©. Oui oui.
When the Norwegian manager, Masha, pulled up she informed me that just that morning not only had the owner’s mother had died, but two of their workers had had to leave and that their other worker, a young Japanese girl named Uri, was a sweet girl but a terrible worker. This was made somewhat awkward by the fact that she sat directly behind us.
And yet when Masha offered me a job in exchange for my accommodation and meals, I was very happy to say yes. I liked this woman in spite of her brassy social ineptness and Uri seemed like she needed a friend. Seeing the hostel sealed the deal—it’s a charming, warm place with chickens, cows, a pond, a great vegetable garden and…yes…a trampoline!! The owners and their children are really sweet and will definitely need a hand for the next week or so, so I’m more than willing to help out. Plus, they’re excellent chefs and so I’ll be getting to learn a lot as I help them prepare the lunches, coffees and immaculate dinners the hostel is famous for. The nearby beach (complete with green lipped mussels and nesting penguin), hiking trails and the guitar in the common room aren’t too shabby either. So looks like things are going more than okay. In fact, it would be tough to be any happier than I am right now :)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Well here I am.

More pics @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/8151765@N03/?saved=1

Hey guys--just a quick update of the last few days events:

1) I left town, which was agreed upon by all parties involved. And no, mom, I was not "kicked out" of town...though I'm quite certain the magpie, my awful boss and the Argentinian were just as happy to see me go as I was to leave.

2) I hitched a ride with Anita, the new barmaid in Tekapo, in her semi-decrepit van to Mt. Cook. Along the way we squeezed in a stop at a salmon farm, downed more coffee than is advisable for human consumption and finally ended up at the foot of Mt. Cook in the midst of blustery rain and wind. Not to be deterred we went hiking about, snapping photos and feeling rather like Frodo was going to hop out and join us at any moment. But he didn't. So we headed back to the hostel to cook dinner with a strange guy from Holland who insisted on wearing one of those knit caps that are all strings and random doo dads for the entire evening, only removing it for a brief after dinner sauna.

3) Anita and I surmised that the best way to get to Timaru, the next stop on our journey, was to go straight back through Tekapo. After a somewhat awkward pee/coffee break wherein my boss pulled the tried and true Argentinian silent treatment on me, we jetted out of town and off to the bright lights of Timaru...aka a place 10x the size of Tekapo. Not hard to do.

4) And so after 2 days in a welcoming backpackers (where the husband and wife team seemed a little more welcoming of their young charges than is perhaps decent) I headed to Christchurch. Just got in actually, and am looking for accommodation for the evening before I head off to a friends' place for the weekend. Apparently it's Guy Fawkes this weekend, which is a New Zealand holiday. What it celebrates I'm not sure, and neither are the locals, whose only response to questions about the significance of the holiday is that it's an excuse to set off fireworks. Love their honesty in not knowing what the hell their holidays are actually about. Anyhow, a couple that came through the restaurant a few weeks back invited me to stay at their place for the weekend--apparently they don't exactly have a bed for me, but I'll get to be chucked in with the kids in the living room for a couple nights. Sounds like home.

I figure I'll hang out around here for a few days while plans come together for the next couple months--I'm either heading west or north depending on some random stuff that I'll fill you in on later. So that's life! Much love.