Archive for the 'Hello, New Zealand!' Category

My life in NZ in a nutshell – Part 3 (c): Hello, Milford Track! Day 1!

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After carrying my backpack which weighed around 15kg for a total of 4 days and 53.5km, my carrying capability skyrocketed! First two days were sheer hell! I kept adjusting my hip belt and sternum lock to better distribute the backpack load.

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The bus which took us from I-site to the wharf at Te Anau Downs (25km from Te Anau).
We were doing stretching exercise before our hike :p

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Then, we took a 1¼ hour cruise across the lake to reach Glade Wharf, where the Milford track starts

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The navigation system!

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The captain, who caused growing tension among my hiking mates…. :p
I will show you why and how later

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What we saw during our cruise!

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Strong wind! Hold on to your hat tight! 🙂

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The deliberate attempt to sabotage my solo shot!

JM eyed on the captain first. Then LY & LW also showed interest. Next, all of them flocked towards him....

JM eyed on the captain first. Then LY & LW also showed interest. Next, all of them flocked towards him….

Fierce rivalry! :p

Fierce rivalry! :p

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Didymo control

Milford Track, starts here!

Milford Track, starts here!

 

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After an easy 1km walk but not so easy carrying, we reached the Glade House, the first overnight stop for guided walkers

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First suspension bridge of the track

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We were the first to stop for lunch! *shy*

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After lunch workout

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Dore Pass!

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2 min before I could put down my backpack!!!

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Clinton Hut!

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Claiming our beds.

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After some rest, we headed out for a short walk to the wetland area

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where stunning scenery awaited!

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There’s no showering facility in the hut. We thought we could have some dips at the swimming hole but we were deterred by the icy cold water and the omni-present sand flies!

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Our DOC ranger for the day, who is 2m tall! He gave a guided walk

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This is the aftereffect of……..

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Tasting these pepper-like leaves!

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Ok, vocab learning time! I’m holding a SPORK, spoon + fork! 🙂

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We were the only group asking for photo-session with the ranger :p sua gu!

After the briefing session, I started to cultivate sleeping mood when Sue still went out for her glowworms hunt.

Living in the wilderness, not easy! 😀

Part 1: Rotorua| Part 2a: Goodbye Rotorua! | Part 2b: Hello again, Auckland! | Part 3: Hello, South Island! (a) Queenstown (b) Te Anau (c) Milford Track: preface, day 2, day 3, day 4 | Part 4: zucchini picking | Part 5: last bit of travelling (a) inmate days (b) (c) (d)| Concluding remarks

My life in NZ in a nutshell – Part 3 (c): Hello, Milford Track!

Preface

Before the photo-feed, it’s the information feed! It’s a shame that I am only reading information about the track in depth when I’m working on this post :p When I was in Melbourne, I was too busy with my master studies; when I was in NZ before the walk, I had only limited internet access.

People whom I met in NZ, when they knew that I would be tramping (a vocab I learnt only when I was down under)/had hiked along Milford Track during the summer season (November to April) most of them gave responses like, “OMG! How did you manage to book it?” Our scheduled trip was from 10 to 13 Dec 11 and we did the booking on 29 Jul 11, which was 4.5 months in advance! But I met an American couple who tried to book 6 months in advance of their trip but to no avail. Tip to secure your place during summer season: booking for the following season starts on 1 July!

I walked this! :) Map grabbed from here

I walked this! 🙂
Map abstracted from DOC  NZ’s website

Diagram, also grabbed from DOC NZ's website

I survived this! 🙂
Diagram, also grabbed from DOC NZ’s website

Alternatively, if you are survival enough, you can opt to do the walk in winter season (May to October) when booking is not required and the hut are not staffed and facilities are reduced (you have to bring your own cooking stove, using pit toilets instead of flushed ones, etc.)

Excerpts from Lonely Planet:-

In the off-season, experienced trekkers can walk the track in either direction without bookings (hut tickets must be purchased). At this time there’s limited trail transport, the huts aren’t staffed, some of the bridges are removed and, in the height of winter, snow and avalanches make it unwise. It’s vitally important you visit DOC to check avalanche risk, as the geography of the valley makes it impossible to judge for yourself.

Oh, I forgot to mention! The information above and previous post about advance booking, staying in the huts, carrying your own backpacks and preparing your own meals for the 4-day hike etc is for independent trekkers, like my group. Another alternative if you fail to secure a place via the DOC booking system is to take the guided walk. Let me do the comparison for you 🙂

Independent walk Guided walk
Cost (NZD)* to travel during low season:1 – 30 Nov 2013 and 1 – 11 Apr 2014 $ 306.50*price includes 3 nights track accommodation at huts (bunk beds) and transport to and from the track

** refer this page for breakdown and more info

$ 1930*price includes 3 nights track accommodation & one night at Milford Sound (multishare rooms with bunk beds), transport to and from the track, meals, snacks, backpack, rain jacket, cruise trip at Milford Sound.

** refer this page for the breakdown and more info

Duration 4D3N 5D4N
Track guide No Yes
Breakdown of walking distance (km) 5-16.5-14-18 1.6-16-15-21
Showering facilities at huts/lodges No Yes. Hot showers some more!
Clothes washing facilities at huts/lodges No Lodges have hand washing facilities with soap powder and drying rooms
Meals Bring and prepare on your own, own cooking utensils Prepared by tour provider. 3-course dinners!

Some friends asked, “Why do you choose the hard way to see/reach Milford Sound?” Well, the scenery along the walk was so stunning that I had to make many stops just to exclaim, “AH-MAH-ZING!” Some scenery was so breathtaking that I just stood there in awed silence. But it could be due to the fact that I have very low awestruck threshold. :p So judge it for yourself: if you think the scenery shown in photos of subsequent post is too good to be missed, you know what to do!

On wheels or on foot, your choice!

On wheels or on foot, your choice!
Guess where I abstracted this map from? :p *hint hint*

Part 1: Rotorua| Part 2a: Goodbye Rotorua! | Part 2b: Hello again, Auckland! | Part 3: Hello, South Island! (a) Queenstown (b) Te Anau (c) Milford Track: day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4 | Part 4: zucchini picking | Part 5: last bit of travelling (a) inmate days (b) (c) (d)| Concluding remarks

My life in NZ in a nutshell – Part 3 (b): Hello, Te Anau!

I managed to get myself the $1 bus ticket to travel from Queenstown to Te Anau!  🙂

En route to Te Anau, it was this scenic!

En route to Te Anau, it was this scenic!

I saw the Maori name of Milford Sound, I related it to Hokkien (piopio) and Malay (tahi), and I laughed at my own thought! :p

I saw the Maori name of Milford Sound, I related it to Hokkien (piopio) and Malay (tahi), and I laughed at my own thought! :p

Lupins are indeed beautiful flowers!

Lupins are indeed beautiful flowers!

During my childhood, I used to like a Taiwanese song entitled “鲁冰花”. I just knew recently that lupin’s Chinese translation is actually鲁冰!

Major events that took place at Te Anau:-

1) Explored the town! 

Lake Te Anau

Our false bravado: posing in Lake Te Anau

Us: Can we swim in the lake?

Receptionist at our backpackers: Oh, you sure can! But not many people will do that now because the temperature of the water is only around 11° Celsius!

Te Anau

Then, we took turns to pose with the swing. The best poser was….

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… her!

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CC was looking funny in the background :p

2) Getting worried prepared for Milford Track 

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A visit to the visitor centre made us realized we were under-prepared for our Milford walk… 😦

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We were especially under-prepared for the potential flood…

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Our hike was from 10-13 December. Rain was expected!

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Our photoshop plan…. did not materialized :p

To better equipped myself, I bought the yellow liner from the visitor centre, cooking utensils such as spork (a new vocab for me: spoon+fork)  and mess tin, additional quick dry apparels and electrolyte powder from nearby outdoor gears shop.

At night, packing provided a even grimmer outlook for the walk :~(  How to survive the walk carrying 15kg worth of backpack? I need a porter.... *sob*

At night, packing provided an even grimmer outlook for the walk :~(
How to survive the walk carrying 15kg worth of backpack? I need a porter…. *sob*

3) Hiked to Dock Bay 

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I actually invited the gang to hike to Brod Bay to have some glimpses of Kepler’s Track. But after getting to know our bleak outlook for our Milford track, we reckon we should conserve energy and get all prepared for it

te anau dock bay and brock bay

Tracing our footsteps again: A= our backpackers.

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Me: Why was everyone in this pose???
Them: that’s the walking sign!

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En route, we passed by a Wildlife Park. Before I read this information, I thought all blue birds = pukeko! After reading I still couldn’t differentiate. LW provided conclusion: pukeko is with defined neck; takahe is without!
Oh!….. That’s illuminating! 🙂

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And then, there’s a water gate

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At Dock Bay finally! My favorite group photo with the gang! This time, I remember to edit the photo before publishing, JM! 😉 :p

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This is a solution to LW’s concern of injuring herself if she did jumping shots with us 🙂

4) Being introduced to the omni-present Te namunamu!

… i.e. sandflies!

“Although sandflies are present throughout New Zealand, Fiordland has the unfortunate distinction of being renowned for them”

The unbearable thing about them is their bites leave mega itchy bumps (10000 times more itchy than mosquito bites!!!!) and the bumps wouldn’t fade until 3-6 months later!

I thought sandflies at Te Anau were horrifying and irritating enough, I obviously did not know what awaited us along Milford Track! *facepalm*

Part 1: Rotorua| Part 2a: Goodbye Rotorua! | Part 2b: Hello again, Auckland! | Part 3: Hello, South Island! (a) Queenstown (c) Milford Sound | Part 4: zucchini picking | Part 5: last bit of travelling (a) inmate days (b) (c) (d)| Concluding remarks

 

My life in NZ in a nutshell – Part 3 (a): Hello, Queenstown!

Flying from Auckland to Queenstown was cheaper than from Rotorua so I travelled up to Auckland and did my first couchsurfing before flying.

From Queenstown onward, Suecing travelled with me for a month. The travel plan of LW and the gang always coincided with ours, so we met each other very often during that 1 month. Sue had written dutiful travel logs about our days in South Island so I am just going to write about the highlights of the trip in chronological order as well as to share informative and funny photos which still crack me up 🙂

Tracing our footsteps!

Tracing our footsteps!

1) Awed by the beauty of Queenstown

Before my touchdown, LW sent me a very POETIC (note my capitalization! Because this’s something so not her! Haha!) sms about how beautiful Queenstown was. When the plane was hovering above Queenstown, I felt like writing poems as well! :p

The blue blue Queenstown~~~

The blue blue Queenstown~~~

2) Had the most expensive burger in my life so far!

… at Fergburger!

In Ferg we trust :)

In Ferg we trust 🙂

Look at the commotion!

Look at the commotion!

After reading this, I reminded myself not to open my jaw too much!

After reading this, I reminded myself not to open my jaw too much!

To my future travel partners: let's take a photo like this (covering only private parts) somewhere! :p ;)

To my future travel partners: let’s take a photo like this (covering only private parts) somewhere! :p 😉

The codfather cost me NZD 14. Sue treated me Big AL, the most expensive burger on the menu on another day :)

The codfather cost me NZD 14. Sue treated me Big AL, the most expensive burger on the menu on another day 🙂

fergburger queenstown nz

The size of the burger was bigger than my face!

Part 1: Rotorua| Part 2a: Goodbye Rotorua! | Part 2b: Hello again, Auckland! | Part 3: Hello, South Island! (b) Te Anau (c) Milford Sound | Part 4: zucchini picking | Part 5: last bit of travelling (a) inmate days (b) (c) (d)| Concluding remarks

My life in NZ in a nutshell – Part 5 (a): My days living like an inmate

After informing S that both JL and I would be working until the end of January, I knew the chance was slim for me to land on another paid job so I was on the active look out for exchange jobs instead to occupy my last three weeks in NZ. I had wished for a relaxing 3-week either by the beach or somewhere with stunning scenery. I sent out five exchange applications (some were on behalf of JL as well):-

  1. As cleaners at a backpackers, Mangawhai
  2. As tour guide at a historic prison, Napier
  3. As painters at Riverstone Backpackers, Turangi
  4. As receptionist at Sunflower Lodge, New Plymouth
  5. As cleaners at National Park Village, Tongariro National Park
Where to after Levin?

Where to after Levin?

(1) provided positive reply a few hours after I sent the application. JL and I were delighted that we could spend time together by the beach and could be in our bikinis!

But I received positive reply also from (2) on the next day but the prison needed only me as tour guide. So it was either I go to Mangawhai together with JL or to part with her and head to Napier on my own. JL was quite disappointed when I told her I was more attracted to becoming a tour guide because that’s an experience I am not likely to gain elsewhere. In the end, JL was willing to take her chance to see if the prison needed extra pair of hands to clean or do some odd jobs and would go to Napier together with me.

On Feb 1st: My farewell message read:- 

“Good bye Levin! Good bye zucchini! I’m moving on with heavy heart, gonna miss the nice people in the team!”

M picked us up from Napier’s I-site and we were checked in to the “penthouse”, a room which was originally the residence of the superintendent and was converted to cell in 1960s to house the Mongrel Mob members. JL and I became 2 of the staff of the prison who slept in cells and used facilities originally utilized by inmates!

The "penthouse"...

The “penthouse”… On a side note: I am surprised I actually did not take photo of the interior of my room!

The construction of the prison building was concluded in 1862. So it's now 151 years old!  Someone was buried standing up on your left of the wall...

The construction of the prison building was concluded in 1862. So it’s now 151 years old!
Someone was buried standing up on your left of the wall…

I had 2 challenges ahead for my days in the prison:

  1. to memorize the tour guide script which was of the length of 13 pages of A4 paper (default font setting!) in a week’s time before giving guided tour
  2. To brave the eerie ambience of the prison…. *spooky music playing in the background*
*gulp* 13 pages!

*gulp* 13 pages!

Duty roster for my first week in the prison :)

Duty roster for my first week in the prison 🙂

Fellow colleagues were very generous with all the prison-is-haunted stories. Project supervisor A even asked me to listen to the electronic audio guide which compiled all the paranormal stories but I avoided that at all costs.

One morning, Alanna came to me, “Sam, I had a rough night. Do you know what happened last night?”

Me: I don’t. Tell me.

Alanna: I was listening to my MP3 in my room. I heard Charlie’s voice approaching, so I planned to scare her when she passes by. Then something strange happened: the songs in my MP3 player, they kept shuffling! At first I thought it was because I accidentally press the “Next” button since the player was in my pocket. So I took the player out and put in on my palm and the shuffling won’t stop! I got freaked out! Nick passed by my room at that time and I got hold of him. The MP3 player was functioning normally when Nick was in my room. After he left, it shuffled again! I got really freaked out and I moved to Charlie’s room immediately. I think this is my retribution: the you-know-what was trying to teach me a lesson for my mischief!

Me: Oh my god! You shouldn’t have told me all these! I don’t think I can sleep well in my room alone now!!! 

JL shared a room with me for a week and then she left for her onion packing job. Then started the realms of my (bad) imagination… and insomnia… I couldn’t sleep well at night anymore! I slept switching on all lights in the room. I also scattered my lingerie all around my bed because it’s said to be able to ward off you-know-what. I was so afraid when I woke up in the middle of the night and I’d see SOMETHING lying next to me… when the night fell, I would avoid walking pass the corridor adjoining the kitchen to my room, where Alanna’s room is located.

The hanging yard, the least favorite place for me...

The hanging yard, the least favorite place for me…

The white enclosure = burial site for comprises the first 2 men hanged at the prison...

The white enclosure = burial site for comprises the first 2 men hanged at the prison…

I really do not like this eerie mural in the mess hall!

I really do not like this eerie mural in the mess hall!

shower place

shower place

Since the shower units are semi-open air, staff are only allowed to take shower after the prison is closed for visit i.e. from 5pm onward. When I took shower, I always brought along my phone and played music aloud to drown out other sounds because I did not want to be aware of any strange noise… Besides I always took shower with lightning speed because my mind kept playing the scenes from Ju-on! Scenes like having a hand pressing my head while I was shampooing my hair!

I mean this scene!

I mean this scene!

Me! My attire and props for tour-guiding. I think I did pretty lousy job. Sorry for those who were guided by me :p

Me! My attire and props for tour-guiding. I think I did pretty lousy job. Sorry for those who were guided by me :p

Part 1: Rotorua| Part 2a: Goodbye Rotorua! | Part 2b: Hello again, Auckland! | Part 3: Hello, South Island! (a) Queenstown (b) Te Anau (c) Milford Sound | Part 4: zucchini picking | Part 5: last bit of travelling (b) (c) (d)| Concluding remarks

My life in NZ in a nutshell – Part 2b: Hello again, Auckland!

On the last night of me working at Funky Green Voyager, I was in denial mode again: refused to go to bed even though my eyelids weighed a thousand tones…. Because once I woke up, it’s time to leave!

I woke up earlier than normal on Dec 5th 2011 to pack and clean my campervan. So gonna miss the bittersweet feeling of having a campervan all by myself!

Goodbye, neighbors C and N!

Goodbye, neighbors C and N!

Goodbye, boss and ladyboss, G and A!

Goodbye, boss and ladyboss, G and A!

I just can't travel light! Total weight = 33kg!

I just can’t travel light!
Backpack + daypack + sleeping bag + shoe bag + food bag = 33kg!

Goodbye N and L! L lugged my backpack for me. I had tears welling up seeing this scene

Goodbye N and L! L lugged my backpack for me. I had tears welling up seeing this scene

I had mixed feelings leaving Rotorua: heavy to leave, it felt like home already after all; thrilled and looked forward to my time spent with Malaysian good friends again; anxious as I couldn’t really plan ahead that much while I was backpacking, too uncertain.

I had 2 days to spare in Auckland before flying to Queenstown and I managed to squeeze in something special for me: couchsurfing. As a beginner and first-time couchsurfer, it’s more difficult to get a host because people would be more likely to host you when you already have good references. I read the tips for “How to Write a Good Couchrequest” a few times before sending out a few. I was so glad that my first host, C&B found my couch request heart-warming!

Enjoying sunset at Viaduct Harbour with couchsurfing host, Ca and couchsurfer, Chris

Enjoying sunset at Viaduct Harbour with couchsurfing host, Ca and couchsurfer, Chris

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My host has a nice garden!

the couchsurfer and her host! :)

the couchsurfer and her host! 🙂

Chef Sam at work

Chef Sam at work 

My cooking for 5 people! I did not cook at all (instant noodles=not cooking!) back home. Guess what? Not only no food poisoning, my guests praised my cooking! I must be a natural :p

My cooking for 5 people! I did not cook at all (instant noodles=not cooking!) back home. Guess what? Not only no food poisoning took place, my guests praised my cooking! I must be a natural :p

This is Shiloh! She's partially why i sent couch request to Ca :)

This is Shiloh! ♥ She’s partially why I sent couch request to Ca 🙂

Couchsurfing, literally!

Couchsurfing, literally!

If couchsurfing is new for you, here is my two cents’ worth: depending on your state of mind while travelling, if you feel like experiencing cultural exchange, teaching, learning and sharing, you should really go for it. On the other hand, if you would like to have time on your own and do not feel like socializing, then couchsurfing might not be right for you.

It is a shame that Auckland was always like transit town for me while I was in NZ and I explored no farther than along Queen St.! I took some time to explore Queen St. in depth! :p

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Transformers spotted along Queen St.!

LY voted this as the "best ramen in Auckland"!

LY voted this as the “best ramen in Auckland“!

During my travelling around for the subsequent 1 month, I was surprised that I could remember so well about the names of some people who stayed at Funky Green before and had also interacted with me. Let me quote an example:-

* At a bar and café at Franz Josef*

Me: You are Jan, right?

Jan: How can you know? Did I meet you before?

Me: I think so. You stayed at Funky Green when you were in Rotorua, right?

Jan: Yes. But how and why can you remember me?

Me: You told me you like Dan Brown’s books and you were reading “The Lost Symbol” while you were in Rotorua.

The sight of a familiar face at Auckland Art Gallery: Marika! She stayed at Funky before. She's so surprised when I could recall her name effortlessly :)

The sight of a familiar face at Auckland Art Gallery: Marika! She stayed at Funky before. She’s so surprised when I could recall her name effortlessly 🙂

Next, South Island awaits!

Part 1: Rotorua| Part 2a: Goodbye Rotorua! | Part 3: Hello, South Island! (a) Queenstown (b) Te Anau (c) Milford Sound | Part 4: zucchini picking | Part 5: last bit of travelling (a) inmate days (b) (c) (d)| Concluding remarks

Post-working-holiday syndrome

Post-working-holiday or backpacking syndrome

Tips to help you settle back in

When I first came across this piece of writing at Funky, I had hearty laugh. Now that I am going through it again, my heart grows fonder. Working holiday is indeed one of the most amazing things that I have done so far. My remarks are in red.

**********

Replace your bed with 2 or more bunk beds and every night invite random people in to sleep there. This will make things seem more hostel like, and will also boost your karma. No, I do not miss bunk beds, especially not upper bunk.

Ensure at least once a week a couple gets drunk and shags on one of the top bunks all night. Remove beds one by one as symptoms improve. Some friends quoted experience like this with revulsion. Driven by curiosity, I always asked, “Can’t we take that as watching a porn movie?” Probably not… Watching porn for the whole night is not pleasurable anymore I guess. :p

Sleep in your sleeping bag, and forget to wash it for months. Hey, since I lost my favorite pink blanket in 2004, my sleeping bag is my blanket! I like the feeling of being like a caterpillar (hehe! That’s when you zip yourself up in the sleeping bag) and that I get to bring the same sleeping bag with the smell of home (and myself) when I am on the move!

Sleep in a different room each day, varying it by setting the air conditioning either too hot or too cold. Sleep behind a pot plant for that jungle effect. Cats also double as pumas with a little imagination. Put up a mosquito net, ensuring that there are plenty of holes, and it falls down at least twice during the night. Very rarely it was too hot in the hostels since I did not spend summer while working-holiday-ing, even if that happened, I just have to wear thinner layer. I slept in the campervan during the winter and the damn heater was too small. I turned myself into caterpillar (zipped up the sleeping bag) and sandwiched the sleeping bag with 2 duvets and I was still freezing and miserable. That was when I wished so hard that I had someone to hug me to sleep!

Enlist help of a family member to set your radio alarm randomly to go off at some time during the night, filling your room with loud talking. Works best if you can find a radio station in Hebrew. With all this training in place, I am still a shallow sleeper: I get awaken easily. BAD!

Slowly remove items of clothing etc. from your backpack, until you are completely using your wardrobe instead. Maybe only one item a day, but remember its one step at a time kids. Don’t forget to smell your clothes before wearing them, and re-introduce the use of the iron SLOWLY. I wrote this in FB the night before I started working (normally, not seasonal) again: I have not finished unpacking everything in my backpack and I am going back to my normal life again tomorrow, a point in life where I left 2 years ago… Sue, read this! Smelling the clothes before wearing is the norm for professional backpacker! :p And I was so used to rolling my clothes to take the form of stick (so that the clothes are compressed, to save packing space), it is just empty pleasant to be able to fold my clothes again…

Buy your favourite foodstuff, and despite living at home, write your name and when you might next be leaving the house on them. This should be the backpacker’s staple diet of mainly pasta, potatoes and beer.  Truly backpacking life! 🙂

Ask family member to every now or again steal one of the above foodstuffs, preferably the one you’ve most been looking forward to, or the most expensive. Oh, I hated this so much! Someone stole my microwave-safe container with the special fried rice prepared by my French friend as farewell dinner in it! The thief not only stole the container and the food, but also the love!!! 😥

Keep at least one item of food far too long or in a bag out in the sun, so you have to spend at least 24 hours within sprinting distance of the toilet. I built up my stomach’s tolerance by eating always almost-expired (supermarket always offer discount up to 50% off normal price for bakery which is about to expire) or already expired food (expired by a day or two, I won’t die I think…), even bread with mold!

Even if it’s a Sunday, make sure you are out of the house by 10am, and then stand on the corner looking lost. Ask the first passer-by of similar ethnic background if they have found anywhere good to go yet. The sight of a familiar face is a pleasant thing indeed to lonely soul!

Once decided to possibly get a job, take a fully packer rucksack to work with you every day. Although it’s perfectly safe next to the coffee machine, watch it like a hawk.

Buy your bus, train ticket or order a taxi in a foreign language. The fact the person behind the counter won’t understand you simply adds to the authenticity. Remember to barter for everything; if the bus driver says 70p, offer 30p. Haha, not applicable.

When sitting on public transport introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you, say which stop you got on, where you are going to, how long you have been travelling and what university you went to. I call this the everyone-could-be-a-friend-when-you-are-travelling-alone-syndrome! Now I feel even more comfortable initiating conversation with strangers! :p

When possible travel everywhere at break neck speeds on a moped carrying as much luggage as possible, without protection.

Shower infrequently, ensuring that you continue to apply deet for that true travel aroma. No, this is not applicable to me. I took shower and washed my hair every day even during winter!

My life in NZ in a nutshell – Part 4: Call me a zucchini picker!

zucchini a.k.a. courgette! Interesting fact from Wikipedia: “Botanically, however, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower”

zucchini a.k.a. courgette! Interesting fact from Wikipedia: “Botanically, however, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower”

Zucchini picking is the most strenuous labor I have ever got myself into so far in my life! The nature of job requires the pickers to bend their backs a lot and hence putting a lot of strains on their backs and knees. Back pain is the most unbearable part of the job to me. I had to arch my back backward every 10 minutes or so to alleviate the pain. L always persuaded that the job is good for toning our butts. My back pain is gone now (thanks be to god!), but then whenever I think about zucchini, I can still feel the “phantom pain”!

Pickers at work

Pickers at work

Zucchini can really grow I tell you!

Zucchini can really grow I tell you!

Picking in front of the conveyor belt has higher risk of being hit

Picking in front of the conveyor belt has higher risk of being hit

Zucchini picking brings indirect stress too. On the first day of lunar New Year, I had nightmare about harvesting zucchini (can’t really remember the details already, but it’s about being hit by the moving conveyor belt) and woke up in the middle of night and screamed in Cantonese, “Help! Help! Save me!”

It's this tiring you know?

It’s this tiring you know?

Some friends are really “supportive” about me working in the farm… :p

Me: D*mn! Zucchini picking is such a hard job. Working at funky is really not bad after all!

N: How hard can that possibly be? Maybe tough for you because of your soft hands.

Me: My back pain is killing me!!!

N: You may be the laziest Asian I have ever met!

Ah ball: ape ni….u wanted to work in farms when u decided to go for your work-holiday trip wad… cannot complain so much :p

The market price for zucchini depends on their sizes. When there’s ample supply in the market, customers tend to buy smaller zucchini as they are tenderer in texture. The big boss of our picking team once showed us the difference in perspective: when asked about which size to choose, Asian will always go for bigger size, cheaper but more flesh! (Haha)

Work hard, play harder!

Work hard, play harder!

Still playing... Die die also want to take jumping shot

Still playing… Die die also want to take jumping shot

:)

🙂

We were saying among the team mates that we had shown our most authentic and the ugliest sides to each other:-

a) We had to answer the call of nature in open air most of the time

b) Our working attire is a kind of sunk cost because there is this sticky secretion from the zucchini plants that when it gets in contact with our clothes, it is almost impossible to remove the stains. For this, we normally bought our working wears from Salvation Army to save cost. Suffice to say, you won’t see us wearing this kind of clothes when we go back to our normal routine 🙂

During rainy days, we had to be plastic-bag-women

During rainy days, we had to be plastic-bag-women because the gumboots were not 100% waterproof

c) It’s hard work under scorching sun, we all had poor skin condition and we sweated profusely!

We were also saying we would never ever gonna forget each other because there’s nothing that could top 20120122 as the most unforgettable Chinese new year eve for us: we picked zucchini for 12 freaking continuous hours! And 1 hour was in the rain! Still had to continue picking even though everyone was already shivering in cold!

My beloved partner, H. He’s stuck with me because we both worked on harvesting the same rows. For this, we always had off-day together and got to explore the town together.

My beloved partner, H. He’s stuck with me because we both worked on harvesting the same rows. For this, we always had off-day together and got to explore the town together.

Me and H in Wellington

Me and H in Wellington

The only sight of cuteness working as picker would be seeing the same frightened brown rabbit fled from the farm very frequently 🙂 K said, “Maybe it’s trying to lead me to a wonderland!”

Not only S and Y purposely drove all the way from Wellington to Levin for our get-together, S even woke up very early to prepare this for me (became my lunch for the day after). This is when you know you are being loved as a friend!

Not only S and Y purposely drove all the way from Wellington to Levin for our get-together, S even woke up very early to prepare this for me (became my lunch for the day after). This is when you know you are being loved as a friend!

Hard labor begets hunger! I ate like a dinosaur during that 1 month working as picker: I need a lot of carbohydrate to fuel my labor! The good thing was that I remained very slim no matter how much I ate! Another “benefit” that I reaped by being a picker was that my legs became very cold-resistant! Besides, I had to keep walking around, to prevent my legs from going numb (see the following paragraph). After work, when everyone just wanted to lie in the bed doing nothing, I would walk 40 minutes to and fro to go steal free wifi at McD almost on daily basis.

Eat like dinosaur but do not have the size of one!

Eat like dinosaur but do not have the size of one!

Zucchini made you suffer? Eat them!Demonstration for "revenge is sweet"!

Zucchini made you suffer? Eat them!
Demonstration for “revenge is sweet”!

I’m very sure I wasn’t being a spoilt brat because many people left the jobs while I just strove on. The highest record stood at quitting the job only 4 hours into picking. It’s just too hard! Almost every (legal) seasonal job in NZ pays the minimum wage, I don’t see why one has to work extra hard to be paid the same salary. Two weeks into the job, the pitfall began to surface and I started to worry. Whenever I sat down, both my legs went numb (like blood circulation’s being blocked). 3 weeks into the job, I couldn’t feel both of my big toes! It then dawned on me that this is not a job that I should be doing for long term. The whole reason why I chose this job was that the supervisor promised to issue a letter of support to accompany my visa extension application with the condition that I had to work for the team for 3 months. “Working holiday should not cause irreversible damage to my body.” With this in mind, I made the heavy decision not to extend my working holiday and just to make the best of out the remaining 1 month in NZ.

I taw I taw a pussy tat!

Life living at Levin Motor Camp: I taw I taw a pussy tat!

Life living at Levin Motor Camp

Life living at Levin Motor Camp

With S, the supervisor who is quick to angry but kind at heart

With S, the supervisor who is quick to angry but kind at heart

When I was still working as picker, I always pondered: how can I make the best out of the hardship. I wasn’t sure where the path will lead me to in terms of being a better and more mature person in life. Sue said, “Little hardship makes us appreciate life better”.  CC said, “Don’t be so sad… now you learn how to appreciate your desk job more :p”

Ok, I’ll not complain anymore that being an engineer sucks! :p

Call us zucchini pickers!

Call us zucchini pickers!

Part 1: Rotorua| Part 2a: Goodbye Rotorua! | Part 2b: Hello again, Auckland! | Part 3: Hello, South Island! (a) Queenstown (b) Te Anau (c) Milford Sound | Part 5: last bit of travelling (a) inmate days (b) (c) (d)| Concluding remarks

My life in NZ in a nutshell – Part 2a: Goodbye Rotorua!

I had several farewell sessions on the few days leading up to my official date of leaving Funky Green Voyager. Ruth came on Saturday night bringing shepherd’s pie sufficient for 5 people! Out of the blue, while Ruth, Sonny, Nadya and I were chatting at No. 7, Ah Ball called and informed that he’s on his way to Funky! What a coincidence! He was on his travel-around-North Island-before-heading home, and just in time to bid me farewell.

Shepherd’s pie dinner!

Post-dinner, Ah Ball, Nadya, Jenny and I headed to Pig and Whistle for some FREE drinks, courtesy of Chris! On the table, everyone’s tolerance for alcohol is better than mine: I drank the least but was the most drunk I think. My offer to drive everyone home with Ah Ball’s rented car was rejected. Ah Ball said he could drive better in his slightly drunk condition than me driving in my stone cold sober mode! Haha!

Some kind of apple cocktail – courtesy of Chris!
It tasted so much like apple juice, one sip led to another and very soon my (low) drunkenness threshold was crossed…

On Sunday, Nadya prepared nasi goreng as lunch for me to soothe my homesickness. At night, it’s the customary pizza session: held whenever there’s (worthy) funky crew leaving.

a heart-warming scene: Nadya was preparing nasi goreng for me

Farewell pizza session for funky crew

G said this pavlova was home-made

Part 1: Rotorua | Part 2b: Hello again, Auckland! | Part 3: Hello, South Island! (a) Queenstown (b) Te Anau (c) Milford Sound | Part 4: zucchini picking | Part 5: last bit of travelling (a) inmate days (b) (c) (d)| Concluding remarks

My life in NZ in a nutshell – Part 1: Working for a backpackers hostel

I reached Auckland on Aug 21st 2011 and spent 2 days in Auckland to run errands like opening bank account and applying for IRD before heading to Keri-keri to meet up with LW and the gang with the hope to find jobs in the avocado pack house.

Luck was really not on our side! Not only we failed to land on any job, the car that LW bought was diagnosed to have a major defect which caused the car to keep heated up and the damage was too expensive to be repaired. The car ended up being sold almost at scrap iron’s price to a mechanic in Whangarei. We then took bus back to Auckland.

The car that I got to use for 4 days only….

Spoiled by my sponsored-by-scholarship lifestyle in Melbourne, I was relatively so much more spendthrift compared to LW and the gang. It was still winter, the prospect of securing jobs for the all 5 of us at the same time was grim. I was actively looking for jobs during my stay in Auckland but to no avail. The cash I brought to NZ was running out quick without even doing anything significant! Panicked by the fact that there would be a surge for the cost of lodging in Auckland once the Rugby World Cup started, which would drain the limited cash I had even quicker, I made the bold decision to part with the gang and head to Rotorua on my own to try my luck if I could secure the job as the receptionist of the top-rated backpackers at the time. The owner invited me to stay at the backpackers for a few days to see if I like the town of Rotorua and the hostel. I was willing to take my chance because the owner said I could stay for free!

When I reached the hostel, I was told by the manager-on duty that the owner was not around as he sent a staff to Taupo for skydiving. So I got to have some free time to roam around Rotorua town. I fell in love with the town on first impression, it’s not really that urbanized, but has got everything that I need for a pleasant and convenient life e.g. supermarkets, cinema, plenty of restaurants of different cuisine and pubs, swimming pools, library, banks, electronic shops, post office and etc., all within 15 min walking distance from the backpackers.

There’s still no sign that the owner was going to see me by dinner time. I went ahead to cook my dinner. I initiated conversation with a Korean girl, M and a German boy, T and soon after we were chit-chatting around the dining table in the common area. What I did not know was that the owner already came back and observing our interaction at one corner. He suddenly appeared at the living room and chipped in. When asked to introduce himself, he said, “I’m G!”

“Oh, you are the owner, right?!” I was caught off guard.

“Yes, and I already know who you are”.  He told me that preliminarily, I fulfilled his selection criteria: > 25 years old hence more grounded, non-smoker and drinker as well as being bubbly and funny. He asked if I can handle what’s on its way, I said sure! I actually passed the first interview by just being myself!

I started my first day as trainee manager the next morning at 8am. For the following 5 days, I was actually just being the shadow of the owner and the 2 managers who were still around to observe and learn the daily operation before I was put on duty on my own.  I find L1 being a better mentor 🙂

Receiving baton from K, my predecessor

L1, another manager before me

Working at the backpackers wasn’t all rosy before my American co-worker, N came on board and working alongside with me as another manager because the working hours were not fixed, I was always at the disposal of the owner (I worked whenever he’s not free).  Most of the time I worked more than 8 hours per day and I was also always on standby mode because I wouldn’t know my work shift in advance.  This quickly wore me down. Besides, due to cultural difference, I was having quite some friction with G. At one point, I was actually shouting at him, “G, you know what, I need a system to work with!!!” I was on the impulse of quitting the job as well because I had a feeling I can’t really work up to the expectation of G but I stayed put after spending a few days to mull things over because I thought it was a good training ground for me to be a better and more mature person in life.

Me at work!

Slowly, I developed better grasp on my boss’s expectation. Besides, I always worked with a sincere heart, the owners felt it after some time and I was delighted that my hard work paid off. G invited me to his house for dinner one day. Over the dining table, he said, “Sam, we need to talk again”. I thought he’s going to bash me again. Instead, he said, “We received very good reviews about you, Sam, from guests who stayed here before”, he continued, “they were impressed by your friendliness and how hardworking you are”. After L2 and V left the hostel, G posted “cleaners wanted” advertisement on BBH website and received overwhelming responses. He came to me one morning, “Sam, because of you, we decided to choose the Malaysian gals, because we think we might have good luck again with Malaysians, like we have with you!” G also said, “You are the first Asian working at the front desk with us, but won’t be the last!”

Then I started to reap the benefits of working for the backpackers e.g. joining excursions for free.

G always complained that N and I lack practical skills, which I think I agree wholeheartedly! Haha. It was during my attachment with the hostel that I mowed the lawn, painted the tables and trimmed the plants for the first time in my life!

I painted this……

this….

and this!

I told myself I should be less rigid and try to be more carefree. I think I achieved this goal pretty well! I did my tattoo in Rotorua. I also drank more often and even got really drunk once that L2 had to actually carry me back to my campervan. Not only that, I also went to the dance club with L2 and V and I enjoyed it. I forgot when was the last time I danced already, a decade ago I think.

Got inked!

Got drunk!

Although I got to know many friends throughout the working holiday, the more long-lasting friendship was built while I was working for the backpackers. Having L2 and V as my co-workers added so many colours to my stay with the hostel! In fact, of all the friends I got to know in NZ, I spent the longest time with them. They left the hostel 1 month earlier than me, life was less fun after that. I am still keeping close contact with L2, S and Y. L2 even paid me a visit in Kuala Lumpur recently and we had great time together for a week.

Life was more interesting having them around!

Short road trip to Taupo!

Visiting Waimangu Volcanic Valley together!

Redwood forest

Wandering around town

I would say my 3 months working at the hostel is the highlight of working holiday. I had the chance to meet many people from all walks of life and nationalities. The hostel was like a home for me after all. Due to the bond developed, I felt sad on every level of my being to leave the hostel and the people there especially G, A, their kids and L2. When L2 and V left the hostel, I cried. L2 asked me to think of the good times we had together then I would feel better. But that trick did not work on me, the more I thought about the time we spent together, the harder I cried!

The funky crew!

Part 2a: Goodbye Rotorua! | Part 2b: Hello again, Auckland! | Part 3: Hello, South Island! (a) Queenstown (b) Te Anau (c) Milford Sound | Part 4: zucchini picking | Part 5: last bit of travelling (a) inmate days (b) (c) (d)| Concluding remarks


I spot you, creativity!

Series #9 Light bulb reuse!

Reflection of the day

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Inside the glass bottle…

“I want to walk tall, believe in myself, have the courage to ask for what I want and need, and live a life that mattered. I want to wake up in the morning with a smile on my face and know that I am loved and that I belonged. I am desperate to feel worthy and I am hungry for the opportunity to live my fullest potential.” - modified from "The Dark Side of the Light Chasers" - Debbie Ford

Under the apple tree…

"If you are not spending all of your waking life in discontent, worry, anxiety, depression, despair, or consumed by other negative states; if you are able to enjoy simple things like listening to the sound of the rain or the wind; if you can see the beauty of clouds moving across the sky or be alone at times without feeling lonely or needing the mental stimulus of entertainment; if you find yourself treating a complete stranger with heartfelt kindness without wanting anything from him or her... it means that a space has opened up, no matter how briefly, in the otherwise incessant stream of thinking that is the human mind." - A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle

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Ich lese….

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The time keeper by Mitch Albom

The art of thinking clearly by Rolf Dobelli

The first phone call from heaven by Mitch Albom

Inferno by Dan Brown

For one more day by Mitch Albom

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

A study in scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

The five people you meet in heaven by Mitch Albom

Have a little faith by Mitch Albom

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

To kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

A Fresh Start by John Chapman

Inspiring quotes!

If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other? (God in "Evan Almighthy")
“To love another person is to see the face of God.” ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain
Aggie: "But what about the people who hurt you? Don't you ever want to make them suffer?" Norman Babcock: "Well, yeah, but what good would that do? You think just because there's bad people that there's no good ones either? I thought the same thing for a while. But there's always someone out there for you. Somewhere." - Paranorman
"机遇总是偏爱有准备的人"
“You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry, don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” by Walter Hagen
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, body totally worn out and screaming "WOOOHOOOO what a ride!" - by anonymous
When you travel, it’s not like you take a part of each place away with you; rather, it’s as if you leave a part of yourself there, like a part of you forever belongs to that place – the time, the people, and the things you saw; and over time, it gets burned deeper into your soul - by anonymous