Just a note: I am aware that my countdown widget things on my page are now out of date with my change of plans, however I’m having technical difficulties getting them taken down. I’ve contacted WordPress but they are taking their sweet time getting back to me. I’ll get those updated as soon as possible.
Ok, now onto new stuff!!
I arrived in Auckland around 5pm local time on Friday and made my way through New Zealand customs. I read somewhere that you should declare your outdoor gear that you have with you. Sure enough, on the NZ entry card, they had a line for hiking boots, camping gear, and other stuff. Fortunately, I scraped as much mud off of my hiking boots as I could before I left Bali so they weren’t too contaminated. My boots ended up getting a rinse with something and my hammock got inspected. Took a few extra minutes but otherwise a painless process. The customs agents in NZ are very friendly. Once outside of the airport, I easily found the Sky Bus pickup point. The boat captain recommended I take the Sky Bus from the airport to downtown (an approximately 50-minute ride). I bought the ticket online the day before for $18.
I hopped off the bus in Downtown and walked a couple of blocks towards the Maritime Museum which is right on the edge of the waterfront bulkhead. I thoroughly enjoyed walking those couple of city blocks and thought I would have liked to spend a little more time here.
I met the boat captain and the two other “wwoofers” that were there; two girls – Sarah from England and Athena from Belgium. They were all very nice and seemed to easily welcome me into the boat team. We had dinner on the waterfront at a burger joint. They made a mean quinoa and vegetable burger – so yum!!! After that, we had about a 45-minute drive north across the Auckland Harbor Bridge to Gulf Harbor where the boat is docked. They’re waiting for parts to repair the generator. The area was pretty nice and the marina was beautiful. The boat was built in France in the 1980s. I had my own room with two comfortable twin beds.
Index: Wwoofing: working in exchange for food and accommodation.
The owner of the boat was coming later in the day to spend the night. So, in the morning, I was given the task to “do the edges” which basically means wipe down the white edges and flat surfaces to remove dust, debris, bird poop, and other aesthetic blemishes that had landed on the boat. This took me a few hours because there was a lot of dust and bird poop and I wanted to be thorough. Once that was done, we brought the rubbish out to the collection bins. Then we had about an hour of free time to do whatever before we had to be back and make sure dinner prep was done before the owner showed up. When the owner showed up, the captain showed him what had been done recently. After that, we got dinner ready and ate. The girls had prepared potatoes, a meatloaf, some steamed green beans, and then I made a small stir fry of vegetables to go with my potatos.
Over the course of the day, I was assessing the situation and trying to figure out if I wanted to spend so much time on the boat with these folks. Yes, they were friendly, but I realized that they all smoked quite a bit and also swore like drunken sailors… yeesh. I mean, I can handle swearing, but when every other word is “f this, f that” it does become excessive and annoying. Also, they drank a lot of beer.
Things I didn’t expect was that I would have to (or was expected) learn quite a bit about boats and sailing. Granted it would have been nice, but I didn’t come here to learn about boats. I came to do a task that would be given me, finish it, and then go out and explore. And the atmosphere was just off, slightly tense. The other girls attributed it to the fact that the boat owner was there and the captain wanted him to be happy with what had been done. They also said it’s not usually this tense. The captain asked how things were going in the late morning and I basically told him I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay the whole two weeks and that I would try to stay till Friday. Apparently he mentioned it to Sarah who then came to talk to me and see how things were going a little after that. She basically sat me down and we had a chat. I can usually grin and bear things, I don’t like to just up and quit stuff at all. I felt like I was going to let another person down. But Sarah is also a backpacker and said that backpackers change their minds all the time; it’s part of backpacking. If it wasn’t right for me, then I need to leave. I assured her I wouldn’t have come here and said I would stay two weeks if I thought I wouldn’t actually be able to do it.
I went out, made a reservation at a hostel she recommended in Auckland, looked into transportation back to Auckland, then came back and packed my stuff. I then went up to let the captain know that I couldn’t stay, that I was leaving and that I was sorry. The phrase that sticks in my mind that he said in his characteristic Kiwi accent was “Well, that’s unfortunate.” Yes it is, and I’m sorry, but I couldn’t stay here while docked at land and I would have gone nuts while moored out in the harbor. So, about 1pm I grabbed all my stuff and got off the boat. The girls were going to drive me to the bus stop where I could catch the local bus which would bring me to the broader Auckland bus stop and catch the NEX train to Downtown Auckland.
Once I was on my own, waiting for the bus, riding the bus, and then getting myself to the hostel in Auckland, I wasn’t nervous in the slightest. I knew I would be ok; I didn’t know how I knew this, but I knew I was smart and was knowledgable of public transportation from being in New Jersey and New York City. Public transportation (in first world countries at least) doesn’t really scare me anymore. One step at a time, one question at a time, and one backpack-loaded step at a time. The bus drivers were very friendly and helpful. Once I was on my own, I felt and thought “Ok, now the adventure begins. Only two days planned out ahead, I have a place to stay and two legs to get me there.” My plan consisted of getting to my hostel, showering, doing a load of laundry, and then wandering out into the city to find dinner and a new experience, unplanned. It felt so good to do my laundry and have a really hot, long(er) shower. I then got dressed and headed out to walk around and find dinner.
On one of the main streets in Auckland (Queen Street), there were so many people dressed in red with red and white flags with a red cross on it and people driving around with these flags hanging out of their cars while beeping their horns. I thought “What the heck is going on?!?” I asked a lady who explained in not very good english that it was a Tonga tribal march. I found out from our Stray bus driver (on the 28th) that they were protesting a referee’s decision on the finals of a rugby against England. It was a close call that would have gotten them closer to or into the championship game. But the referee wouldn’t proceed to a review of the video to ensure the right call had been made. So that’s why they were all protesting. I thought ok, interesting.
I ended up having dinner at a restaurant right on the water. I thought it’s been a long 10 days in Bali, and a rough start to New Zealand so for just tonight I’m going to treat myself to something not very cheap. The highlights of dinner ended up being the lemon mojito (delish) and the cheesecake for dessert. The sun went down while I was at dinner and since I didn’t want to be up very late, I just headed back to the hostel to sleep.