Taupo HelpX & Onward Travel Planning (February 1st – 20th, 2018)

Yes, I put those dates in the headline on purpose. Yes, I know I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself but that’s ok.

So, since February 1st, I’ve been living with a middle-aged woman in Taupo helping her around the house. It’s called woofing (working in exchange for accommodation and in some cases some food). During the first week or so, I was trying to find another work exchange through HelpX.net so that I could get to know and help some other folks somewhere else. But that didn’t work out and thankfully Trish was willing to let me stay until the 20th once I realized that I wouldn’t be able to arrange another one in time.

Basically, I was thinking to spend 10 days with one HelpX host and 10 days with another host. My reasoning; I applied to volunteer at a yoga festival just a short bit north of Auckland beginning on February 21st through the 26th. That was a set, non-adjustable plan. I’m still trying to confirm another HelpX opportunity on Waiheke Island for after the yoga festival. I have one almost set; I’m just waiting for the lady to confirm.

I’ve been helping my current host clean up the house a bit, organizing, cleaning, and general house up-keep. In addition, I had a few days off.

Just a view of one side of my host’s house.

The view out the front window towards Lake Taupo with the mountains in the very distance.

The deck.

View out the back.

The amazing outdoor shower!  This is the best!!

“My” lovely bedroom for the time I’ve spent here in Taupo.  So many windows, so much natural lighting.  I loved it as soon as I walked in the room!


I finally was able to really cook and came up with a fresh pumpkin soup with potatos, fresh ginger, fresh tumeric, lemon juice, coconut cream, and tomato and basil as garnish.  🙂

At the town farmers market one Saturday morning, I saw the most exquisitely decorated cupcakes ever!

One evening, we had one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen to date in New Zealand.

Spectacular sunset!

Sky on fire!! 🙂

One day was a national holiday (February 6th), Waitangi Day, in which there was a small festival in town. They were still setting up in late morning when I first got to town so I just found a waterfront picnic table and read my new book, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. This book is incredible. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was given 3-6 months to live. He decided to give a last lecture at Carnegie-Mellon University where he was a professor. The book isn’t his last lecture exactly but basically contains life advice, stories, and other things he wanted to pass on to his kids and the world. It’s a great book! Best part (small best part really) is I get it at the morning market for $2NZD from a couple selling used old books. 🙂 I also got an older book about traveling in Afghanistan. I haven’t gotten very far through that one so I can’t describe it properly.

View of the music stage at the festival.

My next free day (February 8th), my host dropped me off at the Mount Tuahara Trailhead, approximately 6km east on the outskirts of Taupo. I had wanted to hike this trail when I was in Taupo initially, but had turned back because I wasn’t sure I should be walking along the main road. Anyway, with fresh vigor and gumption and excited to try hiking solo again (I was feeling good about it), I was ready to see the views.

Mount Tuahara Trailhead.

It was a really nice hike. Not too challenging but not too easy either.

I made it to the top!  Feeling really good about things.

Looking down at Lake Taupo.

Looking another direction (don’t ask me which direction please).

My next free day was yesterday, February 14th. My host had another HelpX’er who was coming back after traveling the south island. Her name is Olga and she’s a young Polish architect. Our host had an appointment in Mount Manganui in so she took us with her so we could hike up the trail to the top of Mount Manganui.

Those are kiwi fruit vines.

Mount Manganui Trailhead.

While walking up and almost at the top, I saw a guy unfolding what looked like a parachute. Initially I thought base jumping so I went and asked him if he was a base jumper. His response was something like “No that’s crazy!!” I thought, ok well what are you doing with a parachute on the top of a hill then!?! He was going to go paragliding. So I looked at Olga and said “I want to stay and watch this, do you?” Heck yea! We had the time so we stopped and waited there while he got himself all strapped in and straightened out all the para-cords. Finally and all the sudden, with a jerk of the cords, the parachute filled with air and was in the air within seconds. I quickly started taking a video and watched as the guy gently floated off the side of the hill! Super cool!


Preparing mentally and physically to float off the hill.

Super cool watching him go flying!

Gettin’ some contemplation goin’.

Life on the edge.  🙂

Looking down at the beach of Mount Manganui (the town).

After watching that, we wandered around the top of the hill for a few minutes and then walked down to the beach. The sky was breaking open and it became sunny. It was basically just a big hole in the clouds though because the surrounding areas was all cloudy and we drove back into rain on our return drive.

That hill is Mount Manganui…we walked to the top of it.

I feel so alive!

Loving the sunshine, blue skies, and blue-green water.

Water dashing on the rocks.

A video pano from the rocky point of Moturiki Island.

February 15th

Over the last few days, I have been wracking my brains on how to manage my upcoming travel plans; trying to get as much travel in with the budget I have left. Disclosure: By about end of December, I spent all the money in my travel budget/savings account. But that wasn’t completely unexpected or incredibly early either. I’ve been coasting on that money since early August and I have done a ton of stuff, traveled thousands of miles, and seen and experienced so many incredible things that it’s so worth the money spent. Now, I am eating into my retirement account that was thankfully quite well endowed when I left in August. I waited until just a couple of days after the new year to start withdrawing funds so that that “income” will be taxed in the 2018 tax return.

In short, New Zealand blew a major hole in my travel budget. I was expecting it, but I guess not quite as big a hole. I started trying to come up with cost estimates for traveling to and doing two treks in Nepal (as I had planned). One trek would be guided (Mardi Himal trek, one week, Annapurna region) and one unguided (Everest Base Camp, two weeks, Everest region). The one-week guided trek would be about $500 and would include all food and accommodation, guide, porters, permits, transportation to/from, etc. The two-week trek unguided would be about $50 for the two permits required, $300 for the flight to/from Lukla airport from Kathmandu, $35/day for food and accommodation, etc. All the guided treks for Everest Base camp that I saw were 14 days. I made an assumption that, unguided, I would want a couple extra acclimatization days so that I wasn’t pushing too hard, and so estimated cost using 20 days. On top of that, I would need a few nights at a hostel, transportation to/from the airport, food while in Kathmandu, and probably some souvenirs. All together, I estimated approximately $1,600 which, but in reality would probably have turned into more like $2,000. Oh, also thinking about flights to Kathmandu and then from Kathmandu to somewhere in Europe. Yea… it all adds up wayyyyyyy too fast!!!

If I skipped Nepal, I was thinking I could trade for a few days in Dubai. But, doing cost estimation for that trip, it would be about $1,000 at least including flight there, few nights at a super cool Dubai hostel, food, a couple of awesome day trip activities, souvenirs, etc…. Am I willing to spend that and put a dent in my now shrinking budget to tour Europe? Another option to trade Nepal for was a week or less trip to Fiji. Another cost estimate for those flights, accommodation, food, day trips/activities, etc… yup, too much money as well.

Another option; I was thinking to go back to the South Island of NZ to hike a couple of trails that I missed (one in Queenstown and one in Mount Cook National Park) for various reasons. The main reason I was going to go back though was to meet the travel couple that call themselves NOMADasaurus – Adventure Travel Couple. I’ve been following them on Facebook for a while, drawing inspiration on things to do, places to go, etc. Their newest venture is guiding two treks (in August this year) in a mountainous region of Kyrgyzstan. I really, really want to join them but, and I’ve included this in my cost estimations as well, I don’t/won’t have the funds remaining by then to actually do the trek. I could potentially do it if I did work exchanges in Europe to get me through into mid-August. But the trip is almost $2,000 and with the cost of flights, that’s basically half of my remaining budget that I want to cover my EuroTour. WAHHHHHH!!!! 😦 Anyway, they are going to be in New Zealand and so I thought maybe I could meet them somewhere for a day hike. But, cost estimating, timing, trying to find a HelpX host near where we would meet; just a lot of logistics to arrange and potentially a lot of money again coming out of my EuroTour budget.

How can I possibly cram in as much traveling as possible into the budget I have left? I’ve already pulled out a little more than planned from my IRA, but I’m fine with it. I have a lot of years to build that back up and this is the once-in-a-lifetime dream-come-true. I was also thinking about selling my car; I would take half for my travel fund, and then keep half for when I return home and half to find a place to live, find a new job, and “start the engines back up” so to speak. That also costs a lot of money. Especially since I have to buy a whole new bed (which I was planning for when I got rid of my old twin bed) when I left New Jersey/NYC. Adding a new car to those start-up costs was just a little more than I wanted to do. Also, even though it was in late 2015, I still feel like I just got myself out of debt and am not eager to go back. Yea, it would be nice to have a new (or nice used) car but I also like not having a car payment. I had to balance and decide which was more important to me. Longer travel period or no car payment when I get back?

I surprised myself; I really don’t want to have to buy a new car as soon as I get home. I’m still not convinced that I shouldn’t sell my car and get all the traveling done that I want to do now (basically my initial general itinerary). But, being honest with myself, “all the traveling” would basically mean circumnavigating the globe (one or two times), doing more epic hikes, seeing incredible places, meeting more people, writing a LOT more blog posts, all with a comfortable budget. Something my dad says was starting to blare louder and louder in my head: “You can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want.” WWWHYYYY!!!!

The point of all of this? Why tell this? I’m trying to convey the last week (especially the last few days) and what has been buzzing around my head. The result of all this mulling over and cost estimating? Nepal fell off of the “this trip” list down onto a regular “vacation destination in the future” list as did Dubai AND Fiji. 🙂 The thought may have crossed my mind that Fiji would be a great honeymoon place. But, hhahahaha, that’s if I ever get married. Ooo…maybe I’ll go to Fiji after I do a trek in Nepal. Some time in the mountains, and some time at the beach! Oh, but with the amount of time off US companies give each year, they probably won’t happen in the same trip. Who knows! This is seriously how chaotic my mind has been over the last few days. My “agenda” or mental plan of how to work this all out has changed every single day.

Until today (this afternoon) I decided the following:

– Auckland (Volunteer at Yoga Festival Feb 21 – 26th)

– HelpX on Waiheke Island (Feb 27th – March 12th)

– Back to Taupo to do the Tongariro Circuit Great Walk (45 kilometers, 3 days sometime between March 13 – 18th)

– Return to Auckland (March 19th)

– FLY TO AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS (Leave Auckland March 21st, 2-hour layover in Dubai (such a tease of time in the Dubai airport 😦 ) and arrive in Amsterdam on the 22nd)!!! I bought my flight! It’s booked! So, all said and done, I will have spent (2 days shy of) 4 months in New Zealand!

It has been totally, absolutely and completely incredible, mind-blowing at times, spectacular, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, and….well, I don’t know what else to say. You have to come to New Zealand if you’re a lover of the great outdoors and are seeking adventure and like-minded, friendly, and lovely people from around the world (but let’s admit it, besides the Kiwis, it’s mostly Germany and Dutch people traveling here 😀 hahahahaha). I definitely want to come back! You should visit to!! (Paid for by the….. nahhhh I’m just joking! My blog doesn’t make me any money). 😀 I mean every single word of it! 🙂

Once I’m actually done here in New Zealand, I will post a screen shot of the country with all my blue dot-points of places that I have been to here. Let me just say, it’s heavily dotted and I LOVE IT!!! 🙂

2 thoughts on “Taupo HelpX & Onward Travel Planning (February 1st – 20th, 2018)

  1. well, as much as a plan is nice, you also knew that this trip was loose and flexible. It’s good to be practical and figure out where you want to spend extended time and where you can be satisfied with a vacation trip. and never forget how much you have already seen and done. I can’t believe how long you’ve been in NZ. it seems impossible!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yea…. I had to take an assessment of priorities, time, budget, and just go from there. So, yea…Europe took priority because that will take longer than I’ll have once I start working again.


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