Thursday, April 18, 2019

WWOOFing in New Zealand

Here’s a scattered post about my experience wwoofing in New Zealand so far. The wwoofing expectations are these: work 4-5 hours each day, get meals and a place to sleep. Within those loose parameters, anything goes. You might leisurely work 4 hours and then lounge the rest of the day, or you might works from 9 til 7 because it would look weird for you to lounge while the farmers are toiling away. You’ll always have breakfast on time, but never any other meals (this is a constant at each place I have been). 

Coffee break is pretty normal, dinner is sometimes called tea. You can plan ahead for the wwoof spot of your dreams, contact the farmers months in advance if you want. But as this is my blog you all know that I definitely did not do it that way, I have been doing it anywhere from two weeks to a few days in advance, which actually works well. Some hosts are so used to wwoofers flaking our on their plans that they don’t even let you book a spot until the date gets close. Wise, because plans change here so much, depending on who you meet, the weather, and just how you’re feeling about working on a farm versus exploring the country. 

I am currently writing from my 3rd wwoof spot of my trip, and I plan on having 2 more. I am lying on some cushions next to the wood stove, it’s 8:40 pm, and I just did a load of dishes at the sink after saving the house from burning down, I am a hero! Sort of kidding, but I did walk in to the house right when the pot of butter on the stove went up in flames and I put a plate on top of it and took it outside. My host has an 8-month old baby you see, and was trying to put her to bed and was also trying to cook dinner at the same time. Here's a pic I took of the cosy-looking house that was actually a kitchen fire.

 I volunteered my dish washing skills on my wwoof profile, and I have been cashing that in at this spot even though I’ve only been here 3 days. There is no running water here because they’re still getting set up, so dishes involve filling a jug from the tap outside, boiling some in the kettle, pouring it into the bucket on the sink because the sink isn’t attached the the plumbing, soaping things, then rinsing, then dumping the bucket outside somewhere. Honestly a four bucket trail crew system would be easier, but alas I only have the one bucket. Anyways enough about dishes, the view at this place is absurdly beautiful. My tent/ palace overlooks a stunning mountain range and the nights have been clear enough for the Milky Way. I have walked down to the Dart River 4 times in two days for cell service and bathing and admiring the views, and because it gives me something to do. 

 Basically the purpose of this wwoof site is to bide my time until I do a 4-day tramp in this area, and to live cheaply and learn something during those extra days. My previous site was to experience a working sheep and beef farm, which is what so many farms in New Zealand are. I suppose my first wwoof site was just chosen for location convenience and to try out wwoofing for the first time. They all have served a different purpose for me in my travels, and I’m glad for each spot. You really get a taste of family life in this country, and a sense of opinions and politics and natural history and customs.

Update: now it’s three weeks later and I’m just gonna post this as is, because I am with a friend with a computer and in good WiFi, a great combo! Of course there is a lot more to say on this subject and more interesting stories I could share, but you’ll just have to ask me in person!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Tramping: Hut Edition

Often whilst hiking I have a lot of mixed feelings throughout my journey. Why am I doing this when I could be chilling? Why am I subjecting my feet and back to blisters and aching? What is the point? My mind wanders, I usually don’t have any deep life musings, and I often just distract myself from the surroundings by singing a song or turning on a podcast if things get desperate. Then I arrive at my destination, and everything changes, every single time. I feel awe for the place I am camping. I feel grateful for my feet and legs for carrying me all this distance and impressed with myself for sticking it out. I feel like an amazing chef when I make my backcountry dinner, and I relish the part when it is totally ok to climb into my sleeping bag at 8:30.

These are my normal feelings when doing backpacking trips in the US. In New Zealand, it has been pretty much the same except for the addition of the array of huts to stay in each night. At the time of sitting down to write this post, I have stayed in 5 different huts for a total of 8 nights. Hopefully I will get a few more nights in because I bought a 6-month hut pass for 95 bucks and so far I haven’t stayed enough nights to make buying the pass worth it (edit: have now stayed 4 more nights, got my moneys worth!). There are a few types of huts. The Great Walk huts must be booked in advance and are crazy expensive, and you can’t use your pass. There are popular huts that are not on the great walks that you also have to pay for and cannot book in advance, but they are reasonably priced (20 NZD a night, and in really cool locations). Here is Lake Angelus Hut, makes sense the it's a popular one!
The next step down is a serviced hut- they have running water and sometimes flush toilets and are generally slightly nicer, these are 15 per night and are first-come first-served. Then your standard hut, which usually has water but could run out, but as far as I can tell still has the amenities of a serviced hut but is only 5 per night. Then there is basic, which I have not yet encountered but I assume it’s just a cabin without much else. Some are really just run-down shacks, but hey it's better than a tent! None have lights, some have solar charger ports, all have an excellent porch and bunks with mattresses. 
So that’s all the boring hut stuff out of the way, now it’s time for some observations and stories. When I walked into my first hut experience, I felt pretty awkward and nervous. Everyone turned to me and asked where I was coming from and how my trip was and I felt the need to announce that this was my first time ever staying in a hut so let me know if there’s anything I should know about. Their main advice: just be yourself. The other hut expectations are to clean up after yourself and to go to bed when it gets dark. Pretty simple rules to follow! I did find it pretty comical on my first night when everyone climbed into their bunk exactly at dark and all of a sudden it was quiet time. People are generally up early to tramp, and it just makes sense to go to bed when you can’t see. Also all the mattresses are touching each other so you can really tell when someone climbs in or out, and you don’t wanna be that person. Some huts have candles to extend bedtime and to enable me to lurk outside and creep on these trampers.

I think the biggest luxury of hut life is to stay at one for two days in a row. You can claim your bunk and not pack up your sleeping bag and upend your mattress in the morning, what a treat! And then you get to actually explore the area you’re in. While I was on my most recent tramp, I got to leisurely stroll out to a huge glacier!

I feel incredibly lucky to have had the hut experiences I’ve had so far. Each stay I’ve met really wonderful people and have had great conversations, learnt something, and felt at ease. And maybe that’s just normal here, but to me it feels novel and fortuitous. My favorite experience that I’ve already gushed about on my instagram is about my stay at Bungaree Hut. I arrived to the remote Stewart Island (the 3rd less traveled and known island in NZ) not being totally sure of any plans- I had hitchhiked there from Dunedin, taken a ferry, camped at a hostel, and then showed up at the visitor center on the island with grand ideas to do a burly loop that were quickly squashed by the staff there. Four nights was not enough time, and a water taxi was quite expensive, and was I prepared for the mud?? It was their job to instill fear to prevent unprepared people from taking on more than they could chew, but still I felt miffed that they were doubting my abilities. However, as most things tend to play out, I’m so very happy that my planned loop didn’t work and that I did an out and back tramp where and when I did. And it all comes down to people. Scenery is grand too, but the humans that I interacted along the way made my long journey so very worth it. I was having quite a slog of a first day- 13 miles in, starting at 11 am in the rain, and once the track left the gravel of the Great Walk sections it was rugged. Like, clambering over roots down and up steep gullies and boot-deep mud pits and fallen trees kind of rugged. I was feeling all the aforementioned doubt, and then I emerged on a beach and saw a plume of smoke coming from my hut, and I felt instant relief. 
A fire to warm myself by, and probably some awesome people. What was different about this hut was that it was overtaken by a 10 day hunting and fishing party. Initially I was wary- so many people sharing a small hut? And will these guys be up late blasting music and partying? Turns out that yes they were big partiers, but it was one of the most hilarious parties I’ve ever attended, and the most welcoming.
Instead of being separate from the stinky tired trampers, they welcomed us into their circle. They had brought extra chairs, beers, and food for trampers. They even offered us use of their hot shower set up (imagine being on the trail for a whole week like some people had been and then stumbling on a camp with a hot shower and a cold beer... holy moley). They passed around actual silver platters of fish and chips, and the fish was caught that very day. Next came a platter of fried oysters and scallops, and I was somehow forced into trying an oyster even after declaring my great dislike for them. 
At some point after dinner and before the decadent pavlova with fresh whipped cream and berries, one guy brought out a razor and shaved a couple heads and beards, and hilarity ensued. The rest of the night continued in a ridiculous manner, to the tune of country music Wednesday’s on the boom box, sporadic rain showers that forced us to take cover a couple times, and then we were serenaded by another tramper who stood on a bench and sang Etta James. Nights like this are not the norm for hut travel, but meeting genuine warm-hearted humans here has been a constant. I could write a separate blog post for every night of a hut, and for every person I’ve met... there is just so much good to reflect on. But for now, the end!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Tramping in Haiku Form

Beers at punga cove
Throw rocks into the water
Nope we see nothing

One phosphorescence
Two bioluminescence
Three glow worm party

Tramping team scroggin
Do you want some tuna fish
Hey where is the deet?

Klaus might be danish
He might also be a goat
Which would you prefer

There is no jetty
What the fuck cowshed campsite
Bless flush toilets

Want a ride with us?
We can provide a surplus
Of puns unfinish

Strangers stop in front
Of us, were like what what the fuck
Dehydrated, help

Really not picky
We could ride inside your boat
Please please please please please

Riding with Hussein
Would you like the seat heat on?
Good lort, pray for us

Later in the day
Cigarettes in the ash tray
Should have been picky

The Second Sunday
 in September suits us fine
Gotta mind that child

Ok this doesn’t make a lot of sense, I know, but  it is a pretty good summary of a bunch of inside jokes and stories from the last few days tramping on the Queen Charlotte Track and then hitchhiking back to Nelson. More coherent blog post coming someday...

Nailing the NZ Accent

I was warned before coming here that the kiwi accent would be hard to understand. I definitely find myself just tuning it out sometimes, because I have to really focus to pick up on everything. My road trip buddy Will and I have been trying to master the accent ourselves and I must say we’ve been *pretty* successful so far. Mostly we just say the phrase ‘second Sunday in September’ at least once an hour. Will heard a lady say it one time in passing, and it quickly became our catchphrase. She’ll never know how important that line was to us. I’ll phonetically sound it out for you because then you’ll see how perfect a phrase it is to practice this accent. “See-cant sun-dee In sept-teem-bah!” It’s all about nailing down that ‘E.’ (Update: wrote this at least a week ago and we haven’t been saying this phrase anymore, maaaybe we overused it a tad bit).
We’ll also say random things we see on the side of the road for practice, and Will frequently says “gdday!” really loudly at odd times. Basically, we are crushing it.

Another point of contention is how to pronounce Manuka. Most people seem to say ‘mah-noo-kah ‘ but I was told by a native north islander that the correct way is ‘mah-nah-kah.’ This pronunciation endeavor will probably be inconclusive, but it’s fun to have something to tune in to. I’ve only been here for a few weeks and really haven’t talked to many locals, so hopefully I will pick up more phrases as the weeks go on. So far I’ve only heard “sweet as” a few times which is not enough! My favorite takeaway word is ‘keen.’ Pretty basic, I know, but it’s just a very useful short word, much better than saying “I’m interested in.” So yup, I’m keen to keep listening to some fun accents and words as the weeks go on. Toodles!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

WWOOFing- the beginning

So my first wwoof site is amazing. I’m not sure if I’m getting a typical experience, but I know that I am lucky. My hosts Tim and Kerry have been hosting for 39 and 40 years, respectively, which means they are some of the first ever hosts in New Zealand. I’ll go through a ‘day in the life’ here and then again at some other point of my trip. Here we go! Today:
~7:15 - woke up in my little house (bedroom and bathroom)

7:45 - went to the main house for a breakfast of muesli, yoghurt (the dairy is so good here I can’t even), honey (from their bees), and blueberries from the garden. And large amounts of tea

Between 8 and 9 - start working on something, today it was moving firewood from the field to its shed with the help of the tractor trailer

11sies - coffee time! Was introduced to the crumpet- I love it. Toasted and then you "fill the holes with butter while it’s still warm" and then I put apricot jam on it. Discussions about the different rules of Wilderness on US public lands with Tim (wishing I remembered more from Public Lands class!)
11:30 - walked through the cow pasture with Tim as he pointed out my task for whenever in the day I want to do it: pulling out invasive thistle. I knew my work on the Idaho Corps invasives hitches would be useful...

12 - relax a bit and put on a lot of sunscreen
12:30 - went out to work on the thistle, listened to my audiobook as I worked (the Broken Earth Triology, thanks Anna!) Heat aside, I quite like the task- it’s breezy here and the 4 cows ambled over out of curiousity. And the pasture overlooks one of the quintessential Marlborough vineyards.

1:30 - Kerry calls me in for lunch, delicious pizza. I eat a plum too- it’s plum season here. We talk about the effect of the LOTR empire on New Zealand people.

2 - high tide (the river is affected by the tides but is all freshwater) so it’s time for a swim/ bath. They are having well problems on the property, and besides I loove bathing in natural bodies of water when I can. I headed down to the river, turned off the electric fence and climbed over to get to the water. I found the swimming hole- there a ladder leading to a little platform and a rope to help you get back up the back. Across the way a lot of people swim at the public beach. So nice to have private access though! I swam to the sandbar and washed my clothes and self with Dr Bronners, then swam back very refreshed. Did I mention that it’s about 90 degrees here!?

3 - more relaxing, chatting with people on the interwebs, then I climbed up into the treehouse/ platform to write this post. It’s very shady and cool up here. People are blasting music on the river but besides that this place feels very secluded.
I will continue writing this at the end of the day!
4 - relax more and wander the garden, peeping at the monarch crysalises, get ready to go out on thistle patrol again

5 - thistle time- it’s very satisfying to sweep the pasture with my eyes and yank out the invasives, almost like morel hunting but not tasty
6:30 - another dip in the river to wash off the sweat, then I tried to commune with the cows a bit. Goal for the end of the week: pet one
7 - more chillin in my cabin, reading guidebooks
8 - dinner! It’s such a treat to have summer meals all of a sudden, and most of the food comes right from here. Tonight’s dinner included: taters, corn, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, pepper, red onion, and beef! They keep a photo of each cow they are currently eating on the fridge.

9 - go check out the bike situation and map of the area with Tim to prep for a morning bike ride to the beach
10 - bed!
Every day I have so many more ideas for posts, we shall see how many come to fruition. For now I’m just feeling good that I got one done by the first week mark. You’re welcome, mom!

Monday, January 21, 2019

in search of Lunch Cake overseas

Well my bag is packed, my car is inspected and registered, I said goodbye to a lot of people, I saw the lunar eclipse, I showered , I journaled, I vaguely attempted to clean my room. So, totally ready to to embark on my international adventure! I do not know if I have ever done an international Cake For Lunch post, but I just downloaded every app that I could potentially need and Blogger was one of them, so we shall see if I end up following through.
Mostly my prep week has consisted of looking at all the stuff I think I need, asking wise friends if they think I don't need items on my list, ignoring what they say because I love bringing EVERYTHING, and rearranging things every so slightly. I have also done lots of tiny errands and made lots of 'daily goals' lists so that I can feel better about checking things off.

One of my goals for this year was to be better at decision making. I don't expect a full transformation, but I at least want to practice just making a decision and not lamenting too much if it was the wrong one. For example, I had to decide to take my slightly bigger but quite moldy frame pack, or my new but small and less-loved but clean pack to New Zealand. I decided on clean, so there's no going back! This trip in general will be a good test of decision making. Of being OK with decisions I make, of not deliberating too much, of realizing that sometimes I will make a bad decision and it might end in misadventure but it's all part of the ~journey~. To be continued... hopefully on the sooner side!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

end o season

Well folks, I’m closing in on another winter season of cooking at a wilderness lodge in Maine. Different setting/ organization, same state. In the interest of throwing it back to my old blog stand-by, here’s a quantitative list of my end-o-season thoughts/ accomplishments:

-largest number of people served at one meal: 60
-number of cookbooks I brought and worship: 3
-compliments I’ve gotten on my salads: at least 10
-containers of sesame seeds ordered: 5 
-miles cross country skied: woulda been cool if I had kept track
-pizzas I’ve eaten from Jamos: 6
-number of days before the end of the season before I discovered making pizza brings me great joy: 9
-seasonal positions I now have had: 7
-days skied in shorts: 4
-fires I have lit: 0
-times I’ve gotten my car stuck in the snow: 2
-number of (2 minute) snowmobile rides: 7
number of star wars movies watched: 3
-moose seen: 0 (what the heck???)
-times I’ve gone snowboarding: 2
-most times I’ve checked the mailbox in one day: 3
-number of visits to the Kokadjo snowmobile bar: 6
-loaves of multigrain bread baked: ~25

-knowledge that I never want another professional cooking job: priceless

Scallion Pancake Challah thanks to my fave food blogger/ cookbook lady!