S: NEW ZEALAND
BC: CAROLAN COUGHLIN is a writer and naturalist currently living in Colorado. She is early to bed and early to rise. | HEATHER RYERSON is a designer who went on to spend a year in Australia. Her horizons are still open.
FC: NEW ZEALAND | Two Girls, Two Islands & One Fully Packed Boot | Three months, two islands, and one bottomless boot CAROLAN COUGHLIN AND HEATHER RYERSON
1: Ne | NEW ZEALAND | Three months, two islands, and one bottomless boot CAROLAN COUGHLIN AND HEATHER RYERSON
3: 22 Jan 2008 Smuggler's Cove, near Nadi FIJI ISLANDS It's funny to think how vulnerable one is when she first sets off, with no idea of the experiences, people, and places that will change her. In only a few short months I'll be a stronger person than the one who now sits writing at the airy bar of a little beach-side hostel in Fiji.
5: 28 Jan 2008 Albert Park AUCKLAND Carolan and I have walked around the city for most of everyday, getting sun-kissed and weary. We've not done much from a tourist's point of view, because we've been searching for a car... Yesterday we decided to buy a 1987 Honda Vigor from a Danish traveller - Ulrik. Actors dressed as anemone and seaweed - and later fireworks - entertained us down by the quay, but it still doesn't seem our trip has started!
7: 30 Jan 2008 Paihia Bay of Islands NORTHLAND This feels real! Today we headed north with Ulrik as our navigator and - better yet - driving instructor. The road winded out of Auckland through hills flecked with cows and rainforest plump with giant ferns. Ulrik guided us to Whangarei Falls, a beautiful cascading waterfall that drops over a rather unexpected cliff - into what feels like a crater. 31 Jan 2008 We were able to walk as far as 4km in towards Haruru Falls, on a weathered, wooden walkway that curved through a twisted mangrove. A few inches of tidal water covered the tree roots that grew straight up from the mud, like a thousand little periscopes.
9: 30 Jan 2008 Paihia Bay of Islands NORTHLAND Ulrik has quickly become a loyal friend - sweet, earnest, good-humored and silly. We had an amazing day of sea-kayaking around the bay which included a hike on Tore Tore Island and a swim on the beach - punctuated by a few hearty tosses against some rough rocks along the coast. I will definitely have some braggable war wounds to show off in the morning!
11: Carolan and I are sleeping in a tent near their pond, not far from Ruby, the campervan belonging to Hugh and Genevieve, fellow Australian wwoofers. Tasks have included cutting bamboo, weeding the beach, blackberry picking, and scavenging for invasive ginger weeds. | 5 Feb 2008 near Ahipara NORTHLAND We pulled up to a gate marked 'Astill' and this driveway was absurd - steep, winding hills, rutted gravel, and two streams to ford before we reached the house. Leigh and Donna live with their 3-year-old son, a "late-life bonus," in a house made of silt and cement, windows open to the air, water from a local mountain stream.
13: 9 Feb 2008 Kuaotunu, near Whitianga Coromandel Peninsula WAIKATO We're staying with Lloyd, a knife forger with a rather eclectic garden - lemons, peaches, plums, asparagus, cabbage, tomatoes - a sweet dog Bebe and thirty chooks. One chook kept me company as I harvested potatoes today, eating the worms and grubs that surfaced as I dug. Lloyd has promised to take us to gather shellfish in the next few days. He knows a good spot for collecting pipi.
14: 12 Feb 2008 Coromandel Peninsula WAIKATO We hiked from beautiful, sandy Haihai Beach to Cathedral Cove. Stunning! Just as we were getting on the trail, we spotted a father and son swinging their dog round and round on a rope as it growled and flailed. We made a quick trip to Hot Water Beach on the way - heaps of European tourists burying themselves in makeshift hot tubs made of sand.
17: 13 Feb 2008 Fletcher's Bay Coromandel Peninsula WAIKATO We left Lloyd's place quite happily this morning. Although he was friendly and wanted "happy girlies" his strict time-keeping during work hours, vulgar jokes, and spidery campervan became too much. He comfortably progressed to his Maori "attack dog" training, tales of nights spent with his 26-year-old girlfriend, and marijuana garden show-and-tell. We drove along a gravel coast road for hours until we reached Fletcher's Bay, meant to be beautiful camping.
19: 15 Feb 2008 Okoroire, near Tirau BAY OF PLENTY We stayed on the grounds of an old hotel/spa near a hot spring. It was deserted and had an eerie feel, as if it were still run by the ghosts of its turn-of-the-century owners. | 18 Feb 2008 Gisborne EAST CAPE Carolan spent the day gathering bee hives while I worked at the machines that scraped, poked, and spun honeycombs to remove the honey. Everything was covered in sweet manuka honey - floors, cogs, buttons, levers, hands, bee suit - and the entire place was just swarming with bees. Thousands. In the air, at the door, falling from the window, crawling through broken honeycombs, swimming in vats of honey. Dead. Alive. Somewhere in between.
20: 24 Feb 2008 Napier HAWKE'S BAY Carolan and I set off on rented bikes with a map of the local vineyards. A few hours later, 4 or 5 tastings behind us and 3 gifted half-full bottles stowed, we huffed and puffed and zig-zagged back to Napier.
21: 26 Feb 2008 Ashhurst, near Palmerston North MANAWATU Last night we took the dogs for a walk and Millie ("the sook") picked up a rigormortisized oppossum and began parading around with it stuck stiff from | each side of her muzzle, its fuzzy tail flopping and an unfortunate look on its face. We were horrified and tried desperately not to be the recipient of Millie's gift. We began to run up the road, hoping she'd drop it to keep up - and eventually she did. Good girl, Tess.
22: 2 March 2008 Ashhurst MANAWATU Tom and Sue are the cutest couple. "Tom, if you're going to talk to yourself, would you please address yourself first?" Ina and Kathrin, two German girls, have been staying with them, too, and they've treated us like family. We've cleaned their chicken coop and stained their house, gone to tea with Sue's friends and shot clay birds under Tom's watchful instruction. Now they're putting us up with Sue's police officer son, Morgan, in Wellington. 6 March 2008 Johnsonville, near Wellington WELLINGTON Carolan and I went to the Te Papa Museum today - a balanced blend of interesting artifacts, multimedia displays, and explorable exhibits. Yesterday we spent the afternoon with Morgan walking along Landon Quay to Parliament in the city center. His housemate Iain is a good family friend of one of my workmate's in London. New Zealand is a small, small country.
25: 8 Mar 2008 Nelson NELSON Carolan and I made it to Picton late last night and immediately made for the nearest campsite - down, down, down we twisted through the dark. We passed opossum after opossum but found no camping. Luckily we pressed on to the Monowangi Sound and wordlessly assembled our tent in the dark. This morning we woke to a strange cacophony of birds - and the most beautiful clear-watered sound. We drove on towards Nelson, past the fence of bras in Linkwater and green mussel pie in Havelock. 10 Mar 2008 Marahau TASMAN The noise from the Saturday night revelers below our hostel window belonged to the streets on the night before the apocalypse. I've never heard such sounds of societal breakdown: screams, grunts, growls, great whoops of cheerful menace. We awoke mid-night to sex in our room and in the morning to rotten egg on our car. We treated ourselves to the beach on Rabbit Island - and a Wes statue.
26: 10 Mar 2008 Marahau Abel Tasman Trail TASMAN The stars were absolutely gorgeous last night, splattered glass in the black sky, the Milky Way spilling from horizon to bush-covered mountain. Carolan and I sat in the middle of the field, breathing warm mugs of tea under shooting stars and talking happily about boys and future plans. This morning we awoke early to catch the water taxi to Bark Bay on the Abel Tasman Trail. The views were magnificent: golden beaches greeting aqua waters viewed from an even, sloping path. And the highlight? Large red toadstools, dolloped with white polka dots - growing along the bank of the trail.
29: 15 Mar 2008 Ruby Lake Kahurangi National Park TASMAN We wound our way around clear blue lakes and up scattered rock faces under blue sky and sun. Walking along one rock face, I stumbled and before I knew it the weight of my pack had thrown me forward onto my head. My left knee came down on a sharp, jagged rock and I clung to a sprig of grass. My pack was pointing treacherously down-mountain and if I wasn't cautious I could be tumbling to my death. "Carolan!" I cried. She had been ahead of me moments before. "Carolan! Help! I'm about to die!" But the wind grabbed my voice and threw it down the side of the mountain. 17 Mar 2008 Takaka TASMAN A string of sunny trail worn through golden grasses and patches of cool, shady native bush etches through the Cobb Valley. At the end of our trek was a beautiful open spot in the river, the perfect little swimming hole. We all stripped to our undies and dunked ourselves in its delicious icy waters - a 30 second swim produced a numbness akin to the wintergreen freshness of recently brushed teeth - simply all over one's body. We dried in the sun on the rocks before finishing the last 10 minutes of the hike barefoot.
30: 22 Mar 2008 Franz Josef WEST COAST By the time we left Brett and Jane's in Takaka, we'd helped nail purlins; wire, paper, and place iron on the roof; paper and ply walls; and install three big windows in their new dwelling. On the way out, we took a stroll over the Anatoki River on Brett's hand-made swing bridge!
33: 22 Mar 2008 Franz Josef WEST COAST In exchange for our hard work with the Hutchinsons, we were able to hike off-track for three days, swim in a beautiful didymo-free swimming hole in the Anatoki, exercise at a local weights class, seal-watch at desolate Wharariki Beach, and sleep "like fairy princesses."
34: Paparoa National Park Punakaiki WEST COAST
35: Franz Josef Glacier Franz Josef WEST COAST
37: 22 Mar 2008 Franz Josef WEST COAST Carolan and I have less than four weeks travel left. We're weary of spending money, but eager to keep our independence - tiptoeing around strangers' houses for weeks has worn on us. When Carolan leaves, I'm going to be really lonely without her.
38: 27 Mar 2008 Queenstown OTAGO | Day four of no shower and my hair is thick with grease. Since Easter, Carolan and I have spent three nights in DOC campsites.
39: The last, at Albert Town near Lake Wanaka, had a cozy spot on a bed of pine needles near a rushing river, great for a quick dip. | Yesterday, we packed our tent and headed for the Rob Roy track, just past the Treble Cone ski fields on a long gravel road.
41: 27 Mar 2008 Rob Roy Track Mount Aspiring National Park OTAGO Right at the start, a swing bridge takes you over a milky, aqua river. Further up the trail you can see where two rivers meet; a transparent, aqua water runs along the pastoral valley and meets with the freezing, milky white, glacial waters running down the adjoining rocky slopes from Rob Roy Peak. The trail comes up this rocky valley, keeping trampers cool in a ferny forest (overleaf) littered with little orange beech leaves as they hike 8m above the crashing water.
45: 27 Mar 2008 Rob Roy Track Mount Aspiring National Park OTAGO While we watched, a distant rumbling turned into an avalanche of snow that came cascading down the glacier. Large chunks of ice joined waterfalls and smashed against the rocks some hundreds of feet below. We had lunch on a boulder amidst little yellow alpine flowers and tried to imagine our picnic spot once covered by hundreds of feet of snow and ice. Soaked with sweat by the time we reached the Raspberry Creek car park, we started off again - with the Grateful Dead's "Box of Rain" as our soundtrack - along the Matukituki River Valley. Flecked with sheep, cows, and fords, the road travels through the most spectacular scenery I've seen in New Zealand so far. (We still need a shower.)
47: 1 Apr 2008 Milford Sound Fiordland National Park SOUTHLAND Carolan spent the day in Te Anau while I kayaked Milford Sound. The sound was misty and quiet; we silently glided over the black waters to the seals lounging on rocks beneath the falls. We had lunch on the rocks, imbibing hot chocolate while the sandflies imbibed their own steamy snoutfuls of our blood.
49: 2 Apr 2008 Edievale, near Tapanui OTAGO Carolan and I left Te Anau at 6:30pm for the two-and-a-half hour drive to Tapanui. In the dark and the rain, we weren't sure we'd get there - or when we did, if our hosts would be warm and welcoming so late at night. We stood on the darkened porch, trying to make our knocks heard above the falling of the rain. Finally, footsteps. As the door swung open, a warm light fell on us. "A choleric phlegmatic and a melancholy sanguine! Come in, come in."
50: 2 Apr 2008 Edievale, near Tapanui OTAGO Our few hours work in the mornings were never harsh and always spent with bubbly Michelle. Carolan, Alexis, and I chopped wood and chipped branches, planted trees, placed solar panels, tidied Paul's workshop, helped with meals, and even picked Georgia up from school. Our last project - special assignment - was to build a roosting ladder for the chooks. 8 Apr 2008 Listening to Eric Clapton, you could tell Michelle felt 17 again. She and Paul began waltzing around the kitchen and only broke when Michelle grabbed a torch to take us out to the chook house to check on the "little chookies." They were enjoying their new roost and we all tiptoed through the orchard, giggling, in triumph. When we arrived back inside, Paul clasped his hands together suspiciously. "Who wants toast?" he asked, not un-Smigel-like.
53: 13 Apr 2008 Dunedin OTAGO Carolan and I have been staying in Dunedin, cleaning beds at the Manor House Hostel while we try to sell our car. We're in an awful rut, trying to sell the car and leave country. I have yet to decide on working in Australia - I'm feeling ready to settle down and start something that is going to last more than six months. 19 Apr 2008 We didn't sell our car - lovable Shezzy - but we did manage a trip to the Otago Peninsula where we sighted a few yellow-eyed penguins hopping single-file up a grassy cliff.
55: 19 Apr 2008 Pigeon Bay Banks Peninsula CANTERBURY Guy Johnston is a thick man with a strong, square jaw. He walks slightly pigeon-toed in workman's pants and a woolly sweater pocked with holes. He has a dog to match - Sergeant, short and muscled with crooked elbows that turn in and threaten to drop him on his nose. Guy's partner is a woman named Tania - a netball-playing payroll employee with a pampered black and white cat that becomes positively spherical when curled in his bed near the fireplace. The pair live in a large 1918 farmhouse off remote Pettigrew Road, which has more rooms than a hotel of its era. And we've cleaned them all.
56: 21 Apr 2008 Pigeon's Bay Banks Peninsula CANTERBURY The weather has been getting colder and colder - partly due to change of latitude and partly change of season - and on Saturday it hailed and howled nearly all day as we cleaned the house. But today the weather seems to have broken. Shezzy found a new home with a young family - and will play escort to and from the local lock-up where their father is in jail. Carolan and I are quite pleased, astounded, giddy! Selling the car had seemed such a grim task. 25 Apr 2008 Christchurch CANTERBURY At 5 o'clock that morning, I sat while Carolan sipped down her last cup of coffee. I squeezed in a good hug or two when her shuttle to the airport arrived. "We're going to communicate, right?" I stood waving in the dark, alone for the first time in three months. New Zealand already felt different.
59: 28 Apr 2008 Email to Carolan I haven't been able to stop talking about you to my hosts. It's as if you are still here, but just out on a run or reading some filthy novel out in our campervan. They must think I'm crazy, as at the moment you seem a little bit imaginary! 29 Apr 2008 Bluegums Farms Purau Bay, near Diamond Harbour CANTERBURY Each new task is brought before me like the presentation of a rare and exotic gift on a silk pillow. Filled my drainage ditches with pipe today, wrapped in protective cloth. Shifted, watered crates of plants. Loaded, delivered, unloaded three trailers of firewood. Joined a group for meditation in the round hut - incense, candles, soft mattresses. Even the discreet crystal. Chimes indicated the start and finish of each session. We were meant to feel our soul at the top of our inhale and use our open hearts as bad energy converters. I fell asleep.