Monday, 19 September 2011


Its a little late but here is a bit about Fiji. It was lovely, amazing beaches, nice resorts and very friendly people. The Fijian culture is very similar to the Balinese in that the whole extended family lives together and when poeple get married the woman leaves and moves to the man's village. Fiji also has a population of about 40% Indians who were brought over to work on the sugar plantations in 1875 as pretty much slaves because the British (who ruled Fiji at the time) didn't want to upset traditional Fijian life. However, the British began protesting about this and by 1910 it was banned and the Indians were given an option to stay or be sent home. Most have stayed as in Fiji there is no cast system and Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs get along well. However they do face prejudices and racism from the Fijians and are not allowed to own land, just lease it for 99 years and some are finding themselves kicked off it now. There are also many Indian boys in orphanages in Fiji, but no Fijian boys. This is because if a child is born out of wedlock, or the parents are poor or die it doesn't really matter, the whole family lives together anyway and there isn't even a word for cousin in the Fijian language, they are all brothers and sisters. The Indians on the other hand will make the child beg, or send it away or abuse it so they end up in the Methodist orphanages.

Traditional Fijian beliefs included the calling of the turtles (done by women) and the calling of the sharks (by men) to bring good luck but mostly it was  cannibalistic cultures. One chief is said to have eaten 812 people in his lifetime! When the British arrived they brought Christianity with them and Methodist is the most common, with Anglicans, Catholics and now some LDS churches.

The government in Fiji has been rotating between domocratic and military coups since it gained independence from the British Empire. The last coup was in 2007 and there is an interim government controlled by the army. They say they are working towards elections in 2014 and they have introduced free schooling, free school buses and major road improvements to get people to school. Its seems there is very little in the way of 3rd world, extream poverty, but we were only shown the tourist bits, and traditional villages which host tourists so I don't really know.

I did the Feejee Experience bus while I was out there, similar to Stray. We stayed at really nice beach resorts but we visited a couple of villages and had a traditional Kava ceremony at one of them. Kava is a root which they grind up and mix with water and it is a sort of sedative, it relaxes and calms you but its not a drug or narcotic. They say thats why the Fijians are so relaxed and friendly, they drink so much Kava. It tastes disgusting, like muddy water but its affects are good. People pay a fortune for Kava pills in America as it has no negative effects on the body but you get an amazing nights sleep. The ceremony involves the chief of the visiting tribe being welcomed with the Kava. There is a lot of clapping and it is very formal but when it is done you are considered a member of the village and part of the family. We also visited a school where they had traditional dances and songs, and they got us to get up and dance with them. We were asked by our driver to buy some stationary to donate before going as many people can't afford/ don't have a way of getting to a stationary shop.Some of the men in the village took us on a trip down the river on bamboo rafts then we played games with them, that was very fun.

One day I took the public bus to the grocery store and as I was waiting to go back I got chatting to a local woman. Its typical of the Fijians to be outgoing and friendly. She asked me about the London riots. I asked her what she did and she said she was married, and that many married women don't work, unless their husbands ask them to. It was a great holiday, not as cultural or off the beaten track as my other trips but I had plenty of time to relax by the pool, or go snorkeling, or go to the beach and met some great people.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Leaving NZ

Well my adventure is nearly over. I got back to Auckland not really looking forward to it as I'm not the biggest fan. But it has transformed into a totally different city since I have been away. With the world cup starting tomorrow the city is busy and full of energy, and the Pacific Islands conference with the guy from the UN is happening now. There are crowds of people carrying flags with their faces painted walking the streets. Each area of Auckland has been assigned a team to welcome and support after the All Blacks and the general feeling s one of energy and excitement. I was actually sad to leave Auckland, I felt like in going there before Bali I was saying good-by to NZ but Auckland still has Burgurfuel, and whitebait, jandles, singlets and all the other Kiwi things. And I would have loved to stay for the world cup but I just don't have the money.

My flight today was uneventful, and actually very comfortable. I have been flying with budget airlines this past year, and was not the biggest fan of the seats on Cathay Pacific but Air New Zealand is very nice, nearly BA standard. Makes me feel better about having 2 10 hour flights in 3 days, something I would have dreaded on Cathay Pacific. They safety video was almost funny, it had a few All Blacks including Richie Macaw (would pass up the opportunity to meet him!).

I had a very friendly immigration official, who asked me about my birthday and found a nice hotel/ hostel at the airport. Right now it looks like I have a 10 bed dorm all to myself though which is a little creepy, I hope some more people check in soon. Its got a pool, bar, restaurant, games room and other stuff like that so its one of the nicest places I've stayed in. I went and had a look round, and it turns out they have a massive projector screen in bar which they will be showing the world cup matches on! So thats the plan for tomorrow night. As its raining I'm going to get the bus into town and have a look round, see what the city is like.

I'm also going to make the most of every moment here, its the end of my trip and I really really don't want to go back to the real world so I'll enjoy this while it lasts!

Monday, 5 September 2011


Nusa Penida is actually paradise, I'm going back, definitely next year. It mostly the people that make it that way, the locals are awesome and Mike, who run's the place is great. We wake up fairly early with the sound of the pigs and chickens and go over to Wayan's Warung (shop) for breakfast. Mike taught her how to make banana pancakes with palm sugar and bought her a frying pan as us westerners can't really handle spicy food for breakfast (the locals have gado-gado, beansprouts, peanut sauce, rice chunks chilli and some sort of soy/ molasses mixture). If we feel like working we do, before it gets to hot we help the men in the tree nursury, the coconut plantation or the organic vege garden. Theres composting as well and other odd jobs. The vege garden is coming on well even though everyone said they were mad for attempting it. The first tomatoes are coming on and the salad looks good. When it starts to get to hot to work we go to the beach, jump on the motorbikes and explore, sit around sleeping, and go to Wayan's for lunch. She does the best Nasi Champur on the island and her Soto Ayam is very nice as well. There is a table in the front full of snacks and sweets, mostly sugar, fat and artifical stuff. She sells a drink which consists of florescent pink juice, fluorescent pink tapioca balls, sweetened condensed milk and some fruit puree. The kids start coming home from school and walk up with their 1,000Rp notes to stock up on sugar (but they are all thin) and just generally play. If they come to the centre then they ride bikes, play cards, sing and just generally get into trouble before their English lesson with Mike. They are wonderful children, so happy and enthusiastic all the time and I really miss them, especially my friend Koman. She is 7 but still insists I carry her around like a baby and is cheeky and clever and one of the coolest kids I know. After that we just hang around and chat, people come back from various excursions, wake up from naps, shower ect. Some people drift over to Wayan's for dinner, others take the bikes to the night markets in Toyapaka or Sampalan. Evenings involve sitting around talking and sometimes drinking Arak or young cocnut wine (which is horrible).

The other day Koman's dad, Nyoman, took me out snorkeling on the reef by  the beach. Just beyond the seaweed farms (this is the main economy on the island and really the only way of bringing money to it) is an amazing coral reef with all sorts of things. Its very dangerous to swim and Scuba in Nusa Penida as the currents are very strong and a few people have been lost recently. This is why you take Nyoman with you, he knows the currents, he's a strong swimmer and very experienced. He basically held my arm or my hand and did all the swimming, I just floated along and enjoyed the view. We went out again, 3 this time so he couldn't swim with me, he had to watch the whole group, and that wasn't nearly as fun. The current was so strong that day that you couldn't stop and look at anything and when we swam back in it was more like swimming furiously to stay in one place when the waves came out, then getting swept in by the incoming wave. And we didn't see as much stuff as we did the first time, like the sea serpent which he only told me after that one bite would kill me in 20 mins. He said they were shy though, and it was about 10m below us.

I also went to Nusa Lembogan, a more touristy neighboring island for the night with one of the local girls who is now my friend and we stayed at her boyfriends house. It was a traditional house with all the extended family in one complex, a real asian toilet and kitchen without a fridge. I survived!!! It was great to stay with a family as well, and see what a home is really like. We watched an Indonesian soap opera in the evening which was the funniest thing ever! It was full of damatic music, long pauses in dialogues and constant zooming in on faces. The actors portraed an array of emotions such as constipation, drunkeness, lip biting memory loss. It was like a cartoon, but with real actors and makes Hollyoaks look like the Royal Shakespeare company!

On Mondays and Thursdays the girls have traditional dance classes and their teacher is brutal, she pushes and pulls them into very contrived shapes. Its amazing to watch though when its done right! I've got a few photos of the girls, my one of Koman got deleted accidentally so I had her pose for a few but her brother got in the way. He's so cute though so we'll forgive him.

I also had two birthdays there! One of the girls bought me a birthday cake but was leaving on my birthday for a couple days so we had it Thursday night. We mostly sat around chatting and singing while Wayan (a different one) played the guitar. Friday night was much the same except I got a special treat! Mike has been collecting nice cheese, very rear in Bali and said we could have some if I bought the crackers. We went into Sampalan to get some and stopped at the nigh market to get my favorite, tofu stuffed with beansprouts and vermiccelli noodles that has been battered and deep fried. These things are amazing!!!! I'm going to miss the so so much! I go back and Mike had picked some salad from the garden, and basil! he bought some tomatoes and made a little salad to go with the cheese!! All us westerners were in heaven, this basil was so good! The locals had never tried it before, their idea of flavor is chili and more chili. If Nyoman and Wayan had their way the whole place would be a chili plantation. You could see on their faces though that they really enjoyed the basil, much more then they would admit. The only local girl there was my friend Kadek. She wouldn't drink at all, none of they women do. They don't smoke either but most men smoke and drink. Seems very old fashioned to me. It was a very good night, I had so much fun!

Kamon has been keeping me busy. The other day I went to the beach, had a shower and was just resting (we go to the bamboo shelter when we need to rest from chilling out) when she came over ans asked me to go swimming with her. I said I would, but just up to my knees and we went to her house where she got changed, and her little brother Kuntut who is about 4 came along with us. They live right on the beach and of course I started getting splashed. Koman grabbed my glasses and ran with them to her mother while I shouted hati-hati! (be careful). Then between her and Kuntut I got dragged in the ocean, fully clothed which is how the locals swim and we played in the water. It was very fun actually, but Koman really is a cheeky little monkey. We went back to the centre where I told Nyoman she was nakal (naughty) and he just laughed.

I'm really going to miss everyone, the westerners and the locals. It was so hard to leave because everyone there is so genuinely nice. Its not like Bali where they just want your money, they are just friendly people. ven in villages on the other side of the island they just want to talk to you. If you spend a bit of money with them, great, but its not like Bali where that is all they care about. I'm going home, getting a job and saving up to go back.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Royal weddings

I'm still on Nusa Penida and its great here. All the people are lovely and we've been having a few adventures. Some of us took a day trip to Tembeling forest, where there is a path that leads to a pool by the ocean. It took maybe half and hour or 45 mins to walk to the pool, all flat and downhill to a small temple next to a freshwater spring and natural pool. We started getting undressed to go swimming and the boys jumped in but the guides said we were not allowed to, we had to go to another pool. To get there we climbed down some rocks and boulders, gong down. When we got there it was a bit of a let down, a pool that cam just below the knees, with little shellfish in it. Still it was very hot, and the view from the pool was amazing, we saw the ocean with sharp rocks and very large waves. You couldn't go swimming, it would be to dangerous. We then had to walk back, up a very steep narrow staircase that was carved into the cliff, i couldn't look up as the climb was very difficult and I couldn't bear to see how much further I had to go. Looking down was a bit mistake to, on slip and you were over the edge, falling onto sharp rocks at the bottom. The walk back was exhausting, but very good exercise. On the way there we saw a man on the path, hoping to catch a monkey to sell as a pet. In Indonesia they have no respect for animals, they are kept in appalling conditions and not looked after very well. He would get 200,000Rp for a monkey, about $25 which is a lot of money over here. People even catch birds, tie strings to their legs and sell them to children to play with, and they are so rough with them, they have no idea that animals can feel pain.

Speaking of animals the preparations for the wedding have been going on this week. They've had to  kill a lot of animals for the feast. Bali Hinduism is a mixture of Hinduism, Buddhism and Animism, where they practice animal sacrifice. They way that the animals have to be killed is horrible. They hold them, or tie them up and make a very small cut in their neck so they very very slowly bleed to death. its not like Halal where the cut is big enough that the animal goes to sleep first, them bleeds to death, its conscious for most of it. It so cruel and the pigs were the worst. For about 5 mins the scream with pain and fear, its one of the worst noises I'v ever heard. They have to do it this way apparently but it seems horrible and unnecessary.

But anyway onto the wedding itself. It was very bizzare. They had an offering table set up in the courtyard of the house, then some other offerings on the floor in front with a rope around it then a basket on a stick with other offerings in it. These were food and little decorations made from palm and coconut leaves, flowers, and bamboo. There was fruit, some chickens, quail, cigarettes and other random objects. First the bride and groom cam in with their families and sat on some chairs for a while, nothing seemed to be going on. Then the priest called them over to  the offereing table, knelt in front of it with them behind him and started chanting and ringing a bell. At verious time the older woman in the family would light incense, move baskets of offering around, spray water over things and kneel and join with the chanting. This went of for about 20 mins with the bride and groom just sitting still and it seemed like they weren't part of the wedding and that it was just chaos and confusion going on around them. Then they stood up and were given things to hold and walked around themselves for a bit, the man with a sword in his and and the woman with a basket following behind him. Not many of the guests were watching, they were eating, chatting and smoking. Then the man cut one of the ropes around the offerings with his sword, walked through with the wife behind him, cut the other rope, then went to the other side of the square, cut that rope, walked through the middle and cut the final rope. Then he cut the head off a chicken. After that they went to the basket on the stick and shook it till everything fell out (to release the blessings) them the man was given a shovel with a plastic bag on one end and something on the other, put it over his shoulder and walked to the other temple with the wife and the older women behind him.

In the temple was another priest and a huge offering table with many things on it, including a whole spit roasted pig (who had to die so horribly). They knelt down with and the second priest started chanting and ringing bells whilst the women prayed. I asked why the women prayed, not the men and it turns out the men get to entertain the guests and the women in the family have to participate. Most guests seemed un-interested in the entire thing. While all this was going on there was a traditional band playing music which was very good. Those women who are pregnant, or on their periods aren't allowed in temples as they are considered unclean. It turns out this is why we weren't allowed in the swimming pool at Tembeling which I think is a bit unfair really.

Once the wedding was over people ate, chatted then the bride and groom left. The next day they arrived for the celebration, dressed in even fancier clothes then the day before. They sat on chairs greeting everyone while people just sat around, eating some more until mid afternoon, then it was over. No party or anything, just chatting. We were a bit bored so we went to the most gorgeous beach, Crystal Bay. I went on a scooter with the Australain woman here and her 3 year old son. Going back there were some steep hills and we had to walk up as the bike wouldn't take all 3 of us. I've actually had a go a t driving a scooter, just around the car park and its hard, I just get lifts from everyone else but if I wanted to hire one there really would be nothing stopping me as there are no police on the island. That evening after they left a few of the men put on a rock concert and it turns out they all the equipment somewhere. They sang a combination of western and Indonesian music and one of the highlights was the Australian girl getting up to sing welcome to the jungle by guns and roses. It was a good night, fueled by a few beers (but not to many).

Monday, 22 August 2011

Nusa Penida

After a visit to Uluwatu Temple where I got assaulted by a monkey (so did lots of other people) and Jimbaran Bay (great food but expensive and over-rated) I had an early night and got up early to get the public boat. It took over two hours to get to the island and the boat was very uncomfortable, but I got there in the end and got picked up at the beach. We drove to the bird centre and had a tour around the place. FNPF have basically made all the villagers agree not to capture the Bali Starling, and endagered bird which can be worth US$3,000. In return for the protection the foundation has created jobs, and helps the community by providing trees for free, as well as English lessons and brings volunteers to spend our money on the island. It is beautful here, like an island paradise!

They women are preparing for a wedding on Friday and Saturday where over 1,000 people have been invited. The preparations mean making offerings and decorations out of bamboo, banana leaves and palm trees. These are called 'Canang' and there are many different types. They make little dishes and fill them with various things like rice, bananas, beans, peanuts, and fruit. They made me wear a sarong when I worked, as these have to be worn in the temple and the work they were doing was spiritual and holy work.

There are a lot of children who hang around the centre. They are very funny and have English lesson here. Today they were singing Baby by Justin Beiber, which I found hilarious. I have been trying to learn Indonesian and they are trying to speak to me in English. Today they had a dance class in the traditional style of dance which looks a lot like Indian or south east Asian dancing.

The people are much nicer then on Bali. When I went out on the bike they would all wave and want to talk, not like on Bali where they just want to get money out of you. They say Nusa Penida is like Bali 20 years ago. There are lots of small villages and the people are poor, but it is not absolute poverty. They have plenty of food and running water, as well as motorbikes and petrol. They just don't have the luxuries. It is sooooooooo cheap here. My entire daily budget for food is less then $3 and that is 3 meals and snacks at the local warung, or corner shop.

I'm having such a good time here. I feel like a traveler again, not a tourist. There is a good group of Westerners and the locals are all lovely and come chat to us all the time. Its great, a totally different way of life!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Bali Tour

I had a great day today, I saw a lot and ate a lot of new things. I hired a car for the day, not a bad price for what I got. My drivers name was Made (mad-ay) which means second son in Balinese. They have no surnames or family names, the first child always has the same name, then the second then third. If you have more then 5 children then the cycle starts again so everyone has their number then a nickname but on passports and documents they all have their number. As the first born girl my name is Wayan. Made took me north to a village where they make traditional Batik fabrics. A woman showed me around and talked about the traditional methods then took me to the shop and tried to sell me things, but not in an aggressive hard selling sort of way. After that we went to another village where they process gold and silver. Most of it comes from Borneo or maybe Sumatra, can't remember exactly but somewhere in Indonesia. It was the same thing as the last place, a woman talked to me about the process of making the jewelry as I watched the women work then took me to the shop. The silver is alloyed with about 5% copper to make it strong then made into jewelry. Its hard to say no when they follow you around giving trying to haggle with you but I did see a ring I really liked and managed to talk the girl down to a reasonable price.

After that he took me to a traditional house, where where they make and sell paintings (of course, they are all selling things. In the city people live in Western houses but in the country side they are different. Behind the wall there are many buildings, one is a sort of platform where they have family gatherings and shows. There is a temple in the corner. One building is the kitchen and another in the bathroom. The rest are bedrooms, one for each part of the extended family. The whole clan lives together and when a woman gets married she mves to her husbands house and they get their own room within the complex for their immediate family. The temple at the back has welcom statues before the gate then the gate itself has two sides, one for good and one for bad. After that we went to a larger village temple, very big and elaborate. We were given a sarong to wear before we went in the Made explained a little more about Hindu temples. They have 3 levels the first for the legs, the second for the body, and the third for the head. There are 4 kinds of temples, Public temples for everything, village temples, family temples and then a temple for a particular thing, like the god of the market, or the god of the river, or the god of the restaurant.

After the we went to another village which is the centre of the wood carving industry. Same thing as before, I was given a talk and then taken to the shop. This guy told me it was a family run business with the carving knowledge passed from generation to generation. He also told me how to spot fake ebony at the markets so i don't get conned. The carvings were all very nice, using ebony, teak, mahogany and local wood, but I couldn't help thinking off all the forests being destroyed to make the carvings.

We stopped for lunch and I got some sort of suckling pig dish with rice, vegtables, 3 types of pig meat and some skin. The skin was nothing like crackling, it was much much thinner then older pig skin. I could taste lots of chili and galangal (thai ginger) and it was very good! After that we headed up to the Ubud region, and went to see the monkey forest. Monkeys are sacred to the Hindus and guard the temples. I asked (just jokingly) if the monkeys had rabies and he said probably not but don't touch them, just to be safe, and don't buy the bananas to feed them with. They were wild monkeys but had no fear of humans so they were walking along and playing on the paths, hoping for food. One was sitting in front of me so I unzipped my bag to get my camera but he assumed I had food and came right up to me and grabbed my bag. I tried to pull it away and he pulled harder, it was pretty funny and I tried to get my camera again, then he stuck his had in my bag so I stood up and moved away, I didn't want him stealing my purse! It was pretty cool though, to have a monkey interacting with you!

Then to the coffee and spice plantation. In Bali they make the most expensive coffee in the world, cat poo coffee. Animals similar to possums or mongoose that look a little like a cat eat the fruit of the coffee trees. Then the poo is collected and cleaned off, with the bean in the middle surviving. After that the bean is removed from the husk, so it never actually touches the poo, and then is roasted. He showed me the difference is the  beans, with the poo one a pale green colour and the normal ones a more pale beige colour. Then I saw them roasting the beans, on a frying pan over a fire, then they are ground by hand. I got to try the different drinks, jinsing, chocolate, and vanilla coffee as well as plain, then ginger tea and lemon tea. After that the man got out a jar of the poo coffee and said it would be 50,000rp if I wanted to try that one, it is the most expensive after all. Well I'd come all this way so I couldn't really say no. I had a shot of the normal first, then the poo one. It was much smoother and stronger then the plain one. This is because as the coffee is being digested it ferments a little bit. It was very good, and I could drink it plain. Again I was taken to the shop where they tried to sell me the drinks and some spices. However I just paid for my coffee and left.

After that we stopped to see some rice terraces which looked stunning, then drove up to the volcano. I think it last went off in 1995, and there was a lake below it. People leave at 3:30 to climb it and watch the sunrise from the top over the lake but there is now way I would do that! After that I had a very long drive to another temple, Tanah Lot. We put some music on, most of it Western. God Bless the USA by Beyonce came on and I was very surprised, as Indonesia is mostly Muslim and that song was released after the Iraq war. Made said he had no idea what the lyrics were and with most western music he couldn't understand anything. It made him laugh when I explained about the song. Anyway on the way to the temple we stopped at a fruit sand on the side of the road. I tried snakeskin fruit (looks like a fig with brown snake skin and has has very hard flesh, like a dried out apple), mangosteen (purple skin with things that looked like garlic cloves in the middle) and passion fruit but much better then the ones at home. This one was large and yellow with white pulp instead of yellow. The flavor was much more sweet and mellow then the passionfruit we get at home. I even tried durian fruit. Thats the one that smells really bad and is banned from public transport. It did smell bad, but not as bad as I expected, just like a rubbish bin that needed emptying. It tasted ok, sort of like a banana and a pineapple mixed together. The after taste wasn't great, a bit like the smell but I don't see what the big deal is, it wasn't to bad.

Then we got to the temple which is very special as it is build on rock in the sea and you can only walk to it at low tide. The view of the Indian ocean was stunning, and there were tourist everywhere. We stayed till sunset and there are lots of bars on top of the cliff, overlooking the temple. However drinks were about double or triple what you would pay in a restaurant so we sat a little lower down, I refused to pay that much just for a view. While waiting for the sunset I asked what Bali is like during Diwali, the Hindu festival of light. He had never heard of it and said Indian Hinduism and Balinese Hinduism are very different. He also told me about the cast system. The highest class is the priest class, then the second is the army and third is business man. This is also part of your name, so it goes cast, number, nickname. Unless your are in the 4th and bottom cast, then you have no extra name. That one is for farmers and tradesman. You used to not be allowed to marry outside your cast, but its not as strict now and it seems to be the more money, the more upper class you are. But this is a recent thing.

Got back to the hotel at about 7 am very tired. It was a very long way and I have done a lot!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Elephant Ride

After meeting with the travel agent yesterday and getting everything sorted I got a taxi into town to go shopping. You get taxis everywhere, the roads are long and winding and my hotel is a long way from anywhere. I asked the lady at reception where the best place to go is and she said Seminyak square, about 15 minutes away. There was a market and a row of shops which were actually quite expensive as the had a DC and a Quicksilver. I found a new incredible designer, Lillie Lane but I couldn't afford any of her stuff. I had a look round the market then went into the small supermarket. There were fruit in there that I have never heard of and I bought something that looks like a green peach and something the guy called a giant orange. It was green, and the size of a coconut and he cut the skin away, about 3 inches of soft spongy material with insides that look like a giant grapefruit. They taste a bit like a grapefruit to. I'm going to go back and try some of the other things. Then I walked down the road,  figured it wouldn't be to dangerous in broad daylight, and found another much larger market and a row of outlet shops. I bought some fake Ray Bans and a green silk dress that I haggled for. Lillie Lane also has an outlet there and I will see how much money I have at the end as there were some very nice shoes that I want, which were more reasonably priced. After that I had lunch, something called chicken porridge which I decided looked interesting and I had to try. I had prawn crackers, crispy noodles, chicken and nuts sitting on a bed of what seemed like overcooked rice cooked in chicken stock. It was nice, very flavorful, but very filling. I came back after that and spent the rest of the day relaxing in the hotel. To be honest its pretty boring being on my own, and not wanting to go anyway in the evenings for safety reasons.

Today I got up and went on my elephant ride. I was picked up then we wen t another hotel to get an Australian family. I'd signed up for the full treck, over an hour, and they the half treck so we were to go sepaately, me first then them so that we had our lunch at the same time. I went to wait for my elephant and they pointd t another traveller on her own and asked if we wanted to share an elephant and we said yes. It was so nice to have another person to talk to , this isn't like New Zealand where there are travellers everywhere. I never thought I would miss dorms and hostels but its so much more sociable. She was telling me how she was on hoilday for 3 weeks, Dubai, Kenya, Perth then Bali. She said she had signed up for all these tours and she was doing them on her own, like a bus turned up to collect her at Masai Mara in Kenya and she was the only one on it, they didn't think to put her with another group. We rode on a sort of bench attached to the elephants back with the guide sitting on top of its head. We went first through the rain forest then around a local village, on off the main roads. There were rice paddies everywhere and a few cattle and chickens. Buildings which weren't houses were temples and they were everywhere. Being a polythiestic religion Hindus have gods for everything, the god of the river, the road, the crops. And every god has to have a temple. Half way through we were given coconuts with straws in them to drink out of, then we gave it the the elephant to eat. We got back and had our lunch together, it was included in the price. The portions here seem small to me, as I'm used to eating out and having the plates filled with food. But actually if you looks its probably the size that they should be, and after a 3 course lunch I didn't feel full, or uncomfortable, just satisfied.

It was a long drive there and back so although I left at 9 i didn't get back till 2:30. Outside all the shops, sitting on a rack placed next to the road sit vodka and gin bottles, full of a clear brown liquid. Turns out its petrol, there are few petrol stations so those with bikes buy it on the side of the road, and its only about 5,000 Rp per litre, about 40p. I sat by the pool again, and will probably get room service tonight. Most people seem surprised that I came to Bali alone so I'm not leaving the hotel after dark. Like I said I'm pretty bored on my own, It's nice here but it would be better if I had company.

I have hired a car for the day tomorrow (it comes with a driver/guide) which is actually fairly cheap so I get to make my own itinerary and go and stop where I want. I want to try Durian fruit tomorrow. It smells so bad its banned from public transport and they don't have it in supermarkets but its in season now and they sell it on the side of the road, so that's one of the things I want tomorrow.

Monday, 15 August 2011


My alarm went off at 3:30 this morning, very painful. I had to get the 4am bus from just outside the hostel to get to the airport. After checking in got McDonald's hotcakes at the airport, something that was always a treat when we flew to america but they were disgusting, they didn't taste of anything and they syrup was high fructose corn syrup with artificial maple flavor. I had a very non-eventful flight to Brisbane, then to Bali, all was on time and went smoothly. Paid my US$25 for my visa (in 2004 bills or newer) and got my bag. Luckily I didn't have any drugs on me, as the punishment here is the death penalty.

I had booked transport from the airport, and my hotel through STA and the guy was here, with a welcome pack to take me to the hotel. This was the most interesting part of my day. How can I describe Balinese roads? Crazy. Most people have scooters or motorbikes here and I though I was on a one way street, but then a load of bikes start coming towards you! It took me ages to figure out that they drive on the left and the scariest thing, being is a car was that bikes were both overtaking and undertaking you, and coming past on the left hand side. The driver took me on a 'short cut' through the back roads and I have no idea how he knew where were were going. They were a labyrinth of narrow streets with no traffic lights, and maybe one stop sign or two. I only saw a few road names. There were rows and rows of shops, some streets seemed more for locals and some for tourists. Again I have now idea now people knew where to walk, the shops looked so simmilar, they were basically rows of garages full of dresses, sunglasses, and souvenirs. There were a few cafes, restaurants, mechanics, and a supermarket scattered in between. I didn't see anything that looked like a town centre or anything. We did pass a couple of Hindu temples though. It seems to be India meets China, with a little Zanzibar thrown in in terms of architecture and layout. It looked fascinating through the window but I would never want to drive here! There seem to be no rules and we witnessed a few near accidents.

I checked into my hotel, very luxurious after hostels, there was a porter to take my bag and some sort of iced fruit drink on arrival! This was after over an hour of driving through the mad crazy streets of Kuta to get to Seminyak, the slightly quieter area. Its seems a bit more posh here, there are shops with names instead of just these random garage type places. It was 4:30 when I arrived, I had a quick shower then went to get a pedicure! It was pretty good, and very cheap. that took about an hour and now I am just going to get dinner in the hotel restaurant (NZ$3 for a meal!!!) and got to bed. I didn't sleep well last night, and I got up at 3:30. and they are 4 hours behind here.

So we shall see what tomorrow brings on this next stage in my adventure!

Last few days in New Zealand

Well after the Napier wine tour I did the Art Deco walking tour. Napier was destroyed in and an earthquake of 7.8 and subsequent fire in February 1931 and rebuilt in the Art Deco, but also the Spanish missionary and strip classical designs which were fashionable for the day. These were also a lot safer than traditional Victorian brick with elaborate pediments on top of the buildings (which killed a few people), and made of wood and concrete, more earthquake proof materials. The tour started at the Art Deco shop where we saw a slide show of Napier before and after the earthquake. Before the earthquake Napier as a large island right next to the Hawke's Bay coast with two long spits of land connecting it and there was a lot of water just to the north. After the earthquake the land raised up about 7 ft leaving Napier fully connected to the mainland and giving the region about 40km2 of new land, on which the airport is built and the grapes are grown for Mission Vineyard wines.

We were taken on a walk by these two older women, both complete Art Deco nuts who kept pointing out 'the sophistication of the joinery' and 'look at that wonderful carpet' (this was in the theatre and the carpet was hideous). In the late 19th century there was the arts and crafts movement which evolved into the Art Neuveau style, based on nature and flowers and curves and organic shapes. Art Deco was very reactionary to that reflecting simple geometric designs. It was done on the drawing board, not a field of flower, and reflected the mechanics and mechinery, the industrialism of the 1920's. (this is what our guide says, you'll have to ask my mum though, she's the one with the degree in all of this stuff). Anyway these two old ladies were a little boring and were enthusiastic to the point of being a bit crazy. Also this sort of thing doesn't really interest me and I was trying to find the joinery of the door frames and the hanging lamps interesting but I really couldn't. What was more interesting were the other people on the trip going 'thats fascinating' and 'its so good that they've restored it to how it originally was.' As and archaeologist I am morally opposed to restoring things exactly as they were, you destroy the history of a building, part of what it was used for. Like after the Greek revolution all traces of the Christian Church, and then the Muslim Mosque were removed, all you get is one snapshot in time and see that this building was important to one group of people, not to all the people in over 3,000 years of history who used it, none of that was preserved. Anyway thats a totally different topic. There were a few famous architects who had input but the only name I remember is that someone was inspired by Charles Renee Macintosh, and I only remember that name because my mum has some mugs with his work on them. They are geometric flowers, sort of the opposite to an Art Neuveau flower.

In Napier every year they have a big Art Deco festival, with old cars and everyone dresses up. Our tour guide said she had 6 1930's outfits to wear, but that she needed a new one for winter. It does make for a really interesting looking city, I will give it that.

On Saturday I got the bus to Auckland. For some reason it felt like I was leaving New Zealand. I think its because Auckland doesn't feel like New Zealand and that Jaffas (Aucklanders) are different from other people. I know they say the same about London but it really is true in New Zealand. New Zealanders are friendly, a little crazy, and just a bit backward (I think its from the isolation). Aucklanders are just like any other people in the world, and Auckland is just another city. They best thing about it is that its about an hour from anywhere good. Anyway I met up with one of the guys from the Hong Kong group flight that I did ages ago and his friends. Then Sunday did a few last minute things and set my alarm to get up at 3:30 the next morning!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Napier wine tour

Well I went on a wine tour today and that was a lot of fun. We went to 5 different wineries in the Hawkes Bay area. The region has some of the countries best wines and is dealing with the economic downturn much better then Marlbourgh. They are actually cutting back and focusing on quality rather than quantity. We started out at Mission vineyard, the oldest in New Zealand and it used to be a Catholic seminary where the priests and training priests made wine for themselves. The building was very nice but used to be on a flood plane so they used hand saws to cut it in 11 pieces and move it with a steam engine up the hill then put it back together. They then built a new chapel on the end, made of brick, which was destroyed in the 1931 earthquake and replaced with a wooden one. The large area of land in front of the vinyard, and for a good few miles, used to be under water till the quake, and was pushed up 7 feet and is used as farm land now. They have a big concert every year there and had a collection of special wine labels they had designed for the artists such as Shirley Bassey and Rod Stewart. Then in 2005 They had Eric Clapton and gave him a bottle. He's a recovering alcoholic so he threw it against the wall and almost didn't play, so they've stopped doing labels now. There wines were OK, nothing particularly memorable.

Then we drove out to Moana Park, my favorite for the day. The man there was extremely knowledgeable about wine and very passionate to. All there wine is low allergen and vegetarian society approved with a few additives and no added sugar. We were there for ages talking and sampling the wines. We learnt that NZ produces 0.21% of the worlds wine. Of that wine Moana Park produces 0.06% and yet they won 5% of the awards at an international wine show. We tried a Viogner (V-on-yay) which I had only tried once before and it was amazing, my favorite of the day. However I would say my favorite drink was the Tawny, a Port with a lovely gold colour that tasted like Christmas. Its very dangerous stuff as you can keep drinking it, its soooooo good! My dad's credit car IS going to go missing for a bit so I can order a case of those two wines.

After that we were all a bit merry and we moved onto Church Road vineyard for lunch. I can't remeber any of those wines, but we had very good lunch there. Then it was off to another one where they made the wine with local food producers so a certain wine went with a certain food. There wine was horrible but we did see lots of diesel powered windmills which are switched on at night to prevent frost. They also used helicoptors to fly around and keep the air moving as frost can kill a crop overnight. Then we drove up a big hill and looked at am amazing view of the east coast and back through Havelock North, the richest village in New Zealand. We drove past lots of apple orchards as well which looked a little creepy. Apple trees in the winter look a bit haloweenish or like if Tim Burton were to draw a tree that's what it would look like. Finally we went to Black Barn who have one of the best chef's in New Zealand working there. There wine was ok as well, but not as good as the decor in the dining room (i'll put pictures on facebook) or the view from the window.

All in all a very fun day, nice people and good wine. We ARE without a doubt getting a case or two from Moana Park, it was fantastic!!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Then end of wwoofing, beginning of a holiday

No more work!!! no more shoveling or pruning or waitressing or fence building or any of the other things I've been doing since I've stared wwoofing. I can honestly say in the past couple of months I've spent almost no money, and I can now enjoy the rest of it knowing it only has to last about 6 weeks. I've been getting on better at La Casa Romana lately. Although my attention to detail and ability to see every single speck of flour, bit of grated cheese and dust on the cabinets is still not quite up to standard I was getting better. The orchard is finished, with a little help from one of the girls and I've taught them Spite and Malice, which they seemed to like. On Monday I went into Wellington to get some travel injections and do some shopping and managed to meet up with two very good friends. That was a bit sad although hopefully I should be seeing one in London very soon and the other maybe one day not to far off.

I had a  very bizarre experience on the train back. Only one train an evening goes as far as Otaki, the rest stop in Waikanae about 15km away but this one goes as far as Palmerston North. It is much much nicer then the commuter train to Waikanae ad therefore was very crowded. I took my seat and everyone around me started talking to each other, asking how there day was. One man was saying to half the train that his house had been purchased by the government for building a new highway. It seemed like they all knew each other, as this was the only train in in the morning and out in the evening that went further than Waikanae. In London people sit on the train with a newspaper or a book, never speaking, but here they were all chatting and being friendly to each other, it was very nice.

I had a final day at work yesterday and got chatting to some customers about the riots in London and how I'm going on holiday so I'm hoping its all calmed down when I get back. Its shocking news and its actually very scary. I say bring in the Army, and water cannons with florescent paint instead of water, anyone with paint on them gets arrested.

Got the bus this morning to Napier, and being very hungry I am sitting an a cafe that offers 50MB of free wi-fi to customers. Napier is on the eastern side of the North island, on Hawkes Bay and is the 'Art Deco capital' of the world. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 and was re-built in the art deco style of the day. I plan to do an art deco tour while I am here, and a wine tour. I have 2 days so that should be fine. I'll ask at the I-site. Every single town in New Zealand has an I-Site. Its basically tourist information, booking services, hotels, transport, local things to do ect. And they are everywhere, even in the smallest, most out of the way, isolated places on the planet. We stayed in one town on the south island that was our hostel/ campsite, a few farms and a school and the I-Site was also the pub, restaurant and general store. Ohakune the 'carrot capital of NZ' Bulls where everything is 'incredi - bull' have i-sites. Seriously what would make a tourist stop in Thames, or Geraldine, or Balclutha, other then to grab a coffee and go? Kiwis are made, fact. Anyway the Napier I-Site is my next stop. By the end of my stay here I should be an expert in the Art Deco movement.

Saturday, 23 July 2011


Well Friday and Saturday was busy in the restaurant (obviously) and Friday was also bread making day. I got up early and went to the restaurant as Dragos began to shape the dough. He hadmade a large batch and I had to weigh it out then he shaped it and put it into baskets. These went into and incubator to prove for 40 mins then into the oven to cook in the heat left over from the night before. When the bread was about 80% cooked we removed the cover from the oven door and the smell was incredible! It was amazing, like fresh baked bread but times 100! After that we had to get ready for opening and It was my first time in the shop front. I was basically waitressing all the tables (which I've never done before) and had no idea how things were done. It was a baptism of fire really, because we had some people wanting to stay and eat, and others coming to collect take-aways, still others would come up and pay then point to things in the deli cabinet that they wanted. There were little things like where to place order tickets, how to prepare the drinks, appitizers, when to bring the water, all of this had to be learnt on the spot with Dragos telling me every 5 mins that I'de done something wrong. Even that fact that I'de put the dirty pizza boards in the wrong place, it was just a baptism of fire really. Luckily working in London at John Lewis had prepared me for some tasks, like making coffee, but that was a self service restaurant so it was a little different. By the time dinner service was over I was very tired, it had been a long and challenging day. The other thing about Kiwi restaurants, even nice ones, is that you get up and pay the bill at a counter or checkout at the end, rather than having the bill brought to you. I think its better because it creates less work for the waitresses, but also you can leave in your own time and not feel rushed.

Saturday went better, only made two very small mistakes although it was busier. We only had 5 or 5 tables ut loads of takeaways. They have no staff here, Carmen and Dragos do all the work with the help of wwoofers like me and their daughters. So last night I was doing waitressing, the till and clearing tables, while Carmen, Allisa (12) and Sara (11) made pizzas, Dragos did the pizza oven and any meals which were ordered, like the Goulash or Moussaka which they make in advance and freeze. This is why the prefer long-termers to stay. Today it was just me and Carmen doing lunch as there was a bit of drama at the Romanian Orthodox church in Wellington and Dragos had to go vote in something. But it was very quiet, the worst thing to happen was a group of ladies staying chatting till an hour after we closed (we close at 2 then open at 5:30) which was a bit boring to have to wait for.

If the weathers good I work outside and if its bad I help at lunch service then get the afternoons off then back for dinner service. Nearly finished in the orchard now. Sara helped me with the massive fig tree as putting the weed mats down when its windy is hard enough, let alone doing it for a tree that size. We played 20 questions to pass the time and thats the last time I play it with an 11 year old!! She thought of the most obscure things ever!

Anyway when I get bck to London I can now put that I've been a waitress at a Romanian restaurant on my CV ha!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

More of La Casa Romana

As I said in the previous post on monday night we had dinner with most of the family. As all but the children were born in Romania (where the family left just over 20 years ago) they were all speaking Romanian to each other. It sounds like a Slavic language to me and when they speak in English it sounds like they could be from Russia or Poland or anywhere in Eastern Europe. They even day 'da' which is Russian for yes. But actually it is a Latin language and is closer to Italian, but with a few Russian corruptions. 'La Casa Romana for example has la-french for the, Casa, Spanish for house and Romana (Romanian). The food they eat is a mixture to, with influences from all over Europe. Geographically Romania is sort of at the cross-roads between the Latin part of Europe and the Slavic part so that makes sense really.

They have a dog called JoJo who is bread for killing rabbits, but he doesn't seem to know the difference between playing and actually killing. If you let him walk next to you he will bite and your heals and jump up to bit your hands. It was a bit scary and they keep him on a very long chain most of the time. Dragos has told me to hit him when he jumps or bits, but I'm a bit wary of doing that as I know positive re-enforcement is a better way to train a dog then with fear. He kept doing it and Dragos brought out a stick to theaten him with, and I didn't like that at all. He's been bread to hunt, and he is young and needs to learn the difference between what he can hunt and what he can play with, but I don't think beating him with a stick is right. Their two daughters don't really like him and are a bit scared of him.

The daughters are 11 and 12, and the oldest helps out a lot in the restaurant. They are on school holidays now so that is expected of them. Its nice to have kids around, makes for more interesting dinner conversation. Although last night they decided to make pizza's for dinner and just as they were about to go in the over a family walked in, then the phone rang and two take-away orders were taken as well. So they made mine and the daughters first so we could eat, then the 10 pizzas for customers then cooked theirs themselves and Anke, the sister. Then we all sat down at a table in the restaurant behind a screen, said grace and half ate, half just sat talking while the customers in the restaurant ate, then we got up and started the cleaning. its nice having Anke around, she's 24 and in grad school so its good to have someone my own age to talk to.

Speaking of cleaning I have never met someone with more OCD then Dragos. That is good in a restaurant, for the most part, but when I emptied the dishwasher trays and put the forks in he said it wasn't good enough. The forks can't just be put in the tray they all have to be turned with the prongs up and stacked neatly. The dishwasher is a small industraial one with 3 trays, one for glasses, one for plates and one for everything else. They have to be set out on the counter with the plate one bottom right, glass one top right, and the extra one top left with the cutlery basket on the left hand side of the tray. The surfaces are all stainless steal and are cleaned with a rubber thing that window washers use to get the extra water off windows. After feeding the chickens I left my muddy boots outside and was told not to leave them next to the door cos they are to muddy, either clean them or take them off further away or the mud will fall off in front of the door and get dragged in by everyone else. There is a place for everything and everything goes in its place in this house! I just hope they don't come in my room, its not messy by my standards, but it will be by Dragos'!!!

I've been putting weed mats and mulch around the trees in the orchard for the last couple of days, so my stomach feels like its doing sit ups. The weathers been amazing, very sunny and actually warm for the middle f winter. I also made my first pizza last night for dinner. Carmen kept telling me to put more toppings on, and in the end smothered it in mozzarella. I told her she was very generous with the toppings and that in most pizza places they don't put as much stuff on and she just said 'you wanna eat pizza or bread?' I also had some home-made grape juice with dinner, that was very nice, and a stuffed pepper with home-made yogurt for lunch today. The Feta is good, and I have yet to try the buttermilk. Maybe tomorrow.

Monday, 18 July 2011

La Casa Romana

I've had an exciting day today! Got up early to get the bus to my new wwoofing place. Its about an hour north of wellington and the family I'm staying with is Romanian. They have chickens, a few sheep, and orchard, bees, grape vines and a large vegetable garden and greenhouse. They also have a restaurant which serves traditional Romanian food. So I arrive and given a tour of the house and told that there is no food in the kitchen, that it is all in the restaurant and Dragos, the owner, says to settle in the come over to the restaurant for breakfast. After unpacking I went over and he was working in the office but stopped to show me around. They have a small commercial kitchen where they make bread and cheese from scratch, as well as a wood burning stone pizza oven. Bread is cooked about 80% and stored in the fridge, then baked daily in the pizza oven, with the residual heat from the night before. Then he showed me the fridge, a walk in chiller with one shelf for the family and the rest for customers. The pantry had large tupperware containers of flour, spices, chocolate, sugar, olive oils and other things which for mist people sit at the back of cupboards and forgotten about. The freezer has boxes of herbs from the garden, chopped up and frozen, and traditional Romanian meals, cooked in large batches and frozen in individual portions for customers. Its a very very good business plan, top quality ingredients from your own property with a few extras bought in, pre-cook top quality tasty meals and do pizza. It's not exactly a la carte but it works for them. I had fresh bread, home made fig jam from the tree outside, and home made cottage cheese for breakfast.

Then I went and explored the property and then helped Dragos pull up some trees. I got to drive a tractor!!! Just put it in gear and it goes, no need for a break and accelerator. With a car you need to feel for the biting point, and you can start the car without gas by holding it on the bite point then slowly slowly lifting your foot of the clutch but with a tractor theirs no biting point, it just goes in hear and stops in neutral. We pulled the trees up and Dragos was very impressed that I taught him a new knot, the timber hitch (learnt at pam and dave's) which made it easier to drag the bigger trees out.

Then I went and had lunch and chatted to Carmen. I had more bread with a traditional Romanian vegetable spread. Then we had to get ready as Dragos' brother, Ramus, and his family were coming over for dinner as it is Ramus's birthday soon. They were bringing stuff for a BBQ and Carmen freaked out when she found out they were bringing shop-baught cole-slaw, she just didn't get why you wouldn't by a cabbage instead and make it! I suggested we make potato wedges then I cooked them in the pizza oven (still unlit as the restaurant is closed on a monday) and they cooked!!! it was still hot enough a day later to cook potatoes, it took less than an hour. Dragos's mother, sister and his brothers family turned up with more food. Sauerkraut and a jar of pickled veges, taramasalata, and the dreaded shop bought cole-slaw. They shop at Moore Wilson's!!!! Thats one of the few supermarkets they trust and where you get good food from and were impressed that I had worked there. They also eat very seasonally, with fresh veg in the summer and preserves in the winter, like the sauerkraut and pickled veg (carrots, coli flower, onions, garlic, celery and tomatoes). They were all speaking Romanian as well, it was just a big loud family gathering with lots of food! I have always hated sauerkraut, the smell of it on my g-ma's back porch has always put me off, but I tried it to be polite and it was actually very nice tastes way different to how it smells. And I've seen pickled veg in the Czech Republic before, so that wasn't knew to me. We all started eating the appitizer bits while the men BBQ'd, then the things for the main got laid out and people just carried on eating. Eventually everyone sat down, said a prayer, then carried on eating. Carmen said thats what happens, if there is food to eat and she told me the rule is if we say 'you can't have this, its for the restaurant' then don't eat it but otherwise help yourself. Mind you not a lot seems to be for the restaurant. It was just lots of shouting in Romanian, but the children don't speak it and Anke, the younger sister will speak English to her family but they will talk Romanian to her. Her mother yelled at her for eating the cole-slaw cos she doesn't like the chemicals used in the shops, but she said 'I'm 24, I'll eat what I want' (her brothers are in their 40's so she still gets treated like a baby).

Then the home-made wine came out, and the home made grappa. I have a very funny story about my mother and grappa in Italy but she'll be in trouble with G-ma when she reads it. We were on holiday in and became very friendly with the manager of a local restaurant and on our last night he gets out bottle of grappa and joins us, pours me and livvy a glass (I think I was about 18 and she was 15 but I can't remember) as we had been drinking the wine all night. We both smelt it and didn't like it but Mum insisted on us drinking it. My parents never gave me spirits and here she was telling us we had to be polite and try the mans grappa, when Liv was under-age!!! Anyway this grappa was much nicer, not as strong and didn't burn your insides like paint stripper!

So it seems these people eat a lot, but no processed food, no chemicals, no pasta sauces filled with loads of sugar and salt, and no junk food. Home made brownies with chicken eggs from outside are as bad as it gets.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Lily, Pigs, Pavlova, Fishing and Hunting

Lily, my lamb, died last night. She had the scours (diarrhea) since she was born and not much was coming out so we thing she was born with a dodgy intestine, and she was very very small, much smaller and less wooly then her twin. I'm very sad about that as I had looked after her. Pam just said that's why she never binded with lambs, or had much to do with them.

I havn't mentioned the pigs much so far. They are getting bigger, on almost big enough to eat. They used to be terrified of me and would hide when I came to feed them. But now they come up to me and bite my feet until they get food so I have to kick them away. We feed them pig meal and household scraps. A domestic pig will get fat on scraps from a family of 4 and one bag of meal. But these being wild grow slower. And are on their 5th bag of meal. To help us the owner of the mini horses comes by once or twice a week after his pig run. He goes to the big supermarket and gets the stuff they throw away. Most of it is perfectly good to eat. He as a pickup truck with the back full to the brim of fruit, vege dairy and baked goods. Its ridiculous, we've been eating most of it ourselves. There was a butternut squash with just a tiny bruise on it, peppers (which are $4 each right now) which we have had for dinner and tomatoes ($14 a kg since the floods in Australia), milk 3 days till its sell by and pastries. Some stuff you wouldn't touch like a wilting broccoli and some soggy lettuce but a lot of it is fine and would make any African cry at the waste. Its just Western extravagance and wastefulness that stuff like that gets thrown away.

I've also found out that my mum, and in fact everyone I know including me makes Pavlova wrong. It is a Kiwi desert. We always use egg whites and sugar to make a meringue (and a little white vinegar and vanilla if we have it) the top it with whipped cream and fruit. But in fact Pavlova and meringue are two separate things. A pavlova is when you add a little corn flour to the mixture as well which give the middle a spongy marshmallow like texture, with a crispy outside. I told Pam we never used cornflour and that I had seen that for the first time at Christmas when I was googling different recipes. She says thats the traditional way to make a Pav, and as she is a Kiwi I take her word for it.

There are some other interesting things I have learned from Dave since I have been here. Everyone in New Zealand hunts and fishes, with such a rural country you sort of have to. I said in England hunting is a upper class thing but here its universal. He says thats because in England any wild animal on your land is yours, and if someone else kills it you can take it, which means only landowners hunted, or their friends. In New Zealand they said that every wild animal belongs to the Crown, and once its dead it belongs to whoever killed it. So if you are on public land or in national parks you kill it you keep it. If you are hunting on private land without permission of the land owner they can tell you to leave, and leave the animal but they are not allowed to take the animal themselves, just ask the trespasser to leave without the kill. As all species hunted are non-native and introduced species there are no laws protecting them, just the native bird life. With fishing most areas will have restrictions on what you can take. Up here you can only take 2 blue cod, between 30-35cm., however you are allowed 3 on the west coast and there in no limit in the south sea. Shellfish are also restricted depending on the area and if you take more then you are allowed they take your boat, your equipment and your car just because they can and give you a fine.

The only exceptions to these rules are the Maori. They can fish as much as they like as long as they have permission from the tribal leader. I can understand why, they were hear first and in the Treaty of Waitangi that is what was agreed to. But they abuse it so much, a police came across two Maori men with 5,000 scollops, 5,000 when the area limit was 50 per person. There was no real reason either, no funeral or tribal celebration, it was just in case they wanted them over the winter and there was nothing the police could do about it. The Mutton-bird, or Petrol is another bird which was once seen all across New Zealand but now has bee driven south and onto Steward Island. Its supposedly a Maori delicacy (though there is little evidence of it being eaten before European contact) and a native bird they are permitted to hunt according to the treaty. However Dave has a theory (he trained as a botanist) that with their declining numbers (and therefore less poo) the soil is losing its fertility. They say they are the worlds best conservationists but with attitudes they have now, and 35 extinct birds the think of I think a serious amount of education, and an amendment to the treaty is needed! but that is my opinion.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Lambs, Meg and Pendragon

Well its not been an easy day for me today. Some twin lambs were born last night and today we went to catch them to put the tags in their ears and saw that one was a lot smaller than the other. When her mother walked off she wasn't following and when we caught the sheep we found that she had mastitis in one side of her udder, where no milk is produced. Its horrible for sheep because that side just rots away eventually. It wouldn't be a problem if she had a single lamb, as she is old and off to the works due to her deteriorating teeth so a slow illness like that wouldn't have bothered her anyway. But she can't look after both so we had to force the smallest lamb to get one last feed from her by putting the sheep on its side and holding the teat out to the lamb (after all breast is best) and then carried her to the house and put her in a pen in the garden. She keeps baaaaa-ing, calling for her mother and its a horrible noise. Its like a normal lamb noise mixed with desperate scream. She will get used to us in a few days, and if any other twins are born to mothers who can't take care of then she will have company. We were working in the vineyard after and I forgot my iPod, I had to go back and get it just because it was to hard to hear the lamb crying out.

Other than that we are on row 37 out of 87 off the vineyard, and I would say without my iPod I would want to kill myself. We are babysitting 7 miniature horses for a friend of Pam and Dave's and the other day we put some in a field with the cows. There are 8 very large cows and 5 very very small miniature horses (about the size of a very large dog) and guess who get the best grazing, and access to water first? The horses. They are just so bossy!

Meg the dog is a the most needy dog you can get. She was trained as a working dog but got shocked by the electric fence to many times and developed a phobia, which lead to other phobias. She is now useless really, we tried to use her to round up the cows but she just ran from Dave to me. She needs re-training or a bullet, thats what Dave says. The cat. Pendragon, its the funnies cat ever. He likes sitting right in front of a fire or on someones lap. He lets you pick him up and play with him and will curl up on your lap if he feels like it. He likes to sleep with Pam and Dave and even has learn to jump up and pull the door handle down to get into their room. But now that I am here he sleeps with me, every night he come and and gets UNDER the covers and curls up next to me. I can't stop him, he walks around my pillows and the funny thing is if I' sleeping on my side he comes in under me, and if I turn over he gets up and climbs over, or around so he's in front of me again! crazy cat he just likes it because its warm under the covers.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Lamb, Hoggit and Mutton

Well its no secret that New Zealand is famous for sheep. Wool and meat were two massive export industries until fairly recently when a change to wine and dairy cows and the desire for man-made textiles rather than wool meant that the sheep industry was in decline for a while. The national flock has gone from 70 million to 30 million over the last few years. However there is not as much money in grapes as there used to be and wool is becoming very fashionable again. This means that a lamb which used to sell for about $60 is now going for $200+ and ewes (female sheep) are going for even more. There was an auction last week where one went for $360 and a lamb $315. Thats just crazy!!!

There are 30 ewes on this farm and it is coming up to lambing, with most being pregnant. We got them in for shearing a few days ago, which the sheep don't like very much but oh well. When you shear them in mid-winter it means that once the baby is born they have to go find shelter themselves and so the lamb comes with them. If not, the sheep will quite happily stay out in the cold and rain while the lambs, still very small, will freeze to death. 5 lambs have been born so far and they are so cute!!! We have to catch them, find out if they are ewes or rams and put tags in their ears accordingly. This is like having your ears pierced with a large plastic earring but animals have a much greater capacity for pain then humans and after a few second they seem fine. You have to do it in the first few days, and catch them with a shepherds crook because after that there is no chance of outrunning them. Any lambs which are twins (so far of the 5 on is single and there are 2 sets of twins) will be kept as part of the permanent stock to breed and get wool from. singles lambs and rams will be kept till they are old enough to be weened then sent to the works to be sold as lamb. Some of the older sheep with deteriorating teeth will also be sold as mutton once their lambs are weened because you either keep them and let them starve to death when they struggle to eat or just shoot them so they die painlessly.

For dinner last night we had mutton, a mature sheep. Lambs are less than a year old, hoggit about 1-2 years and mutton is an adult. They taste slightly different and have different textures. Hoggit is the favorite here, having more meat then lamb but still the sweet, meaty flavor. We are having a leg of hoggit for dinner tonight so I will be excited to try it. Mutton is a different matter however. I've had it before, in a pie and being tough it is best for slow cookers and stews, so in the pie it was nice. We had it very differently, it was a Mutton flap. The flap is the belly, a very thing piece of meat surrounded by gristle and fat. (Incidentally fat in grass fed red meat is better for you than grain fed red meat, another reason to buy outdoor farmed foods rather than factory farmed ). We had it wrapped around a large amount of stuffing. I can only describe the portion by comparing to a beef wellington, where the stuffing was like the beef fillet, and the mutton flap was wrapped around like the pastry of the wellington. As it cooked the fat melted and dripped through the stuffing, it was very nice but I can't say I like the taste of the meat itself. It was a little tough and tasted like what sheep smell like. I couldn't get the smell of sheep droppings, unwashed wool, and the general smell of a farm out of my nose as I was eating, and covered it in stuffing, sauce and veges to hide the taste.

In between the sheep we have still been working on the vines, its taking forever!!!!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Corned Beef, Bambi and Vineyards

I'm still in Blenhime, at the same place. There is still a LOT of work to do on the vinyard. The other night we had the strangest thing for dinner, it was corned beef but not as I know it. Corned beef, for those who do not know, is a bit like spam. Its tinned beef with lots of fat and salt, and all the leftover cheap bits of meat. It was invented in the first world war to feed the soldiers in the trenches and has a very distinctive flavour, I don't mind it but it wouldn't occur to me to buy it. Anyway this was different. It was a big lump of beef, an actual roasting joint that had been soaked and aged in brine. We cooked it in the slow cooker and despite the long cooking time the entire inside was a very dark red. It was extreamly tender and cut so easily with a butter knife. The taste was almost like tinned corned beef really, but not as fatty or salty. We had a sweet mustard sauce with it which is traditional apparently. It was very strange though to see something so familliar in such a different form.

The vineyard is coming along slowly,out of 86 rows we've done 15. it just takes a long time. We've also had a few distractions. The calves were weened off their mothers and put in a separate paddock at the other end of the farm but two escaped and somehow got back with their mothers. so when Dave's friend John came over to collect firewood (they have a forestry block which will be cut down in 15 years but has been thinned out) we spent ages trying to separate the cows.  That was hard work and was all for nothing as one of the cows and one of the calves escaped that night and were wandering around the vineyard. We repaired one of the electric fences in the field where the calves were and made a horrible discovery. Dave had a tame deer on the property, raised it and and brought it up. they left the door open one day and even found him on their bed (the house is one story)!!!!! He was totally harmless but pam was worried that he would hurt someone by accident one day or that he would realize he was wild and hurt someone on purpose. Anyway in our fence repairing quest we found Bambi, strangled by the electric fence tape and completely disintegrated. It looks like he must have got an antler caught and wrapped himself up so badly he had choked. His head was their with the tape around it, and his fur and skeleton but maggots and bugs seemed to have got the rest. What a horrible way to die! He could have been shot humanly and made good venison! Such a sad death and a waste of good meat. Pam is happy though, one less thing to worry about.

After working in the garden this morning Pam and I went on a bit of a vineyard tour. This area, surrounding Blenhiem is full of them. About 10 years ago it was full of sheep but they got rid of them when wool prices dropped and put vines everywhere. Its NZ's biggest area for wine production. We just went to four (Pam was driving and I'm a lightweight so more then that would have been a very bad idea) and tried some of the more and less famous vineyards. Villa Maria and Cloudy bay are excellent vineyards and I've had their wine at home. The stuff we get from Villa Maria is the cheaper range that they sell. Its not the cheap nasty stuff, its consistent, drinkable, fairly priced vine that is not fancy but just nice. However they have a reserve range, which is not exported and these were very good indeed. The Pinot Noire especially. I did not like their Malbec at all, Argentina makes better, it was to chalky and heavy on the tannins, dried my mouth out. I also have found out the difference between Syrah and Shiraz. They are the same grape and was called Syrah in France but then the Australians started growing it they re-named it Shiraz and gave it a much bigger, bolder, in your face, aggressive taste. They use Syrah to refer to the more mellow wines made with those grapes. Cloudy Bay was excellent, just as I expected. The highlight there was a Sauvignon Blanc aged in oak barrels. Sav is normally a very fruity, fresh, tropical sort of grape but this was very very different taste, hard to describe but a pleasant surprise. It reminded me of the wine Pam and Dave gave me that they grow, and it turns out they also use oak for their Sav. We Went to Whither Hills as well where I learned that they sell their wine in the UK, but for much cheaper then sell their wine in the tasting room! Highfields was the other one, their wine was average with a horrible sparkling wine. All in all a good afternoon and a simmilar tour would have cost about $60 so I am very grateful!

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Blenheim was the scary airport I flew into from the North island, when I thought I was going to die because we were getting tossed around so much. If I hadn't been so scared I would have been admiring all the vines with their red and gold leaves. Now all the leaves have fallen off leaving rows and rows of empty, skeletal vines. I got picked up in Blenheim by Pam, my new wwoofing host and taken to her house not far from town. They have a few cows, sheep, 2 pigs, chickens, and cat and a dog. They are also looking after a friends 7 miniature horses. My first task on Saturday was to got collecting to poo in the horses field for manure. I had to do this every Saturday at the stables, they told us it stopped the horses from getting worms. I think they lied because if we hadn't needed manure we wouldn't have bothered, it was just to give us something to do. We then wen and dug up some red volcanic rocks and gravel which are very good for making roads and fixed the driveway. That afternoon Pam and David has some friends come round, they seem to have more of a social life, being closer to town. Also Pam works full time a s a social worker. That morning she actually had to go to court as a 14 year old had skipped bail (very sad) and then the hospital that night as a 14 year old boy was threatening suicide (also sad). Their son also came round after a days diving with some Paua, a shellfish which has a white centre like a scollop bit is sitting on a black disk which fills the shell. I have wanted to try them for a while, and they were nice, but I prefer scollops.

Sunday we went to their friends farm, which had olive groves on it when they bought it. There is not much profit in olives so we volunteered to harvest and sort them with plastic rakes and then it gets bottled for charity. It was an interesting day, and I realise now why olive oil is so expensive, it is such labour intensive work. Its not that its hard, its just slow and laborious and needs lots and lots of people. The problem is with New Zealand that they don't really appreciate good olive oil either. There are the odd food snobs but in general it is under-rated here and people don't really grasp the health benefits or the superior taste that it has to other oils so most people aren't really prepared to pay for it. So you can only really get very expensive stuff for the food snobs, and not common, second press oil for cooking.

I had a very interesting day today. Pam had gone to work and me and David got to work pruning the 4.5 hectare (acre?) vineyard. That is another task which isn't particularly hard, as you are standing most of the time, but its just time consuming. He was telling me how in the old days you could get $25,000 off one acre (hectare?) of vines before the market crashed. His whole farm, animals and everything used to be valued at $200,000 a year, and that's a lot. Not anymore though, and only the larger vineyards are surviving. I also asked if his cows and sheep would be sold as free range meat, as they are really. He said there is no free range in New Zealand as they have no indoor farming. Outdoor farming is far cheaper, environmentally friendly and humane .With indoor farming you have to buy the grain, maintain water and electric lines, and it is cruel. So we have a situation in the UK where people are paying less money for a product which is more expensive to produce, but more money for the cheaper, more ethical free range product because free range is fashionable. There was also this talk of food miles and they worked out that shipping lamb from NZ to the UK has less food miles then buying British factory farmed meat as you feed it on grass and spring water, not grain and water from the mains. So the moral of the story is that free range meat in the UK is a big con as they are charging a higher price for the cheaper product and the best thing to do is buy New Zealand lamb. He was also moaning about how in Europe and America farmers are subsidised, and they are not in NZ, which means NZ farmers are the most efficient in the world, they have to be to keep up.

The house I am in is much more modern then the previous one, and more comfortable. They have a wood burning stove for heating and hot water. So we'll see what else I get up to, probably more vine pruing, there loads to do!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Back to Nelson

Well I left Clarrie and Syth on Wednesday. They were very nice people and I think if everyone incorporated some aspects of their lifestyle, be it the solar panels, not eating meat, or switching off all appliances unless they are needed, then the world would be a much better place.

But a week in complete seclusion was enough for me. I headed back to Nelson, hoping to do a bone carving workshop before going to Blenhiem (The Maori jewelry here is made of either jade or bone). But it was closed for the winter so I had a day free. I went to the museum (small, not much their that was very different, except that Nelson is the home of Rugby in NZ) and the Cathedral. This was a horrible building, the shape of it was meant to be a gothic cathedral but it was all very square and simplified, like the architect was trying to copy and old one and got lazy. The outside was clad in what looked like slate which is very odd for a church.

Then I just went to the cinema, after only beeing allowed to watch the 6 o'clock news, and nothing else as there wasn't enough power, I though I would treat myself to the new Pirates of the Caribbean.

I'm now waiting for 8 o'clock to arrive as the hostel I'm staying in has free chocolate pudding and ice cream!!! yum yum. I get the bus to Blenheim tomorrow and stay with a new family. They have one child still at home so they are a bit younger, and I should have someone close to my own age for company then.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


I was extremely lucky today. Carrie and Sythe have two friends who own a large sail boat/small yacht type thing.  They sail it in French Pass, a place about 1/2 hour up the road. Its  very narrow strip of water between the mainland and d'Urville island where boats can go through, but only in a tiny section of the pass. Its so narrow that when the tides are changing water gets dragged through and it creates whirlpools. They use it for a schools sailing club, as well as private charters for tourists and you can actually take it out for days at a time because there is a galley (kitchen) and births (beds) below deck. Normally its about $160 per person but they have to move it for the winter from French Pass to Elaine Bay and had no way for driving home as they only have one car. So they asked Clarrie and Sythe to do the driving, leaving one car at Elaine bay then driving us back to French Pass, and let us go on the boat for free. It was great, I got to see French pass from the road (we were sailing in the other direction) which a lot of wwoofers don't as Sythe stopped taking them there due to the rising fuel costs. and I got a 5 hour trip on a boat!

The boat was had built by Lawarance and it is he and his wife that own it. He literally just bought some wood, shaped it himself and built the whole thing by hand. He had a few friends who helped him with the heavy lifting and stuff and a professional joiner but most of it was his own work. It took 16 years he said, on and off so about 8 years of work. Its maybe 40 feet long. He built it in Western Australia then sailed it over to New Zealand. Unfortunately there was so little wind that we had to use the motor, so I didn't get to see the sail up, or go along in total silence but other than that it was great! Grace made some potato, cabbage and bacon soup as well, forgetting about the vegetarians and it was great to have meat!!! Most of the time I could take or leave it, and I don't buy much anyway as its expensive. I even gave up meat for Lent one year but I ate a lot of fish and eggs. Sythe doesn't cook her eggs at this time of year, she sells them and as the chickens aren't laying many in the winter she only keeps 2 or 3 a week for baking. They've had tinned tuna but its not the same. So I was really grateful for the bacon anyway!!!!

We arrived Elaine Bay and moored for the winter, then took the little row boat back to the shore. All in all a very good day and I was so lucky to see such a beautiful part of New Zealand.

Here is the website of the boat, and Clarrie and Sythe's website:

Cissy Bay

Its raining here so I have a bit of time inside to catch up with my blog. On Wednesday I got picked up in the afternoon by Clarrie, he and his wife host wwoofers at their farm in Cissy Bay, about 2 hours north of Nelson. After a long drive along winding roads we arrived in the dark so I didn't really get to see the place. Syth greeted us at the door and we had dinner in their very small and dark living room/kithen/dining room/office. Its a very small square room here, the rest is a shed with 2 beds behind and MDF wall. They have no mains electricity or gas, instead they use solar power and gas tanks filled up at the petrol station. This means that at night when it gets dark you need a flashlight to do anything outside of the main room and they just have a small candle in the bathroom. The fridge and oven are both powered by gas tanks which seem to last along time and whenever they are not on the computer they switch off all the power to the house, so they just have one big gas light and flashlights for the whole room. They sleep in a caravan outside of the main building, I'm in the shed half of the building on a very comfy mattress. The water comes from a spring so it is very nice and fresh tasting. They have a very small hot water heater for the shower, and a tap but no pipe to the kitchen sink so there is a bit of a ritual with the washing up. First you rinse and scrub all the dishes in the cold water to get all the food off. Then you go over to the hot water heater and turn the tap gently and pray you can get it up to about 45degrees. Then you wash the dishes in the hot water and soap. They are also vegetarians so all in all the is a very eco-friendly lifestyle.

As well as the farm they have a website design business which they mostly work from at home. Clarrie goes into Nelson once a week overnight to work at the office and do the food shopping for the week (there are no shops here, no pubs, nothing but a few houses). There are about 13 permanent residents on Cissy Bay, the rest having holiday homes here. The community is very small and has a few problems, mainly instigated by a man who got kicked out of South Africa for 'giving sweets to little girls' as he says and 'Madame Butterfly' and absolute nutter who sometimes sits with her binoculars on the road spying on Syth and Clarrie. I have only heard their side of the story so I won't repeat it here, but this woman is mad, anyone can tell that and she has nothing to do in her life so she goes around bothering others.

Anyway I woke up on my first morning here and got an amazing view of the sounds. The bay is at the bottom and, similar to Milford, the earth rises up in steep ridges. Its just not as steep or dramatic. The house is about half way up one ridge and they own fields on the other side where llamas and scottish highland cows, which are their pets, graze. They also have chickens, a dog called Duke and a cat called Nova. They try as much as possible to eat vegetables from the very large garden although at this time of year that is not always possible. There are a few fruit trees as well, and the passion fruit here is amazing! If they sell their cows and llamas they try to make sure they go to other 'lifestyle' families as pets, rather than as food!

Duke is an amazing dog. He is a New Zealand Huntaway, a bit bigger than a Labrador, black and brown and very energetic, intelligent and friendly. He knows what a Weka is, a native brown wild hen, and enjoys chasing them. He loves riding in the car and on the way back from a neighbors house Clarrie shouted 'RACE' and we let duke out and he ran all the way home with us chasing him. He can jump fences and gates as well and any horse as well and when you scratch his ear, then stop he nudges your hand till you start again.

I've been working very hard since I've been here, thats the point of wwoofing. I did a lot of weeding in the garden which is actually very satisfying to see a patch which was green and overgrown turned into nice brown soil ready for planting. We have built a fence as well, that was hard work as it was on a very very steep hill and I kept falling down. The actual work was easy, its just the hill the was trying to kill me that I didn't like. But they've planted a load of native trees along a paddock and wanted to fence them off so when the animals come in they don't get destroyed.

Clarrie and Sythe are very nice people, the both have older children and grandchildren. Clarrie is from New Zealand whereas Sythe is Scottish and her and her son have emigrated, she has a daughter still in England. They met about 15 years ago and Clarrie proposed after 10 days! They've been very nice to me, even though I'm not as strong or fast as some of the other wwoofers that they've had. I've enjoyed it here but I think a week is long enough. I'm so isolated from everything and there are so few people hear that as great as it has been I think another week would drive me mad. I've had a good experience but I'd like to go somewhere with a few more people, and maybe a pub!

Monday, 30 May 2011


I got the public bus from Kaikora to Nelson today, it took about 3 hours to drive. We went through Nelson on the Stray bus, it was just before Abel Tasman National Park, where I first did hang gliding. When we drove through I was very tired and it was raining and I really didn't like the look of it. But actually, now that I am here and a lot more awake, with good weather, I think its a really nice town. Its small, with the Cook Straight and Marlborough Sounds on one side and hills on the other. Its very artistic here, there used to be th wearable art fashion show before it got to big and moved to Wellington, but they have a World of Wearable Art Museum. I Walked up a hill, very tough walk (for me, I'm very unfit) to the lookout from where you can see all of Nelson, and over the sounds to Abel Tasman. Unlike Milford Sound and the other sounds in Fiordland, the Marlborough sounds are actually sounds, not fiords. I think fiords are carved out by glaciers and sounds are caused by rising sea levels, but they look the same. Anyway the top of this lookout is the very centre of New Zealand, so I've been to the very top (Cape Rienga) and the very bottom (Stewart Island) and now the very centre. Thats sort of cool I guess. I have a wwoofing place sorted out for tomorrow in the middle of now where so we'll see how that one goes! I get picked up from here.

Sunday, 29 May 2011


Well after going back to Mt. Cook then Rangitata, I finally got here to Kaikora. Its famous for its sea-life, whales, dolphins and seals. I did a fishing trip because there was a small chance of seeing all that stuff, i've seen most of it before and it was the cheapest. We started by pulling up crayfish pots. These aren't like the small things we get ah home, they are large, saltwater things like lobsters but without the claws. The first pot was empty but the other two had loads in them. We had to sort through them all as we weren't allowed to keep females, you can tell because of the spongy coral red stuff under the stomachs, the eggs. They also had to be over a certain size or they got thrown back in. After that we got out the fishing rods and caught lots of perch, a very nice fish. It was a good trip and this time we used fishing lines rather than had lines, it was all a bit high tech! on the way back we saw seals, dolphins and a penguin but no whales. I decided to stay and extra day because I like it here, and get the public bus to Nelson tomorrow, to start working on some peoples farm on Wednesday. Today I spent the day relaxing and walking out to the seal colony. There was a sign at the visitors centre saying you could swim with seals, it was cheaper then the dolphin swim and I was keen to try but no-one runs it in the off season. I suppose I could go swimming myself but I don't ancy jumping off the cliff and I have no idea how to behave around a seal, these are actually sea-lions and very big and heavy. So I will just have to be content with my walk. Its a lovely little village though, just one street and then a peninsula where all the marine life live around.

I stayed in a hostel called the Adelphi which was very old and seemed to date from about 100 years ago. When we checked we were asked how many girls and boys there were and I said me plus 3 girls who had gone dolphin swimming, but for some reason they got put in another room so I got a whole 6 bed dorm to myself!! That was nice on the first night as I had a few to many drinks and just went straight to sleep but not the second night. Because it is so old its a little creepy, and I'm reading Rebbecca by Daphne du Morier at the moment, set in about the same time period that the hotel was built. Its a bit of a ghost story so to be on my own in an old building, which sort of reminds me of the Twilight Zone hotel and read a ghost story was a bit weird last night and I began wishing for some company.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Leaving Queenstown again

Well I decided not to find a job in Queenstown, its lovely but so small and expensive. And every recruitment agency and everyone else has said there will be nothing for 2-4 weeks and I don't want to hang around wasteing money. Instead I am getting the Stray bus again but skipping out the bottom bit, jsut going to Mt. Cook then Christchurch instead of all the way around the deep south. its cheaper than flying or getting the bus. I decided as I was heading back to Mt. Cook to do the glacier explorer boat and learn alot about the movement and formation of glaciers. We saw lots of really cool iceburgs floating in the lake and got fairly close to the Tasman Glacier, the biggest in NZ. You may remember that when we at Franz Josef on the way down the west coat we could see Mt. Cook and that now I was just on the other side of the mountain range. Well it truns out the Franz Josef and Tasman glaicers are a 7 hour drive from each other, but from the Tasman glacier you just climb over the mountain and you are 5 km from Franz Josef. Crazy!!! It was very informative, but very cold. We picked up bits of iceburg and ate/ drank them. They had no taste as water is so pure and the glacier would have formed over 300 years ago before pollution. It takes 300 years for the ice at the top of the glaicer to make its way down to the river, so thats 300 year old snow and ice in the iceburgs. Only 10% of the iceburg is above water, with 90% below and if a piece falls off or melts the glacer will turn over or rise up so that 10% is above water. It was all very interesting.

My plan is to to do the last bit of the Stray tour I havn't finished yet which is whale watching in Kaikora, then to find work on one of the organic farms around Blenheim, just for food and accomodation, before returning to Wellington to find a paying job. But if I work for food and accomodation at least I won't be spending money! Its the same organisation that I used to find the place on Waiheke island, but this time I have only emailed couples and familys, no single old ladies with cats!!!!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


This is possibly the most controversial blog post ever. Since I was first considering coming to New Zealand I was tild by people who had been to go to Fergburger, supposedly the best burger in the world. Its here in Queenstown and its a must for anyone, I mean anyone coming here. There are a few chains which do gourmet burgers, huge things with fancy and creative fillings. After weighing up all the options I think there are other contenders. Burgerfuel, Red Velvet, The Fat Tui and Devil Burger are other places where you can get a good burger. These aren't like Macdonalds, these thing are huge, massive, full of all sorts of fillings from beetroot to fried eggs and mango. So I'm giving each burger a score out of 5 for creativity of fixings, the burger pattie, chips and value for money. 

First up the Fergburger, the bookies favorite and supposedly the best in NZ
Creativity 4
burger 3
chips 2
value 4
I have to say I was disappointed with my first Fergburger, The beef wasn't the best, it had that iron taste that red meat can sometimes have. It was dripping, like they'd washed the lettuce and not dried it. The chips aren't very good, they are soggy and overpriced. The average Ferg costs $11-17 for the steak burger. However I went back with my friend and got a vegeburger and she got a chicken one, it was actually very good! It is right on the main road and because of its location its a favorite for drunken partiers stumbling out of the clubs at 3am, probably why its such a favorite with travelers. Overall they scored 13/20, brought down by the disappointing beef and not a great score for the favorite.

Next the Fat Tui
Creativity 3
Burger 5
Chips 5
Value 5
This is a little burger shack in just outside Abel Tasman National Park. Being small it had a very limited menu of a Beef burger, one with cheese and an egg, lamb, mussle pattie (sounds gross) or vege. However although the fixings are the same they are amazing. Tabbouleh, aoli and more salad then you can dream of went on. I had the lamb but they said the beef was good to, with onions and herbs in the pattie. The chips were very nie and there was also the option of Kumera (sweet potato) chips, as well as a choice of portion size. I have to say the Tabbouleh was a stroke of genius and it was one of the cheapest burgers there. 18/20

Creativity 5
Burger 4
Chips 4
Value 4
This one has to compete with Fergburger in Queenstown but in Invercargill it does pretty well. The menu is extensive and the home made relish is amazing. The pattie itself was good, not the best ever. In terms of value for money you have the option of regular or large burgers, so thats helpful and the regulars are huge anyway. the fries aren't fluffy enough on the inside but they are crispy. Overall better value for moeny then Ferg, better beef and you don't have to wait so long just to order. 17/20

Red Velvet
Creativity 4
Burger 3
Chips 3
Value 3
This one was actually had a large and creative menu. I had a burger with chilli mayonaise and grilled mango which was very good. the pattie was nice as well, you could tell it was home made because it was irregularly shaped and had rosemary in it but it was small, way way smaller than the bun and you had to eat half the burger to get to it. The chips were nice but they were frozen, I could see the guy cooking them and for what they charged I thought it was to much for frozen chips. Overall so much potential and it just didn't deliver

Creativity 5
Burger 4
Chips 5
Value 4
I will always remember my first burgerfuel, this was the first of the gourmet burgers I had in New Zealand. It was the Peanut Piston and had peanut sauce on it. It was amazing, I couldn't beleive it worked so well, it was like when I had the Fat Tui burger with tabbouleh on it. The chips are great, and you can get Kumara fries as well. They are huge and also come with a cardboard burger holder to keep it together. People criticise the fact that its a chain but that means the menu us much bigger and you an get it most places in the North Island. But its not like a fast food chain, they do really good food there. 18/20, tied with the Fat Tui!

So there you have it, all the places you need to go and the things you need to eat when you come here, have a Fergburger, you have to or you haven't really been a tourist here, just go for the chicken! And the Fat Tui really is a once in a lifetime experience, I'd go back if I could!