Thursday, 20 December 2007

My new career!

As long as I can remember my deepest desire has been that I wanted to become a cleaning lady when I was a grown-up. I wrote that in all 'vriendenboekjes' and for some reason I lost track of that. Apparently becoming a teacher and later on a consultant seemed more appealing. Thank God I got my act together and I am absolutely loving my new career: I am finally a cleaning lady!!! And I am damned good at it as well if I may say so myself... (I already 'earned' a bottle of wine for working that hard...)

My welcome at the Hopewell Hostel in Marlborough Sounds has been more than great. My bosses, Lynley and Mike, are absolutely relaxed and lovely, the surroundings are superb and my extra benefits (let's call them 'secundaire arbeidsvoorwaarden') are in one word fantastic. I work in the mornings (cleaning, making beds etc.) and in the afternoons I can 'play'. Considering the fact that I love being outdoor, the kayaking, the mountain biking, the hiking, the beach, the outside air and the beautiful nature are amazing. Besides that, there are lovely people staying here and for some reason people are constantly offering to make me dinners (great, thanks!) and the best benefit of all is that Mike loves seafood and he makes the most delicious mussels ever...And we have them every third night or so...How is that for a benefit, who needs a laptop, a mobile, an OV card (free public transport) or a bonus at the end of a year? Not me, I'll take the mussels!! No other job can EVER top that.

And even though it has been raining quite a lot over the last few days, I have not been bored, because I bought myself a Spanish course to learn a bit of Spanish before heading to South America. I haven't learnt a new language since I was 13, so picking up the Spanish is great: it keeps my brain active!

And sorry, no pictures: the computer is too slow...well, the hopewell website says it all...

Monday, 10 December 2007

Proper updating alert!

Behold: an update on the previous 6 weeks in New Zealand. Grab a chair, get a coffee, some biscuits and enjoy the reading. Unfortunately Eefje has troubles with her computer sending me some nice pictures, so I will only have a few now. Hopefully I will add some more in the next days or so.

If you want to go chronological, read it in this order:
First Winter,
Then Fall,
Travelling with Mark and Ellie,
Back to the ‘real’ world,


Back to the ‘real’ world

I returned to Christchurch via the nice town Dunedin where I spend a day going to an interesting museum and a beautiful art gallery. Back in Christchurch I’m using Patrick’s welcomeness (yes, that’s a new word) again and I’ll stay with him until I find a job. Most of you will find the next thing strange, but little workaholic and career woman as I am, after 5 months of travelling I still don’t feel like working. Yes, get back on your chairs again: I do not feel like working! I am completely cured and it’s great!!
However, there are loads of jobs here though, but all for 3 months or more and I am only here for 2 months. And since I do not really have to earn money (lucky me!), just not spending any money in the next few weeks, I found a really nice job in the North of the South Island. As of the end of this week I will be working in a hostel, just doing general work for 3-4 hours a day and then I have the rest of the day off to do the things you do in the middle of nowhere in a beautiful place like Marlborough: hiking, swimming, reading, meeting people and hopefully some exciting activities (check their website if you are not jealous of me yet…

But of course before work comes pleasure and Patrick wanted to go on a ‘proper’ hike with me, so he took me to his best hike in New Zealand…And I have to admit: it’s a winner. On Friday we took off to Kaikoura to start the hike to Mount Fyffe the next day. Bloody hell, the first 4 hours were absolutely terror: going straight up the mountain till 1602 meters. That was Patrick’s trick to let me know I was not as fit as I thought as was. I needed to take more breaks than I expected (I was very annoyed about that to be honest), but the views were excellent. Well, I shocked Patrick when I told him that the highest ‘mountain’ in the Netherlands is 322 meters, so he was quiet after that…We continued along a scary edge (mum: you would have died instantly…Femke too for that matter) and we were literally sliding down rocky landslides. I loved it, especially with the views of the snowy mountains. Coming down till the Kowhai Saddle, after that we had to hop up and down along the river: really looking for a path at some times.

After 8,5 hours walk we got to the hut where the cold creek was awaiting us for a cold dip. Mind you, Patrick chickened out, so it was just me being fresh afterwards. Patrick crashed at that point (so who is the fit one now, hey?!), so I was enjoying myself getting the firewood and making dinner. No, to be honest, the sun got to Patrick’s fair Irish skin and he looked like a nicely cooked shrimp so he was out for the day.
The next day was like ‘whipped cream on an ice cream’: we had several river crossings to do which I had done before with Eefje, but not as many and ‘wild’ ones as these. It was great fun, I really enjoyed it. The gorges were beautiful, the track was hardly visible at times, the weather was excellent (too bad I do not have a picture of Patrick being completely covered up with gloves and my towel to keep the sun of him…), the variety of the scenery; it all made the track the best hike so far in New Zealand (sorry Eefje, Mark and Ellie…). So Patrick’s hike is a winner!

After returning to Kaikoura, having an ice cream and a coffee, I did another two hour walk along the peninsula enjoying the seals, the weather and the scenery. Patrick stayed in the Van, keeping out of the sun, because he still looked pretty cooked to me and he preferred to be cooked instead of getting roasted as well. Fair enough I reckon!

So, how about this for a proper update! I hope you enjoyed the stories, I surely did in real time. I will, with a bit of luck, update regularly in Marlborough, perhaps with even better episodes (as if that’s possible…)

Travelling with Mark and Ellie

After Eefje left for Belgium again, I drove back to Christchurch because in all fairness the Van wanted to go home because he was a bit tired. And his brakes seem to malfunction a bit, so time for a pit stop. The next days were ‘all Irish’: catching up with Patrick and later on with Mark and Ellie. Irish as they are (of course I would never do that) it involved some nice wine and beers and loads of talking. Great stuff!

Then Mark, Ellie and me headed of to the South again to do one of the Great Walks: the Routeburn Track.

I hadn’t seen Mark in about 4 years and I had never met Ellie before, but it was one of those incredible matches from the start. We got on very well and I think we were all very happy to spend a week together. Mark informed me about all the people back in Dublin (oooeeei, I wanted to say back home…sorry) and he was quickly reminded again that I always teased the hell out of him. Well, Mark got me back as well, don’t worry. Then again, I think Ellie and I annoyed Mark a bit sometimes because while hiking we were chatting too much and he thought we should walk a bit quicker.

But on the other hand, Mark and I really wanted to have apples during our hikes, which Ellie could not understand (weight wise and its bulkiness), so Mark and I had to team up against Ellie for that.

But in fairness, I think the only reason Mark and Ellie asked me along on the trip was because I had the biggest bag so I could take most of the food…As you can tell; we had the best time together! The track was lovely (see pictures, and no, the one on which we are jumping is not fake…), the weather was excellent and the company was an absolute bonus.

After the track we decided to keep Eefje and my tradition alive, so we had lamb and Ellie made apple crumble…Splendid! The next day we literally spend the entire day drinking coffee in the sun (yeah, they are addicts just like me!!!) and after that we had to say goodbye because they were going to do another track and I needed to find myself a job…


One season was still left out: summer! As soon as we arrived at the North of the South Island, at a town called Nelson, summer had arrived. There we arranged our 4 day track to the popular Abel Tasman National Park. It’s an area where the first European set foot on land, and yes he is Dutch. Go figure. So the theme of that hike was ‘Goh, die Abeltje toch’ [sorry, only sounds nice in Dutch…].

Anyway, we planned to do one day of kayaking on the sea and then 3 days hiking. Everything was very well arranged and to get away from the tourists we decided to go camping which was absolutely fantastic; nice camping spots along the sea.

The kayaking and hiking was easy compared to everything we did before, but we thought we sort of deserved an easy walk. And because of the nice weather, the sea was very appealing! We saw a cool seal colony and we spied on them for hours! And on our way back with the water taxi we saw dolphins; we had never seen them in a natural habitat before, so that was truly amazing to watch.

After this hike, we went for a nice dinner in a great pub where loads of people recommended us to go to. And since they brew their own beer (mjummie!) we asked whether we could park the Van at their car park for the night so I could have some beers as well. And of course they said yes (you got to love the Kiwi’s!) so we had a fun evening playing games and drinking excellent beer. That night we decided to go crazy so we went hang gliding a few days later…

It was cool to see everything in the air and just enjoying cruising down. The last days Eefje and I spend walking along the dunes and beach near Farewell Spit where we both had the fantastic feeling of being the happiest person in the world. And we were: running through the sea, splashing each other, getting wet, laughing and just being very happy to have spend a month with each other in a lovely country like New Zealand. So saying good bye to Eefje was sad, but then again we felt amazingly happy with the previous month: thanks to Patrick who lend us his Van we truly had the most amazing time we could have had. So once again Patrick: Eefje and I are genuinely thankful for the Van. It would have been completely different without!


New Zealand is quite special; after Fall comes Spring. It’s great. Spring had a theme for Eefje and me: have a lot of ‘first time ever’. We saw penguins in the wild, we saw and heard avalanches, both snow and rock (quite scary), we’ve been in natural hot pools, we saw a massive glacier, well 2 actually, and Eefje was drunk for the first time ever (oeps sorry Eefje).

Anyhow, we did our third walk in beautiful spring weather; a three day hike to the hot pools of the Welcome Flat. Great hike and especially the reward of the natural hot pools were fantastic: you could jump in the nice hot water to refresh yourself after a sweaty day. Great! Eefje also tested my reflex skills several times: she almost fainted halfway the track on the middle of a pretty rocky area. Luckily I was walking behind her so I could grab her backpack and push her towards the side. Another time I was walking a bit further up the track when I realised Eefje was not there anymore. She got stuck on a landslide, meaning whenever she moved, all the rocks and stones around her moved as well: naturally going down. Eventually she got out by moving very slowly and holding on to me as soon as she could. Pure survival skills and a good story to tell later on…
After some nice walks along the West Coast, we did a really cool walk (Alex Knob track) near Franz Joseph Glacier. But unpredictable as spring can be, we had rainy weather and no views whatsoever. Except excellent views of New Zealand’s best clouds…but if you’re freezing, wet and cold, you just want to get down the mountain as soon as possible anyway…to have that well deserved coffee and hot chocolate for Eefje (even though Eefje doesn’t share my love for coffee she was quite considered for my addiction!)


In New Zealand after Winter comes Fall. Yes, it’s true. We had a wet day on a boat on a fjord or was it as sound…Anyway we got wet, soaking wet, but it might have been the waterfalls throwing as much water on us as they could…all together it was quite reviving. Our next hiking trip was quite challenging: we wanted to do as much in 2 days of the Caples and Greenstone track which normally takes for about 4 days or so. We did -the way I like to call it- the best out of both: we designed our own track, walked quite a lot of hours (8-9 hours a day) and since it was fall, we had wet undergrounds, a little bit of rain and lovely formed clouds.

After that we wanted to head via the West Coast more up north. But the Van wanted to have a pedicure (Patrick neglects him a bit, if you ask me…) so we decided that his current tyres were -as the petrol guy said it nicely- pretty dangerous and we got him brand new ones. But, same as with new shoes, sometimes you get blisters. So after a days drive we had to get them re-adjusted. If you wondering how come Eefje and I know ssooooo much about cars; well, the Van taught us everything. Filling air in the tyres, topping up the oil, Eefje learned how to get petrol (she doesn’t have a driving licence…), checking the water levels and just everything the Van wanted, we served for. As good owners, euh I mean borrowers do.


It seems such a long time ago that Eefje (my friend from Belgium) and I started our travels with our beloved Van (beware of the capital!) at the end of October. The Van, Eefje and me had enough time to get to know each other better; he told us all about New Zealand, his previous adventures and the good life. Eefje and I told him loads about our lives and it was great to catch up on everything which had happened in the last months.

While leaving Christchurch, heading South, our first day was beautiful: nice weather, great views of Lake Tekapo and were we genuinely screaming out ‘waaauuuuuw, look at that!!’ (well, in Dutch of course…). The second day we had horrible weather; loads of rain. Upon entering the small town of Te Anau where Eefje and I wanted to do the Kepler Track (4 days) we got the sad news that the track was partially closed due to avalanche danger and bad snow circumstances. Big disappointment, but positive as we all were (and the Van liked to have some unsupervised evenings in town…) we decided to go anyway, but only half way. Especially because the Department of Conservation (DOC) said it was going to be miserable weather all the way through, we were well prepared with loads of nice food and hot cloths. The next day we took off in the cold, freezing cold to be honest. And it was wet, and the track was pretty much going up the first hours…But still, the feeling you have when you get to the hut: great. And amazingly the sky cleared up and we had a magnificent view of the mountains around us! Since it was still really nice weather the next day we decided to ‘ignore’ the avalanche danger sign (sorry dad) and go up the mountain top. Snow up till our waists, hiking became falling and a snow fight was inevitable. The views were excellent and ‘worth’ the danger!
In the meantime the Van and we got on very well. If we weren’t hiking, we slept in the Van, just somewhere along the river or road or where ever the Van wanted to lay down his head and feet. We made dinners on a stove, we had nice wine (even the Van had some!) and only when the Van said we smelt too bad we pulled in for a shower at a camping site. Imagine how wonderful the showers are after one week without…just fantastic…

So far for the Winter episode…