Heaps of Sheep

Heaps: (adj.) a lot

We read an article in the paper the other day announcing proudly that while New Zealand has been the butt of jokes for years because of its 40:1 sheep:human population, that population has in fact halved and now there are only 20 times as many sheep per people in New Zealand. The fact that this was a headline in a national paper, may be self-defeating.

We had heard that in New Zealand there were more sheep than people, but after seeing factory farms in the US that fact didn’t seem too surprising. Undoubtedly if they can fit tens of thousands of cattle into a square mile, then it shouldn’t be hard to surpass a population of four million people spread out over two islands. But here in New Zealand factory farming, feed lots, and corn-fed cattle is unheard of. “What do you mean you can’t find grass-fed meat where you live? What else would cows eat?” asks our friend Lisa. Not surprisingly, “spray-free” fruits and veggies are also much easier to find here. The things we take for granted in the states. When did “conventional” foods become the ones that require the most sprays, shipping, processing, and corn?

Here are a few photos of our six hour bus ride from Hamilton to Wanganui, where we will be house-sitting for 9 weeks. We rode almost the entire length of the north island and passed endless miles of fields with sheep and cattle grazing. No doubt, millions of sheep and cattle grazing happily, and not one feed lot.

Dodgey Transport

Dodgey: (adj.) sketchy, questionable
(n.) transportation, in our case mainly bike, bus, and hitch-hiking

Dodgey Transport I
I haven’t had much luck biking in New Zealand. Nelson says that, like many other things, a large part of being a good biker is having confidence. On our first three bike rides I got a flat tire, a flat tire, and broke a derailleur. Setting out for our fourth bike ride you could definitely say that my bike-confidence wasn’t at an all-time high, but I’m not sure that it would’ve affected the outcome of this story.

We were biking down Victoria St., in Hamilton, and came to an intersection. We were at the front of the intersection and a city bus was behind us. In Hamilton the city busses are called “Go Bus”. I’ve since come up with some better names for them (like “STOP! Bus” or “Go to hell Bus”).

As we pulled through the intersection there was a car parked on our left. The bus driver decided that we weren’t going quite fast enough and wanted to pass us. Unfortunately she tried to pass a bit too close and side-swiped me. My bike ended up under the parked car and thankfully I did not end up under the back wheel of the bus. I wasn’t hurt much, just some scrapes and bruises and sore muscles, but my bike confidence is shattered for the moment.

Dodgey Transport II
On Friday after filing a police report, which hopefully will lead to the bus company repairing the bike, Nelson and I headed to Raglan. Matt and Sylvia were nice enough to offer to drive us there. Knowing their time-management skills we should have been wary of the offer from the outset, but since Raglan is only about a half-hour drive from Hamilton we thought it would be nice. Thrusday night Matt and Sylvia left us a note saying we would leave at 10 am, and we told our next wwoofing hosts, Phil and Bernadette, we would be there around noon, leaving plenty of lag time.

When Matt and Sylvia didn’t wake up until 9:30 I wasn’t too surprised. When we were packed and almost ready to go by 11 I was actually impressed. But then Sylvia suggested we eat some lunch before we left and I thought “Oh no, here we go”. Lunch involved making avocado smoothies and more juice. I called our hosts and changed our arrival time to 2pm. We did get on the road a little past noon and to make a long story short, after stopping to buy avocados, getting a guided tour of Raglan, stopping at two scenic overlooks, passing Solscape once, visiting an organic farm, and chatting with a very cool Maori farmer, we made it to Solscape.

It was a good lesson in patience. I tried to meditate. When Sylvia got out of the car for the sixth time I cursed. I thought about how my sister would approach the situation and took the more civil route. In this case I suppose the transport wasn’t dodgey, just my attachment to timeliness.

Dodgey Transport III
Raglan is absolutely lovely. The town is cute. The ocean is beautiful. Solscape is great. Although we were looking forward to avoiding transport for a few days, when we arrived we found that our room here was a refurbished train car. Sooo cute!

It was about 5pm once we got settled and Phil told us we could have the evening off. After our last two stressful days we decided that we could use some wine, and were upset that we hadn’t thought of it during one of the many stops we had made that day. By our estimates town was only about 2-3km away, so we decided to walk in.

Apparently we underestimated. It took us about an hour and a half to walk down. We had brought headlamps and so we weren’t too worried about walking back in the dark, but it was going to be a long walk. We picked up some wine and food for the next few days and headed back up to Solscape. Raglan was a nice hippy town, and traveling with a big strong guy made me brave enough to try to stick out my thumb. The first three cars didn’t stop. I was mentally prepared for the hike back up. My feet were hurting. But the fourth car was a little hatchback with a case of beer in the back driven by a blonde-haired angel named Cam. Funny enough he was doing his masters in the psychological and social studies of waste. I don’t think he knew that he had inadvertently picked up his best potential case study in Nelson. Cam lived just a block away from Solscape and dropped us off at the bottom of the driveway. Turns out that hitching was the least dodgey of all of our transport experiences this week.

Would you like a carrot for every day?

Would you like a carrot for every day? – Sales pitch from a four year old boy with glasses holding three bundles of carrots. Sorry dude… in this house we are not lacking for produce.

For the time being Nelson and I are wwoofing. This week we stayed with Matthew and Sylvia King in Hamilton. They are lovely people who are extremely generous and also happen to be raw food eaters and urban foragers. You can read more about that on The Emperor’s New SUV. The nice thing about wwoofing is that if you are an able-bodied person you can travel all over the world and work 2-5 hours a day in return for room and board. The able-bodied part is what is currently missing out of my equation.

Its worth noting that the winter in this part of NZ is much like February or November in the north east in the states. Every day since I have arrived it has been cold, rainy, and miserable. There are bits of sunlight that come through now and then that are keeping me hoping that other forms of weather actually exist on this island.

In the rainy weather Nelson and I have been helping Matthew and Sylvia with their tree-crops business. We have gone to two farmers markets:
And dove into an ocean of kiwi fruit at a local orchard:

Room and board at Matthew and Sylvia’s consists of living in their camper van with full use of their house with internet and hot water, and joining them in their raw food ways. Since I generally still have the eating habits of a five-year-old, I assumed that I wouldn’t enjoy this part of the experience. But, I’ve tried everything offered, and although we are rebelling a bit and cooking dinner in the evenings, I have to admit that the green juice isn’t as scary as it looks. And the huge amounts of fresh fruit have been awesome (although Nelson nearly killed us in the camper van the other night with the byproduct).

Anyhow, all of this running around in the rain, combined with 3 days of travel has left me with a nasty head cold. So today, while Matthew, Sylvia, and Nelson headed out to an orchard for pruning, I stayed home with a list of housework to tackle. Chore #1 – Juice these mandarins:

A Flash Arrival

Flash: (adj.) Fancy, stylish, cool

Q: How do you transport 200 lbs of luggage half a mile in 15 minutes using only human power?

The first few days after Dani’s arrival have been a bit hectic. On Wednesday we stayed at Earthsong eco village in Aukland and went to bed at 6pm. The next day after barely making the train and then barely making the bus we left Aukland and headed down to Hamilton. It’s alarming to wake up out of a daydream and find that you’re driving on the wrong side of the road… not the wrong side, the other side.

“I wish we had a picture of that tiny hotel room from Hamilton” –Dani
“The fact that it was tiny wasn’t the weird part of that room. What’s weird was that the only outlet was inside a cupboard and all of the old men living in that hotel.” –Nelson

For the next few days we will be staying with Matthew and Sylvia. You can get a little preview of what that will be like by reading the latest post on The Emperor’s New SUV.

I need a plonk!

Plonk: (n.) A cheap bottle of wine

Yes, I should be in New Zealand by now. Yes, Nelson and I should have enjoyed that wonderful moment where we frolic across a field with dreamy music in the background and embrace after nearly two months of being apart. But no. Instead I am currently being embraced by the smells of McDonald’s and Taco Bell in the international terminal of LAX. 
I wont go into all of the gory details, but suffice to say that American Airlines has proven itself again as the least reliable airline… or I suppose most reliable in the sense that three out of the last four times I have traveled with them I have gotten delayed some place overnight, and the fourth time I was simply delayed for 5 hours before take-off. Yesterday I was offered the wonderful choice of being delayed in Dallas overnight with no hotel, or returning, after a round of emotional goodbyes to my parents house. I chose NJ. So this morning without any expectations of actually leaving the country today, I set out for EWR again. 
So far, after a 3 hour delay on the runway in Newark due to what was legitimately the most intense thunderstorm I have ever experienced (can’t blame AA for that one I suppose), I have made it to LA. Hooray! One step closer to becoming a Kiwi! I’m leaving fast food heaven for the bar I just spotted, and hopefully the next time you hear from me it will be from the far away continent of Oceania.

A Wally Undertaking?

Wally: (adj.) foolish, silly

I leave for New Zealand in a little over 24 hours. I had trouble sleeping last night, so its only fitting that this first post fills you in on the million things going through my head as I prepare to move half-way around the world (Although half-way around the world is a misnomer, because once you’re half-way you start coming back again). So here are the top ten:

1. Seeing my baby.

2. Leaving my babies.

3. Did I pack too much?

4. Did I pack enough?

5. The fam.

6. The other fam.

7. How big is a kiwi bird?

8. Are there really robots that rap in binary in New Zealand?

9. How did Joshua beat Katie and Twitch?

10. Oh yeah and those little details of…where we’ll live/ what we’ll do/ how long we’ll be there/ where we’ll work/ who we’ll meet/ how we’ll earn money.

We will try to update this blog as often as possible and will post tons of pictures and stories from our travels.