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blissful independence

Yesterday was a day for stress. Today was a day for sunshine and utter relaxation. When last I wrote, Andreas and I were somewhat stranded, but we had hope for work at a zucchini farm in Kerikeri. This is what actually happened…

 

Andreas bought a car, so instead of taking a bus, I was able to ride with him. However, I had to help him buy car insurance first. Let me explain a little bit about Andreas. His English is very poor. I have gotten very good, over the last couple days, about speaking slowly and clearly and using words and phrases that my German friends will understand, so he had me making phone calls for him, and he used me as a sort of translator at the insurance office. This is all fine with me. He is very sweet and fun and very attractive, plus he is saving me money by giving me a ride. He also turned out to be extremely co-dependent. I could not take two steps without him right next to me asking, “you haf a plahn? vot is yuor plan? vot vill you do?” It became quite clear that he wanted us to travel together permanently, which is fine, except that he has very little idea of how to get around. He wanted to drive from Whangarei to Paihia using the secondary roads, without a map. Yeah. I was doing all of the planning and arranging – all of the business, essentially.

 

Driving up the coast was gorgeous, of course. Everything here is gorgeous. My brain has started to disbelieve my eyes when they take in yet another vibrant green hill or pristine beach. The two of us stopped at several points and just laughed and laughed and laughed at the ridiculousness of this country. Does nothing unattractive exist here? The drive was slightly hair-raising, again. Damn crazy German drivers. Andreas likes to talk with his hands…this tends to take priority over driving with his hands.

 

Paihia became the destination, twenty minutes south of Kerikeri, because it is in the Bay of Islands – beautiful turquoise waters, 150+ islands, blah blah blah, the usual (the usual!! I have been here for five days – FIVE – and already this is “usual”). I had plans to spend the night in a backpacker's lodge and spend today calling around for work, and Andreas, well, he was going to do whatever I did. The lodge had free kayak rentals! Free! There was only a half hour left in which to kayak (before the office closed), but a lovely Japanese man, Dai, offered to go with me. We sprinted down to the beach with the kayaks, and plunged into the water, paddling like mad for a small, green and rocky island about 100 yards from the beach. Oh, oh, oh…wow. I was ecstatic. Dai was very kind and humored me, but I imagine he thought I was somewhat of a ditz. Anyway. Gorgeous. Live mussels clinging to rocks just below the surface that one can pluck off and bring back to land for dinner. Huge sailing yachts moored in the bay. Paihia is a huge tourist town (huge tourist attraction, small town). There are six hostels on the main street alone, and dozens of touring companies that offer parasailing, fishing, extreme sailing (a catamaran that goes 30 knots), trips to the islands, and more. I am finding that I am traveling through the north at the ideal time: it's still spring, so the tourists aren't out and about quite yet, but it's late spring, so it is sunny and warm and all of the various attractions are in full operation.

 

Today, I had the difficult task of sending Andreas off on his own. I know it sounds awful, but I just couldn't keep traveling with him. This adventure is about independence, not taking care of someone eight years older than me. So I decided to stay another night in Paihia, and Andreas drove north to Kerikeri to look into the zucchinis. Today was also the first day that I did not travel anywhere or make any plans, and it was wonderfully relaxing. First I sat on the beach and wrote. There is something incredibly joyful about WANTING to write. All summer I slacked, but this morning, I could hardly wait for Andreas to leave so that I could sit alone and write.

 

Later, I walked with Dai and another German girl, Katarina along the coast to the Waitangi (Why – tang – e) Treaty Grounds (http://www.waitangi.net.nz/indexx.html), the place where the Maori and the British signed the treaty that gave the Maori sovereignity over New Zealand. We saw a huge Maori war canoe (it requires 76 warriors to maneuver and power it), carved from the trunks of two kauri trees (think sequoia-size), and also the famous Maori meeting house. It is meant to represent a powerful ancestor: the ceiling beams are the arms, the eaves the fingers, the peak of the house is the backbone, and a tall red carving at the front is the face (like a totem pole). Intricate designs, all carved in wood and decorated with the creamy, colorful insides of shells, so that each carved representation of various spirits looks back at you with eyes like pools of water with oil spilled on top.

 

The rest of the day was spent making plans. Where do I go next? The answer: WWOOFing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). WWOOF is a network of organic farms around NZ (and the rest of the world!), where travelers who are also WWOOF members can stay and volunteer their time in exchange for free room and board. Tomorrow I will catch a bus and go to Kaitaia (K+eye – tie – ah), directly west, where I found a WWOOFing farm close to Kaitaia that will take me on for a week. I won't earn any money, but after the bus ticket, I won't spend any, either. I'm not sure if I will have access to the internet, but I'm ready to go work on a farm with animals and plants and to be well fed for free. I can live without the internet for a little while. So you may not hear from me for a bit – we shall see!

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