Back for round 3! The time has come for me to update this cyber diary of mine – apologies to anybody that was counting on more regular updates (I’m not sure such people actually exist – aside from my parents). Since I last checked in, much has happened.
After a week of work in Nelson, my coworker Khat and I stayed the weekend at a backpackers lodge (the common term for a hostel in these parts) at a much lower cost than we would pay at a hotel. While the rate was great ($35/night) you definitely get what you pay for. Two nights of tossing around on a paper-thin twin bed and using community showers/bathrooms had me ready to return to the comforts of my apartment in Auckland. Aside from my diva-esque lodging struggle, the weekend was awesome. During the week I became acquainted with the Warehouse, a discount retail store selling all things clothing, outdoor furniture/equipment, electronics, etc. – basically the New Zealand equivalent of a Wal-Mart. Ill-prepared for a weekend of outdoorsy activity (thanks to a 5am wake up call Monday morning and only partial packing taking place Sunday night – 7am flights are brutal!), I sought out the offerings of the Warehouse to fulfill my tramping/hiking and kayaking needs. Bargain of the century alert: for about $20 I got a cross shoulder strap, All Blacks (NZ National Rugby team) backpack, and a t-shirt w/ hood that reads “The Sky’s the Limit” – inspiring the title of this post – across the chest. When I wear the shirt, and I’ve worn the sh*t out of it since I got it – it appears that I am wearing a sleeveless t-shirt with the hood and short sleeves underneath (full disclosure: it’s all stitched into one piece fabric masterpiece). I also scored a neon green over blue fleece vest and some blinding white ked-dish (definitely not a word, but these things were hideous and reminded me of Keds, only cheaper (they can be yours for NZ $5) shoes. I think once I realized I was going to be buying an outfit for the weekend and didn’t expect to wear it much more than that I was oddly attracted to the idea of piecing together the most atrocious getup that I could. I am confident in saying that Khat would tell you I succeeded in this mission. Saturday we drove up to the base of the national park, Marahau, and embarked on a 3.5 hour hike/tramp along the coastline of the Tasman Bay that ended in Anchorage Bay. The sights were yet again incredible all along the way with the track providing several opportunities to walk down to a beach or sit on a bench at an amazing vantage point and chill out for a while. Our great reward came at the end of the hike when we were provided spectacular views of the Anchorage Bay. This was arguably the most beautiful place I have been thus far – competing with the island stop during our Bay of Islands boat tour.
Khat and I water taxied back down the coast of the bay to Marahau and drove back to Nelson for the night. Early the next morning we packed our bags, bid farewell to the “comforts” of our backpackers home and drove to Kaiteriteri for some kayaking. This was the culmination of my Warehouse preparation and my time to strut my stuff in my new getup. I received a lot of interesting looks when we got to the beach where we met our kayak instructor, including some less than flattering comments from said instructor (can’t say I blame her). After walking down the beach to where our kayaks were we met the other two people that filled out our kayaking crew – a couple from Ireland whose names now escape me. I do remember that the gent’s nickname was Chief. Chief and his lady were friendly and made for good companions for the relatively short route. First and foremost our instructor told us that footwear was unnecessary – somehow adding more shame to my Keds purchase. I believe this was my first time kayaking and other than some minor foot discomfort, it went really well. We were in two-person kayaks and I rode in the back, functioning as both a paddler and the one responsible for steering our vessel. Both Khat and I did more than respectably hold our own in the open sea (*Note – this was labeled as kayaking for beginners) and enjoyed the sight and story of the Split-Apple Rock, the focal point of the day. After returning to our take off point, we got back in the car to head back to Nelson where we enjoyed a sunny afternoon complete with a lazy couple of hours on the beach before heading to the airport. I should mention that I opted to not change clothes and traveled through both the Nelson and Auckland airports in my flashy outfit. The awkward stares came in masses.
After the most comfortable night sleep I’ve had since arriving in Auckland, another work week greeted me bright and early Monday morning. While I was away for the weekend the remaining secondees arrived in Auckland (one more in the audit practice – a guy from Texas who brought his wife and two in the Business Advisory Services group including one from Melbourne and a guy from my firm’s STL office). Tuesday night we went to dinner as a group and became acquainted with one another and Wednesday we went to a comedy show that was part of a two-week comedy festival that takes place in Auckland every year. That Friday we ducked out of work a touch early and embarked on a journey to the country’s northeastern peninsula, Coromandel, where a coworker has a bach house (kiwi for vacation home) in a town called Whitianga (pronounced “Fitty-Yanga, go figure). All of the secondees, including spouse, made the trip and two Staples Rodway coworkers joined us. The weekend was a great way for the group of us 8 secondees to quickly develop relationships and get to know each other better as well as learn more about our kiwi hosts. On Saturday we went to a place called hot water beach where certain areas of the beach are heated by geothermal pockets – literally creating hot water amidst very cold ocean water. Myself and the gents went for a dip in the ocean and lasted about 5 – 10 minutes before frigidly darting back to dry ground. A crude game of cricket followed shortly after. The Americans, myself included, were playing a crickety form of baseball and getting a lot of amused/head-shaking looks from people walking by. That night we indulged in a traditional kiwi barbecue, which was very comparable to what I would call a grill out. Actually it was a grill out. I refuse to diminish the sanctity of the word barbecue and the spiritual and holy meaning that goes with it (I MISS YOU JOE’S KANSAS CITY). Sunday we went to a beach called Cathedral Cove – named for the rock formation that comes to a point a la a cathedral. This required a 30-minute walk from the car park (parking lot), once again offering some stellar views along the way. While the weather wasn’t outstanding, it did clear off by the time we headed back allowing for some solid photo ops.
We got back into Auckland Sunday evening and I was grateful that my schedule had been rearranged for the next two weeks so that I wasn’t flying out to Sydney at 7am the next morning. While the free travel, lodging, and meals would have been a really nice and cost effective way for me to see the city, the client was going to be a little more challenging than what I was looking for and the early morning would have been extremely rough. This past weekend in Auckland was pretty tame with the weather not doing us many favors. Myself and the other secondees further bonded over adult beverages and some local nightlife while also brunching it up today and making plans for our big trip of the secondment that awaits us this coming weekend: Queenstown. When you ask kiwis what to do and where to go while in New Zealand, the first place they say is Queenstown and when you start researching what the city and area have to offer, you quickly find out why. While we haven’t fully crystalized our plan, the weekend is shaping up to be nothing short of incredible. Friday marked the midpoint of my work exchange – I am still stunned by how quickly the time has passed. I have no doubt that the second half will be just as amazing as the first half of this incredible experience. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store – the sky’s the limit!
Oh yeah, one more thing: GO ROYALS!!!!!