Thursday, February 26, 2009

and it's blueberries again

so i've finally made it back to some farm stuff-this time in upper hutt just outside of wellington-and doing some things with blueberries again. no complaints here. they have a little cafe where people come on the weekends for blueberry pancakes, sundays, sorbet, muffins, and pies as well as pick your own. it's cute and there are going to be lots of other woofers here in preperation for the martinborough fair next weekend (apparently the largest in the southern hemisphere) including mary who showed me around this afternoon. she left being a private chef in both n.y. and london to come over here and bake 75 pies in a week for the blueberry farm. they have a ton of blueberries here, extensive orchards, and it's lovely and calm and so much sun. there is a dog named frodo and a herd of un-named ducks and chickens (except for one extreemly well dressed and slightly mad looking chicken who has been named dumbledor) and a swimming hole. i think it ought to be a nice relaxing break for hustle and bustle type of stuff. and one two busses a day and perhaps a ferry when i'm lucky. we'll see.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

escape from the cold cold south

and these are the remarkables. covered in clouds and completely un-seeable. i left the south island behind last night, after two days of travel, and two weeks of bad weather. i have now unwound my scarft and taken off my little mittens that i desperatly made out of sox when my fingers became too cold. the travel was spent mostly asleep or half asleep. i had to get up at seven and six the past two mornings and corral all of my pocessions into my backpack and consider dragging a comb through my hair and deciding it wasn't really worth it and putting a hat on instead. a lot of time has also been spent comiserating on the discomfort of traveling by coach, with my reflection in the window. seeing lovely scenery pass by swiftly, and the windows all covered in rain. i've pretty much figured out the most comfortable ways to sleep when you have both your seat and the one next to you. and i've also developed a routine of switching sides of the bus with each trip so i don't get neck problems. but i have made a really nice batch of trail mix ( or tutti fruitti as it's called by the swiss) which i've been bringing with me, and i've learned what to avoid when the bus stops for 'comfort breaks' and there is a little cafe. the chips/fries/wedges while they always smell like a good idea, never taste like it, and have most likely been sitting under hot lights for several days, which the hot chocolate, though accompanied by the obligatory two pink marshmallows, is not too bad, and warm.
but enough about busses/coaches and travel. i am in wellington, capital city, windy city (after chicago of course) it's time to wander and do some laundry and find some neat cafe in which to have lunch, preferably containing bacon. and then tomorrow it's off to the farm again, after so long. in upper hutt (supposedly a suburb of wellington) and something involving pancakes and blueberries so it can't be too bad right?!
p.s. since it was requested by several people, here is a picture of me, smelling the roses. see i don't look any different.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

and again with the rain...

so i made it to queenstown fine, slogging through rain to to the hostel after hours on the bus from dunedin, with cramped feet and a growling stomach. the hostel is situated right on the late which would be lovely, such a nice view of the mountains, however the remarkables (aparently the only range running north/south other than the rockies) are not so remarkable wreathed in clouds so that you can barely make them out. the lake would be beautiful so wide and clear and littered with cute little black ducks which approach you eagerly in search of crumbs, if it weren't raining steadily with a strong wind blowing. i did have some lovely spicy indian in town upon arriving and that helped to calm my frustration but it has been a challenge to be in queenstown, adventure capital of new zealand and possibly even the world, and have to sequester in the lounge watching 'small soldiers' on vhs to keep from getting pnemonia out in the cold. there will be no jumping out of things or off of things, no shooting down rivers, riding gondolas to soaring heights and spectacular views, no tours, no boating, nothing adventureous at all, except how many times i can microwave the same pizza and still consume it.
my biggest salvation is that there is an amazing chocolateirie called patagonia which an enormous hot chocolate that they can make with either chile, ginger or lavender, and free wireless. i have visited them twice already and plan to sample every flavor of fudge they can create. so although it is summer here (and the peak season prices reflect that) it doesn't feel like it. i will weather the cold and damp in hopes of warmth and sun and the allure of wellington and working at a market making blueberry pancakes. and atleast there are the oscars tonight to distract me further from the frustration of being so earthbound in a place so renound for it's gravity defying possibilities.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

max and the chocolate factory

went to the cadbury chocolate factory today. there were two silos full of chocolate (27,000 tons) and we were walking through the factory seeing them pop out 20 kilo blocks of industrial chocolate (like for catering and resturaunts) and they had a one ton chocolate waterfall that splattered all over the place, very awesome looking but then they told us that it wasn't a functional mixing technique it was just for the tours, that they used the same ton of chocolate for a year and then switched it out (and since it wasn't good for anything much they made it into bars they sold to australians...!). but the whole place smelled so good, made your mouth water just sniffing the air. aparently they take on a whole third of their staff seasonally for the easter production period (june through january). and according to the tour, six months worth of chocolate takes one week for new zealand to consume....impressive really. that's about it for the day, plus various wandering and noodling around in galleries and shops. it was very very cold and has been for about a week so i went to a local op shop (thrift store) to find a sweater (no reason to pay alot when it's likely to get tosses once it gets warm and i don't feel like carrying it any longer) and there were three students from the local university filming a commercial which involved togas and someone in their underwear and i'm not sure whatelse. it was pretty funny. and tomorrow it's to queenstown. the adventure capital of the world.....

hmmm... christchurch

well considering that it's the biggest city on the north island it's not that impressive, christchurch. i must say i appreciated that there were many things to do for free, but after two days i was completely out of things to do.i went to the botanical gardens (great rose garden, i smelled each one, and the ducks were so cute as they harrased you for bread crumbs, so unabashed) the christ church cathedral, the art center (used to be the canterbury college, all gothic revival and full of shops, eateries, artist studios and a movie theater-where i saw slumdog millionare which everyone should see, and love- lost of different opportunities to buy jade and bone fishhook pendants, kiwi body lotiona and sheep shaped chocolates among other things) the canterbury museum (the bird section was awesome, all the taxidermied birds in their intricate painted environments), the christchurce art gallery (a really cool white themed exhibition and some work by local young artists) and the contemprary art museum (the coolest show of contemporary german childrens book illustrations, but they didn't actually have the books they were exhibiting there, but they had other books, which was odd and confusing) and the best things was that ALL of these things were free, and they only asked for donations which worked for me cause i really don't like to be forced to pay exorbident amounts to see art, and i prefer to choose how much i wish to donate depending on how much i got out of the musuem, how long i stayed etc.
but after a day and a half (and only that long as i was hampered and slowed by the almost constant rain and drizzle which forced me to be ducking into shops every few minutes to shake the raindrops from my hair) i had seen everything and some things twice, and tested a great many sidewalk cafes and it was time to move on.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

the train

i took the train yesterday. the transalpine (so named for the apparent similarity between the terrain it traverses on it's journey from greymouth to christchurch and the alps) took a bit under five hours, which is longer than it's supposed to be but there is construction on the way and the train was forced to slow to a near crawl on several occasions. i don't know what it is about trains but i think they are my favorite way to travel. it's certainly nice to be able to take photographs with out a glass reflection in the way. i am always distressed when travelling by coach, that the driver doesn't pull over repeatedly to allow me to photograph the amazing landscape which is being passed by so swiftly.
so as not to miss any chance of a good shot i spent almost the entire time on the open air observation car. at times it would crowd, like when we passed through the mountain over a series of soaringly high bridges suspended precariously over gorges boasting pitufully brief rivers which will grow in winter, and through a pattern of sixteen tunnels in quick sucsession, there were people squeezed into every corner of the car, peering over other's heads in hopes of getting a photograph if possible. it was like the scene in the last pirates of the carribean when they are running from one side to the other of the boat, because there was really only a photographable view on on side at a time, so everyone would crowd to one side, and leave the other empty and abandoned, only to swarm over to it a minute later when the tracks curved and a stunning vista was now visable from that side. stocky middleaged men wore their enormouse cameras (with zoom lenses) around their necks like metals and the little kids could barely see over the railing. the mountains created by retreating glaciers looked like someone had carved them out of the clay with thier fingers, patches of forest looking like velvet in the density of the trees, with planted timber forests standing out precariously from their fellows in their uniform rows. the clouds were high and almost shiny in their whiteness and the sky was ridiculously blue.
after almost four hours spent in the open air there was a line of grime showing where my sunglasses had been, my hair was tangled beyond recognition ( it took forty minutes to comb out and i washed it twice to get all the soot out). i think i swallowed a bug while smiling into the oncoming wind but it was one of my best bouts with land travel thus far in this country. everything looked so wild and rich. saturated in color it was impossible to look away.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

the center of new zealand

weirdly enough the country of new zealand which is made up of two main islands, has a geographical 'center' and it's in nelson. i don't know i f they include the water and this is the middle if you were to measure from the top of the north to the bottom of the they include stewart island? the whole thing seems strange. but it's a quick (all up hill) hike and there is a huge white sculpture sort of like a finger pointing to the plaque on the ground which reads "this is the center of new zealand". well the view was magnificent anyway. and there were really good clouds today.
i was on the bus this afternoon when school got out in the late afternoon and there was a crowd of school aged kids all vaguely uniformed and chattering excitedly. they were all very polite and sort of ninetys feeling. a little grunge/emo but generally looking pretty scrubbed. and as if they all turn in their homework. i could draw one of two conclusions from my time observing them (about a half hour): either there arn't any bad kids in new zealand, or the bad kids don't take the bus.

Monday, February 9, 2009

'wow' should be 'wam'

well i just returned to my hostel from the wearable art museam (also in nelson but it's a city of a sprawling nature) and am intensley frustrated about my lack of studio access. it was fascinating and incredibly inspiring and i so think i need to enter this thing. look it up, it's fantastic and crazy. a word about neslon busses (and drivers): there is only one bus, and it goes in a loop about every hour (times look like 3:30, 4:35, 5:20-it's inexplicable and slightly weird but nevertheless, i don't question it) and you give your money to the bus driver who has a cash register next to his seat, and he asks where you are going and then gives you appropriate change. unfortunatly i didn't get off at the right stop so when it was suddenly only me on the bus and i looked sort of confused he turned to me and asked where i was headed and when i told him he told me i'd missed it but then instructed me to get off at richmond, wander around for a little bit and then be at the bus stop on the other side a half hour later to get the bus headed back towards city center and the museum. he also gave me a note which he wrote on a scrap of paper for the bus driver, saying that i was not to pay, and where to let me off. i did as i was told and was shown where to exit, and told exactly which way to walk to get to wow, though it's simple, the footpath is interspersed with yellow arrows saying "this way to wow". there was also a gluten free bakery at the bus stop which i figured was a good sign as well. armed with a blueberry muffin i made my way to the museum and it was a stunning display. i was warned you need about two hours and this is accurate, though there weren't as many (for lack of a better word) garments as i would have liked (as in every single one) but there was a vidio as well, showing all the past winners, and part of the show, which is a dancing/singing/lightshow extravaganza to say the least. and the peices, were awesome-tastic. the picture here is of one made all out of recycled baby clothes woven together. there was a warrior costume made out of leather feathers, some out of paper mache, one entirely old piano sheet music, they were extraordinary, and baffling and so great. and on the walk back to the bus i detoured through a tunnel under the highway where there was geometric colors painted and someone had tagged 'me'.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

return to the sunniest city

sorry for not writting from french pass, but the internet situation was a bit dodgy and i had to buy wireless time but for some reason my ipod can't deal with the blog or something...i've got no answers. it's a mystery. anyway, the french pass was lovely if ridiculously isolated, there wasn't even milk at the little store by the campground because they couldn't get any in from rai valley, it being too far away, so lynn (my host) kept half of her second freezer (or chiller or crisper) full of bags of frozen milk. it was quite impressive the amount of food they had stored up really. two freezers and three refrigerators (not counting the ones in the guests rooms). they could have servived forever, plus the garden. they did feed me quite well though i was not that excited about the work, maid really is what i was, and the wwoofing is supposed to be farm stuff, learning to do new things not making beds with perfectly crisp corners (which i can in fact already do). but it was serene. i would sit on the beach every afternoon when i was dismissed from my housekeeper duties and walk the ten feet to the beach where i would sit and read until i got very hot, and then i would go for my daily swim, to the bouy and back a few times. i was warned that the water was cold but to me it felt like bathwater compaired to mendocino. after the first day and the dolphins nothing very exciting happened.

i found a bird skeleton outside my caravan and i think it was a weka which made me a little sad as i've begun to get rather fond of them. wekas, are midsized birds looking sort of like a chicken/duck cross with a very emu remeniscent head movement. they don't fly but they do hop and flutter, and prefure to take the most direct route to whereever they are going, even if it means walking over or through something. they are also very curious. i went into my caravan to get a sweatshirt and one had wandered in behind me through the open door and was nosing through my dirty laundry on the floor. they make a racket when defending their territory from eachother (the noise they make is the only way to distinguish between males and females) and they are so dim and trustworthy that they are very easy prey to any sort of predetors including dogs and housecats, which they are roughly the same size as. this has led to them being equally dwindling in numbers as the famed kiwi birds, at least on the north island. i chase several out of the garden yesterday. they like to peck at everything and leave a trail of devistation in thier wake. i caught a younger one that had wandered into a corner and gotten confused. it as warm and it's heart was fluttering fiercly under my fingers. the next morning i found a single pristine tail feather on my doorstep.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

yes it's true

well i could die happy now. i have made it to the very isolated and remote french pass (look it up on google) after a rather strenuous three hour drive on a trecherous dirt road and felt a bit as if i had wasted my time getting here. yesterday i was sitting on the beach reading a book after my work was done (cleaning rooms at the rather generously named french pass resort-generous in that it has just three rooms) and there were some shouts from the pier, a few people had spotted dolphins swimming into the bay. i walked up onto the pier, looking out at some kids paddling around in kayaks and wishing i were prepared, wearing a bathingsuit or something. and i watched for probubly a half hour as they froliced in the water, and some of the people at the neighboring campground put on snorkel gear and went in with them and wishing i were in the water too, and as they started drifting toward the pier i stopped wishing, realized i would regret it if i didn't, and jumped.
yes it's true. i jumped off a dock and swam with dolphins. people pay loads of money to do this at places like marine world and i can see why but it was spectacular cause it wasn't a trip or a tour and i didn't pay anything, except about two dollars in change that was in my pocket and my left contact, and there they were. one swam right under me and as i was turning looking for where they had gotten to another two lept out of the water in unison right next to me. they were only a handspan away. it was baffling and amazing and i just can't think of any descriptive words that would do the experience justice. yes, i was weighed down by jeans, which are not easy to swim in might i add, and yes my teeth were chattering and i wasted the shower i had had an hour previously but i swam with dolphins. they came up to me. i looked one in the eye. they are beautiful and not as solid grey up close as they appear from a distance but patterned and with very distinctive fins. and so beautiful. i only wish i could have gone underwater with them. and the water was so clear and not that cold, it was colder to be out in the air in wet clothes. and i felt drunk with excitement unable to stop saying wow.
i would do it again in a heartbeat. and i have decided to wear my bathing suit under all my clothes while i am here. just in case. you never know.