Vines, Vines Everywhere, But Not A Drop To Drink...

Hey all,

So you can get an idea of the scope of what we were working on, here are some pictures of the Redbank Estate vineyard.

That's Baby G's head admist all the many vines...

And this was our view as we started each day of work. Hello 7am!

More thoughts from the vineyard

Well, if you've been willing to read any of this blog so far, maybe you're willing to read a bit farther. We've gotten some good feedback on some of the last posts, and we're waiting for some other people to sit down and catch up with what we've been doing over a glass (or bottle) of wine.

You should know that living with Barnsey was basically what Dizzle's place would've been like if he and Baby G had never moved in together. He's basically a good cook and pretty clean, but we don't think he was fully prepared for the stresses of having two Yankees as roommates for what ended up being two weeks. Props to you, Barnsey... we tried to stay out of your way as best we could and help out where we were able, but you handled it like a pro and are just as deserving of a vacation as anyone. The good news is, as we write this, Barnsey is in Auckland for a few days getting some R&R. Well played, Bro.

But because it was the home of a single guy, Baby G had her fill of "dirt men don't see". She took it upon herself, just to be more comfortable (and it was the least we could do) to tidy up and sort things out for us guys. All the credit in the world to you, too, BG. Nicely handled.

In return for Baby G's hard work both on and off the vineyard, we figured the least we could do was have more meat than she had ever been subjected to for every. Single. Meal. Lots, and lots, and lots of it. Seriously. We've been living off of steak, chicken, rice, fruit and coffee for two weeks. Dizzle commented yesterday, "I think in the last two weeks I've had more bananas than I ever did before, combined."

One of the final pieces to this two week excursion is something only a few of you know about. Our Kiwi friends have been made aware (we couldn't hide it), but everyone Stateside will be interested to see. A picture is worth a thousand words, but please allow Dizzle to preface the following montage with two comments. 1. It was hot. 2. Mom, it'll grow back. :)
Jake said Dizzle looks like a goat. But whoever said goats can't be punk-rock?? Not us.
Be good.


Give him a shot.

'Cause there isn't much else to do in Martinborough, New Zealand when you're not on the vineyard.

p.s. It's a cap-gun, Mom. Relax.

Back in Wellington

Well, we've made it back. And we're exhausted. We've decided, since there is a ton to blog about these last two weeks but we haven't had the energy, we're going to do individual posts regarding our trip. It should be okay, since we're not planning on doing anything for the next few days.

One thing we'd promised to write, in a blog post on which only Jake commented, was a dessert we had called Pavlova. What happened was this: Dizzle had been working on his resumes for a few days prior to this job opportunity, and Baby G had been working part time at the University to help make some cash for a trip to the South Island. Barnsey had approached us about doing some vineyard work, so we figured we should probably go. After all, it was free accommodation for a week as well as being something we'd told people back in the States we'd like to try. So after Leigh's birthday, we packed our bags and jumped a ride with Barnsey over the Rumetaka Hill back to Martinborough, where we'd spent a weekend before (remember TK Day? Same place). We think Leigh had a premonition that the coming week would be exceedingly difficult for us poor, soft Yanks, so she sent us along with a cookie tin and instructions for it's contents. When we were ready, we were to “flip it upside down on a plate, smear whipped cream all over the pastry inside, and top with passion fruit pulp, strawberries, and slices of kiwi fruit.”

We arrived in Martinborough with enough time to get settled in and relax. Barnsey told us we'd be getting up at 6:00am in order to get to the vineyard by 7, so we should call it a night early. Because of the timing, we needed to wait a day for the Pavlova.

The next morning, we got up and groggily showered and put on our Monday worst, anticipating a dirty day. We were right. Baby G spent the whole day counting vines, tying up those that had been windblown (so they stand upright for further growth), and weighing bunches of grapes that had already started to show. These statistics, in combination with data from previous years of the same time, should afford the winemaker a general idea of how much wine he/she will be able to make in the coming harvest. Dizzle, on the other hand, spent the day tying wire.
What happens here, in “netting the vines”, is that you are physically attaching spools of wire to the back of a tractor, running the machine along the entire row (the longest of which, on this particular vineyard, is 300m), and then tying the ends at ankle height on both ends. If you do this every four rows, you end up (later) throwing a net over the rows and tucking the edges under the groundwire to be staked down to the ground. Theoretically, this provides a canopy under which the plants of those four rows will still receive light and moisture, but birds will not be able to feed on the fruit they yield. At this vineyard, Redbank Estates (it's new – no need to google it), there are vines covering 25 acres of property (approx 35,000 vines!). It's small enough to only need 4 or 5 employees at a time, but large enough to insure a hot, dirty day for 4 or 5 employees at a time.

Tying the wire is an interesting thing. Barnsey had asked Dizzle the morning of the first day if his hands were “soft”. He replied, that by Kiwi farmhand standards, they probably were, even though he'd done manual labor in the past, and had calloused his hands up with drumsticks and guitars before. Good thing he said they were soft, because otherwise Barnsey wouldn't have provided him with the one, flimsy little cotton glove he had on site to help protect his hands. Why would his hands need protecting? We'll show you.

Right now, as you're reading this, get up from your chair and go to a closet that has hangers.

Grab one made of wire. If you don't have one made of wire because you are so uber-classy that plastic, metal or wood are the only way to go in your abode, go to one of your neighbor's and borrow a wire coat hanger, and then hang your head in shame for being such an elitist. Go. We'll wait.

Okay, having your hanger in hand, unbend it into a straight line. Again, we'll wait.

That done (right.), now tie it in as tight a knot as you can. Anywhere along the wire will do, but it must be a small knot, not much bigger than a nickel.

Now do it all again in 90-degree heat for eight hours until you've completed approx. 800 of them. Maybe that's an exaggeration. It only felt like 800. It was probably realistically closer to 1800. Our bad.

This is a good time to make two points: 1. We are not ungrateful for this opportunity. As you'll see, further in the blog, we made friends with some very interesting people in Martinborough, and solidified friendships we'd already started. This is simply the tone of the description of the first day because it was, in fact, a really difficult day. At least we had the Pavlova to enjoy upon our return home, right?

2. It's time for everyone to meet Chris.

Chris is a freelance vineyard worker. He is all of 5'5", and is more solid muscle width than height. Barnsey had told us he might blow up at us on occasion, and we'd hear foul language coming from his lips on a regular basis, but swearing is common in the restaurant scene in Washington, DC, as is getting yelled at, so we were unconcerned. As it turns out, we'd been mislead. Chris, though reminding us a great deal of this guy, ended up being a straight-up hard working guy, capable of waxing politics and music, but also just trying to make ends meet in an honest, ethical way. We took a liking to him immediately, as he was inspiring to us to 'get through the day working for the man'. It might be imporssible to keep in touch with him when we go back home, but we won't ever forget him, as he was a gem to work with and if any of you ever make it down here, we'd point you his way in a NY minute.

So the whole wire-tying thing was Day 1, after which Dizzle's hands looked like this:

Those are blisters. Seriously. Not trying to gross you out - just trying to paint an accurate picture.

After being so torn up (and Barnsey was sympathetic - he really felt badly, we think), we needed something to take our minds off the soreness. As has been an ongoing trend with this blog, the saving grace, the one thing that could heal all wounds and make everything better: Leigh's cooking. Hello, Pavlova!

...and let us tell you, it's really, really good. We don't know how it's made, as Leigh is keeping that a closely-guarded national secret, but it's main ingredient seems to be liquid sugar. We could've demolished it with three forks, we think, but ended up eating only half, knowing that we'd need the other half if Day 2 was anywhere near as hard as 1.

We emailed the above pic to Leigh with apologies that we couldn't find any fresh strawberries, but she said it looked like a 'classic pav' anyway, and we should be proud. :)

Over the next day or so, Barnsey took Dizzle off wire detail (showing him his hands did the trick - we think Barnsey was ready to boot all over the car when we showed him) and threw he and Baby G together on stapling. This involves using a hammer to secure the groundwire to every third post via staple. The first half was hard, but after we told Barnsey it'd be way more fun if we had our iPods, we started to get the hang of it, and probably could've kept stapling for a few more days if need be.

That seems like a good place to stop for now. Thanks for reading thus far. We are going to spend the next couple days blogging and relaxing, so keep those emails/comments coming. We miss you and have thought of you all regularly.

Until next time.


Two Quick Questions

1. Which was the better movie (or the lesser of two evils) , and why: Fight Club, or Pulp Fiction?

2. Is there anyone alive who really liked all three Matrix movies? Why or why not?

Thoughts from oenology.


Long week, short post.

Everyone, Dizzle here. We're sorry we haven't updated in awhile, but we are currently hard at work in the middle of nowhere 'netting the vines' for a vineyard. It involves a lot of hammering and tying wire and sweating. So we decided to stay an extra week to finish the job, natch.

Soon we'll be blogging stories and pictures you'll find interetsing (or not, we don't care). I've decided to preview them for you here so you have something to which you can look forward. I have also decided to post them in the fashion of the title pages from the old Bullwinkle & Rocky [sic] cartoons, because I am a bonehead and I fondly remember the little guy who would sweep up the rose petals after the parade.

~Pavlova (or: The Dessert that Sweats Sweet)
~Dizzle Fires a Gun (or: Give Him a Shot)
~Meat (or: Wanna Know What we Have When we Eat? Hint: It's Rare)
~Yum Chow Pt. II (or: Go Ahead - You'll be Hungry Again in an Hour)
~Wellington Hurricanes vs. Auckland Blues Rugby Match (or: Bloody Good Sports)
~Our Last Week on the Vineyard (or: Stop Whining)
~Ten Cups of Coffee a Day (or: Pressing On) (or: Slaving to the Grind) (or: Working Close to the Grounds) (I'll accept your own submissions for this one. Go ahead and percolate on it awhile.)

There'll be more. Thanks for humoring me.



Making wine.

We'll blog more soon. Right now we're recovering. All respect in the world to farmers, migrant workers, and everyone else who sweats through each day in manual labor.


Leigh's Birthday

Hi, Everybody, it's Baby G and Dizzle once again for another installment of "Kiwi Experience"! We left off not long ago, talking about our weekend in Blenheim, tending bar for the Blues, Brews, and BBQs festival. Well, this week, we are set up with gainful employment through the generous hand of Martinborough Beer and Ales once again, this time on a vinyard. We'll be gone from tonight (Sunday) through till next weekend, but we WILL be connected through the internet, so feel free to continue commenting and emailing away. We're really looking forward to hard manual labor directly under the massive hole in the Ozone Layer, as opposed to the searching-for-jobs-online-and-downtown bits that Dizzle's been doing this week, or the on-call-reception-but-not-air-conditioned gig Baby G has been doing a couple days this week.

But none of that is the point. We'll blog about that after the fact. Today, what you need to know is that yesterday was our flatmate Leigh's birthday party. She had been craving American Chili Cheese dogs for weeks since we moved in, and so the day before, Dizzle, Leigh and Jason all went to the supermarket to pick out the right hot dogs and fixin's. Leigh made homemade chili, and we managed to snag real dogs (not Sabrette's or Ball Parks - not even Nathan's, but comparible -- really quite American!), ketchup (as opposed to tomato sauce, which is what they sell here, and tastes LIKE ketchup, but isn't as sweet), and something called "mild American mustard", which is the mustard we're used to. The normal mustard here is really, really hot. Seriously. For a country that doesn't have that many people, and is self-sufficient with food and agriculture, the mustard here is like friggin' wasabi. Anyway, we fired up the grill around noon and proceeded to greet Anna & Steve, Andrew and Mandy within a few hours time. Along with the hot dogs, we had potato wedges, corn on the cob, and DONUTS. We really didn't skimp on the American stuff. Leigh had wanted an American BBQ, so we gave her one. We tried to explain to Jason that donuts were usually breakfast, not a side dish to hot dogs, but we figured, "hey, this is how it looks like Americans eat to the rest of the world, so why not try something new?"

In prep for the party, we saw our very first weta. A weta is a really big bug that is stupid and harmless, and apparently they're the national bug of the whole country, and there are a ton here.

Yeah. It's tough to think "Well, as long as they don't BITE" when one is crawling on your hand.

Anyway, we had a really great time in the sun, and it was really nice that Leigh was craving something that helped us to deal with any homesickness we might have had as well. For dessert, we had HOMEMADE ICE-CREAM SANDWICHES. Leigh has an ice cream machine. Sweet.

So that's pretty much that. A good time was had by all. We ate so much we all got sleepy and ended up making it a really early night. We capped off the day by watching DVDs of a show called "Bro'town", which is NZ's first animated primetime show. It's a Kiwi-cultured cross between "South Park" and "The Simpsons", and is very enjoyable and laugh-out-loud funny. We're hoping at some point to get a couple region-free copies or find a way to bring it to the States -- many of you would get a kick out of it.

Anyway, we'll blog more this week. We'll be tired, but happy and together. We are sending warm thoughts across the way to all of you, and hope everything is well. Please feel free to comment here or email us at your leisure.

Until next time, Peace.


Friends of ours.

I (Dizz) woke up this morning to an upsetting chat with my buddy Paul. Check this out. I can speak for Baby G (she's at work) when I say we hope everything works out okay with the insurance and whatnot. Sounds like he could use some friendly voices. I am urging people who read THIS blog to comment on that one and send support. Even if you've never met Paul... I am sure he and his wife Sue would appreciate knowing people from NY, NJ, DC, NZ, etc are sending good thoughts.

This accident (thankfully no one was hurt!) occured on icy roads in upstate New York. Kiwis, if you don't know what the environment is like there, think Nov. - Apr. like where Santa lives. What stung worse than knowing I was on the other side of the planet when I found out about this (and there is therefore no easy way to offer any kind of help) was that when I looked outside, I realized it's like 85 degrees and sunny today. Talk about your mental chickens coming home.

Today I continue to look for a job that I can start on the 19th. BG and I got set up working on a vinyard next week for the same cats (Andrew and Rona) we worked for LAST week. The price is right, and accomodation is included, so with guitar and computer in hand, we're gonna go do some hard, dirty work in wine country for awhile. We leave Sunday. Thankfully, not before

LEIGH'S BIRTHDAY! We don't know how old she's turning. All we know is that J&L's mates Andrew & Mandy, and Steve & Anna are coming over and we're all going to have...

...wait for it...

CHILI CHEESE DOGS! Leigh is a chef, as you know, so she's making chili (and ice cream for dessert) from scratch. BG and I are assisting in the purchase of sides, condiments, and the franks themselves, and we're going to BBQ all afternoon. We're really looking forward to it.

So we'll be accessible next week, but probably bruised and a little cut up, we'll see. There'll be more to come on here in the next couple days, as well. For now, we're fine. Tired, and a little sunburned, but otherwise happy. Please keep the emails and comments coming, as we miss EVERYBODY, and pretty much go through our roster every day wondering how each of you are. There are things happening in the States that we wish we could be around for (car accident recovery, foot surgery, wedding planning, etc.), so for those who wish we could be around as well, please know we're thinking of you and love you very much.

For those of you who are GLAD we're not around (Sebastien, Tom White, etc.), we're still over here on the other side of the pond, soaking up rays and laughing at the fact that you're probably at work right now. :P

Peace out.


Superbowl Monday (just doesn't have the same ring)

Bears touchdown in the first 14 SECONDS of the game!! This momentum would propel my team, the Chicago Bears, through the NEXT 14 seconds at LEAST!

...and then all 11 of them would trip and fall, make asses of themselves, and lose in what was really not a very good game of football to the Indiannapolis Colts. It was a travesty, but something I'm getting used to, as I have inherited all Chicago sports team loyalty from 3 generations back. Rev. J says it's not enough to have faith anymore, Chicago fans are running on blind hope now. White Sox fans don't count.

Here in New Zealand, we were denied both the Superbowl commercials, a constant source of amusement once a year, and the vocal stylings of John Madden, a constant source of amusement at LEAST once a year. We DID, however, get to meet back up with our good traveling buddy Ricky, who made it safe and sound back to Wellington after a week of trying to get his passport back and visa information sorted up in Auckland. It was really nice to see him, and we got to catch up pretty much all afternoon.

In addition, Leigh and Jason stopped by the game, too! It was great to be able to talk a little American football with them, and they were happy just to kick back, have a few beers, and learn a little about a holiday that most Americans celebrate but few other countries even know about. After all the rugby we've been watching lately, though, we have to admit, we were a little embarrassed by all the padding that gridders wear, the paychecks they receive, and how often the clock is stopped in any given game. I know that rugby and American football have been compared numerous times before, but I really think both Baby G and I are going to swing on the side of rugby on this debate. It's faster, more athletic, and BRUTAL. We're looking forward to having a 'team' to root for. I mean, cheer for. 'Root' here means something else. :)

The pub was loaded with Americans, wearing pretty much ANY football gear they had with them. It was nice to have a little slice of home for the few hours, and really cool to meet some new people who were there for the same reason we were. EVERYBODY was upset about the lack of commercials, and J&L had a hard time with the fact that we actually WANTED to view ads. I suppose that IS a strange concept. But we had fried appetizers and drinks, and made a cool afternoon of it. The way I figure it, most people don't have their team in the Superbowl every year, and half of the people who do will wake up disappointed the next day. This year, I happened to fall under the category of people whose team MADE it, but simply didn't want it bad enough. You know what would've helped? Ditka.

Today is Waitangi Day. It's a national holiday here in NZ that commemorates the signing of the treaty between the original native Maori people and the European settlers. When BG and I got up this morning, we wished Jason and Leigh a "Happy Waitangi Day", and realized almost immediately how inappropriate that was. Unlike America's July 4th, there is a lot of resentment still brewing over the treaty and what it promised.

Several of the drivers we talked to last week had been talking to us about a general opinion from many Kiwis that New Zealand is 'behind the times' for a first-world-nation. Many think the broadband is slow, or that certain etiquette, art, or pop culture trends have gone from 25 years old to 10 years old recently, but still, obviously, lagging. Baby G and I have noticed SOME of this, though not in very cut and dried terms, and many of the things that some Kiwis feel is lagging is actually an improvement over what we're used to.

That said, there are rat-tails here. Mullets, too. And, everyone, the tendency of the frat-boy dude-bro to pop the collar of his polo shirt UP before going out for the night is JUST GETTING HERE NOW. God, help us.

The reason why I digress, is to make it known that NZ is a very young country. Because the European settlers came so much later than when the US was discovered, there had already been huge advancements in technology and government. By European standards, it wasn't that long ago at all that the treaty was signed, giving the Maori 50% of the land in New Zealand, and the Europeans the other 50%. Because all of this has happened within the last 150 years or so, however, the Maoris have a voice here.

It would be like, if Native Americans had been saying all along that the reservations we were forcing them onto was a bull%^*& deal, and they had congressional representation to back them up. In the States, we are able to hear the plight of the Native American and acknowledge that they got the short end of the stick, but there is no real CURRENT discussion of reparations. African Americans, too. Here, however, it's really cool to see this in action. Statistically, the Maoris seem comparable to many of the African American or Latino population in the States: higher poverty levels, unemplyment, drop out rate, etc. The thing is, when compared to the Native Americans, they can still fight. They have 6 representatives in the government, and every year on this day a great debate occurs that puts the issue of reparation front and center in most people's minds. Imagine if all of a sudden, there were 6 seats in the US government reserved SOLELY for different Native tribes. They'd have a national voice. A leg to stand on. Airtime. Funding. Popular support.

This is not to say anything would be done about it. There would be legal wrangling for generations to come, and it would probably never be sorted out; the mistakes of our great-grandfathers. But at least the argument's there. It is NOT being ignored, and NOT being swept under the rug.

All day long today on TV they're airing documentaries on Waitangi Day and Maori history. There are free concerts and parades, and employees working today are making time-and-a-half for the trouble. There will be some riots, and some fights as well, as this is not a very "Happy" holiday at all.

It breaks down like this: Many years ago, white people came and relegated the brown people to live where they told them to or be shot. We've forgotten that in the States (except maybe on Thanksgiving where we watch teams with names like the "Redskins" play), but this story has two sides to the coin. The great thing about New Zealand is, we get to see, in real time, during THIS generation, what both sides look like and which one will be head's up when it's finally flipped. Most people are hoping it'll land on it's edge, I think. If only ours had, too.



New YTMNDs...

Scroll down for fun New Zealand happenings, but for those of you interested (Kevin, Patrick, Skippy and Agne primarily - but all are welcome!), I've made 2 new YTMNDs. You can access them by clicking on them on the right. Just under "Buddies/Fun Stuff".




Blenheim Weekend

So after a couple days of blogging and resting up, we took off early Friday morning to make our way to The Interislander. The Interislander is an enormous ferry shuttling people, cars, and cargo back and forth between the North and South Islands.

At the dock, we met Rona, a Scottish woman with whom we'd be working this weekend. The truck she was driving full of kegs and bar whatnot got loaded onto the ferry and we set sail for the South Island at 8:30am.

On board there are bars, cafes, a movie theatre, and lounges, all to make the three hour crossing pass by a little faster. The view from the boat was spectacular, especially once we got closer to the South Island via the Cook Strait and Marlborough Sound.

We drove to Blenheim, where the "Blues, Brews, and BBQs Festival" was to be held, and arrived on site to find that the tent, that was supposed to have been set up, was not. Rona suggested having lunch at a winery to pass the time and wait for Andrew. -Andrew owns the Martinborough Brewery for which we were working. His plane, we soon found out, had been overbooked, and he was bumped to a Saturday morning flight, meaning WE would have to set up the bar inside the tent... the same one that was, you remember, not yet erected.


We ate, we got to know each other, and we laughed. The winery had a really good chef and really nice wine, and we figured, hey, as long as there's a solid afternoon of manual labor ahead of us, we might as well have lunch in the sun on the Boss' dime, right?

We got back on site about 2 hours later, and found the tent was, in fact, being set up as we stood there. We unburdened the big blue truck of it's 10 kegs, 3 taps (w/ refrigerator), tablecloths, posters, t-shirts and other various tavern-related bric a brac. It reminded us of being back home in DC, only without the drunk people. THEY were not far away, either.

Rona, who is, in our minds, getting cooler by the minute, tells us we're getting a hotel. We naturally grabbed the first one we could find, where we preceded to watch rugby, clean ourselves up, and order Domino's Pizza.

The next morning, Rona went to get Andrew from the airport, while we put the finishing touches on the booth. Turns out, our site was right next to (Seriously, like 20 feet from the main stack) the #1 music stage at the festival. So picture this: Here we are, two American tourists, getting ready to pour $4 beers from a LOCAL BREWER with a Scottish woman, all the while trying to decipher EVERYTHING from EVERYONE over really really loud blues music. It was surreal, to say the least.

(Rona in our tent. Martinborough Beer and Ales!)

The festival itself is exactly what you'd think by it's name. There was a lot of food, plenty of microbrews (and some big guys too!), and people were getting their groove on to blues music. In addition, many people came in costumes in an effort to win the "Best Dressed" competition. The musicians were better than those at TK Day, we thought, but the effect by the end of the day was the same. It's just a worldwide thing:

Drunk Middle-Aged White People Dancing Always Equals Funny.

There. We said it.

Made it through without a hitch. Following the event (which we left as deftly, and DEAFLY, as possible), we went to Andrew's parents house for dinner and accommodation. It couldn't be beat. There was a spread the likes of which we had not seen in quite some time, complete with chicken, roast beef, gourmet jams, mustards, and spreads, along with cheeses and veggies. We thought it'd be rude to ask for a "to-go" container or Tupperware, so we didn't, but we really wanted to.

(Martinborough's Finest, Andrew "Barnsey" Barnes with us outside our tent at the beginning of the day, when we were all still energetic and smiling)

A word about Martinborough Beer and Ales:

It really is very good. -I'm not getting paid to say that. The microbrews that Andrew has made are refreshing, complex, and the different varieties provide people with plenty of choices. We've told him to get a website. As soon as he does, we'll link you up.

Not too much to report today. Andrew was with us on the ferry ride back to Wellington, and he taught us a little more about both rugby and cricket (the former is increasingly great, the latter is still increasingly complex), while we shared with him American politics and football.

Got back safely this afternoon, with plenty of time for internet catchup (has Bush blown us up yet?) and emails ("Dear Fractured Prune..."), and, of course, sleep. Baby G has her first day at the new job tomorrow, training for a few hours in the morning before she is officially and on-call receptionist at Victoria University of Wellington. Dizzle needs his rest, too. The Superbowl is tomorrow.

We'll be watching the game and thinking of you all. We hope everything is going along swimmingly and we've been thinking of you often.

An update soon.



A Week Away, Part VIII -- The Journey Home (Conclusion)

We hope you've enjoyed reading about our weeklong exploration of New Zealand's North Island. This is the last entry for that week, but if you'd like to see how we got here, you can catch up by clicking the links below:
Part I -- Part II -- Part III -- Part IV -- Part V -- Part VI -- Part VII

Day 8

There was some debate as to whether or not we should blog this part. Dizzle said "Yes", right away. Baby G was a little more apprehensive as it involves doing something that, though perfectly legal here in NZ, is frowned upon for good reason back home. We decided collectively that if you've been following along for the last few posts, we couldn't just abandon the story at it's conclusion and have it end while we're in Auckland. We mean, we had to get home somehow, right?

We did it in one bus, one train, and a half dozen different cars. Here's the story:

We woke up at Robyn's place bright and early. We scarfed down some toast and hit the road, meaning, we walked across Auckland. -Auckland is not a small city, and we had some HEAVY packs on our back, so we reached the bus station a little after 9am. We bought two tickets to Huntly, a small town just South of Auckland. Why, you ask, did we buy bus tickets to this tiny town? --Because it's easier to hitchhike from there. (Sorry Moms and Dads)

Huntly was our destination to hitch from, but our first surprise of the day occurred when our bus driver DIDN'T STOP in Huntly, but continued on. "Do we say something?" we wondered. We didn't. We decided it was a freebie, and as we were on a shoe string budget, we continued Southward, to Hamilton. Hamilton is the third largest city in New Zealand, and decidedly more difficult to hitch out of. -We didn't quite know that at the time.

From the bus station to the outskirts of town, took us about 2 hours to walk. Our packs, as mentioned, were heavy. -And getting heavier every minute. We decided that the grassy patch we were on was as good a place as any to stick out our thumbs. And thankfully, we didn't have to wait too long for the first car to pull up.

Driver #1:
A sleek, black BMW cruised up next to us, and a young guy wearing sunglasses got out to clear room in the trunk (or "boot") for our bags. His name was Ian, or Dwayne, or Andre, or Bryce, or Ethan or something. We couldn't tell. But he was a friendly, talkative bloke, who'd quit his job a week prior and was on holiday. He gave us some pointers on hitchhiking (number 1 being, that where we'd been standing was apparently a terrible place, and he took pity on us dumb Americans) and drove us from Hamilton to Tirau. He dropped us at a good pull over spot for cars, and we had to wait all of 10 minutes for...

Driver #2:
A middle aged woman in an Audi pulled up and told us to hop in. She was in the mood to chat, and told us about herself. A former life coach, she peppered us with questions about what we wanted to accomplish in our lives, and the positivity was bubbling out of her. She works with refugees from Africa now, and her husband was going to be on television that night. The funniest point with her was when we were slowed down by a logging truck (you must understand - NZ's biggest Highway is two lanes, one going North, and one South. You slow down behind logging trucks. And buses. And steep hills.) and we spotted another going the other way. It boggled her mind that they couldn't organize that better since it's, you know, LOGS. We couldn't disagree. All in all, a lovely woman. She was kind enough to drive us to Taupo. Her hotel was on the north end of the lake, however, and walking UP out of down meant walking with our pack the entire length of the lake. It's a big lake. So, slightly baffled, we decided to do what anyone with the hike ahead of us would do: We sat down and ate lunch.

Driver #3:
45 minutes later, and full of PB&J, we swiftly got picked up by a kind old man and his tiny little puppy in a silver hatchback. He asked where we "fellas" were from and how far we were going. We told him, "All the way South. To Wellington if we can." He told us it was getting late but good luck and that he'd drop us off on the south end town, where the kph limit goes back up. We thanked him profusely. He let us go right by the road that leads to what we're sure it a very small airport. It was pretty rural, and we could see the clouds coming off of (and the rain, in the distance, pouring onto) Lake Taupo. We had a plan for if it hit us, and we were pretty sure it would in about 10 minutes. We walked about 50 yards from the shoulder, and put on our raincoats. Then we dug the tent-tarp out of the bag, and had it over our heads just in time for the first really heavy drops. We laughed for the whole 20 minutes. It's was a little cheesy. But the sun came out shortly thereafter, and it didn't take long before we met...

Driver #4:
Michael, from Switzerland, pulled up in his rental car, and told us he could take us as far as Turangi. It wasn't a terribly long drive with Michael, but he told us he was still a little jittery, as he had just finished an afternoon of skydiving. He dropped us where he turned off, to explore one of New Zealand's many national parks. Again, it wasn't a long wait (we were VERY lucky on this hitchhiking adventure) before we were picked up by...

Driver #5
We couldn't tell you his name, because he never told us. But the Czech fellow in the passenger seat, named Pavel, said one sentence during the trip: "I need to get to Christchurch as soon as possible." Our driver was an aging hippie, who was driving home from having seen a rock concert the night before. (The same concert that Robyn, our hostess in Auckland, was at) We drove through the desert road area with them without speaking, listening to Santana. Our driver was headed to Carterton, away from State highway 1, which WE wanted to stay on. However, Carterton was a hop skip and a jump from Wellington in a roundabout sort of way. We had to decide whether to travel with them or jump out at the junction between SH1 and Route 54. We opted to jump out since the sun hadn't set yet. With any luck, we could get a ride to all the way to Wellington with our next ride. It was either that, or pitch the tent in some cow field and wake up for rush-hour, because the sun was going down. This was at about 8:00. Fortunately, the heavens opened up, and up to us drove...

Driver #6
...who was on his way back from "Parachutes". We assumed he was into skydiving. Instead, it is this. He was driving to his home in Upper Hutt, and was willing to drop us off at the train station on his way. As we are sitting here typing this, we have no idea what to write about this guy. At one point in the "conversation", he told us his interests are: Lord of the Rings, astronomy, computer games, and church. Though he was not pushy regarding any of these, he was "that guy" (see description above). He needed us as someone to talk to so as not to fall asleep, and we... well... we REALLY wanted to fall asleep. The whole time. We persevered, however, and managed to stay completely (mostly) alert for his entire monologue that managed to last ALL THREE HOURS. We are neither annoyed, nor resentful, because this was a kind man who was willing to give us a lift MOST of the rest of the way home, so please don't hear that as the tone of this paragraph. We were, however, very sleepy, and not mentally prepared to answer the question, "How could you not have ever heard of Dave Dobbyn?" Not from a guy doing us a favor, anyway. About 130 years later, on the way to the train depot, he stopped to show us a quarry, which, though now closed to the public, was where they filmed the Battle of Helm's Deep in LOTR2. In the dark, it looked like a big rock wall with a fence in front of it with a sign on it saying we weren't allowed anywhere near anything but the view of the big rock wall. So we got back in the car and we made it to the train station in time to catch the last train to Wellington, followed promptly by the first taxi we saw to Kilbirnie, to home. We got in at 11:58pm. Not bad for a day's work.

It was a long, strange trip. During the last two days that it has taken to write this, we've been able to relax, unwind, and start to prepare for the upcoming weekend. Also, this afternoon, thanks to Jason, Baby G got a job at the University. It's a casual, on-call reception job, about 2 days a week, leaving time for other opportunities.

We leave tomorrow morning for the South Island to bartend in Blenheim for a festival. There will be many more stories, we're sure. We just wanted to remind you again (Moms and Dads) that we're SAFE, we'll continue to be careful, and you woulda done it too. :)

Love to Everyone, be safe, and we'll see you with more tales after the Superbowl.

Baby G & Dizzle

A Week Away, Part VII -- The City of Sails, Reprise

We're almost done with this story, and the end is pretty good. You may, however, want to see what we've done thus far this week. You can check it all out here:
Part I -- Part II -- Part III -- Part IV -- Part V -- Part VI

We needed to return the piece-of-crap Toyota by 2:30, but we made it with plenty of time and, though it almost ran out of gas ("petrol") once on the way, in one piece.

In Auckland, it was a city-wide holiday. Much like national holidays in the States, NZ tends to let each town have one, and we were returning the car on what's known as "Auckland Anniversary Day". Steve's daughter, Robyn, was earning time-and-a-half by showing up for work on a holiday, and we were crashing with her that night, so we needed to kill some time before she got home. We did so by having a really nice lunch in Albert Park, right by the University, and reading by the water while our towels dried.

Robyn met up with us around 6pm, and showed us her lovely home she shares with two other flatmates. All three of them had plans for the evening, so we were free to make ourselves at home. Some warm dinner and warm showers revived us to plan for the next day. But a wrench was thrown in our plans when our phone rang. Our new friend, Cali Brian, was calling to inform us that he could no longer give us a ride South to Wellington. ...Cue the scary music... We couldn't fault the guy, since he had the opportunity to go skydiving. With no planned way to get home, we decided to get to sleep early and see what happened with the sunrise.

...more to come, but first -

Robyn, and her dad, Steve. Robyn, thanks again for letting us stay in your home. It really helped us out!

...to be concluded...

A Week Away, Part VI -- Cape Reinga & Points South

"Previously, on Baby G & Dizzle's Kiwi Experience..."
Part I -- Part II -- Part III -- Part IV -- Part V

...Our camera failing quickly, and without a way to charge it, we plugged on at a decent clip to make it to Cape Reinga by 10:30am. This is the northernmost point in the whole country, and it is where you can see the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet.

There is more to the Cape than the fact that it is simply the most north a person can go by road ("road" being relative -- that last 10 miles are little more than gravel).

At Cape Reinga interest always has been focused on the small promontory and, more particularly, on a certain pohutukawa tree which grows out of its eastern side. According to ancient lore, this was final departure point for the spirit of the Maori. It was said that the spirit, after travelling up the west coast to a spot a few miles south of Cape Maria van Diemen, continued overland to the western end of Spirits Bay and eventually reached the pohutukawa tree. There it descended the roots and entered the sea. (This tree is reputed to have been in position for about 800 years and is said never to have blossomed.) The spirit surfaced at Manawatawi (the Great King Island) and, after a farewell look at the land of the living, descended again to the depths and continued its journey to the other world.

It had been quite a long week, and there was only one more thing to do before heading back south: We wanted to hit the two shorelines in one day, either to sunbathe or to swim. Here are the two pictures of Dizzle coming out of the water, "Baywatch"-style:
After swimming in the Tasman Sea.

After taking a dip in the Pacific, one hour later.
At this point, the camera died, so unfortunately, the last two days will be mostly text.
We had a brochure showing a cheapy campsite near the Mangawhai Heads. It was about a 1/2 hour off the main road, but the price was right, and we needed to put some ground behind us (plus, hot showers.), so we hightailed it South and made it before dark.
Here, Baby G had a rough night's sleep, and only managed to score about 3 good hours. Dizzle, on the other hand, got a whopping 5 or so, as sleeping in a tent for a week can really bruise bones you didn't know could bruise. Oh, and it rained all night, too.
...to be continued...