I am now in New York! This post is a bit late, I actually wrote it while I was sitting in a Japanese restaurant in Auckland, blowing my last New Zealand dollars on a nice meal – edamame, beef tataki , tempura udon and a beer of course. I will just leave it as it was and post about NYC later – favourite quote of today was when  I walked past a tough looking woman who said to her friend in a hardcore NYC accent “You don’t wanna fuck with an Aussie girl”. Damn straight.
My last post was completed in Napier – my time there was short but sweet – the farm owners had told me about ‘the Wine Experience’ at the Wine Centre in town (Hawke’s Bay is one of the main wine regions in New Zealand), so I went there and tried some red wines. The ‘experience’ started in a Scent Room – a room with 52 smelling stations showcasing the most common tastes and smells found in wine (including some of the non-preferred ones such as ‘horse’, which made me grateful I’ve never had the misfortune to drink a horsey bottle of wine). It was really enlightening (I never knew what the hell people were talking about when tasting wine)… I then went into a tiny theatrette by myself and watched a movie explaining the wine region’s features and showing videos of the winemakers tasting the wines and explaining the bouquet and palate etc. It was a pretty cool thing to do on a rainy day and I bought a nice syrah (or shiraz as we Australians know it). After that I wandered around the city looking at the cool Art Deco buildings – Napier was virtually destroyed by a major earthquake in the 1930s and when they rebuilt the town it was the style of the time.
Next I was back to Taupo for a couple of days – I did not attempt the Tongariro then because of my cold, but it did give me the chance to get some custom-made footbeds made for my hiking boots – sweet! My Kiwi Experience schedule then started again with the bus taking me to River Valley, a remote hostel in an amazing gulley, surrounded by rugged farmland. I had a good night, though the ‘vibe’ was different to my first bus with the people not as outgoing. I went horse riding which was fun – I hadn’t ridden a horse since I was a child and I have to say that cantering up a hill surrounded by rolling fields and hundreds of cows was pretty great. I learnt a new way to ride – ‘harness’ as opposed to ‘bridle’, which made me feel like a friggin’ cowgirl! During the night someone ate my food from the communal fridge which made me feel annoyed and confirmed my suspicion that there were some assholes lurking on my new bus. I did meet a great dude with whom I hung out for a few days in Wellington – we climbed Mount Victoria, explored Te Papa museum went to a comedy festival gig  – generally keeping each other company which was really nice.
After he left to continue his ventures south, I further explored Wellington which is the arts capital of New Zealand. I did some good op-shopping as well as making some more expensive purchases, like a new pair of high-waisted skinny leg black jeans yay! I was in a bit of a bad mood for a couple of days in Wellington – people from my recruitment agency in the UK were not getting back to me and were offering me really poor pay rates, and I was a bit unsettled after my less-successful second bus experience. My ex/friend called to listen to my woes and basically helped me vent, and afterwards I called the UK and told them I wasn’t happy… which resulted in someone contacting me straight away and organising a higher pay rate! The squeaky wheel gets the oil indeed. The girls in my dorm were lovely and together we caught the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens, de-briefed about boys/men, did a full-day Lord of the Rings tour and went to a late night comedy festival gig that resulted in me being pretty hungover as my time in Wellington ended and I caught the Kiwi Bus back North. 

Kelly and I reenacting a scene from The Lord of the Rings at the actual shoot location on Mount Victoria, Wellington

As I was standing at the bus stop someone cried “Jill!” I looked over and saw two members of Team Filth (the name of the pub quiz team on my first bus), Tom and Chris. They are basically two best friends from a place called Peterborough in the UK, and are probably two of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. We’ve spent the past 4 days together moving through Taupo and Rotorua, and I haven’t stopped laughing the whole time. We did the Tongariro Crossing, which is a 19 km alpine hike across a mountain range… it’s cold and you carry your own food and water for the 8 hours you are on the hike (if you don’t finish in 8 hours you miss the last bus back to Taupo which is about 70km away). The first hour and a half is the hardest, with the notorious ‘Devil’s Staircase’ having to be tackled to get to a significantly higher altitude (one of the rare areas with a man-made staircase). One of my friends powered ahead as he has extensive climbing experience, but I had to stop after virtually every set of stairs to catch my breath and let my legs stop burning. One of the guys stopped with me every time (kind of needing the break too tough not as much as me!), but at one point I felt like I couldn’t go on (I mistook part of Mount Doom for one of the slopes we had to climb up before finishing the staircase). As he said, I got a bit melodramatic and told him to go ahead without me and that I might turn back. He basically wouldn’t go ahead and wouldn’t let me turn around, correcting my mistake about how much further we had to go… and I sucked it up and kept walking. I swapped my large stupid man-size backpack for one of their smaller ones because my neck was starting to hurt and my hand was tingling, with the boys insisting on taking the heavier things out of my backpack on top of that. It was such an amazing experience and I was so proud of myself for getting up there and so thankful to the guys for looking out for me. I kept offering to take my pack back once we got to level ground and they just wouldn’t have it. Completely lovely filth machines.

Frosty ground on the Tongariro 

Amazing view around an hour and a half from the end of the hike

Which brings me back to now… sitting in the restaurant and planning my catch-up with the group of people studying in Auckland tomorrow. I will be flying out in the afternoon to New York City… awesome!

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