5 thoughts working in a (kiwi) pack house leaves you with.

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After a week long search for a pack house job, Aongatete Cool Store, north of Tauranga/Te Puke employed me! The 9-hour PM shift (5.30pm -2.30am) I did (intermittently) for the span of 3 weeks left me with so many million gazillion thoughts. I’ll attempt to encapsulate my emotions to the best of my ability so that you can have a clear picture as to what you can expect if you end up doing seasonal work of any sort EVER.

  1. As easy and mundane, brainless work appears to be it’s actually far from easy. Standing 8 hours on your feet is no joke at all. Each ticking second makes you discover how each muscle in your body can sing different tunes.
  2. You begin to wonder what your life has come down to and if watching kiwis dropping into cardboard boxes are all that you can ever be responsible for.
  3. For the first time in your life, you ACTUALLY look forward to an alarm sound – signalling break/meal time.
  4. You probably have experienced technology failing on you before and have tried cursing in a million different languages for miracles to happen. But, while working at a pack house, machines breaking down is akin to God answering your year long prayer. The joy when you stop hearing the grind of the machines is unparalleled.
  5. The opportunity to sit each time you answer nature’s call feels like you just won the lottery. The peace, quiet, serenity you enjoy even if it is for a mere 3 minutes is heavenly.

As painful as life was for the 3 weeks, I can never be more thankful for the chance I had to make some money before I continued the rest of my adventures while travelling down the rest of North Island. So, I hope I have given you enough inspiration to find work in a pack house. 😉

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Listless days in the Kiwi capital, Te Puke.

After 2.5 months spent WOOFING and travelling around the top half of North Island, I ran out of money. *Surprise, Surprise (NOT)* Bulk of the SGD5000 I brought along, went towards the purchase as well as unexpected repair costs of my Toyota Estima, which ended up being not so cheap after all. Being down to last few hundreds, felt mostly slightly worrisome.

It was 1 April 2015. We had a good lunch at Good Neighbour at Hamilton (thanks to Grabone), and drove over 100km to Te Puke – the kiwifruit capital of the world. We drove right to East Pack which is one of the bigger pack houses in Te Puke hoping to gain employment rather easily now that kiwi season had just begun. However, we were told to fill up application forms and that employment might happen only in 2 – 3 weeks time. We decided to keep our spirits high and rang up a couple of other big pack houses in Te Puke instead of driving down. Apata, Seeka and Trevelyan’s did not have any sort of a good news for us, as well. We cooked ourselves dinner and called it a day hoping for better days ahead and with more luck in terms of employment.

The second day in Te Puke was spent in Te Puke Library which was home to more foreigners (backpackers) hunched over laptops finding employment than locals. Having no luck with pack houses, we decided to look towards finding fruit picking jobs. As the next day was a public holiday, most leads we had was only resuming work in 2-3 days time. After nearly a full day of searching to be able to start kiwi picking work the following day. We expected to be able to survive with this picking job for a couple of weeks before we heard back from the pack houses. However, that wasn’t the case. A full day out picking in the orchards left us beyond smashed and we didn’t think we could last any longer. As simple as kiwi picking sounds, it is actually serious, tough labour. We earned a total of NZD150, inclusive of holiday pay for the 8 hours of work we did. Unfortunately the pay wasn’t going to be credited to us till next week.

Just as we begun work, which ended up being rather short lived, we started paying rent at an apartment in Papamoa Beach, which was relatively near to where our kiwi picking jobs were supposed to be. Thankfully, the rent we paid was only for a week and was rather affordable (NZD 100/week). We spent the rest of the week trying to keep our spirits up, exploring Tauranga and desperately trying to find some work at the pack houses.

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

5 things do in Hamilton!

Going back to where I left off with my NZ adventures brings me to Hamilton. Hamilton quite easily became one of the few towns in North Island which I grew to like and saw myself living in for a while. Perhaps doing helpx in a lovely home added to my enjoyable days in Hamilton. Thanks to Linda and Carys and not forgetting, the wonderful meals I had cooked by Linda. Here’s a couple of things you can do when in Hamilton and maybe, you’ll love the town just as much as I did.

1. Wander around Hamilton Gardens

Coming from a person who is not huge on gardens, trust me Hamilton Gardens is a must go! It’s quite surprising it’s free as the the variety of gardens it boasts is pretty extensive. Its perfect to spend a lazy day just wandering through and having a picnic there.

2. Head down to Waitomo Caves

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When someone mentions glowworms to you the first thing that pops to your mind would probably be Waitomo Caves. Thousands of glowworms call these caves home and light up the dark tunnels with the most magical light show.

3. Visit the Waikato Museum

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Waikato Museum is nothing like the TE PAPA museum down in Wellington but, nonetheless, it boasts some interesting exhibits as well as provides you insight on the history of the Waikato region. And, entry is free so why not?!

For more information: http://waikatomuseum.co.nz/

4. Get lost in Middle Earth

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Situated an hour away from Hamilton, Matamata is a must go for all Hobbiton movie fans! Tours start from NZD 75. I am not a fan at all so I gave this a miss. But, I know of people, heading to North Island just for a tour here.

5. Dine in the Good Neighbour

Good George Dining Hall is worth a visit for it’s brewery. But, unfortunately, it was closed when I went down hence settled for having a quick lunch at Good Neighbour before leaving Hamilton for the kiwi capital – Te Puke!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Up, up and away.

Taken at Balloons over Waikato, Hamilton

We lay sprawled out on our picnic mats and laughed over cheap wine.

Snapped pictures of the colourful light show before our eyes.

Enjoyed the music that lit up the night sky.

Prepared our wishes for when the balloons started lifting of the ground.

A few minutes later, we realised the balloons were not being flown.

Fireworks display came on.

We kissed and bade our goodbyes.

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Catching sunrise from North of Northland! 

It was a surreal morning. Driving slightly over 60km to the north most point of North Island – Cape Reinga. Swapped our flip flops to sneakers, pulled our jumpers over, held hands and chased the sun.

Moments later, after the sky lit up for us, we watched the clashing of the Tasman Sea with the Pacific Ocean. It felt like I was standing right on the line where the earth was clashing before me. For Maori, these turbulent waters are where the male sea meets the female sea. The whirlpools where the currents clash are like those that dance in the wake of a waka (canoe). They represent the coming together of male and female – and the creation of life.

Next up, was sandboarding at the Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes which was about 15km away. Apart from the struggle to climb up the sand dunes, it was fun! There is a mobile shop for board hire just next to the carpark. If I remember right, boards are about $15 each to hire.  Do note there is a fair bit of unsealed road driving before you get to the dunes.

Running along the base of the sand dunes is the famous Te Paki Stream that leads to the Ninety Mile Beach. We tried our luck to drive on the beach but due to tide conditions, we were told we had to wait another 2 hours or so. We didn’t have that much time on our side so we decided to make a round in the stream and head back down towards Auckland.

And with that, our 8-day Northland adventure comes to an end! Next up, was B’s birthday celebrations in Auckland and then hello, Hamilton!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

The day I got locked out of the car.

Continuing the Northland adventures, we drove north from Paihia towards Cape Reinga stopping at Kerikeri town in the morning. Kerikeri is the largest town in Northland and is well known for its horticulture and farmer’s market. We stopped by the Old Packhouse Market and visited the Mission Station. This station is home to New Zealand’s oldest surviving building – the Stone Store and Kemp House.

Just after lunch we set off from Keri Keri and headed towards Matia Bay. It was a DOC campground site with a scenic view, which seemed to be a perfect pitstop to cook ourselves some dinner before heading up further north to call it a night.

Fuelled ourselves, had a drink, laughed with the wind in our hair, ran a cold shower in a toilet with no door and set off towards Rarawa Beach Campsite. The idea was so that we’ll have just about 60 more kilometers of driving to be done the next morning before we catch sunrise from Cape Reinga – New Zealand’s northern most tip where you witness the Pacific Ocean meeting the Tasman Sea.

Note: For freedom campers (like me), picking up a copy of a DOC brochure at any I-site would be your best bet in guaranteeing yourself a peaceful night of sleep without the worry of a district council officer knocking on your car window at 7am and leaving you with a $200 fine for illegal freedom camping. 

All seemed to be going fine and under control, despite my wariness of driving after dusk sets. It was slightly after 10pm when we pulled into the rather deserted campsite. There was no one except for a family of about 5 huddled around a picnic table under a huge shelter. We stepped out of the car with just a torchlight, no phones, just a torchlight to find our way to the toilet before heading to bed. 5 seconds after stepping out of the car and slamming the door shut, I realise my friend slams his door shut as well with the key left in the ignition holder. HOW.VERY.SMART!

Time Check: About 10.30pm

Temperature Check: 17 degrees

Attire Check: T-shirt + Shorts

Freezing our asses off from the cold, we walked over to the Mauri family to use their phone to give Automobile Association (AA) a call to come and rescue us. The hour long wait for AA was spent trying to laugh about the situation with the family who ended being our life – savers and of course, counting our lucky stars we bought AA insurance. I CANNOT imagine what would have happened had we been the only campers at the campsite that night.

I slept that night so very grateful that the universe had somehow conspired for us and smiled knowing I now live to narrate this adventurous travel story to everyone back home. 🙂

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Northland explored #1!

It’s been two full months since I left Solosingaporean unattended and cobwebs have been starting to grow. I finished the rest of my North Island travel two weeks back and decided to head home for a while (at least till the end of the year). New Zealand, I’m definitely coming back for you! There is still so much left for me to see and explore. A lot of my heart is still there, so let me spend my rather free days reminiscing and sharing all my travel stories.

The first stop out of Auckland was exploring entire Northland, all the way up to the Northern Tip, Cape Reinga. But, before starting our journey on the road, we spent 5 days at Sandra’s wonderful beachfront home at Waipu. Our timing was rather unfortunate as the drive from Auckland although relatively short (120km) was through the heart of Cyclone Pam. Road conditions were terrible with certain sections of the road blocked due to a massive accident and we encountered a flat battery after driving about 80km north from Auckland. After all the misadventures on the road, settling in the comfort of Sandra’s home with a cup of hot drink and some dinner reminded me how grateful it was to feel alive and safe.

     

When in Waipu region, Waipu Caves is a good place to stop to have a good glowworm experience for free. Entry to cave is wide but the grounds can be muddy especially if rainfall is heavy the previous few days. Make sure you have a torchlight with you to ease your experience through the caves.

Further north from Waipu, about 30km away, is Whangarei. There are more attractions like Claphams National Clock Museum, Mt Parihaka, Whangarei Falls etc. to explore in this area.

We ended up spending the first night in Northland region in Paihia, which was another 70km north from Whangarei. We cooked with a view of a spectacular sunset in a golf course and fell asleep counting the stars before our eyes.

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

The road is home.

I’ve been on the move for the past 20 days. I left Tauranga, headed back to Auckland and got myself a home on the road. Scooted off for a week long travel through Northland while braving through the intensity of Cyclone Pam, went without showering for more than 48 hours, witnessed the mixing of Tasman Sea with Pacific Ocean at Cape Reinga and so much more. For now, sunny days in Hamilton is home.

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

 

5 free things to do in Tauranga.

1.Tauranga city art walk

 

Starting at the Tauranga Art Gallery, pick up a brochure of the city art walk (shown above) and allow yourself to be immersed in the heart of the city’s art and culture for the next couple of hours. I enjoyed the visit to the Arts Market @ The Cargo Shed and Owen Dippie’s Street Art.

 

Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life. 

2. Mount Maunganui

 

Mount Maunganui is a beach city in the Bay of Plenty region, located north from Tauranga, just across the Tauranga Harbour Bridge. Plenty of hikes to do at this extinct volcano cone known by its Maori name as Mauao and as The Mount to locals. There is a 3.4km base track round The Mount that takes about 45 minutes to walk. Gradient is pretty flat so its an easy terrain to walk/run while enjoying amazing coastal views.

The 232m summit takes about 40 minutes to get to. On a hot day, it can be hard work so have enough fluids on you. But, the view from above would definitely be well worth it so scaling The Mount is a definite must do!

3. Catch a wave at Mount Maunganui Main Beach

Located at the foot of The Mount, facing the Pacific Ocean is a glorious surf and swimming spot that can get exceptionally crowded during the summer months. The busiest section of the beach are the spots closer to The Mount, so walking eastward toward Papamoa will be your best bet if you are looking for a quiet, uninterrupted spot to spend the day at.

Moturiki Island, known as “Leisure Island”, located just off the beach is a good spot to do rock climbing.

On the opposite side of The Mount is the sheltered harbourside of Pilot Bay, which is a launching pad for boats and kayaks. It is also a shallow swimming spot for families with young children.

During winter months, Mount Maunganui Hot Pools will be a perfect retreat for you. Entrance charges are from $10 onwards.

4. Visit The Elms Mission House

 

Completed in 1847, the Elms Mission House is one of New Zealand’s finest Georgian houses and one of the oldest historic buildings in the country. Situated within a tranquil oasis, this building carries visitors back in time to the early nineteenth century. This house was built by a European couple who came to New Zealand in 1829 for the Church Missionary Society of England.

 

A family home for 150 years, this Mission House showcases the lives of three generations that lived within its walls from its completion in 1847 to 1992. Next to the house is New Zealand’s oldest free-standing library which is still home to more than 1,000 original books that it once held.

The Elms Mission House grounds are open daily and free of charge. However, to enter the house and the library, a nominal fee of $5 applies.

5. Wander in Robbins Park

Get lost amongst the flora and fauna in the Display House in Robbins Park and thereafter settle for a nice picnic lunch. What a perfect way to spend an afternoon!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

3 (long) weeks in Napier Prison.

After a good 10 days in Coromandel, I headed down towards Hawke’s Bay and settled in Napier for my next leg of adventure. While I was planning my NZ travels back at home last December, I was surfing Backpacker Board website and an advert calling out for travellers looking for an adventure jumped out at me.

  • Reception work/cash handling – uhm, okay.
  • Travel writing work – YES!
  • Accommodation in, historic but haunted, Napier prison – YES, WHY NOT!

So here I was standing in front of “the gateway to hell” with my suitcase.

 

Living in a 5m by 2m prison cell in the Women’s Wing of the prison was quite nerve wrecking. Especially after knowing that, I might be sleeping on the same bed as a women nurse who was convicted for handling abortions illegally. When her house was raided nearly 22 foetuses were found buried in her backyard. Gosh! It definitely took me a while to get used to the general vibe, or should I say, eeriness of the place and dark hall ways after sunset. It was otherwise a warm welcome, thanks to my fellow prisoners!

There are two main things Napier is known for. The first being the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake that hit Napier pretty bad. Napier prison, fortunately or not, was the only place in Napier that survived the earthquake. In fact, when in Napier prison, you will be able to see the effects of the earthquake while you walk through a particular corridor – fondly known as “The Earthquake Corridor”. The second – ART DECO! It is no surprise that people flock down to Napier, the capital city for Art Deco, from Auckland and Wellington and even elsewhere, just for the weekend.

And, the good news for me was that Art Deco Weekend was right smack in the middle of my 3 weeks “jail term” in Napier! Vintage car parades, fashion shows, steam train rides, great Gatsby style picnics, soap box derby and so much more. Napier was just bustling with so much action! It’s THE event of the year in Napier and possibly, the only time stores are open past 5pm and when liquor ban in public areas gets lifted. How awesome is that!

Allow me to let the photos do the rest of the talking.

 

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All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.