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.

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.

Seeing you soon Coromandel (Day 4)!

Pitstop #1 – Cathedral Cove

A huge sea cavern through a headland linking two white-sand bays is the main attraction at the end of this popular 45 minute walk. Most parts of the track are well-formed and would weather, even rainy conditions. However, wearing anything other than flip-flops is advisable, as I ended up walking barefoot in the rain on the return journey back.

There are 3 short diversions available en route to Cathedral Cove. Puriri Grove Track is the first detour, a 10-minute walk through ancient puriri trees. The second is the steep track down to Gemstone Bay, a small, rocky cove. Sorry to disappoint but, there are no semi-precious stones lying on the beach waiting to be collected, despite the rather misleading name. But, there lies a very good snorkel trail here. The third is Stingray Bay. This small, enclosed sandy bay boasts clear water and interesting patterns on cliff caused by weathering. Stringrays could be spotted in the clear water hence the name.

At the end of the track lies Cathedral Cove – a perfect swimming/picnic spot!

 

 

 

 

 

Pitstop #2 – Waihi Beach

A little bit about Waihi before I go on. The main town in the area started life as a gold town and still remains pretty much a gold town today. It used to be one of the richest gold mines in the world. It’s interesting to note Waihi has managed to somehow retain its colonial character till today. Waihi Gold Mining Museum and Art Gallery and Martha mine (huge opencast gold mine) are easily the must see local attractions in Waihi.

Waihi Beach, a very popular holiday resort area, is about 12km from the town. It is popular with surfers and fishers.

Pitstop #3 – Karangahake Gorge 

Karangahake Gorge, 7km from Paeroa town, features a historic railway remaining in a stunning natural gorge setting. The walkway follows the railway line through the gorge and then opens alongside the Ohinemuri River. There are a couple of walks ranging from 45 minutes to about 4 hours that you can attempt. The Windows Walk is the most popular trail sadly it was closed when I visited for some maintenance works. Hope you have better luck! There are three large gold-processing batteries built in the area: Crown Hill, Talisman and Woodstock.

For more information: http://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/waikato/karangahake-gorge-brochure.pdf

 

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

Rest of Coromandel Peninsula (Day 3)!

Pitstop #1 – New Chums Beach

Whangapoua Beach, closest to the carpark

New Chums Beach was definitely my highlight of my entire Coromandel Peninsula travel! Hidden in the north-western end of Whangapoua Beach, New Chums Beach is arguably the best beach in the Peninsula boasting pinky/golden sand and crystal clear water, ideal for swimming.

From the carpark, the walk to New Chums Beach is about 30-45 mins. Rest assured, it is worthwhile. Crossing the stream (be careful if it’s high tide), you make your way along the shore on rocks (refer to photo on the right). After about 10 minutes of crossing rocks (and numerous balancing acts), you will move onto a rough track. It may be extremely muddy and slippery at times, so please exercise caution. Shortly after, you will descent to the beach and this is your view!

Kayaking from Whangapoua Beach is also an option to get to New Chums Beach. New Chums is a perfect spot to spend half a day or even a full day at. So, please go prepared with food, magazines, towel etc. Gregor and I were totally unprepared. After a 45 minute walk to get to this paradise, we had nothing on us except for our cameras and car keys. Damn! Am definitely revisiting New Chums Beach in the coming months I’m here in North Island.

Pitstop #2 – Opito Bay

Driving past Otama Beach will bring you to a rather secluded Opito Bay, which offers rather grand views of the many islands out from here. The sweeping expanse of Opito Bay makes the drive worth it. I spent the afternoon just lying on grass curled up with a good read.

Pitstop #3 – Hahei Beach

 

When at Hahei you have got to visit Madden’s for finger lickin’ good ice-cream and milkshakes!

I decided to spend the night at Hahei – Tatahi Lodge as Hot Water Beach was my last pitstop for Day 3. And, I was gonna begun the next morning heading to Cathedral Cove. There aren’t many backpacker options in Hahei as Whitianga (30 minute drive) is a bigger town. Dorm beds at Tatahi Lodge costed me NZD 32/night with an additional $5 for 24 hours of wifi usage.

Pitstop #4 – Hot Water Beach

At Hot Water Beach you can dig your own hot pool in the sand. That’s what the people in the photo are doing, not digging for gold. This very popular attraction in Coromandel gets its name from the springs that bubble into the sands of the beach, one of the few places in the world where this occurs. The springs are well below the high tide mark, so aim to be there within two hours either side of low tide. What’s next? Take a shovel (or not) and start digging!

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

Coromandel Peninsula adventures (Day 2)!

 

After a rather uncomfortable sleep in the backseat of Gregor’s car, we begun the day driving right from Thames, up North to Fletcher Bay, making a quick stop at Coromandel Town for some information from the visitor centre (i-site). Being a coastal drive, the views are pretty scenic and just past, Wilson Bay, the road turns inland and your view becomes that of sheeps and valleys.

 

 

Driving past North Coromandel (2 hours from Coromandel Town), Colville, is the last town that you be driving through before you begin driving on gravel road. Although the drive to Fletcher Bay is only 37km, allow 50 minutes (that’s how rough the road is). We had a nice picnic lunch at Fletcher Bay, dipped our feet in the waters and lounged on the grass. Perfect afternoon to rest my tired legs from the previous day’s hike.

For those looking to do some hiking, you could walk from Fletcher Bay to Stony Bay for some amazing coastal views. The hike is about 3.5 hours (1-way). If you are looking for a spot just before Fletcher Bay, Port Jackson would be a recommended camping spot! It’s definitely busier, but the stretch of white sand would make it feel like paradise nonetheless.

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I loved my stay at Lion’s Den Hostel at Coromandel Town for the night. It was a cozy environment, with ample garden and kitchen space. Friendly people managing the hostel to help you settle in. Dorm bed was NZD 27/night with additional $5 for 24 hours of wifi usage.

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

Coromandel Peninsula explored (Day 1)!

I just spent the past 4 days exploring the entire Coromandel Peninsula and I must say, it was definitely a good start to my NZ adventure! Driving over 500km through valleys, mountainous areas and along the picturesque coastline felt so surreal and gave me more than a glimpse of how vast New Zealand is.

Day 1 

We begun the day at above 9am from Auckland and drove right through to Thames (about 1.5 hours away) and onward to Kauaeranga Valley Road to get some information from the visitor centre on the different hikes available through Coromandel Forest Park. The most popular hike is the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail, also known as The Pinnacles Hike. But, please be warned, it’s a full day hike (7-8 hours return). For those who want to break this hike up, you can opt to put up at the Pinnacles Hut for a night before starting your descent. Accommodation is very basic (dorm bed) for $15/adult. Advisable to book in advance as it might get full during the summer months.

All smiles with Gregor, my company through Coromandel.

From the visitor centre, the Trestle View carpark (starting point of the hike) is a 20-minute drive through gravel road.

Note: The small store at the visitor centre is also the last stop for food/drinks. So if you’re looking to buy supplies for lunch/dinner, please stop by Pak & Save at Thames before driving down towards the forest park. And also, beyond Thames you won’t have mobile reception at all.

The picture on the left is the start of the Rock Staircase. The toughest section of the hike. The only way to get by is to go slow and keep going. After over 2 hours of trekking, we finally got to Pinnacles Hut and stopped by for a quick lunch before continuing on the Pinnacles. From the huts, the peak is about an hour away. Your path is over 200 steps and rocky boulders to cross.

View from The Pinnacles, elevation of about 770m.

On the descent down from the Pinnacles, you will arrive at a spot called Hydro Camp. There are 2 routes to exit. A 2-hour (via Billygoat Landing) and a 3-hour hike back. Be careful not to be stuck on the longer route back, if like me, your legs have already started crying.

If you are not staying the night at the Pinnacles Hut or camping, the nearest town for a hostel would be Thames. 2 backpacker options you could consider, Sunkist Backpackers (not the friendliest place) and Gateway Backpackers. I arrived back at Thames beyond 8pm and either reception was closed or rooms were full. I ended up sleeping in the car under the stars, without a shower. If you are not prepared for that, I suggest booking a room in advance.

Things to note/bring along for this hike:

1. Comfortable training shoes/hiking boots

2. Sunblock

3. At least 3-4 litres of water. It is a lot of weight to carry on, but, trust me you will need this. Otherwise, like me, you will end up filling up your bottle in a running stream. There are NO water points at all beyond the visitor centre.

4. Light food i.e. sandwhiches

5. Good spirits, otherwise, good company 😉

Have fun climbing guys!

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