For the first time in months we could understand everything that was being said and done around us. Even if it was reality, everything seemed so much more friendly and inviting!
We flew into Sydney and after setting u a place to spend our time WWOOFing, we took a train straight to Katoomba, which is located 2 hours West of Sydney in the Blue Mountains.
Being rather exhausted from six months in Asia, we decided to lay low and stay in one area for the short stay here. Honestly I pity the person who tries to see all of Australia in 3 weeks, it's just so huge! So Katoomba it was.
The family we volunteered with lived on a small plot of land outside of the small, but enjoyable town of Katoomba. Peter and Jen (along with their son, Josh), are working to develop the principle of permacultre on their land. Our activities included lots of wood splitting, moving and stacking, some painting, general yard work, and collecting the ever ripening tomatoes and eggs from the hen (they call them chooks) house. Our hosts were masters at taking notice and appreciating the small details of nature, which we definitely took a lesson from.
Fun things........we went rock climbing one day in a really beautiful spot out in the bush as well as volunteering for a three day folk music festival. We were the door "security" for a few hours in exchange for free weekend passes. The music was great and we "discovered" some new artists.
On the whole, it was wonderful time of relaxation and regrouping while enjoying some really beautiful area and interacting with some neat people as well. A very good surprise stop-over for our trip.

New Zealand

North Island: The final long awaited arrival in NZ was finally here. To make the anticipation even greater, a good friend of ours, Kristen McCormack (she was in our wedding), was there to greet us at the Auckland airport. She was finishing her time in NZ and our schedules happened to overlap by a week and a half! It was fun to be travelling with a friend again!
We decided to do some WWOOFing North of Auckland...but things just didn't click with the hosts and so....shhhhhhh, we ran away! Not that we really had to "run away", but what's the fun in just leaving? From there we made a big loop hitch hiking back towards Auckland and got picked up by a German fellow who let us camp in his back yard. He also took us to see some of his favorite spots (good hike to a waterfall), and beaches in the area. This really was a great experience and really reinforced the joy of traveling lightly and freely.
We decided next to explore the Coromadel Penninsula, which lasted a few days until the famous unrelenting NZ rain drove us to make a decision. We decided it was time to WWOOF again! We called a family that was building a strawbale home and thankfully they had room for us. The next week and a half were spent mixing and applying cob (a mix of clay, straw, and sand), to holes in the walls, applying render (a mix of wet lime and fine gravel), as a finishing layer to the straw, cutting down gorese (an invasive thorny plant that can get huge), going on tramps through the rainy forest, and swimming in the VERY cold river. We said goodbye to Kristen during our time there. She was headed for home after 8 months of traveling.
After leaving the Coromandel, we put out our thumb again, made our way to rendezvous with Caleb, Jonathan's brother, and from there headed South. We took a detour with a crazy man named Dennis, who we weren't ever sure what he was: an upright citizen or a secret gun dealer mobster???? Regardless, he was incredibly hospitable buying us supper, introducing us to a wide reange of people that were his friend's and family, and eventually, putting us up for the night in his Napier home. The next day he drove us the rest of the way to Wellington which is where our hitching adventures came to an end. Another great hitching experience.
From Wellington we took the ferry and made our transition to the South Island......

South Island: Within an amazingly short span of time, we noticed a difference in the general population. While the North Islanders are quite friendly, there is still a busy, somewhat "big city" feel. The South Islanders are an outgoing, friendly lot who enjoy their slower paced lives and swell with pride when talking about the population difference between the North and South Island.
We decided immediately that we should take some time out to earn some money any way we could. We spent a night or two in Blenheim with some friends of Caleb's and soon thereafter moved to a hostel about 15 minutes closer to where the work was. The work.....was of course in the vineyards. We picked grapes at a furious rate of speed, desperately trying to keep up with the Samoans and the rest of the South Pacific Islanders who come NZ during the temporary work seasons. These people were machines and no matter how hard we tried, we always fell behind. We finally retreated with sore backs, sticky clothes, and bloody fingers after a week and a half. While the wages weren't anything to write home about, together we earned enough to live on during the rest of stay in NZ.
During this time, Caleb, Christy (Caleb's girlfriend), Corrie and I went in together and bought a 1991 station wagon for an incredibly low price. Caleb will re-sell it when he leaves the country reclaiming most, if not all, our money. This opened up so many options for us. Not having to rely on hitch hiking during the NZ winter was a huge luxury.
Our goal for the next one and a half months was to complete a circuit of the South Island before returning to Blenheim where Caleb and Christy would work for a time after Corrie and I left. We started by spending time in Takaka (Northern tip of the island) where we rock climbed and hiked with some of our new friends (guys we met while working). One of the areas we climbed was just across the street from the ocean.
Next we picked up Christy and headed south. Heading over the West coast we again rock climbed in a small coastal town called Charleston. The West coast is an impressive stretch of coastline. Powerful waves constantly buffet the rocky coast, seemingly waging a constant war to disintegrate and reclaim more territory for its own. Climbing with waves roaring directly below us was an impressive and somewhat intimidating endeavor.
The West coast is renowned for constant rain due to its location in the Tasman Ocean. The Southern Alps that run roughly N. to S. cause the rather predictable weather patterns to drop their load of rain before heading over to the Canterbury plains in the East. This weather pattern plagued our time in the West but we were still allowed to catch glimpses of the impressive peaks of the Alps.
Our next stage of the trip was to cross over Arthur’s Pass (one of the most beautiful E. to W. passes in the South Island). Since we were visiting NZ during their winter we encountered some very cold nights and lots of rain. Our night on Arthur’s Pass was certainly one of our coldest but brought with it some amazing views. Crossing the pass took us into the largest town in the S. Island, Christchurch. After another quick day of climbing outside Christchurch, we decided to move S. along the E. coast trying to outrun the weather. We should have known better.
Rain accompanied us a majority of the rest of our journey back to the W. coast and back to the N. This really made us appreciate the beautifully clear days that dotted the rest of our tour.
Milford Sound was our next major destination. This remote glacially scoured valley is now claimed by the ocean but is one of the most visited tourist areas in the country. We arrived in rain but for just a brief window of time, we caught a glimpse of the Sound without rain. It is impossible for me to describe this area in words, so just look at the pictures and imagine it to be even grander. We stayed a night in a hut and took a sweet hike the next day. The glacial terrain in Fiordland National Park is stunning and hiking into the backcountry was a real treat.
Next was to visit Queenstown, known as the adventure sports capital of the world. We found a great campsite beside the lake and rock climbed for two days while visiting the city at night. This area was a lot of fun and again, offered some nice scenery. We enjoyed some great weather before moving on to Wanaka. We again found a perfect campsite and climbed for another two great days.
We moved up the W. coast and stopped at both Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. These glaciers are impressive if for no other reason, than for their close proximity to the coast. The rain and clouds shrouded the high peaks of Mt. Cook and Tasman but it was nice to see some lower peaks and the foot of both glaciers. It really made us want to return during their summer and see more of the alpine areas.
Hanmer Springs was next were Corrie and I celebrated our one year anniversary. Caleb and Christy put us up in a local B&B, which was super nice after camping out for the last month. They were real sports and camped out just below snow line while Corrie and I basked in clean sheets, a warm room, and a hot supper. It was a terrific change of pace and scenery. The next day we all went to the hot springs and soaked most of the day away. We would have left sooner but if we got out of the springs you immediately turned to ice. Maybe it wasn’t that bad, anyways we certainly enjoyed our time there.
Due to the colder temps and rainy weather we reached a common consensus that we were ready to spend some time indoors. Thus, we decided to WWOOF again.
Kiakora is a small town whose main tourism industry is whale watching. We forewent that expensive little gem but had a great experience with Rich and Leanne on their “farm”. We really hit it off with these guys as they had spent a number of years traveling and working during their early marriage. Rich is a contractor and Leanne was about 8 and half months pregnant. They had recently finished building their own energy efficient home and we all picked their brains for tips and hints for the future. Our work involved chopping wood, weeding, some general yard work, collecting seaweed for compost, and helping to finish up a wall in their large carport/shed. This was our last week in NZ and we really thought it well spent.
We returned to Blenheim where Caleb and Christy took us to the airport and continued their adventure without us. While we were headed back to the States, we were still a ways out from returning “home.” We still had visits in FL, CA, TX, and MI with family and a few friends before our return to CO.

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