I backpacked around the North Island solo for 12 days.
Uni students got a 3 week break from classes because of Easter and ANZAC Day.
I have received a lot of understandable “Do u even school?” comments.
To which I would like to publicly respond to with...
The decision was made to travel to the North Island when I found a $43 (after tax) flight to Wellington via grabaseat.co.nz.
I brought as little with me as possible in a large borrowed backpack (thanks Dana!) and a small daypack. I made sure to bring my camera and my wetsuit.
I used my nakedbus pass to travel around, meaning I saw a lot of the country because I wasn’t driving or hitchhiking BUT I also did spend a lot of time on a bus. Sometimes up to 10 hours…
My plan was to couch surf my way across the island, but that was not as successful as I had hoped. Couchsurfing.com is a website where people can contact people in certain cities or areas, and crash there for free. The hosts are usually people who have couchsurfed or backpacked before and want to help out fellow travellers. However many people don’t reply on time, or at all, or they already have someone staying with them – the was the case for me anyway.
So I couchsurfed twice, wwoofed and stayed in a many backpackers.
Wellington (Southern Tip)
I landed in Wellington at 11pm at night and grabbed a taxi because my bus was no longer running.
Wellington is the country’s capital city.
I couchsurfed with Hannah, a wonderful Kiwi girl who lives in Wellington with her partner, Liam, and loves llamas, travelling and is passionate about living zero-waste and helping others.
Here is the view I woke up to:
Hannah had two other people coming to visit her. They were a Spanish and Polish couple and have been traveling for the last 15 months.
Together we went on a tour of Wellington from a lookout to the center of the CBD, where we enjoyed the Cuba St., Wellington’s coffee scene and an underground market.
Wellington is a cool city with lots of hills. It’s also the most windy city in the country and let me tell you, it is windy. I’ve never seen clouds move that fast.
At 3pm I hopped on a bus to Napier where I arrived to my hostel at 9pm. Immediately after finding my room, I was invited to go to a bar and headed off with an Irish girl, German girl and two Kiwi dudes. It was a short and sweet visit, as I had to catch a 10 hour bus ride the next day (being Easter Sunday).
I had an unforgettable encounter with God on Easter morning, as I was super lost and super late for my bus, because Google Maps showed me the quickest route and it ended up requiring walking up and over a small mountain. I ended up making my bus, seeing the sunrise over the ocean and remembering exactly whom it is I owe my thanks to.
Gisborne (East Coast)
I arrived in Gisborne at 5pm and Colin, the farmer, picked me up.
I was to work on his farm as a wwoofer.
WWOOFing stands for World Wide Organization of Organic Farming. There are farms all over the world that will provide food and accommodation for people to work 4-6 hours on their farm. The farms are usually organic and aren’t always farming (For example, working at a hostel or helping someone with renovations). As a poor student-traveler, it’s a pretty sweet gig.
Te Ara Kereru, the farm I worked on, mostly grows kiwifruit, persimmons, oranges and cut flowers.
Colin’s farm also had chickens, roosters and ducks. The roosters woke me up every morning, which was still pretty cool, even though it was usually around 6am.
It was neat to see how exactly the fruit gets to the grocery stores and the flowers get to the florist. Not only that, but what a novelty to work in orchards that don’t grow in Canada!
I observed that the North Island is a lot more humid than the South Island, and the sun felt a lot more intense, even when the days weren’t hot.
In the persimmon rows, I became well acquainted with praying mantis and some spiders after spending 5 hours a day removing leaves from around the fruit and thinning the branches. Two Polish girls were also there wwoofing at the same time, so I was grateful to have the company.
I had ample time to listen to full albums by Alt-J, Chet Faker, Modest Mouse and Lykke Li in the sunshine, so I really couldn’t complain.
After traveling around so often during my stay here in NZ, I’ve found it really hard to sit still and not think that there is always more that I can be doing, and more to see.
When I was on the farm, I didn’t have a car and wasn’t within walking distance of the city. At first I felt disappointed and stuck, but I eventually realized that this was the perfect place to find some rest and just enjoy being in New Zealand. As you can tell by the pictures, I was surrounded by beauty and by so much green!
I did get to surf in Gisborne!
Gizzy has some of the nicest waves on the island, at multiple white sandy beaches. I rented my board from a guy named Frank, who’s originally from California, and gave me some helpful advice. The waves were small enough for me to get on the outside, and I don’t think I’ve ever had such a fun and beautiful surf session in NZ.
My favourite part was surfing next to some old Maori guys. When I was paddling to catch a coming wave, one guy encouraged me by yelling, “go mate!” in his accent.
I loved it so much.
When they started paddling back to the beach, I asked if they were done for the day, to which he replied, “Kai time. “
Kai, meaning ‘food’ in Maori. I appreciated the fact that I probably wouldn’t have that conversation anywhere else in the world.
Through Navs, I’ve met a lovely engineer student, Ben, who is from Gisborne and has family in town. I boldly messaged him to ask if there was a chance his family would pick me up and show me around the city, as I had to leave the next day and had only seen the in-town beach and the farm.
It was such a gift that I was able to call his mom, whom was really excited to show me around the next day.
She and her daughter took me to Wainui Beach and Makarori Beach, both amazing surf beaches when the swell is pumpin.
After that we went to watch the women’s national hockey team, the Blacksticks, play Argentina. (Hockey, being field hockey, of course.) They took me back to the farm after a lovely meal, including Afghans for dessert.
I felt inspired by Debbie’s delicious Afghans, so I decided to try and make my own for the 4 of us on the farm. Click here for the recipe I used and loved.
And if you’re curious, click here to read the many speculations as to to why the cookie is called an ‘Afghan.’
I wrote about the second half of my trip on another page. Click on!