It is all about dream.
As far as I can remember I have always wanted to discover the world. If you asked me why, I could not give any rational reason. Dreams are about feeling, not reason. Once my financial studies were over, I took the opportunity and jumped in a plane ! I left France for a year only with a 15-kilo backpack and the will to grab each opportunity that would come to me.
My first destination was New-Zealand. It has always been in a corner of my mind as the perfect country to tramp in. After a 25-hour journey, and 48 hours without proper sleep, Auckland here I was !
I had planned to begin a W.W.O.O.F (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) in a vineyard, not far from Auckland. Once there I realized quite quickly that it is an industrial exploitation of wwoofers. Dishwashing 8 hours a day was not really what I expected. However, I was a bit experienced in wwoofing as I had already done that 2 months in Canada the previous year. Within 3 days of dishwashing, I weighed the pros and cons and decided to leave. This is how my first hitchhike happened : trying to get to Auckland while escaping that awful wwoof.
There I joined two French girls, Alexia and Chloé, that I met in the plane and we discover together the business city of Auckland and its crowded and touristy Queens Road. I stayed with them in a double room, sleeping on the floor as all the backpacker hostels are full. Not really what I expected from New-Zealand, the country where there are more sheep than people.
Finally I managed to find another wwoof on the West coast, near the city of New Plymouth.
As the girls found their buddy – a van to travel across the two islands – I left them knowing that we would meet again later on.
The wwoof in Avonstour is amazing with all the rare breeds of pigs, sheep, goats and ducks. We were 6 wwoofers and it felt like a big family with John. As there were bikes available, I explored the surroundings while training for an upcoming race. Biking was really convenient as you could go in the backcountry and cover quite long distances within half a day. The area was very hilly and windy which made the trips trickier but it is how New-Zealand is like and I had better to adapt myself before the race !
After a week it was already time to leave the farm to reach the Tongariro National Park and hit a 3-day hike in the smoky volcanoes of the Mordor. I went there with Quentin, a friend from France doing an internship in Auckland at the moment and the two girls with their van. The storm made our plans change as we stayed stuck for a full day in a hut. It was pouring rain and highly windy with severe gales outside. Nobody was allowed to hit the trail as it was too dangerous. The morning after a great sun awoke us ! We hiked up to the turquoise lakes and the mount N’gauruhoe by walking in the ashes with the sneaky odour of sulfur.
Quentin had to leave us to go to work and with the girls we kept on hiking for another day. Then they adopted me and we travelled together in their little van to discover Taupo and Rotorua. Taupo is where I would do my race within a week. The lake is really huge and you could fit the whole Singapour country in it ! Rotorua is kind of the cradle of the Maoris. We learned a lot about their very interesting culture and handcraft. There are a lot of geothermal activity with hot beaches near the major lake and small brightly coloured lakes (blue, yellow, green, orange…).
The life in the van is a hobo one. You go wherever you want and settle in parking places or hidden in the forest. As there are a lot of vans and camping cars in New-Zealand the authorities are quite strict about parking and you have to spend the night in the adequate public places (you often have to pay some dollars).
The best mate of the trampers is the smartphone application Campermate which is a huge database of everything you could need: parking, toilets, drinkable water, wifi spot, supermarkets, library…). We cooked in the van, washed ourselves with the solar shower when it was not too cold (or we were cheating by heating the water with the cooker), we washed our clothes in the lavatory of public toilets or squatting some laundry in camping. We fitted to sleep at three in the van but no one should get fat or it would not work anymore ! We met some other travelers in the evening and we cooked / drank together. It was a lot of fun !
Yet, as the race was coming, I had to leave them to head back to Taupo. The “Round The Lake” race consisted in a 160-kilometers bike race. The entrance fee and rental of my bike were a gift from my friends – as they know how much that challenge appealed me ! The start was at 6:30am and it was cold with some light rain. Then it became sunny, then windy, then heavy rain then sunny again. It was a typic New -Zealand weather: you never know ! – that’s why you should always carry both suncream and a waterproof jacket. After 7 hours and 34 minutes of biking, few breaks to take some energy, and a bunch of kiwi signs with lot of humour (“this hill is a bitch”), my bottom hated me dearly. I just had the time to give the bike back and clean myself a bit to catch the bus that goes to Wellington. After a 7-hour drive I reached the capital and met my couchsurfing host: Courteney. She was my first couchsurfing ever so I chose a woman for «safety» but I really did not know what to expect (well, except a coach obviously). The first night we were both tired: she from her work and I… guess why ! A mattress was waiting for me on the floor. What a luxury after a week in the van and 7 hours on a bike saddle! Walking in the city the day after was a bit tricky with my sore legs and aching back. Anyway, I visited the Te Papa Museum – that way I learned a lot about geology and history of the kiwiland, did some slackline with Courteney and her friends, went up (with friends from the wwoofing) to see the botanic garden and gazed the at view of the whole city. The weather was very windy but as the sun was shining I did not really feel cold. Wellington was way more pleasant than Auckland with lot of cute little shops and coffees in pedestrian streets…