woensdag 11 februari 2015

Hiking the Dusky Track

Click here for the (automatically translated) Dutch version of this blogpost.

For this post, I relieved myself from duty and assigned Mark with the task to write a guest-blog (clever, huh?!). It describes our most recent undertaking: hiking the Dusky Track. 'Recent' means less than a week ago, so this post doesn't follow my usual way-behind chronology at all (since Mark isn't really busy with spinning, and knitting, and crocheting, and reading, and sewing and...well, just messing around :P ). So we hop from September to a timeframe in January-February, to keep you folks confused. Soon, I will be back with more about October! In the meantime, enjoy Mark's essay on our hardest adventure ever.

Day 1 – Lake Hauroko – Halfway Hut

We were picked up at 8 in the morning at the Manapouri long-term carpark. A “Trips and Tramps” van took us to Cliffden Corner, where we transfered into Lake Hauroko Tours' truck. We picked up their boat and drove to Lake Hauroko. Captain Val and his assistant Joyce quickly launched the boat and soon we set off across Lake Hauroko to its westernmost point, one of the Dusky's trailheads. 

The boat journey across New Zealand's deepest lake was spectacular. Fiordland's steep mountains drop straight into the freezing cold black waters of the lake. The dense forests surrounding the lake climb almost vertically into the low clouds, adding a mystical touch to the journey. Towards the end of the boat trip the clouds suddenly cleared and made way for sun and blue skies, allowing for amazing views of Fiordland's mountain ranges. The boat landed, we grabbed our incredibly heavy backpacks and jumped on shore. As we got off, four rough looking guys boarded the boat, heading back to civilization. Obviously in bad need of a shower.

Also on the boat were a young Czech guy, Daniel and a German lady, Bettina, and her guide Tosh. They all quickly started walking while we had a coffee. We realized there was no going back now.

Goodbye civilization - on our way to the trailhead, Lake Hauroko.

The Dusky Track is a 6 to 10 day tramping track in the remote Southwest of Fiordland, New Zealand's biggest and oldest National Park. Unlike the Milford Track and the Keppler Track, the Dusky Track is not a “Great Walk”. Great Walks are very popular hiking trails in New Zealand, with high quality gravel tracks, boardwalks across muddy areas and stairs up and down steep sections. The Dusky is no such track. The track is completely unformed, which adds a lot to the natural feeling of the tracks but also means you have to go straight through rivers and mud pools and make your way up and down steep areas by grabbing roots, scrambling up boulders and hugging trees. Huts on Great Walks can sleep up to 50 people and in the peak seasons they are often fully booked. To walk the Milford Track, Fiordland's most popular Great Walk, you will need to book the huts up to a year in advance. The length of the Dusky, and the roughness of the track, make it a lot less popular than the Milford and Keppler. The huts on the Dusky only sleep 12, and they hardly ever get full, which means you don't need to book them. These so-called backcountry huts are very basic, they have bunks and mattresses and often a fireplace. Drinking water is provided by a rainwater tank, which gets filled by rainwater running off the hut's roof. You will need to bring your own cooking gear and fuel, also a sleeping bag and enough food to last you the length of the trip. You will also need to bring clothing suitable for absolutely any type of weather, and dry clothes to wear in the hut, as you are guaranteed to get wet during the day. All this results in a very heavy backpack.

We finished our coffee and set off on the first section, to Halfway Hut. The clouds had cleared completely and the weather had become incredibly muggy. The mid summer sun shining down on the wet rainforest quickly makes the air very humid. This section is supposed to be relatively flat, but we soon learned there is no such thing as a flat track on the Dusky. Even though you don't gain or lose any elevation you're still scrambling up and down short steep sections, often pulling up on tree roots. Going down these steep parts is harder than going up and you'll often have to go backwards off these near vertical parts as if descending a ladder. We soon realized the difficulty of the Dusky lies not in the length of the sections you have to walk, but in the roughness of the track and the extremely heavy packs. After about 5 hours we were happy to see a sign that said it was another 10 minutes to the hut. We arrived at the hut 20 minutes later.

Halfway Hut.

Day 2 – Halfway Hut – Lake Roe Hut

Our sleeping bags are rated for winter use, which means they are comfortable in subzero temperatures. This is nice when ski touring, but not so nice in an incredibly hot and humid hut in the middle of summer. I woke up several times sweating, sticking to the plastic mattresses. 
Morning eventually came, we had a coffee and a bowl of porridge with chocolate and nuts and set off for the next section. Today was going to be another relatively easy day with a gentle climb of about 500 metres evenly spread over 5 hours. It had rained a little bit the night before which cooled the air down and the sun wasn't as strong as the day before. Combined with the increase in altitude it made for comfortable walking weather. Liset's stomach was acting a little funny, so we took it easy today. The upset stomach was probably caused by a mix of hard physical exercise, hot and humid weather and very calory-dense food. We made it to Lake Roe hut. Situated at 850 metres above sea level you get nice views of the surrounding valleys and it's also considerably cooler than at sea level. Its location above the treeline also means there are no sandflies, which is an incredible relief.

Everything (réally everything) is green and mossy, some scenes could've
jumped right out of a fairytale....

Apparently sandflies like dense, humid forest, making this part of Fiordland ideal for them. Unlike mosquitos, sandflies are out during the day, and the last couple of days they had been out by the millions. Sandflies are like little mosquitos, they'll suck your blood and leave an itching bite, which can itch for days when scratched. They are very slow and will not be able to catch up with you as long as you're walking, but as soon as you stop walking for a few minutes hundreds of them start to gather around you. They especially seem to like our sweet and fresh European blood, I'm guessing it's because our veins make an easy target beneath our thin white skin... Kiwis seem less bothered by them, I'm not sure if they actually develop a resistance against their venom or they just learn to ignore it. In these parts of New Zealand there are so many of them they basically make it unbearable to be outside without moving. Going for a swim or having a nice long lunch is pretty much impossible. Fiordland's sandflies don't seem bothered by regular insect repellent, but someone recommended us to mix eucalyptus-scented Dettol, a type of rubbing alcohol, with baby oil, and use this as a repellent. It seems to work a little bit, for a little while... Sandflies don't seem to like the unforested areas above the treeline, and they seem to disappear in heavy rain as well.

For dinner we had our first every Backcountry Cuisine meal. These are bags of freeze-dried food, in as much as 20 different flavors. Because there is no moisture in them they are very light, and they are packed with calories and proteins, making them the perfect tramping meals. You just add half a liter of boiling water and 10 minutes later it's done. I was positively amazed. I wasn't expecting much but the beef teriyaki one we had today was actually really good. They also really fill you up considering the small amount.

Day 3 – Lake Roe Hut – Loch Maree Hut

After a slightly better night's sleep we set off on another day tramping. Again, it had rained during the night but by the time morning came the skies cleared. The first part of today's walk was absolutely amazing. We climbed to the top of the Pleasant Range and walked on the ridge for a few hours. The views were breathtaking. We could see hundreds of the steep mountains, some of them still snow-covered. In the distance we could see Dusky Sound and behind that on the horizon was the Tasman Sea. The most amazing thing for us Europeans is to be able to see the horizon in all possible directions and realize there is only untouched wilderness. To me it's unbelievable that such massive areas of uninhabited land still exist.

A couple of tarns and a bit of mist over Pleasant Range...
...with views on the Dusky Sound on the horizon. 

After walking on the tussock covered ridge for a few hours the track started to drop steeply into the valley. As our next hut was pretty much at sea level we had to drop over a 1000 meters in only a few kilometers on the track. The next few hours was a scramble down through the dense forest, descending backwards by holding on to roots, bushes and trees. Rocks and roots get very slippery in the wet rainforest so you need to watch closely where you put your feet. In some extremely steep parts chains are provided to hold on to. It would probably be possible to climb up without the chains but for descending they are absolutely necessary. Descending so quickly you pass through a variety of micro climates. In the high mountains, it's all tussock. Tussock is a tough, brown grass. These high areas are littered with tiny black lakes. They range from a few meters to a hundred meters across, they are very deep and filled with inky black water. Below the tree line it's all temperate rainforest. Most of the trees are beech trees, all of them covered in moss. As you descend the forest gets greener and greener. The wettest parts of the forest are completely covered in thick carpets of moss, which is an amazing sight. It's incredibly green. Other parts are covered in massive ferns, which sometimes almost completely cover the track, making it hard to follow. Wondering about the amazing nature, we finally made it to the valley floor. We crossed a wirebridge and then it was only a short walk to Loch Maree Hut. 

A wirebridge is exactly what the name suggests. They are basically 3 steel wires strung between trees on opposite sides of the river. One wire for walking on and a wire for each hand to hold on to. The wires are held together by V-shaped metal profiles. The first wire crossing can be a bit intimidating, but you soon learn that they are safe and crossing them is easy, which is good, as there are 21 of these bridges on the Dusky Track.

One of the many 'three-wire bridges'. 

Water levels on these first days were low enough that we didn't really need the wirebridges, we could have walked straight through the rivers. Arriving at Loch Maree we noticed hundreds of tree stumps sticking out above the water level. Loch Maree is a relatively young lake that formed recently when a landslide, probably caused by an earthquake, blocked the Seaforth River and thus formed a little lake, flooding the forest around the riverbed. Only the parts of the tree trunks that are underwater at high water levels are preserved, making the amount of stumps visible a good indicator of river and lake water levels and track conditions. As it had hardly rained for the last few weeks, hundreds of the stumps were visible as the water level of the lake was unusually low. We had been told that the track might be flooded further down if a dozen or less stumps were visible.

Stumps, signs of an old forest at eery Loch Maree. 

Bettina and Tosh arrived at the hut shortly after we did. She was exhausted by the steep descent to Loch Maree and the general roughness of the track and considered calling a helicopter to pick them up and take them back to civilization. They had had a box of food dropped at the hut by helicopter earlier, so they wouldn't have to carry the food for the entire length of the track. Later they decided they would walk another day to Supper Cove and get picked up by helicopter there. This meant they would leave the box of food in the hut, which was good news for us as we were quickly getting sick of eating only porridge and nuts and chocolate.

Later that evening Daniel, the Czech guy who started the same day as we did, entered the hut too. He had skipped the first hut and had today gone on a day-trip to Supper Cove, walking 28kms... Reading the logbooks at the other huts, we realized later he had walked the entire Dusky Track in 5 days. It's impressive that he can do it, but I wonder if he took the time to enjoy it, walking hard for at least 12 hours a day.

Day 4 – Loch Maree Hut – Supper Cove Hut

Loch Maree hut is situated halfway along the Dusky Track, and from here on trampers can choose to do a 2-day sidetrip to Supper Cove, part of Dusky Sound, one of Fiordland's fiords, or sounds, as they call them here. We figured we couldn't possibly walk the Dusky track without visiting Dusky Sound, so off we went.

We both didn't feel like we could stomach another bowl of porridge with nuts and chocolate this morning so we had crackers and cheese instead. Bettina and Tosh left the majoity of their box of food in the hut for other trampers. We could take whatever we wanted when we'd return from our trip to Supper Cove.

Again it had rained during the night but this time it didn't stop when morning came. It rained on and off all day and we got soaking wet. As the lake level was very low we could walk along its banks, making for a much easier walk then following the track through the forest. The track followed the river all day, this part of the Dusky Track is the only part that can actually be called flat, and we made good progress. We crossed several wirebridges and eventually walked through an incredibly muddy section of mangrove forest, where the Seaforth river meets Dusky Sound. We had read at Loch Maree that the last part of the track is very rough and slow-going through dense forest on the steep mountains besides the fiord. At low tide Supper Cove drains and exposes large mudflats at the head of the cove. The advise was to walk the last section on the mudflats if possible, we arrived at low tide, so we did. It was a surreal feeling walking in the fiord on the mudflats, the weather cleared slightly and we got spectacular views of the fiord and the surrounding mountains. I couldn't help but feel a bit like one of the explorers that discovered New Zealand back in the 18th century. The tide started to come in as we walked on the mudflat, it first got to our ankles, then to our knees and eventually we were thigh-deep in the water. I was worried we wouldn't make it to the hut and would have to somehow climb up the steep shore and find the track, but luckily, after a short waist-deep section the water got shallower and we found an orange marker signaling to leave the mudflat and get back on the track for the last section. From here it was another half hour walk until we reached Supper Cove hut. We were soaking wet, cold and dirty when we got to the hut. Lisette decided to jump in the deep fiord beneath the hut with all her clothes and boots on. I went for a quick swim as well, the water was amazingly warm and refreshing after the cold rain. Swimming in the deep dark water of Dusky Sound was an amazing experience.

Still smiling, not knowing yet we'd be in waist deep 10 minutes later ;)

Day 5 – Supper Cove Hut 

We had already decided today would be a resting day. We were halfway through the trip and had taken food for 2 days extra so this seemed like a good place for a rest. It turned out it poured down with rain the entire day, so we were glad we weren't on the track. Today was also my 24th birthday. Last year I spent my birthday snowed-in on a mountain top in the Dolomites, it seems to become a ritual to spend my birthday on the most unusual places. I doubt I will ever top this location at Dusky Sound, though. The place is so incredibly remote and inaccessible. Unless you own a seagoing yacht or a helicopter the only way to get here is to walk for 4 days. 

I tried a little bit of fishing in between the rain storms. There is an incredible amount of fish at Supper Cove. I've never seen anywhere near so much fish as here. As it is part of Fiordland's marine reserve there is no commercial fishing allowed, meaning hardly any fish is every being caught here. There was a handline someone left at the hut, so I walked down to the sound. Val, the skipper from Lake Haroko, had said I didn't even need bait, the fish would just take a shiny hook. I didn't believe it, but cast out anyway, and, surely enough, on the very first cast I caught a fish. I caught 3 or 4 little “spotties” this way, I was going to use one of the fish for bait to catch something bigger, but unfortunately it started raining again and didn't stop for the rest of the day. Just standing on the rocks I could see large fish and small sharks swimming close by. A few times a large eel climbed out of the water and laid down on the rocks next to me, completely unimpressed by my presence. Further offshore, massive schools of fish surface every now and then. I'm sure if it hadn't rained so much I would have been able to catch a bigger fish for dinner.
The view from Supper Cove Hut. Salt water!

Bettina and Tosh had left that morning by helicopter, leaving us together at the hut. We enjoyed our day of rest, relaxed our sore legs and backs and attempted to dry our clothes. A very special birthday. I had already received my birthday gift before starting the tramp, figuring I could use it on the track. Lisette had organized, together with my family, to get me a outdoors watch, one that has among many features an alitmeter and barometer, which are very handy to have. It even plots the air pressure into a graph, which allows me to play the weather geek and forecast the weather for the next few hours, something I thoroughly enjoyed while tramping. Tosh had left me a bag of chocolate chip cookies as a birthday present, which I ate at once, feeling slightly sick afterwards but having enjoyed them a lot.

Supper Cove Hut's interior.

Day 6 – Supper Cove Hut – Loch Maree Hut

Having rested the day before, today it was time to head back to Loch Maree hut. Low tide was at 6 this morning. Needless to say we decided to sleep in and take the hard route through the forest rather than getting up early. More or less rested we started off into the rain, which wouldn't stop pouring down the entire day. The track through the forest was indeed unpleasant, and I recommend anyone to take the low-tide route if at all possible.

Apart from the fact we got soaking wet, the walk back to Loch Maree was pretty uneventful, as we already walked it two days ago, we knew what to expect and made good progress. The rain had turned the Seaforth river from an almost-dry stream into a massive river, which was impressive to watch.

Arriving at Loch Maree, we noticed a lot of the stumps had disappeared and the lake level had come up quite a bit, walking along the lake shore was no longer an option and we had to take the track through the forest, eventually we reached the hut after a long 8 hours. Walking the same track the second time always seems to take longer than the first, as you know what to expect. We quickly got into the box of food Tosh and Bettina had left, and were thankful to find a lump of cheese, a salami and vegetarian sausages, as we had both gotten pretty sick of the porridge. Note for the next tramp: crackers and cheese instead of porridge.

Day 7 – Loch Maree Hut

It had been pouring down with rain the whole night and when we looked out of the window of the hut all the stumps in the lake had disappeared completely. Unbelievably, in only 2 days time the level of the lake had risen at least 3 meters. As the lady at the DOC office had told us the track would be flooded if no stumps were visible, we decided to stay in the hut and wait a day.

Before, and after. The difference 2 nights can make!

We lit the fireplace and put a mattress in front of it. The day was spent reading “Wilderness” magazines and National Geographic Journals and playing chess. Heaving been beaten by my former chess student twice in a row, I was excited to finally win a game again. All the time the rain kept pouring down.

Mattress in front of the fireplace, our comfy place for
the day. 

To say Fiordland is a wet place is a massive understatement and does not do it justice at all. It is by far the wettest place in New Zealand. As it is surrounded by ocean on 3 sides, it gets rained on whatever the wind direction. Rain here is measured in meters, some parts of the National Park receive up to 8 meters of rain a year, which is an incredible amount. The Dusky Track is located right in the middle of the wettest part. Heavy rain for days on end, as we experienced, is not exceptional at all. It rains more often than it doesn't. Sometimes it drizzles, sometimes it rains gently, sometimes the rain pours down in thick gray curtains, limiting visibility to only a few meters. Even if it has been dry for a while, the forest will still drip for hours afterwards. However, Fiordland wouldn't be Fiordland without the rain. Often you'll be standing in a downpour and the sun will be shining on the opposite mountain, or the other way around, which is an amazing sight. The rain also fuels thousands of waterfalls, flowing and thundering down the steep mountainsides, to form streams in the valleys, which form massive rivers. As we experienced these rivers can go from gentle creeks to fast flowing massive rivers in only a few hours. Several sections of the track are close enough to the river that they can flood in high water, which sometimes makes parts of the track inaccessible for days or even weeks.

Day 8 – Loch Maree Hut – Kintail Hut

Luckily the rain had let down a bit by the end of the previous day, and in the morning a few more stumps were visible. Another thing we noticed were the snow-covered peaks in the distance, the snow had come well down to around 600 meters, in the middle of summer.

We put on the raincoats and warm clothes, as the temperature had dropped a lot. We knew it was going to be a close call whether the track would be flooded or not and started walking, hoping for the best. At a few places we had to wade through waist-deep, freezing cold water, only barely keeping our backpacks dry, luckily the water never got higher than that, or we would have been forced to turn around.

Something else the rain does is produce a substance for which the Dusky Track is famous: mud.
After spending 8 days on the Dusky track, I can say we're now experts on the subject of mud. There's mud here in every imaginable color, depth and consistency. There's gray mud, green mud, red mud, yellow mud, blue mud, brown mud and black mud. There's thin mud, fat mud, gooey mud, chunky mud and oily mud. There's grass-covered mud, moss-covered mud, mud covered by branches, mud covered by bushes, and, my favorite: snow-covered mud. Some of the mud looks soft but turns out to be solid when you step on it, which is favorable over its opposite: mud that looks like solid ground but turns out to be thigh-deep, smelly black mud once you step on it and least expect it. Sometimes you get sucked into the mud so deep that you need help to get out, and even then it can be a struggle to get out. Sometimes you can go around the mud pools, bashing your way through bushes, but often there is no way to get past other than going straight through it. At some places DOC workers have cut small logs and tossed them in the mud to provide stepping stones across the mud pools, but most mud pools don't have them. The downside of these logs is that they get slippery and you might fall off when trying to stand on them, still ending up in the mud. When walking the Dusky Track you have to accept mud as part of your everyday life. There is no way to go around every single mud pool, it simply takes too much time.

How we looked on an average day of tramping.

Having encountered every single type of mud we arrived at the Kintail Hut after 6 long hours. We were soaking wet and absolutely freezing cold. I quickly lit the fireplace. Having worn almost all my clothes today, I had no dry clothes left, so I sat by the fireplace naked. Thankfully there was no-one else in the hut. We curled up in our sleeping bags, now very thankful for their polar-rated quality. We filled our drinking bottles with boiling water and stuck them in our sleeping bag, slowly defrosting our feet. After several hours, hot dinner and cups of soup and tea, we started to feel a little bit alive again. 

Day 9 – Kintail Hut – Upper Spey Hut

We knew we would have to conquer Centre Pass today, at 1050m, it's the track's second highest point. Looking out the window we could see the snow-covered peaks and we realized there would be snow on Centre Pass as well. There is absolutely nothing pleasant about waking up in a freezing cold hut, realizing you have to put on your wet clothes knowing you will be walking in the snow a few hours later.

We left the hut in a slight drizzle, which was a lot better than the day before. The track first started to climb slowly but soon became very steep, comparable to the descent to Loch Maree. Lisette was complaining with every step, but I much prefer going up these steep sections than descending them. The trick is to take your time and find a rhythm. At least the steep ascent got us nice and warm. At about 650 meters above sea level, we started to come across the first patches of snow. I still find it incredible it actually snows here in the middle of summer. Early February is the equivalent of early August in Europe. 

As we left the forest and got above the treeline, the snow quickly became deeper. Visibility wasn't great, but luckily it was just enough to make out the next orange marker, which indicate the track. It started to get windy and there were rainclouds coming in from behind us. We were both freezing cold and I seriously doubted whether it was a good idea to head out today. Maybe we should have called for a helicopter to take us out? We struggled through the snow, which became ever deeper until it got knee deep at around 800 meters, we still had a long way to go to the pass. I was impressed with Lisette leading us through the snow, still complaining with every step but setting a good pace.

My boots aren't snow-proof at all, in fact there are quite a few big holes in them, and wearing only leggings and boardshorts I felt terribly under equipped for this kind of weather. It was a struggle getting up the steep, slippery slope in the deep snow. You never know where you put your feet, sometimes there's tussock underneath, sometimes slippery rocks. Sometimes you're walking in a stream and you sink through the snow into deep, smelly mud. I still couldn't believe how the weather had changed from the start of the week, when I was walking shirtless in the 30-degree, humid heat.

At Centre Pass (sorry for all the waterdrops in the pictures by the way! It's
impossible to keep your camera dry in such wet conditions...)

I was glad when we finally made it up and over the pass. On the other side of the pass the wind quickly died and it seemed like the clouds weren't going to make it across. There were a few patches of waist-deep snow on this side of the pass. Descending the steep snowy slopes was way quicker than going up and we quickly made it back into the forest. Just before we entered the forest we saw some strange bird tracks in the snow. We later looked it up, and we're pretty sure they're made by a Kiwi. Kiwi's are very rare and they only come out at night. We didn't see the actual bird, but we're lucky to have seen its tracks. From here it was an easy walk to the Upper Spey hut. The last part to the hut was a very muddy section, but there was actually about 200 meters of boardwalk across this, which we were very thankful for. We were amazed how quickly you can walk on a flat, smooth surface.

Arriving at the hut, we saw smoke coming out of the chimney. Apparently someone had gotten there before us, and this person had lit a fire, which was a great welcome. This person turned out to be Yannick, another Czech guy, who had started the Dusky Track from the Lake Manapouri end earlier today. We told him about the snow on Centre Pass. He seemed unimpressed. He either doesn't know what's waiting for him, or maybe he's some sort of supertramper. He did look pretty tough, and surely a lot better equipped than we were.

We were excited about making it across Centre Pass and even more excited about finishing the track the next day.

Day 10 – Upper Spey Hut – Lake Manapouri

The last section of the track is a flat, 14.8km section. We started off early, excited to finish the track and get back into civilization. Miraculously, the sun started shining soon after we took off. Having the sun on our backs felt great after almost a week of non-stop rain and cold. The track was rough and muddy, but nothing unusual and we kept a good pace. After 4 hours we arrived at the end of the track. Here, the track meets the road that runs from Lake Manapouri to Doubtful Sound. It's about another hour walking on the road to the Lake Manapouri wharf. At this point we didn't feel too excited yet, mostly sore, wet and tired. 

Arriving at the wharf, one of Real Journeys' boats was docked at the wharf, waiting for one of the tours to finish. We quickly boarded and made ourselves comfortable on the top deck. We took of our wet shoes and socks and baked in the glorious sunshine. Not much later the tour group boarded as well, and the boat left for the Manapouri Wharf, where our van was parked. It's a bit of a shock returning to civilization after 10 days in the wilderness, and I felt a bit dazed during the boat ride. I enjoyed the sunshine and the amazing Fiordland scenery. 

Tired and a bit dazzled, but happy.

We got off the boat and walked up to the carpark, where our faithful van was waiting for us. We got in and left to Te Anau for a much needed shower. Feeling too tired too cook, we went to get a pizza and a beer, which was amazing. 

I think, shortly after finishing a long tramp like ours I didn't really realize it yet, but now, lying in a warm campervan, looking back, I think it's been one of the most amazing things I've ever done and will look back upon often. I'm not sure I will ever do something similar again, definitely not within the near future. But I can say it's been an awesome adventure in one the most amazing places of the world.

vrijdag 23 januari 2015

A slow and steady September in New Zealand

Click here for the (automatically translated) Dutch version.

Still trying to catch up, even though I’m 4 months behind…sorry about that! This blogpost will probably a bit boring for many of you, since not too many things happened in September. We were mainly just living a normal working life after having - more or -less settled down in August, the month in which everything was still very new and exciting. Not that living in one place for only a month will teach you all the ins and outs about it and nothing will surprise you anymore, definitely not! But, surely we found a kind of steady rhythm, which will show through the journaling in this post and might not be very exciting to read. Besides that, the second half of September also brought upon us some unfortunate events, making this read even less fun.

On the other hand, this ís part of the traveling life (I’ve not met any backpackers yet who can travel for a year without working!), and friends back at home showed some interest in what our daily life looked like. Also, I remember that I myself was really curious about this part before our big adventure started! You won’t have any trouble finding blogs about the cool parts of traveling: seeing lots of interesting stuff, undertaking adventurous activities, etc. The more boring money-making part of it though is seriously underrepresented, and the harder challenges and troubles that every traveler will face are often not really emphasized. Logically…who’d be interested in that?! But I’m the kind of girl who likes to know what to expect beforehand so I can kinda prepare myself, emotionally. Maybe there are more silly control freaks out there just like me, preparing their travels and wondering what working and living as a traveler will be like. If so: continue reading! ;)

Ouch…my arms are really killing me! I guess all the massaging and climbing isn’t doing them much good, but the pain should probably stop at some point, shouldn’t it? Today a client who was booked in with me for a 90 minute massage didn’t show up, so I practiced a hotstone massage on Katie, one of my colleagues (she’s actually a beauty therapist, who only does light-pressure massages…manicures and masks are more her kind of thing) and Vanessa’s (our boss) right hand. Katie is quite a funny girl. I guess I always had some wrong prejudices about beauty therapists, unrightfully so! She told me about how she had to do a massage this week on someone who had this huge head tattooed on his leg…she kept apologizing in herself to the head every time she kneaded it, because it looked so painful and weird. Lol! The hotstone massage went well, I’m ready to perform this treatment now as well. And it’s something extra I can put on my resume next time!

This is what my 'office' looks like these days!

Even though Mark is working for cash, most employers in New Zealand will prefer to employ their people the official way - although real backpacker jobs like fruit picking can be paid under the table as well. It’s quite easy to get an IRD (inland revenue) number, which is all you need to start working as a registered employee and pay taxes. The tax system in New Zealand is called PAYE: Pay As You Earn. For me this meant that I only have to pay 20% income tax for my job at the Spa, and even less (12%) for my job at the craft store. Definitely better than in the Netherlands!

Mark was off today and it wasn’t particularly busy at the Spa, so Vanessa gave me green light to go climbing with the boys (Mark and his American colleague Hayden, remember him from the previous blog?). Hayden’s girlfriend Maddie came along this time as well. They form a nice couple together; back in the US they were both working in the outdoor industry with disabled kids, which is also where they fell in love with each other.

Hayden climbing @ Hospital Flat, Maddie belaying.

The four of us set course towards ‘Little Big Wall’; another sub part of the Hospital Flat climbing area, and also the highest one (2 pitches maximum, so still not thát high). We had a great afternoon - even though climbing and doing firm pressure massages remains a deadly combination - and shot an awesome new gorilla-like Facebook profile picture for Mark (don’t think he’s actually climbing or doing some kind of hard move…both feet are firmly on the ground, mwuah!).

It looks só professional and tough...

...but he's actually not even wearing his climbing shoes.

We’re both getting more and more used to our new jobs. Mark hasn’t had any accidents already for a couple of days - bravo! - and I am still surviving working on call. Andy (our backcountry course guide) dropped by last night to talk about the possibilities for a follow-up course in glacier terrain. We’re aiming for a couple of days in the two-week time frame Andy has in October, and are all crossing our fingers for a bit more snow. Andy said there are usually one or two more big loads in September/October, which sounds promising! We definitely need it, because for now the poor winter just seems to be continuing (which is serving us well in terms of climbing…but not so much for skiing!).

Mark was off again today (his boss seriously seems to be taking all the time in the world to build that house), so we could be found in Hospital Flat again; ‘Main Cliff’ today.

Moi, on the rocks: one of my favourite places to be!

Good thing about climbing at Hospital Flat is that it’s still within a sufficient reach of the Spa. I can get called for a massage as late as 1,5 to even 1 hour before, so I can never go very far away. But, depending on the sub part where we’re climbing, we’ll be back at the car within 20 minutes, where I have 10 minutes to get changed (I always have my black clothes and decent shoes with me these days!) and fix my hair, and then another 30 minutes to drive back to Wanaka. Just right!

After the climbing we took the turnoff towards West Wanaka, after both being advised to do so by locals last week on the same day. Wow! A winding gravel road through private land and meadows full of deer and cows brought us to a kind of beach/bay, where the Matukituki River ends in Lake Wanaka. It’s really an incredibly beautiful and remote spot, where some mountainbike tracks happen to start as well. We certainly have to do those later! It amazes me every time again by the way how - no matter in what obscure or remote place you find yourself – you’ll always come across neat and well-maintained dark green DOC (Department of Conservation) signs and information boards. Really handy!

Mark has been dragging around big branches again, of course, and throwing rocks in the river and such…New Zealand never fails to bring out the little boy in men.

Wanaka West, at the Matukituki River.

In the end I didn’t get called to work today, not for a single massage. That’s really the downside of working on call…if we would’ve known this before, we would definitely have gone skiing, or undertake a day trip to Mount Aspiring National Park. But it is as it is, and at least our climbing skills are evolving rapidly :)

A fallen tree...still good to use as a lookout point though!

Again no work at the Spa. Winter season in Wanaka is obviously coming to its end, I hope this won’t be characterizing for the rest of September and October. However, today was a good day to be off, I felt a bit under the weather. With a huge headache and deadly tired, my body seemed to be telling me that it needed some serious rest. So I spent the main part of the day with a blanket on the couch, while Mark did some grocery shopping, researched stuff online about car batteries (for the van) and served me drinks and lots of love.

Yay, we're in the picture! (Using the timer on your phone
while balancing it on one of the tree's branches isn't easy,
I tell you.)

Today I did my first shop hours at the Artist’sCorner; the new craft store in Wanaka where I’ll be working one day a week and teaching craft workshops. It was cool, and a bit weird as well, to stand in shop – all by myself – for the first time in my life, selling stuff and helping customers. Not that it was thát busy…but hey, I did sell some things! The store is in the same mall as a church, and many of the church-goers dropped by to take a look after the service was finished. Quite some crafty folks among them, that might secure a steady flow of customers on Sundays :) Wanaka seems to be an artsy town anyway, some local artists popped in as well to get supplies and leave their cards. In the meantime I priced products and took some inventory pictures for the online store. After shop hours I raced to the Spa to do a massage. Today was a busy day for the masseuses, because it’s Father’s Day here in New Zealand…and a massage seems to be a popular gift for daddies.

Mark was off today of course (weekend!), so he went climbing with Hayden and Zack (Hayden’s housemate). At the end of the afternoon we all met at the Waterbar (silly name for a regular bar, it doesn’t just serve water), where Karl (Mark’s and Hayden’s boss) suddenly walked by and yelled that there would still be no work tomorrow and the day after. Hayden’s perplexed face was priceless, after 15 minutes he was still stuttering “what just happened?!” I guess this is the Kiwi style of working? But for real…days off are fun, but we need an income!

Mark and Hayden...look at their concentration!

We started the new week as a retired couple :P Slept in and watched a documentary in bed (Indie Game; very interesting and a bit sad at times). I dyed some yarns while Mark did some more research on car batteries. It’s quite complicated stuff (he tries to explain it to me, to no avail), luckily I got myself attached to quite the handy guy. At the end of the afternoon I had to do a massage (an ‘important client’, according to Vanessa), while Mark did some grocery shopping. Perfect way to spend the first day of the week.

You might remember from a previous blogpost that we are living in Lake Hawea, and not in Wanaka. Every time you read about us doing something in town (like working, shopping or going to the bar), I’m talking about Wanaka…because Lake Hawea has pretty much no facilities except for a small and expensive grocery store that we only go to in case of emergency. It’s a 20 minute drive from Lake Hawea to Wanaka, so we always try to combine stuff (like shopping and working). It’s really ideal that Mark can carpool with his colleague, otherwise things would’ve been quite complicated (we might have even needed a second car then!). The road between Wanaka and Lake Hawea is not yet boring either of us. It’s a beautiful drive through the countryside, and because we ride it on a daily basis, we can slowly see the season change in a very interesting way!

Today we went climbing again with Hayden. Just after we left the van Mark and Hayden got a text from Karl: again no work tomorrow. We might end up poor if it goes on like this (poor people with very good climbing skills that is)! We really did well today; the amount of training is definitely showing off. I led a 23 (approximately a 6B+/6C in the European grading system), not without hanging…but I did it all the way, and all by myself, woohoo!

In full action :D

At the end of the afternoon I did a Muscle Relief at the Spa (60 minute massage with a 30 minute foot treatment…the peppermint mask smells absolutely delicious!), while Mark had a very interesting encounter. A German guy approached him and said: “that used to be my van”. It’s seriously unbelievable, so let me explain: we bought the van last July from an English couple, who drove it down to Queenstown all the way from Auckland, where it had belonged to 2 German guys. The 2 German guys had bought it in Auckland as well, from the German guy who was now talking to Mark. He owned the van about 2 years ago, went back to Germany, and is visiting New Zealand at the moment again just for a holiday. What are the odds?! We even still have the same camping cooker he bought for it, and probably some other stuff…and did I mention that he was the one who turned the van into a campervan, and took out 9 of the 12 chairs?!

I’m really starting to notice how ‘small’ New Zealand (especially the South Island) actually is, in terms of how often you run into the same people. Wanaka isn’t a big metropolis, but for the South Island it’s certainly not a small village either. Still, you see the same faces over and over, more often it feels than back in the Netherlands. Maybe a city just ‘looks’ big here, but isn’t so in reality? The houses here are spacious (plenty of room, so just one floor), and the amount of land around the houses is even larger. A city the size of Wanaka in the Netherlands would for sure at least have 5 times more inhabitants, living in flats and stacked houses with teeny tiny gardens. No wonder you’d be more anonymous in a crammed city like that…

The daughter of one of the 2 owners of the craft store was sick today, so they called to ask if I could do some extra shop hours. No problem at all, the wooden frames at Marks work STILL didn’t arrive, so he still can’t work…all extra income is welcome!

While I was in the shop, there was a brand representative at work as well, organizing and labeling a lot of products. He could tell me a couple of very interesting things about paint and their pigments, and why some tubes of paint are so incredibly expensive (while another color in the same sized tube can be very cheap). In the meantime I continued pricing other products. I never knew that you can actually buy paint brushes of over 90$...I’m really learning lots of new stuff!

My view when having lunch in between shop hours. 

Another couple of days filled with a bit of working and a bit of relaxing. Luckily I have at least one massage a day now (sometimes more) and Mark could finally get back to work again this Thursday, because the wooden frames have arrived at last. Him leaving early in the morning gave me some quiet time to skype with one of my best friends in the Netherlands and do some house holding chores (which is slowly getting out of hand by the way…and no, I’m NOT nesting! It’s just that I’m such a terrible perfectionist, it’s só tiring sometimes…). I’ve developed a weird relationship with our bag-less vacuum cleaner as well. I think you’re not really supposed to keep sucking up dirt until literally everything inside the handy machine is blocked…sigh.

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Anyway, yesterday (Friday) brought some good and bad news. The good news is that it’s finally snowing – YAY! And it looks like it will continue to do so for the coming week – more YAY! The bad news is that snow in the mountains meant rain in town, so Mark didn’t have to go to work, again. This rainy weather really sucks, climbing or mountain biking is neither an option. And there’s more bad news: Carrie seems to be a little sick. There’s some weird, rumbling/boiling sound coming from her insides every time after we’ve been driving, which can’t be good. Today (Saturday) we actually – finally – wanted to hit the snow and go skiing, but we didn’t dare to drive the steep uphill gravel road towards one of the ski resorts with Carrie in this condition. So now Mark is trying to figure out what can be wrong (seriously, that guy is on his way to become one fantastic combination of a mechanic, electrician and builder if things go on like this!). Hopefully we can go skiing next weekend then, preferably without an expensive necessary visit to the car doctor.

In the meantime we took the bad weather as an excuse to behave like real nerds and spent the day gaming: old school Rayman (my all time favourite), Transport Tycoon, beer and potato chips. Oh, and we found out that your house can suddenly be occupied with 3 bouncing kinds, a barely English speaking Swiss guy and a (deliciously) cooking housemate. She’s not home often, but if she is you will definitely notice ;)

Our miniature foodies from New World (the big supermarket
brand here in New Zealand). Perfect for my dollies :P

Today during lunch break at the Artist Corner (shop hours) I found the best little café in town just around the corner: Patagonia. They not only sell good coffee, but also all kinds of homemade chocolate, cookies, cakes, breakfasts, smoothies, juices, iced coffee and…incredibly yummie-tasting icecream in prize-winning flavors. Of course I dragged Mark to the place after work to try some out: Hokey-Pokey is my new definite favorite (kind of a fresh vanilla taste with crispy little honey balls – OH HEAVENS!).

We also went climbing (indoor) for a bit, practicing some of the exercises of the technical course we finished back home just before leaving for New Zealand. Pfew, we really need to repeat these movements and techniques wáy more often if we want them to become automatic and actually profit of them when climbing outdoors. A bucket full of discipline, anyone, please?

One of the many pictures we secretly took of the rock climbing
guide book for Hospital Flat in the library. Making copies was
not allowed...but hey, it's sold out!

Okay, we’ve got a serious problem. Carrie is definitely ill, and it’s not just a simple flu. The engine kept overheating when driving, so it was really time to take her to the garage. Diagnosis: cracked head, and maybe a little tear in the cylinder block. Don’t ask me what it means, all I know is that it costs a shitload of money to repair, probably around 2500$. Plus the expenses of our rental car, that we will most certainly need for at least a week, and which for some unexplainable reason only receives an über Christian radio station that keeps telling us to be bright and positive and how much we have to be thankful for…the irony ;) We’re just hoping on many working hours and lots of sold crafts to be able to pay for this. Why, oh why is it right now that I’m starting to feel a tennis elbow evolving in my right arm?!

Mork work, less play. The expenses on our van have really blown us away. Especially after I managed to get a huge speeding ticket last week because I was speeding up already 400 meters before I was actually allowed to…my goodness, that was really the last straw. I just snapped, couldn’t help myself and started crying like a little girl. The poor policeman was so startled by it that he more or less threw the fine into the car and ran away as fast as he could, haha!

You know, it’s just that we saved funds, made sacrifices and worked for this so long, and now we have to spend that money on a stupid reparation. SO much money, just disappearing in a second, gone! We are really trying to not let it ruin our moods too much. It sucks big time and it’s very tempting to be very, very grumpy (New Zealand turns out to be quite an expensive country, and we’re still spending more than that we’re earning at the moment, so our saved up funds are quite dear to us), but I know that we also at the same time have so much to be thankful for (am I sounding like that Christian radio station now?). We’re trying to find the right attitude towards money (which, in the end, is still just ‘money’) and to see things in the right perspective. This turns out to be quite the challenge for us Western people. You probably only develop such a healthier attitude through situations like these…?

A full moon in Wanaka sky...

We try to work as much as possible, but it’s not áll work and no play at all, luckily! I found the perfect running track along the lake (10 km return: just you, the wind, the lake and the bunnies!), and Mark started drawing (a long forgotten hobby). And…drum roll…tomorrow we’re hitting the snow! Yes, it kept snowing last week, and there should be a nice fresh layer of powder tomorrow morning. Our gear seems to be fitting in our tiny rental car, so it’s time for some FUN!

Track along Lake Hawea's shore...

Quite different running in these surroundings, compared to the Netherlands!

There were plenty of bunnies on the track (impossible to capture them on a
photo though!)

Finally another day in the snow! It’s unbelievable, how spring seems to have taken off down in town already, while up at around 1800 meters you’re suddenly in the middle of winter wonderland again. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t that good; around 1pm little white crystals started falling down again, just like the previous couple of days (everyone who loves skiing knows: the ideal of snowfall during the night and sunshine during the day is a precious treasure). On moments like these you realize once more why the influence of the weather is so much bigger in the backcountry, compared to a commercial ski area with clear signs and tracks, avalanche control, etc.

Mark, preparing a nice run through the soft powder.

When snow starts falling, you have to be careful not to end up in a whiteout, in which literally everything around you becomes one big undistinguishable mass of white. Everyone who has ever skied will recognize that dizzy feeling you get when it’s a bit misty or snowy, and the reference of a clear horizon between blue sky and white snow disappears. When it’s really bad, you sometimes don’t even know which way is up, and which way is down. I remember carefully skiing from slope pole to slope pole once, imagine being in the backcountry in weather like that?!

Overlooking Cardrona's backcountry. You can see how little
snow there actually is...

Fortunately we took off early in the morning and were able to make some nice runs in Boundary Basin (Cardrona) before the bad weather set in. It also seems like skinning is – sloooowly – becoming a bit easier for me! Not long after it began snowing and blowing we called it a day, went home and sank down in a hot steaming bath. My tired muscles sang of pure joy.

...luckily still enough to make some nice runs!

Today I didn’t get called to the Spa, while Mark had to work all day. Yesterday was the opposite…luckily at least one of us is working every day to pay for Carrie’s reparations. Mark visited the garage yesterday, the price calculation they gave us beforehand seems to be correct, unfortunately. We just really hope that she’ll be running nice and smooth for the rest of the year now after this big fix up (a cracked head seems to be a common problem for Nissan Caravans, and it’s pretty much the worst and most expensive thing that can break down. It costs us half of what the whole van costed! But let me stop myself here – positive thinking Liset…money isn’t everything (this is so hard, aargh)).
My tennis elbow doesn’t seem to worsen, luckily, but the pain is neither decreasing. I know exactly what I’d recommend to a patient with this injury, but why is it so difficult to be your own physiotherapist? I’m really a far-from-ideal patient :P

Mark enjoys himself at work, driving around with Karl’s trailer. Last time he had to take it someplace he managed to get it so fully loaded that his maximum speed was 30 k/h…which must have been very pleasant for the cars behind him on the highway. Once back home he still has energy left to drive me nuts, while I’m trying to be Martha Stewart and keep the house clean (folding the laundry is impossible if someone keeps bombing you with underwear!), to eventually fall deep (DEEP) asleep on the couch at 21.30. Time for me to eat our last bag of potato chips, all by myself…that will teach him!

Another good way to lose some energy: wood chopping.

Seriously, how can it be so warm down here while the skifields are still open and they’re even forecasting snow for the second half of the week?! Mark was working today without a shirt on, and went for a bit of mountainbiking in my shorts. Really: if the sun shines in New Zealand, it is warm immediately.

The sun seems to be brighter here too. I never wore sunglasses a lot (by far not as much as Mark) back in the Netherlands, but down here you really need them. Constantly squeezing your eyes against the sun will only end in headaches. Did you know that New Zealand has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world? This is due to a hole in the ozone layer above the islands, resulting in less protection from the suns harming UV radiation.

We’ve got Carrie back! Finally…after 12 days in a shopping-trolley-sized rental car that speeded up way too easily, it feels so good to be driving the big van again. Going as fast as it can (110 k/h :P), making a hell of a noise...at least this is a real car! (And not a automatic, like all New Zealanders seem to be driving….seriously, with all those hills and curvy roads?!)

We found out that Contraption Maker is a very funny game by the way. We happily spent the night solving puzzles and working on our lateral thinking skills, with Carrie peacefully asleep again on the driveway.

No more silly noises coming out of the van, what a relief! Mark, the lucky bastard, went for another climb today in Hospital Flat. At some places in the sun it was almost too hot!

The view from Hospital Flat. If you look very, very closely, you
can see our van parked in the distance!

I had to work, unfortunately, at the Spa as well as at the craft store. Not much fun to be inside with this awesome weather, but we have to pay the bills. Today was the last time doing shop hours at the craft store by the way; they cannot pay me any longer. It’s quite a disappointment…working in a craft store was always kind of a dream job! The girls who own the place are great ladies, but I’m a bit surprised by their puzzlement over the fact that they are ‘still’ not making a profit. Really, after 2 months?! There doesn’t seem to be much planning-ahead going on, to put it mildly.

I will stay available for emergencies and for the craft workshops, but honestly: I don’t really see them happening either. Which is even a bigger disappointment (because teaching craft workshops is even a bigger kind of dream job!), and I put quite a lot of preparation in the classes I was supposed to teach. I’m just trying to not disregard that as wasted time and effort, maybe there will be another chance to use it, one day. Never stop dreaming!

I realize how my writing might sound contradictory at times. On the one hand, I want to work as much as possible, so I complain when it’s too quiet at the Spa. On the other hand, I complain when I dó get to work, because the weather’s too good, I want to go climbing with the boys, or the work’s just too much.

Besides the moments when I just need a kick under my butt and stop being so grumpy (like when feeling sorry for myself for having to sit inside with sunny weather, or not being able to join Mark on some fun adventures – that’s just life, get over it!) I guess the working life will always stay kind of a challenge for me. Because sometimes, it really ís too much. I have to put a lot of effort in finding the right balance: earning enough money to pay the bills, but not working so many hours that I will have a mental breakdown every time Mark or somebody else says something that MIGHT be taken the wrong way (which I will do, all the time, when working too much). I’m telling you, that kind of ‘overstimulated me’ is not much fun for neither of us. Working with and for people costs energy, being ‘on call’ for 6 days a week costs energy…but having a bit of money to do fun stuff or buy something extra every now and then is also pretty nice! And don’t get me started about the guilt, which I feel when drawing a line and refuse to work more (wondering a 1000 times a day if I’m actually just being a pussy), but which I ALSO feel when constantly having breakdowns and being a crybaby over nothing (poor Mark…I’m always afraid I’m pushing him away from me, acting like that).

You know what? Sometimes I seriously wonder how in the world I could think that working and traveling in a foreign country for a year would be a good idea for a highly sensitive, control addicted and perfectionist person like me. Really?! But then I remind myself: maybe the only way to learn, to become better at finding the right balance, at staying relaxed and being flexible is to put myself out there, out of my comfort zone. I really do hope I’m learning and growing (even though you never really realize it at the moment itself, because it takes time). I hope, I try, I stumble and try again.

A hot cuppa and some journaling always works when overstimulated.

(But can I tell you a little secret? I’ll humbly admit that my dream job is in the very center of my comfort zone, and I love daydreaming about it, especially on those moments when I’m overstimulated and hate working more than ever. If I just could live in a nice outdoorsy place, with some animals and a big garden, having my own craft studio, selling stuff online and maybe on a market every now and then and maybe, máybe even write a book…that would be heaven. I know life is probably not like that…but hey, a girl can dream, right?!).

It’s almost possible to sunbathe in bikini at the lakeside, but we hit the powder again today! It was ‘closing day’ at Treble Cone, an annual event for which everyone (literally…age 3 to pretty much 80!) dresses up and goes skiing in the craziest costumes. It was hilarious. I saw some men shredding bare naked, but the guy who went down the slope on his snowboard while stoically playing the ukulele in a vintage outfit definitely deserves the first prize if you ask me.

Treble Cone's backcountry, with Black Peak in the distance.

We took the ‘backdoor’ and did 2 nice runs in Treble Cone’s backbowl. I guess we now really know what they here call ‘spring skiing’: slushy snow, tussock skiing, corn snow…there’s still lots of fun to be had this time of year, even though summer seems to have taken off down in town.

Our lunch spot for the day :)

At the end of the day we met 2 kea’s: the most mischievous and non-shy birds I’ve ever seen. They came super close, posing for the camera and curiously hopping around. A nice way to end a lovely day!

The clowns of the mountains.

Kea’s are the world’s only alpine parrots, which can be found solely in New Zealand’s South Island. It’s about 48 cm long (quite big!), olive green with a brilliant orange under the wings. The special birds are known for their intelligence and curiosity, characteristics that are vital for survival in the harsh mountain environment. Some interesting studies pointed out that Kea’s can solve logical puzzles (like pushing and pulling things in a certain order to get to food, or working together to achieve a certain goal…they have even been filmed preparing and using tools!). I can tell you: when having such a close encounter with these birds as we had, you can see this cleverness in their cheeky, curious eyes. Kea’s are also called ‘the clowns of the mountains’; they will often investigate backpacks, boots, skis, snowboards and even cars, often causing damage or flying off with small items (bye bye sunglasses!).

Yes, this is really how close they came, not much
zooming in necessary!

Sigh…new problem: our housemate Glenn has disappeared. He still owes us 600$ on rent and bills, which he doesn’t seem to be going to pay. He blocked us on Facebook and doesn’t pick up his phone, so I guess that’s it. Really, who does something like that? I thought he was a nice guy! And finding a new housemate won’t be easy right now (at the end of the winter season), while, paying 2/3 of the rent (instead of 2/4) is something we’re not going to manage financially… So now what? Move houses?!

It might sound a bit stupid and naïve to have someone owing you that much of money, which it probably is. Maybe we’re just too quick in trusting other people, I seem to be doing this even more easily than Mark. It just doesn’t occur to me at áll that someone might misuse that trust in a way that would be incomprehensible to me. And in our defense: our housemate really seemed like a nice and decent guy, paid his bills on time before and was always good and helpful company to have around. A couple of weeks ago he started a new job quite far out of town, where he could stay during the week internally. He definitely wanted to keep his room for the weekends though, since he loved this place and thought it was a good spot to relax and rest after work. We believed him, since he left some of his stuff in his room. We asked him a couple of times during the last weeks about his payments (on Facebook or in texts), which he promised every time would come in soon. We were patient, but explained that we could also really use the money because of the car reparations…something he was very empathic about, he even tried to help out. So we didn’t really expect this kind of behavior! And what can you do, if someone doesn’t pick up his phone and blocks you on Facebook (which probably says enough)? According to the landlords Mark and I are the head-tenants, and the subtenants are our responsibility (something that isn’t stated all that clear in the contract, actually), so the New Zealand Tenancy Tribunal probably won’t help us. Neither will the police, whom we already visited: this is a legal matter, no police business. So…it looks like September is just going to be a VERY expensive month for us, in which many new (hard) lessons were learned.

I díd do something nice today to cheer myself up though: I went to Jill’s Wool – a pottery and wool & fiber shop. I’d seen the sign on one of the sideways (towards the little paradise of Dublin Bay) of the road between Hawea and Wanaka so many times already, and today seemed like a perfect opportunity/excuse to go shopping :) The visit really cheered me up, the old couple occupying the place there is really living the dream: earning their simple farm-living doing the things they love! And oh, the wools and yarns and fibers…drool!!

Next week I’ll be going back, because according to the lady they should be having some possum fiber in stock by then. Spinning possum fiber has been on my NZ to-do list since the beginning, am I really going to succeed in this goal?!

No matter what happens...skies like these always manage to take our breaths
away (taken from our home in Hawea!).

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