Trying To Be A Tourist In Rotten Rotorua

Through the awesome website www.couchsurfing.com I have found a host who will put me up for free for my three nights in Rotorua. Just the same, for this is tourist-land and they sure know how to cash in on the holiday makers, eager to tick of yet another must-see destination from their list. I very rarely find myself doing that sort of thing, but this time is different; I have decided to be a genuine tourist and “do” Rotorua. At least, that is my plan…

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Rotorua is much more than just a hole in the ground, and yet holes like this one is what attracts thousands of tourists to the town every year. Judging from the smell this could be a special kind of hole…

Richard – my generous host – tells me over the phone that he unfortunately won’t be home before much later that night, but that I should just let myself into his house and “get stuck in”. I find the keys in a hidden spot and enter his dream of a house. Richard is a doctor and his solid income is nicely reflected in his dwelling: Luscious rooms full of tasteful record and book collections; marvellous kitchen with a monstrous marble slab for a table-top; class A touring bikes in one corner and a pantry full of organic foods and homebrewed beer. Getting “stuck in” has never been easier and before you can say weary traveller, I have already lit the fire, made myself a hearty omelette and slipped into Richard’s comfortable couch.

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Who needs hotels when you can stay in a house like this? For free!

Around 10 pm the incredibly trusting Richard turns up and I find myself in the odd position of being able to welcome home in his own house. We hit it off immediately and it is only the advancing night that breaks off our flow of words – Richard has work in the morning. I decide to get up early too and ride with Richard into town as he lives a good 15 minutes drive out in the hills. I wake up to yet another rainy day but determined to be a good tourist, I drag myself out of the soft guest bed to go exploring in Rotorua.

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New Zealand From The Road-Side

There are few modes of transport that offer the traveler a better view into the fabric of a nation than that of hitch hiking. From Jaguar-driving CEO’s to poultry-farmers in run-down trucks, I have had (and still have) the pleasure of being chauffeured from A to B by people from all walks of life. These experiences have led me to conclude that there are good people everywhere! The following is an account of my hitch from Auckland to Rotorua, a journey covering a mere 230 km.

Hitch 1

Rather than taking a bus about 45 minutes out of town to find a good spot on the motorway, I decide to take a gamble and try out a semi-dodgy spot right in the center of Auckland. I’m standing right in front of a sign illustrating the illegality of my activity with a fat line over a stick man in a circle. At least the drivers won’t see that so well then…

After 4 different cop cars have passed me, however, I realize that the Auckland Police probably have more pressing issues at hand. Nearly 40 minutes pass before a sporty old black Nissan pulls up. Young man, chatty, paying back his dues: “You see I lost my licence there for a while, nothing serious just a few speeding tickets, but that’s when I started hitching. Used to be a meek little man but that sure got me talking”.

He takes me even further than he was going himself, still only about 10 km but he sure knows his good spots. Drops me off at a perfect ramp with lots of space to pull over. In the 20 minutes I spent his car I get to hear about his latest dilemma: “My missus invited this incredibly good-looking Estonian to come stay with us and she is a stunner, I mean she is an 11 on the 10 scale, prancing around my house and hanging her g-strings in my yard and on top of that my wife only told me 2 weeks ago that she’s pregnant!”

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If only the picture was taken on this day, but no, rain, rain and more rain…

Hitch 2

As I walk to the spacious ramp I see a really old, beat-up ute parked there with the driver attending something in the cabin. Anxious to get a move on I swear under my breath and hope he’ll pull away soon. Hard to get anyone to stop when someone did already. Too bad it wasn’t for me, but then the driver sees me in his mirror, honks his horn and waves me over. My irritation turns to a big smile, how often do you go hitch-hiking and the next ride is already there waiting for you!

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Auckland Adventures

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Like any decent city, Auckland has its own landmark – the Skytower – and although there are barely half a million inhabitants, in terms of area Auckland is roughly 4.5 times larger than New York!

After a year of beating around the bush in Australia, I decided to hit up the big city life in New Zealand for a little while. Seeing that I was actually arriving in the country’s biggest city – Auckland – I figured that this would be a good place to get my urban culture fix, so I promptly went searching on the fabulous website couch surfing.

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The awesome and awe-inspiring Anna Cruse who hosted me for 5 eventful days.

It was to be the seriously interesting belly-dancer, martial art expert and circus acrobat Anna Cruse and her two trusted knights who became my generous hosts for my 5 days of Auckland adventures. Actually, without them, I am not so sure that I could have even titled this post in this fashion. On the very first night I thus ended up at a fully-fledged Goth party where I saw some very wonderful burlesque dance and had the dubious pleasure of getting electrocuted by the Auckland phenomenon Professor Boris Van Galvin.

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A New Zealand Welcome

When I was still a little kid picking my nose and looking out the class room window with a dreamy look on my face, I found out that the closest land mass to the complete opposite point from Denmark on the globe was New Zealand. In other words, the country nick-named Kiwi is the furthest away from home that I could get without sitting in a boat. Having caught the travel bug at infancy, I felt compelled to go there as soon as I could.

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The world looks sort of different from here…

Today, roughly 25 years later, I have finally made it to the other side of the planet and although I have been fully conscious of getting here, I just still can’t believe how far away from home I am and it fills me with the kind of excitement that one feels on a roller coaster just before a massive drop. I am actually and factually upside down from all my friends and family back home. I see stars on the night sky that they can’t see and I’m closer to Antarctica than they are to the Arctic. Around here people go North to find a warmer spot and the Southerners are a rough bunch accustomed to freezing more than anything else. Just incredible…

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I was told that one day the rain will stop and then hopefully I will be able to take photos like this!

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later mate

my latest poem…

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Tank On A Toyota

Despite my initial disappointment with the endless miles of red tape in Australia, I have been happy still to find that some people will just do what it takes to get the job done. Like when that 60-odd-year-old crazy carpenter was sitting in the raised bucket of a back hoe while chainsawing away at a roof beam immediately above him.

Another example can be seen in the pictures below. We needed to move a water tank at Ponyland and instead of huffing and puffing and pushing it all the way up the hill (probably would have taken us all day) of course we just put in on the tray of Dave’s indestructable Toyota Hilux.

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4 wheel drive utility trucks rock!

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Looking at this picture now I fail to understand how we could conceive of such a seemingly crazy idea, but in the end it worked out really smooth, saved us a lot of trouble and gave us all a good laugh.

Christiania Gets A New Embassy

Being a self-proclaimed Travelling Ambassador for my beloved Freetown of Christiania, I naturally endeavor to establish as many embassies as possible in the freetowns and intentional communities that I come across.

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On my very last evening in Australia, the incredible human being David Harris – representing Ponyland – inaugurated Christiania’s first embassy in Australia by painting the Christiania symbol on the door; three yellow dots on a red background.

As it happens, the first embassy that I established was in the Nimbin Valley in a perma culture community called Ponyland. The ponies (we are the ponies!) had an old one-room shack that was in need of a serious overhaul, and they offered me that, if I fixed it up, I could stay there until my visa ran out.

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Nimbin Valley Wonders

Here are some random snaps from Nimbin Valley:

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This was a particularly serene evening, not a wind was moving and the sunset seemed to just go on forever while JJ Cale softly played from my car stereo.

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A Carpenter’s Pride

While my heart was busy breaking itself into pieces, my hands were busy doing carpentry for Carolyn’s new bush-house in Nimbin, Australia. I got hired on as a carpenter despite my lack of certificates etc. and I really enjoyed working with the ever-present hardwood which seems like the only type of wood there is in Australia. Here are some samples of my work…

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On this section I did all of the deck as well as the banister. Note the way the top of it “hugs” the bush pole. Took me a while to figure that one out…

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Where did I go?

It’s been around 5 months since I last posted anything on my blog here. “Why is that?”, you may rightfully ask. I have certainly asked myself that question a lot and here is the honest answer: I didn’t want to expose my life.

Thing is, I became in love with the most amazing, caring and inspiring woman I have ever met and suddenly I was more than just a “pretend” immigrant, I was actually looking for ways to stay in Australia. Suddenly my life and my experience was shared with someone too precious for me to write about for anyone and everyone to see online. She still is and since this blog is about my life and what I experience, I simply stopped writing about it.

Unfortunately, bureaucracy got in the way and with the help of my own damn restlessness and the incredible distance from Australia to my native Denmark where all of my family and most of my friends reside, I simply backed out.

It wasn’t easy. I gave up a new life, a family and possibly the best lover I will ever meet. To be honest I sometimes still ask myself why. To be even more honest, I am nearly crying as I write this. If you ever thought travelling was all about having fun and enjoying life all the time, then you probably haven’t done much travelling.

In any case, life goes on and being a rambling man, I have now journeyed on to New Zealand where I am picking up the pieces of my broken heart (don’t think I don’t know I broke it myself) and continuing my travels wherever they may take me.

That’s where I was and now I am here, ready to write again. Thank you for your patience.

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