And so C and I travelled to Mount Maunganui with the dream of living and working there to experience the Kiwi lifestyle. We travelled with our belongings tied in a handkerchief at the end of a stick. When we arrived, we found that the streets were paved with gold.... well, not quite...
I had it in my head that I wanted to work in a bar... reliving the sticky fun of my student days. I prepared my ´bar worker´ CV and took it into a few places. Only the classy ones, mind you. Meanwhile, we also needed somewhere to live.... We phoned ´round a few places and eventually spoke to someone who thought I sounded ttrustworthy enough to tell me that the key to her holiday home was under the front door mat. hahaha. So we went and had a look ... it was fab. It took a bit more charm and negotiation to secure it until Christmas for as much as a dorm bed in a hostel incl bills. Bargain... it was a 3 bed weatherboard house with sea views from the deck out front, harbour views from the back garden and the address of 102 Ocean View. Brilliant!!
Just needed someway to pay for it!! The bars and shops of The Mount didn´t really seem to want to give a job to someone who hadn´t worked in retail or hospitality for nearly 10 years. Meanies. So I went the agency route and ended up working for a market research agency in the town. Result. Not only did I get to play with my old friends excel and powerpoint, I also got to walk to work on the beach (when i got up in time!). Celia was still working in the cafe and was busy securing work in the local Council.
And so we launched ourselves into ´Mount Life´. Beach Volleyball (I was rubbish) Touch Rugby (spectated rather than participated) and lots of nights out in a bar called Savvie... dangerous place where you can never go for just one drink. We also joined a yoga group. It was very different to the Ashram in India. I was surprised to turn around half way through the first session to see Celia hanging upside down from the beams! The teacher was quite strict and at times we wondered if this was some strtange cult we had signed up to. However, I did discover that i am a ´natural´ at resting my chin on my chest and remaining aligned while balancing on one leg. Such useful life skills. Must remember to put those on my CV....
work was really quiet. There was only 4 or 5 people in the office. SOmetimes Iwould go to talk and my voice wouldn´t work where I hadn´t spoken for so long. My former colleagues at IRI can appreciate how hard that was for me! However, I was made to feel part of the team and appreciated being invited to the Christmas do (Blokarting... much fun and our team one the quiz!), watching the Melbourne Cup in the pub and early finishes on Friday to drink a beer in the spring sunshine.
We had plenty of BBQs... once a weekend at least... whether the weather was suitable or not. we also went away for a couple of weekends....
To the Coromandel Peninsula where we had huge beaches to ourselves, camped near the beach and I got ridiculously sun burnt.
to Rotorua Lakes where we went mountain biking for two hours which was fun oonce I got over my scaredy cat nerves and followed it up with a soak in Kerosene Creek... a hot stream which we had to ourselves once a nudey rudey frenchman got out.
being in NZ, not earning a great wage and effectively still living out of our rucksacks, we noticed a drop in our social status. Suddenly we were no longer Ladies of the Shire. Instead we earned the title of ´The Pesky Girls´. Not quite sure how that started. It may have been when I ´borrowed´ Sarah and Martin´s toothpaste...
We had to move out of our sea viewed house over Christmas and moved into Wayne´s (a brummy sparky) sleep out (ie his garage has been converted into a living area). It was fab. Everything we needed including bunk beds and a punch bag. We moved from sea views to waynes secret garden.. lovely and green with a veggie patch, avocado tree, great BBQ and lots of mosquitos.
Suddenly it was Christmas. We had breakfast cooked on the BBQ and then headed of to walk round The Mount (the hill that the town Mt Maunganui is named after). In the evening we headed round to Sarah and Martin´s for yummy turkey with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding Ice Cream and some rather classy crackers. all good fun.
New Year´s eve was spent over in Tauranga, the city of which Mt Manuganui is a suburb. We spent the first part of the evening at Tash and Grant--- tash being a colleague of C. then headed into the city for drinks and music. Had a great time. On returning to the Mount, I decided that I wasn´t ready to go to bed, so ended up going to a party over the road. Uninvited. They didn´t seem to mind. Offered me beer and let me boogie in their living room until well into the morning. Wouldn´t do that in the UK.
I couldn´t help comparing the lifestyle I was living in The Mount to that which I had been living in the UK.... it all began when I left the office one day and bumped into a guy half wearing a wet suit. That doesn´t happen in Bracknell! It was also very rare for people to work after 5.30pm. Plus, I would never be able to afford to rent somewhere with sea views in the UK. And where could you work in an office and walk there on the beach?! another good thing about NZ is the fact that kebabs are considered a cusine type... you go to turkish restaurants as you would italian or chinese... so you can eat kebabs for lunch, not just when you come out of night clubs slightly worse for wear! So these are some of the good things about NZ. there are some down sides: it´s the other side of the planet from friends and family, there´s not alot going on arts wise (they still play Phil Colins on the radio) and all of the young men have emmigrated to Australia or London. doh.
All too soon it was time for me to say ´bye to the Mount. I did it in style with a few too many cocktails in Savvie and an early start the next day to catch a bus for my last Kiwi Adventure (for this trip, anyway...) to Wellington.
I spent one night in Wellington with friends of Dad and Lis ... Don and Alison who made me feel very welcome even though I was there for just one night. I was heading off to the Abel Tasman National Park a place I had yet to visit on the top of the South Island. I spent a couple of days in the park itself; One day walking includuing a paddle across mudflats. The second day I was kayaking which was great fun. Sharing a double kayak with the canadian guide which meant I could relax a bit. We chose a beach to have coffee on and then set off again to meet our ride back on a catamaran... sails up and away we went. Quite fast actually. I got splashed. It was a proper sail. Pops, when are you going to go to NZ? you would love it.
The next few days were rainy, so I opted out of outdoor pursuits and decamped to Nelson, the nearest ´city´. Lots of lovely arts and jewelry shops, a good gallery and the base for wine tours which I enjoyed. Even though my tour was with two middle aged couples with whom I didn´t really have a lot in common. hey ho. after a few glasses, I didn´t really care!
From Nelson, I flew up to auckland. a great flight over Abel Tasman where I could see the beaches I had walked along and paddled past. Lots of other beaches and coves. A great place which I haven´t really done justice here.
I appreciated being in Auckland, knowing that it was going to be the last place which felt familiar for a while. After lots of packing, unpacking, taking stuff to the op shop and one last frantic texting conversation with my sister, I headed off to Chile, country number nine and home to lots of avocado farmers....