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Friday, 16 June 2017

Chapter 24 ~ The Waipukurau Workout

For the first time in two months I enter an entirely unfamiliar area of New Zealand. Now it's time to explore...

Located around the eponymous Hawke Bay - which was named in honour of Admiral Edward Hawke who decisively defeated the French at the Battle of Quiberon Bay in 1759 - the Hawke's Bay region covers an area of roughly 14,000 km², and is home to about 160,000 people. The bay itself has a 100 km long shoreline, but not all of the Hawke's Bay Region is located along its coast.

In fact, the place where I'm staying now is about as far from the sea as one can get in Hawke's Bay: For now, I'm helping out in a place at the outskirts of Waipukurau, a town of 4,000 people, and the biggest municipality of the Central Hawke's Bay district. It's charming name translates from Māori as "Water that smells like crap", which is probably related to the fact tha tis place used to be a foetid marshland in the past. Nowadays, however, it is quite a pleasant place to stay in.

Originally, Waipukurau was created as a model village in 1867 by Henry R. Russel, who purchased 12,000 acres of land near the Tukituki River, and planned to create a community where one business of each kind was to be established by offering selected applicants from overseas employment and an assisted passage.

Having come to this place, I should soon fulfil my role as...

The Helper of Hawke's Bay

My host this time around is an entrepreneur by the name of Angela, who not only runs her own little company, but also manages a number of properties all the same. Being quite busy as a result, she welcomes the help of travellers like me to take care of all the little tasks that keep on piling up over time.

Being a single mom of three children, all of whom have already moved out, or are away at university or boarding school, there are no other people living in the house right now - though every once and so often Angela's boyfriend, Stan comes to visit, and occasionally, her youngest son Connor also returns home for the weekend.

That, however, does not mean that the house is empty - not with three cats around that is. The tri-coloured and well-fed Tequila quickly takes a liking to me, and every once and so often rests on my lap while I work on my blog. The ginger Ronald is not quite so affectionate, but equally well-fed. Finally, we have the more slender Taco, who can be quite irritable at times, and has been known to leave a mark on people who handled him against his will.

As for the outdoors, there is Manta, a kind and loyal Labrador who guards the house day and night...

...and also a pair of horses, who roam the property quite freely.

However, the highlight comes when Angela adopts a little puppy halfway during my stay at her place. Looking like the monochrome counterpart to Manta young little Magic is not even a month old. Fortunately, the older dog instantly takes a liking to her, and the two of them soon become best friends.

Being young as she is, Magic often takes catnaps in whatever place strikes her fancy.

In fact, the choice of her favourite napping place gives me reason to assume she has more than just a little cat in her.

And now, why don't I talk a little bit about...

The Place

Angela owns a big house at the outskirts of Waipukurau...

...which just so happens to be right next to the local aerodrome, from which agricultural airplanes regularly take off.

The weather is quite sunny most of the time, and on the one day when it isn't, I'm privy to a fantastic rainbow...

...and since we're approaching the Festival of Lights here on the southern hemisphere, I regularly wake up at dawn, and get to see some beautiful sunrises.

Anyway, since it's quite a big house, it's probably easier for me to just give you a quick walk through it.

The factory in the back may consist only of a few metal containers for now, but I still consider it a sign of outstanding entrepreneurship. She has managed to fill a market gap which may strike you as a bit odd first, but her commercial success with it is proof of its validity.

As such, it's not unusual to find somewhat peculiar containers all over the place.

But that's not the only curiosity this place has to offer: For some reason, there is also a host of straw critters crawling around the most impossible of places.

Angela also owns a couple of other properties around Waipukurau, which I should occasionally visit while helping her out, which brings us to the next part:

The Job

As it has been a while since Angela has last had a helper, a mountain of work has piled up, and is just waiting to be taken care of. In fact, being an employer herself, Angela is not averse to the idea of hiring someone to take care of the extra work, and that means...

...I'm actually getting paid for once! The arrangement features me working 4 hours a day for room and board. Anything I work beyond that required amount is recompensed by Angela at the end of the week, enabling me to restock my travelling funds.

With this mutually beneficial agreement in place, Angela wastes no time putting me to work. Even on the day I arrive, the two of us are already working hard, clearing out a property which Angela leases to and aspiring bar-owner.

Another project for me is to gather up a pile of firewood...

...and store it at the front of the hay barn, where it can dry out in preparation to being burned.

Also, since we are in the cold season here down under now, it's one of my duties to ensure that the stashes of firewood around the house are always well-stocked.

On rainy days, I spend most of my time indoors, disposing of decades of deceased domestic dipteroids...

...or servicing only slightly deprecated vacuum cleaners.

Another perfect task for a rainy day is cleaning out Angela's car, and installing fancy seat covers.

However, on most days the weather is sunny, allowing me to tackle extensive tasks such as gradually eroding away a massive mound of shingle over the course of several days...

...and storing the earth in a total of 90 buckets...

...which I then load onto a trailer... that Angela and I can conveniently transport it to one of her farms for later use.

Does that already seem like a lot of work to you? Here's a quick calculation about how much soil I've shifted: I've filled 90 30-litre buckets about halfway with shingle, amounting to a total of 1,450 litres of shingle. One litre of shingle weighs about 1.5 kg, meaning that I've eventually shifted over two tons of soil.No wonder I'm sore! Sweeping the deck and cleaning the pool are easy by comparison.

But if we're going to stay with the big numbers, I also harvested a total of 1,285 (one-thousand two-hundred and eighty-five) feijoas...

...before scooping them all out, and freezing them for future consumption.

The next big project is emptying the hay barn, and loading the hay onto the trailer...

...before taking it to the River Block farm, which currently serves as a pasture for a herd of frisky young bulls.

Seems like a lot already, doesn't it? But wait, there's more: For example, I can also put my landscaping skills to good use by building a bona-fide cobblestone path.

Also, one of Angela's car can really do with a bit of a wash.

And finally, there is also one task I enjoy very much, namely making a map of the River Block farm. Originally, Angela commissioned me to make maps of all her farm properties, but with all the other projects going on, I barely had time to do the one. Oh well. One way or another, Angela is happy with how it turned out, and so am I.

That's quite the workload. In fact, it's about te same amount of work as I did back on Thornton Grange in Christchurch (see Chapter 12 ~ Christchurchly Second), only this time, I'm doing it voluntarily, and with adequate compensation. Nonetheless, I still have enough free time for a couple of side trips, such as:

Interlude: The Scenic Stray

My first excursion in these parts should lead me up Pukeora - the Hill of Good Heath - and back again via the valley road. It is a nice little round course, which should take me about three hours to walk.

Since I'm in no hurry, I can afford to take the scenic route...

...which takes me past pastures with picturesque streams... well as somewhat creepy bare trees.

But even though it's essentially winter over here by now, not all trees have shed their leaves just yet. Some of them are evergreens, while others still shine in the resplendent colours of autumn.

Part of the way also leads off the paved road, and through a little hillside park. Is it weird to have a park like this in the middle of pastures and forests? In cities, parks are used to provide a contrast to all the buildings and roads, but apparently, they also have a right to exist in more rural areas.

Eventually, I arrive at the top of the hill, from where I get a great view of Central Hawke's Bay through an extraordinary blue Toori...

...and after that, it's down the other side of the hill again...

...surprising me with a pair of secateurs lying squat in the middle of the road for no apparent reason.

Reaching the riverside road, I decide not to go to Onga Onga...

...but still make a short side-trip onto the bridge above the Tukipo River, before it joins the Tukutuki River.

Now, all that's left is to walk down the road past bare vineyards...

...and back to Angela's place, since I don't want to miss out on...

The Food

Here in Waipukurau I routinely begin my days with a bowl of müsli and yoghurt or some toasts, as well as a cup of green tea.

Lunch consists mostly of toasts with honey, jam or chutney, possibly along with some of last night's leftovers...

...while dinner is once again the most varied meal of the day, featuring such delectabilities as fried corn, mince pie with fries, curry with rice, chicken skewers or venison stry fry with vegetables and mashed potatoes - though one day when it gets later after work, we simply have fish and chips.

Thanks to Angela graciously supply me with a cucumber, I'm also able to make my favourite salad...

...but the culinary highlight is naturally when I get to make my legendary tri-Tail pizza, not only for Angela, but a number of her friends who are dropping by for a dinner party.

With many different preferences to cater for, I lay out an elaborate pizza matrix in advance to ensure that there's the perfect piece for everyone.

Even Taco seems enticed by the amazing aroma that is soon wafting through the room as I put the pizza into the oven.

The Flair

Countless curious things can be found around here, and sometimes spotting them is as simple as looking up to see a sheet of scattered clouds blanketing the skies above.

Since Angela has friends in Germany, this place has quite the homely feel to it (although tormentingly, these are all "look but do not touch")...

...though that may also be due to this peculiar blend of yoghurt. Oh well, at least now I know how a Frenchman must feel when he sees Herbes de Provence.

Also, I know these things have been around for a while, but this is the first time I actually witness a Roomba in action.

For the first time since a while, I come across one of those minis again while Geocaching...

...and let's not forget to mention the "zig zag turn with multiple concealed driveways, one to the right, and then two to the left, the second of which comtinues almost straight ahead, which makes it even more surprising that it should be concealed"-sign.

By the way, if you ever see any sign of smoke near the woods here, quickly dial 111 before... oops, too late.

Oh well, I guess that's that. Better close off the "forest" for the duration.

And somebody get those horses away from the laundry!

Stars are not only to be seen in the sky. The mystical pony constellation can be observed every night right on Angela's backyard.

Mystical, too, is this pair of bogus cutlery.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering how I could go this far without mentioning the cats inhabiting this place, but there's a good reason for that. You see, while they may have their cute moments every now and then...

...most of the time they're just off napping somewhere - preferably on my bed...

...or in front of the warm and cosy fireplace.

It goes without saying that they also like to make themselves comfortable on my lap top...

...or my laptop for that matter.

Now, there's one terribly tragedy that occurred back at Sparky's place, the effects of which I'm still feeling to this day: My trusty wrist watch, which I have worn ever since my teenage days, has finally succumbed to material fatigue, and even even the wonders of Super Glus... excuse me... Super Glue can sustainably fix it.

Fortunately, the globally interconnected world offers a solution for this dilemma, and although Amazon has not yet expanded into New Zealand (imagine that: an entire country without Amazon!), shipping fees from the united states are surprisingly cheap. Another surprising thing is how they can manage to package a small object like a watch in a box the size of Neptune.

One way or another, I am now finally outfitted with the final piece of my wardrobe which was not yet orange...

...and as a final memento of my trusty old watch, I take outs its lithium battery. It's a bit tricky, but I still manage to do it. Still, I end up bending the back cover a little bit, so I guess I'll still let a professional handle it for my new watch. Just to be sure.

One day, while I'm busy clearing out the hay barn, I find myself being watched: The Tequila Observation Services are onto me!

Also - this may be completely unrelated - but did you know that ever since Donald Trump's government takeover, the building industry here in New Zealand has been booming? One might assume tat for some strange reason, a large number of English-speaking people is suddenly looking for a new place to call home.

Last but not least, let's just say that despite being winter, snow is not really a regular thing here in New Zealand. However, on some of these really cold nights, we still get frost on the deck - at least until the merciless photon blaster melts it all away during the day.

Interlude: The Acute Adventure

Thank to Angela providing me with a bike, my second trip should be significantly longer than the first one. Interestingly, this trip should have a large circumference, yet cover only a small area as I cycle south to Hatuma Lake, and then north across the Tuki Tuki River to visit the Tuku Tuki Scenic Reserve, and finally scale a hill before returning back via the dam way.

The trip takes me through the town of Waipukurau a number of times, which has quite sizeable streets for a municipality not even the size of Untermenzing.

Actually getting to Hatuma Lake turns out to be a little bit more tricky than initially anticipated: The road marked down on the maps appears to have been abandoned for quite some while now, and integrated into private property. Fortunately, I find a public field path serving as a lake access a little ways away, allowing me to approach the lake's glittering shore.

From there, I cycle back to town via the ridge-line, enabling me to get a good overview of my surroundings. Somewhere to the east, past this last chain of hills, lies the pacific ocean. But for now, it's just a little bit out of my reach.

On my way back north, I cycle across the 40° circle of latitude, which happens to be running straight through town. This means that I am now at about the same latitude as Menorca. However, while the sun heats up the land quite a bit at daytime, the cold oceans surrounding New Zealand cause the temperature to quickly drop back to rather frigid levels once the sun sets. The "Roaring Forties", by the way, are the southern latitudes between 40° and 50°, where air descending from the equator mixed with earth's rotation and few landmasses serving as windbreaks cause consistent and powerful winds, which were of nautical importance during the age of sailing ships. Even further south, these winds transition into the Furious Fifties, and finally the Shrieking Sixties.

After that imaginary line, I cross the very real Tukituki River...

...and continue onwards all the way down the Scfnic Road...

...which takes me all the way to the far shore of the Tukituki River.

As the sun is slowly but surely setting, I race up the nearby hill to the best of my bike's capabilities, and am rewarded with a nice view of the Tukituki Valley... well as the next valley over, which is somehow more untouched.

On my way back down the hill, I race the shadows of the setting sun, and mange to stay ahead of the twilight of dusk as I cross back across the Tukituki River.

The sun finally finishes setting as I cycle back across the dam way, or as I call it, the pothole-happy-way...

...and evening mists start to spread around the riverbanks...

...before I finally arrive at Angela's place, just as a blood-red moon peeks over the eastern horizon.

The Retrospective

Once again, I look back on a good stay with my host. Angela is a nice person who provided regular and plentiful food, the work was varied and interesting, and the facilities were excellent. Having a bike to explore the area with is and always shall be a big plus, and the work-value ratio was fair, especially considering I was getting paid for working extra hours. If there's one negative thing that I'd have to point out, it would be that my room, despite being right next to the fireplace, would get bitterly cold over the course of a night, making it painful to get out of bed in the mornings. But apart from that, Angela's house was a really nice place to stay at, and I certainly don't regret coming here.

Naturally, I also leave her with a piece of gift artwork, featuring her along with her pets - including the newest member of the four-legged family.

The Road Ahead

Once again, it's time for me to move on. This time, I am finally going to see the eastern coast of New Zealand's north Island as I travel past Hastings and Napier, and then all the way to Gisborne, where my next host is going to pick me up and take me the rest of the way to the hamlet of Waipaoa.

I resume my journey where I last interrupted it: At the bus- and train station of Waipukurau.

As I wait, I watch a cargo train go by. Even though this part of the network is not serviced by passenger trains, the railway is still in use. Trains are not a common sight here in New Zealand, and even a busy route usually has only a few trains going past each day. The only notable exceptions of this are Wellington and Auckland, both of which have an urban rail network... of sorts. Interestingly enough, I should later see that same train again in the distance as I travelled north on the bus.

The InterCity bus arrives not long after, and thus I begin my 5-hour journey up to Gisborne. The trip takes me through the remainder of Central Hawke's Bay, and eventually into the cities of Hastings and Napier, which are separated by the Ngaruroro River. From there the road travels along the coast for some while, before taking a turn towards the mountains, and going past Lake Tutira. Subsequently, the bus navigates its way through valley and passes, and although the ocean occasionally does come into view in the distance, we don't really approach it again until the very end, when we arrive in Gisborne after one of my most diverse bus journeys so far.

Along the way,we stop at a café in the lazy little town of Putorino, where I have my traditional traveller's meal: A tasty yet affordable pie. A timid stray dog patrols the place, obviously hoping to get fed a few scraps by the people frequenting this place.

It's already well into twilight by the time I finally arrive in Gisborne. Since I've made arrangements with my new host to be picked up at the bus station, I have a little look around there and find a really helpful guide post - provided you have a hovercar.

I don't have to wait long for my next host to pick me up, and then we're off north into the Waipaoa Valley.

By the time we arrive at my new home for the next two weeks, night has almost completely draped the land in her velvet garb...

...which makes it all the nicer to have a warm and comfortable room waiting for me.

I feel right at home here from the very start, and am looking forward to see what this place holds in store for me. Find out about it together with me in the next chapter of the Travelling Fox Blog!

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