Failed hitchhiking, weird hostels and finally getting a job

weird, wai-o-tapu, thermal, new zealand, sulphur, rotorua

Carless and moneyless, weird fish cheek champion Les got us to jump in the back of his van to take us to Kaitaia where we were going to hitchhike to Auckland. Just us and the rucksacks off on an adventure! It was pissing it down with rain, so we made a cardboard sign saying ‘South’ with ‘Auckland’ in brackets at the bottom, that we had to cover in clear plastic, so it wouldn’t get blurred and soggy. Les dropped us off at the edge of a main highway and we bid him and his optimistic outlook farewell. He really had perked up my spirits. There we stood on the side of the road with our semi soggy sign and Pac-A-Macs on trying desperately hard to look friendly yet not annoying to passers-by in the hope they would decide they wanted to spend a journey with us. We started off friendly complete with big enthusiastic waves because we thought this would be the best tactic. Then as the rain got heavier I thought maybe we should look sadder – poor, sad foreigners please help us to be on holiday for longer…  This also didn’t work. There was a solo sulky weird kind of guy who was also trying to hitch a ride. We decided to stand separately so people wouldn’t think we were together – three is a lot to take on. Also, truthfully, I thought he made us look bad.

It was getting quite late in the day and we were soaking wet so I’d slumped back in to my miserable mood again. Why does no one want to pick us up – we’re delightful! Weird guy went to go and try a different spot that he’d ‘heard about’ god knows from where, probably the voices in his head. I was getting fed up and I wasn’t going to stay out here all night. Granted it was still only late afternoon but I’d started being dramatic again. There was an information site close to us and so we thought fuck this and went to see what hostels were nearby. Weirdly, weirdy McWeird face didn’t seem to come back, so either he did get picked up by someone or he crawled back into the night. Either way I was glad I didn’t have to share a backseat with him.

Turns out there wasn’t much choice in the way of hostels in Kaitaia. The one we went to was nice and the owner was English, very friendly and he helped us book a bus the next morning as we’d already grown out of the hitchhiking idea. It wasn’t bad at all and we had a nice sleep quite a large double en suite room! When I think back the place did have a strange feel about it however. It was full of young European men. I’m pretty sure I was the only girl and they all seemed to work there. They were behind the bar, the reception, hanging out in the games room. I wasn’t sure who worked there and who didn’t. Later that year when Tom and I were travelling around on the South Island, we turned the TV on to see the owners face splashed across the news. Apparently, he’d been secretly drugging and filming some of the boys who’d stayed there and doing god knows what to them without their knowledge or consent. Hindsight is a funny thing and looking back it was unusual but I’m not sure if it had really registered at the time or I just think that with the knowledge I know now. Either way the caught the creepy bastard thankfully!

Because of limited options, we bused it back to Auckland and then swiftly moved on further south into the North Island. We had applied to a job in a hostel based in Rotorua. They hadn’t actually given us the job but had invited us to come and meet them – a sort of casual interview I suppose. We had also applied for and been offered a job on an orchard picking apples. From wondering what on earth we were going to do to suddenly having two options to choose from was a dream. A stressful dream though. I was mainly worrying about just making the wrong decision and about how to avoid doing that. I really wanted to be in an environment where we’d be able to make friends easily. As you might have gathered I wasn’t one of these who could just walk up to people and start talking to them (weirdly, I am now) and so I wanted to work somewhere it would be organic and easy. Both a hostel and an orchard working with loads of other travellers seemed like they’d both meet my needs. It was tough. On our bus down, we decided to google the hostel and found loads of quite negative reviews saying that the hostel owners, particularly the man, weren’t very nice – to guests! If they weren’t very nice to guests what were they going to be like to employees! It was a close call between the two and so we decided that this tipped it in favour of the orchard, although I was reluctant in regard to the manual work, but I could worry about that later. For some reason Tom had decided to describe me online as being a ‘grafter’ – they were always going to be disappointed. Anyway, we could have gone to the interview and seen what it was like and then made a decision which is what I think most sensible people would have done but I decided I didn’t want to go and couldn’t bear the thought of the awkwardness if they offered it to us on the spot and we turned it down! So we made the decision to email them and very nicely to say that we had been offered another job and had decided to go with that. Well, you’d think we had told them we’d killed their cat! Needless to say we were right to steer well clear! For once our instincts had paid off – about bloody time. Yay for instincts!

So instead of meeting crazy people we accepted our offer with the very nice Jamies’ who ran the Orchard in Napier. We had a week before we needed to arrive and so instead spent that week in Rotorua being tourists. Rotorua is a city/town which is known for its thermal activity. It basically smells like rotten eggs most of the time.. everywhere… So I wasn’t so fussed about not living here after all. We had a great last week of being tourists going to the thermal park Wai-O-Tapu and to a Maori Village Experience as well as to both normal and mud spas. The latter stained my bikini which remains a weird grey colour even today, three years on. Maybe I should get a new bikini… The Maori village was great, and Tom got picked on to perform the Haka in front of everyone and I ate the best sponge pudding of my life. All in all, we had a great week of spending our last bit of travel money without fretting and for the first time feeling secure in what lay ahead. The best part of travelling is not knowing what lies ahead but at this point it was exactly what we needed, a little base to call home for a while in order to find our feet again.

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