Arriving to New Zealand, buying a new home on wheels, first explorations of the North Island and a job in an exciting local company have taken a toll on this blog. But finally I’m free again to chase the most beautiful skylines, landscapes and animals while telling you about how I got to photograph them. Here is what happened since Hawaii in four short stories!
A Stopover Down Under
Returning to Australia six years after my first visit is quite exciting for me. It is here, where I was bitten by the travel bug in the first place. Unlike getting attacked by many other creatures in Down Under, this experience didn’t have painful consequences for me though and yet I might never be cured again…
Five days in Sydney are more than enough, to remind me how much I like Australia with its beautiful cities, most kind people and wonderfully abstract landscapes.
On a night stroll through Darling Habour, I get lost in the beauty of colorful reflections in the cold and dark water. A world of abstract and vibrant shapes opens up before me, as I look through my range of lenses. After a while, my girlfriend has to get me back into the real world. Here is what I saw:
Apart from a nice open-air concert outside the Opera House, we eat some mussels in the Fish Market, take the ferry to Manly Beach, visit the Luna Park, grab a feed in China Town and walk through the urban canyons in the Central Business District. Before we know it, we are already seated in an airplane again and leave the lights of the metropolis behind us.
Slow car, fast house
While staying in Sydney, I systematically start to search for small motorhomes across New Zealand. My goal is to find something even more comfortable then my previous camper, while keeping the fuel costs to a minimum and the size of the vehicle reasonable. Soon enough I have a list of possible candidates within and slightly over our price range and get in contact with some of the owners.
When we arrive in Auckland, we already have a clear favorite and an appointment scheduled for the next day. A few hours of hitchhiking, a detailed inspection, one test-drive through the countryside and a handshake later we are camping out in the owner’s garden while trying to withdraw enough cash from the ATM to complete the sale. Because of our daily allowances, it takes almost a full week until we can fully pay Graham for his motorhome. Luckily, he (having travelled through New Zealand as a backpacker himself) is understanding and invites us to stay at his place until our deal is finalized.
What might sound rather impulsive is really just the idea of saving money in the long run by living in a motorhome right from the beginning and also the result of my positive experiences with campers over the years. At the end of our trip we will (optimistically) be able to restore most of our money when selling the camper. Not to mention the thousands of dollars we will be saving on accommodation.
And so we are now proud owners of ‘Dinkie’, a 1987 Toyota Dyna motorhome with a fuel-efficient 2-liter diesel engine, toilet, shower, kitchen and the most comfortable seating/sleeping area you can hope for. All surrounded by huge panoramic windows, to enjoy a new horizon each day.
12,600 holes for the environment
Being content owners of a flash little motorhome comes with the realization that my savings from Germany have finally come to an end. Now, in order to keep traveling, I’ll have to be able to finance myself as I go. It’s time for a little side job!
It doesn’t take too long to find a company that employs myself as well as Sarah. While I will work for Waterclean, a business offering an environmentally friendly solution for cleaning fresh- and wastewater ponds all over the world, Sarah will be working for the Kauri Park Nursery, a sister company producing millions of plants each year.
Our new jobs take us to the north of Auckland (Kaiwaka), where we work in the countryside surrounded by farm animals. While the company is getting ready for a big job in Waipu, my help is needed to produce over 200 floating islands.
These floating islands are the media for a specific type of plants (of course grown in the nursery), which spread their roots through the bases fibrous structure and create a massive surface area underwater for microbes and bacteria to live. These microscopic life forms consume organic matter and nutrients in the wastewater and therefore leave the water clean. No chemicals necessary!
Pretty much all the work on the islands is done manually and thus physical labor is required. My main job is to drill the holes in which the plants will grow later on. Each island needs 60 holes to be drilled and that keeps me rather busy all day. While we get used to having a daily routine again, time starts flying by. In this case we don’t mind at all and look forward to start exploring New Zealand!
While our companies close down for two weeks over Christmas, we use the time to explore the Far North. From Kaiwaka we drive up all the way to Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of New Zealand. Here you can see, apart from the famous lighthouse, how the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. In Maori mythology, this is the place where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld.
We spent a few days on the thin tip of New Zealand and enjoy some lovely beaches. Some of those look very similar to the ones we know from back home and once again the saying, that New Zealand offers most of Europe’s natural landscapes in a tiny space, seems truer. Near the giant Te Paki sand dunes we rent body boards and try sand boarding on the steep dunes.
On our way back down we take a detour along the west coast and wander around in the impressive Kauri Forest. The special thing for me about this forest is the alteration between the giant kauri trees and the rest of the forest. While the Redwoods in the US were generally a forest of giants, the Kauri Forest is quite different. When you walk through this tropical forest, you will suddenly come across single massive kauri trees reaching far over the treetops of all the surrounding trees.
Further down south we stop at the Waipu Cave, where we are hoping to see some glowworms. We park on a nice grassy area in front of the cave and wait for the sun to set. Equipped with headlamps and torches we make our way into the cave. Right in the big entrance room we find much more glowworms then we had ever expected. The whole ceiling is covert with glowing stars and especially along one crevice the worms seem to have gathered. It looks pretty much like the Milky Way… inside a cave!!
We are totally stoked and at the same time exited about what we are going to find further inside the cave. A few hundred meters deeper into the cave we find a second big chamber with even more worms all over. It’s just magical to sit here in the dark and watch those natural glowing lights while an underground river flows next to you into the unknown depths of the earth.
We explore for another forty minutes, following the river, crossing little lakes and crouching down through little holes until the way forward is so tiny that we decide to turn around. On our way out of the cave, I feel something moving in the cold water and look down to see a big fish slowly swimming past me. I decide to keep that information to myself, at least until we have left the cave. Before exiting the cave I take this picture of Sarah standing on one of the longest stalagmites of New Zealand with hundreds of glowworms over her head.