NZ Working Holiday, Summary

Would you like a short summary about my working holiday, dear blog reader? Well, it was really great, despite of the hard parts. Would you like a bit longer summary about my working holiday, dear blog reader? Okay. That’s fine, I have one of that as well.

To look back at my last 1+ year, let’s just rush through it chronologically. I divided that time into a few chapters that separate from each other quite significantly. Tried to be short yet relatively informative.

1. Chillawhile (2016.12.02 – 2017.02.17)

It was a strong start. Arriving to a safe place for long term after wandering around Asia for 5 months. I had zero experience as a hostel receptionist, when I started, I didn’t even know what’s the difference between “twin bed” and “double bed”, constantly mixed them up in the first weeks. But as they say, it’s not rocket science, I got the routine after a while. I had free accommodation, some little salary to cover my food, a piano next to the reception and some woofers around me who were usually ready for some activities. New Zealand meant just a few streets in Oamaru to me for almost 3 months and I felt great working there every day. I thought that later I’d find another receptionist job in a new city and keep living like that. No wonder that after I heard about the possibility of extending the visa, my next project was to find a horticultural job for 3 months and get it done asap.


chillawhile people

2. Discoveries (2017.02.18 – 2017.03.31)

I started my job in Oamaru together with Katja and we worked quite alright together. She was also new in the country and she was also going to extend her visa. The idea of leaving Oamaru together was not obvious but still felt quite natural after being colleagues for so long. She was on a higher level in terms of hospitality, she studied and also practiced it back in Germany. Using all that wisdom, she arranged for both of us how to get to Alexandra (by bicycle through the Central Otago Rail Trail) and where to arrive to get a job immediately (Marjs Place). We started to work in a packhouse and I was counting down the weeks that are left to the visa extension. I was still in a daydreamy state: I thought that after 3 months I can save up 6000 dollars (500 per week – which is realistic by the way) that would allow me a trip to Asia in the summer and then I could go back to New Zealand and keep enjoying life by finding another Chillawhile-like receptionist job with my newly extended visa. Would have been ideal indeed – never happened, of course. Finally we left the packhouse after two weeks, worked on a few vineyards for another two and then we had enough of the horticultural jobs so we left Alexandra and biked through the Alps2Ocean Bike Trail. The Alps2Ocean was one of the highlights of my New Zealand times. It’s a 300 km long trail going from Mount Cook to Oamaru. So we arrived back to Oamaru and checked out Chillawhile again. Thinking that we just finished a great adventure around Central Otago and were ready for the next one.


alps2ocean, start

3. Horticulture (2017.04.01 – 2017.06.13)

We decided to go to Nelson where the apple season was supposed to be on the peak. Which was true but it also meant that the companies already hired the employees and didn’t need extra work force. After a few days we found a private apple farm. We had to go there by a local bus until halfway and then bike the last 10km, climb up the latters, pick only the apples with the correct size and color and collect them in a bin. Then bike back, every day. The owner was a jerk and paid us below minimal wage. Katja’s bike has been stolen in Nelson. The weather was rainy almost every day even if the so called “sunny Nelson” is supposed to be the driest city in the country. The hostel was great though, Palace Backpackers, check it out if you’re there. Anyway, we decided to go to another area with peak season. And ended up on the North Island, in the town of Napier. Finding a job wasn’t easy here either but whatever, we did it at the end. We were working in an apple packhouse for 6 weeks in night shift, from 5pm to 2am and to decrease our expenses, we cleaned a hostel from 10am until noon for free accommodation. These weeks were extremely exhausting but I’d already booked my flight to Taiwan and I was way behind my original financial plans so I had to go on. Despite of going on, I had to leave New Zealand knowing that I will have to keep doing this kind of job for a few more weeks. There were too many gaps between my jobs to have the 3 months of horticulture done. The times in Nelson and in Napier were absolutely disappointing. It felt very frustrating to see my plans melting away and I have quite bad memories about these cities. Which is a shame because these are both beautiful, Nelson has the best weather in the whole country with a nice beach and Napier is the “art deco capital” with buildings, music and cars from the 30s providing a nice old-timey atmosphere.


packhouse in Napier

4. Trip to Taiwan (2017.06.14 – 2017.07.24)

Looking back from now, making a trip to Asia was a brave decision. I had to fuel up with money in advance so that I can pay everything while I’m abroad and still have enough money after arriving back. I succeeded the first part but pretty much failed with the other one which led to a long struggle afterwards. Well, who knew when I was daydreaming in Oamaru that making money in New Zealand is not as trivial as it seems. But other than that, I had a good time by flying to Taipei, then to Hong Kong, then to Chengdu, then spontaneously to Bangkok, then back to Taipei, then back to Auckland. I found my little fun in each of these places. I just wish it costed less.


my work station in Taipei

3. Horticulture (2017.07.25 – 2017.08.23)

Isn’t it a bit annoying, dear blog reader, that after the 4. point there is a 3. again? Did you see it coming? Nobody prepared you for such a confusion, right? Where is the 5.? Are we going backwards or what?? Now you can imagine how annoying it was to me to buy a ticket back to Auckland and put myself back in the horticultural swamp again. Not just mentally but also literally. By the end of July winter was all around the country, the only place where it was worth to look for such a job was on the Northland, which was warm enough to have rain only, instead of snow. I chose the hostel that had a Hungarian receptionist in the town of Kerikeri and finally he found me the most ridiculous horticultural job I had in New Zealand: pulling out mini pine trees from the ground and collecting them in boxes, 100 in each. The weather was wet which resulted a big amount of mud, our direct bosses were young local village boys who enjoyed each others company but backpackers like us just meant unnecessary problems for them. I needed only two weeks for my extension but they were two very long ones. To get away, we booked a relocation car and started to head to South from Cape Reinga, visiting some nice places on the way (Raglan, Taupo, Rotorua) and taking the ferry back to the South Island. The best part was the lucky phone call while we were by the Nelson Lakes from a motel manager that made sure that we will end up in Hanmer Springs soon. At the end of this section things started to look promising again. Still, there were lots of unanswered questions about the future during these days that made us both quite sorrow.


baby pine trees in Kaikohe

5. Hanmstering (2017.08.24 – 2017.11.28)

If Oamaru is heaven and the packhouses are hell, then the life in Hanmer Springs counts as purgatory. I already gave up all my childish dreams about this country, I just wanted to make some money which I didn’t really have after Asia and hoped that things will get slowly better somehow. Hanmer Springs is a small and isolated village on the South Island which makes it a reasonable choice for backpackers to save money. I started by cleaning a motel, then I was dishwashing and waitering in an Indian restaurant, then I became a morning cleaner in an Irish pub. But as I said, the village was small and isolated. Which can make a place really boring. The next supermarket was in a small town about 80 km away. The bus came twice a day and it wasn’t too cheap. Buying a car seemed to be a smart decision, to drive here and there on the dayoffs. It was a blue Toyota Corolla. His original name was Smurf but I renamed it to Hupi which is almost the same but in Hungarian. Except for the car, nothing new happened. I was either working or sleeping, living from day to day, for three long months.


Hanmer Springs city center

6. Gate closing panic (2017.11.29 – 2018.02.14)

After Hanmer I realised that the end is suddenly very close and made my plans for the last few weeks according to that fact. It started by discovering the South. My 5 months long journey from Japan to New Zealand was wonderful but it did have a negative effect on my working holiday: I arrived with most of the money that I collected for more than a year being spent. As a result, wherever I was in New Zealand, I kept having the pressure that I need to find a job to get that money back. The “December Adventures” was one of the very few exceptions. I had some money after Hanmer Springs and I knew that I can keep collecting after. Plus I thought that if I don’t enjoy the stuff that New Zealand provides now than there are chances that I never will. Everything was set to have some expenses. We took the car, drove around and made some memories: an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound, a Nevis Bungy, 3 days hiking on the super pretty Stewart Island, mountain biking on the Cardrona and who knows what else. This is how a working holiday looks like in the fairy tale books and the youtube videos.
There was 1,5 months left after that trip and my pressure for the money reappeared. Luckily everyone was looking for employees before Christmas so we could choose where we want to go: it was Lake Hawea, a pretty town close to Wanaka. I worked there as a kitchen hand and I was okay with it but when I saw one day that they reduced my working hours for the upcoming week from 40 to 20 saying that the peak season is over, I quit immediately. After some stressful struggling we decided to go back to Alexandra where the story started one year ago and spent the last few weeks by… yeah, correct, horticultural jobs! This time we knew where to go, we had really good experiences with one of the vineyards last time. It’s owned by an old couple from the Netherlands, they have an own pond for the sunny days and we could use our mp3 players so I had something in my ears. Katja worked there for a week, then left New Zealand. I worked there for two more, then left New Zealand too. Will I meet Katja again? Yes. How much, how long, blablabla? I don’t know.


Nevis bungy with christmas flavour

Okay, I wanted to write some overall universal last paragraph here but if you read the parts above, then you already get the idea of my time in New Zealand. It’s a very pretty and ridiculously expensive country. Go there with some money in your pocket. Start with somewhere long term to get know the basics. Buy a car, otherwise you might get stuck. Think twice about the extension, horticulture is maybe not for you. Smile a lot. Eat healthy. Keep fit.


Hooker valley

Just so you can make sure that you didn’t miss any post from New Zealand, which would be terrible, here is a link of each:

Working Holiday Visa, New Zealand (2016.12.17)
What’s in Oamaru? (2016.12.28)
One Month in Alexandra (2017.03.23)
Alps2Ocean Cycle Trail (2017.05.07)
Rolling Through the Last Months (2017.06.17)
A Little Trip to Asia (2017.07.24)
NZ Working Holiday, cont. (2017.10.17)
An Adventurous December (2017.12.23)


Doubtful Sound


Right now it’s short after 4am. I’m sitting in my transfer station, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Treating myself with a place in the Air Asia Red Lounge. For my birthday. I’m becoming 30 today. Thank you, thank you. That’s one of my reasons to leave New Zealand: my times there shall belong to my twenties and nothing else. My other reason is that tomorrow is the Chinese New Year. Which is a great opportunity to go back to the lovely Taiwan. In the next 3 weeks I’ll be back in the Taiwan Youth Hostel, giving piano concerts for free accommodation. Then after a short visit at home I’m going back to Leipzig to finally finish my graduate studies by getting those freaking 5 credit points that are missing from the 120. If everything goes as planned, I will start my next trip in July. Australia opened the working holiday for Hungarians while I was in New Zealand. When I read that (it was in Napier – one of the happiest moments there), I was sure that this is my next thing to do. I’m going to report my way there on this blog, in the original weekly style. Then after arriving, I will probably stop writing so much, just like I did with New Zealand.
As for now, thank you for your lovely attention, dear blog reader. You can go away.


Air Asia Red Lounge at 4am


!UPDATE! A video of one of my concerts in Taipei:



An Adventurous December

Between Hanmer Springs and the yet unknown next working place there was some time for things to happen. These things ended up being a long and memorable journey around the South Island. So take your map of the South Island, dear blog reader, and follow along.

Okay, here it is:


In addition to the descriptions, you’ll see two photos for each day. Since my good old tough camera broke and the cheap one I bought only for this trip broke on DAY 2 as well, I had to take my pictures with my phone. And since I don’t like that at all, my motivation to take photos was quite low. So in some of the cases I stole photos from Katja. Fine, let’s go.


DAY 1 (Nov.29) – I still cleaned the bar in the morning for one last time, then took one last free coffee from the Roasted Beans next door. Then packing, driving to the west coast, arriving to Westport. There was freshly baked pizza in the hostel, it was not too big and not very special but that’s what you get for 10 dollars in New Zealand. Not much happening on the first day, to be honest.
left: main road of Reefton
right: Westport sunset


DAY 2 (Nov.30) – Started the day with surfing in a bay next to Westport, then headed to south along the west coast. Stopped in Greymouth for another pizza. There was supposed to be a lángos shop in the town called Hokitika later but we couldn’t find it. Reached Franz Josef township in the evening, made a small walk, looking for glow worms. They are little creatures making light in the dark. It’s impossible to make a proper photo of them though. If you flash, then no light, if you don’t, then no creature.
left: me trying (=failing) to surf
right: Pancake Rocks

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DAY 3 (Dec.1) – Made some walk to see the Franz Josef glacier itself (it’s a bit far from the town with the same name), then drove to Fox glacier and made some walk there as well. The two glaciers are quite similar, just like the connected towns. This day included the longest drive, the end place was the so called Kid’s Bush, a remote campsite on the north shore of Lake Hawea. The days with the long drivings were kind of over. I was quite exhausted as the only driver, took a bath in the lake and went to sleep.
left: zooming to the Franz Joseph Glacier
right: swim in Lake Hawea

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DAY 4 (Dec.2) – The Cardrona mountain next to Wanaka is more than 1800 meters high. On the top there is a park which works as a ski field in the winter and as a mountain bike park on the summer weekends. December is summer here so I drove my poor car up to the top, from 400 to 1600 meters, with the bikes inside of it. It was a slow, long and remarkable drive on a steep gravel road. The day pass costed 45 dollars which was a special 50% discount. The park was well equipped, with a cafe, a repair shop and free wifi. There was a gondola that brought humans and their bikes up to the very top and they had a few routes with various difficulty levels to roll down. The sun was shining, I was biking there in shirts, and there must have been some extra UV on the top because my arms, my face and my shoulders were all burning like hell after I arrived back down. My bike didn’t feel much better because on one of the intermediate trails it lost its back wheel. It was a tough day for car, bicycle and human as well. At the end of the day we went to the South shore of Lake Hawea, stayed on the campsite of the Lake Hawea Hotel. The view was surprisingly pretty which will become a relevant information soon.
left: the lower part of the mountain bike park
right: me posing on the top

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DAY 5 (Dec.3) – Spent the day in Wanaka. Started with looking around in the Sunday Market, found two Hungarians, one from Transylvania, one from the mainland, selling “chimney cake” (kürtős). It was small and expensive, just like almost every food in this country. Checked the famous parts of Wanaka (it doesn’t have too many), and went to the famous Cinema Paradiso to watch a movie. The cinema is famous because they stop the movie in half time and send the people out so they can buy cookies that they just baked in their kitchen. Of course almost everybody bought one which means that they make about 30*4=120 extra dollars with this little trick by every single movie. Well played, cinema.
left: the iconic Wanaka tree
right: a common selfie on the same spot

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DAY 6 (Dec.4) – After walking around Wanaka again and swimming in its lake, it was time to say goodbye to the town. Took the highway to Cromwell, then to Clyde, where the next hostel was. We also went a bit further, to check out Alexandra. Alexandra was the little city where I went after Oamaru and where I started to live the life of the average backpackers by working in the apricot packhouse. Since I collected a lot of memories there last time, I expected some massive nostalgy rushing through my brain, and okay, it did come but it was much smaller than expected. Many other things happened to me since I left that town which made me look at it with different eyes. It was now just a town crossing our way somewhere in Central Otago.
left: ex-bridge and actual bridge in Alexandra
right: the Clutha River, that we were following from Wanaka to Balclutha

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DAY 7 (Dec.5) – The next two days belong together so much that I’m not sure what happened on the first one and what happened on the second one. The first day started in Clyde, the second one ended in Bluff and the main part of them was the drive through the Catlins, the Southeast coast of the South Island, starting with Kaka Point, ending with Waipapa Point. They like to call the lookout areas “points”. As its website states, the Catlins is “a dramatic and beautiful part of New Zealand”. If you expect something dramatic, you might get disappointed and beautiful is also a bit strong expression compared to many other parts of the country. But it didn’t hurt to see the Pacific Ocean. We stopped at some lighthouses, went to some waterfalls, and camped in the town called Papatowai.
left: Nugget Point
right: Purakaunui

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DAY 8 (Dec.6) – Kept Driving on the Catlins, kept stopping here and there. In these two days I was really just a driver, I was not the one choosing all the stopping points, neither the one with a mood for taking pictures. My favorite little walk was the one to the so called McLean Falls which included a thick rainforest and two really nice waterfalls. Also pointwise this day was more remarkable, there were some sea lions playing around at the Waipapa Point. That was the last point of the Catlins, after that we reached Invercargill and then Bluff, the southernmost town of the South Island where the ferry departs to Stewart Island.
left: McLean Falls
right: sea lions at Waipapa Point

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DAY 9 (Dec.7) – I felt some attraction towards Stewart Island since I first researched the map of New Zealand. It’s at the very end of a country which is already at the very end of the world. And this is the island where you can see real kiwi birds in its forest if you’re lucky. It has one single town with 387 inhabitants and as I found out later, it’s one huge national park with several hiking trails in it. The most popular hiking track is the 39 km long Rakiura track that is supposed to be made in 3 days. There are two points on the track with a campsite and a hut, you have to book both in advance. The campsite is much cheaper and not much worse, seemed to be the better option. So we bought a lot of food and started to walk. The first 5 kilometers went on the road where technically cars were going but there were barely any. The last 8 kilometers were on the coast, next to the sea, sometimes it was an open beach, sometimes it went up in the rainforest. That was the best day, both weather- and scenery-wise. Although, we didn’t see any kiwi 😦
left: beach part of the track
right: forest part of the track

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DAY 10 (Dec.8) – The second day had the same length but it was much more exhausting. It went through the forest to the sea on the other side, with much more ups and downs than last day. What made the walking really annoying is that there were absolutely no signs about how much is left. We saw one sign that said the Northern Arm Campsite is 11 km straight, and the next one was a few hours later, saying that the Northern Arm Campsite is 200 meters on the left. It was pretty much just walking in the monotonous green national park. It wasn’t horrible but we didn’t see anything memorable either. Neither a kiwi 😦
left: remainder of an old mill
right: campsite on the second day

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DAY 11 (Dec.9) – Since the last part of the track started on the coast again, making the view really pretty, the first part of the day was considered to be alright. Until the huge rain fell down. Actually we were very lucky on the previous two days, usually there is rain every day on the island (hence the title “rainforest”) but the luck didn’t last long enough. We had to keep walking while the ground became more and more wet and the sky didn’t provide much hope about any change. It took about 2 hours for the rain to slowly stop but we were already as wet as possible. When we reached Oban again in the afternoon, it was sunny again. It was like a dream to buy a sweet drink, take a hot shower, reconnect to the internet and jump in a real bed. That process made me forget all the sufferings before. Oh, and I almost forgot: no kiwis 😦
left: another forest photo
right: sunset back in Oban

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DAY 12 (Dec.10) – The ferry went back to Bluff at 3pm so we had some time to do some walks around Oban. After that we visited the town cinema that played one single movie 3 times a day, called A Local’s Tail, presenting a dog that narrates through the history of the island. “A quirky 40 minute film about Stewart Island”, as the description said. After getting educated, we ate a salmon pizza and checked in to the ferry. The way back was very windy, which meant a lot of waves, which resulted two people vomiting on the ferry. I was not one of them but I was also very far from enjoying the ride. Back in Bluff we went to the end of the Highway 1. That’s the one that started at Cape Reigna on the very north of New Zealand. That made our great north to south trip officially accomplished. The highway really just suddenly stops since there is nowhere else to go. Luckily there was a cafe at the end which was beneficial after the ferry ride. The Highway 1 was over but after driving back to Invercargill, we started the Highway 99. It was empty, we saw about 5 cars on altogether driving from Invercargill to Tuatapere or back. Tuatapere was an extremely uninteresting little town (even if it calls itself “the sausage capital of the world” for absolutely no reason) but as I found out a few days later while reading about the history of Hungarians in New Zealand, this was the town where the very first (and one of the very few) Hungarian colony settled down in the late 19th century. I don’t know what made them think to be a good idea to choose this little town but they definitely had a bright future: in 1986 a great grandson of the first Hungarian settler broke a Guinness World Record as the world’s fastest mussel opener! After Tuatapere the Highway 99 became Highway 98 and we reached our campsite soon.
left: Oban City Center
right: end of Highway 1 in Bluff

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DAY 13 (Dec.11) – The overnight trip on the Doubtful Sound was the luxury part of the journey. It started at noon, a smaller ship brought us from Manapouri to the other end of the Lake Manapouri where there was one single road that took years to build just so a few buses can carry the tourists to Doubtful Sound. Another ship took the passengers and the real trip began. First we were just watching the mountains around us, then the ship stopped and the sporty ones could go for kayaking, the lazy ones could sit on a motorboat to keep watching the mountains. Kayaking was fun, I never tried it before and even it wasn’t easy to turn and break in the beginning, after about an hour I got familiar with the basics. The coolest people jumped in the water from the ship, since I was already wet anyway, I didn’t have anything to loose by being cool. The ship reached the Tasman Sea where huge seal colonies were chilling on the rocks. The sea had quite strong waves so we went back to the quiet bay and had a huge dinner. Then we saw a presentation about the wildlife protection of the country and went to sleep in the four bed cabins which was the poor people’s accommodation.
left: kayaking in Doubtful Sound
right: jumping from the ship

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DAY 14 (Dec.12) – After a big breakfast we slowly went back to the starting point of the ship, took the bus back, then took the other ship back to Manapouri. We went to Te Anau, I met a friend from Taiwan who’s doing working holiday in Australia and just visited New Zealand for a week. The campsite was in a town called Lumpsten. This is a tiny shithole that nobody cared about so the mayor decided to put a free campsite right in the middle of the town and it had its effect: bakeries and hotels are slowly appearing around thanks to the increasing demand. Even the free wifi of the library was working in the campsite which became a crucial turning point: since I still didn’t know where will I end up after finishing the journey, I checked the new backpacker jobs. There was one in Lake Hawea! The surprisingly pretty little town from DAY 4! I wrote them an email and they replied immediately. So we spontaneously decided to go back to Lake Hawea next day. It was not that far, after all.
left: sunrise reflecting
right: it wasn’t easy to choose just only one photo – this one looked okay

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DAY 15 (Dec.13) – The way to Lake Hawea went through Queenstown but we didn’t stay there. Not yet. From Queenstown to Wanaka there are two ways, one very hilly, and a longer flat one, through Cromwell. I chose the hilly one that went through Cardrona. It was less kilometers but thanks to my car’s relation to steep uphills, it probably didn’t take much less time than the detour. In Lake Hawea we went to the Lake Hawea Hostel, to book a place for our tent. The receptionist woman recognized Katja from last time. Oh, you’re back? She said that we are here again because I’m looking for a job. That’s great because they are looking for two workers, one for the kitchen and one for cleaning the hostel in the morning, are we interested? We were interested but the hostel was not the place that made me want to come back, it was a shop and restaurant called Sailz. I went to the Sailz guy who also needed a workforce, asked him how many hours he can give me. It was less than the hotel’s kitchen did so I chose the hotel instead. Now the journey could have ended happily but we still had some plans so we said that we could only start on next Monday, the 18th.
left: Cardrona Hotel
right: Lake Hawea with a cute rainbow 

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DAY 16 (Dec.14) – The job and the tentsite were safe now, but we still had a few days ahead to discover the towns around. The next town around was Glenorchy. It’s on a dead end road that starts from Queenstown and goes along the Wakatipu Lake. We went there through Arrowtown which is famous from the Chinese settlers who went there to dig gold. Some of their houses are still there. It wasn’t a very successful story though, they didn’t really find anything. The campsite of Glenorchy was not free but the facilities were great, with kitchen, shower and a shop. Most campsites don’t have any of those. We walked around in Glenorchy, it looked nice but one day seemed to be enough for it.
left: old Chinese houses in Arrowtown
right: lakeside in Glenorchy

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DAY 17 (Dec.15) – Glenorchy is really on a dead end road but it’s not the end yet. You can keep going on a gravel road to see some Lord of the Rings places. First there is the forest where the hobbits were hiding from the big bad dark rider in the beginning of the trilogy, and then there is the area where Saruman was living and where the burning tree put his head in the water, remember? There is also a little village called Paradise which is funny enough to attract people to take a photo of the sign. We couldn’t go to the very end of the road because after a while creeks were crossing it and one of them was big enough to make me turn around. At the end we arrived to Queenstown, checked in a hostel, went to play frisbee golf which is a handy and free activity in the town and I think that’s all.
left: sheep looking everywhere
right: haha the town is called Paradise how funny

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DAY 18 (Dec.16) – This day included a little biking. Since my bike has been damaged on DAY 4 on the Cardrona Peak and it didn’t repair itself, I had to hire one. Then we took a boat (operates since 1911) that brought us to the Walter Peak, a small collection of a few houses and animals. This is where the Around The Mountains bike trail ends. Originally we were planning to make the whole trail but it has been cancelled for several reasons (including my bike damage). We biked about 8km there and then back. It was windy and sunny so it was hard to pedal plus we were also sweating so we went to swim in the Lake Wakatipu. To celebrate the end of our journey, we ate in a real restaurant. The food was very expensive and super small. So I ate a few plates of free soup back in the hostel. That was free and made me full. Well, New Zealand can really make you get rid of your money if you don’t pay attention.
left: boat waiting behind the tree on Walter Peak
right: animals next to the bike trail

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DAY 19 (Dec.17) – I think a bungy jump was the first activity I wrote down on my todo list for New Zealand back in the early planning phase. The whole bungy craze started in this country a few decades ago by the company called AJ Hackett, in Queenstown. Now they have 3 different spots around the city, I chose the one called Nevis because that is the highest one on the whole continent with 134 meters. I booked the jump 2 weeks in advance and I didn’t think too much about it after that, I had enough stuff going on. It was only on the day before when I realized that I will be brought up in the sky, I will stand above a river and I will have to convince the muscles in my legs that no kidding, jumping down from there is really the task to do. I watched a few youtube videos of first time jumpers, how scared they were before, how happy they became after and it made me quite curious what the heck happens inbetween that causes this change. The bus picked me up short before 3pm, brought me on the top of a hill and then a lift put me in the middle of two hilltops where a cabin was swinging, secured by a lot of ropes from both sides. In the cabin the guy put safety jackets on me and did a lot of things around my legs while making jokes. I don’t know what he did exactly and I also got his jokes with a massive delay. Yeah, I was quite scared. He led me to the edge, counted down and shouted JUMP. Wait a minute, I said. He counted down again and shouted JUMP. So I jumped. The river came closed and closer, I became faster and faster and couldn’t do anything just wait and see what happens. After a few seconds I felt the rope breaking on my legs, I slowed down, stopped, and bounced back up, then down, then up, then down. After a while they pulled me back up. The whole process was about two minutes. How was it, asked the guy when I arrived back. Not bad, I said. And I was not lying. A bungy jump is something worth to try. You are brought up to the top, you have all the safety stuff around your body, you saw all the other people enjoying the jump, you know that it will be a unique experience, something new that you will probably not regret. But still, when you are staying on the edge, you have to make the decision on your own. Nobody will push you down, you can just turn around, get your money back and walk away like nothing happened. The unique experience won’t come to you automatically, only if you conquer your fear and make that jump. A bungy could be a great metaphor for several real life situations. What is the part of your life where all you need is to make a jump, dear blog reader?
left: me flying!
right: me flying!

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DAY 20 (Dec.18) – A huge change in terms of adrenaline: I started to work in a kitchen. Could have been worse, I also applied to a cherry packhouse in Cromwell. I hate horticultural jobs and doing the same movement next to a machine for 8 hours a day would have been the worst way of making money but luckily it didn’t have to happen. Many backpackers leave their jobs before Christmas which makes it easy to find something more bearable. There were many vacancies in Queenstown and in Wanaka, and appearantly Lake Hawea was not an exception. It is a pretty town, just google “lake hawea” and you will see, plus I get cheap staff meal, the accommodation is also nice (it’s been upgraded to a private room) and the colleagues seem to be friendly so far. Ending up here is fine.
left: campsite with lake view
right: yet another sunset in Lake Hawea

20l 20r

DAY 21 (Dec.19) – Wednesday and Thursday were the two free days of the week, which was a great opportunity to rush back to Hanmer Springs to something I left there: my piano. I’d already driven from Wanaka to Hanmer Springs in one day in October, I didn’t feel the need for repeating it. So we included a stop in Oamaru. After reaching Omarama we drove on the road that was going along the Alps2Ocean bike trail which made that part of the trip really nostalgic. I must had been a very fit young boy back in March that I could bike so much. After arriving to Oamaru we went to the good old Chillawhile, my first station in New Zealand, more than one year ago already. It was still there but it didn’t feel the same. We met a woman in front of it. Well, she said, since the hostel closed in July, it is now a boarding house, working people rent it for long term. We played a bit frisbee in the park in front of the building, for the old times’ sake and went to buy some dinner in the supermarket that was my main food source for months. Unlike Alexandra that missed the opportunity to fill me up with old memories at my recent visit on DAY 6, Oamaru did its job quite well. Chillawhile felt like home for many weeks, a shelter after my 5 months long Asian journey where all my New Zealand adventures started. And now it’s just a silly boarding house without the slightest sign of any fun stuff. This contrast is strong enough indeed for having the potential to make people somewhat emotional.
left: Lindis Pass Lookout Point
right: Chillawhile with one of its belongings

21l 21r

DAY 22 (Dec.20) – Next morning we said goodbye to Oamaru forever and headed North on the main highway. The only main stop was in Christchurch where we visited the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. It has a lot of more or less special animals but there was a great reason why we chose this one: they had kiwis! The main kiwi area of the country is Stewart Island and I guess many people take the Rakirua track just to see one (including me) but since they are sleeping in the day and are only active in the middle of the night plus they are super scared from humans, not many successful stories have been created among everyday tourists. But here they had a big dark house that they light up for the night to confuse the kiwis and if you’re silent, you can see them walking, jumping and doing things that are hard to explain. Then we took the familiar way from Chirstchurch to Hanmer Springs, went to the Indian Restaurant where I worked, I hoped that my ex boss will give me a free meal but I only got a 10% discount. The piano was still in the house, I don’t think that it was heavily used.
left: the kiwi itself! it does exist!
right: just a usual non-kiwi animal

22l 22r
DAY 23 (Dec.21) – The last day, just like the very first ones, has been spent by driving. We stopped in Fairlie because they have a famous pie shop with self-baked stuff, at Lake Tekapo, the officially most Instagrammed place of New Zealand and stopped next to Twizel as well, at Lake Pukaki from where we could see Mount Cook. Arrived to Lake Hawea in the early evening, packed the piano out, together with all the other stuff. I was exhausted again. I drove more than 3000 kilometers in the last few weeks. Since I wasn’t a big driver back in Europe, I’m pretty sure that by now I drove more on the left side in my life than on the right one. Anyway, it was time to increase my budget again after all these expenses and do something to become a bit less poor.
left: Lake Tekapo
right: Lake Pukaki with Mount Cook in the back


DAY 24 (Dec.22) – That’s today at the moment. I kept working in the hotel’s kitchen. Not a great job to build my professional career but a proper choice to save up some money for my next travels. Speaking of which. I’m planning to stay here until mid-February, that’s when I leave New Zealand and fly to the good old Taiwan again. I will play piano in the same hostel as in July. But that’s a story of the future. For now you just go, dear blog reader and have a Merry Christmas and also a Happy New Year. Bye.
left: my brand new workplace for the next 8 weeks
right: the very original plan of the journey, painted by Katja back in Hanmer Springs

24l 24r



NZ Working Holidays, cont.

Long time no write. Absolutely nothing for 3 months, to be precise. That’s not very weekly, I must admit. Now I have to go back to July to catch up and to summarize what happened. Spoiler: not too much.

Kerikeri Times

Let me start with a little crying. I was planning my trip to Asia for the middle of my working holiday so that I can enjoy it knowing that my 3 months of horticultural works belong to the past, and my visa extension is already done. I bought my ticket to Taipei back in February, short after starting my packhouse career. Mid-June seemed to be a safe choice, since I had almost 4 months left. Even if some unlikely trouble comes in the picture, I’ll be done with all those pick-pack activities, I thought naively.
I failed. I had to spend my last days in Taiwan by looking for horticultural jobs in New Zealand. Since it was the middle of winter there, I’ve been limited to a few cities on the warmer North. I started to write to working hostels, if they have something around. It’s low season, they said, there might be something here and there but no guarantee. But surprise surprise, one of the receptionists in the town called Kerikeri answered me in Hungarian. He was Tibor from Transylvania. Job-wise he was not more promising than the other hostels but my underconsciousness couldn’t resist and I booked a place by him.
The other issue that needed to be managed was the one with Katja, my ex-receptionist and horticultural colleague. I left my bike by her when I left New Zealand and since she made a short trip to Christchurch during my Asian vacation where he picked up the baggage I left on a bus to Picton back in April, a meeting with her got a high priority. And since we started the horticultural jobs together, finishing them together would have nicely put the whole torture in a frame. She booked a place in the same hostel and we were hoping that Tibor will find us something that fits.
When I entered New Zealand for the second time, I didn’t feel the freedom and relief like I did last time in December. It was pretty much the opposite of those: I knew exactly where I have to go and I didn’t really want to do so. I took a bus to the north to Paihia, the neighbor town of Kerikeri, then to save 30 dollars for changing the bus to Kerikeri, I decided to hitchhike there. This was my first time hitchhiking alone and it had some practical benefits but I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed it. It’s usually not easy to show any interest towards my drivers. It was a couple who had a yacht in Mallorca but well, what should I do with such informations? Good for them. Then I walked to the hostel, met Tibor, fell asleep, met Katja, fell asleep, ate a pizza and finally fell asleep.
It took only a few days for Tibor to came to us with the good news that “he found our dream job”. The dream job was in a small village 40 kilometres away, on a pine tree plantation field. We had to pull out the baby pine trees (aka. pinus radiata, if you fancy) from the ground and put them in a box so they can send them to whoever finds it a good idea to order baby pine trees. They lent me a van, I had to drive it there and back every day, it took almost one hour one way. Pulling out baby pine trees itself is not a horrible activity but doing it all day in every single weather condition (which usually included rain), without any clear rules about the salary, following the orders of young local mini bosses made it an experience that I wish I never had. Fortunately, doing it for 12 times was enough to finally fulfill the extension requirements.
We didn’t know where to go next but we both wanted to leave that place.

North to South Trip, Part 1

One of my friends from Hungary told me, seeing my attempts to extend my visa, that if he had to choose a career of a non-intellectual job, he’d be looking for something horticultural. By pulling the baby pine trees, it was clear to me that it’s not the case for me. I found out that my favourite non-intellectual job would be a night receptionist. Sitting alone in the dark for hours, without any human interaction, can you imagine anything more beautiful than that? Probably not. So I started to apply as a night receptionist from Kerikeri, no matter where. My most successful application was to a hotel in Wanaka, they wanted me to come in for an interview. When I told them that I’m quite far from Wanaka but we could talk online, they didn’t answer anymore. That made me realize that if I want a job somewhere, I’d better be available right there. And since Kerikeri was not the place I wanted a job, I decided to just move away, without any specific destination.
Do you know, dear blog reader, what is a transfer car? When the rental companies want to relocate their cars, they offer them for almost free, even including some fuel money, just to find some people who bring it for them from A to B in a few days. That seemed to be a perfect solution for my problem. Going through half of the country, from Auckland to Christchurch, looking for any, strictly non-horticultural jobs. Since Katja was in the exact same situation as me, so she also supported this version. After a little discussion we decided to start a tour from Cape Reinga to the Stewart Island, from the northernmost to the southernmost point of the country.
The first station was Cape Reinga, obviously. The point of this place is that this is where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. And it’s supposed to be marvellous. And unforgettable. You can see the two different colors meeting in the middle. A magic event. Wow. OMG. Of course, I didn’t see any of those. It was rainy, windy, and the water color was the same for me everywhere. Still, it is a holy place for the aboriginal Maori people which makes me think that I’m simply too blind for such a beauty.
A more remarkable place between the north point and Kerikeri were the sand dunes. Te Paki Sand Dunes, that’s the name. You can rent a board there and sandsurf down the dunes. I did it several times. It was quite fun.
Later we arrived down to Auckland, the pickup spot of the relocation car. It was a huge 6-berth campervan, with fridge, shower and toilet inside. I really wanted to have a car like this when I was younger but after reaching Christchurch a few days later, this feeling completely disappeared. It’s slow, eats tons of fuel, is hard to clean and the things in the back are shaking like crazy all the time.
First we went to Raglan, this is the quite hidden surfing town where I left my piano in June. The hostel people said that they were really happy to have it and I assume that it was not a fake statement. There were printed sheets on it, there was a seat placed in the front, it looked that it has been served well. It was great to have it back.
We had limited time to reach Christchurch (4 days only) so I had to drive lots of hours every day. We just stopped for a few times. Once in Rotorua to take a walk in the Redwoods forest. A bit further we went to the Hidden Valley (Orakei Korako), which is a “geothermal attraction” with geysers, hot springs and mud pools. Then stopped in Wellington where I had to go to the Hungarian Embassy for some bureaucratic stuff. Also visited a free museum and then put the car on the ferry.
Later, on the South Island we stopped by the Nelson Lakes, which is quite a famous touristy spot with mountains, water, birds and dozens of Chinese people taking pictures of those and of each other. This was the memorable place where I had a phone call from a motel in Hanmer Springs, a little village of 840 inhabitants somewhere in the Canterbury forests. Hello, are you Daniel? Yes. Did you apply to us a few days ago, right? I don’t know, probably. So we are the motel looking for two people, cleaning the rooms in the morning, are you still interested? Oh, sure, thank you. When can you arrive to start? Well, how about in 3 hours? Okay, see you. Okay, see you.
That felt like a really lucky coincidence. Now the basic problem was suddenly solved for both of us. We got a place in a worker’s house of a motel in Hanmer Springs, in exchange for cleaning for 2 hours a day. It was a good start of the working holidays’ next section. We took the relocation car to Christchurch, hitchhiked back to Hanmer Springs and saw what we could do there.
The second half of the tour from North to South has been delayed for the time after Hanmer Springs.

Hanmster Mode: On

By settling down in Hanmer Springs until further notice I started to find out how to spend my time there. While Katja was happy to bike around all day on the hilly bike trails, my Eastern European materialism made me want to find a good paid full time job asap.
And I meant asap literally. I just went in the first place where I saw a “STAFF WANTED” sign. Which happened to be an Indian Restaurant. I asked the manager, Pavneet, if he has something for me, he said that he will call me back. He called me back on the same day and made me a dishwasher.
It turned out that this job is for weekend evenings only, hence it won’t make me rich. I kept applying to other places, got several promising smiles but still, it took almost a month to have something constant. After a while I left the motel because cleaning it wasn’t worth it, and at the moment of writing this post, I have a schedule until the end of November, where three kind of jobs are alternating all week long. Cleaning the mess of a pub in the morning. I can have free beer and free coffee there but since it’s quite early, I always prefer the latter one. Then washing the dishes in the daytime in another restaurant. This one’s for lunchtime, takes around 4 hours. And my third job is still in the Indian restaurant where I get a free meal after every shift. They upgraded me to waiter, but I wish they didn’t. It’s doubled the stress and halved my working hours. But the food at the end of the shifts is so delicious that I’m simply not able to leave.
So I’m doing now these 3 kind of jobs, with several shifts off here and there. These offs are potential opportunities to go somewhere with a car that I bought from one of my cleaning colleagues from the motel last month.
Most of the time “going somewhere” only means visiting the closest supermarket which is in the town called Amberley 86 kilometres away. There is a little shop in Hanmer Springs too, but that’s so expensive that even after wasting 10 litres of fuel, driving to Amberley is a useful to save some money. If not shopping, going to Kaikoura has also been an option, with the chilling seals on the shore and the hike on the hillside. See photos. 
My longest break was on the first five days of October, when I drove down to Queenstown, more than 600 km away from Hanmer Springs. As you might remember, I collected four re-reunite promises in the last post, now it was time to fulfill the first one. Stephanie from Chengdu, who brought me to the Panda Park in July, came to spend her Chinese holidays in New Zealand. I suggested her to fly to Queenstown since I wanted to go there anyway sooner or later. That’s where we met, after my car finally arrived there. After some hiking around, we drove to the Fiordland National Park and took a boat in Milford Sound, the no.1 fiord of the country. She liked Queenstown and the Fiordland but her favorites were the sheep and cows along the road.
Well, that’s how life is going nowadays. I will stay here diligently doing my little shifts for at least one more month, hence I wouldn’t promise a new post too soon. After leaving, I will have about 3 months left from my working holidays in the country – yeah, that exactly equals my visa extension. I will have to plan those months carefully, I don’t want to leave New Zealand with the feeling that I have to come back because I missed something I should have done.
But that’s my problem, dear blog reader, not yours. You just go back now to your regular life and have a nice day (or alternatively, you might take a look at Katja’s blog).

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A Little Trip To Asia

My casting of the Asian countries last year had two winners: Taiwan and South Korea. I decided to spend the Holiday part of my Working Holiday in these two countries, with a short intermezzo in Hong Kong and Chengdu. I found a hostel for volunteering on workaway in both of these countries, booked all the necessary flights and I was ready to go. Details below.


In the late afternoon of the 13th of June, Tuesday, I entered the International Terminal of the Auckland Airport. When I looked at the long check-in queues and heard the dear lady from the speaker kindly recommending me not to leave my baggage unattended, my brain suddenly switched back to the same mode that it was in between Japan and Oamaru: I was in a travelling state again, I was ready to go here and there, filled with the kind of excitement that I really missed for a long time. I remember how happy I was for arriving back to the western world last December. Taking a break from it six months later gave me a similar feeling. I didn’t bother with anything that I left behind in New Zealand and just looked forward.
My first station was Taipei. The hostel called Taiwan Youth Hostel was looking for musicians on workaway who can play for the guests in the evenings in exchange for free accommodation. I read about it in the Chillawhile back in January and I couldn’t resist. The receptionist called Summer, who is responsible for handling volunteers responded quickly, saying that they loved my video and they are happy to have me in June. I wrote back my arrival time and then we didn’t write to each other until 3 days before I came there. So, Daniel, you’re coming soon, right, she asked me. Yeah sure, see you on Wednesday, I answered.
When I entered the hostel, Summer welcomed me, showed me around in the building, meanwhile she realised that I stink and sent me to take a shower. After that we discussed my schedule, and I fell asleep. On some days I had to help making the beds in the morning, on other days I had to play for 45 minutes in the evening. Since I like to play piano but I barely have the chance to give an own concert, I really appreciated this opportunity. They had another musician, Adam, the guitarist from Chicago who’s in the same age as me but has much more concert experience, he gave me useful advices about my performances. The hostel made a live stream of my concerts, if you search for them on their facebook page, you can probably spot by comparing the earliest and the latest videos that I did make a progress in having some confidence and treating my nervousness. If you’re too lazy to do so, then please just simply believe me. Thank you.
Since the hostel appeared to be a very good choice and I still hadn’t bought my flight ticket back to Auckland, I asked them if I can come back after Korea and give a few more concerts. They didn’t have any new musicians for July so there was no reason to decline.
The first part of my holidays was not too active, I spent most of my time in the hostel, mainly just moved out for food. It says a lot about my life requirements. Having a piano and a laptop around, plus sometimes maybe one other human or two is able to make me stop caring about the outside world. By leaving the hostel after 10 days my lifestyle was about to change.

The Reunions

In the following one week I had 4 meetings, each of which I had arranged long before my departure. Even if I felt like a little prince in Taipei, I was really looking forward to these. And now, right before arriving back to Auckland again, I can say that this was the time that enjoyed the most.

Taichung, Sabina

Sabina was a volunteer in the Chillawhile in January. Those were her last days in New Zealand and she chose to volunteer there because she wanted to give a try living with Western people, after spending 14 months by working and travelling with Asians. As I mentioned before, a flight ticket to Hong Kong was much cheaper last year from Taichung than from Taipei. Since I was planning to fly from Taiwan to Hong Kong again, I told her in Oamaru that I will go to Taichung in the summer so we can meet there. She said okay. It turned out later that the cheap ticket from last year disappeared. Finally I bought my flight to Hong Kong from Taipei instead. Still, I wouldn’t have minded to go to Taichung and meet her. She said okay.
She spent only 10 days in Oamaru but that short time was enough for her to find out how to make me happy: by giving me food. So we spent the whole day in Taichung by going from this place to that place, and eating something everywhere. A fancy ice cream, pig blood, BBQ chicken, takoyaki, grapefruit green tea, pineapple juice and other things I don’t really know the name of. Things that I’d have never tried without the guidance of an experienced local. We made only one short break from eating, when we visited the national theatre. It was nice to see an ex-volunteer from the Chillawhile again and to have a relatively active day after just hanging around for 10 days in the Taiwan Youth Hostel.

Hong Kong, Áfonya

Originally I wanted to visit Hong Kong to hike through the Hong Kong Trail, a 50km long walking path on the Hong Kong Island’s mountains. But when Áfonya, my favorite Tibetan law student told me that she’s ready to take a train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong to meet me there, I reduced my hike-related ambitions and decided to only make the first part of the Hong Kong Trail around the Victoria Peak on one day and the last section, the most famous one out of the 8 called Dragon’s Back on the next one. She said that she doesn’t particularly like hiking but she doesn’t even mind it. So it seemed to be a fair compromise.
I took a bus from the airport to the Hung Hom Train Station where she was already waiting for me and we continued where we stopped back in Da Nang: walking and sitting and talking. The talking part works especially good with her. She has interesting random thoughts that I have no idea where they come from and she’s happy to talk about anything that comes to her mind. Which I find extremely amusing. She told me once (twice actually) that a huge wish in her life has always been to have an older brother, with whom she could have discussed through all her teenager problems. First she told me this back in Vietnam, and then she repeated it in Hong Kong again. Now I can’t stop assuming that that’s the role that I’m supposed to play for her. An older guy who she can meet time to time and just spill out whatever she’s full with. And hence those amusing random thoughts. I’m not sure if this is correct or not. But as long as we get along with each other as well as we do, it doesn’t matter actually.
Just as planned, we visited the Victoria Peak on the first day and the Dragon’s Back on the second one. Her favorite part was the beach at the end of the Dragon’s Back trail. I didn’t plan to stay there at all but she liked the water so much that we spent there more than an hour. She told me that she finds her Hungarian name Áfonya boring, and she wants a new one. I recommended Burgonya. Which means potato. That’s good, she said, she loves potato a lot. But when it came to pronouncing it, she gave up after a few attempts (Asians have serious problems with pronouncing the letter R) and decided to keep being Áfonya. From the beach we took a bus to Kowloon, visited the Science Museum which was free but quite boring and just started to walk around the streets.
A bit later she asked me to go to a supermarket, just to look around. She was staring at the pasta sauces for ages and she said that she really likes to practice how to pronounce their names. In the pet section she told me that she has tried dog food and cat food, and the cat food tastes much better. Especially the one with fish. She also told me that her favourite vegetable is the broccoli but she’s only eating it because its name sounds so great. We spent more than half an hour in the supermarket. She didn’t buy anything. We just left and took the ferry back to the Hong Kong Island.
One time we stopped at a corner because she wanted to smoke. While I was standing next to her, a middle aged white businessman passed by. He looked at me, smiled a bit and nodded. I looked back at him, replied with a semi-smile and nodded back. Wow, what was that, asked Áfonya. What was what, I asked. Your spirits just crashed, she said and just kept smoking. Like it was the most obvious explanation ever. She probably forgot her answer in about five seconds but for me it was a quite impressive reaction. In the Western world people say hi to each other. In the Eastern world their spirits crash.
I guess the small differences between interpreting everyday stuff like this are one of the main reasons for my attraction to Asian brains. Or Asian spirits. Whatever.

Chengdu, Nina

Speaking of interpretation. My next flight brought me to Chengdu, China, where I met Nina. The plane was late by more than 5 hours but it didn’t stop her to keep waiting for me at the airport. We went to my hostel first, then to a restaurant where she introduced me to the super spicy Chengdu hotpot.
Nina is studying translation and interpretation but she definitely prefers the latter one. She said that she wants to be the world’s top Chinese-Japanese-English interpreter. Which might sound a bit ridiculous at first but she does take it seriously. We started our exchange studies together in Sapporo. I started the language courses at level 1, then went home after one semester and forgot everything in a few weeks. She started the language course at level 2, spent the winter holidays by learning on her own so she could skip one level and continued her next semester at level 4. At the end of the second semester she took a Japanese-Language Proficiency Test and passed the N1, which is the highest level a human can get. She went back to China, took internships, visited conferences, made who knows what else to gain more experience in interpretation. Right now she’s in Ottawa, Canada, in a summer school and she’s already got a scholarship to the UK for the next year at the end of which she will receive her masters degree. Not bad from a 22-years-old, I’d say.
To be a good interpreter, you not only have to know what the people say but also what they actually mean. To improve the skill of finding out the latter one, Nina’s big project is to get familiar of how the brains in the Western world function. This is where I come in the picture. She told me once that she finds my thinking interesting and talking with me is an opportunity for her to get know new opinions.
Sometimes when I answer her something, she just repeats it slowly, word by word, like she would try to put it in the right place, probably wondering why I used those words and not any other ones. Which I obviously couldn’t explain, since I’m doing it quite spontaneously. Anyway, I have the responsible task of providing an insight to the Western mindset for the future’s best interpreter. It’s a role that’s worth to appreciate.
On the one full day that we spent together, we went to the Wide and Narrow Alley, which is probably the most popular walking area of the city, with small souvenir shops and heaps of street food. I should have bought some panda souvenirs here but I assumed that there will be even more stuff in the panda base tomorrow. Silly me. Later we went to her campus. I saw about 20 pingpong tables next to each other and asked her if she wanted to play. She said she doesn’t have any rackets. So I bought two rackets and three balls and we started to play pingpong. That was the first time that a beat a Chinese person in pingpong. 11:2, if you’re interested. It felt really good. Her friends saw us playing there and invited us to play basketball. So we switched the sport and played some basketball. We finished very late, we only had time for dinner and then she showed me the English corner where people used to gather once a week and talk in English to each other. We arrived much later than she wanted to, there were still some people left there talking in English but we didn’t want to join anymore. So we just talked English for our own.

Chengdu, Stephanie

I met Stephanie in the Duckstay Hostel in Taipei last September. Since she was planning to visit New Zealand in February, we stayed in contact and planned to meet again there. Later she had to cancel that trip because of her job but the facts that Chengdu is her hometown and that I’m going to Chengdu made a meeting in the summer very likely.
She drove her car to my hostel in the morning, greeted me like we were best buddies, and took me for breakfast. Her friend joined us before we reached the Chengdu Research Base Of Giant Panda Breeding. The main purpose of the day. The week. The month. It’s a huge park that includes a museum about how to grow the world’s panda population, how to feed them and keep them happy. There were several areas where pandas of different ages were kept. We were just walking through the different panda sections, making photos everywhere. They are quite lazy creations, barely do anything except for sleeping and chewing a bamboo and since it was too hot for them outside, they were staying in their air conditioned rooms. It was definitely an unforgettable experience but a bit less unforgettable than I expected.
After the pandas she took me to a restaurant, then her friend said goodbye to us and we went to the New Century Global Center which is officially the world’s largest building. When I first saw it, I strongly doubted that all the buildings on the Earth are really smaller than this but the Wikipedia confirmed me that indeed, its 1 700 000 square metres of floor area do make it the world’s largest building, measured by floor space. It included an artificial beach, a hotel of more than 1000 rooms and hundreds of different shops, some of which we took a look at. Before she left me in my hostel, she said that she will pick me up again in the morning and take me to the airport. Okay, see you tomorrow, we thought naively. A few minutes after that she wrote me a message that she had a car accident and she’s fine but her car is not.
So I went to the airport by bus next day.

I don’t know if it’s obvious from these descriptions or not but I found each of these meetups unexpectedly successful. Each of them included some honest conversations and some joyful moments. They felt like four friendships that I should keep working on. As a first step in that process I arranged four upcoming meetings: one in Taiwan, one in Mongolia, one in England and one in New Zealand.
With the new memories in my mind I departed from Chengdu to my new destination. A few hours later I safely landed in Bangkok.

Landed in Where??

In Bangkok.
Fine, I explain. It all started at the Hong Kong Airport. I knew from my visit to Shanghai that if I have a ticket out of China in no more than 72 hours after my arrival, I can apply for a transfer visa at the airport without paying any extra fee. So I had my ticket to Korea based on that simple rule. When I tried to check in in Hong Kong to Chengdu, the check-in boy looked at my tickets and told me that no, the rule is not that simple. My flight from Chengdu to Korea has a stopover in Beijing. And this is not okay, he said. And why is it not okay? I’m not entering the country again, I stay in the international zone, waiting for my next flight, it doesn’t matter if I do that in Beijing or in any other airport. No, it’s not like that, I’ve been told, because that’s not the rule.
So I had to decide if I cancel my flight to Chengdu or find a direct flight out of China for the 2nd of July. I was very much against the former option, so I opened Skyscanner, used it’s magic ‘anywhere’ feature, and searched for the cheapest direct flight for the 2nd of July from Chengdu. It went to Bangkok.
So did I.
First I was very pissed off about this issue. That was definitely not my plan. I looked at all those Chinese tourists on the airplane to Bangkok, they had to go through a long process to get their visa accepted and they are probably all very happy that they are allowed to spend a few days in Thailand. For me this trip was a torture, I had no idea how to spend my time there, all I had was my flight ticket back to Taiwan for the 11th of July. I’m pretty sure that I was the one on the plane who was wishing to visit Thailand the second least, right after the constantly crying baby in the first row.
After arriving to the airport I sat down and started to plan. I was considering to go to the city called Chiang Mai. It just popped out somewhere from the bottom of my memory can that I heard about it in (probably) this video  first as a cheap place which is quite popular among freelancers (and I just noticed right now that the vlogger girl of the video just moved to Budapest – she’s making so inviting movies about it that I almost want to move back there…). I checked the room prices and found a private room in the downtown with an own bathroom for 32 EUR for a week. And even if it’s almost 600 km from Bangkok, there are many trains and buses going regularly to and from Chiang Mai. Plus Áfonya has been there twice and she had really good experiences too. So I booked my room from the next day and started to go to the main train station in the middle of Bangkok, where all the buses and trains depart.
I got off the subway 4 stations before the train station to see a bit of Bangkok. And while I was walking through the streets and parks, I slowly calmed down and accepted my situation. There are worse things that can happen to a human than having one free week in Thailand after all. My walk took longer than it should have and when I arrived to the station, it turned out that all the night buses were already fully booked. But I still got a ticket to the last night train, on the third class.
Well, a third class night train is something that I wouldn’t recommend. There was no air conditioner on it and the windows didn’t move. Luckily, my window was open so I didn’t even want to move it but the Buddhist monk sitting in front of me was less lucky, he really seemed to have some troubles with getting enough air. After some struggling with his window he asked the inspector to help who tried it but performed exactly the same struggling with the window instead. He left and came back with some metal tool, started to hit the window’s bottom, with no progress. Finally he just kept saying sorry for the inconvenience to the monk for whom the rest of the night must have been a great practical exercise about escaping from the present world filled with pain and suffering (Dukkha), that are caused by carving (Tanha), and hence getting a bit closer to the ultimate state of soteriological release (Nirvana). In addition, the light was on all night on the train and the speaker woke me up at every station, announcing where we are at the moment. Like their goal was that all of their passengers spend the night awake. It was a long 14 hours.
After arriving to Chiang Mai I walked to my hostel, sat down on my bed and didn’t know what to do. I started with default activities: bought some food in a convenience store, ate it in my room, then slept for 12 hours.
Most of the days’ highlight was walking around in the city and eat in random restaurants. I really liked the structure of the city. The old town is a huge square, surrounded by an artificial canal. The square takes 78 minutes to walk around (true story), and there are hostels, restaurants, massage shops and temples inside of it. My hostel was also there which was pure luck, I didn’t check it before.
To make something memorable during the week, I decided to book one of the many activities that were offered in every hostel: the half-day elephant tour. I had to wait in front of my hostel at 7am, a van picked me up a brought me together with some other tourists to an elephant resort. After arriving to the resort a guy gave us a short introduction, first about elephants in general, then about their own ones. It’s a family of five, was six last year but the grandma died but the mother is pregnant so will be six again next year. Now they are already waiting for their breakfast, let’s feed them and take some photos. Okay, now let’s bring them to the river and wash them and take some photos. Okay, now let’s say them goodbye and have a lunch. Okay, now let’s go back to Chiang Mai. It was fun actually, even if it doesn’t necessarily sound like that. It fulfilled the requirement: became the most memorable activity of my visit in Chiang Mai.
In the van I talked to a British boy who had been in the city for a few weeks already. He recommended me many places around and it made me want to come back to Chiang Mai again. He said that riding a motorbike without a proper driving license is really common here. The police will very likely stop me but all they do (besides of making me pay a small amount) is giving me a document that proves that I paid a fine. If I show that document to the police again in no more than 3 days, they don’t charge me. After the three days I will have to pay again but then they give me the same document which I can use for 3 more days.
Not much more to say about my trip to Chiang Mai. I tried Thai massage for the first time. The foot massage wasn’t any special, the back massage felt really good. I went to a gym once but they didn’t have a shower room so I had to stink back to the hostel to wash myself which was a bit inconvenient. One day I saw a note on a convenience store’s fridge that today they don’t sell alcohol because it’s a holy day for Buddhists. It turned out that this was the full moon of the eighth lunar month called Asalha Puja or Dharma Day, when they celebrate that Buddha shared his first sermon with his five followers. If you’re interested in these teachings, you can find them in the beautifully named book called Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta.
On the way back I took a bus instead of a train. The difference was so huge for almost the same price that no wonder if they are booked out earlier than the trains. Air conditioner, comfy seats with big leg space, dinner and breakfast, the lights turned off for the night, the bus driver remained silent. A wise choice.
I got off in Bangkok in the morning and went to a park to have my breakfast. At 8am the Thai national anthem started from the speakers, the people stood up from the benches, the runners stopped running and a police kept blowing his whistle. The latter one happened because of me, I was so happy with my chocolate donut that I didn’t realize what’s going on and kept eating happily. In Thailand it’s a disrespectful and ignorant act. According to the law, I could have been arrested for that. They play the national anthem every day at 8am and at 6pm in parks, train stations, shopping malls, and you have to stop whatever you do and keep standing for about a minute.
And that’s my last lesson for you, dear blog reader, from Thailand. The park was right next to the bus station where the airport shuttle departed and took me to the airport for 30 baht. I flew back to Taipei.
I spent almost two weeks in the Taiwan Youth Hostel for the second time. There was nothing radically new compared to my first visit there but I didn’t even want any. Giving concerts, making the beds, going out for food and watching the time go by. I’m going to come back to this hostel next year but I’m still less infected than Adam, the other musician who loves Taipei so much that he’s planning to move there permanently.
I cooked some food in the last night for the crew, then on the 24th of July it was time to fly back to Auckland. Back to the industry. Start to work something. I do need some money after these 6 weeks.


To talk about the future, let’s look back in the past. I studied in the University of Leipzig for two years, to get a master degree in Informatics. After I received my WHV to New Zealand, I wanted to finish as soon as possible. I went to the student’s office and discussed with the proper person (at least that’s what I thought) what modules I need to take in the last semester to have my studies done. I talked to my supervisor as well who allowed me to keep writing my master thesis from the distance and stay in touch online. I finished all the necessary modules last summer and finally finished my master thesis too, when I was already in New Zealand. I was waiting for my reward.
Since nothing happened, I wrote a mail to the student’s office. They said that oops, one of the modules that they promised me to accept from my old university in Budapest, well, they changed their mind, sorry. That meant that I have only 115 credit points from the 120 that a master study consists of. Oh and by the way, I’m not a registered student anymore since I didn’t pay the last semester’s fee. And no, I cannot do it now, it’s too late. But good news, I can apply for the same studies any time again, they will be happy to accept all my 115 credit points I’ve done and all I need to do is completing a so called seminar module which is giving a 45 minutes long presentation about a specific topic.
So that’s how far I am from being a graduated student. I have to travel to Leipzig, pick a topic from some topic list and give a presentation about it for those 5-6 people who happen to sit in the room. Since I had no plan for my next half year in New Zealand, I was seriously considering to go back to Europe in October when the semester starts and do some student job like in the old times.
I’m not saying “seriously” because I want to sound dramatic. I already registered to the website where I can apply for studies in Germany, filled in all the forms and I was just one click away to make the whole process official. I looked at my options. If I go back to Europe in October, probably finish my studies just in a few weeks and then I would work in a Christmas Market in Germany for 6 weeks and make enough money to start travelling again, already in January. If I stay in New Zealand until my visa allows me to, I will keep searching for various jobs, which I will either enjoy (e.g. Chillawhile) or not (e.g. apple packhouse).
Finally I chose the more vague version and let the application deadline just fly away with the 15th of July. It’s a frustrating feeling that I will finish my studies later than expected. But who knows how frustrating it would have been to cancel my working holiday just because of my studies.
The next question was how to spend my time in New Zealand until the expiration of my visa. I needed to find my next job.
I wanted to do something useful.
Something that I can think about later as a step forward in my life.
Something that teaches me skills I can take advantage of in my future.
Something that doesn’t give me the feeling that I’m just wasting my time.

So, I will start pruning kiwifruits in a few days.

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Rolling Through the Last Months

ToNZ #5 – After my peaceful times in Oamaru my main goal was to get the visa extension by doing 3 months of horticultural jobs. Until the Alps2Ocean Trail I finished only 3 weeks in Alexandra. So I still had quite some time left. Did I manage to finish it all? Did I not? Or did I? Or not? Let’s read this post and find it out!

Picking and Packing

Alright, it’s time to take a look at the events between April and June. Not that I don’t have anything better to do. Alps2Ocean finished. Overnighted in Chillawhile, totally exhausted. Went to Nelson. Left my baggage on the bus, with the computer charger in it. For example. The hostel in Nelson was superb. Still counts as my favorite one. Called Palace Backpackers. It had an own piano room, free bakery at 4pm and some Hungarian books, thanks to the manager’s random visit to the town of Pécs. The city was also pretty. But not for those who were looking for horticultural jobs. It was a struggle to find something. The closest job was apple picking, two towns away. Reaching the next town by bus, then the second one by bike. Took more than an hour one way. Did it for four days, hated it. Left Nelson, headed to the North Island. Short break in Picton, hiking on Queen Charlotte trail. Short break in Wellington as well, visited the Victoria Lookout.
Arrived to Napier. The “art deco capital”. The hostel manager offered 2 hours of work for free accommodation. Sounded good. But still had to look for a horticultural job. Finally found one in an apple packhouse. Night shift. Six weeks of pure hell. Wake up at 9am. Clean the hostel. Go back to sleep at noon. Wake up again whenever, eat whatever. Start to depart at 4pm. Start work at 5pm. Finish work at 2am. Arrive back at 3am. Sleep. Repeat. Soul sucking lifestyle. To survive this, I bought a piano. Something to play with. I will sell it at the end in Napier, I thought. Only one weekend’s worth to mention. Hitchhiked to Rotorua. Tried zorbing. Rented a bike. Went to a mountain bike park. Then back to Napier. That was quite enjoyabe, actually.
Job finished on June 2nd. My flight to Taipei was on June 13th. I had no idea what to do until that. Katja had. So we had to make some holiday-like thingy. Went to Taupo. Huka Falls, hot spring, mountain bike park. Back to Napier. There was a Hungarian backpacker in Napier. I was talking in Hungarian to someone. For the first time after last September in Hong Kong. Translated my driving license. Rented a car. Tried to sell the piano but couldn’t. Drove to Wanganui. Me, Katja and the piano. Then drove to the Tongariro National Park, hiked to the Whakapapa waterfall. Then drove to Ongarue, biked through the famous bike trail called Timber Trail. A quite tough one. Deadly uphill sections, big fat mud puddles, nice swing bridges. Took two days for the 85km. Then drove to Raglan. Planned to surf there but the waves were too high. Asked the receptionist if I can leave my piano there. We are not a storage place, he said. You can let the guests use it, I said. Oh, sure, we can talk about that, he said. Left the piano in Raglan, left Raglan, left the car in Auckland, left Katja in Auckland, left Auckland. Started my second trip to Asia. Finally.
What’s after Asia? Well, I still have 3 weeks left from my horticultural project. Which I hate. Makes me question every day if that’s really why I came to this country. I loved the good old days behind the reception of the Chillawhile. But during the months between Oamaru and Taipei I had much less quiet times. Different problems, different advantages, bla. Maybe later I will have some sweet nostalgia about these days as well. But for now I’m glad that it’s over and that I finally started my long-awaited, well-deserved winter holidays.

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