The Farm: Whangaruru, New Zealand

I love this place.

Let me introduce: The Farm

The Farm is the product of the youthful minds of Mike and Ellen Bennett.  The house that you see above is their home/hostel/book warehouse/halfway house/retirement home/play house.  At the beginning, there was only the green building on the right.  The building is growing like the Little Shop of Horrors with a life of it’s own by continuing to grow farther and farther to the south east.

Mike and Ellen run this beautiful 1,000 acre dairy farm just outside of Whangaruru, New Zealand. It’s a long drive from the nearest town.  If you plan on visiting them and you don’t have a car, it’s important to contact them through the website before you try to head out there.

Mike and his sons are motorbike crazy.  Their shop is a skeleton yard of motorbike pieces scattered about.  It’s a hectic mad scientist spot. They keep a well protected  motorbike magazine collection of everything available over the past 20 years.

When divinity was designing this land, there must have been a specific effort to make the place perfect for riding dirt bikes.  From the lookout just above the house, there is nothing but steep grassy hills and muddy tracks as far as the eye can see (out to the ocean.)  They have loads of people come to the farm to ride dirt=bikes with them all summer long.  Lots of people go and play on their huge motorbike track.

Ellen on the other hand is an exceptional natural horsewoman. She has a way with horses that I’ve never seen in anyone else.  She can go into a corral with a young “never been saddled before” horse and be sitting on its back with nothing but a blanket within two hours.  I watched her do it.  She is amazing.

Besides the horses and motorbikes, the Bennetts have a slew of activities at their door step.  The river is a short walk away and you can grab a kayak and take a trip down the river all the way to the ocean if you fancy.  There are nice surf beaches within a short drive from the Farm.  If you don’t have any cash you can just go for a hike around the area.  It’s stunning and out of the way so you can expect to find solitude out there.

The Bennetts are really welcoming and I unconditionally recommend the Farm as a destination to anyone going to New Zealand.  It’s only about 2 hours from Auckland.  Have a blast.  Tell them Ian Robinson sent you.

I even got to eat a huge worm!

I got to ride a dirtbike!

V got to ride a horse!

Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii: Finding a job on O’ahu

Working the Movie Site and Ranch Tour at Kualoa Ranch

When Veronica and I flew from Bali, Indonesia to Hawaii, USA we did so with no real plan.  We had no contacts in Hawaii, we had no job prospects and we had nowhere to stay.  I actually booked a hostel in Waikiki the day before we reluctantly departed from of Denpasar International.

Having no plans made for a rough first few weeks on O’ahu because it is really hard to find work there.  I had a short spell as a gardener and busking around Waikiki.  I had some epic surfs near Waianae and up on the North Shore.  Even though I had some epic adventures, life was difficult without a place to stay or a source of income.  Finally, I got a dream job at Kualoa, Ranch.

The job acquisition process at Kualoa has a few steps .  First you must go through an interview at the human resource department.  If they approve you, you are sent to your specific department manager for approval into the department.  Since I was shooting for a horseback gig, I had to display basic horsemanship skills like saddling, putting on a bridal, mounting without aid from anyone else and opening and closing gates without getting off the horse.  I passed these tests and was given the clearance to join the Kualoa team.  I was over the moon!

WWII Bunker at Kualoa Ranch

After being hired, you go through a two days introduction to the Kualoa Brand.  As a history nut I loved it.  You learn about the ownership of the ranch and it’s place on O’ahu.  They also go over a basic overview of Hawaiian words and the old ahu’pu’a’a system.  They also go through a lot of safety and liability stuff.  These are two unpaid days, but they are worth sticking it out.  It’s good to learn these things before you get to work because it creates cohesion across all the departments.

Once those two classroom days have passed, the trainee spends a day touring around the ranch as a secret shopper.  This is awesome.  It’s like you get a whole day at Kualoa Ranch to just enjoy yourself and see what the customers get to enjoy.

We took the jeep tour through the jungle in a Swiss Pinzgauer.

Kualoa Ranch Trucks

The second tour was the “Movie Site Tour” which is absolutely spectacular.  You load onto an old school bus and drive through the Ka’a’awa valley.  This is where Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, Big Joe Young and a host of other awesome movies were filmed.

Kualoa Ranch Trucks2After the movie site tour Kualoa provides a really tasty Hawaiian lunch of BBQ ribs, pineapple and a salad bar.  Afterwards we went on a quad ride through the forest and up onto the ridgeline headed north.

Finally, for the last part of the day, we went on a short horseback tour the other direction, into the Hakipu’u valley.  Of course I loved this.  Best of all, this was to become my new part time job for the next 5 months.

I am really grateful to Kualoa Ranch for providing a horseback trail guide position.  Kualoa Ranch is magical and it’s so great that they provide a sort of insulation from town to the country.  Big mahalo to the royal Kualoa family (Judd to the Morgan) for keeping it country.  The horseback manager is such a great lady to work for.  She is caring and loves horses as much as anyone could love horses.  Also, to all my co-workers while I was there: sorry I had to leave so abruptly.  I would have stayed if I had the option.

If your headed to O’ahu any time soon, go ride horses at Kualoa Ranch.  This is the safest horse riding for beginners I have ever encountered.  They have a very concrete system worked out with the horses.  The tour crosses through some of the most beautiful land the world has to offer and you might get some treats along the way (strawberry guava, acerola cherries or papaya.)  The guides are all given a solid background of history of the area.  You will find lots of Aloha at Kualoa.  🙂

Aloha.

IV Travel Blog #2: Raglan, New Zealand

We set off on our best trip of the New Zealand asylum to date; RAGLAN, New Zealand.

Once again, we began without any preparation or expectation of an adventure. In all actuality, we set out to go to the internet cafe. We stopped to get some avocados from the nice people selling them for a dollar on the side of the road. I got to talking to the avocado slinger about surfing. He said the surf was good “just down the road.” So we set off on a hour long drive down a rocky dirt road that led us up and down the costal hills to a secluded surf beach called Ruapuke Beach. This place is heaven with good waves and stunning scenery!

On the drive back, we came to the conclusion that there is no way we should live in Auckland. Sorry to all those that would wish me to get a real job, but Auckland just isn’t a viable option when you have such a beautiful country to explore. The drive back was stunning.

The exclamation point warning sign was to mark this here perilous river crossing.   Have no fear, the Audi made it across without a scratch.  Guess perilous isn’t the right word!

Again thanks so much for reading these blog posts. Please leave a comment and tell others to come check it out. Every time I get a visitor here it helps me and my website grow! Leave a comment scallywag!

Exploration: Whakatane, New Zealand

We traveled all over Ohope and Whakatane this last week.  Whakatane is a must visit spot on the North Island.  Lots of locals told us that Whakatane is the “sunniest place in New Zealand.”  There is an extensive Maori culture.  For you budget backpackers driving around, there are great free activities; you can surf and there are awesome hikes.  Enough cool stuff to do to keep you busy for a few days.

Here are some photos and descriptions of our hikes.

Here is a photo of the Marae that is behind the Ohope Christian Camp on the main street of Ohope Beach (Across from the petrol station).  Paul and Daphne are great hosts!  They have inexpensive places for budget travelers.  We hiked up the mountain behind the Marae to check out the beach town from up high.  You can see down at the end is a spot called “The West End.”  It’s got pretty good surf, but it’s a bit unpredictable.
We walked back down the steep cliffs back to the Marae:
Later on we went into town to hike from the middle of town up to a beautiful overlook.  There is a really inspiring mosaic staircase art piece that builds images as the stairs climb.  The bottom stair represents the bottom of the sea while the top represents the sky.  Here is a photo of the bottom:

The hike was beautiful and refreshing.  The next day I worked a day or two with a brick layer while Veronica helped with the Christian Camp.  Duty called and she volunteered to go help save a beached pilot whale with the camp director!  Beached AZ!

The Kiwis really came together to save the whale.  Here is a line of people carrying buckets from the ocean to the whale to help keep it alive:

After our days apart, we reunited to go visit the Marae in Whakatane, New Zealand (Whakatane pronounced: fuck-a-tan-e)

Maori Carvings are stunning:

After this we drove out of Whakatane towards Ohope Beach.  After going over the hill towards Ohope there is a lookout to the left.  We drove up there to check it out.  Of course, the view was stunning.

We decided to hike a little while.  We were definitely unprepared, but the hike was so sweet we just kept going and going until we couldn’t turn around!  Barefoot and without water, we walked all the way back to Ohope Beach.  Here are some photos of the spontaneous 3 hour hike:

We made it!  At last!  So worth the trip!  All the best things happened, beautiful photos, great sea shell collection and a greater understanding of the geography of the place.  Our feet are sore, we are thirsty and all we have to do it get back to the bach and get a ride back to the car.

Hope you enjoyed this little blog about Whakatane.

If you read this, please leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear back from the folks that read this!

IV Travel Blog #1: Te Anu, New Zealand

So we left Hanmer Springs!  Yehaw!  On the way to the coast we had to pull over to check out the free wine tasting:

We headed to the coast and slept near the beach.  We spent the morning laying around reading and watching the waves.  A nice family of Kiwis from Nelson invited us to eat some Paua (Pronounced “power” its Maori for abalone) on the beach.

Of course, we had to take the ferry across the Cook Straight.  We took the BlueBridge and learned that we recommend the InterIslander!  BlueBridge and the InterIslander are both ferry services, but InterIslander is without a doubt a superior service!

We found our way north via the east coast.

Here is our first Travel Blog Video! More to come! We will get more professional as time goes!

Get your travel guide from here and keep V and I on the road!

Become a Jackaroo

Six Steps to finding Cattle Station Work in the Australian Outback

This is a quick guide to getting yourself into an amazing and dangerously adventurous position where you can make money and have a wild time.  The Australian Outback is big and scary so I really only recommend this path to really hardy people.  You need to have a lot of common sense and guts to make it as a jackaroo (or inexperienced Australian station hand).

  1. Get yourself a passport.
  2. Get a working holiday visa in Australia by filling out the online application. It costs about $200 USD. Mine took 3 working days to have it issued. The Australian Immigration office will send you a e-mail with a visa number on it. Then you have the green light to go work in Australia. It’s really easy for American citizens.
  3. Fly to Australia. Use kayak.com or studenttraveluniverse.com (I got a cheap student ticket after already having graduated 2 years ago.)
  4. Travel to a very isolated area in the outback. Mt. Isa, Queensland will be your quintessential wild Australian outback mining/cattle town. I recommend the Mt. Isa area if you really want an adventure.
  5. Go to the information center and ask for a list of cattle stations in the area.
    1. Cold call all of them. Either chat with the station manager or leave a message with your phone number and your name. If you don’t have the guts to do this, then I really don’t advise going on this mad adventure.
  6. Get a job and stick to it. Last at least 2 months, otherwise your a sissy.

What to expect:

  1. The Pay: I earned $550 a week as a level one station hand (jackaroo.) I saved 95% of it because there was nowhere to spend money in that super isolated place.
  2. The Time: 5-6 days a week. Expect to start as the sun goes up and finish about an hour before it goes down.
  3. The Work: Sometimes the day goes so fast you don’t even know what happened. For example: mustering days are adrenaline pumping days on horse back or motorbikes in the mad dust and heat. The work is wild and fun. Sometimes te days are slow and monotonous. You can end up mixing concrete and cleaning out water troughs all day.
  4. The Good Times:
    1. Rodeo: small scale rodeos in little towns. This is where you can get into some awesome stuff; bronc/bull riding, calf wrestling, tug-a-war, or just beer drinking
    2. Race days: great events where you can gamble on the horse races and check out all the pretty girls (or cowboys if your into that sort of thing) in their facy dresses and unique hats. Great times at the pubs after a day at the races.

Tips:

  1. Keep a positive attitude. Being sociable is really important out there.
  2. Always do your best. Australia is a huge country but a small community. Being an honest memorable bloke/shelia (Australian for guy/chick) will pay out in the long run.
  3. Be proactive: no one wants to have to tell you everything to do and when to do it. Find problems and fix them before you need to be asked.
  4. Work for a reputable person. In the outback there are some scumbags so don’t even start with them. I heard about a Spanish guy who worked 4 months at a station in Western Australia. The station owner then bought him a ticket to Brisbane. The spaniard never got paid. Don’t fall into a trap. If you find yourself in a trap, leave right away.
  5. Have fun. It’s one hell of a time in the outback. Enjoy it.

Down South Island – New Zealand

Catching up on nearly a month of inactivity.  Sorry! 🙂

Veronica and I found a lovely place at theFarm near Whangaruru (pronounced: fangaruru) in Northland, New Zealand (theFarm website).  Mike and Ellen own the place and they are the coolest people in all the land.  Mike is an avid dirt-biker who is brainwashing the future generations of Kiwis to get on a motorbike and shred.  Ellen is an excellent provider of natural horsemanship; one lesson with her and you will be able to break horses without breaking your back.

We absolutely loved our time at theFarm and recommend whomever visits New Zealand, to go there.

While there we had some awesome times.

-Shocking surf at Elliotts Bay.  A six footer gave me the axe out past the break and I was sore for the next few days.

-Awesome horse treks up steep cliffs in the mountains.  (Video to come as soon as I work YouTube out better)

-Great motorbike rides up and down rolling green hills and down aggressive muddy trails.

None-the-less. we felt that we had to move on and look for more opportunities.  While there I got a job offer from Hanmer Horsesthat would allow for Veronica and I to both work together as horseback trail guides in the alpine village of Hanmer Springs!  Wow what a great deal… or so we thought.

So we packed up and headed south.  We drove along the coast.

Got to Wellington to go to our first Rugby World Cup game.  Australia vs. USA!

Took the ferry from Wellington to Picton.

Arrived at Hanmer Horses.

Unfortunately, the woman who runs the place is a cruel sort.  She treats her horses like royalty and the people who work for her like scum.

So thats where we are now.  We have stopped working for Hanmer Horses and have instead decided to do some more traveling.  Traveling north of course.  It’s bloody cold down here.

Thanks for reading!  We will get back at ya later!

6 Step Costa Rican Organic Farm Adventure

This adventure is one of my favorite on earth. Attack this adventure like a buddhist. Define the goal (Goal= reach Punta Mona) and focus on the process (Process=Getting there).  It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.  Along the way enjoy great surf, great parties, afro-caribbean culture, jungle hikes, heaps of wildlife and real adventure. If your looking for the quintessential “The Beach” type adventure this is for you. Punta Mona is an awesome, isolated jungle community.

  1. Fly into San Jose, Costa Rica. Either take a taxi to a hostel or book a hotel for the night that has airport pick ups. San Jose is a interesting place full of sin and booze. Avoid this if you can.
  2. Take a bus to Puerto Viejo. To get to Puerto Viejo you must take a bus towards Limon. It’s a stunning bus ride and an adventure in itself.
  3. Stay at Rockin J’s Hammock Hotel in Puerto Viejo. Travel east or west along the beach and you have great surf spots.  Rockin J’s is walking distance from the Salsa Brava (Salsa Brava is dangerous so don’t get too confident). Stay here a few nights.  Drink a lot and get all the partying out of your system. J’s does all sorts of fun stuff. This is the greatest hostel in the history of hostels, or greatness.
  4. Wake up early and hitchhike down south to Manzanillo (take a bus if all else fails). This is the most southern town on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Have a smoothie and a feed at Maxi’s Restaurant.
  5. Once you get to Manzanillo, choose between these 2 Options:
    1. Find “Baco”: Baco is a local ledgend. He runs the recycling program for the area so almost everyone knows him. Baco can take you to Punta Monaon his boat. It costs about $50 a person. This is a stunning boat ride along the beautiful undeveloped coast.(or)
    2. Hike south: This involves bush tramping through the deep forests of Costa Rica. The hike takes about 2-3 hours depending on the conditions. Encounter wildlife like big spiders, howler monkeys, wild pigs, enormous ant hills and whatever else the jungle can throw at you. I love this hike. It’s best to go bare foot. The deep mud will ruin your shoes and get you stuck (it will pull gum boots straight off your feet). Punta Mona is on the coast so as long as you keep the ocean on your left you won’t get lost. This is one of those real adventures, be careful, be smart.
  6. Arrive at Punta Monaand spend a few days
    1. This place is could be described as “hippie;” but have no fear. There is so much interesting stuff to learn and experience. You will be fed some really delicious food and you will learn a whole heap of new skills. Learn about sugar cane, miracle fruit (makes sour things taste sweet), banana trees (harvest by cutting down the tree), old spice, cinnamon, and a thousand other exotic unbelievable life. There is great diving and the surf is pretty good down the beach.

 

It’s important to check in with Punta Mona (puntamona.org) before you hike out there. Confirm that they have a place for you to stay!

Best of Luck!

Red Triangle California Surf – Shark Infested Waters

 Sharky Waters

Surfers use a term to describe certain conditions: SHARKY.  I was blown away with the abundance in wildlife – sea lions, otters, seals; it was all so beautiful but I couldn’t help but think that these are all part of the GREAT WHITE SHARK diet.  But hell, it was the first opportunity in my life to get a taste of California waves.  They were peeling off like an aria with no wind.  No wind means glassy, oil slick textured water.  It’s wonderful.

Cayucos, California was my first spot.  My mate and I hit a few spots in the area.  The rock down near Morrow Bay has a great feel on low wind days.  The massive rock provides for a mesmerizing backdrop during lulls.  South of the Rock you jump off the docks of Morrow Bay marina, paddle between all the exotic sailboats and hike across the peninsula for a beautiful low crowd spot.  I got a jellyfish down the neck of my wetsuit but it was real fun.

The Cayucos house dried up and we headed North along Highway 1.  I fell asleep and we woke up near Santa Cruz.  Big Fail!  I slept through some really great spots.  We were now in Santa Cruz and I missed the miles of Big Sur and unoccupied California beaches.  These are the places.  There are epic spots around here.  Dangerous and fun.  Go on a venture down there.  Bring ropes, harnesses and climbing shoes.  Rappel down.  Call me, I’ll join you.  Something awesome can happen down there.

North of Santa Cruz we hit a great spot.  After a short hike from the high way down to the beach we found a right that sits in the pocket of a cliff which protects it from any NE winds.  This spot hits the best as the tide is going out.  Its just north of Santa Cruz, you have to cross a rail line just once you get out of the highway.  The spot is silent from highway traffic or anything else really.

Later on in the week we adventured out to a spot called Point Reyes.  Point Reyes is way out north of San Francisco.  It’s a wonderful little town with a sustainable food and community vibe.  This is the sort of place I must live in once I slow down with all this travel.  The small town vibe is just rich and abundant.

The surf there is cold and sharky.  Im tired now so I must take a break