Auckland, New Zealand: The Best Haircut in New Zealand – Free

How shocking! I got the best haircut in New Zealand.

Best of all: it was free.

Here’s the story:

Downtown Auckland has a the most prestigious barber shop (Mr. Barber) in all of New Zealand and it’s on Queen St. All the best barbers in Australasia train here. I was attracted by the advertisement for free haircuts. Being poor and all, I don’t pass up opportunities like these. So I headed to the central business district to take advantage of a free trim.

It’s an enthusiastic barber shop on the busiest street in Auckland. Everyday there are 10+ barbers in training. They are all showing off and trying to impress their barber coaches who are strutting about the room checking everyone’s work. The coaches act like drill instructors telling people they’ve done a crap job or that they aren’t working hard enough. The environment is competitive, high energy and aggressive.

When you arrive they tell you to sit in the corner and wait for a barber in training to select you. You may have to sit there forever.  If you aren’t selected by a barber for whatever reason, you won’t get a haircut.

Luckily, I got selected and some trainee woman went about cutting my hair. She seemed a bit over confident and she didn’t seem to understand what I was after. Luckily, the head barber came over. After looking at my head as if it were a canvas awaiting paint, he said “I’ll take this one,” then he called over the trainee barbers. That’s how my hair became the center of attention for the next 30 minutes.

The barber’s name is Leigh Topham. While he was aggressively cutting my hair, he was explaining the skills to all the surrounding students. He likes to really grab your hair and yank your head around while he drills the surrounding students.

Leigh discusses cutting hair as a sculptor describes a sculpture. He told them that I had a weird shaped head and he told me that my lack of hair product was unacceptable. Hell, he really handled the situation like a wartime general. He had no remorse for anyone’s hurt feelings. It was exciting and a bit intimidating to watch him work.

Clearly, it was an intense half hour. Luckily, my head came out looking excellent. I found out afterwards that Leigh Topham is supposed to be the second best barber in Australasia. Fantastic! The #1 was walking around the room talking to students and so, by default; I got the best haircut in New Zealand, for free.  Yehaw.

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Auckland, New Zealand: The Daktory, Marijuana Vending Machine

I like investigating the marijuana scene. It’s a rebel scene and I’m all about rebels.

Why is smoking weed illegal? Whats the big deal? It doesn’t cause violent behavior like alcohol. It doesn’t kill people like cigarettes. Yet being a marijuana distributor has worse penalties than some violent crimes! What gives? If you have the answer, please fill me in. It’s a mystery to me.

Anyways, in New Zealand, people smoke weed. I smell it when walking the streets and I see smoke filled cars cruise by full of bloodshot eyes and dreadlocks. I’ve seen more white people with dreadlocks in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world. Smoking pot is illegal here… but just like so many other places; marijuana is omnipresent.

When a friend offered to take us to check out the Daktory in Auckland, we agreed: “hell yeah!”

The Daktory is at the end of Stock Street when you turn off Great North Road in Auckland. The building is an old warehouse converted to be a fun place to smoke pot and chill. The entrance looks like this:

A giggly grinning hippie said g’day and collected our $5 NZD entry fee.  It’s a strange irony seeing a flower child through steel bars as he asks for money. This is generally the stuff for dicey gambling dens with thieves and murders lurking.

The steel segregates the outside world from the inner depths of the Daktory.  I’d expect to see a officer with a badge, a bludgeoning stick and a cruel nature in a position like this. This young guy was just grinning from behind the bars.

They don’t allow people under the age of 18 to enter.  The hippie behind steel presses a button which unlocks the steel bars.  I push the door open and enter (twilight zone voice) The Daktory.

Obviously, it’s a very relaxed place.  Flags from all countries hang from the rafters, random books are scattered about. They have a pool table, a ping pong table and a fuseball table. There are lots of half baked posters about legalizing marijuana. Good looking plants accent the hip high dividers which separate the different spots to chill. They have lots of comfortable looking places to sit down.  That is exactly what most people are doing, sitting around and smoking pot.

It’s easy to buy buds.  You just go to the vending machine.  Check it out:

There is an abundance smoking utensils. They have water bongs of all types, vaporizers, pipes, papers, blunt wraps and whatever the hell else you could dream of. The crowd at the Daktory is deeply focused on doing what they came there to do. All the visitors were either smoking joints and hitting bongs or rolling joints and packing bongs.

If you like smokin’ pot and traveling New Zealand, the Daktory is a perfect match for you.

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Australia Working Holiday Visa Overview

A working holiday visa (WHV) is a great way to see the world while saving money to see more of the world.  The strength of the Australian dollar and high wages make it possible to travel long after your year is complete.  With Asia right next door, you can travel for two to three times the amount of time you spend working.  If you plan to see the world, it is a great idea to work/travel Australia, save money and continue traveling afterwards.

It’s also a great way to learn skills that you never even anticipated learning.  While in OZ I learned to weld, surf, ride horses, build fences, muster cattle, live at sea, service diesel engines, fix all sorts of things and work farms.  I took the outback approach but you can do anything you wish.  For example:

A friend of mine lived in Sydney.  We visited the Sydney Ballet and he was deeply inspired by the performance.  He earned a rigging certificate (rope work for theaters), became deeply involved in the theater scene and now he is a ballroom dancing coach.  He also learned excellent Batista skills (Australia has excellent coffee shops).

Other friends of mine learned to be bartenders, fishermen, bakers, chefs among others!  This is a great opportunity to find yourself.

While picking apples I was able to make $900 + a week.  They were long hard hours (7:00 – 17:00).  For one weeks wages I was able to live in Bali w/ my girlfriend for an entire month.  In Bali we had a rented scooter, a room overlooking an excellent surf spot (Padang Padang in Bali), surfboard rental, ate out 2-4 times a day and generally did whatever we wanted.

Victorian Ian: Auckland, New Zealand

Victorian Ian Extra Work Auckland, New Zealand: My Victorian Costume
My Victorian Costume

Veronica exercised her talent agent muscles and got me some extra work in downtown Auckland yesterday. I’m a big fan of movies and acting, but I’ve got absolutely no experience in “the industry.” One great thing about being lost in foreign lands is that you have the confidence to do anything.  My acting career launched on the Victorian Era set of “What Really Happened – The Woman’s Vote” in Auckland, New Zealand.

Victorian Ian Extra Work Auckland, New Zealand: My Fellow Actors
My Fellow Actors

I’d say that being a good extra is all about waiting.  We spent almost all day waiting.  On the rare occasion, I’d walk around and do my awesome acting. Most importantly, the whole time we got to look super snazzy!

Victorian Ian Extra Work Auckland, New Zealand: Horse and Buggy (and camera team)
Horse and Buggy (and camera team)
Victorian Ian Extra Work Auckland, New Zealand: Stage Coach
Stage Coach

I like the movie industry.  Maybe I’ll become an actor or a stunt man.  It would have been sweet to have been riding a horse all day.

Victorian Ian Extra Work Auckland, New Zealand: Victorian Street Scene
Victorian Street Scene

Even though this gig was mostly waiting around, I consider it a great adventure.  I met some really interesting people, got to get dressed up and was well fed.  Good times.

Cook Straight Crossing, New Zealand: Interislander vs. Bluebridge

While traveling the North and South Islands of New Zealand you want to take the ferry across the Cook Straight.  When crossing you have two companies to choose from; the Interislander and the Bluebridge. Both services can take you as a passenger with or without your car.  The crossing  is fun and I consider it essential to a New Zealand adventure.  The ferry is a testament Kiwi ingenuity!  It’s also scenic and fun as you spend 3 hours at sea.

Interislander vs. Bluebridge

Q: Which should I take?

A: Interislander, No doubt about it.

Tips for crossing:

  • Prepare to get a little seasick
  • Put the emergency break on in your car
  • Turn you car alarm off
  • Enjoy the outdoor deck, you’ll cross some stunning scenery
  • Food and drink aren’t more expensive than normal New Zealand prices.
  • There isn’t a lot of preparation needed.  The ferry landing is easy to find in Wellington and Picton.  Driving on is easy.

On both services you drive your vehicle onto the boat yourself.  Here’s a video of us boarding in Wellington and disembarking in Picton!

I’ll show some pictures and brief descriptions of the Bluebridge:

The cabin of the Bluebridge is very functional.  You can order food and have it delivered to you while you sit indoors and watch the shores of Wellington and the North end of the South Island pass by.

The Bluebridge ship is smaller and simpler than it’s competition.  For this reason, it is slightly quicker at crossing the straight…. but only a few minutes faster.  It’s not a significantly faster experience.

The bluebridge cabin is comfortable and simple.  If you require a private room, they offer that.  I don’t really know why someone would want a private room on a 3 hour trip though .

There is seating on the blue bridge outdoor deck.  You can also walk around on the outer deck while crossing.

They don’t have sky (New Zealand’s television service) so there is no television while on board.  This wasn’t cool for us because we missed two Rugby World Cup matches while crossing the straight.  They do show movies but there is only one option played on all the screens.  If they play a movie your not interested in, tough luck.

Anyways, the Interislander is without a doubt the one that I recommend.

Here is why:

This boat has heaps of different cabins for whatever your different interests are.

It’s like a playground for kids and adults!  They have so much cool stuff to do!

They have a cafe

Their outdoor deck is great for watching the progress of the crossing.

At the back there is a great glass enclosed observatory if (and when) it gets too cold to be outside.

There is a playground and a cafe for the parents and their kids.  It’s really nice because it is on the bottom deck so all the kids are nice and busy away from the cafe and the pub.  The playground is in the bowls of the ship!  It’s perfect, you can’t even hear the little buggers.

Yeah, they have an awesome pub.  The drinks are about as expensive as any other pub in New Zealand.  There was even a really entertaining live band playing.

There is lots of seating in the pub.

So that’s it folks.  The showdown of the Interislander and the Bluebridge goes to the Interislander.

Do you have any experience crossing the Cook Straight?  Tell me about it with a comment below.


World Rainbow Gathering 2010

Food Circle was the central calling at the World Rainbow Gathering 2010 down in the South Island of New Zealand.  The primitive kitchen would yell out “FOOD CIRCLE” in unison causing all the surrounding people to follow in turn with their own proclamation: “FOOD CIRCLE”!  This call would be re-called throughout the land until everyone within the 10 mile lush green wilderness valley would be aware that the food was on its delicious way.

The people that make up a Rainbow Gathering are about the most diverse group I have ever encountered.  There were people from Israel, Argentina, Russia, Australia, Japan, Ghana, San Francisco and everywhere in-between.  There were jugglers, yogis, painters, poets, builders, dancers and plenty of musicians.  This was the all star event for grungy, penniless world travelers.

One quickly learned that you must wait for the 3rd FOOD CIRCLE call before the food was actually prepared.  Upon that 3rd call coming through the valley, the gathering commenced.  People begin descending from their caves, tents and teepees on foot and approach the raised valley center.

As the people all reached the top of the plateau they would play and talk without direction for a while.  Slowly, people would begin to organize by holding hands.  More and more hand holding commenced, until the whole population (maybe 400 people) were locked together hand in hand in a great circle around the sacred food circle bonfire.

There are nearly no rules at a Rainbow Gathering.  1. It’s important that only organically occurring wood is to be used in the Food Circle fire.  The paint from the fire is used for paint and covering waste.  2. No Smoking in food circle. 3. Vegan kitchen

As everyone stood around in an enormous circle of hand holding, the brave and organized would begin singing to center the energy of the large group:

We are circling, circiling together,

We are singing, singing our hearts on

This is family, this is unity, this is sacred…

This chant continues and continues until the circle is made whole by all the congregation of gatherers.  Upon complete participation with the singing pieces some individuals break with the song and commence with a long vocal “OHMMMMM”.  As the “OHMMMMMMM” caught on the whole energy of the circle would become concentrated and peaceful.  Each individual “OHMMMMMMM” for as long as they wish and then become silent.  Once silence is unanimously reached each gatherer would raise his or her hands into the air while releasing the hands of the adjacent person.  One’s own hands then met palm to palm in the air above your head. Everyone would lower their hands to their chest level, slowly lower themselves down to their knees and kiss the ground.  Concentration and energy was so focused from the beginning of the “OHMMMMMMM”.  After the ground was kissed the chaotic energy and gypsies laughs would return as server volunteers were openly called upon to carry the large pots around and dish out the food to all gatherers.

The food was prepared in the most primitive of kitchens.  The stove burners were simply a long narrow pit dug into the ground.  There must have been 4 long narrow pits with sticks across the moth of the pit to create a place to hold the 60 liter anodized aluminum pots above the fire.  The only signs of a contemporary society were the pots, knives, food graters and the vinyl tarps used to keep the blistering sun back.  Everything else was fabricated from the forest.

Twine and woven tree bark was used to bound boards together which functioned quite excellently as a preparation table.  Cutting boards were made from sliced tree trunks that appeared to have been made by a hand powered saws.  A group of dreadlock gatherers maintained a fire, periodically moving red hot embers down under the pots.  This was a bare bones kitchen to say the least and all ingredients had to be packed in by volunteers.

Any volunteer would help to carry each days ingredients up the 3 mile hike from the nearest road, through the soggy green valley to the kitchen.  It’s astonishing that this system works so well.  No one seemed to be in charge, there was no organization or delegated responsibilities.  Nonetheless, this kitchen provided hundreds of meals for all that gathered, three times a day for a solid week.  The food was always delicious and was enough to feed everyone with very little gone to waste.

All the ingredients, permitting and other expenses for the event are funded by the “Magic Hat”.  Its a simple hat, colorful and large.  Like everything else, the magic hat never seemed to be the responsibility of one individual.  A group of performers (poi spinners, singers, dancers, jugglers and musicians) would gather and begin dancing around the circle singing the Magic Hat song in repetition for hours:

The more that I give, the more I got to give

It’s the way that I live, is what I’m giving for

Anyone was free to join the magic hat group as they danced around the circle.  One person would carry the hat.  He or she would go person to person accepting donations while smiling energetically.  There was no real pressure to put money into the hat.  Most people would just touch their hearts or heads and wave their hands over the hat.  Though the hat would only go around the circle once, the magic hat parade would continue on and on for hours and hours.  It was a loud cloud of giggles and joy.  Drummers would join after the sun went down.  The night would pump on primitively deep into the night around a massive fire that was being cared for by whomever wanted to care for it.  You might think there was massive drug ingestion to create such a parade but there wasn’t any!  No one was on any physical drugs other than the inexplainable joy you get from a delightful meal, interesting company and the comfort of being deep in the wilderness.

All of this takes place an hours hike into the bush of New Zealand.  It’s silent out there all the time.  However, after a healthy, sunny day at the World Rainbow Gathering the nights would be thriving with drumming, singing and laughter.

The central theme of the gathering is the idea that creation is dependent on each individual creator.  Everyone is responsible for making the gathering whatever it will become.  People will offer workshops while food is being enjoyed.  Workshops like:

– Direct action discussions: how to enact change to stop babylon (or modern industrial society) from destroying the planet.

-Standing up logs: An immense muscular Australian man was dead set on lifting some giant logs vertically like great obelisks to demonstrate the “strength of this Rainbow Family”.  His speeches were reminiscent of Russell Crows performance in Gladiator.  He would accentuate each statement and triumphantly declare, “join me in this noble goal, so that all who arrive can bare witness to the strength of this rainbow family!”

-AcroYoga Workshops: Yoga exercises which utilize partners ability to hold one an’ other aloft in the air. (

-Flock energy Workshop: Groups of people doing chants and movements together to develop a sense of community.

-Vision Circle: A discussion on when and where the next World Rainbow Gathering would take place.  This is the organizational structure for the planning of a Rainbow Gathering.  It is essentially a group that comes together to reach consensus on where the next location will be.  It could be anywhere from Argentina to Russia.

-Shit Pit Diggers: The shit pits were often in dire need of improvement.  Some brave souls offer their help in digging the holes.  All shit was buried at the rainbow gathering.

-Primitive tool construction classes: building things like baskets, knives, or whatever one might need from natural materials

-Drumming workshops: developing your drumming skills

-Rainbow Gathering Song Workshop: Learning more of the many Rainbow Gathering songs

Somehow, all of this anarchy wored together to make the gathering a success.  The food brought in, the people entertained, the shit burried and the people happy.  It was unquestionably a success.

Getting Mugged In Christchurch, New Zealand

Walking through downtown Chrischurch, New Zealand at 6:30 am on a Saturday I heard some guy yell to me asking for $5.  He looked like he had been out clubbing all night, rough and worn slick styled hair, collared shirt, tight stone washed jeans and bloodshot eyes.  I had all my 20 Kgs of bags strapped in front and back of me as well as my guitar complicating the situation even more.

I shook my head and walked on by despite his pleas which sounded aggravated.  Spending time in San Francisco taught me to ignore beggars.  He kept talking and coming after a few moments, I realized he was following me.  As I was walking away I kept hearing his voice.  The next time I turned around he was coming at me swiftly as hebanged his open palms against his forearms like a big ape all the while muttering something about how I had that $5 dollars he needed.

He was a thick little muscular half pacific islander looking fellow.  The kind of body one gets from lifting lots of weights but not running or an aerobic exercise.

Even though we were 2 blocks from city center Christchurch, there was no one else on the streets.  I knew I could survive a scrap with the brute on even ground, but this ground wasn’t even.  I was loaded down in a complex system of weights and straps and my precious spanish guitar would get destroyed if I dropped all my stuff and went about the path of scrap.

So I resolved to stop and turn to this ape and take it like I’d image Ghandi or Mandela would have.  As he approached he had a face intended to intimidate, but I was suprisingly calm.  Adrenelin was pumping but I had a relaxed nature.  He asked me if I had $5.

“I don’t have $5” I said because I honestly thought I was broke at the time.

“Then whats that hanging out the back of your pocket?” he replied.

Whoops.  I forgot about that $20 the guy had given me to play his friends a song in the Deny’s restaurant I had just left.  I paid fro my breakfast, gave the watress the extra $3 in coins and lazily stuffed the $5 in my back pocket.  So I was now, standing in front of some gorilla like half maori mugger, realizing that I had committed one of the most idiotic mistakes a traveler can make.  I was walking through a big city early in the morning with money hanging out the back of my pocket.


He asked me: “You gonna give me that $5 or do I have to beat you up and take all your money?” he paused to think up some other creative threat “Or I could steal your little guitar and sell it for even more.”

Then he made a swift jerking motion like he was about to strike.  A sort of clenched fist, shoulder turning start.  Maybe he was expecting me to cringe…

I was busy thinking the situation over.  Sure, I think I could take this guy, but at what cost?  That $5 dollars isn’t too important and it defiantly is worth paying to avoid a battle with a drunken islander.  But what about the moral implications of paying to avoid physical abuse.  Martin Luther King Jr. would taken a punch to make a moral statement!

Also, I was thinking about how I would fall if he hit me in the face.  I thought about how to escape my bags quickly w/o banging my guitar up.  I thought about wrestling matches with my marine friends and all the scrums during intense rugby matches.

He seemed to be a bit taken back with my aloof reaction to aggression.  Really, the gesture w/o the punch gave me the impression that he wasn’t a mugger but just some poor lost soul who spent all his money at the club and didn’t have bus money to get home.

“What happened to you?  Why do you need $5?” I asked.

“I need $21 dollars to get home.  My friends left me here and I’m just trying to get home.  I need $15 and I have $8.” He explained in a less thug sort of way.  He clumsily dug his coins from his pocket to show me the coins to back up his story.

I recounted my situation:

-First off, I deserve this after walking through the south islands biggest city with money HANGING OUT MY BACK POCKET

-The $5 defiantly isn’t worth a scrap… but a scrap would be adventurous…

-This poor guy really is in dire straights.  Even his math is no good.

“Here you go,” I said as I reached for my back pocket.  Sure enough, I could feel that $5 note hanging off my ass, a dim reminder of a foolish mistake.  I handed it to him and stood looking at him with a “is that all” face on.

“You know what?” he asked as he took the note.  “You just earned yourself $5.”

Strange… my thinking commenced again.  Now I’m holding the $5 and standing there in bewilderment.

Is this some sort of test?  The greedy fist test?  Maybe he wants me to take it so he can tell the New Zealand police I mugged him!  What on earth am I doing in this big city at 6:30 am in the morning, roughing it up with a big ass lock looking rugby murderer over $5?

“Here man, just take this and get home.” I said and handed him the bill again.  He still wanted to know if I’d have given it to him if he hadn’t threatened to beat me up.  I didn’t want to provoke him so I just reiterated that he should take the $ and go home.

“Ahh, thanks man, your a lifesaver,” he said.  “Can you play us a song real quick.”

WTF?  “No dude, I gotta catch a bus: get home and get some rest.”  I turned and walked through the center of Christchurch to get the hell out of town.

Despite the outcome of my first mugging, I was considerably shaken up afterwards.  I had a shakyness in my hands and my overall mood was depressed.  No longer did I smile to people on the street and take interest in all around me.  For the next few hours I went over the event in my head and though about that weird beast.  I imagine he was doing the same.  A strange sort of bond must exist between human conciseness after an encounter like that.  On the other hand,  he might be a real animal and may have forgotten about the situation all together.

Either way, he ruined my day.  Luckily I made the bus (despite not booking it, someone else didn’t show up and they already paid their ticket the bus driver comped me on for a few coins) and was dropped off in an alpine wonderland of summer ski area tranquility.  My hike to the legendary Castle Hill bouldering spot was like a scene out of Lord of the Rings.  I finished reading Motorcycle Diaries and phoned home for the first time in 2010.  Sleep came like a gift that night.


Here is an image of my hitch hiking and bus trips through New Zealand:

Whitianga, New Zealand: Weeklong Stay at the Batch

We’ve spent the last few days in Cooks Beach, New Zealand.  Its surprisingly quiet in this little scenic suburb.  It feels a bit like that movie 28 Days Later; heaps of well maintained homes without a soul around.  I heard it gets crowded around Christmas and New Years, but it sure isn’t crowded now.

To get goodies and internet access we bike from Cooks Beach to Whitianga.  We load our bikes onto the ferry to cross the bay to town.  It’s fun taking a boat to get to town.

On the way back, we stopped at Shakespeare Cliff.  This is a tiny hike out to the point where you can look over the stunning Cathedral Bay.  I found a cool rope swing down on the beach

When the swell picks up we drive across the peninsula to surf at Hot Water Beach.

Hot Water Beach is a sand bar beach break.  It breaks left and right.  The right generally shapes up better than the left.  It seems to me that it works best at low to mid tide.

It’s called Hot Water Beach because during low tide everyone digs into the sand and chills in the warm spa-like water.  It’s a cool touristy beach scene.  If you’re looking for a good place to park your van for the night and sleep near the beach, go to the Surf Beach parking lot.  It’s got a toilet and its far from the road.

Thanks for reading.  Feel free to leave a comment.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacon: Inspirational

Walter Isaacon has produced an excellent portrayal of the life of Steve Jobs.  Three days ago, I knew next to nothing about Jobs.  I now consider him to be a hero (though I wouldn’t want to go to dinner with him.) 🙂

Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson : Inspiration, Passion and MadnessI was inspired to read the book because I love the Apple devices I use. The MacBook, the iPhone, iMovie, and iTunes all have a tremendous effect on my life.  I love them and in fact, much of career has been made possible because the iPhone allows me to be so mobile.  If it weren’t for the MacBook, this website wouldn’t exist.  So Apple (Steve Jobs specifically) has played a vital role in how my life has evolved and where it may go.

I read the 600 page book in 3 days.  This time has been reminiscent of the days I spent reading Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela or For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. It’s intensely interesting and it keeps your attention all the way through.

This is a story that I suggest to everyone.  If every person on earth read this book, the human condition might improve.

Thanks again for reading! Much love.