The Longest Month

When you close your eyes and see apples, when your dreams repeat themselves with apples in boxes, apples on trays and conveyor belts, when all you can smell is apples, you can be sure that the apple season has been going on for too long.

Tell me, where is the life?

To travel, work here and there meet good people and take it all in, is it too much to ask for? After our unsuccessful venture to Nelson good things were promised to us as we chose Napier as the next place to stay. Settling in Hawke’s Bay would mean taking advantage of the largest fruit growing region in NZ at peak season. But calling it a success to find work would be highly ironic. 8 hours a night putting apples onto trays, trays into boxes, boxes on the conveyor, can easily end up in the longest month of your life. Most of all, the economic idea of cleaning the hostel each morning for free accommodation simply added up to a constant state of fatigue. Why I did it, still? Omitting my ideals of a work life balance had two reasons, one getting closer to the visa extension, two being with a dear travel mate. And the wages slowly adding up were a nice side effect.

Six weeks, that was it. Hearing of other backpackers who had spent months and months in Napier, working their butts off made me wonder what the backpacking life hype is even about. Why are young people venturing to places far away from home, to waste their lifetime with meaningless labour? Shouldn’t we be on the search for the essence of life itself?

24 Hours Rolling

For one day, that’s what we did. Left Napier behind, hitch hiked with a nice Canadian guy to Rotorua, spent a night and the best day in the city of smelly hot springs. Not that I minded the fragrance, it strongly reminded me of Iceland. We hired bikes in the morning and after checking out bubbling hot mud pools in the public park it was time for some thrill. It doesn’t happen often that Daniel suggests an activity, so when he brought up Zorbing It could hardly resist. One of the more unique and mad Kiwi inventions, Zorbing means rolling down a hillside track in a giant air filled ball. At the Ogo zorb they even add water inside the ball, making it a 2 minute splashy fun. A thing I wouldn’t want to have missed!
Later that day it was time to get onto the full suspension bike to check out the supposedly largest MTB area in the southern hemisphere. The Whakarewarewa forest is what put Rotorua on my bucket list, and it sure is a big forest. Not that we got lost, but getting back to town in time for the bus departure wasn’t the easiest thing. What they call an easy trail can also easily involve 30cm drops, nasty roots and steeper slopes than I would have enjoyed. But we made it and it was an adventure worth it.

Koru, Fuji and other nasties

Back in the Bay of Labour it was heads down for another few weeks of work. Luckily, from Daniel’s perspective, the season kept continuing and meant a safe job for so long. I now consider myself an expert in apple varieties as well as a survivor of the apple floods down the conveyor. Mind that Koru!

One thing to keep my spirit somewhere from complete madness was the organic café downstairs, a regular iced coffee and our weekly culinary discoveries. Sure, there would be worse places to be stuck. Art Deco architecture and some beach with regular sunshine could have provided a decent environment. The last weeks weren’t too bad, Pink Lady became my favourite apple and the Korean, Chilean, Swedish, Israeli etc. were nice colleagues. After a final test, extended shifts till 3 am, and the final proof that our hostel manager was a manic lunatic, I couldn’t wait to get out. Freedom was calling, first off to the Great Lake.

What I leave behind is 6 weeks more or less wasted, the occasional fun on the – way too flat and straight – bike trails, a bit of stoke in the MTB park that was too far away for regular visits, One day that stood out was the trip to the magnificent Te Mata peak. Climbing up about 300m in an hour (with detours), losing myself in the forest and enjoying the straight run down in 5 minutes for a major rush of adrenaline.

If this time was good for one thing, it makes me appreciate the work I used to enjoy. It let me find out what’s the difference between scraping a living and living your profession. I cannot wait for the next opportunity to work purposefully, doing what I love, maybe in some hostel or hotel further north throughout the winter. But now is the time to start rolling on, a road trip is calling.

Next: Rock, road and timber tales, northbound.

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