August 29, 2006

Life as a Council Worker

Who'da taut it! The county council for Ev. Well, city council, but it's all the same thing. Council workers around the globe are the same species of individual I am now convinced! They sit around all day on their gradually expanding asses, nursing half cold cups of tea and pissing and moaning about their lives! Is this to be my fate??? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
What's happened, I hear you ask? Well, I got a job, basically, with Auckland City Council processing land subdiv...ZZZZZZ..ision...ZZZZZ...claimsZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
Well, it's a job and it's literally two blocks from where I'm staying so I can roll out of bed at the last minute in the morning. I started yesterday. So far, it seems like a replica of 'The Office' - phantom phones that ring and ring and are never answered, office clowns sticking post-it notes on each others backs, The Boss faffing about and being "approachable" and, of course, "hip"! I already have developed an intense hatred for the guy sitting on the other side of my partition and have had several muderous tendencies today alone. Yes, yes. It's back to the daily grind!!
I had another job offer today and have to sneak off to an interview tomorrow, but the position is in a hosptial miles outside the city which would mean parting from my pillow at a considerably earlier hour in the morning, BUT if they pay well enough I can do it! So, we'll see how it this space, if you're interested.
Very little else has been happening. Have had a few crazy nights out on the town with various people - Auckland's not a bad spot to go out in. However, I dont see myself staying here for longer than a few months. It's got a bit of a sterile feel to it, and I think Wellington will eventually beckon a bit closer to the summer.
This weekend, I have to go and look for somewhere a little less "hostelly" to live. A girl I know here in Auckland called Fiona picked me up last weekend and gave me the grand tour of the city in her jeep! which gave me a really good idea of where I might like to settle for a while. I'm also thinking of getting some work in a bar or restaurant in the evenings to keep the cash rolling in!
So, that's it for now. Blog entries will probably become less and less as I descend into the gloom of 9-to-5-dom. In case, I become trapped forever in my cubicle processing claims someone PLEASE! COME AND RESCUE ME!!!!!!!!!

August 21, 2006


There's a touch of Spring in the air today. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and the birds seem to be all out singing. Not a lot has happened in the last while really. Just getting settled into the Kiwi way of life, adapting to new surroundings, and making some new friends. As it happens, there are quite a lot of people staying in this hostel who are doing the same thing as myself - sticking around for a year or so to experience living and working in New Zealand.
One thing that life seems to revolve around here is rugby. This weekend the All Blacks beat the Wallabies here in Eden Pk., Auckland. I decided against forking out $100 for a match ticket and opted instead to watch it from the comfort of the hostel couch. Undoubtedly, there will be more opportunities to see the All Blacks in action during the year.
Last night I ran smack bang into a guy who was my roommate for a week in Rio. It was pretty funny actually. Why is it that people let out a string of curses when they are surprised or shocked my something? So, we went for a drink and a catch up, which was nice. The more I travel the more I realise the world is not as big as we think at all!
I have a job interview lined up for tomorrow morning with a lawyer's firm here in Auckland. So, fingers crossed that they can set me up with something decent for a few months! It will actually be good to get back working for a while, have some routine for a bit. I'm so looking forward to moving into an apartment, unpacking my backpack FINALLY!, throwing away my raggedy threads which have seen to many washes over the last 8 months, and having a wardrobe again!
The plan right now is maybe to stick around in either Auckland or Wellington (depending on where I end up working) until about Jan/Feb. After that time, I'm going to quit work for a bit, travel around, do the skydives and stuff, tour the South Island, and then hopefully work in one of the ski resorts in Queenstown for the last few months here. After that, it's off to Asia I think. I'm more interested in Central Asia than South-East Asia, especially China, Tibet and Nepal. Burma and Laos are high on the To Do list as well, not to mention India, which had intially been my intended start off point on this trip. I might even try to get to Mongolia if I can. Not too sure about Australia. I might give it a miss this time, and just do it on its own as a holiday sometime in the future. It's all a bit far away to be planning yet anyway, and it's very much dependent on what sort of cash I can manage to put away here in NZ, but that's what I'm aiming for anyway!

August 15, 2006

An Average Day in Auckland

Today I met a guy who is allergic to pineapples. I have quite the soft spot for the odd chunk myself. Not a match made in heaven really.
That's about the most interesting thing that's happened in the last few days! I wasnt joking when I said life was quieter these days. It's not a bad thing, however. I'm welcoming the time to wind down and catch up on sleep. After Andy left on Sunday morning, I decided to abandon HI's and all affiliated hostels for the foreseeable future. IM SICK OF EM!
Okay, well maybe I'm coming down a bit hard of Hostelling International there. Anyway, I felt like a change so Ive parked myself elsewhere at a pretty excellent place here in Auckland called ACB Backpackers. Beds are comfy..too comfy actually and they have AN IRON! Yes, an iron!! I was excited as well!! FOr the first time since I left home I have folded, pressed items to wear!! (I did, however, manage to lose one of my favourite socks and shrink a shirt during this particular laundry session, but never mind.) All evening, I have been gazingly lovingly at my neatily stacked pile of laundered clothes bursting with pride! WHO KNEW A SIMPLE ELECTRIAL DEVICE SUCH AS AN IRON COULD BRING A BACKPACKER SUCH JOY!
Today was a beautiful day in Auckland - the sun was shining and the sky was blue, and after breakfast I wandered down to the docklands and the harbour singing away to myself. I spent the day catching up on practical stuff - post office, organising insurance claims for my South American mishaps, grocery shopping, laundry, and APPLYING FOR JOBS! Got my CV out in the field today...(which field I'm not really sure) but it's out there. So, all I have to do now is sit here in my perfect hostel ironing my clothes and wait for my dream employers to ring.......
Actually, something else semi-interesting happened to me today. I was standing outside the hostel gawking up at one of Auckland's skyscrapers, when this local guy sidled up to me and said:
"Smoke weed, do ya, eh?" (Quick digression: The Kiwis put the word 'eh' at the end of every sentence. It works in every imaginable context. I suppose it's akin to "ha' in Ireland. Par exemple, "Do you have the time, HA?" or "Are you startin with me, HA?" You get the idea anyway).

Larry proferred....wait for it......his business card. The title reads "University of Larry - Larry High" along with his phone number and the promise of a smile on your face by the end of the day. He sloped away with a conspiratorial wink. Future lights are big and bright for Larry I think! (I wonder if Larry likes pineapples...)
Lan Chile are trying to get me to come back to South America. They keep sending me emails telling me how many air miles Ive earned with them..and offering me hot deals back to Buenos Aires. Why do they torment me thus??!! I just want to live in New Zealand for a while and try and rid my senses of South America. Tis not possible, I fear!
I miss everything about the last 7 months. But one must not waste today on yesterday......a Mormon from Utah told me that.

August 13, 2006

North Island in a Nissan - Part II

Well, Andy and myself eventually stopped driving when we reached Wellington. I'd been behind the wheel so long there was literally an imrpint of my ass on the driver's seat! Driving into Wellington City was easy enough, although we did get initially confused with the one way system and ended up out in the Ferry Terminal. But we were just too tired to keep going to the South Island!
Found some great accommodation in Wellington. The YHA hostel there is like a 2 or 3 star hotel! And so, we spent two nights there, cooked some good dinners and even did our laundry! (It;s always a mini-celebration when you get laundry out of the way!) Unfortunately, the eather in Wellington was ANTARTIC while we were there, so it was difficult to get any real sightseeing done. Every time we put our heads out the door iof the hostel there was a gale force wind howling and rain battering the docks, so most of our two days was spent indoors in the excellent Te Papa Museum! Its a must see if you go to Wellington, but you need at least a couple of days to do it any justice.
The first day, we thought we'd do the tourist thing and visit the Lord of the Rings exhibit! When in ROme and all that....
But it turned out to be areally great exhibition, with very little focus on the Hollywood stars, providing a really in-depth look at how the film was made and the artists behind it. A great way to spend an afternoon if you are a Tolkien enthusiast! The following day, we returned to look at some exhibitions on New Zealand and Maori culture (of which the Kiwis are extremely proud!) and to learn about what's causnig NZ to move a little every year! Here we are right on the Pacific Ring of Fire! Without doubt, Te Papa is one of the best museums I have ever been in. It;s really interactive...having lots of computer screens for you to play with and keep you interested during the long hours there. And to make it even better, ITS FREE!
While, we were in Wellington we also managed to get out and see some of the nightlife. Sunday night was a bit dead, understandably, but we stumbled across an after party for a hip hop/gangster rap band called Mobb Deep. Apparently, the band had \, in fact, never showed at the venue...but there were a few hopefuls lining up att he after party in the hope that they were there. Mysefl and Andy forked out $15 to check it out. The night had great potential - if the band had showed and there were more people, it would be have been great, but as it was, the place was a bit empty. We still enjoyed it though, and since South America I'm really starting to develop more of a taste for this kind of music. It was funny to see all these Kiwis dressed up in their ganster gear.
Our second night there turned into Lord of the Rings fest in the TV room. Due to the sub-zero conditions outside, no-one from the hostel was venturing anywhere! so we cooked dinner, made some tea and settled into our beanbags for the 9 hr marathon! I lasted until the end of the second movie before I started nodding off.
Rain was hammering down the next day as we left the hostel. We tried to pull a not so ingenius car park scam before leaving, but it went against us! but it was worth a shot! As darkness fell, the traffic started to jam up on Route 1 out of Wellington. Landslides and fallen trees. An hour later, we had clearde the other side and were on the open road, heading for wine country of Martinborough. The drive over the mountains was quite treacherous in the fog and slippy conditions, and it was a relief when we FINALLY reached Martinborough, which appeared to be in total darkness except for the hotel and a small restaurant with a glimmer of light behind its fogged up windows. In we went, in search of food. We were met by a nice old man and his wife who served us up some good food and wine and even helped us out trying to find some accommodation for the night.
In the end, however, after long hours driving , passing what appeared to be ghost towns in total darkness, stopping at many a hotel and motel with no results, we arrived in Napier, about half way up the east coast of the country. Every hostel, hotel and B&B said "No Vacancy", and about one in the morning we were starting to accept the fact that we would have to kip down in the local car park for the night. Ugh. As we were driving up a side street, we suddenly spotted a lit up sign in a little alleyway. "Toad Hall". It was or last resort. Andy hopped out and rang the bell, and after what seemed like hours, a creature vaguley resembling Mole from Wind in the Willows opened the door and peered out at us. She has small wirey, thick glasses and interesting slippers. "You're lucky I'm a night owl", she winked at us. She guided us up the stairs to her office where a half empty glass of wine and some accounts sat on the table. A ginger cat regarded us from the corner of the room. Before long, she had provided us with a room, some sheets and blankets and bade us a good sleep.
In the light of day, Andy said she looked so much older and he was right. Also, she seemed less like a mole. She and her husband ran Toad Hall, which definitely has the most character out of any of the hostels Ive been in so far. They also owned an art gallery and cafe around the corner, which we paid a visit to before we left. They were extremely helpful and friendly, and very relaxed vis a vis checking out, etc. If anyone is heading towards Napier anytime, I recommend checking it out.
Napier is a really interesting little town - full ofArt Deco style buildings, which were constructed in the 30's after the earthquake that devastated the city. It's situated right in the heart of Hawke's Bay wine country, where you can sample the best reds in New Zealand! And we did. We booked a half day wine tour and were picked up by a lovely old man called Graham Ferguson. We really didnt feel we were on a tour with him - he was so laid back and chatty. It was just myself and Andy, and after the wineries he took us on an extra little tour of Napier to point out the historical sites and places of interest. The wineries were great! Some of the best I have been to so far..which is saying a lot after Napa Valley, California and Mendoza, Argentina and Chile! The first one was called Mission Estate. It was originally set up by an order of priests who used to make altar wine, but they eventually sold up and moved. The woman who arrnged our tasting was really informative and had a sarcy sense of humour. Probably my favourite of the three we visited. NExt, was Trinity Hill wineries..which wasnt as good but they did give us around 10 different bottles to taste. Finally, Graham took us to Church Rd. where were met a lovely man called Don who seemed really interested in what we thought of his Malbec compared with the Argentinian varieties. It was a really enjoyable afternoon and we bougght some really nice Reserve bottles in each of the estates.
And so, that brings us to nearly the end of the week. We left Napier the next morning and drove back towards Taupo again. Just North of Taupo we stopped, on recommendation, at the geothermal site of Wai-o-Tapu. This was excellent! and you really could get an idea of what the earth was probably like millions of years ago before humans came along. We enjoyed boiling mud pools, simmering water holes, and multicoloured lakes with steam rushing up from the 100 degree water underneath the earth. We were hoping for a swim, but were told that if the boiling water didnt kill us first, the acid definitely would. Hmm..right so. No swimming then!
Further up the road, we spotted some cars pulled in on the side of the road next to a little bridge and saw one or two ppl draped in twoels running furtively from the bushes! So, we had to check that out. It turned out to be a natural hot spring in the middle of the trees, deep enough to swim in. Off with the clothes, on with the wet swimwear yet again! It was a overall a nice experience, marred slightly by two pervy local NAKED types paddling in the water. They seemed friendly enough to begin with, but just got a bit weird on us, so after an hours soakage, we fled their nakedness!
Hamilton was, once again, a stopping point and we bedded down there for out last night, tired from our weeks adventures. We edned up sharing a room with a lovely SIngaorean girl called Madeline, who is here in NZ to set up her own jewellery business. She talked A LOT! but was a very nice genuine person. The next morning she dragged us out of bed and frog-marched us to the kitchen for breakfast with her, before piling various jewellery samples upon us and sending us on our way back to Auckland.
So, we're back in Auckland again. Andy is flying out on Monday to Brisbane, after which I have to get down to the seriuos business of finding somewhere to live and a job. Fingers crossed, as I have no idea what's out there. I meeting my friend Fiona this evening, and Im hoping she might be able to give me some good tips on how to get settled here.

August 10, 2006

North Island in a Nissan - Part I

So, what have myself and Andrew been up to for the last week?
Well, Thursday morning saw us up and out at 9 o'clock, hair and teeth brushed, bags repacked, and we even managed to squeeze in breakfast - one meal of the day with which we were neve familiar in South America. We picked up our white Nissan Sunny (the most desired of all rental cars, tis true) and drove out of Auckland with a full tank of petrol and a map. The sun was shining, spirits were high and we were both looking forward to the week ahead.
Our first port of call was the small town of Hamilton, about 2 hours south of Auckland. Not much to recommend this place, except the absolutely OUTSTANDING bangers and mash in the Irish pub on the main street! The drive was pretty interesting with the scenery becoming more interesting the further south we went. We decided to head for Rotorua, in the middle of the island, for some serious soaking in the thermal springs. The guide book informed us that we would smell Roturua long before we would see it....and we did! GOD THE PLACE STINKS! They say it's the sulpher....
We found a hostel with a car park, dumped our stuff and wasted no time in getting to the Polynesian Spa. The water in the natural springs is 42 degrees! and there we soaked our tired limbs for 2 long hours. I had a particularly disturbing time in the ladies changing room when a flapping bunch of naked japanese ladies descended upon my quiet time in the shower...but that's another story. Quick shower.
Next morning, we had an early breakfast and headed for the local forest for a 3hr trek. Packed a lunch and off we went. It was great to get back into the outdoors again, breathing clean air (both us noticed the difference in the air between here and SA immediately upon arrival). After lunch, we checked out the local Zorbing centre...What's Zorbing? Well, basically you get into a giant plastic-like ball and roll down a steep hill! This time around though we decided to participate only as spectators...$45 for 1 minutes fun was just out of our price range this time. But we will be back! In the afternoon, we were back in the car again bound for a little place called Waitomo.
When we arrived in Waitomo darkness and a dense fog were descending on the area. The town is literally in the middle of nowhere and would surely b bypassed by most travellers were it not for the famous glow worm caves. The landscape is quite unique - full of hills and saucer-like depressions indicative of vast subterranean cave systems. We found some cheap but adequate accommodation for the night in the form of a cabin. Andy took himself off for a soak in the hottub while I indulged in an hour of girlie pampering before we hit the hay, both of us hugely looking forward to the next day's planned activities.
Saturday morning - up bright and early ready for action! We got ourselves to the Black Water Rafting Center for about 9 and decided, after some deliberation, to sign up for the Black Labyrinth tour. Part of me was quite terrified, as those who know me know that Im not so great in the dark or in deep water. But, I decided to face my fears! The trip sounded quite intense, involving two backward jumps down waterfalls aided only by a rubber rube, not to mention the floating into pitch darkness and some serious scrambling about in the underground rocks. Gulp! However, the thought of gazing up at glowworms in the dark was enough to spur me on. Having half an hr or so to wait around before our tour, we headed into "town" to the Museum of Caves for a bit of a run down on what makes glowworms tick (and other interesting stuff about limestone and so on). At 10:30a.m. we were met by Lucas our guide for the morning....good looking Maori guy with a slightly unhinged sense of humour. I had a feeling he was just going to suddenly disappear into the black abyss leaving us in the dark....because it would be funny....thankfully, he didn't!
Next, came the most unsavoury part of the week so far...stripping off, donning an already sopping wet bikini, and then struggling (and I mean STRUGGLING!) into a wringing wet, freezing cold, icky wetsuit. Ugh! Not only did it take me an ETERNITY to wriggle into the accursed attire, but in one of my usual ingenius moves I managed to put it on backwards. Off to a great start! This didnt bode well for the rest of the tour.... A short van ride brought us to the mouth of the caves where we had to select a rubber tube big (or small ) enough to fit our respective bums. I'n telling you, if looking sexy or dignified matters in any way to you, Balck Water Rafting is not for you! And, then came the hard part....we watched as the group in front of us vaulted backwards on their tubes into the 10 degree water. I looked desperately for possible escape routes through the trees...but suddenly, it was my turn. As Lucas counted down 3, 2, 1, I tried to think about diving into a vat of warm chocolate or something. That didnt help at all! It only made the shock of the ice cold water on my body 10 times worse! But it did wake me up! We paddled after Lucas like a trio of physically challenged swans to where the water disappeared into the black underground. No going back Lucas disappeared into the darkness. We stumbled over moving unsteady rocks, fell into holes, and waded through rushing waist-high water until we came to our second waterfall. My adrenaline levels were pumping as I launched myself backwards and down into the water far below. The current took me and swept me further into the caves, as a thrashed about looking blindly for a rope that Lucas swore existed on the side of the cave wall. I found it and clung for dear life as I waited for the boys to follow. Lucas then directed us to form into a line each of us holding on to the white boots of the person behind us. He took hold of my feet, turned off his headligth and pulled us gently in the dark through the caves as we lay back and gazed transfixed at the sight above our heads - thousands upon thousands of glimmering lights clinging to the black canopy above. It was a thing of rare beauty.
An hour later, we emerged into the daylight again shivering and teeth chattering but on a high after our experience. Lucas took us straight back for hot showers, followed by soup and bagels, and our bodies slowly warmed up again. An excellent adventure! Worth every penny. Once we felt human again, we boarded the Nissan again, this time bound for Lake Taupo and the skiifields. I couldnt wait to go snowboarding! It was quite a long drive that evening through bad weather to Taupo. We stopped there for some sustenance and to weigh up our options re where to stay. The Whakapapa skiifield is about an hr and a half south of Taupo so we decided to look for somewhere to stay in a nearby town. We happened upon some great accomodation and spent the evening soaking our still chilled bodies in the heat of the jacuzzi and sauna.
HOwever, sadly, our skiing trip was not to be. Next morning, the weather on the mountain was wet, extremely windy with almost no visibility and only the lower pistes were open. We sat at the base of Mount Ruapehu in dismay watching a few hardy skiiers and boarders battling against the high winds. Back on the road again, having no real plan for where to go next. We had planned 2/3 days in Whakapapa. What were we going to do now??
As we drove, the weather worsened and driving became tiresome. This part of the north island is a bleak place \, populated only by forest. After some hours, we arrived in a little town called Waiouro. Just outside the town, we spotted a sign for an army museum. I really wanted to check it out, so we decided to get out and stretch our legs for a bit. The museum was maassive and covered NZ's involvement in all the major we ended up spending a few hours there. I really enjoyed it! Before we left, we had some lunch...and stole some cake from a group of veterans who were there on a tour! Hee hee.
And so, back into the Nissan YET AGAIN! not knowing where we might end up........

August 1, 2006

A Week of Insanity

Finally managed to organise myself enough to get on a bus and leave Argentina once again. Arrived in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday 26th after a 22hour sticky uncomfortable bus journey and was immediately jolted awake by the surroundings. Rio, possibly one of the coolest and most striking cities in the world, is surrounded on all sides by depressing and dangerous slums which dont exactly put the frazzled backpacker at ease! Tourists are constant targets in this city, and from the moment you step off the bus you sense it in the air. I decided, after some consideration and recommendations from fellow travellers, to stay in a hostel in Copacobana called Mellow Yellow. If anyone is going Rio way, I HIGHLY recommend it! if only for the comprehenisve breakfast every morning!
My week in Rio began quietly enough as I ventured tentatively out from the hostel to some of the city's markets, leaving all valuables "at home" and taking with me only enough money to buy a few souvenirs. These markets are crazy places - you can buy literally anything you need! You name it, its there. Managed to pick up some fake Chanel sunglasses for about $5. Ah, it had to be done!
Events took a slightly crazier turn later that evening. A group from Mellow Yellow piled into the hostel minibuses armed with VIP tickets to the Brazil Cup Final. The drive to the station was half terrifying and half exhilirating as our slightly inebriated driver weaved in and out of traffic at high speeds, hopping lanes and missing cars by millimetres! For some reason, we all expected to be ushered quietly through some "special" channel into the stadium avoiding the riotous rabble outside....but then, I suppose we were not real VIPS, just lowly backpackers who paid through the nose for a "security escort". Hmph!
WHAT AN ATMOSPHERE! I will never be able to get across what it was like to be mixed up in the pre-match antics outside the stadium. I think eveyone agreed it was quite frightening for all of us at times. To begin with,police armed with swords (YES< src="">, and thankfully found out guides again! Fireworks cracked and fizzed overhead, the tribal beat of drums and fans chanting rang in our ears and police helicopters hovered shining spotlights into the crowd. After what seemed like an eternal wait, we were directed into the stadium, after which we had to climb over huge barriers, standing on toes, fingers, heads, who knows! to get to our seats. But boy was it worth it! The stadium inside throbbed and pulsed in pre-match anticipation. Flamengo fans on one side seperated from their rival VAsco fans by police and guards dogs and LOTS of barbed wire! We happened to be with the Flamengo fans who eventually won the match. All throughout the game, the fans taunted each other, vaulted beercans as far as they could over the fences, and then all hell broke loose in a corner of the stadium as bombs went off and the ;police dived in with batons! A few definite KODAK moments there, but of course none of us dared bring out our cameras THAT night! Somehow, the All Ireland Hurling Final will never seem quite so exciting again!
Next day at 2, I was picked up by a guide from the Dont be a Gringo, Be a Local project and was taken on a tour of a real Brazilian favella. For those who are in the dark, a favella is a Rio ghetto as depicted in the movie City of God. I was lucky enough to wtness what life is like in one of these places.....and I will never forget it. Ever. The beginning of the tour was a high as I zoomed on the back of a motorbike (helmetless I might add!) up through the crazy winding streets of the favella. At the highest point, we were met again by our guide who explained a few key things to us before setting off through the slum:
- We would not be robbed.
- If we took photos of the kids we should show them. They think they will be famous some day because of these pictures
- We should not under ANY circumstances photograph the boys carrying guns or the police at the perimeters of the favella.
- We should not attempt to buy drugs in the area
We began to walk down through the ghetto, and i dont think any of us knew really what to expect. All the houses are built on top of each other adn the streets are extremely narrow, winding steeply downwards through the maze of delapidated buildings. As we walked, our guide explained the basic dynamics of life in the favella to us. It is controlled totally by a group of druglords and operates a system of street justice. The cops have no influence in this place and rarely interfere. If the residents need to build or buy something, they get money from these druglords (who, by the way, earn up to 10 million reals a month..thats about 5 mil US). In return for these "favours". the residents harbour the criminals and hide their weapons in the event of any raids, searches...attempted assassinations! No-one knows anything and no-one makes mistakes in this place. To begin with, it felt extremely voyeuristic wandering through these people's personal hell with a flashy camera, staring openly. But, bit by bit, it became clear that we were welcomed. Indeed, I am sure, if one of us wandered into a ghetto alone, it would be an entirely different story, but by being with this tour group we were accepted. 60% of the money generated by the favella tours is pumped back into the slum in donations - this is independent money, uncontrolled by the barons, and so the people are glad for this. We stpped intermittently, spoke to receptive individuals, joked with the kids and bought souvenir bracelets to take away as reminders that we come from a different planet. The deeper into the favella we went, however, the darker and seedier it became with bullet casing strewn on the streets and eyes peering from darkened windows. Raw sewage flowed down the streets and slogans were daubed on every wall. Part of the tour included a visit to the local school which was a bitterweet experience. It wasnt easy to look at these little angels and contemplate their futures. Our guide explaned that, while these people appear to live in utter poverty and squalor, they DO have a few "perks", as it were, as favella residents. For example, they dont pay for electricity or cable TV, simply connecting whatever they wish to the main supply. Local gas meters have read 0000 since 1995 when they were installed and no one pays for utilities. Like the Potosti mines, this tour was a profound experience and a look at the dark underbelly of the "shiny happy" world we live in.
Days were spent covering Rio tourist attractions of which there are many - trip to Christ the Redeemer statue (a classic picture of Rio which we have all seen many times), an very enjoyable afternoon wandering in the bohemian district of Santa Theresa with my roommate, Becky , a stroll along Copacobana beach. Nights were spent in a whirl of Brazilian funk music - one at a Lapa Street Party in the open night air mixing it up with the locals, and another at Favella Funk Party, which involved another trip out into the slums to bust some moves in a cordoned off area of a dark and seedy club. Myself and another girl, Chloe managed to get down and dance with some of the locals which worked out fine and i learned some great Brazilian moves! It would take forever to really describe the last week here in South America - suffice to say, it was INTERESTING!
I left on 31st, speeding to the airport in heavy rain to make my flight. A short hop to Santiago was followed by a long 14 hour flight to Auckland which actually passed quite quickly. What felt strange was that we seemd to be chasing the night as we flew west, night never turning into day. At NZ Immigration, I was expecting an interrogration, or worse DEPORTATION not being in possession of proof of funds and my working visa for NZ. HOwever, I was fortunate enough to meet a decent guy who turned a blind eye and let me thourhg without much To Do. Andy, however, ran into some more officious types who pulled him aside for a 15 minute grilling about the nature of his travels.
And so, HERE I AM, in Auckland, hanging tired, body clock in some serious disarray, not really fully realising that this is going to be my home for the next while.
Job hunting is going to be begin IN EARNEST next week. But first, Andy and I are off to tour the North Island in a rental car, taking in some skiing en route! We are picking up our car at 9 in the morning, so I am now getting my ass to bed.
Goodbye South America. 'Sta luego!