Best Friends Abroad – North Island, New Zealand

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-This took place MAY 2018.-

The bleak and beautiful coastline of Hawkes Bay, New Zealand housed two of his best friends from California who were working the 2018 wine vintage. The Californian arrived as his friends finishing their harvest which entails months of working consecutive long hour’d days.

He’d spent 24 hours traveling from Cambodia to Auckland via tuktuk, planes, and busses. Knowing he didn’t care to stay in the capital long but rather beeline for his best friends on the eastern coast of the North island, he grabbed a bus after a single night of strolling the streets and harbor, and sleeping in a hostel. The five hour ride gave him time to acclimate to the intense greens of the grass, small plant life and trees that seemed more vibrant than those of Asia. He hopped off the bus in a city his best friend was to meet him. After strolling around for an hour, the brewer turned wine-maker got off from one of his final harvest shifts of the fall season and picked him up in a green minivan.

The days were reminiscent of their times living in Davis together: relaxing and naps with at least one daily outing/adventure.

One day the best friends and a co-worker drove an hour plus drive to reach Lime Rock Wines (so called as the soil is on bed of lime rock). The drive showcased rolling hills and heard after heard after herds of sheep. Finding the winery closed upon their arrival, they called the number and were able to arrange a private tour and tasting “in about 25 minutes, just hang out there at the gate.”

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Another day involved hiking Ta Mata Peak which felt as if he was wandering JRR Tolkin’s middle-earth countryside. Sheep and thickets of trees were set upon bright rolling hills and a deep blue sky. The top of the hill hosted launchpads for the extreme air sports enthusiasts of New Zealand to take from.

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Sitting outside at tables among vineyards, a latte in a bowl complimented an absolute picturesque conversation with the LaHondan/winemaker best friend.

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In Napier, the art-deco capital of the world, the ex-brewer/winemaker and the Californian engaged in their own extreme sports: renting 21-gear bicycles to ride on the local pump track along the coast.  A conversation with the store employee regarding the rental limitations rang in his ears similar to a conversation with a rental group in Malaysia.

“You can not take these on the pump track,” the employee said.

Upon exiting the store, “We are still going on the pump track, right?”

“Obviously.”

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The changing of the season called for colder weather and chilly nights. The Californian found himself wearing his pants and jackets he’d be toting around for months, thankful for not abandoning them due to prior lack of necessity. Nights in TaWanga included Netflix and if he was lucky a fish sandwich from the local Chinese/seafood place down the road.

Accompanying the winemakers on their daily life routines, such as visiting the grocery store, reinforced his desire to return to some normalcy and routine. He felt assurance in himself of pursuing summer camp for 2018 was the correct choice; it is a place full of timelines and planning.

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When his best friends first moved to New Zealand, they bought and lived in a converted van with no back seat but a bed and sink. This is the van the best friends drove on the highways north to their final destination before he departed the country.

They stopped to smell sulfur and view the naturally formed geological thermal activity similar to Yellowstone National Park.

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He’d heard rumors and seen images in his past of downhill carting. Staying true to the country and the extreme sports, they raced carts on a downhill track in Rotorua. Due to the natural intensity of the event, no footage was taken.

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Winding country roads on one of New Zealand’s northern fingers leads to Hot Water Beach. The thermal activity heats water along the coast so as the tide lowers one digs holes to sit in. The biggest difficulty is finding a balance between literally burning hot and not hot enough and consistently rearranging sand to form the perfect seat while remaining out of the cool breeze. A surreal and real experience absolutely worth doing.

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The ability to spend a week with best friends in a foreign country with no firm commitments was one he understood the scope of fully. The rarity of the situation may not occur again for another 11 years.

They parted at the bus pickup (a random large sign at a gas station) to the airport with a hug and a see you in California.

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He passed the large Gimili “on loan from Middle-earth” in the airport foyer and thought how his Treventure was ending. Before negative emotions could sweep him he realized it was only this Treventure, of South East Asia, that was ending. He was already starting a new job in a new state in less than two weeks.

12 weeks from the day he departed, he was headed home.  Ready for a burrito, a hug from his parents, and to stop moving so much…temporarily.

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