In the past three weeks, I've become accustomed to the relaxed, easy going attitude of the Kiwi's. People say hello to you, no matter where you go including central Auckland. Its not unusual to exchange a few words when you're at the checkout where-ever you happen to be shopping. But best of all, many Kiwi's seem to be able to do this in nothing but bare feet. Yes, you see them hanging ten not only in places like the beach. You'll find barefoot clad kiwi's in the supermarket. The Gas station. The street. Riding a bike and, my favorite, the butchers. Its completely normal here and I am not sure why; Is it 'I a Kiwi, I can handle anything, including sore feet' or 'shoes are for Aussies' or 'I want to be closer to nature' or 'I can't be arsed to wear shoes' or 'hey look, I don't wear shoes aren't I cool' or 'I'm an eco warrior, no cows were killed for my feet' or finally 'I'm broke and shoeless'. Whatever it may be the Kiwis love to trudge around in their bare feet... and you may even see the odd kiwi in Jandals. Go figure that out.
In New Zealand Penguins get feet, but people don't!
Its quite a contrast to the countries I've traveled to in Asia, where shoes are of prime importance, and to be barefoot would be a shameful experience. In South Africa, shoes come as the most important status symbol purchase of your wardrobe. I once met a bouncer in South Africa, he told me that the one way you can tell if a client is 'made of the right stuff', is to take a look at his shoes.
My shoeless highlight has to be a few days ago when we were in Wellington. As it turned out it was the evening of the premiere of "The Lovely Bones", one of Peter Jacksons latest creations which was confirmed when we saw Dennis Pennis walking down the street. Later that evening, one of New Zealand's Oscar winners, Susan Sarandon, walked onto the red carpet in bare feet. Conclusion; People, bare feet are in this year.
Logan, One of Shambala's likeminded travellers.
A few days later, Sarah and stumbled across 'Shambala', which, after nine months traveling is one of the most unique 'hostels' we have come across. Its kind of a hippie retreat which is run entirely 'green'. Electricity is provided from Solar panels. Hot water is provided from a Solar heater. Water is collected from rainwater runoff. A Wood fired boiler heats the house and there is a wood fired oven for cooking (and gas hobs now, as the owner crumpled under the time demands of travelers). The best part of the place was the type of traveler that it attracts. You wont find the 18-year-old-gap-year-adrenaline-pack here. You come here for a reason and need some persistence to find the place. We really liked our stay and as a result got stuck here. Its a great concept, unless you live in China and find you rainwater polluted with whatever the nearest heavy industry is pumping out. I guess it would not be such a great concept there.
As we drove to Shambala, we passed Pupu springs, which given the name sounded a bit shite. After turning off the road, on closer inspection its actually Te Waikoropupu Springs. These are the largest freshwater springs in the southern hemisphere apparently. I dribbled with anticipation over the Cave diving potential, but later found out that it a sacred Maori site meaning there is no chance of any such opportunity. That said, even in the dry(er) season it pumps out so much water, in a marble maze of passages, that any attempt to go diving will end up in like a Champagne bottle cork ... hitting the ceiling.
While at Shambala we went for a walk on part of the Heaphy track, which is one of New Zealand's great walks. The Heaphy partially follows the north west coastline of the south Island where there are no roads. Its a 78 km walk which, for part of the way, follows a track made by prospectors ... prospecting in the jungle for a route for a road. Yet for some reason the New Zealand government never made a road, instead establishing this part of New Zealand as a wilderness area. It means that the track never attains more that a 6% incline, which makes for a rather pleasant days walking, especially if you have a 1000 metres to ascend.
Logan, Tim and Baz taking a break on the Heaphy tack. Fellow travellers from Shambala.Enjoy your boxing day all. For Christmas we cooked a roast, as we had the luxury of a cooker ... we decided to stay in a rather posh apartment type place. I roasted a Hogart Joint. If anyone know what a Hogart joint is.. I'd be intrigued to that I'm not the only one who didn't. For those of you who don't, the answer will be in my next blog.
We are off on the Routeburn track this morning for three days of tramping. It should be good, however there is a heavy rain warning in the area. Ouch.