Archive for December 2009

 
 

December 20th, 2009

Mike’s Organic Days 3 and 4

12/16/09

Its funny, even working half day we sleep a lot more than when we were just chillin’ all day.  We woke up just before we had to start working, grabbed some coffee and then finished us some gardening from the day before.  In fact, we finished that so quickly that Jill wasn’t sure what to do with us.  She ended up asking us to clean up the area around our little cabin, which we turned into a full landscaping event.  We cleared the tall grass around the porch and cleaned all the random building material off so that we had a nice place to put our little lawn chairs.  Then we dug up the area around the porch, found some wild lilies and planted a cute garden.

Again Jill asked us to prepare the lunch for the crew. This time she gave me a sack of potatoes and left over ham and said: “Make whatever you’d like.”  So I fried up the ham and made home fries and a green salad.  It was very American, which I think Jill kind of enjoyed- a little cultural exchange.

After our post lunch lounge, we hopped on our bikes to the nearby town of Urenui.  We bought chocolate and juice and then went to the beach to begin our search for sea treasures for our cottage mobile.  It was a disappointing beach for shells but there were some beautiful cliffs and black sand.

For dinner, we made savory crepes stuffed with mushrooms, cheese and carmelized onions and a little salad.  We saved one crepe each for after dinner and filled it with nutella and banana.  Our groceries seemed to be lasting quite well and the food is tasty.

12/17/09

It was another rough morning to wake up, at least until Tracy did a nice flip (or flop) off her bunk bed that woke everyone up.  Today we were back in the brewery bottling because it was brewing day!  Thomas, their young brewer gave us a nice tour and run down of the Mike’s Organic brew process, which was pretty cool.  They are a small operation, so it was interesting to see everything up close and personal as it was happening.  We bottled for almost 4 hours straight, with a quick break when the helicopter landed!   Some American tourists were doing their own brewery tour by air.  I think they’ve got the right idea!

The afternoon was another day of a bit of biking, and a bit of hanging out. We biked out into the countryside and then back with Mount Taranaki looming over the brewery. For dinner it was crepes again, but this time filled with avocados.  Did we mention that the brewery also has an avocado grove? Life is good.

Sara - bottling like a fiend

Sara - bottling like a fiend

Back on our sweet rides!

Back on our sweet rides!

December 20th, 2009

Mike’s Organic – day 2

12/15/2009 We were a bit exhausted in the morning, some animals – presumably possums – had a party around 2am on the tin roof of our little cottage while we were sleeping.  It not only woke us up, it was kind of creepy.  By the time we got back to sleep, it was time to get up for our second day of work.  We made ourselves a lovely breakfast of fresh croissants, apricot jam and strawberries, sipped some coffee and had a little giggle at how beautiful our surroundings were.  Then it was time to get crackin’.

A little bit disappointing, we didn’t get to work inside the brewery today, instead we did some gardening.  It was good to be working hard in the fresh air though and the newly planted beds looked pretty nice, thanks to Tracy, by the time we ate lunch.  I missed out on some of the back breaking work when Jill asked if one of us could throw together a traditional New Zealand pumpkin soup for lunch.  Cook for a big group?  I’m your gal.  It wasn’t perfect, but it did plant the idea in my head for a New Zealand dinner party…

After our meal, we were in a bit of a food coma.  We did the dishes and laid down on the couches for a bit of a nap.  We had big plans of biking to the beach, but we just couldn’t motivate ourselves to get going.  Instead, we finally got some free internet time!  It may sound a little silly, but for this past month, we’ve had very limited opportunities to just surf the net, most situations there is either no internet, or we have had to pay for it, so we haven’t been on much (you may have noticed the lack of posts…).  I know that being unplugged is supposed to be relaxing but for us, being away from our friends and family for so long, it feels a little isolating.

Emails checked, we finally got on our bikes.  It was a short ride over to the closest beach, and scenic all the way!.  We met a sow, and a bunch of calves before getting down to the cliffs along the water.  Just as we rolled to a stop through, I took a tumble over the handle bars going a little too fast over a rut in the clearly marked “unstable ground”.  Fade to black, and then the next thing I know, Tracy and Paul we’re leaning over me saying “Sara!  Sara!”  It was a little creepy passing out for a second but I got up without a problem, no bumps on the head (I was of course wearing a helmet), just some banged up elbows.   Luckily, the only thing left to do was to enjoy the view and walk on the beach, which I did just fine.

After an exhausting afternoon of horsing around at the beach, we made ourselves a steak and broccoli stirfry with couscous and some more pumpkin soup.  This meal was complimented by some tasty Mike’s Organic Ale – a hearty brew with a surprising amount of coffee and chocolate flavor.  Just another exciting day working at the brewery!

The beach near White Cliffs

The beach near White Cliffs

Paul on the cliffs near Mikes Organic

Paul on the cliffs near Mike's Organic

December 20th, 2009

Mike’s Organic Brewery day 1!

We rolled out of bed at our hostel in New Plymouth, NZ excited to not only be off the typical tourist track, but also going to work at a BREWERY!  We had arranged to work at Mike’s Organic (also know at the White Cliffs Brewery) for 1 week and we were eager to get started.  Our alarm went off at 6am, unfortunately waking all 4 of our bunkmates.  We grabbed all of our stuff and drug it to the the bus stop.  The brewery was covering lunch but otherwise we were 4km from the closest store, which seemed like pretty far for carrying rations.  So we lugged our huge packs and six bags of groceries to the bus, and after a short ride got to our new home at 7:40am, about an hour before anyone else.

As the brewery workers strolled in, none seemed particularly interested in the two American girls hanging out in front.   In fact, one guy was chatting with the chickens roaming the grounds instead of to us.  We figured we’d just wait until the WWOOFer manager Jill arrived, since she was the one we’d be emailing with.  In the meantime, we met the WWOOFer’s we were replacing, an American and Kiwi couple who were currently traveling by car – but the guy was a cyclist who had biked down the west coast of the US all the way down to Guatemala recently (we = a bit jealous!) Also, we found out that one more WWOOFer was sticking around with us, a Texan named Paul who was traveling New Zealand by bike!  That pretty much sealed the deal, the twig was taking us down the right path.

We spent the morning labeling bottles, a surprisingly satisfying endeavor since we haven’t done any job-like activities in a while.  Just when we were getting the hang of things, our job was over for the day.  We spent lunch chatting up the staff, including their new head brewer who had just graduated from college 9 months ago- not a bad start!  Maybe we should also start our brewing careers here??

After lunch we had big plans to walk to the beach with Paul but then one of our new coworkers offered us a ride to her house where we could borrow two bikes for the week.  So we hung out, labeled some more bottles and then picked up our new rides.  Pedaling down the other side of the road for the first time, we were high as kites, ecstatic to be back on two wheels, the best way to travel.

Arriving at Mikes Organic/White Cliffs Brewing Co

Arriving at Mike's Organic/White Cliffs Brewing Co

December 20th, 2009

Another Brand of Traveler

12/12-13/09 After the Bay of Islands, we spent another day in Auckland, this time at the hostel next up on the financial scale.  The extra few bucks was totally worth it, as our new digs had a roof-deck with the hot tub, a big kitchen and much more friendly staff.  We found ourselves a grocery store, made a nice Greek salad and commended ourselves on getting a better handle on the traveling life.  The next morning, we packed up our bags, spent an hour or so enjoying lattes and internet and then hopped on the bus to Taranaki. an area on the North Island of New Zealand that wasn’t on the typical tour route.  It was a beautiful 5 hour drive through farm land and some amazing mountains and our bus driver was a real sweetheart.  Not only did he pass out little treats at the stops, he also made a few phone calls to help us figure out how to get to and from the brewery for our WWOOFing job.

The end of our bus ride was a little seaside town called New Plymouth, where we stayed in a hostel for a couple days before our brewery work was scheduled to start.  Since it wasn’t on the usual backpacker route, we were very curious about the backpackers we would meet.  Chatting with the guys as we made our dinner (nearly all guys- not many girls) we met a couple Frenchies and a few Germans – all traveling solo – and  they were either about to start or had just finished a trek around Mt. Taranaki.  They were backpackers in the traditional sense of the word.   They were surprised we’d arrived by bus because in their minds the best way to get around was to hitchhike.  It was a very different crowd than the backpacker tour bus, in some ways more rigid in their travel philosophy, and in other ways more relaxed. But as always everyone was nice and ready to chat and drink beers.

The next day we spent walking around town, going for a seaside jog, cooking and then watching a movie.  It felt kind of like hanging out at a college dorm.

December 20th, 2009

The Country That Has Everything

12/8-11/2009 Arriving in Auckland was exciting.  We may be getting a little addicted to this whole travel thing because ever since the bike trip, we’re always in a better mood when we’re on the way to a new place!  We spent our first night in the cheapest hostel in town as our stay was complimentary when we booked our bus trip around the country.  The place had a decent bar but otherwise was pretty grimy.  We are going to have to remember how to be tough backpackers!  We also have to figure out how to shrink our stuff…  The funny thing about us going on this trip without a plan is that we had to pack for all kinds of situations and yet we are still finding ourselves in need other supplies (like cute dinner dresses).  From Auckland, we went up to the Bay of Islands, which is basically THE vacation spot for Aucklanders. We took a Stray Bus to Paihia and then a day trip the next day to Cape Rienga, the very northern most tip of the country.  At the cape, the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific – which in Maori legend represents the meeting of the male and female. The two seas are in a constant battle, a little oceanographer porn?

Our three day trip north was basically just more beaches, but this time we went out on a glass bottom boat, sand boarding down dunes, hugged a few trees, had some awesome fish and chips and most importantly, made some friends!  Our Paihai hostel was the life of the party in town and we lived it up.  I even got second place in the Wii Bowling competition.  (thanks to my training at SD)  Our new buddies were from Canada, Denmark, Germany. Britain and a few Kiwi’s but no one else was from the states. Unlike our hostel experience in Rainbow Beach, everyone we met was a few years out of college and well into the work force.  It was encouraging to see that there were jobs out there that allowed you to travel for a decent amount of time.  Now, how does one become a stock broker exactly?

(The trip camera has been lost temporarily – so more photos to come when the bus company returns it when we get back to Auckland! …hopefully)

Auckland, NZ

Auckland, NZ

Cape Reinga trip

Cape Reinga trip

December 14th, 2009

A vacation from vacation – Gold Coast, Australia

Just a little before 9am the day after Thanksgiving, Tracy and I arrived at the Coolangatta airport where we were picked up by Scottie, my old roommate Beth’s study abroad “dad”.  I’d met Scottie (as well as her “mom” Robyn and “sister” Liana) at Beth’s wedding earlier this year and they’d generously offered to host me if I decided to visit.  Those Australians are so welcoming!  Since we didn’t have anything in particular on our agenda, he started our tour with breakfast at his local surf club on Burleigh beach.  The little town was just adorable and what a great host!  Since he works from home, he was happy to give us rides when we needed and he and Robyn took us to some great beach spots and restaurants.  The real highlight though was the beautiful pool in the backyard.  We had our own little hideaway, complete with a beer fridge, so we spent a few days just soaking up the rays and giggling about how lucky we were.  We decided that even though we’d quit our jobs 3 months ago, we’d been working pretty hard on our bike trip, planning and riding and documenting.  While in Seattle, Los Angeles and Sydney we had started to chill out a bit, but we were still kind of stressing about what needed to be done next and what our new trip “goals” were.  What we really needed to do was just enjoy the moment.  So for a few days we just didn’t worry about anything.  We got up, went swimming, read, and rolled with whatever happened to be going on.  I made a good dent in my New Yorkers and Tracy read a whole book!

A few days in, Robyn drove us up to Mt. Tamborine to check out “the bush” and we got to do something we’d really been itching to do since we’d arrived in Australia – VISIT A BREWERY!   The Mt. Tamborine Brewery was excellent, on par with the American microbreweries we’ve come to know and love.  They had a Pale Ale that they called “american pale” that was very tasty as well as an IPA that we really liked.  Mostly though, we were excited to have a few beers that went beyond the popular Pilsner style here in Australia.

Sufficiently relaxed, we decided it was time to hit the road.  After finding out that a bus to Byron Bay or Rainbow Beach (two places a few hours away in either direction that we wanted to visit) we re about $30 a person each way, we bit the bullet and rented a small car for about the same price in the end.  Tracy was the brave one who drove on the “wrong” side of the road, while I navigated.

We made our way to Bryon Bay first, camping just outside of town because there was no space in the hostels.  Why, you might ask?  Because of a little thing the Australians do called “Schoolies”.  When the high school students in Australia graduate, they all migrate up to the Gold Coast to party – most having just turned 18 and therefore legal to drink for the first time.  From what we can tell, this is a sanctioned event that happens every year and things get a bit crazy.  We got to Bryon Bay just in time to feel surprisingly old.  We tried to make the best of it though and checked out the awesome beaches (filled with some very fit surfers) and checked out the cute town.  We had some delicious coffees (our only real vice) and took a swim in the glorious Olympic size pool.  We also hit up our second brewery of the trip – the Bryon Bay Brewery, located in the Arts Factory.  It was a pretty awesome space, only brewing since August but already the hottest bar in town.  We appreciated the variety of beer on tap and the live music, but sort of wished we’d gotten there earlier to get a real bike and brew style brewery tour.

After Byron we drove up to Rainbow Beach and checked in to a hostel, hoping to make friends and arrange our visit to Fraser Island.  Fraser Island was a pretty amazing place, the world’s largest all sand island with a rainforest, beautiful perched lakes and LOTS AND LOSTS of sand.  Definitely somewhere everyone should check out if they can.  But what really made our visit to Rainbow Beach worth it was that we finally made a plan for New Zealand and came up with our next bike and brew adventure! After dropping some cash on the Fraser Tour and booking our bus around NZ, we decided that when we return to Australia (to Melbourne in February) we want to bike around Tasmania and Victoria for bike and brew down under.  Now, there are a lot of logics to work out (like not having bikes in the country…) but the prospect sounds exciting so we’re going to try to make it happen.  If you are reading this and have any suggestions, connections etc for this leg, drop us a line!

Feeling like we had a little more focus for our travels, we drove back to Scotties, stopping at the Australia Zoo on the way to pet some kangaroos and koalas (check!) and spent one more day on the Gold Coast (and in the pool!) before our flight out.

Beers tried – Burleigh Pale Ale, Burleigh Heffewiezen, Mt. Tamborine – ALL, Little Creatures Rogers, Wicket Elf Pale Ale, Mildura Brewery – Storm Cloudy Ale, Pure Blond, Carlton Lager, Bryon Bay Pale Ale and Dark Lager, Yarra Valley Gold, Murray’s Pale Ale, Barron Boys Pale Ale and ESB, Mercury Extra Dry Cider (brewed by Cascade), Firefly, Fat Yak Pale Ale.

Bikes ridden – zero :(

Life on the Gold Coast

Life on the Gold Coast

Surfers at Byron Bay

Surfers at Byron Bay

Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island

Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island

December 11th, 2009

Figuring things out – Sydney, Australia

Arriving down under without a plan seemed like a good idea, and I still think it was, but there was some major soul searching to be done once we got here – mastering the art of chilling out. The first thing that hit us like a ton of bricks before we even left the airport in Sydney was that Australia is not a cheap place to visit. Our cab ride to Tracy’s friend’s apartment downtown was $50AU. Having traveled most recently in South America, the exchange rate is a little shocking. That $50AU works out to just that – $50. Ouch! Luckily, we had a free place to stay in Sydney while we got adjusted to the currency and the time zone. On her last trip to OZ Tracy met this awesome guy Julian on a plane and they’d stayed friends. Since she’d put him up in New York just a few months before, he was more than happy to let us crash at his place in Sydney for a few days. An awesome guy currently finishing up a documentary on the All Blacks, the best rugby team ever?

It took about 2 full days of wandering around in a daze trying to stay up as late as we could each night (about 8pm) before we really got caught up with our 18 hour time change from the west coast. Thank goodness we are going to be here for 4 months! While we were in Sydney it was sauna hot for a few days and then drizzly rainy for the next few so we did just what you’d want to do in that kind of weather – a lot of walking. Hoofing it for 10-12 miles a day we hit as many beaches and pools as we could find, a few art museums, took and few ferries, and Tracy and Caroline saw the latest installment of the Twilight series. I think my head might be injured, can someone please rip off their t-shirt? Sydney was, despite the cost, a pretty awesome city. It has the exciting energy of New York with the weather of Los Angeles plus the hills, views and boats that make Seattle so dear. That said, once we woke up from our travel daze, we realized that what really needed to do was get out of town. We’d been doing a pretty good job of cutting costs (free museums, making our own food and avoiding the bar scene) but there’s only so much you can see in a city, especially if you don’t want to spend too much money.

On Thanksgiving, Caroline caught a flight to Aukland, ready to take on New Zealand and start her first WWOOFing job at a small farm that just happened to be putting on a play, a perfect way for her to get back into the theatre scene. Tracy and I however still weren’t sure what we were going to do. Since the bike trip’s completion we weren’t really sure what our next step was to build the bike and brew empire. So we also decided we would also sign up for WWOOF (willing workers on organic farms – check it out if you haven’t heard of it, very cool organization) so that we could add some structure to our trip and cut some costs. The first place we found in New Zealand was perfect, an organic brewery! We also found a blueberry farm near Marlbourough, the wine region of NZ. For 4 hours of work a day, we will be staying in our own little blueberry cottage with a full larder of organic food and bikes to ride to the nearby wineries. I wonder if anyone owns the website bikeandwinenz.com yet? We lined up a few weeks of WWOOFing and then decided that if we were going to be in NZ for a while, we better get on with our Australia travels before we had to work! We decided our next stop would be the Gold Coast, where Australia goes on vacation and where I had another place for us to crash. I made some veal and pepper enchiladas for thanksgiving dinner and then Julian and I taught Tracy how to play Texas Hold’um, which she of course ended up winning, and then we went to bed early so get our 7am flight out the next morning.

Beers tried – Little Creatures Pale Ale, Crown Lager, Coopers Pale Ale

Bikes ridden – zero ?

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Hanging out with Julian in Sydney

Hanging out with Julian in Sydney

Preparing to part ways with Caroline... sniffle sniffle

Preparing to part ways with Caroline... sniffle sniffle