For the 25th of December Real Journeys put on a Christmas party for all staff. They put on a huge feed, had a drawing for a bungy jump and other major attractions, and even did a secret Santa gift thing.
On Thursday, December 5th I rode back from camping outside of Te Anau and caught the fire station opening party. We had a great feed which just about made up for the fact that they had us standing in a swarm of sandflys for 20 minutes before.
On the 6th someone at the kayakers' found some baby ducks and decided to look after them.
From the 10th - 15th we had many gatherings: a potluck, a party for Magic Memories Bens first payday and a couple nights hanging out at Shaun's.
On the 16th Rosco's held a kayak training so that we could be signed off on and use their kayaks. We practiced falling into the water and getting back on the kayak without filling it with water and proper paddling technique with and without the rudder.
Over the next couple nights we had our second quiz night, run by Quiz Master Chris, and a dinner gathering at the boxes. On the 19th a few of us went to Bowen Falls again then to the Chasm where I had a tug-o-war with a Kea.
On Tuesday, December 3rd I joined a couple friends on the "Morning Glory" kayak trip from the Tasman Sea back into Milford. As a local company, Rosco's took us out for free - yet another perk from working in the tourism industry.
They took us out on their boat and then we began our return journey starting with a smaller waterfall then moving onto Sterling Falls.
After Sterling we made our way to Seal Rock.
Finally, after a few hours on the water, we arrived at Bowen Falls then fought the day breeze (more of a day wind storm) back into Deepwater Basin.
On Friday, November 29th I had my first Thanksgiving feed since 2011. Somehow JP managed to convince Real Journey's management to get us a couple turkeys so we could put on a proper American Thanksgiving and, at $500, these turkeys weren't cheap!
A couple days later a bunch of us went swimming under Tutoko bridge for about two seconds but later found the fire to be a little more inviting.
I also had the next day off so skipper Dave and I took the tender out fishing in the Tasman. On the way in we pulled in some crayfish and got up close and personal with the seals.
On Thursday, November 21st I arrived back from Queenstown carpooling with some friends from Jucy and we all had a barbecue in their garage. The next night someone had a crazy hat party, Monday the kayakers had a venison barbecue and on Tuesday Alex from Jucy had a going-away party.
On Thursday the 28th we had one of the first major Milford events - the pentathlon. The Milford Pentathlon consists of running, swimming, kayaking, cycling and eating events. The first person ran from the pub to Deepwater basin and tagged me, I swam from the pier to the kayaks - unaware that the water was shark infested... I tagged a kayak team and they paddled out to the Sinbad moored in Deepwater and back. Finally, the cyclist rode back to the pub and tagged our lucky team mate who drank a pint, ate a couple rotten bananas, followed by a weetbix, then blew up a balloon.
On Thursday, November 14th we went to Shaun's for the first of several gatherings over the course of the week. The next night we had a going-away dinner for Mandy at boxes and over the next couple nights we had Lasagna night and another Fajita night. When you have a place packed full of free food it pays to get people together for a slightly more inspired feed.
On Monday, the 18th I hopped on another scenic flight to Queenstown in order to submit my medical results to immigration.
The next day I decided to start hitting up some industry specials starting with a free jet boat ride through KJet.
After that I headed over to Shotover Canyon Swing and jumped off a cliff.. twice!
That night I went to a place called The Find for a burger with a couple fellas from the hostel both named Julien, one from France and the other Germany.
On Wednesday the 20th I went paragliding on Lake Wakatipu and then rafting on the Kawarau River.
On Monday, November 11th Adrian used an app on his phone to prank call everyone in the village and a couple places in town as well.
The next day was my birthday and I went to a barbecue at Southern Discoveries. The 13th was Go Orange manager Russel's birthday so we went out on the Haven for a fishing trip and had a pretty class feed of Crayfish (Lobster) and other seafood.
The Maori translation of Te Anau, "caves of swirling water," was a mystery until explorers found the glow worm caves. On Friday, November 8th a few of us from Milford went there. We crossed Lake Te Anau and walked through the visitor centre after which our guide led us into the caves. Inside we found waterfalls, "swirling water" and, of course, Glow Worms. Our guide took us on a silent boat ride into the depths of the cave where the ceiling lit up with thousands of stars - Glow Worms.
On Wednesday, November 6th I took my first scenic flight to get back to Milford. At 45 minutes, the scenic flight is significantly shorter and less taxing than taking the five hour bus ride back through Te Anau. Of course, the views alone are worth it.
After arriving back in Milford I took my bike out for a ride with Hyerim to see the Chasm.
Back at camp Adrian wanted to walk to Bowen Falls down the closed track by the terminal so we rode over there and had a look around.
On Monday, November 4th I drove into Te Anau in the stores truck to get it a WOF (Warrant of Fitness). From Te Anau I took one of our buses into Queenstown for the first time. When I arrived I went to the Fear Factory where some friends I met on the road work at. I had a run through and, while I'm not easily spooked, I'd say it was a pretty darn good haunted house - they certainly don't make it easy to just walk straight through.
The next day, after meeting with the Real Journeys immigration counselor, I took care of a plethora of expensive medical appointments. I had blood/urine tests, Xrays and medical checkup for about $800 and took a trip to the dentist which probably sent the figure up over $1000.
That night I took the Earnslaw to Walter Peak for dinner - that, of course, was free.
On Thursday, October 31st we all scavenged for whatever we could use for costumes. While I made do with a horse head and a grey blazer, others made themselves into elves, princesses, DOC rangers and even dolphins.
We all met at boxes and then headed for the pub where I continued to get strange looks and slapped more than a few times... not easy being a horse face.
On Tuesday, October 29th we had a bit of fire safety training. Someone set off the extremely loud alarms to get us out to the muster point and, after a bit of an introduction, Kim had us practice putting out a diesel fire.
After a few of us had a go we grabbed some flares and started shooting them off then had a barbecue at Shaun's.
The next day a few of us went for a walk along the foreshore and I went to the Rainbow Shed, an opportunity shop run by the local backpackers, to get some camping supplies.
On Wednesday, October 23rd we began cultural awareness training at Real Journeys. Over a couple of days we went over cultural stereotypes and realities such as why people from a particular culture act the way they do, high context vs low context cultures, etc. Some of us also attended MERT (Milford Emergency Response Team) training where we learned about the opportunity to volunteer for the local fire department.
On the 24th we enjoyed the first of many barbecues with venison as the main dish at Shaun's. That night everyone went to the pub for the October Fest event that they do year after year.
Over the next few days we all enjoyed many communal evenings such as Fajita night and gatherings at Jucy house. On the 28th we all went to Shaun's again for fresh seafood and some of his home brew beer.
On Sunday, October 20th I went to Doubtful Sound for my first famil - a staff perk where we get to do tourist activities, normally hundreds of dollars, for free in order to become more "familiar" with our products. I went to Doubtful for a day cruise but, since I showed up late, they put me on the overnight, a massive upgrade. I went from a $50 day cruise to probably a $600-700 overnight cruise which ended up being way better than I could have ever hoped.
After cruising over Lake Manapouri we took a bus over Wilmot Pass and then boarded the Navigator for the night. That evening we went kayaking and I was one of two volunteers to jump off into the fiord, three times - not a warm experience but totally worth it. For dinner we had every meat including some of best Salmon and Cheesecake for dessert.
The next day we returned and I rode back to Milford in the middle of a massive storm. At first just a harmless drizzle the sound of thunder beckoned a relentless downpour that completely drenched me to the bone. If this wasn't enough, the harsh gales forced me to turn hard into the wind to keep from flying off the road. Even stopped at the tunnel, waiting for the light, I found myself almost being knocked over by the angry gusts. Upon my arrival in the village a few bystanders gawked as I stood up and water poured off and out of my sleeves and off of every surface of my being.
On Tuesday, October 8th I bathed in Lake Gunn. Of course, this is a glacial lake so the water was fricken absolute zero - quite refreshing actually. After going back into Milford and finding out that I had been accepted for the position of storeman, I returned to Lake Gunn to tell my new friend Sam (American) the good news. I also told him to give it a go since they still needed another storeman.
Over the next few days I had my drug test and moved into the Real Journeys village. I also began using the free gym facilities to burn off the incredibly greasy, delicious daily buffet and unlimited food supply available in our village food store "Tardis."
October 13th I saw my first heli medevac - a necessity when the nearest town by road is two hours drive.
The next day it was extremely rainy and windy. That afternoon I helped some fishermen dock their boat and they gave me a massive crate of fresh Gourney.
October 15th the roads closed and I began to realize that Milford is a pretty wet place - 2nd wettest in the world as it turns out, wetter even than the Amazon Rain Forest...
On Monday, October 2nd I headed into Milford for a cruise with Real Journeys. I met a girl named Karla the night before at the Lake Gunn campsite who works there. After the cruise I spoke to her about her work there and she told me about village life, the community and, of course, the free daily buffet for staff. Needless to say, if you know me, I immediately asked for a job. Karla excitedly expressed that they were in dire need of storemen. One guy had shown up for one day and run off in the night - I later found out this was because he was in New Zealand for a working holiday but hadn't intended on doing the "working" part. Karla went upstairs and, when she returned, told me I had an interview with the boss. A couple days later I would start seven months of living and working in one of the most wild and beautiful places in the world.
On Thursday, October 3rd I headed out on my 32km "three day" tramp with just 2 litres of water and a couple sandwiches. Others have walked it in a day and I didn't see the harm in doing the same. Unfortunately, after only 10km I found that my run the previous day had taken a toll on my left knee. Before long I was limping and soon after that my other knee began to give out. After about 20km I could hardly walk and every step felt more painful than the last. I kept going though and, after a few extremely uncomfortable hours, I finally arrived at the end and made my way back to town.
On Wednesday, October 2nd I hopped on a little $20 ferry boat and headed over to Ulva Island. After walking around looking at various birds and beaches I went back and waited for the ferry to return.
Back on Stewart Island I ran over to Ackers Point with Matt to check out the light house. It was about a 10km run but didn't seem like it. Afterward I was a bit sore but still had every intention of doing the 32km Rakiura Track the next day.
On Tuesday, October 1st I headed to Bluff to catch the ferry to Stewart Island. It costs extra to take a bike on board, and safe vehicle storage in Bluff isn't free, so I asked a local garage owner to let me leave my bike with him for a few days. When I arrived on Stewart Island a friend I met on the ferry gave me a ride to Marc's place. I met Marc through couchsurfing.org where I've met a few local friends and hosts over the years. Since I needed a few days to see what I wanted on Stewart Island, and camping (my preferred budget-friendly form of accommodation) wasn't allowed, I sent Marc a request on couchsurfing. That night Marc, his roomy Matt and I made a hearty meal and talked about our respective journeys that had brought us all to this place. Matt (American) was a kayak guide helping to launch a new kayaking venture on the island and Marc (Swiss) was working locally diving for oysters. I explained that I was traveling New Zealand on my motorcycle and would be continuing up the West Coast after having a look around Stewart Island.
On Thursday, 26th of September I woke up in Dunsdale for the first of three days that I would be staying there. I rode to Mataura and the next day to Winton then on the last day I finally did the walking track then made plans to move on to the next freedom camping spot. On the 29th I rode to a place called Monkey Island where the limit is 27 days. I was slightly disappointed to find that the spot was not actually on the island but on the other hand I wouldn't have to wait for low tide in order to leave.
After a visit to Cosy Nook, a bay named by Captain George Thompson after his homeland Scottish Village, I spent the evening rock fishing back at Monkey Island.
The next day I took a trip to Tuatapere to get some of their famous sausages then stopped in at the Surfer Dude sculpture before heading back to camp.