Trip Around The South

After returning to Picton I was basically trapped there. Ex-cyclone Gita was making it’s way straight towards New Zealand. Particularly right where I was headed.

Luckily I was able to weather the storm in Sue’s house in Picton. I picked up what I could from the backyard. I cleaned out the gutters. We didn’t board up any windows but we closed them all up tight. Picton is a little safe because it’s surrounded by mountains.

Nelson got it bad. The west coast got it bad. Kiakoura had some road closures from slips. But Picton survived. I headed South.

New Plan: Chirstchurch to Lake Tekapo to Wanaka to Queenstown to Invercargill and up the west coast back to Christhchurch and back to work.

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Dirt road near Tekapo

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Flooded trail, Tekapo

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Lake Tekapo

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Was lucky to get to see Mt. Cook on a clear day

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Rob Roy Glacier, Wanaka

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The Rob Roy Glacier Track was nice. The views were nice. The trail followed up a river of melted glacier water. But, it was pretty crowded. I had decided to do it because it was the first one that came up online. I won’t make that mistake again.

The next day I went to the visitor center and told them I wanted to go on a day hike and not see anyone else. They pointed me in the direction of Grandview Mountain Track neat Lake Hawea. I have to say the views were grand. I had them all to myself

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Lake Hawea. Raining coming in

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The wind on the hike was unbelievable. It would push me over unexpectedly after turning a corner on the trail. I covered up and face to look gangster.

I went to Queenstown to meet up with my friend who has been working traffic management there. I only stayed one night. That’s not really my kind of town.

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Queenstown at Night

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My photo at the Eastern most point of New Zealand with Chinese tourists

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Selfie with a fur seal

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Steepest Street, Dunedin

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A Special Visitor

Dec 18th – Dec 26th
I picked my partner up from the airport early in the morning. She just had a log flight from the Philippines to Auckland with a layover in Guangzhou. I stayed in Auckland the night before in order to be there on time.
I was lucky to stay with an old co-worker from the restaurant. She was staying in a home she was house sitting. That is such a sweet way to get free accommodation! I need to get on this.
My girlfriend was supposed to visit me the week before I came to the farm. Which was perfect timing. We were going to see the lupine at Lake Tekapo, go camping, hike to hut in Fox Glacier and stay by some hot springs. But, she had some visa issues and wasn’t able to leave the Philippines.

It worked out better though. Because of the mix up she got two extra days off from work. Which means a full week here in New Zealand instead of just five days (travel time is 20+ hours one way). And, we got to spend Christmas day together!

After picking up Cindy first stop: Raglan! Raglan is New Zealand’s surf town. We spent most of the day sleeping. Cindy was a little sick and the long travel time, she was exhausted.

The next day we drove down to Taupo. We stayed around here for a couple nights. We really enjoyed Taupo. We went horseback riding. Checked out a waterfall. Did some short hikes.

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This isn’t the waterfall in Taupo. But it is a waterfall.

The best was going over to Kinloch, about twenty minutes from the Taupo town. We walked far away from the crowded beach and found our own. We stripped down and went for a skinny dip. We stayed on the beach relaxing naked for quiet awhile. One thing led to another and I was on top of her.
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The next day we hiked the Tongaririo Crossing. If you only get to pick one hike in New Zealand, don’t pick that one. It is the most popular and swarmed with people. I thought the view was okay. It was cloudy, so that probably messed it up. But really it was all the people that I didn’t like.

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This is the line for the bathroom one hour into the hike

We spent two night camping on the beach in Gisbourne, sleeping in the back of my car, and cooking dumplings for breakfast. It’s a bit tight to sleep in the back of the car but, there is still plenty of room love making. Christmas day we drove back to Auckland.

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Not bad view for a breakfast of pan-fried dumplings

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This is where the magic happens!

We stayed in the Jucy Lodge, I wouldn’t recommend it. These people have an empire of Jucy travel products in New Zealand. You could spend your entire vacation with them. I thought the hostel was extremely stale. No traveler vibe. Our bed was extremely creaky. The room had stale air so I opened the window. Our neighbors had the same idea. They got the pleasure to hear her moaning and the bed creaking all night.

The girls next door seemed to pretty jealous based on their comments. In the morning they kept walking by our opened door to take a peak at us. 😉
We walked around Auckland Christmas night. The Kebab shops were open, thankfully! We also went to another restaurant. It was a shitty steak and pub place, I don’t even know the name. No other sit-down restaurants where open around here. I noticed right away it was filled with only Asian people. I guess that’s Christmas for non-Christians!

On the drive up to Auckland earlier that day, I thought it would be a great idea to get the car stuck on the beach. Luckily some farmers where near by with there four-wheel drive. They pulled me out. Twice!

Come Boxing Day it was time for her to leave. We stopped by the grocery store near the airport so she could stock up on chocolate bars. It was sad to leave her at the airport. She headed back to the Philippines to her job. And me, I went back to the farm.

I wonder when I will see her next.

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A met the family as they returned from the beach with a Christmas tree on top of their car. They cut the tree down in their own forest after spending a hot day at the beach. It’s a Kiwi Christmas here.

The family I’m talking about our my new hosts. I quit the boring traffic control job and headed back to the North Island. I got a opportunity to WWOOF at farm practicing sustainable grazing. I’m in the southern part of Hawke’s Bay close to a small town called Elsthorpe.

Here is great! It is by far the best job that I have had in New Zealand. Hopefully so far, but I bet it will remain this job.

Every morning the day starts with milking cows. They’ve got 40 dairy cows. We take half the milk and feed it to calves. The other half gets feed to pigs. There are two groups of pigs. Medium size pigs almost ready for sale and a group of 14 piglets with their moms.

The farm also has 1000s of sheep. Some are for meat and some are for wool.

Another source of income they have here is the Eco Lodge. It gets rented out to guests who want to stay in the country side on a farm. They also hosts events there. Greg, the farmer, will bring in sustainable farming practitioners from around the world and invite farmers he would like to influence in New Zealand. I’m impressed by this. This is an amazing way to raise awareness and make a little money to bring more.

They work with Air New Zealand as well. So now you can use your air points to plant trees in a native bush forest here instead of taking a flight. You can watch a video about it here.

I’ll be here for a month in total. So there will be surely more to come! Writing this post I realized that I don’t have nearly enough photos to share of here. I usually don’t take my phone out with me to work. When I did, I only posted on Snapchat.

Here is the YouTube video I first saw:]

Hspiaw

Bettlenut spit stains the ground like blood from a grusome murder or perhaps the junta violently shut down another protest. What little sidewalk there is is badly broken. Cracks as large as a foot wide are not uncommon. The gutter smells like sewer and pollution. The air smells like diesel.

The road is half paved and half  mud. Traffic runs both ways on both sides. Honking. There is lots of honking. Large trucks move slow with cars honking as they pass on the left. Scooters pass both cars and trucks on both the right and left. They lay on the horn as they go.

The town is surrounded by farms. It’s green here. The greenery on the roadside is mulched with liter.

Despite all of these negative points the people here smile. They wave and say “minglaba” as you pass. They may not know much English, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to help.

In the coming years this town will be filled with nicer hotels and more backpackers. Trekking is the thing to do here. But, for now it’s pre development. It’s cheap. And, I like it.

April 23, 2017
Hspiaw, Myanmar

Why I Signed Up For Chase Sapphire Reserve

I just took a big step in maximizing my saving and money earning for travel. Tuesday, November 29th, I went into a Chase Bank and demanded they sign me up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve! Well that’s technically not how it went down. I asked nicely. 🙂

And, I was approved on the spot.

I was hesitant to sign up for this credit card because it has a $450 annual fee! That’s a big chunk of change. I’m a cautious spender when it comes to my money. So the Sapphire Preferred card with the waved first annual fee and only a price tag of $99 seemed more appealing.

But, after calculating all the benefits of the Reserve Card and talking with my brother to confirm this was wise, I got Reserve. And here is why:

Signup Bonus

The sign up bonus for this card is the largest in the market right now and the largest in travel credit card history (I believe).

This card has a signup bonus of 100,000 points! If you redeem these through Chase Ultimate Rewards it’s worth $1500. Essentially I am getting $1500 for free, just for signing up. All I have to do is spend four grand in three months.

 

$300 Travel Credit

Every year the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR), gives you a $300 credit. Yes that’s right $300 for FREE. This credit is good for travel purchases.

Now you may be wondering what counts as travel credits. I know I was. I found this pretty well maintained list of purchases that count. Click HERE.

I plan to buy $300 in airBNB credits because I know I will use them to rent a place to stay in Taiwan for a month or more in March.

 

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck

Chase will reimburse you $100 for the purchase of a Global Entry or a TSA PreCheck. Global Entry is $100, TSA PreCheck is $85. Global Entry comes with PreCheck. Both last for five years! Hell yes!

Sign me up for free shorter line!

To learn more about Global Entry and PreCheck click HERE.

 

3X Points on Travel & Restaurants

Even though I am not going to be spending much at restaurants since I am trying to save money. It is great to know that I will be earning 3 points for every dollar.

Travel on the other hand I am really excited about. I will be buying a handful of plane tickets that should help me get some really good points! I’m also going to be taking the Greyhound from Arcata to San Fran at the end of February.

If you’re going to be spending the money anyways you might as well get paid to do it!

 

No Foreign Transaction Fees

This is pretty standard with travel rewards cards. But it’s great to have.

What this means is that if you use the card in a foreign country and charge it with a foreign currency Chase is not charging you for that transaction. Other than whatever you are spending of course.

 

Movable Points

I have the Chase Freedom Card. The Chase Freedom card offers 5% cash back on certain types of shopping throughout the year. They have four separate quarters.

January-March is gas stations and local commuter transport. April-June is grocery stores and wholesale clubs. July-September is restaurants and wholesale clubs. And, October-December is department stores, drug stores, and wholesale clubs.

The 5% cash back is great if you are shopping at these places. But the rewards points are worth less with the Freedom Card. However, you can move these points over to the CSR Ultimate Rewards increasing their value.

The trick here is to use the Freedom Card to score 5% when the CSR would only give you 1% (3% for the restaurants).

The Chase Freedom Card has no annual fee and they have a signup bonus of $150 dollars when you spend only $500 in the first three months. Cake!

Knowing that I was going to be getting a better rewards card from Chase soon I started to only use my Freedom card to get as many points in my Chase account as I can.

 

Do The Math

Okay let’s do the math here now. For the first year you pay the $450 annual fee but with the travel credit, global entry rebate, and signup bonus ($1900) you profit $1450. This can be more though!

At The Points Guy there is a post about transfer the Chase Ultimate Rewards points to their partners to increase their value. They claim it is possible to make the sign up bonus worth $2100. Read the post here.

So that’s a lot of free money and I am more than happy to get it.

 

P.S.

“Do the math” reminds me of Chris D’Elia’s drunk girls skit. I think it’s hilarious! Here it is for you to enjoy.

Walden On Wheels ~ Book Review

I recently finished Ken Ilgunas book Walden on Wheels. I was really inspired by his story. The way that he thought really resonated with me because we have very similar opinions on a lot of things. He just has a much better ability to showcase them beautifully.

His story is this: He was a recent college graduate and had $30,000 in debt. But, society wasn’t right with him. He spent some time in Alaska and longed for that lifestyle. However he couldn’t just drop out because his mom was the co-signer on his loans. Determined to pay off the loans he takes a job in Alaska that pays for room and board. This allows him to use all his earnings to pay for his debt.

I don’t want to talk to much more about it because I want you to read his book.  However, I do want to share some experts that I really appreciate.

We can only miss what we once possessed. We can only feel wronged when we realize something has been stolen from us. We can’t miss the million-strong flocks of passenger pigeons that once blackened our skies. We don’t really miss the herds of bison that grazed in meadows where our suburbs stand. And few think of dark forest lit up with the bright green eyes of its mammalian lords. Soon, the glaciers will go with the clear skies and clean waters and all the feelings they once stirred. It’s the greatest heist of mankind, our inheritance being stolen like this. But how can we care or fight back when we don’t even know what has been or is being taken from us. (page 72)

This paragraph is a perfect description of why some people simply just do not care to protect the environment.

I remember when I was starting to learn about climate change, more than ten years ago now. It was around the same I started go camping and hiking. I would go back to the same meadow a few hours from my home for more than a decade.

In that time, I watched the ecosystem change. I watched the changing climate affect a place dear to me. There used to be two lakes. One seasonal and one three-times-as-big-year-round laek. I remember wading out to rocks and catching frogs in the seasonal pond. But over time it stopped showing up. Then a few years later the year-round lake dried up completely. I haven’t seen water there in over a year.

Other people suffering from nature-deficiency disorder can’t understand what they are missing. They can’t understand the negative impacts of their actions because they live life inside.

My relationship with nature was changing. No longer did I think of it as something to conquer, like a mountain summit. Nor was nature something to be glorified, which we tend to do at scenic road pull-offs. Nature, to me, was no longer beautiful. Nature, I realized, is only beautiful when you’re at a safe distance from it. Watching a setting sun from a windshield can mean romance, serenity, beauty. On the water, though, it was a warning for mosquitoes, storms, and the cold. When I was mesmerized by nature before, I was merely disconnected from it. After more than forty days on the voyage [paddling in a canoe]. I no longer saw nature and myself as independent entities; rather, I was nature…” (Page 117)

This backs up my earlier comment. People who don’t spend time in nature cannot come to terms that we are from nature. We are nature. To harm nature is to harm ourselves.

Dave Foreman, one of the co-founders of Earth First! talks about how the current trend to save nature as a playground for humans is wrong. Nature, the wilderness, he argues should be protected because it is wild. It should remain wild.

The yuppie lifestyles of Outside Magazine and Backpacker use nature as a playground. They protect National Parks so they have something pretty to look at. These two men see nature as so much more. Nature should be wild!

From my home, I could see suburbs in all directions. When I was a boy, at least there were pockets of woods to stoke my imagination. But now all I could see were endless rows of cookie-cutter homes, bland corporate parks, vast retirement complexes, all separated by a grid of loud, fast, angry roads. The suburban landscape, before, had never produced any thoughts in me or incited any ire, but now, having roamed the Brooks Range, the Canaduian wilderness, and the Mississippi jungle I could imagine the terrible genocide of trees and swamps and fields that took place here years before. We got rid of all that for this.” (Page 149)

Up until now I was never anything but a worker and a student. When I looked up at a dark arctic night sky, I thought I could be something else. I didn’t want a job, a salary, a home. I didn’t want to be a bold in the consumer-capitalist machine. Or a boring Ph.D student. When I looked up at the stars, I could see my path. I wanted to be a comet hurtling through the sky, governed by no one’s laws or expectations but my own. (Page 89)

Me too.

When we are raised by institutions, we are fashioned, in ways big and small, to be like everyone else. But, when we go on a journey – especially a journey that follows no one else’s footsteps it has the capacity to help a person become something unique, an individual.

While Western society never had anything quite like the vision quest, we do have a heritage of journeying laced into our cultural DNA. In the 1930s, Americans hopped trains. In the 1950s, beat poets wrote about road trips. In the 1960s, we hitched rides. Today, however, it seems like the whole “coming of age” adventure has been abridged from a young person’s life experience, leaving no gap, no bridge, no moment of real freedom in between school and career. (Page 116)

I’m lost. I’m in a crossroads in my life. I don’t know where I should go next or what I should do.

I’m constantly comparing my life to the life of my peers. Wondering if I should follow their footsteps. At least they are doing something! But this life is my experience and mine alone.

In order to live the experience that a human life is to it’s fullest potential I must live mine to my fullest potential. Only I can decided what this means for me. And, only you can decide what it means for you. It’s just hard though.

“Our relationship was kind of like our hitchhike adventure. It wasn’t supposed to last forever. It was simply a means of getting from our past selves to our future selves. And like the hitchhike, we’d take from it, learn from it, say good-bye to it, be better for it, and think back on it fondly.” (Page 163).

Sometimes I have a hard time not getting sentimental for past experiences. Great times I once had. I wonder why this moment right now isn’t as amazing as that moment. But, they can’t all be.

Good or bad experiences, I am learning to appreciate them all. Friends and lovers who are no longer in my life, I forgive for our drifting. I look back on the times, good and bad, and learn. All of my mistakes, my fucks up, the time I was an asshole, the times I was taken advantage of, I’m okay with them now.

I have learned.

I must keep moving forward.

“When I thought about my hitchhikes, the voyageur trip, Duke – I was happy to have suffered; i was happy to have been miserable; i was happy to have been alone… That’s because it was in those moments, when I was pushed to my limits, that I was afforded a glimpse of my true nature.

I learned such a glimpse cannot be gotten with half-hearted journeys and soft endeavors. Nor could I hope for such a graphic feature, like getting to the top of a mountain. Rather, I knew one must confront the very beasts and chasms that haunt our dreams, block our paths, and muffle the voice of the wild man howling in all of us, who calls for you to become you – the you culture cannot shape, the you who is unalterable, uncivilized, pure. You.” (Page 272)

As plans are coming along for my own great adventure Ken Ilgunas words give my heart the encouragement I need. He tells us that the only way to become the best you, the true you, it to suffer. Suffer while thriving for what you most desire.

I am terrified of being alone. Lost in thoughts that take me down dark places in my mind; self-loathing. I want to overcome these beasts. I want to struggle my way through my great adventure and come out alive strong than ever on the other side.

Thank you for writing such an amazing book Ken! I look forward to reading your other works soon! Safe travels.

 

Ken Ilgunas recently walked the entire length of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. You can head about here.

Graduated

I graduated from San Diego State University in May of 2016.

It cost me  my sanity, my friends, and my girlfriend of seven years. But, I did it!

I broke down from too much stress. I am writing about it on another blog. It is my attempt to sort out my thoughts and progress as a human being. Check it out if you like (currently unpublished).

I’ve done some traveling since being in Taiwan. While I was there I spent some time in Hong Kong, the Philippines, and had a long interesting layover in Guangzhou, China.

When I got back to the states I worked my ass off for a month and then took off again. I went to Cuba, illegally through Mexico.

Then it was nothing but school.

After graduating, I was luckily enough to get out to travel a bit more. I spent some time with my Aunts in Wisconsin. I explored Glacier National Park in Montana with my dad and brother. I helped some friends move from San Diego to Arcata, California. I met up with old friends, new friends, family, and more in Chicago. And, last weekend I went camping for four days in Sequoia National Park.

I am going to write about all this. It will be coming soon. Stay tuned!