Hostel Living

After having such a nice hotel stay I’ve realized more of the differences between the hostel stays. I assume most people reading and following my blog have never really experienced living in a hostel. A hostel is certainly a budget accommodation with a different standard of living.  They have different room options – shared rooms that are single sex or even coeds of 4 person ranging up to 12 people or private rooms.  They each cost around $20 a night.  They have lots of people living in them looking for work or just traveling.   I wouldn’t say that I have completely enjoyed it, but it has been an experience that I would like to share.

From my stays in a few different hostels I’ve learned that they are each different. The hostel in Sydney was probably the hardest for me due to the lack of sleep. Ann and I booked the private double room at Maze Backpackers.  We figured would keep our safe stuff and offer that security. Unfortunately in exchange, the hostel common area was right outside our door which meant people were outside our room drinking, cooking, or socilaizing until late. Then the people on the street were right outside of our window doing the same thing all night. The matresses were the worst part – you could feel the springs poking through! The combination of the noise and the bed made for a really rough’s night sleep.

What's on at Maze? Lots of goon

What’s on at Maze? Lots of goon

Melbourne’s hostel, Elephant Backpackers, had some differences. The kitchen area was downstairs and it was so busy as a gathering spot. People brought drinks and cards and hung out at the tables passing the time. The room didn’t have walls connecting to the ceiling so you could hear the neighboring room. The beds were at least comfortable and I was able to sleep.

Card Games at Elephants

Card Games at Elephants

I only stayed in a hostel in Surfer’s Paradise and Noosa for a night so I wasn’t integrated enought to share details but they were both decent stays.

After my study abroad program in Auckland, I stayed in XBase in the CBD. This was a comfortable hostel but had some weird aspects. I stayed there for 5 nights in a 4 person shared room. Over the days I had people moving in and out everyday. The weirdest part was that the room didn’t have windows so I would wake up at 10 thinking it was the middle of the night.

Entrance to XBase

Entrance to XBase

With our HWSUC group course, we stayed at the YHA in Wellington and YMCA in Auckland.  These were the nicest and cleanest accommodations we stayed at.  We shared rooms with others in our group and had field trips and lectures during the day so we didn’t interact much with the backpackers or hostel.

The structure between all of the hostels is all very similar.  The hostels are usually convieniently located in the CBD near public transportation.  There’s always a group of people outside smoking.

Within the hostel, there is a main check in area and bag storage area.  There are floors with private doubles or shared rooms of different sizes with bunks.  The kitchen areas have communal utensils and cooking supplies but you keep your food labeled in storage bags with your name, room number, and departure date. The staff must routinely go through and clean out old food and you have to trust that no one else will steal your food. Lots of people eat noodles – like cups of noodles or ramen because they are so cheap.  I’ve seen people eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I’m sure they are sick of them but they are for budgets.  The other amenities are also shared.  The bathrooms are usually one or two per floor.  You definitely want shower flip flops to wear otherwise it’s not like you’re even showing.  Within the hostel there is a Wireless network, usually Global Gossip, which is a pay per time or usage system.  The rates vary from place to place but it’s usually worth going to find the free wifi.

What they all have in common is the backpackers lifestyle. This is a really friendly, open personality that they are always looking to talk to and meet new people.  Most of the people staying are on work visas looking to work and travel in a foreign country. Except what I’ve found is that the ones who haven’t found a job are the ones living in the hostel, while the ones who found work have moved into flats – at least, that’s what I’ve found.

It’s been a good experience staying in a hostel in a city. It’s not a lifestyle I would exactly want to continue with but it was an efficient way to travel on a student budget. It will certainly work being in Fiji where I will just be hanging out on the beach for a few days then taking an island tour.  I’ll be staying at Bamboo Backpackers in Fiji which has been the least expensive of all of them ($8 Fijian about $4 American a night!)

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Mas Vino

Another day of exploring outside of the city center of Auckland. I took a ferry out further to Waiheke Island. This island is known for there fertile soil for growing grapes and olives and produces some fine wine and olive oil. I took an hour and a half bus tour of most of the island to outlooks of beautiful ocean scenery. After the tour, I was able to hop-on and off the local bus which I took the the vineyard area. I went to Wild on Waiheke to sample their wine, a Shiraz. After I went to the next door to Stoneyridge Vineyard. I sampled their red and whites – a merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Both wineries were beautiful – they had nice indoor cafes and tasting areas with a full wine menu. I enjoyed sipping on the fine wines and photographing the beautiful area. All that was missing was a tour bus filled with rowdy college kids but I’ll get that back in Geneva.

New Zealand has been great – it was great studying the country and touring with the group as well as traveling on my own. But now after almost 3 weeks, I’m ready for my next destination – FIJI! I’m so excited! I’m flying out midday tomorrow and staying in Fiji in a hostel for a few nights and then I have booked a FeeJee experience trip that will take a tour around the island.

Day in Devonport

I explained the crazy event of last night but I never said what I did during the day yesterday, Noember 26.  I explored a bit of the city’s waterside.  I first went to the Voyager Maritime Museum.  They had great exhibits progressing through time.  It began with the Maori traditional fishing and boating.  Then the introduction of Europeans discovering New Zealand lead to immigration.  Through time, boating has popularized into a sport of yacht racing.  There were exhibits of the different small classes of boats, Peter Blake, the Olympics, and the America’s Cup all relating to New Zealand.  It was great to see how New Zealand identifies with the sea .  To explore of the sea culture of New Zealand, I took a walk along the harbor.  The KZ1, the yacht sailed in the America’s Cup in 1988, was on display outside of the museum.  In the harbor, the Vodaphone yacht was being worked on by a crew member.

I got a little bit of a later start today, November 27.  My hostel room doesn’t have any windows so it’s pitch black with the lights off and I woke at 10:30 thinking it was the middle of the night.  I got going though and made a plan to explore outside of the CBD.  I headed down Queen Street to take a ferry across to Devonport.  I missed the first one by a minute so grabbed a coffee and flipped through guides.  The ferry ride was short only 15 minutes across and we unboarded in the central village.   I stopped at the information center to get a map and then followed the walking trail through the town.  I started with poking around the shops in the central villiage.  There were book stores, jewelry, and souvenir stores.  I then headed more inland up the path to Mt. Victoria.  The high point had views across the harbor of Auckland.  The view of the landscape is really unlike the rest of pristine New Zealand.  After hiking down, I stopped for lunch at Five Loaves Cafe where I enjoyed an omelet outside.  I’ve been enjoying finding nice meals but affordable which makes eating out well worth it.  After lunch I  continued walking down towards Cheltenham Beach.  I wasn’t really expecting a beach day.  This surprise made walking along the sand and touching water extra fulfilling.  I headed up and down North Head to see the other views and back into the village to catch the ferry back.

Back in Auckland, I met with Meera (a similar girl I met at the Comedy Show who’s at the same hostel) for dinner.  We grabbed some Asian food in a food court and chatted until she had to leave on her coach to the South Island.  It was great to make a new friend based on the same interests – at a comedy show, getting wifi, and a student abroad.  After dinner, I was heading back to my hostel and walked by Little Mexico, where our group had a farewell/thanksgiving dinner.  I recognized the owner, Jose, outside and told him that I was with the big group the other day.  He invited me in and made me a huge passionfruit margarita.  It took me a while to finish so I stayed and chatted with him and other customers coming up to pay their bill.

I am a little bored with the straight updates of activities so I have a more interesting post coming with KIWI-isms!

November 25

The Brown family left today, which means I’m the only from the group in the North Island of New Zealand.  Most everyone else made it back to the homes in the States!  They’ve been posting lots of updates to facebook and pictures from our trips.  The connection is still really strong and I feel like they are still here – although we’re separated by a hemisphere, 10 time zones, 2 continents, and oceans.  I’m being safe, savy, and learning a lot about independent traveling.

As for me, I explored by foot yesterday the Auckland area.  In the morning, I went to Parnell to La Cigale French Market which is only open on Sunday mornings.  It had some outdoor food stalls offering lots of samples of hummus and dips.  Indoors there was a permanent french shop selling kitchen supplies, home accessories, cheeses, breads, and coffee.  I sat down for a while to read some local magazines and have a long black.  Sometimes those coffees feel so strong and get my heart going so I had the energy to walk around Parnell.  The area had lots of art galleries and shops that I poked through.

P1060308

Back in the CBD, there was a Santa Parade.  It was pretty funny to watch some of the different floats and think about how kind of creepy parades really are.  I won’t say much more about that but I did watch the hour long parade.

After I head up north down K road and further down before catching a bus back into the CBD to hang out at my hostel.  I cooked dinner there and hung out before heading to bed.  The hostel living is different – it’s kind of fun having the experience: everything is really shared (the rooms, the common areas, the kitchen, the tv) but you meet a lot of people from all over the world.  My room is also weird, theyre are no outdoor windows so I wake up feeling like it’s the middle of the night – but it’s not and it’s time to go explore today.

Typewritter

Last night’s dinner was a great way to say goodbye to the group.  After the paper, we spent the afternoon walking around Auckland.  Everyone met at 7:15 in the YMCA hostel lobby all dressed up bottling our mixed emotions.   We walked through the city in our oversized group to the restaurant where our group squeezed into a small room with two long tables.  The restaurant, Little Mexico was nice – we had preordered our meals and kept ourselves busy while they came by talking and ordering drinks – tequila shots and coronas.  After our food finally came, we went around the room to give thanks.  We were a put on the spot but everyone stood and shared a great, heartfelt message.  I said how I knew I always wanted to travel to Australia.  I was so thankful and fortunate for the Professors who accepted me into the program and let that happen and for the group who I’ve made such great friends with along the way.  It was a different goodbye because in a sense, we had already said goodbye to Australia and the traditional program.  We have been traveling together as a group for the past two weeks and are ready for some separation.  So, it was bittersweet – I’m certainly sad that the memories won’t continue but so satisfied with the ones we’ve already made.  I also don’t think I was as struck by the goodbye because I’m staying to travel for a little longer.

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Today, November 24 began early.  The first group flight left this morning at 4:30 on a shuttle to the airport.  I woke to say goodbye to Lauren and fell back asleep until it was time for me to checkout.  I took my bags down into the CBD to Xbase hostel where I will be staying for the next few days.  It was to early to check in so I stored my bags and set out to explore Auckland.  I first headed down to the warfs.  Of course after studying sustainability down under for the past 3 months I had to check out the Sustainable City Showcase (nerd status).  There were lots of stalls set up relating to different aspects of sustainability – transportation, lifestyles, fashion and beauty, clothes, homes, business and workplace, and food and community.  Everyone stall had something different to share.  I talked to many people about their projects and was able to share a little bit about what I’ve learned from observations and differences from the United States in exchanged for gaining lots of new information.
After I headed to the Britomart Farmers Market.  It was smaller than I had expected but it still was a nice setting with vendors selling their produce, falafel, mini pancakes, and cheeses.  There was also a craft gallery in an building next-door.  There was one artist who made cufflinks and keychains from old typewriter keys.  I thought it would be something my dad would really like but they were pricey (I took you a photo though).  After a morning of walking, I stopped for a cappuccino at Raw Bar in a little alley off of Queen Street.  I read the local magazine to find the next place to explore – the Silo area.  I first checked into my hostel and then caught the bus, for 50 cents down to the Wynward Warf.  The Silo area was appropriately next to two large Silos on the harbor.  There was a small market with food carts and crafts.  I bought my mom a card that was made also using a typewriter.  I sat at a picnic table that was made out of a wooden door to write her a letter while listening to the DJ play Bob Markey.  It was a nice day out for being in the harbor and looking at boats but I’m planning on exploring more of the harbor area on Monday when I go to the Maritime Museum.  So instead, I chilled out for a while before meeting up with the Brown family.
My professor, Meghan Brown and her family have another night in Auckland before traveling.  I’ve really loved getting to know this family on a different level than a Professor-student because we’ve shared more than just classes and office hours.  We’ve shared experience – field trips, sea sickening ferry rides, hikes, long bus rides and a breakdown, and massive slumber parties in a Morae.  Her family is part of the whole HWSUC family.  We met up for dinner and after went to their stay for some leftover thanksgiving pies and final dinner cakes – lucky they got all of the leftovers.  The kids were fun and got all hyped up on sugar so before they crashed, we all said goodbye.  Again, I am so thankful for them and the experience of a lifetime they have given me.
I’m thinking that most of the group is probably in LA on a layover now.  I hope they have safe travels the rest of the way home!  As for me, I will continue exploring tomorrow.

Final days

According to the date, it is Thanksgiving Day here.  The location doesn’t seem to match though.  It is absolutely crazy that today, November 22 I have been away from home for 3 months with only 2 days left of this program. We’ve just arrived in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city located in the north of the North Island. Here, we have the day to prepare for our paper tomorrow.  We just were brought closer to home with an apple and pumpkin pie!  Those are not popular items here so we had it specially made.  Yummy

Tomorrow we will also have a final dinner at a Mexican restaurant and then Saturday our group will part ways. Most people are flying home and some are going straight to Fiji. I’m extending my travels by staying in Auckland for 5 days and then going to Fiji for a week!