4. Backtracking

11 Feb

I want to interrupt this program for a VERY special announcement. And that is: The day after the Kiwi search was another special moment– Victoria’s birthday!! And she opened her present ❤



Two halves of a whole.


And another special moment, although in a sad way, was when Louis had to leave us to head to the farm where he was going to do some work.


Guess this is goodbye!!! (…or is it?)


But Rachelle and I kept our heads high despite the mildly disappointing Kiwi search and saying goodbye to our new friend.  Rachelle and I, at least in the back of our minds, were determined to come back with a stronger light to see some Kiwis.

That afternoon, however, we were ready to take on a new adventure and headed to the Waipu caves to see some radiant worms. So radiant, in fact, they were glowing (#EasyBreezyBeautiful). Once the rods in our eyes had adjusted (#science), and we marveled in the glow worms’ beauty, we decided to head farther south.

But there was a BIG GAPING HOLE the size of Louis in the backseat– no, really, the backseat was empty. So we decided to see if we could make some more new friends and we went couchsurfing in Hamilton. While we waited to see if we got any responses on our Couchsurfing messages (divide and conquer), we did – what else – trip planning.  We read the entire book while we drank wine and talked to each other about the south parts of the north island. 

And Luke responded on Couchsurfing. He and his Dutch roommate essentially said ‘come on over’. We were going to arrive at 10pm, but Rachelle and I were bringing the party.


These are our dress up clothes.


I forgot to tell you guys, but whole time we’d been in New Zealand, Rachelle and I had low-key looking for the city-equivalent of Greensburg in Pittsburgh. And when we got to Hamilton, we found it.  We had a BLAST, with our Couchsurfing hosts. So much fun that the 4 of us didn’t go to bed until 4am. Pro tip: match the number of people to your bedtime (i.e., 4 people→ go to bed a 4am). We spent the night (and a good chunk of the wee morning) playing with a foam roller and an indoor soccer ball. I could tell he’d grown up with younger sisters because he was so nice, especially when I cut my toe being overly competitive. 

The next day, all 4 of us were very hungover, but the bright side is that being hungover with someone all day is truly the best way to get to know them. We helped the guys with their weekend chores and Rachelle and I went to the store (barefoot of course) for some breakfast material.


Soup from Country Vic-toe-ria


When we got back from shopping Rachelle cooked and the Dutch roommate and I cleaned the entire kitchen.  Rachelle and I also did some laundry. It was so hot outside that our laundry dried in 20 minutes, which meant we all had time to drive to Raglan, a surftown 40 minutes away.  We spent a couple of hours there, and I was feeling particularly friendly saying hi to everyone that we passed.

And then, while hanging out in the water, I met Derek and his $1 surfboard from Canada. I got to play around in it and body surf on some small waves. Pretty fun.

Back on the shore, Rachelle told Luke he was a cool cat, and I couldn’t help but meow… I hoped someone would notice I was a cat too.

That night, we went to dinner at Chilli House; the guys had called ahead to order Szechwan, so when we got to the restaurant, the order was already cooked and at the table. Baller move. We had thick noodles with beef, and it was incredible.

 Back in Hamilton, Rachelle and I were tempted to go to a speakeasy called The Book Club, but we settled for brushing our teeth together and falling fast asleep.

That night, and all the nights, I was so grateful for my wonderful, loyal, and kind friend Rachelle, who I still call Rachel.

The next morning, Rachelle and I said our goodbyes to the boys and filled up our water bottles (one of which we thought we’d lost– false alarm!) before heading on a grappling hike.


root for us.


The hike was super fun, turns out, we LOVE grappling.  But at the end, it got gross. There was a very dense and intense locust section that Rachelle aptly called the “locust badlands”.


I spy with my little eye something gorgeous. Answer: it’s the whole picture


After the hike, she and I worked up an appetite (what else is new) so we ate food from a can (as we often did here in NZ).  This was the moment when we learned that two spoons is too crowded for one can. And we started, logistically, sharing a spoon.  If it’s not clear, Rachel and I became very close on this trip. 

After our snack in a can, we drove to see another gorgeous waterfall that had an optical illusion, which you can’t really see in the picture, so it’s sort of like a double optical illusion.


All types of green.



While we were hanging around this beauty and watching the water fall, we texted with Louis and found out that his farming plans had fallen through and that he was currenlty Auckland bored and alone. Rachelle and I didn’t waste any time. We turned around and backtracked for several hours so that we could GO PICK UP LOUIS! 

On the way, we realized we hadn’t taken any pictures with our Couchsurfing hosts. But, as Rachelle noted: “There’s no going back. Except for Louis!” We got ready to see him in the parking lot of a fast food restuarnat:

Q: How do you know you’re traveling?
A: When you’re brushing your teeth and get ready in a KFC parking lot.

We laughed.  We were essentially homeless in New Zealand, and we both thought about how traveling a few thousand miles to Southeast Asia would’ve made us high-rollers. Rich is relative.



Bench bartender, turned bench chef, turned car chef. Rachelle is moving up in her culinary career.


We made noodles in the car but found out that we needed actual hot water to cook the rice noodles. With ramen, you can fill it with any temperate water and let it cook on the dashboard, but rice noodles are a different story. They stay pretty hard; Scrappy couldn’t even finish them.


Dashboard Noodles


While we got ready in that fast food parking lot, we talked about how annoying this particular car lock was. We had to click the opener loads of times, continually clicking and unclicking it, just to open the door. Or to lock it. Which made going back and forth to fill up our water bottles and using the trash cans in the parking lots a bit difficult, but of course, we managed.

When we FINALLY reached Louis, he told us he loved us. WE LOVE YOU TOO. AND he had made (and then brought) dinner for us! (Classic French cuisine: Burritos) So sweet.  We took it to a campground, about an hour away, to eat.



Our backseat lounge.


ReLOUnited and it feels so good

The next morning, without any shade, it was hot. But Rachelle, the matriarch, made us amazing homemade avocado toast to ease the pain. And it was less than $14, which made it extra special. Rachelle and Louis always bonded over food — the two of them were always talking about cooking whenever I left them alone. It was adorable.

That night, we met some amazing people; a family camper van with 7 homeschooled children, which I imagined would be a little rough. Louis was open-minded about it. In fact, he was open-minded about a lot of things. EXCEPT the gross coffee we drank (instant coffee with tap water) to save money. For Louie, the coffee had to be hot.  But my Rachelle, SHE WAS SUCH A CHAMP!  They both were.  I had two amazing pals by my side– there’s nothing better than traveling with people with a strong constitution and a passion for always saying yes to an adventure.


The gang’s all here,


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