A Travellerspoint blog

Alive & Kicking in New Zealand

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It’s been forever and a day since I graced these internet pages with tales of my whereabouts, doings and what not. Fear not I am alive and kicking in the depths of New Zealand. So where have I been? What have I been doing?

Firstly the shoulder saga. After much internal turmoil and a worldwide internet referendum, I agreed to be treated in New Zealand. The travel insurance company came up with the goods and coughed up a metaphorical blank cheque (apparently it was cheaper than flying me home – ha ha wait till they see the final bill). With some cunning bargaining and emotional blackmail by an ex-pat doctor named Andrew Tyson, I was referred to one of the best orthopedic surgeons currently operating in New Zealand - Dr Clayton Brown .

With a little pressure applied I was fast-tracked through and on the 3rd August after only 8 weeks after first visiting the doc, surgery was to be done at MercyAscot Hospital escorted on the day by my old friend Andrew Sammut who’d popped into town to amuse himself at my approaching disability.

The hospital was more like a hotel, thankfully missing the rank disinfectant smell that fills the corridors of NHS hell that somehow makes me faint (Haggis – remember Brixton BMX track incident). After de-robing I met my pilot and landing crew (Anesthetist) for today’s flight was Psycho Steve who delivered a brachial plexus block (the stranger) followed by a General anaesthetic and I was out for the count.

I've no idea what happened next but here's what the doc said:

There was some capsular redundancy, and therefore due to the fact that I wanted to tighten the anterior capsule it was decided to perform an open approach through a short deltopectoral incision taking the conjoined tendon medially and exposing the subscapularis which was taken down as a rectangular exposing the labral defect. This was fashioned using an elevator and repaired using twin fix anchors and an excellent labral repair was achieved from superior to inferior.

I guess that means it went well.

(full report available here if you can make any sense of it let me know

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I awoke with a drain coming from my shoulder with blood dripping down into the attached bottle. Another tube running into my neck attached to a bag labeled PainBuster© with a plunger attached – self-administered medication, I like it. In my left-arm is a drip with other substances being fed intravenously, I’m beginning to feel like a lab rat but before I can climb out of bed and bolt for freedom the nurses are upon me and with a squeeze of the plunger I drift of to Never-Never land.

Over the next 12 hours I followed pretty much the same pattern, only in the glimpses between slumber I endured some frighteningly realistic hallucinations with all manner of people entering my private room and surrounding my bed, some dead, some alive, but all highly talkative and some abusive. Not enjoying the morphine at all now. Sleep, please.

I was discharged the next morning, after an assisted shower with an attractive Kiwi nurse (arm pits are very hard to wash one-handed you know – try it!!) The days that followed were pretty crazy with mad hallucinations from the Morphine & Tremadol. Irrational, short tempered, mood swings – I was worried I was going to grow breasts next. The PainBuster© ran out after 3 days I went into Morphine withdrawal, not surprising after a continual supply of the stuff for the last 72 hours. Removing the Painbuster was quite amusing discovering that under the plaster on my neck was a 6 inch tube that ran straight down the main vein to my arm (thanks for removing that Andrew!). Anyhow, that night I took what proved to be my last Morphine night cap - the trip was that bad I couldn’t face a repeat and flushed the rest away. It was time for recovery not soma holidays and I figured the pain was all part and parcel of the process.

So 3 months and $24,000 (₤8,000) later, I’m pretty much fixed up with all but a 3 inch scar on the front of my right shoulder. The official physiotherapy has fallen by the way side a little but good news the self-diagnosed alternative remedies seem to be working great. Now I’m ready to get back on that horse and start breaking things again - another 3 months time and I’ll be ready to strap on my trusty snowboard once more, yay!

What else? Free from the hassles of normal daily life, I needed something to occupy my mind. The first week at The Fat Camel (my home in Auckland) I spent being a good tourist visiting the tourist attractions, taking walks, chatting and eating with my room mates. I bought myself a new camera, stepping up the game with a digital SLR Nikon D50 plus a 70-300mm telephoto lense and set about cataloguing the city in 2D. Anything but step into the Hostel bar as I knew what would happen if I succumbed.

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I held out for 1 week until the first Friday in June when the Fat Camel held it’s AJ Hackett Harbour Bridge Bungy challenge. Up steps camera geek here and volunteers to take pictures of the day. The pictures are amazing despite my amateurish skills and I burn a CD for all.

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So how else to celebrate but with a pint, bought from each person, 12 people makes 12 pints. Oh dear, what a messy affair. Lets just say the truth serum worked it’s magic and before I knew it all knew my story and I was welcomed into the bosom of the Fat Camel and it’s alcoholic residents and became part of the furniture. (Andy – you did warn me, it happened, so wise, so wise.)

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The marketing manager of the hostel, the infamous alcoholic Kate Cooper (she came to Auckland 2 years ago for a holiday and never left), loved the Bungy pictures so much she insisted that as her in-house professional (ha ha) photographer I’d be the perfect person to take the photos for the new Hostel Brochure and website. No problem, so with payment of a few nights free accommodation and a $50 bar tab (the first, definitely not the last) and did the job. Top banana, the pics are awesome and they get published in the brochure.

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And there is born the game I played for the next 4 months – Live for Free! It’s simple really – a resident (non-traveling) traveler has 3 basic needs: accommodation, food, and entertainment (alcohol/substances). The object is of the game is easy – pay for nothing. You have to work of course but this can be kept to an absolute bare minimum (to nil) with some cunning ingenuity, general blagging and minor deception. One rule, any criminal activity (theft through deception from financially stable companies is ok) or actions that cause harm, upset or personal loss to a person are strictly prohibited! i.e. no bad karma.

So, here’s how I did:

>> Make friends with chef at the Hostel (Graham) - Free breakfast & evening meal

>> Taking photos for Hostel marketing - $50 bar tab per job plus 3 free nights accommodation

>> Working at reception – by far my worst ‘scam’ at only $11 per hour (before tax!), take home $320 per week. Fringe and soft benefits endless tho like being bought beers by ‘discounted’ guests, giving myself free nights or a double room on demand, printing free bar tabs, choosing who stays in my dorm (profile = Swedish, female, 21 etc etc)

>> Winning competitions in the bar – I only played killer or regular pool and became known as ‘Master of the Double’ or the ‘One Armed Wonder’. Winning earnt yourself a $30 bar tab, sky jump or bungy jump - I gave away both activities because of my arm but drank the bar tabs.
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>> The Bottomless Bar Tab – win yourself a bar tab legitimately then use all but the last drink on it so it is never registered in the till. Then print a new one, fake the signature and use it again with a different bar tender. Free beer & bourbon, happy days!

>> Corrupt a bar tender – it didn’t require any influence from me as the bar tender in The Camel (Jace) was on self-destruct anyhow but nonetheless I made the most of it. He got the sack after 5 weeks of a 100% free bar.

>> Website Consultancy – The Fat Camel has two websites: one for the hostel; one for the bar – none of which anyone had a clue how to update. $30 bar tab for 1 hours work.

>> Network & PC maintenance – upgrading computers, installing programs, security patches etc, re-cabling, manage gateway, consolidation, selling old stuff on http://www.trademe.co.nz. 1 night accommodation for 1 hours work.

>> Re-write Travel Center’s website Joblink (http://www.joblink.net.nz) – essentially create a new ‘skin’, optimize the code, add some new features and launch the site. 1 night accommodation for 1 hours work, totaling 50 hours or so.

>> Promotions for Stray & Spaceships (http://www.straytravel.com) – officially I worked 40 hours promoting the Stray Free City Tour which earnt me a free South Island bus pass. Actually I did only 1.5 hours and instead promoted it when working the reception and recommending Stray to every hapless traveler.

>> Selling Stray and Magic bus passes – not officially part of my reception job but nice to help out. Each pass sold is rewarded with a $25 voucher, plus free beers, use of a Spaceship for trip to Piha etc.

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>> Hang around on on Fort Street- I lived in the middle of the red light district with all kinds of social misfits, deviants and the legitimate side of the criminal world - talk to the right people. It’s amazing who I associated with ranging from bar tenders to pimps and prostitutes, all of whom can save your ass or make your night depending. Just re-pay the favours and all is sweet as.

But it’s not all work, work, work and there’s always plenty of time for fun. Oh boy there was a lot of that. From what I can remember, here’s the highlights:

>> World Cup – bloody germans! Reversed my body clock because of the time difference for 3 weeks – wake each night at 7pm, go to bed at 8am

>> Ireland Vs All Blacks – it seems an age ago now but in July I went to watch the mighty All Blacks at Eden Park. Not so mighty that night as Ireland almost sneaked a victory but great to watch. Shame about the torrential downpour but I had my first ‘meat stick’ so all good.

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>> Porn Weekend – crazy sex, debauchery, hedonism and general indulgence like I’ve never seen before. Starting on the Wednesday with a midday topless porn star parade down the main street to promote the launch of Erotica Expo 2006.

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Myself, Tony and Rob were snapped by a New Zealand Herald reporter and made it to page 2 of the national paper the next day!

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Every night that week crazy parties went off with more sex, sleaze, mass indulgence of party pills (BZP) and alcohol, not just by us hostelites but seemingly by the entire population of Auckland. The highlight had to be Barry @ Base Bar’s Porn Night sporting a tiny ‘Sex Police’ uniform tanked on enough party pills to supply a Helter Skelter rave, hee hee.

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>> Photos published in international press – my special friend Andrea De La Barra, ex-super sleuth reporter for the Metro in Chile wrote a news paper article about living in Auckland which was published. 4 of my pictures from taken around Auckland were used for the article – alas no money exchanged hands for the pictures but another one for the portfolio nonetheless.

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>> Travel & Tourism Industry night – free booze and shenanigans at the expense of The Man. Always a crazy time especially after the punch hits the floor. Hosted by Little Jimmy (resident midget at The Globe Bar).

>> Soccer - unfortunate that we had to call it soccer but the roots began on Independence Day, hence US name 'soccer, but it just stuck from that. It started as a one off World Cup special but ran for a further 12 weeks such was the success. The brain child of myself, Chile (chris) and Tony...

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>> Eastland - Bay of Plenty Road Trip

July 10th. I spent a few days with Gemma and her 2 friends Maggi and Shaheen travelling around the East Cape of New Zealand. Starting in Hawkes Bay, following Highway 35 around the coast road through Gisborne, Whangara, Tologa Bay (where Captain Cook landed in 1769), Hicks Bay, Whangaparaoa, Waihau Bay, Whakatane (out at sea smoke rises from the highly volcanic White Island) and back to Auckland via Mount Manganui and Tauranga.

By far the most beautiful places I’ve been to in New Zealand. It’s slight isolation and crumbling, wash outs (where the road crumbles away in a landlside) roads deter people on a tight schedule. The area is dominantly Maori, the only place in the country like it which makes it feel all the more real New Zealand.

Highlights of the trip were:

- The Beach north of Gisborne. Amazing surf and wind swept beaches. Even a cheeky dip in the sea.

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- The longest pier in New Zealand. It was very long.

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- Sunrise at the East Cape

A solo mission out to the most easterly point of New Zealand – The East Cape, according to the books I’d be the first person in the world to see the new day but I expect some of the islanders would dispute that. Anyway, I was still driving when the sun rose at just after 6am, just missed it.

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A little despondent, I took a walk on the beach practically tripping over a seal trying to escape into the sea. I had stumbled into the middle of a seal colony. Amazing!

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- Macadamia Nut Cafe

A cute place with a Macadamia nut orchard, a café making it’s own Macadamia & white chocolate chip cookies. The weather was glorious, a great setting, great view, great company, a great end to the trip.

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>> Waikato & Rotorua Road Trip

A quick 3 day trip with Sinead (my friend from the Fat Camel). Starting in Waitomo for some some Black Water Rafting (clambering around underground caves in a wet suit and floating along underground streams on a rubber ring) and seeing the amazing Glow Worms.

Afterwards what better than a trip to the Angora Wool shop to see how they get the wool. Truly barbaric – the place the rabbit on what can only be described as a rack, then rotated like a pig on a spit roast and shaved of its valuable fur. We were shocked.

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Across to Rotorua staying again at Hot Rocks Hostel, but first enjoying a dip in a secret outdoor Hot Spring 20kms out of town.

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Visited Te Whakarewarewa thermal area with its amazing geysers and took in a traditional Maori performance in a Marau (meeting house).

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Lastly, persuaded by Sinead we stopped at Wai Ora Spa for a mud bath and dip in the natural sulphur hot springs. It made my skin feel dry and my eyes red and sore for hours – I can’t see how this is a good thing but an experience nonetheless.

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Finally across to Whakatane. Next to the harbour stands a statue of Wairaka, the maori heroine who saved a bunch of kumara from floating away in a waka (canoe). Tried again to book a dive to White Island where you can see underwater steam vents, crazy big tube worms that thrive on the sulphur enriched water, a little pricy at $360 for 2-tank dive with hire of gear but apparently a once in a lifetime opportunity so why not. The answer, no trips running due to bad weather, pah.

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On the drive back to Auckland we were treated to an awesome sunset. An explosive relationship with Sinead and we actually end up as worse enemies but sometimes things go this way.

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>> Piha

A beautiful surf town only 2 hours drive West of Auckland yet so unspoilt (the local council has enforced a development freeze that looks set to last). Took a ride out there in a freebie Spaceship (people-carrier meets campervan, highly recommended!) courtesy of Craig from Stray. Took a nice stroll on the main beach, up and over to secret White Beach for a quick dip in the waters (brrr) before heading to the local pub for a slap-up ‘fush and chups’ dinner all in the company of great friends (Robin, Heike, Benno, oh and Shaneen. Perfect!

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>> More photography

The kind people at http://www.travellerspoint.com selected 2 of my pictures (out of a total of approx 50,000) for their Photograph of the Year 2006 competition, the photos selected were not those I would have chosen but there you go. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the final 12 after an online vote but a great complement to be selected nonetheless.

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I think I’ve found my new love and maybe a new career, I just need to figure out how to convert the pictures to cash and I’ll be a happy man. Answers on a postcard please…

Some other pics from around Auckland:

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>> Last but not least the endless crazyness in the Fat Camel hostel, endless drinks – jager bombs, tui’s exports, bourbons, illusions, tequila, black sambuca & drambui, happy hours, free drinks, party pills, breakbeat parties at Club Met, brothels, lap dancing and naked pool at The White House and Mermaids, pool games galore (one-handed killer champion no less). Such a great time here and the people so welcoming I’m sure some of us will meet again for sure. I’d list all the names but there’s just too many and they’re of no interest to the casual reader so why bother. Maybe I’ll get round to listing them one day, but a picture paints a thousand words….

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So, it’s time to leave Auckland now that the arm is well on the mend and only 2 months ish left on my round the world ticket. (Hmm, I don’t thin k that’s long enough.) The south island remains virgin territory and I’ve hooked with some lovely Germans (yeah, they do exist) – Heike, Sandra and Benno Scheip from Stuttgart in one very special van. Another tale in the making to bring my stay in New Zealand to an end. Watch this space and thanks for reading.

Love & Peace

Phil x

Posted by phileas 04:28 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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