It’s 2 a.m. and I’m exhausted. I know what I’ll do, buy my own domain name!

So sitting at my kitchen table, exhausted after the 45 minute uphill bike ride that is my commute home from work, I find myself with my laptop, a jar of peanut butter, a glass of red wine, and a cup of peppermint tea. At 2 a.m. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Since I am too tired to go to bed, I start perusing the internet (to say “internet” is perhaps a bit broad, as I really never get past gmail or facebook in my idle wanderings) whereby I end up seeing a recent post on a friend’s blog I have never read.

…Maybe acquaintance is a more appropriate word.

Halfway down my second glass of Cabernet Merlot I think, hey, maybe I should get a blog going again since I’ll be on the road again soon. A few more spoonfuls of peanut butter and next thing I know I’m purchasing my own domain name. That’s right b*tches. Aaaaallll mine.

Not because I have anything particularly amazing to get out there that requires the sort of worldwide exposure that only the internet can facilitate, but mainly because I might. Someday. And if/when that day comes I don’t want some other Shannon Berner floating out there higher up on google searches than me. Let her be Shannon Underscore Berner.

In the meantime, since I’m the first Shannon Berner (not historically speaking of course), here ya go kids.

So, what happens now? Well, I haven’t quite gotten that far yet. I think there’s still some peanut butter in the cupboard…

We’re Going Bush Mate!

November 2008

Woah bro, where do I begin. I am now back in Paihia, and I am having the time of my life. IIMG_0195 have been back for about 3 weeks now and it just keeps getting better. The weather is still getting warmer as summer hits and the place is really picking up more and more as it is a big summer tourist spot. I came back to the warmest welcome, validating my reasons for wanting to return in the first place. Even though I had only told one person I was returning, I came back and even people who I hadn’t met yet knew about my return. I immediately just felt like I was back home. The party began immediately that night, and hasn’t stopped since.

I started my job within a few days of returning, and it’s so much fun. I work at the bar at the Pipi Patch hostel. While most hostel bars are usually filled only with backpackers, the Pipi has local clientele as well because the town is so small there are only a handful of bars. It’s so fun working there, meeting people from all over the world, hanging out with friends and getting pissed, and paid! It’s funny because sometimes people take pictures of me like I’m a tourist attraction or something. I know I’m a backpacker just like them, but to travelers its like hey here’s a picture of my hostel and hey here’s a picture of this person that served me drinks in New Zealand. The lifestyle here gets pretty wearing on the body though, as we literally drink every single night. It’s not because we are alcoholics, there just isn’t much else to do here. But I don’t say that in a bad way, it’s still a freaking awesome town with the best people and the best vibe, but every night you just sort of wait to it seems reasonable to begin drinking. Or you don’t wait. IMG_0587

About two weeks into being back I got tonsillitis though, and it knocked me out hard. I was in so much pain and backpacking alone and living in a hostel it could of have been so miserable, but I am so lucky I have met the friends that I have. I stayed at my friend Bobby’s house for about 4 days. If you have ever stayed in a hostel you know you can’t actually get good sleep there, it’s just impossible. All of my friends would come by and visit me and watch movies with me and make me food, and I was just so thankful to have made such awesome friends so quickly here. I know my mom was happy to know I was being taken care of as well. That’s the kind of stuff that makes me feel like I really have a life here and am not just a tourist anymore.

I still hang out with the people I met when I first went to Paihia, but the group has expanded a bit as well. I hang out a lot with these two girls Kelly and Reagan who are from Wellington. They are cool as hell and allow me to be a little more of the weirdo that I normally am. I mean pretty much all of my friends at home call me weird on a regular basis, but I don’t think anyone here has seen the half of it. It just takes certain people to bring it out in me, and foreigners especially seem to be a little more frightened by it. I figure it’s best to sort of ease them into it, like just slowly start getting weirder and weirder. It might be too much of a shock if I hit them with it all at once. I think I’ll hold off on talking about Megalodons (um only the coolest prehistoric mammal ever, 60 feet of prehistoric terror!), street creds, in-depth analysis of indie hipsters, extreme picnics, etc. etc. My housemates at school (I miss you Flanny’s) signed leases so they had to deal with me, and me with Christine is like a one two shut the fuck up/you are so annoying punch. 

Kelly and Regan work at the juice bar down on the wharf and they live in the bush. “The bush” in New Zealand is pretty much the woods. But because everyone is so intense IMG_0604 IMG_0602about outdoor stuff you hear things like “you going bush?” or “any good bush around there?” But living in the bush also implies you live in a hut. Which they do. They lived with me at first, but then got the juice bar job so they moved into this little shack in the woods owned by their friend’s dad. They don’t have power or plumbing or anything, its just like a roof with a bed, but the view is sick and its so fun to go out there have bonfires and party in the woods. You walk down to the waterfall to pee, and you shower (aka pour creek water on yourself) on this open wood plank where cows and sometimes wandering farmers can watch you. Hard core eh?  One of their neighbors (neighbor means they live in a hut about 5 minutes away) killed a guy because he stole his four-wheeler. He didn’t go to jail. Woah. Stay away from that guys yard.

Paihia, My First New Zealand Home

October 2008

So after I separated from the germans in Russel, I took a ferry over to the tiny island of Paihia. I planned on staying there for the night, then heading back to auckland to start myIMG_0337 straytravel bus tour. I walked towards my hostel room and about 5 people were standing outside of it who all greeted me with excitement and welcome, and within about 2 minutes I had been invited to dinner. One of the welcome crowd happened to be this kid Gareth from whales whom I had met in Auckland, random. The guys left to go fishing, and came back at night having caught two sharks and a big fish which they cooked up for dinner. Here is the kicker, I ate shark! Anyone who knows me knows how big that is for me. and you know what? I didn’t hate it! It was such a fun dinner, sitting outside with about 7 people eating by candlelight (i think it was actually the guys who lit candles) just enjoying the wonderful beachtown atmosphere. My one night plan ended up in me being in Paihia for about a week, it was just too easy to keep staying.

I met some of the coolest people in Paihia, and it is just one of those places that feels like home really quickly. After about 4 days I felt like a local. Anytime I was sitting outside grabbing a bite to eat people would just walk by and say hi and sit down and then anyone they knew would do the same and by the end of a few days I felt like I knew everyone in town. One day after a rough night of drinking, me, Gareth, and another roomate Al (this crazy hippie dude in his mid 30’s I’d guess with hair down to his butt, permanently stoned looking eyes, and a tendancy to bust out his air decks, hold his ear to hear the music in his head and scratch the imaginary records with his free hand) and I headed towards the beach to grab a drink (the only cure) and ended up meeting a canadian girl and two american guys. One of the guys happened to be from about an hour north of my hometown, which was really weird.

We all decided to go kayaking, so we walked over to the beach, bought some beers, rented some kayaks, and headed out on the gorgeous turqouise waters. Gareth had already been kayaking with a local, and showed us to this remote little island that the Maori (the native New Zealand people) consider sacred. We pulled our kayaks up on shore, did IMG_0289a traditional Maori prayer where you touch foreheads and noses with everyone and headed up a small trail between some trees. After about 5 minutes we emerged  from the trees on this small cliff ledge overlooking the water and surrounding islands. The view was breathtaking. After enjoying the view, smoking, drinking, and soaking in how awesome our lives are, we headed back to our hostel to chill out in the hot tub for a while. Rough day huh? After showering up, we reconvened at a local bar down the street to watch some awesome live music, and drink, obviously. Every night at some point or another we ended up at the Pipi Patch bar, which is the bar attached to the hostel we were staying in, but also just a super fun bar that lots of people from town go to. It is also home to Courtney, my dream man. Australian, tall, tan, hot as hell, with blonde dreads and an affinity for tie-dye. He will also be my co-worker soon, as while I was not looking to stay in Paihia for more than a day, I ended up being offered a job as the new bar tender at the Pipi Patch.

The next day I had booked a bus to head up to Cape Reinga, the very top of New

IMG_0307Zealand. Waking up at 6:30 in the morning sucked, but spending the day stopping at random beautiful beaches, flying face first down mountain-sized sand dunes on a body board, and driving through water on a bus down 90 mile beach (the beach is actually considered a main roadway and you can get speeding tickets) was all well worth it.

The days in Paihia all sort of blend together, but one of the days I went to the beach with a few people, and as seems to happen in that town, more people who knew one person or another gathered until about 25 of us were sitting there, taking in the sun while Eats (a local) strummed his guitar for us and we all just enjoyed each other’s company. The bar manager at the Pipi Patch had joined us as well, and it was then that I finally gave in and said I would stay in Paihia, I mean how could I turn down a summer filled with all the great moments of the previous week? I had wanted to get an overview of the country before taking a job anywhere, but I figured it would be stupid to turn down a good offer just because I hadn’t explored all my options. I start in 3 weeks when I come back from my straytravel tour.

I’m off tomorrow on my bus tour, and that is going to be jammed packed with extreme adventures and stories for sure, but it might be a week or so before I update. Oh, and I lost my camera chord, so it may be a while before I get any pictures up. Bummer I know. Kia Ora!

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

November 2008

I would like to start out with saying,  WAY TO GO OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I am absolutely elated!!!! IMG_0527Congratulations America! In an effort to keep things moderately chronological, I will come back to election day at the end of this entry.

So, we last left off with me debating thermal spas and mudbaths, and a polynesian spa in IMG_0432Rotorua was the winner. I went with Adam, Sarah, Emma, and Jenny, all of whom are English, and Katerina who is german.  They hopped off the last leg of the stray bus with me as well due to the fact that our new driver was completely obnoxious and I felt like I was at camp or something. Sometimes a good bitch sesh really brings people together.  There were 8 different thermal baths there in total, all of different temperatures and all reaking to various degrees of hard boiled eggs (due to the sulfur). One of them opened up to a beautiful view of lake Rotorua. The only downside was the constant coming and going of Asian men in speedos.

After Rotorua, I headed down to Taupo. A lot of people skydive here because the view of lake Taupo is amazing and its relatively cheap. I really debated it, but as I’ve already been skydiving (I went in Switzerland 2 years ago) I decided I should save my money for other extreme adventures. I can’t wait to hurl myself out of a plane again though.

From Taupo, I started the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. For one reason or another I had it inIMG_0445 my head that this would not be that hard of a hike. I heard a guide say “people die on this track” and yet I just found myself thinking “pfff, sissys.” So on the way to the crossing, I hear this guy on my bus, Rich, talking to the driver about doing an additional summit to the top of volcanic Mount Nguaruhoe. The guide all but begged him not to do it, saying the hike itself takes about 7-8 hours, and the summit is an additional 3 hours, plus its dangerous and only for the most experience hikers. Since you have to get picked at the end of the crossing, which would be 8 hours after drop-off, he would have to be 3 hours ahead of pace to do the summit. We get off the bus, and I hear him telling another guy he’s going to try it. Can anyone guess where this is going? After growing up with two older brothers, I naturally think “if they can do it I can do it too.” Now, realistically I am perfectly well aware that this is not in fact always true, but for one reason or another I found myself starting out with Rich at super speed.

I was doing a pretty good job of keeping up, but once we got to the summit things began to go downhill, figuratively, not literally unfortunately. Here is what wikipedia says about the summit:

Mount Ngauruhoe side trip

Mt Ngauruhoe can be climbed as a side trip from the main crossing however this is not IMG_0467recommended for any but the fittest and most experienced of climbers. The regular crossing takes 7-8 hours of steady walking. Climbing Mt Ngauruhoe adds three to four hours on to this time for an average walker, making the entire trip, from start to finish, with side trip, an 11-12 hour tramp. The problem for walkers is that the various services that provide transport to and from the walk usually drop trampers at the start of the walk at around 8am and pick them up again between 4pm and 5pm – an eight to nine hour time frame. By climbing Mt Ngauruhoe and extending the walk time to 11 to 12 hours walkers run the risk of missing their transport at the end of the walk and having to spend the night exposed on the flanks of the mountain.

Further, the flanks of Mt Ngauruhoe are mostly loose scree which is very difficult to walk onIMG_0462 and requires a considerable energy expenditure compared to walking on solid material. Physical exhaustion is a further hazard of climbing this mountain for all but the most fit.

SO basically, we only make it about 2/3 of the way up the summit before we literally just can’t get any further. Every step I take I slide two steps down in “scree”. We decide to head back down, and while I am pretty confident that we were ahead of pace enough in the beginning to still be fine on time, Rich has it in his head that we need to basically be running to catch up with everyone. Meanwhile, I used up so much of the energy trying to do the summit that I am now really struggling. I would have been perfectly fine still at a normal pace, but he literally had me jogging. This is not just a little hike where I could say “just go on ahead”, it was scary at points how isolated you were. If anything would have happened it would be a while before IMG_0473

The kicker is, we ended up catching up with others we were dropped off with, and then I finished before them! I didn’t need to be running at all, I could have just done a normal pace and not died if it weren’t for crazy psycho boy. In the end though it did feel pretty satisfying to finish after I struggled so much. If you can even imagine, the actual views were more spectacular than the pictures could ever show. The water really is that color too because tiny pieces of volcanic debris sit on top of the water and reflect extra blue.IMG_0481

After the crossing, I stayed the night in the National Park and then headed down to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. That’s where I watched election coverage. I can’t sit at a computer for long so I will write another entry later for Wellington. How exciting is this though?! This is history! OBAMA!