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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Road trippin'

A week and a half ago we rented a car and took a little trip around the Auckland area. First stop was Hamilton. Andrew had a friend who was going to be there for the weekend so we decided to meet her and get a little perspective on this new country. We didn’t find Hamilton to be all that exciting, but they are working hard to get people to move there from overseas. They had gardens that reflected styles from around the world which was kind of neat.


After that we went out to Waitomo, to see the worms. The glowworms! Waitomo area is full of caves, many of which have glowworms living in them. This was really cool to see, it looked almost like the starry sky in the cave. It was interesting that the glowworms spend their whole lives in those dark caves, just waiting for food to get caught in their strings, just to reproduce and do it again.

After the glowworms, we went to another cave with lots of stalactites.

Ready to go


A really good part of the day was chatting with the tour guide about New Zealand, and just current events and things there. Andrew and I were SHOCKED to find out that police officers here don’t carry guns. In fact, they are working to be allowed to have them unassembled in the police cars. It would be interesting to know how that affects their crime rate etc. Just a reminder that some things we take for granted are not the same everywhere.

The next day we headed out to Hobbiton. I was a little unsure about whether this would be worth the money, but we were happily surprised. Usually when you go through the movie site, they only have white boards showing where the hobbit holes were, and not much else, as almost everything had to be destroyed due to the contract. However, and this is exciting folks, they were getting ready for filming “The Hobbit” (can’t remember quotes or italics?) so the hobbit holes were being put back to what they were for the movies. This was really, really cool. They looked so much more real, and it was neat to see the different stages of construction and how they built it all. There is so much work and money used for such short little shots, movies are kind of ridiculous. We aren’t allowed to share any pictures over the internet due to confidentiality but we (Andrew) took quite a few. So Mike, get over here before they close it down again!

After the Hobbiton tour, they had a quick sheep shearing demo and then we got to feed little lambs. Ooohhh they were so cute. So small and fleecy, I may have squealed. How could you not with this face?


From Hobbiton we headed to the coast, Tauranga. We walked along the harbour and explored the town.

Then we drove to Rotorua, the land of geysers and thermal springs. As soon as we got out of the car, we noticed the stink of sulphur which was really gross. I don’t see how people live there, it seems like it would be bad for you. We decided not to go to the really expensive natural park to see the geyser and decided to go zorbing instead! Zorbing was awesome, very overpriced, but a really fun time. Zorbs are giant inflated balls that you roll down a hill in. Andrew and I did the water zorb, where they dump water in with you and you slosh around all over the place. We got to go together, which was good because I am a chicken. The waiver said zorbing could cause death or severe injury! But it was actually not scary at all, just very wet and crazy. Definitely worth a try, we would have loved to go again.

We didn’t skip the thermal stuff in Rotorua entirely though, we stopped at a park and tagged along with a tour group a bit. Kind of gross and stinky but interesting too.

Boiling mud

And that was it, we headed back to Auckland!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Housekeeping

Hey everyone,
I had a question about comments, and I just wanted to let you all know that you no longer need to log in to leave comments. So if that pesky issue has been preventing you from leaving us a message, it should be fixed, so now you can comment up a storm. Thanks and we do love comments, but no pressure. Okay, maybe a little pressure :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

House Hunters International

Well, today we have some exciting news: we have an apartment! We are now residents of Central Auckland and have the library card to prove it. It is a huge relief not to be looking on Expedia every night, wondering where we will stay, and how many more hotel bills we will have to pay! We’ve been trying to get settled in, and are finding that we really miss our car. Grocery shopping and furniture shopping are a little different when you walk or bus everywhere. Yesterday we took our first cab back from the grocery store. We naively thought we would be fine to walk back with our stuff, you know, we’d try to not buy more than we needed – umm yeah. Taxis are definitely a little pricier than buses though!

Our first night was quite fun too. After moving in, we realized our furnished apartment had a bed frame and a box spring. That’s all in that area, which was a problem. It was too late to go find any stuff, i.e. mattress, sheets, pillows, blankets. You know, all those extra things. But being the resourceful travelers we are (or just too dang tired), we made it work. Andrew made the bed by putting out our travel neck pillows and laying out a selection of clothes to pad the box spring (not cushy at all) and cover us. After we spent an hour laughing, maybe a little hysterically, we tucked ourselves in. That’s right, we are classy people - sleeping in a nest of our own clothes. Not the best night ever, but actually not as bad as I thought it would be. Please don’t judge us - desperate times, desperate measures! Needless to say, shopping was the first thing on the agenda in the morning.

A very exciting day – keys and a library card!

A few pictures of our place:




We are very lucky to live only a few minutes from the library, where we have been hanging out for their internet. It’s a bit patchy so sometimes we go to a big entertainment centre where we can get 1 free hour per day. So we are kind of being internet hobos! Speaking of which, we are on skype at andrew.geralis so feel free to chat. Anyways, the library is free to join and has a good selection of dvds and books. We requested Lord of the Rings, and are looking forward to seeing New Zealand from that perspective (also to check out one of the places we visited! - more later).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bula

Bula means hello in Fijian, and we learned that very quickly. But I should talk about our trip first. We flew from Calgary to Los Angeles on Oct 30, and everything went smoothly. However, when we arrived in LAX, we found out that our flight to Fiji had been delayed 3 hours (on top of an 8 hour layover), and that we couldn’t check our bags for another 5ish hours. So fun times at the airport all around! We started our new season of 30 Rock (pretty funny, Tina Fey looks better with glasses, she makes us laugh), played some computer games, and sat around. Finally it was time to fly, and that all went smoothly.

This is everything for the next little bit!

Our first resort was right on the water with a big open air lobby that birds could fly in and out of. We soon discovered some other friends staying in our room, which was a little creepy but we got (kind of) used to. At the resort, we got to try snorkelling, which I was not too successful at. We also took a trip to the 7th nicest beach in world at Natadola, which was gorgeous! Everything you think of when you think Fiji.

Club Fiji Resort

Natadola

We also spent a morning in Nadi, which was very busy and crowded. We saw a Hindu temple, and did some shopping.


Next up, a day trip to one of the islands. We went to South Sea Island, which was just a teeny island, we could walk around it in 3 minutes. We went on an underwater submarine, went kayaking, swimming and snorkelling (I finally learned and know really love snorkelling), had a BBQ and saw some Fijian singers and dancers. It was a good day in the sun!

Our little island - South Sea

That night was Diwali, so there were fireworks going off constantly. I added a new goal to my life list: light a firework.

The next day we moved to our second hotel, the Westin which was fabulous. We walked to the Hard Rock Cafe that night and enjoyed some fantastic burgers.



Dinner and where it came from

The rest of our time was pretty much spent at the beach or pool, with another trip to the Hard Rock! Fiji was gorgeous and we really enjoyed it. However, if we were to go back, we would stay out on one of the islands, or spend a few days doing a cruise out there or something. Staying on the main island, you miss some of the nicest beaches. However it was still very nice and more affordable. So a mix might be ideal! Just some tips.

More pictures are on Picasa, and maybe eventually on Facebook. Vinaka (thank you)!

A few bits...

Yesterday we did something I’ve never done before, and would be fine not doing again: Grocery shopping without shoes! My cousin told us people did it all the time, and in the parking lot we noticed a whole family not wearing shoes. Andrew managed to convince me that we had to try it, so the shoes came off, and in we went. I kept feeling like we were going to get in trouble, but no one said anything, even a few employees that walked right past us. I felt like people were looking at me, but Andrew said they weren’t so who knows!

My verdict: One time thing, as it seems really gross, I feel weird, and the floor is really cold on your feet especially in the refrigerated areas.

Andrew’s verdict: Nope wouldn’t do it again.


These last few days, we have been driving(!) (well, Andrew has been driving) around a bit. It is definitely an adjustment for him, not only with the whole other side of the road thing, but the entire layout of the car. There have been a few windshield wiper mishaps, but he is quick to learn. We decided to rent a car to meet someone Andrew knows, to hopefully get some insight, and to check out a few other cities. So far, Auckland is still our fav and we are looking for a longer term place to stay.


(Side note: We saw a car with a dog hanging its head out the passenger window, and for a minute we both thought the dog was driving! I wish we could show you, but you will just have to imagine it)

Anyways, back to the house hunt. It is actually kind of frustrating so hopefully we will be patient.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Here we are!

A birthday cappuccino heart

Hello from down under!

We are in Auckland now and have been here for three days. Auckland has been a bit of an adjustment, as we are switching from vacation mode to "live" mode. It's strange to be starting completely from square one, as we don't know much about the city, have no house, jobs, connections, car. But we have learned to ride the bus (at least one route), and have emailed about some houses and jobs. So things are looking up. But speaking of the bus, it's a lot safer to be on than off them. Today our bus driver managed to take out a "give way" (yield) sign. I honestly thought half the bus was falling off but when I looked out the window, the sign was toppling over. It was an awkward minute, and then everyone had a collective sigh and Andrew told him that we didn't see a thing, which kind of broke the ice.

Today we went to get a cell phone, and we must have really impressed the sales guy. We got to tell him that we are unemployed, have no real address and don't know one single person to be our "BestMate" (a person on the same cell network that you get free calling to). I started feeling a little desperate and thought about asking him to be our BestMate, but then he suggested putting a random number on. I've been thinking we should give them a call and meet up, since we are such good buds. Oh well, now everyone we meet is an opportunity for free calling.

We also managed to get a bank account, which is currently sitting at a grand total of $0. Don't worry, we do have money to transfer in. It's just funny to be such hobos! But I guess these were steps 1 and 2 in our de-hobo-ization (I'm sure that's a word in New Zealand).

Oh another few fun facts about Auckland. Today, on a walk with Andrew, while wearing flip-flops, I almost stepped on a .... (drumroll please) ... condom on the sidewalk. Wowza that would have been fun! So happy I almost had that opportunity. AND last night we both got to share in watching a guy ralph THREE times about ten feet away from us. Mostly into the drain, but not all. Fun times all around.

But honestly, I am starting to like Auckland a lot. The shopping looks amazing, if a tad bit pricey. The city is actually very beautiful and an interesting mix of older and newer. People have been really nice (excluding Ralph from above) and the weather has been nice. It is strange to see Christmas decorations going up, above the shorts and flip-flops in the store windows, but I guess that's the way it rolls on the other side of the world. Yesterday was a nice day, after stressing out in the morning about house/work. We went and saw the SkyTower and then went to a movie at a HUGE theatre.


First day in Auckland

Skytower





Thanks for checking in, hopefully we will get some Fiji posts up really soon! Here's one teaser photo that will keep you checking back for more:


Have a good night everyone!
- Andrew & Ger