Sunday, January 30, 2011

South: Wanaka & Queenstown

I hated Wanaka. There, I said it. Maybe not hated, but did not like it. It had all the characteristics of a great place, gorgeous lake surrounded by beautiful mountains, really scenic. Unfortunately, we were there right before New Year’s and the town was crazy. Insanely busy, and it was really not a big enough town for that many people. It was crawling. Also, the public library charges $2 for 5 minutes of internet. How is that for access? Ridiculous! However, it was nice to lounge by the lake and just hang out. 

The first night in Wanaka we camped, and decided to not to do that again! For sure this time. Andrew and Erin went on a wild goose chase for the sunset up a very large hill, and Jen and I ducked out early. 

The next day we were up early, as we were freezing! We drove to town, thankfully getting gas on the way. Jen went skydiving that morning, and it looked really fun. Maybe one day. They just floated down so gently. A bit jealous but thinking about hopping out of a perfectly good plane makes my stomach hurt a little.

Andrew and I went for a bike ride that afternoon which was really fun. Bikes might be on our list this summer. It was really fun to cruise around.

The next day we headed over to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand. Also the most expensive activities are there. Instead of taking the gondola up the hill, we hiked. And it was a workout and a half. Super, super steep. A year ago that day was the day of my surgery. I know I said this before, but what a change. 

After that, we had kind of had enough of Queenstown. We were booked that night in Te Anau, so we that way. We got Chinese food for Erin’s birthday, from the Ming Garden Restaurant – funny! (all the Coaldalians know!) The town was having a bonfire for New Year’s Eve so we hung out there for the big countdown. They had fireworks which were pretty sweet! 

The next day, we made Erin French toast for her birthday, delicious. We headed off to Milford, for our overnight cruise. The drive out there was gorgeous, big massive mountains just out of nowhere. We stopped and did a short hike to the “tallest waterfall near a road in Australasia”. Yes, the tallest waterfall near a road, ladies and gentleman. I guess they have to take what they can get! It was pretty impressive though. On the way down, Andrew sustained a small injury, but is doing well now. He doesn’t really like to talk about it.

We headed to Milford to meet our bus for the overnight cruise. Lovely Milford.

Happy New Year, and Happy Birthday Erin!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

South: Chocoholic

Before we went to Dunedin, we stopped at the Moreaki boulders.  These are big round rocks, just sitting on the beach.  Very cool!  They are apparently formed in the cliffs along the beach, and then the dirt around them is washed away.

On a very rainy day we got into Dunedin. Now Dunedin is a cool place because: 1. There is free wi-fi, and 2. They have a chocolate factory. Wonderful combination.

The chocolate factory was partly closed because of the Christmas holidays. We were still able to do a shortened tour which was fun. We learned a lot about chocolate, sampled a lot of chocolate (including little cups of liquid chocolate - yum), and saw a ton of chocolate get poured into a container right in front of us.

Dunedin had a bunch of cool old buildings and their train station was gorgeous. Wish we had more time to explore. We did a quick round through their art gallery as well.
Thank you Vanna!

I also drove us up and down the steepest street in the world. It was steep. The rain gave us a good excuse to drive not walk. It would have gotten our bums in good shape though.
Steeper than it looks
Andrew and I also watched 'The Tourist'. It was good, not fantastic but a good movie. They give tons of leg room in their theatres and you book your seats ahead which means people come in through the first bit of the movie which gets annoying.

The next day was sunny and clear which was so wonderful after a couple days of rain. So good to see the sun. We drove out around the Otago peninsula which was one of the nicest drives we've had. We caught a glimpse of the really expensive castle and took about a hundred more sheep pics. Lovely. A must do. We love sheep.
Just beautiful
With our bellies and cameras full we headed off to Wanaka.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In hot water

On Thursday, we celebrated Andrew's birthday.  It started off with some excitement, as we woke up to discover the water was off due to a pipe burst.  Then at the library, Erin came running over to say the place was flooding, water flowing through the roof.  Back home to call the building manager.  The tenant upstairs had left their taps open, so when the water came back on, it flowed and flowed and flowed.  There was a lot of water.  He got it turned off, so we made French toast while it dripped it's way through and then did some clean up.  Happy Birthday Andrew!

Anyways the rest of the day was a lot better.  He got a few of his new favourite chocolate bars and a rugby ball.  In the evening, we had pizza and cake and headed over to Minus 5, the ice bar, for a drink.  It was a little underwhelming, but was cold enough to remind us a little of home.  Minus another 20 degrees of course!
Ice glasses!
On Friday we headed out to the Hot Water Beach, about 2.5 hours from Auckland.  This beach is over some lava, so at low tide if you dig a pool in the sand, it's full of hot water.  And we're talking hot, some spots you couldn't even sit in because they were so warm.  It was really bizarre, but one of my favourite things we have done here.  It was ridiculous how many people were squished in to about 15 metres of the beach.
Dig your own hot tub

We took a drive around the rest of the Coromandel peninsula on the way back; it was rainy so the view wasn't the greatest.  A beautiful place though.

We ended the night by watching Back to the Future, which Andrew had never seen.  An oldie but a goodie, just like him.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Things I Did Not Buy

Fur vest

Blue jumpsuit with lovely white ruffle

I think I may have to go back and pick them up before they sell out!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

South: p-p-p Pengu

After our exciting time in Christchurch, we drove out to Tekapo. Such a pretty lake and a nice relaxed town. They had a cute little church, but it was sure chilly out.

The next day was supposed to be where we stopped to see Mount Cook. However, it was raining and cloudy so we decided not to bother driving over there, as it was out of the way. Mt Cook eluded us!

From there, we drove to Oamarau famous for penguins. We got settled in a campsite and it promptly began to pour. Back to town. I spent the whole day dreading sleeping in the tent.

We checked out the town and got news of a few exciting engagements - congrats guys! A year of weddings for us.

Oamarau was full of pretty limestone buildings and cool shops that were closed for Christmas holidays. And it was pouring. Yay!

Finally, after hanging around all day, it was time to see the penguins. Folks we saw two penguins. That's it. And they were small. However it was cool to see them in their natural habitat swimming out of the waves. The kind we saw is one of the most rare kinds and best of all it was free!
There he is!
We decided dinner out was in order if we were going to brave camping. It had stopped raining now for awhile. Some yummy pizza made everything a lot better.

However as we drove and it poured I broke. I had visited the bookings desk three times asking about local accommodation and could just not face an awful night in a wet tent. It had been awful enough on a nice day. Andrew and I decided to stay at a cheap lodge in the area. Upon arrival we found out that if we had come a half hour earlier we could have seen lots of penguins as close as a metre to us. Oamarau town of disappointments! Lesson learned, follow your instinct about crappy days to camp!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Good Weekend

A break in the South trip series

Saturday Andrew and I could not decide what to do. We had planned to go to the beach, but took a bit to get going and then found out the bus was quite pricey. So then we did some internet stuff at the library, but I wanted to do something fun. It was Saturday after all. We ended up making our way over to the Auckland Domain, which is a large park in the center of the city. It was perfect park day weather, so we got our sunnies and jandals and headed over.

There were about 5 cricket matches going on in the park. A few people have told us that cricket is like watching paint dry, but there seems to be plenty of people who like to play it here. I really do not understand cricket, I think I need to read a book about it or something. Whatever, it made for some good sun tanning time. Andrew is getting closer to unlocking the mysteries of the sport though. We are really sad we are missing rugby season, especially the World Cup, which is being held here in September.

After that we wandered to another part, had some deep intellectual conversations and then were distracted by an entire extended family attempting to get something out of a tree. I am not kidding, they probably tried off and on for about an hour. What they had in quantity, they lacked in quality though. Gently shaking the branches and lobbing a soccer ball at it were not working - try overhand! It felt like if Andrew headed over there, he would get it down in a minute, as they were lacking the forcefulness needed. However, there were about eight parents involved, so that felt like it might be a bit presumptuous. We left to get gouged when buying a hot dog and ice cream; I think they gave up!

My sneaky iPod picture

Sunday we decided that instead of paying money for the bus, we’d rather pay money for the ferry to get to the beach. It was another gorgeous day, so we packed up and headed over. I had been wanting to hit up Devonport (old Auckland suburb) so it was perfect. It was really cute and relaxed. We walked up a big hill and got a nice view of the city skyline and then hit the beach. When we got there, the water was really shallow, just over our knees for a long ways in. We finally just gave up and swam in the shallow water. However, an hour later, we could swim a whole lot closer. Tides are so funny. Although we tried to be diligent with the sunscreen, we got a tad red.

When we got back, we had to hit the grocery store. There is nothing worse than a grocery store when you are sandy and hot and thirsty. We made it out okay, all the way to the bus stop, where Andrew leaned over to set down the one bag. BAMMO, the milk jug falls out of his backpack and smacks the ground, spraying the leg of a poor guy waiting for the bus. He looked a little shell shocked and we apologized profusely. During this time, the milk is glugging all over the sidewalk. I reorganized the groceries and we put the carton in a bag, so now we have a grocery bag of milk. Needless to say, it did not make it home with us, and Andrew ran back for another jug, while I sat by an enormous puddle of milk. Nice. A bad end to a great weekend!

Monday, January 17, 2011

South: Christmas in Christchurch

After recuperating in Nelson, we ventured on to Kaikoura, the whale watching town. This included a really beautiful coastal drive, with such clear turquoise water. The beaches were grey pebbled. When we got to town, we all decided whale watching was too pricy, though now I think we wished we had! So instead, we went to the beach and had a lazy day. Now the water looked nice, but it was freezing. So cold. And even more than that, the pebbles really hurt your feet. So swimming did not really happen. On the way to Kaikoura we stopped at a seal colony, which was pretty cool, but not as sweet as my sea lion buds in Oregon. They are my favourite!
In Kaikoura we spent our first night camping. It was not the most pleasant. But there was a nice sunset. So you win some, you lose some. Onward to Christchurch!

I really, really liked Christchurch. I wish we would have had more time there, earthquakes aside. From this trip, I think I have found that I enjoy being in new cities a lot, using maps to get around them, exploring and just browsing through. Christchurch felt friendly and a nice size. We stayed in a hostel right on the main square which was really awesome too. The square has a massive Anglican cathedral, a few sculptures, a little market, a chess set, and was just kind of a nice hang out.
My favourite sculpture
At first it seemed that there was a ton of construction going on in Christchurch; then I realized they were rebuilding from the earthquake in September. There was a lot of damage. Entire blocks of buildings were closed, which makes you wonder what the owners do for income. Hopefully they have good insurance I guess!
We were a little out of it from camping when we first arrived, so got checked in and took it easy for the day. Andrew and I had a nice lunch in the sun, then we just hung out. We stopped at the i-desk and tried to do some planning. A wonderful, wonderful employee came and took over for us; I think she could see we were lost and just bossed us into shape. Thank you so much! It was such a nice feeling for someone to tell us where we wanted to go, help with all the hostel bookings and just take care of us.
The next day was Christmas Eve, which I’ve shared about a bit. We headed down to the beach to do some surfing. I have never surfed on Christmas Eve before, and I would like to again. However, surfing is not one of my natural talents. One day, one day. Andrew was pretty decent, and I finally get to date/be married to a surfer. Life dream realized.
We had pizza from Pizza Hut that evening in the Enns family tradition and headed to a late night carol singing service and mass at the Anglican cathedral. That was probably the biggest church service I have ever attended.
Christmas day we went back to the beach and just lounged. We bbqed hot dogs and shrimp (yes, put another shrimp on the barbie was said a few times!) and just had a good time.
Too hilarious not to post!
Merry kiwi Christmas in retrospect!
P.S. Boxing day was pretty exciting too!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

South: Take that, Abel Tasman

One of my goals in New Zealand was to do an overnight hike (tramp!). It seemed like the thing to do here, and they have so many great walks, I thought it would be a shame to miss them. Abel Tasman is one of the most popular because it is just gorgeous. You walk through cool green forests and then pop out onto golden beaches. Beautiful.

However, the day before we were going to hike and the morning of the hike and then the afternoon of the hike, it rained. A lot. Constantly. However, we had booked a hut to stay in so we went on. It was a bit of a drive out to Abel Tasman, and it rained. When we got there it rained. As we hiked it rained. But you know what, it was still a lot of fun! We even were asking ourselves why we didn’t do this more at home, because if we are tough enough to stand the rain, well then we are real hikers. However, if at home someone asked me to go for a hike in the rain, while carrying all my stuff, for three hours each day, I would say no. And then go eat some ice cream. So New Zealand does something to you, I guess.

Anyways, we felt like the cast of the Lord of the Rings as we set off, even adding in some thematic music. A quick incline killed that rather quickly though.
Andrew was the official walking stick finder, and did quite a nice job

About an hour in, we got to the first beach. And you know what, it really was all worth it. The beach was beautiful, and we were the only one on it. Just a small little cove, with beautiful sand, surrounded by forest. We all considered swimming but figured we would freeze. I would have loved to come on a warm day!

After this we saw a seal that we figure was injured. He was in a cove by himself, not moving a whole lot. Sad. He sure was a stinker though, worse than any skunk smell!

There were two more beaches in the last two hours, one of which we had to cross a little creek on a log (note this for later) which was no problem. By the end we were all very ready to get to the hut, with dreams of a campfire and some hot tea and some food. These were misguided dreams, when all you bring is sandwiches to eat. A hint, when you go on a hike and plan to eat (crappy with bad bread and nasty mayo) sandwiches the whole time, do not eat only sandwiches for the two days before. This was a slight miscalculation on our part. One more fun tip: do not buy no-name mayo, and do not spill it all over your car either (just us, okay!).

Feeling a little sorry for ourselves,, we forced ourselves to play some Uno - just not in the mood, then Mindtrap - better, then made up our own Mindtraps, - best, and then went to bed because it was too dark to do anything else.

Oh yes, before we went to bed, the park ranger came by and said there was a heavy rainfall warning. Yahoo!

In the morning, there was more rain. A lot of rain. We decided to get going asap, because there was no sign it would be letting up any time soon. Within ten minutes, we had to go through an ankle deep puddle. Okay shoes, you are now drenched, no point even trying! I think we all felt pretty sorry for ourselves for awhile, but then we sang Christmas carols to cheer ourselves up. I’m very thankful that there was no one else around. There are a lot of Christmas carols out there, and it is weird which words you know and which ones you don’t!

We got to the first beach, where we had crossed the little creek on a log the day before. Umm, no log anymore, and not just a little creek, a whole river had formed, and it was moving pretty good. Andrew tried to cross along the beach end, and promptly sunk in to his waist. Jen tried a different spot and was in to her waist as well. I didn’t have a pack, so decided to be the tester. We had to go through some brush and crossed a bit higher up. Good thing we read the sign about poisonous plants at the hut! Finally we crossed, and I swear, it felt like we were on Survivor or something, so hard core!

On the next beach I decided my shoes were already soaked, and just waded straight into the water. It felt good! The waves looked really intense though, they were crashing around, like they wanted to drag you in. On another beach, we saw a seal jumping along the surf, which is one of my favourite moments of the whole trip. It’s so neat to just spy animals doing their thing.

At long last we got back to the car, but now what? Getting into dry cloths is a bit difficult when you are soaked! I rinsed my shoes under the camp tap as they were full of sand., never had runners that soaked before. We piled back into the car (it probably stunk like crazy) and went back to Nelson where it was nice and sunny. Thanks a lot! We did some intense laundry, and had a nice swim in their pool, which just felt so luxurious. It was wonderful to be dry.

Anyways, we did it!