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Monday, February 28, 2011

Just for laughs

So in New Zealand, Andrew and I went for a hot date at BurgerFuel (the most delicious burgers ever!).  It's kind of like upscale fast food to give you an idea.  Anyways, they were playing these videos in the restaurant, and Andrew thought they were so hilarious.  He was literrally laughing out loud, almost lying on the table.  I was embarrassed, but they are pretty funny.  Enjoy!

Warning: these are dumb, but also funny.  
We do not take responsibility for time wasted (there are waaaaay more).


Kangaroo - the first one we saw

The Bat - also seen in New Zealand

Snail - oh so funny that we found last night

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cairns, Cairns, Cairns

Now before we start, Cairns is pronounced Cannes (like the place in France).  I know, I know, we did it too, but once you know, it's a little irritating to hear the wrong way!

So Cairns.  Hmm, where to start.  Well, Cairns was not our favourite part of the trip.  A little intro: when we decided we wanted to be back in Canada mid-Feb, we really wanted to do more travelling other than New Zealand.  Australia seemed like the best option, since we were over there already, and it had been our original plan.  However, we were more pumped about getting to go through China on the way home, so SE Asia may have been a good option too.  When we talked Oz, we knew we did not have enough time or cash to do everything.  Our top things were to scuba on the Great Barrier Reef and see the Opera house.  Coming off of three weeks in the South of NZ, we were tired of moving around a lot, and also found buses and transport to be surprisingly expensive.  So we planned to stick to two areas, and take a bit more time in each.  We debated between Cairns and Brisbane, and ultimately chose Cairns because of the horrific flooding in Brisbane.  Cairns and Sydney it was!  

So we sadly left New Zealand behind, and headed off to Cairns.  We had a very early flight that went through Brisbane, so spent the night at the airport.  Not too bad, but when the airline people tell you that you have to pay an unexpected luggage fee and repack your bags to avoid more fees at FIVE in the morning, you may not react in the most kind manner.  Oops.  

I almost slept through the takeoff, and pretty much missed a last glimpse of fair Auckland.  Sad.  We had a nice quick layover in Brisbane, which we thought seemed nice, however gave us a nice look at the extravagant Aussie prices, yowch.  Then off to Cairns, everything was going smoothly.

Three-quarters of the way to Cairns, the pilot announces that a cyclone is approaching.  Andrew had kept an eye on the weather, which said thundershowers all week.  That was pretty disappointing, but we didn't even think of trying to rearrange our trip.  However, thundershowers are different than a cyclone!  Still, we didn't think too much of it.  

The hostel sent a driver to pick us up after a (VERY) long wait, and he promptly started talking about the cyclone.  Didn't sound too great at this point, but we were more concerned about not getting any time on the beach.  However, at the hostel, people were freaking out.  We found out it was a Category 5, were told to stock up on food, and that we would be in the (very small, full of windows) hostel bar during the cyclone.  We debated trying to get out of there, but decided we would probably not get very far.  So after a nice swim, and a trip to the crazy grocery store, where we got one of the last loaves of bread, we packed everything up so we'd be all ready and headed to bed.

Then we were woken up at 6AM, and told we were being evacuated, not to the bar, but to an evacuation center.  Umm, that sounds significantly worse, yet better.   Worse storm, but much better than letting the hostel staff keep us safe.  FYI staff, if I can see your underwear, your dress (AKA shirt with no pants) is too short.  We got downstairs to the entire foyer full of people, all trying to get on the first bus.  Not too fun! The hostel had taped most of the glass, including the pinball machine, which was kind of funny.

waiting to be evacuated
But this has gotten significantly long, so part 2 soon...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More housekeeping

Hey all, I've gotten a few questions about leaving comments and just wanted to let you know that even if you don't have a Google account, you can still leave a comment by using the Name/URL option and entering your name (website not needed) or as Anonymous.  Hope that helps!  We will be expecting a flood of comments now, and please let me know if there is any trouble.

Christchurch

So everyone, we are back in Canada, safe and sound.  We got back here last Friday, Feb 18th, and have been enjoying being back.  It's been pretty busy, and we are full on job searching.

Anyways, we're sure you've all heard about the earthquake in Christchurch.  In case you forgot, while we were in Christchurch there was an aftershock, but it was nothing like this.  I can't stop reading the news, it sounds just awful.   I can't imagine how terrifying that must have been, and still is.  We are sure that the entire country is just reeling.  The cathedral where we spent Christmas Eve, and really the centre of the city has partially collapsed, and it is just surreal to think that we were there, and now the whole city is destroyed.  Please keep these kiwis in your prayers, I'm sure it's been a tough few days.  Christchurch was a beautiful city and one of the highlights of the trip.  Right now there are over 70 confirmed dead, and many more still missing.  This is huge for such a small country like New Zealand.  The hostel we were in was a minute walk from the cathedral, so I am sure there was damage there too.  I just grieve for those people who can no longer feel safe in their homes, who have come through one destructive earthquake and started to rebuild, to be faced with an even harder hit.

Our picture
Now.  Our hostel was on the left edge (where the trees and cars are, not the cranes), making a right angle with the buildings shown

A few links:
News
Video

As well, the continuing crisis in the Middle East is also so sad.  Praying for peace and resolution there too.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Far North: Sledding, Sun, and Sand

Way back when (December), when we had just found jobs and were starting in a few days, we decided to take a quick trip to the “far North” or Northland. It was so strange that the Far North is warmer and a holiday hotspot, not chilly and icy. This is the bit north of Auckland, and we had heard that in particular the Bay of Islands was not to be missed. We had wanted to rent a motorbike for the weekend, but that turned out to be RIDICULOUSLY pricey, so a tin can rental car had to do the trick. Although it’s not that far in kms, the roads are very windy, so it takes a while to get anywhere. We started on the west, and first point of interest was the kauri forest. Kauri are massive, massive trees, up to 5m across. They aren’t all that tall, but they are wide. The forest felt straight out Jurassic Park, and I kept waiting for a dinosaur to pop out to eat us.
A tree big enough to hold a staircase

After the forest, we popped out near two small towns, with the most gorgeous beach. Seriously, top scenery so far at this point. So beautiful, we thought we should move out there.
The next day we took a tour up to the northern tip of New Zealand. To get there, we took a bus up the 90-mile beach, racing the tide to get through. This was really neat. After that, we went sledding. On the sand! Walking up the hill was a serious workout though, and the sled was not fun enough to get us to climb it twice. Snow is much better for sledding, so hopefully you all get to do some of that! Not to rub it in or anything.
The day started with a Maori welcome
We had a brief stop after this, as a van was blocking our path. We were still travelling on sand, up a little stream between the sand dunes. A van had managed to get very stuck at the narrowest part. Three tour bus loads of people got out to take a look, as this wasn’t in the brochure. The bus drivers did not have much sympathy for the driver and yanked him out pretty good. Apparently it was the second time one of the drivers had pulled him out that day, so his patience was running a little thin. It was a good show though, the van just flew out of there!
After all that excitement it was time for lunch. We stopped at a little bay near the tip which was absolutely gorgeous. You can go and camp there, and you would pretty much have a private beach, except when the buses came through. I would love to have stayed there a few days, staying right off the water. Water makes everything 10 times more scenic I think.
This is where we want to camp!
From there we went all the way to the very tip, Cape Reinga. The view was fantastic, and the feeling of being the most north in a country was really cool. This is also where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. We can’t really pinpoint why this was so great, but it was honestly a highlight.
The very tip of New Zealand
However, soon after this we found Andrew’s wallet had gone missing. This seriously wrecked the rest of the day. We think he must have dropped it at lunch, but someone should have seen it very easily there, so who knows what happened. The tour company was very helpful, but it hasn’t turned up. We got to know Skype a little better as he used it to call the banks etc. We heart Skype! It saves us a ton of money! Andrew’s driver’s license was in his wallet too so we are not sure what our options are there. This was sucky, but we are so glad that nothing happened with his credit cards before we cancelled them.
In a bit of a bad mood, we headed out to the Bay of Islands area. We scored a good deal on a hotel, and were pleasantly surprised that it was decent! We debated and debated whether to do a cruise around the Bay as it was highly recommended, or to go sailing, or to save our money. It’s so hard to know sometimes! We did end up doing a cruise, deciding early morning last minute, and while it was good, I’m not sure we would have done it again. Trust your instincts I guess, and then put those dang brochures away!
That being said, a real true highlight was getting to see dolphins in the wild. Wow. They swam along the boat, really close, jumping and blowing. There were even a few babies in the group, which meant we couldn’t swim with them, but that meant some money back! Yay money! This was touristy, but also so cool.

We also went out to the Hole in the Rock which was cool too. This is a gigantic hole through an island that has been formed by water over time. It was too rough to go through, which was too bad. We got quite a ride back, with a lot of water splashing and the boat riding some really big waves which made for a bit of excitement.
The Far North was really nice, one of our favourite places in NZ, and that's saying something!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Windy Wellington

Quite a while ago, we spent a week down south in Wellington. The relationship between Wellington and Auckland is kind of like Calgary/Edmonton, so our fair city got a bit of ribbing. We were lucky enough to stay with Andrew’s friend, who we previously met in Hamilton. She really went the extra mile to make us comfortable and made sure we enjoyed her home town. It might have been to beat out Auckland, or just because she is wonderful.

Wellington was about a 12 hour bus ride from Auckland. Long enough to watch a lot of Glee! It is the capital city of NZ, known for being windy, and is built around a beautiful harbour. On our drive down, we went past Lake Taupo which was gorgeous, a huge lake in about the middle of the North Island. We definitely want to go back and do some camping, or as the kiwis say, “tramping” there. Isn’t that weird, it sounds a little dirty to me, but I guess camping is dirty though too!

After that there was Tangariro National Park, where some of the LOTR Mount Doom scenes were filmed. These mountains were very different from our mountains, as there were just three or four in the area. This park is supposed to have one of the nicest hikes in NZ so we would really like to get back there too. We will teach ourselves to be outdoorsy yet!

Our first day in Wellington we spent at the museum, Te Papa. This is a huge place, going from earthquakes, colossal squid, and blue whale skeletons (massive! I thought it had to be a dinosaur) to Maori meeting houses and art. However, museums do get old after a bit, so we headed over to the Weta cave, which is a special effects company that does, you guessed it, work for LOTR. Surprise, surprise. This was actually a bit underwhelming, just a small area with mostly figurines for sale. It is amazing what people will buy and for how much. For example, a replica “One Ring” was a measly $4000. Definitely a good investment.
Huge!
Creepy
After that, we took the cable car up to a viewpoint over the city. Again the cable car ride was underwhelming, but the view more than made up for it. Wellington is truly beautiful, a bright blue harbour, surrounded by hills, with buildings tucked in wherever they can fit.

Our second day, we split up. Andrew went for a half day LOTR tour, and I browsed the downtown. This was actually the longest we have been apart since we left, a whole 4.5 hours. I know, we’re becoming THOSE people. Soon we will buy matching sweaters. We both had a really good time, and you will have to beg him for details. Maybe you can even get him to write a post. He has some good stories...
Jane took us for a drive around the area, and it was just gorgeous. It reminds us a lot of Oregon, where we went on our honeymoon. We love the coast! We found out about a new sport we would like to try: kite boarding. It looks fun.


Lovely!
Third day was started at Parliament, where we got into all kinds of bad international relations. When we got in there, after going through security, the greeter guy was on the phone, so he just gave us our tour stickers and waved us through. Our tour guide started the tour, and 2 minutes in gave Andrew heck for having a backpack. Oops. He headed back to get rid of and got escorted by security back on the ten second walk. Okay, now we are good, we can go on contrasting the NZ political system to the Canadian one. Second stop, guide notices I have a camera in my hand. Security risk! Oh my, must hand it over to security. Fellow tour grouper comments that the building is obviously very secure as I got my camera in, in my hand. Now please note, the NZ parliament has burned down twice. Maybe they should work on getting some more fire extinguishers around or something rather than banning cameras. However, our tour was nice, our guide was not the most thrilling or attentive but it was okay.
The Beehive
The rest of the day was spent taking a (free!) bus ride around the city, hanging out in a park, and just browsing around. We got packed up and the next morning headed out on the bus. A few people on our bus seemed to have headphone issues, as in not using them, just listening to your music as you please. This gets mighty annoying quickly, especially with Usher and Katy Perry making up most of the playlist. We eventually made it home though, and had a good trip. We like windy Wellington!

Anyone out there?

Hey guys, just giving a real update.  We are currently in Australia on our way home.  So far New Zealand definitely has our heart on this side of the world.  It may have something to do with the cyclone we survived, but we think the land of the Kiwis is much better.  Sydney is trying to win us over though!

After this we head to Beijing for a few days and then come back to fair Canada.  It seemed like a good time to come home, as we have a number of weddings this year, kicking off the day after we arrive home, and we hated fundraising!  So we will be back on your side of the globe soon.  Looking forward to seeing you all

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

(Not Really) South: Totally Taupo

I had been wanting to go to Taupo since we had taken the bus down to Wellington. Oh right, I never posted that, so you wouldn’t know. One day soon! We’ll just get through the South and then get caught up on everything else. 

Anyways, Taupo is a beautiful lake in the middle of the North Island. Erin and Jen dropped us off, and we settled into our hotel. Though not the nicest place, we had a great view of the lake – just spectacular. The first night we made a trip to Burgerfuel – yum yum. This is a chain that needs to come to Canada.

A sweet McDonald's
The next day was spent walking around town and lounging by the lake. Yes a very hard life. Our last bit of holidays before we got back on the phones, we had to enjoy it!


The next day we hiked out to Huka Falls, before meeting our bus. These falls were not very steep (not like the ‘tallest waterfall near a road’ or anything), but the water was a beautiful foamy blue. So pretty, worth the trip. However when we first started the hike, we noticed people were carrying towels and wearing their swim suits. Ten minutes in, we saw the first nice swimming area on the river. And then the next, and the next. We were pretty jealous of everyone else, should have brought our stuff! After teh hike we went back to the lake for a quick dip before popping onto the bus. At this point both iPods were dead, and all the books had been read, so it was a bit of a long trip.
Not even close to the true colour
It felt so good to be back in Auckland, we had missed our home town. Wonderful Auckland, where we have a washer and dryer and our good old library and we know the street names. Home again, home again.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

South: West Coast Pancakes

We gladly left Franz Josef, and drove up the coast to Westport. This was Erin’s first day driving! Initially I was disappointed as it was still foggy and rainy, but the scenery did not disappoint. It was gorgeous again. I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record, but you run out of words sometimes. Let me see, the fog cloaked the steep hills, as the harsh waves crashed into the desolate rocks. The contrast between the surf and the wooded slopes took your breath away. Does that help at all? A stunning, yet unforgiving looking area.

we looked hard, but did not see any penguins

We stopped at the Pancake Rocks, which has layers of rock that have been exposed by the pounding waves. The spray was quite impressive too. Andrew loved it here. We drove through Greymouth, which is where the mining tragedy was, and stopped in Westport.
You can kind of see the layers here
After Westport, we headed to Picton for our last night in the South. Our hostel wowed us by serving chocolate pudding and ice cream, a sweet treat. We had been talking about it for days, as in their ads it was one of the main selling points of the place. It was good! They also had a hot tub, so it was a pretty good place. Also free wi-fi, best hostel ever! Except for lack of keys, annoying check in, and an extra person sleeping on the floor of our room. Oh well, can’t have it all.
eating mussels
The next day saw us back on the ferry heading north, our time in the South over. We were all looking forward to having regular internet, and clean clothes! So much laundry. However, Andrew and I made one more stop in Taupo.

Friday, February 4, 2011

South: Glass-ier

After Milford, and dealing with a dead battery in the car, we had a huge day of driving ahead of us. We drove ten hours over to the West Coast. Our destination was Franz Josef glacier. We had wanted to stop on the way and see Mt. Cook, but again it rained all day, so that was not an option. Mt. Cook, you elude us! But we have better mountains in Alberta anyways, so there!

Franz Josef town was small, our hostel was not the greatest, and it was pouring. This equals a few grumpy travellers. Andrew and I went and saw the glow-worms out in the forest (you may remember we saw them in caves too). I really think they are neat. Can’t explain it!

The next day poured even harder. Excellent! We did not go see the glaciers. This may sound sad, but we would have been drenched within ten minutes. Walking to the i-Desk, we got absolutely soaked, and that was probably 5 minutes. We did some bookings and then watched movies and hung out the rest of the day. Kind of sad that we went to the glacier town, and didn’t see the glaciers up close, but oh well, we have glaciers in Alberta too. I actually have no pictures from that town!

Also, it is really annoying when people pronounce glay-cher as glass-ier. Urg. Not right!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Things I Like: Auckland edition

libraries – free and wonderful

free tea from hotels – I have built up quite a stash

old pretty church buildings

Cotton On – cute stuff, not too pricey

warm weather

living downtown

wearing shorts in January

the harbour

free shuttles

actually, free anything!