Archives for the month of: March, 2014

Scrubbed Up for the Scrum

Saturday, March 29, 2014

In the midst of taking it easy and trying to figure out my plans for the rest of my time here, I got to catch up with a couple of friends who live in town and go to a local rugby game. The Warriors home team creamed the Tigers in what I assume was a good brawl (I still could not tell you a thing about the game’s rules), and we enjoyed a fun night out. Here’s our victory picture: Mel from Germany, Rory my Christmas roommate from Northern Ireland, Amy my current roommate from London, me and Mountain originally from Scotland.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Needless to say, by the time Mom left, I was thoroughly exhausted from our non stop couple of weeks together. It was an amazing visit, and I am glad I got to show her as much as I did. After nearly 5 months, my time on the South Island was up. The two of us took the InterIslander ferry for the North Island and enjoyed the beautiful three hour crossing of the Cook Strait.

I had heard from a number of Kiwis how the capital city of Wellington is a “cool little city,” so I was really hoping to enjoy it there. In Kiwi speak, I imagined their definition of a city to be more like an oversized town, but while Welly may seem smaller in size, it is still a proper city full of tall buildings, busy streets and sophisticated professionals crowding the sidewalks. Before Mom had to catch her flight home Wednesday night, we got to ride the cable car to the top of the Botanic Gardens and get this classic city shot. Don’t get me wrong, Wellington is a very interesting place, but real city life has never been my style. I think after spending so much time in remote South Island, I am experiencing a bit of a culture shock coming back into the “real world.”

With a Paddle

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mom and I booked a day in the Abel Tasman National Park to go kayaking and visit the seals in the marine reserve on Tonga Island. If you ever decide to visit the Abel Tasman, kayaking over walking is the way to see it. We took the water taxi from Marahau to Torrent Bay and got to hike 2 hours to Bark Bay before our group with the Sea Kayak Company launched. It was another gorgeous day on the water, calm and perfectly peaceful. Paddling around Tonga Island, we got to get close to a number of fur seals who looked so curious and playful as they stared back at us. Mom’s visit was slowly starting to wrap up, and it was a wonderful day to soak up life in paradise.


Friday, March 21, 2014

26 was probably one of the best birthdays I had in years! It was a perfect day, sunny with hardly a cloud in the sky and a steady breeze. I had never been on a sailboat before, and I was very much looking forward to our three hour tour. I obviously know nothing about sailing, but I definitely did not know the extent to which the boat teeters to one side when the wind really picks up. One would thing that sailing would be peaceful and relaxing with no powerful engines to disturb the tranquility of you and the water, but not with me on board. Every time the boat would dramatically lean to one side, I would make all sorts of shrieks and squeals. Who knew that sailing could be added to the list of NZ adrenaline activities? Captain Phil with Sounds by Sail was incredibly trusting to let Mom and I both steer, and showed us a fabulous day on the water. Our pictures are absolutely hysterical, and I can’t wait to share them all as soon as I can get them uploaded.

The Third Pedal

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mom and I caught a flight from Queenstown to Nelson to save on travel time. We hired another rental car, and since we were on a bit of a time crunch, I immediately jumped in the driver’s seat to take off for the city centre before driving to the secluded Hopewell in the Marlborough Sounds. I adjusted the seat. That’s not right. Why is there a third pedal down there? Look at the gear shifter. That’s not right. Why are there numbers on the handle? Sheer panic. “Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!!” “What?!” “They gave us a manual!” We are so stranded at this airport, I thought to myself. “Don’t worry. I know how to drive a stick shift.” We are so stranded at this airport.

Even though we were in a Ford Focus, one of the most American cars in the world, there was nothing American about this model. The driver’s seat was on the right, and it was not an automatic. I knew how ridiculously windy the drive ahead of us was going to be, but I kept my mouth shut and didn’t say a word. I felt really bad Mom had to drive, but there wasn’t a thing I could do to help her. Almost 30 minutes into the drive to the Kenepuru Sound, she was getting really over it, but at that point, it was just funny. And I mean side-splitting funny.

We approached road construction, where we had to briefly stop. When the dude man signaled for us to green light go, Mom stalled out. I have no doubt this Kiwi traffic director wasn’t impressed with our automatic accustomed American style of driving, and the look on his face mixed with Mom’s uneasiness sent me into absolute hysterics. As we touch and go made our way through the construction, I realized we over shot our turn off for Te Mahia. Mom did whatever she did to have our car roll backwards, not reverse drive, but proper roll backwards, and even though we could no longer see said dude man, I was confident he was thinking something about us as the fits of laughter coming from our tiny little vehicle only got louder.

We inched our way down another steep road, and I accidentally directed her the wrong way again. I don’t think Mom was very amused, and right when a group of four started walking in our direction, she stalled out for the second time. Busted again! This sent us over the edge, and I was laughing so uncontrollably at this point I was on the verge of serious stomach aches. Tears were streaming down my face and were now clouding up my sunglasses. Once we finally found the wharf where the water taxi was picking us up for Hopewell, we were so grateful we had a ride to save us from another hour and a half drive. Hopewell was nothing short of pure New Zealand magic, and the warm welcomes we received from the owners made our complicated journey completely worth it. Here we are enjoying mussel night. The green lipped mussels here are massive, and easily four times the size of the mussels at home.

Working on the Railroad

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Start time: 10:20am
Distance: 47km
Finish time: 4:50pm
Weather: Hot and Sunny

Apparently biking 47km of the Poolburn Gorge Spectacular on the Central Otago Rail Trail after hiking 35km on the Routeburn was a good idea. The Rail Trail is a 4 day bike ride from Clyde, a little over an hour away from Queenstown, to just outside Dunedin where an old railway use to be. It is a relatively flat, or downhill in our direction, gravel path, which is nothing like biking on asphalt.

Where we started in Auripo was probably the most scenic of our day. It was vast and open in every direction with a dry arid terrain dotted with fascinating rocks. We biked through two very dark tunnels, crossed over old bridges with the railroad track still in place and flew down the down hills when we could. The little towns that bordered the trail had old stations to pass by, and we stopped for lunch and a couple beers when we reached Omahau.

Along the next stretch, we crossed pastures full of cows, sheep and horses. Every time we would “moo” or “baah” at them, they would just stare at us in what seemed like total disgust. The sun beat down on us with no shadow shelter along the path, and we eventually found another cute little tavern to stop in for a pint. The Chatto Creek Tavern was the last booze stop until Alexandra, so we made sure to extra enjoy. The day completely gorgeous, and will probably be one of my NZ highlights. The “Ale” Trail was a beauty, and I look forward to completing the entire track one day.

Routeburn Day #3: The Glacial Facial

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Start Time: 8am
Distance: 12km
Finish Time: 1:45pm
Weather: Fine

We certainly noticed the aftermath of the non-stop rain last night. The trail for the first few hours was completely flooded, and at one point it was so filthy muddy, there was just no avoiding getting utterly caked in it. I had to stop and laugh at Mom for squealing like a little girl when we had to navigate through the mess.

The highlight of our day was definitely our glacial facial at the Earland Falls, 174 meters high. This truly massive waterfall captivated us, and as we crept closer for a better look, we subconsciously decided to forgo the alternative flood route. We quickly found out why it’s there. When we got a bit closer, we crossed paths with a guy who looked pretty soaked. That’s strange, we thought. Maybe it’s raining further ahead. We clambered over more rocks to stand before this beauty, getting thoroughly splashed and sprayed in the process.

From a distance, it looked like we only had to cross a narrow foot bridge in the splash zone, but little did we know that was just the beginning. The real boulder climbing started, and navigating our way in this non-explicit path became a slow moving challenge upon slippery surfaces with a constant spray of glacial water gusting in our face. Mom kept shouting for me to go faster, but there was just no way. Between me shouting “Ahh!” and her screaming “Ooh! Ooh!” I have no doubt we sounded (and looked) a fool. I regret someone not being there to video us. By the time we successfully traversed our ways back on track, we were soaked. Quite refreshed, but quite wet. And cold. I had an absurd amount of goose bumps on my bare arms with water drops on the verge of freezing on my little arm hairs. Thank you dude man for not warning us. How hard would it have been for you to at least suggest we put our rain gear on?!

Routeburn Day #2: Not Enough Whiskey

Monday, March 17, 2014

Started Time: 8am
Distance: 11.3km
Finish Time: 1:30pm
Weather: Rain

We got to enjoy about a half hour of clear skies at the gorgeous Routeburn Falls until the rain settled in for the entire rest of the day. By the time we summited Harris Saddle, the highest point on the trail, the rain was cold and very unwelcome. Everyone says that day two of the Routeburn is why people often prefer the track to the Milford because you get to enjoy alpine views throughout the day, but since Cyclone Lucy was rolling into the South Island, the constant rain and clouds robbed us of any views whatsoever. It was such a huge let down. By this point in our hike, we were exposed higher than the canopy level with zero shelter from the elements, and all we could see was sheer white clouds past the tree line. At one overlook that I am sure is normally stunning on a clear day, I even waved my Sheppard’s hiking stick to try and part the clouds like Noah would do. I was highly unsuccessful. You could have told me purple people eaters and unicorns were tailgating in the valley below, and I would have believed you. The visibility was that bad.

The fog shifted briefly enough for us to spot what looked like water below, and possibly even a lake. As we began our descent down, our views got better below the clouds. Alas, it was Lake Mackenzie, and we had finally found shelter! It was quite a view with this massive blue lake nestled in the mountains, and Mom said it was one of her favorite sights. We met back up with the tree line, and got to hike in the most enchanting of any green mossy forest. It almost felt like a scene from “The Wizard of Oz” where we could see the Lake Mackenzie Hut, our Emerald City, but while it appeared so close, we were still so far away running through our field of poppies.

It was a very unconventional way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but at least we packed red wine and green plastic cups for the occasion. I have no doubt my newfound Irish friends will be highly disappointed that there was not enough whiskey.

Routeburn Day #1: Lucy in the Sky with Raindrops

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Started Time: 10:25am
Distance: 8.8kn
Finish Time: 3pm
Weather: Overcast

The Routeburn Track is considered to be one of the finest walks in the world, and Mom and I were scheduled to hike the 35km of the trail in 3 days. We commended our trek about a half hour drive past Glenorchy at the Routeburn Shelter, and ventured out into the wild. The clouds blanketed the sun to keep temperatures from getting too hot, which suited us perfectly for ideal hiking conditions. It was a beautiful hike through the woods, over suspension bridges and along cool running water. The colors of shaded tan mountains with green mossy trees against the blue river were so vivid it looked like someone drew this scene with the most brilliant of crayons. We got open views through the tree line, unlike my first day on the Heaphy Track, which I loved. Even though the golden grass and dried streams were not as lush as I had hoped, the sheer vastness of the valley between two mountain ranges left me in awe. We made it to the Routeburn Falls Hut just before the rain started coming down, and Cyclone Lucy had officially hit the South Island.

If everyone else jumps off a bridge…

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The first ever bungy jump originated in Queenstown, New Zealand, the adrenaline capital of the world. The Kawaru Bridge stands 47 meters over the turquoise waters of the Kawaru River in a stunningly beautiful location. I had only jumped once before in Cairns, Australia in 2008, and I remember having to climb up hundreds of stairs to the top of the bridge, heightening my anxiety with every step. It was so relieving to walk out of the sign in station and already be even elevation with the brink.

In trying to remember the events of my experience, it all happened so fast. Mom, the seasoned professional jumped first. Emily, the bungy virgin, disappeared second, leaving me at the top of this bridge all on my own to go last. Walking, or more like inching to the plank with your feet bound together is the worst part. You feel so vulnerable and exposed. Feeling the weight of the cord vanishing below isn’t exactly a settling feeling either. Once I jumped, my little arms went furiously flailing about, and before I realized it, the water below was quickly approaching. Splash! I didn’t just touch the water, I proper went in. My hair, shoulders and the better park of my shirt were soaked. As I popped back up for a mini reverse freefall, all I could think about was the water in my nose. Water. In my nose. On a bungy! I bobbled violently up, and plunged back down while all the while I could hear Emily on the observation platform hysterically laughing at me.

But the adrenaline rush wasn’t the best part. While we were enjoying our victory beers, I turned around to a very unsuspecting sight: a bachelor wearing a lime green “man-kini” and a glittery red Tina Turner wig. A group of guys from Wanaka were partying for said dude man’s bachelor party or “stag do.” Leave it to Queenstown. Never a dull moment!