Previously, this was a blog mostly to harass my poor friends and family with the details of my life. Don't worry-- that will continue. However, I'm also going to use this as a terrible forum for dialogue about green tips and eco-revolutions. Hopefully it will be helpful and entertaining...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Saying Goodbye to New Zealand

I cannot believe it is here. Finals are done, I'm all packed up, and I leave in just a few short hours. My semester went fantastically and I couldn't really wish for a better time abroad. I volunteered for the last time at the Arts Recycling Center and painted this huge tiger mask/costume for the Christmas Parade that, unfortunately, occurs after I leave...

Pretty awesome for doing it free hand, I must say... I also did my last yoga class and a bunch of other 'last' things in Palmy. Leaving right now has me very melancholy, but not exactly sad. I haven't cried yet. I said goodbye to Bruce last week and Rob and Roxanne on Saturday right after my last final. I managed to run into Bri earlier today and gave her a quick hug. I helped Becca get her stuff on the bus and saw Mckenzie too... so everyone has been said-goodbye-to. The hall is deserted, just like it was when I came here. My room is empty except for my bags. It seems surreal that I'm already done. Like I'll wake up and it will be July 5th all over again...

Being as I am about to leave, I got quite sentimental in picture taking. Behold!

Baby ducks!


Me at the Massey sign!

The sign is right as you enter campus. They seem to really want people to take pictures with this sign, as shown by the back of the sign

So at 10 o'clock I take the overnight bus up to Auckland, where I'll meet Allison quite early in the morning. After some sustenance provided by Auckland's Own Dunkin' Donuts, we'll go rent our car and then drive up to the house of Allison's DARLING friend, Charlotte. There we will drop off our luggage we don't need for Australia as well as relax. Then it's back to Auckland for a good night's rest before flying to Melbourne in the morning... For those of you still in finals, here is what you can drool over:

I will be in the following cities:
Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Byron Bay, and Brisbane

I will be doing the following things:
Ghost tours, visiting the Australian Zoo, cuddling koalas, seeing the Sydney Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, learning to surf, visiting Bondi Beach, visiting various art museums, possibly going to a nude beach, diving on the coral reef, and visiting more art museums. ALL WITH ALLISON!!!!! which makes it all 10 times more exciting :)

We are planning on having a fantastic vegan Thanksgiving, which I am looking forward to with the utmost joy... yummmmmmy.

As of right now, it's about 25 days til my butt is back in the states, which is both awesome and sad. I am really looking forward to all the Australia stuff, so keep me in your thoughts that my plans go fairly smoothly. For now, I need to go vaccuum my room and have my 'last supper' at the dining hall :P Here is a picture to show how much I'm looking forward to the holidays. I love NZ candy :)

Mwah!!!! See y'all on the flip side...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fieldtrip and the North of the North

Well hello my dear friends and/or family!!! I have returned from my weeklong vacay to the North of the North (Island) and now I am supposedly getting down to my final studying... we'll see about that. Anyways, here is what I did on my fab vacation!

To start it off, before I even went on vacation, I had my first and last field trip in New Zealand! It was for my geography class, and we basically drove around in a bus to various sites in the Manawatu region and looked at local examples of geological phenomena! LOTS OF FUN! But we did stop by the wind turbines (NOT WIND MILLS, because wind mills are made to MILL flour...) The turbines were HUGE. Monolithic, I would say. It made me really happy that I got to see them up close. I tried to get a picture for scale...

That is the base of the turbine with a school-bus-sized... bus... So, they were large and not noisy at all. GO THE ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES!!!

After that fun day, I had just enough time to finish packing before Bri and I headed out on our trip. The first place we went was to the Bay of Islands, which is the northern tip of the North Island of New Zealand. On the way there, we went to the Kauri Museum (which was a bit of a dive, but it was cool to see how the Kiwi Pioneers had felled these huge trees... in a depressing kind of way...). I guess I should explain what Kauri is... Kauri is a type of tree that is HUGE. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the wind turbines, which I think is significant in a cosmic sense. Kauri's are just as wide as Redwood trees, but not as tall (I think..) If you are really interested, wikipedia has this to say. After visiting the Kauri Museum, we drove through a national park that has about 75% of the remaining Kauri. The forest was what used to cover the entire top half of the Northern Island, before human settlement...

We stopped to see Tane Mahuta, who is named after the Maori forest god, and is the biggest (via diameter width) Kauri. It is SO hard to describe the magnificence of this tree-- the only thing I can think of, is that it was like seeing the Tree of Life at Disney World, but real. Seriously. Bri and I both said, at the same time, "Holy Shit." Tane Mahuta is believed to be about 2,000 years old... which puts a lot of persepctive on our measly little lives, espcially considering that many of the Kauri trees that were felled in the past were older and/or larger.

This is Tane Mahuta, with wee little people in front of him...

We stopped again to see some younger Kauri trees, and we could get close to these thanks to platforms-- you can't get too close because the roots are very delicate! Here is me showing my hippy side, hugging one of them. Again, notice how INSANELY LARGE it is.

After the long bus ride through the Kauri forest, we ended up in Paihia. Bri and I had a FANTASTIC jog through the town and saw a few different places. On historical notes, just outside of the town is where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, and across the bay is Russell, which was New Zealand's first capital!

We went to a little barbecue that night and then started drinking... and I drank a bit too much, but ended up (eventually) in my hostel bed, safe and sound. The next day we got up (luckily, because I totally forgot to set an alarm :0) for the Cape Reinga Day Trip! YAY!

Cape Reinga is THE northern tip of New Zealand. You can see where the Tasman Sea in the west meets the Pacific Ocean in the east. And when I say "you can see", I DO MEAN you can SEE!!! Apparently it wasn't the best day, but you could still see the two bodies of water smashing against each other. I was so impressed that I took the crappy video below... Forgive the quality...

Here is a picture from the tip of the Cape, again showing the insanity of two bodies of water meeting:

There was a signpost with distances to various destinations, so I took the obligatory photo of myself walking towards LA...

On the way back, we stopped at these huge sand dunes!!! AND WE BODY BOARD-ED DOWN IT!!! AND I WIPED OUT WONDERFULLY! Here is a video:

So after that I had the wonderful joy of being covered in sand for the rest of the day! WOOT! It was fun though :) After that, we DROVE along 90 Mile Beach, which was kind of surreal... because now and again waves would kind of hit the bus. 90 mile beach, incidentally, is only about 60 miles. It was guessed at being 90 by some shepherd guy who knew that his sheep could go about 30 miles per day, and it took them 3 days to go along this beach. However, the sand apparently impeded their progress because when it was actually measured, it came out to be only about two-thirds of what he thought! I am so full of interesting historical information!!!

After that drive, we headed all the way back to Paihia and went to sleep early sans drinking. The next day, we had a free morning before heading back to Auckland. We did a fun little trip in a speed boat where we went to see Hole in the Rock and Cathedral Cave! That's right, a ROCK with a HOLE in it! INSANITY!!! Actually, it was pretty gorgeous to see...


and up close

I got pretty excited

After the boat ride, we hopped back on the bus and headed down the opposite side of the northern part of the island... We got back to Auckland, had some dinner, met up with Allison, and yarn crafted for a bit... The next morning we were up and away again, off to the Coromandel Penninsula, which is south of Auckland. The weather for the trip was horrid, but I'm still glad we did it.

On the way, we stopped to look at the (cloudy but still wonderful) view...

Note the rocky crags out in the ocean!

Unfortunately, the weather was bad enough that we couldn't kayak. We headed over to Cathedral Cove (different from Cathedral Cave, mentioned above) and walked through torential downpours for about an hour to see this site:

I am standing against the wall in the picture above and in the middle of the cove in the picture below...

There were some kids playing rugby in there, waiting for the rain to subside. Which it never did. Afterwards, Bri and I got fruit smoothies and then we drove over to Hot Water Beach. This is one of the top 10 beaches in the world, apparently. It is located on top of TWO geothermal thingies that make the watertable underneath the sand REALLY hot... It was way too cold for us to put on swim suits and dig our own spa pools, so we did what everyone but one crazy girl was doing-- hitched up our pants and dug our feet into the sand. At first, I thought people were just dumb, because my feet warmed up, but only in that "My feet have a small amount of insulation due to sand covering them" way. Then we moved to a place that must have been right on top of the geothermal activity, because the water felt BOILING hot! It burned my little toesies!!! HURRAY! Afterwards my feet were uber soft from the hot water and sand, which impressed me quite a bit.

At that point Bri and I were both soaked to the bone, so we hopped on the bus and headed to our stop for the night at Paihia. First we did some bone-carving, which was fascinating. We got a bone that was shaped already, but we sanded and polished it so that it looked like real jewelery and not just some silly peice of shaped-bone. Very exciting. I will show it off when I get back.

The next day we got back to Auckland in the early afternoon, giving Bri and I enough time to souvenir shop as well as go to Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World! Which is one of the most impressive aquariums I've been in. Most importantly, it had a penguin exhibit. We couldn't turn the flash on our cameras, but we COULD video it. Note Bri's comment at the end that her pictures aren't turning out! HA HA!

Kelly Tarlton was a genuis of a marine biologist and designed this underwater area where you go through a tube through the aquarium... So I got a picture representing with his bust...

The best part of the trip was getting to see Robyn Hitchcock play later that night. I got a shirt signed for Papa Steve and got to be wow'ed by the performance and wit of Mr. Hitchcock and the Venus 3...

On Wednesday we did some shopping all over Auckland, and ended the trip with an AWESOME pizza at the Kiwi Music Bar. Then we loaded back on to the night bus and now I am in the middle of finals... writing a blog instead of studying! I am counting the days until I go to Australia! Details to come...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

School Time!

Well if anyone out there is still reading this blog or even thinking of me anymore, they may be wondering, "Hey, what the hell HAPPENED to Kayleigh anyways? It's been like 3 to 4 weeks I've been sitting here, just waiting for an update to her blog!" Well, friends, I am sorry for the delay. However, this entry will probably do NOTHING to quench your desire for Kiwi-type adventures...

You see, they have this really weird idea about study abroad: you're actually expected to "study" now and again. I know, I know. I, too, was amazed. But that is what I've been up the past few weeks. Doing school projects, going to the gym, and generally having a normal routine in New Zealand.

This is Paul, a kiwi who is in my Soils Lab.

See how interesting it is here! LOOK AT THE PRETTY COLOR OF OUR SOIL SOLUTE THINGY!!!

One weekend I did get to go up to Mt. Ruapehu with MUAC, but I discovered pretty quickly that I HATE snowboarding and I should probably never attempt it. Ever. Furthermore, I may have to pay for my board. Which broke because of a flaw that it had when I got it, but they will not believe me and are convinced that I dropped it off a car or beat it against the side of a wall or something. Oh well.

Last night I went bowling. And discovered I am also quite bad at that! ESPECIALLY WHEN NO ONE WILL PLAY WITH BUMPERS!!! Luckily, I enjoyed it a lot more because I got to where awesome shoes and dance around.

To amuse you, here are some quotes from my classes that humored me:

My geography teacher, in response to a diagram explaining alluvial processes with a tractor:
"now this tractor is supposed to show... ok, ignore the tractor..."

My soils prof, discussing the importance of soil surveys:
"The couple didn't get soil surveys of their land done, and they went bankrupt. And their marriage failed... So always use soil surveys correctly."

My soils prof again on the "rather stupid" location of palmerston north in a flood plain:
"one day palmerston north WILL flood. and people WILL die."

I love school here! Everyone is so absurd! So, that is my absolutely boring blog entry! But do not worry because in two days I am going up to the Northern beaches and I will provide many pictures! Then I'll be back in Palmy for about 2 weeks for finals, then AUSTRALIA! And then home :)

I miss everybody and can't wait to be back! GO JETS!

Friday, September 15, 2006

South Island Trip

My trip to the South Island was FANTASTIC!!! It rocked in multiple ways. Let me see… To begin with, there were actually some scary problems with our airplane tickets that could have completely screwed our entire trip, but luckily we (especially thanks to me) caught it and bought new tickets Wednesday night… They left from Wellington, so Friday morning we were off and away on a bus

We had a few hours in Wellington, which we spent getting some yummy Mexican food and exploring Te Papa (a museum) some more. We caught our flight without any problems, and then got a cab to a nice hostel, dropped off our stuff, and headed into downtown Christchurch for some food and a beer. Initially we tried to go to “Boogie Nights”, but were told ever so nicely that our shoes did not meet their dress code… hahaha. So instead we went to the Irish bar next door which had a rocking band called “The Black Velvet Band”. I forced Bri into dancing and ended up getting twirled around by multiple drunk old kiwi guys. Then we trucked back to the hostel to get up early the next morning for the dolphin swim!!!

Again, there were almost some problems, but Bri this time caught them and all was well. We were able to get out to Akaroa harbor just fine and the weather was pretty good. The sun shined most of the time we were out on the water. We got to put on some wet suits…

Then we went out on the water. We had to ride around on the boat for awhile, looking for the dolphins. They are wild, so they’re not confined to one place. They are called “Hector’s Dolphins” and they are smaller than bottle-nosed. Once we spotted a pod of about five or six, we stopped the boat and got into the water. Because some of the other girls chickened out, I got in first, so I also got the power of the “tapping rocks”—they handed me two rocks and told me to tap them together under the water. Apparently dolphins like that. I let a couple other people try it, but the dolphins totally liked my beat the best. We weren’t allowed to touch the dolphins or anything, just let them swim around us. The waves were huge, so we just kind of laid on our backs and enjoyed the swells. The dolphins got wonderfully close to us, and I felt really in tune with everything. It was marvelous. This is what we looked like, bobbing in the middle of the Pacific:

Off the left is a dolphin fin!!!! When we did leave, I swear one of the dolphins flapped its tail at me. After that experience, we were totally in euphoria. We picked up a pizza and some fruit ice cream from the wharf and then drove back to Christchurch to meet up with Becca and Rob, and then drive on down to Oamaru.

We ended up in an awesome hostel that was situated in a hotel that had been built in the early 1900s. We got up at about 4:30 am, if I remember correctly (it might have been a little later) so that we could drive out to the coast and catch the sunrise... After a lot of exploring, we ended up at this light house we’d heard of where there was a yellow-eyed penguin colony as well as a seal colony!!! It was crazy seeing wild penguins that close.

I also saw a seal climbing up the cliff towards a pasture where the sheep looked slightly nervous… Then we went to one of the coolest places in the trip (thanks to Bri), Moeraki Boulders. We took a million pictures. Here are the best:

The boulders were created in volcanic eruptions millions of years ago and now sit on the beach, looking awesome, especially at sunrise… After that, we tried to wait around for the restaurant to open but they chose to just stare at us instead of opening on time, so chose to drive to Dunedin instead. There, we went to Speight’s Brewery (thanks to Becca). At the end, we got to drink a ton of different beers

In the middle is our awesome tour guide. On the far left is a silly French chap who got in on our photo op…

After a beer tour, it’s only natural to go to the Cadbury’s factory for a chocolate tour!!! We got to see a CHOCOLATE WATERFALL, which was humorous and satisfying. It was fortunate that it wasn’t til later the next day that I decided I should only eat fair trade chocolate…

Then we headed over to another tourist spot, Baldwin Street – THE STEEPEST STREET IN THE WORLD!!!!!!! We conquered it, and yes it really is quite f*cking steep… as Becca kept saying, “Dunedin, what were you thinking?!? Really!!!”

Me, scaling my way to the top…

After all that, there was little we could do but go to the Spaghetteria…

and happen to catch “School of Rock” on tv in the hostel. The next morning, it was up early again to watch the sunrise on the Otago Penninsula—however, we misjudged how far out the actual peninsula was. Nevertheless, we drove part of the way and saw a beautiful sunrise, as well as an albatross colony, and a lone seal swimming in the ocean. On the way back, we tried to stop at Larnach Castle, the only castle in NZ, but it was closed AND costs money…

So we skipped that, and began to drive to Queenstown. We made it by midafternoon, found a fantastic hostel, and went out to a Mexican place for dinner. Then we wandered around the town for a little while longer and headed back to base camp for then night.

The next morning, a cab picked us up from our hostel to take us to a coach to take us to Milford Sound (which is actually a fiord, as it turns out). It was extremely beautiful.

A few quick examples, which completely do not show the actually wonderfulosity!

Probably my favorite pic of Rob and I

And trust me, everyone at home will be seeing a million more of these pictures because it was insanely beautiful. We also got to see some seals! Which always makes me extremely happy. I have pictures of those as well, but I am showing restraint. We got back from that at around 7, and were of course starving. We ended up going over to “The Cow”, and getting some of the best garlic bread and pizza I’ve had. The way that the restaurant works is that everyone shares tables, so Becca, Bri, and I ended up sitting with two separate groups of Australians. It was a lot of fun. Then we went and had a drink at Pog Mahoney’s, but everyone was pretty wiped out so we headed out early, despite an awesome Johnny Cash rendition by the band.

The next morning was The Morning. The day of THE JUMP. Nevis. 134 meters. 440 feet.


Yes, I DID!!!

It was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Truthfully, the moment when you jump and realize that you are completely alone, falling, is absolutely beautiful.

I don’t think for me it was that much about adrenalin, it was just the feeling of being alive for that moment…. Maybe that is the adrenalin… anyways, it was really fantastic and if I ever go back to Queenstown I will definitely be doing it again.

After that, Bri and I figured, hey why not take a helicopter up to the mouth of a river and white raft down??? The ride up was great, especially because I got to sing “suicide is painless” to myself, and pretended to look for the old 4077 sign (if you don’t understand that, you don’t watch nearly enough M*A*S*H). It was in some ways scarier than the bungy because we were expected to actually do things—like paddle. IN DIFFERENT WAYS. Bri and I sat at the front and at first got harassed about it, but then we rocked at keeping rhythm so in the end one of the old guys (whose name was Wombat) bought us a beer. Bri even steered us through a cave, despite my death grip on her legs which almost did her in.

Once Bri and I were completely out of energy, we headed over to Pizza Hut and then met up with everyone else, piled into the car, and began our long as drive to Fox Glacier. It’s unfortunate we had to do it so late, because we were going through the mountains and even in the moonlight it was striking. We pulled into our hostel around midnight, and we all pretty much curled up dead asleep right away.

The next morning, we headed over to the Fox Glacier Helihike area, where we were planning to take a helicopter up to the top of the glacier and then hike around on it for a bit. However, the weather was bad, and they had to cancel it. They told us we could still do a hike, but as Bri put it to them, “Will there be Blue Ice Caves? No? Okay then…” So, we decided to stick around for another day. But first we drove to the nearest city-ish area, Hokitika. There wasn’t much to do there (the west coast of the South Island is pretty much the boondocks), but we looked around at a few craft places and stared at the Tasman Sea for awhile…

and enjoyed some wedges and a beer as well. Then we headed back to Fox Glacier and spent the night. The next morning, we had considerably better luck and got up to that damn glacier!

And we got our damn blue ice caves!!!

Again, for those of you playing the home game, I will be showing you a MILLION more pictures of this beautiful area. Seriously. It was amazing. I am so glad that we got to do it, and in great weather as well. Plus our guide was a hotty… there was only one problem, but I took care of that pretty swiftly

Ha! I am such a humorous person when I have a pick ax!

Once we were done with relaxing on the gargantuan ice cube, we drove through Hokitika again, and then up to Punakaki, the site of the infamous pancake rocks!!! Bri and I went up to them, climbed over a barrier, and watched the sunset…

They are called pancake rocks because of the really obvious layers on the rocks, as you can see in this marvelous picture:

(At this time, Rob, Bruce, and Becca nearly got eaten by the sea, so I was glad that I went with the safer climbing over barriers rather than playing in the ocean option)

Then we headed over to the local pub and got a pizza and some beers. I know fully enjoy beers, by the way. Thank you, South Island. Once we were a bit snookered, we went over to the free hot tub at our hostel. Becca and I went wading in the sea for about 30 seconds, before Becca got taken out and we quickly retreated back to the hot tub.

The next morning was, according to NZ time, my birthday! Becca got me an awesome French Knitting hoogeybooge which I have yet to fully enjoy, but will soon be bringing coasters and various other accoutrements to a Kayleigh near you. For breakfast, I got the “Pancakes Rock” special (no joke), which Bruce bought for me because he (as well as the pancakes) rocks. Then I bought myself a birthday ring, that says “Kia Kaha”, which is Maori and translated on the ring as inner strength, but really means “GO HARD!” and was my mantra/battle cry throughout this trip as well as my whole study abroad experience. Our hostel agreed with their mural…

My birthday was actually pretty uneventful. We spent most of the day driving. We stopped for about 20 minutes in Nelson to try and find this cool yarn Becca and I had heard of, but we couldn’t find it, so then we had to hop back in the car and finish driving to Picton, where we caught the ferry. On the ferry, we drank some champagne, which Bri and Rob bought for me in copious amounts.

I look like a doofus in the corner, but oh well. We got into Wellington around 9, then headed over to the BK Lounge (aka Burger King) for a quick snack. Becca, Bruce, and I grabbed another beer at the hostel’s bar and then we all admitted defeat and slept the night away. It was a very enjoyable birthday, especially for being at the end of the most insane trip I’ve ever had.

In the morning, we took the TranzScenic train back to Palmy, which was neat because it is going to stop running FOREVER in about a month. I ended up sleeping most of the time, but what I did see was awesome. When we got back to Palmy, we realized just how far the train station was from town. We took a cab back to Massey and then I must admit I was happy to be back in MY room, able to do MY laundry, and listen to MY music…

Speaking of which, I managed later that day to break my ipod. It’s fixed now, but I had to get rid of all the music I had on it… all of which is back home. I am probably going to get some of it from home, but if anyone wants to send me mix cd’s, it would rock. Don’t worry, though, I’ve got plenty of friends HERE too, so there…

That’s about all so far. This week has been getting back into school pretty hardcore. I did well on my midterms, and now I’m launching into that penultimate struggle before finals. Planning some trips, and planning on when to get the huge, daunting projects that I’ve been putting off done. Becca and I went to an environmental film festival, and I got revved up about my PhD again… So yes, this is on to 6 pages in word and I’m rambling, so that is the end of this blog. Thank you everyone for birthday wishes and presents and everything else!!! It is great to feel loved even so far away! I love you all in return!