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...

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!