"Find life experiences and swallow them whole. travel. meet many people. go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys. try everything. exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"We're Domesticated Now"

The Rugby World Cup is in full swing!  Auckland has a new life force pulsing through the city.  Last Saturday, my Irish flatmate convinced us to dress up in Ireland's colors and go skipping down Queen St to the wharf--there are lots of tents set up with live music, large screens playing the matches, and bars.  Ireland was playing Australia that night--Ozzies were favoured to win.  So we went down Queen St, singing "Molly Malone"---people kept cheering "Go Irish!" at us, I of course, played along and pretended I was Irish... We ended up watching the game in an Irish pub, Munster's.  The energy in the pub after the game as all the people who were at Eden Park came flooding into the bar was amazing.  A live band took the stage and started playing Irish melodies all night (Ireland won! If that wasn't clear...).  After that night, we decided we should just dress up as whatever country was playing that night and walk down Queen St :)

On a different note, yesterday I went canyoning about forty minutes outside of Auckland in the Waitakere ranges.  Our program coordinator from Australearn took about ten of us out there on the trip, so it wasn't commercially done.  We were "just a bunch of friends having a good time"...in case the warden asked.  We hiked about 40 minutes up a trail in our wet suits--we got some pretty funny looks.  We walked down the river for a bit, occasionally reaching points chest deep (we had been warned of eels, but no worries, we didn't see one....until the end).  At one point, Gavin, our coordinator, dug out some brush underwater, creating a tunnel we could swim through.  Obstacle one, check.  We slid down rock slides and jumped off several ledges.  The tallest jump was about 10 metres.  You couldn't see the jump until it was your turn and you walked up to the ledge--- I looked down, looked at Gavin said "Are you serious?", he nodded, and so I took the plunge.  Not only did we just jump off a massive ledge, but we landed in a canyon.  We had begun our descent underground.  We stopped and ate Mars Bars, a local favourite, and tried to keep from freezing, as Gavin set up the abseil.  We then repelled down a waterfall, water rushing in our faces as we went down the slippery rocks.  Now, completely underground, we took one last leap off a log protruding out over a ledge. It was a pretty sweet day--although very cold!

While we were driving back to Auckland, Gavin said " You guys are pretty much domesticated now after two months-- regular bunch of kiwis."   I have come to understand and love this kiwi life-style.  Where else in the world do you go swim down a river on a Saturday with a bunch of friends just cause you can?

About to abseil down the waterfall

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Last Paradise

I don't even know where to begin.   How can I describe my 17-day road trip across the South Island? There is no way words can adequately convey the many emotions, experiences and sights that filled this trip, but I'll give it a go. Keep in mind that to actually explain this journey, it would take much more than a blog post.  Hence, you all MUST visit the south island before you die.

On Friday the 26th, we flew into Christchurch, a now devastated town due to numerous earthquakes and after-shocks.  That night we drove north in our little two-person camper-van, packed with five people and all of our belongings.  As we drove along New Zealand's windy roads, the stars shone brighter than I think I have ever witnessed right above us--the milky-way streaked across the middle and the southern-cross laid low on the horizon.  After an hour or so of driving, we pulled off to the side of the road to sleep (freedom camping!!).  In the morning we awoke to find that we had stumbled upon a beautiful little spot right on the beach.  We ate breakfast with the sun's rays bouncing off the water and the snow-capped mountains in the distance.  A feeling of humbleness and awe swept over me---New Zealand's dynamic landscape continued to impress upon me this sensation as our trip continued.  One of the cooler things that struck me about our trip was the drastic changes in landscape from place-to-place.  I literally walked through tropical forests, over glaciers, across grassy plains, through a fiord, and anything else you can imagine.  One day we were kayaking through blue-green ocean in Abel Tasman and the next, we were walking towards Franz Josef Glacier.
Since I cannot elaborate on everything I did, here is a list of places we went:
  • Kaikoura Seal colony--so many seal were just basking in the sun
  • Ohau Stream-- seal pups swam and crawled their way upstream in order to get to a waterfall where they played right in front of us
  • Blenheim- we stayed in my friend's cousins house.  We visited several wineries (all gorgeous!) and ate a feast of lamb and roasted veggies (including kumara--nz's sweet potato)--very kiwi as.  We talked a lot about how kiwis just "get it"--they know how life should be lived and they do it.  It was here that I first learned the affectionate term "jafa"--just another 'friendly'(another word is more often used...) aucklander--apparently aucklanders are dis-liked by the rest of New Zealand.  My love for Pinot Noir and Reisling was discovered here as well :)
  • St Arnaud- We did a two day tramp around Lake Rotoiti and stayed in a hut right on the lake.
  • Abel Tasman- We kayaked from Marahau to Anchorage, stopping at Adele Island to see some seals and eating lunch at Akerstons Beach.  We camped at Anchorage and tramped back to Marahau the next day.
  • Cape Foulwind- Rocky west coast with steep cliffs
  • Puanakaki/Pancake Rocks- Sweet as rocks stacked liked pancakes.  The waves crashed up alongside the rocks and water escaped in blow-holes showering us with mist
  • Greymouth/Brunner Mine
  • Franz Josef Glacier-we tramped up to Robert's Point and along the river that runs off the glacier
  • Haast Pass- We stopped at several stops along the way including: waterfalls and the gates of Haast.
  • Wanaka- This is a small town on Lake Wanaka. If I could convince everyone at home to move here, I would.  We went to a movie at the Paradiso( you sat in couches and ate cookies at intermission) and then went to dinner at The Cow.
  • Mt Cook- sweet as glacier views...we spent a good amount of time napping on huge rocks in the river :)
  • Te anau- The gateway to the Fiordland
  • Milford Sound- We did a boat cruise that took us out into the fiord.  Dolphins surfed the waves off the boat, a penguin sat atop the rocks and seals slept along the shore. Rudyard Kipling called it the 8th wonder of the natural world.
  • Queenstown- We "showered" in the freezing Lake Wakatipu and hiked the Tiki Trail--great view of the town and the lake.  We also visited three more wineries and a cheesery.
  • Dunedin- We went to Cadbury World, a farmer's market, the Railway Station (which is apparently the second most photographed building in austral-asia), we drove up the steepest street in the world, and saw a sea lion.
This is just a fraction of what we did, but I don't have the time to recount everything because it was all so amazing.  Those two weeks spent living off peanut-butter and soup, tramping  numerous tracks, sleeping in dodgy places along New Zealand's windy as roads,waking up to find ourselves in yet another beautiful area, and just enjoying the world's last paradise were the best two weeks of my life.  While I do believe there are places in the states that live life the way it should be led, there is something enticing about the kiwi lifestyle that just draws you in.  How can it not when you are constantly surrounded by such dynamic and awe-inspiring scenery?

Winery in Blenheim
Tramp in St. Arnaud