Category Archives: New Zealand

HALLOWEEN

Day 275- 31 October 2010

Last night at midnight, I was woken up by 10 people coming into my room to wish me a happy birthday/happy Halloween.  They gave me a cake and a book that everyone had wrote something nice in. I was so touched. But I had also just woken up and felt very awkward with 10 people staring down at me while I was free-boobin (if you know what I mean) and lay in my bed without sheets (hadnt gotten around to putting them on after the wash) and Kiara (the RA) yelled at them for being too loud. So I said thanks but get out. But today we are going to breakfast at the Chocolate Boutique to get chocolate waffles and then (fingers crossed the weather is better) going to sit on the beach for the day. Hoorah.

 

Advertisements

Summit Sampler

Day 271 – 27 October 2010

Chris and I set out to clear our heads from studying for a couple days by tramping in the bush. Originally wanted to do the Tongariro circuit but camping costs $20/person/night! That’s as much as a good hostel! Considering Chris only has 100 left in his account we opted for a cheaper trip. So we decided to do a little summit sampler- Mt Pirongia, Mt Te Aroha and then the Pinnacles.

First day- the track up to Pirongia was good- took us about 5 hours from start to finish including breaks. Although the weather was decent (not raining) the mountain was covered in clouds and views were limited. We then hiked down a bit to Pahautea hut where we stayed for the night. We got there early enough that sun was out, so we got some things to read and laid out on the trail.

Day 272 – 28 October 2010

We hiked out a different way- via the Bell Track. This track was longer than the other one- suggested to take 8-11 hours. We were confused why it should take so long because it was only 10 miles. But then we read the hut visitor log which had multiple entries like, “Bell track = mud mud mud mud mud mud”. Unfortunately, it had rained during the night, so our experience was similar to the trampers before us. There were some parts of the trail that were complete swamp (I fully submerged a foot at least 4 times).  It sort of reminded me of the forest in the Princess Bride when they kept sinking into quick sand (minus the ROUS). Eventually it got better (we were hooraying for solid mud patches) and we made it out in good time (8 hrs total). We drove to a free campsite at Dickey’s Flat where we have camped before with Johannes on a previous trip.

Day 273- 29 October 2010

We set out to climb Mt Te Ahora. Had some sleep deprivation (from sleeping in the car) but otherwise felt pretty good. We thought the climb was going to take 6 hours total, but it only took 2 hours to summit. Chris was quite tired and was carrying his tramping pack (for some eagle scout reason?) so I led the way. I felt great. I think my frequent running in the Domain and on the treadmill (on hill setting of course) paid off because I was moving straight up hill at a steady pace for an hour without needing to stop . At one point I stopped waiting for Chris to catch up and went on ahead by myself. It was a really nice trail- well maintained- but it also reminded me of a sort of mystical, fairy tale type place. There was fog sitting on the mountains around us and the forest was thick with trees smothered in moss and vines. Plus there were many ferns that were sprouting new branches so they had that sweet curly shape at the top (I took lots of pictures to make up for my bad description). I kept thinking that both these trails were the epitome of how I imagined my time in New Zealand. After the hike, we went and got delicious fish and chips (pan fried with capers..mmm)and, having nothing else to do, sat in the park for several hours and napped and read. It felt so good to sit and relax in a park for the day without worrying about anything.  When it got colder we drove back to Dickey’s flat again for the night.

Day 274- 30 October 2010

We had intended to hike to the Pinnacles in the Kauranga Valley but when we arrived in Thames, the weather looked very poopy. It rained on us while we waited for the isite to open and ask about the weather. The lady said it was supposed to clear up by the afternoon but it was too late- I was already in a bad mood. So we drove back to Auckland which ended up being a very good idea because it took us the entire day to clean up the car (vacuum, carwash etc) to get it ready to sell. Plus there was an Indian Festival in Auckland (good, cheap Indian food) and the next day was Halloween, so I had to start preparing.

 

Here comes the Sun

Day 268– 24 October 2010

Today is the Sunday after our last week of classes for semester 2. We are in exam period now and boy am I not excited to study but so happy to almost be free! Of course, coinciding perfectly with exam time- the weather starts to get better- WAY better. Seriously the weather has been poopy for so long (literally raining every day) which probably explains why I haven’t written in so long. We have done some short trips- one day surf in Raglan, day hike in the Waitakeres-but for the most part we have been watching lots of movies and occasionally going out to live music. There are two Irish pubs that usually have live bands- but we also recently realised that one of the pubs plays the same set list every day during the week. Today I tried to incorporate studying AND being outside by reading on the patio but that wasn’t enough so I went for a long run through the Domain and it was SO nice! Weather like today is why people live in Auckland. And it’s amazing what good weather can do to your mood. I don’t even care if I fail my classes (which I totally wont don’t worry mom) but I never want to leave this pretty little island 🙂

 

Farm Stay in the North

Day 222 – 8 September 2010

Last night I got back from my last school break trip. Before the break we celebrated Chris’ 21st birthday at a shwanky bar down on Ponsonby and played some laser tag. On the last night before break I attended another birthday party where I ate sugar for about 3 hours straight and then stayed up all night to finish an assignment due the next day. After turning in the assignment I vowed to give up sweets until my birthday which has now turned into a five dollar bet. Chris and I mucked around in Auckland over the weekend and on Monday (30 August) we set off to stay at a farm for a week.

Originally we were interested in this farm because it was located up north (warmer weather) and the description said it was an orchard which specialized in Avocados. The farm was located right on the edge of Rangaunu Harbour. The farmer, Mitch, was a 67 year old Kiwi who had spent his life hunting deer in the South Island fjordlands. His wife was away, visiting family in Australia, but his dog kept us company. The dogs name is ‘Mo’, short for Monster, or Mongrel, or ‘black thing’. His house is located at the very top of a hill from which you can see all around to the harbour and surrounding farmlands. The room we stayed in was located at the bottom of the hill and was really more of a cement shack. It used to be a cattle run, but he had ‘renovated it’ by pulling down some walls, putting in a fold out couch and supplying running water to an outdoor sink and loo. But because the soil was so fertile from being pooed on for so many years, the area around the shack had all types of flourishing vegetation including lemons, lavender, rosemary, parsley, bananas, feijoas, plums, Monterey pine, flame tree, and other fruit trees I can’t remember. Actually he called his property a “growing ark” because he grew just about every plant that can grow in NZ.

We followed the same basic routine everyday: wake up at 7:30, walk up the hill to eat breakfast which was always 6 kinds of cereal, yogurt and fruit in one bowl, then work for a bit, then lunch which was always sandwiches packed with freshly picked vegetables, then work a little bit more, then dinner which always had some form of potatoes, then chat late into the night, and then walk back down the hill to sleep.

I helped him trim a long line of feijoa hedges, lay grass and compost on the garden, carry his shovel, clean the windows, and I was always the lucky one to do the dishes after every meal. One day he even assigned me to ‘watch after the dog’ so my job was to play fetch for 3 hours. The lameness of my duties was half because it is still winter so there is not much work to be done and half because Mitch comes from a different generation and is quite sexist and wouldn’t let me do anything that required any real effort. I wasn’t allowed to lift anything heavy, including a can of paint. So, in honesty I was kind of frustrated and bored a lot of the time. But I did get to do a lot of relaxing which was just what I needed. And Chris was very happy. He got to do more jobs and he really connected with Mitch, talking about hunting, politics, and having penises (I presume).

Mitch is quite an interesting person. He told us heaps about his time in the bush and also much about his outlook on life. He said things like, “all you need in life is warm food for your belly, a dry place to sleep, and a companion” or “I want to become completely self-sustainable so when the world goes and shits itself, I’ll be prepared”. He is definitely a genuinely good hearted person, and I generally agreed with most of the things he said, except for his sometimes racist and sexist opinions. I was also very surprised of how much he knew about modern culture even though he was in the bush during most of it. Overall, I think I learned a lot from him. Most of my classes here have taught me about conservation from the government’s side and this showed me how conservation is seen from the farmer’s perspective. He is still very pro-conservation but in a different way than DOC and very different than what I would have expected.

Although most days were the same, one day we took his boat out into the harbour and jetted around for a bit. We caught a fish and he cooked it up and also made fish soup and fish cakes with the icky bits. Another day his friends that he hadn’t seen since primary school came over and we took them on a walk around the property. They ate lunch with us and afterwards they sat on the back porch and drank wile Chris and I drove out to ninety mile beach.

On the second Monday (6 September) Chris and I drove up to Cape Reinga for the day. Cape Reinga is actually not the northernmost point (that is slightly east) but it is where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. And, you could actually see where the two bodies of water meet, because it is very choppy in just one section. Maori legend says this is where the oceans mate. After taking lots of cheesy pictures and hiking around a bit, we walked down to the beach and we were the only ones there. We then went and got some fish and chips at a local café and bought some sugar to make homemade lemonade back at the farm. We stayed up late talking with Mitch and the next day we left to go see ancient Kauri forest. It was supposed to clear up in the afternoon but it ended up raining the entire day. But no matter, we took off our shoes and waded through the flooded footpaths to see the two biggest Kauri trees in NZ, Tene Mahuta, “Lord of the Forest” and Te Matua Ngahere, “Father of the Forest”. Then we had a long, wet drive all the way back to Auckland.

Back again, Jiggidy Jig

Day 168 – 16 July 2010

Today is my recovery day- writing my blog and uploading pictures as more and more rain falls outside. With the exception of today, the weather since our return from the roadtrip has been good- sunny, cloudless skies- but still cold as, so I’ve been trying to make the most of it by going for really long walks. I’ve also been trying to re-discover my love for Auckland because the combination of feeling stuck here for 3 weeks during the last exams and visiting the much better planned city of Wellington has sort of made me hate it. So my first day back I went for a long walk to a more posh area called Ponsoby. I didn’t know the exact way, just kind of wandered till I found it and discovered it is almost exactly like the area of Parnell –an area on the opposite side of town- which is just one street lined with expensive stores and pretentious cafes. So although I was a little disappointed, on the way back I took K road which, although grungier, has heaps more character with its used clothing stores, Turkish and vegetarian cafes and more venues for live music. But that being said, you probably don’t want to go there after dark because it gets a little “dodgey” as kiwis say.  The next day I convinced a group of people to walk with me down to Mission Bay. This is the same beach that i went to with fellow EAPers in Feb. but this time we knew how far it was and were ready for it. The weather was BEAUtiful but still way too cold to go in the ocean so we lied on the beach for about an hour. The next day I somehow promised Chris I would walk to One Tree Hill even though I thought my calf muscles were going to break through the skin. Our friend Melandi came with us and it actually didn’t feel that far at all, but I still think that tourist spot is overrated. After dinner we walked to meet Beth’s family at the Chocolate Boutique which is an amazing chocolate café that I wish I didn’t know about.  Later I figured out that within three days of being in Auckland I had walked for about 13 hours, not counting the gym. But now it is raining and on Monday I start classes again so I’ll be back to sitting on my butt for a while.

The Great Winter Break North Island Road Trip

Although I have been living in the North Island for about 5 months now, I realized that I had yet to experience many of its acclaimed tourist attractions. So we decided to spend our Winter Break from school taking a road trip around the SE area of the North Island. The group consisted of myself, Chris, Johannes (from Germany, lives down the hall) and Winnie (from Hong Kong, lives 3 floors up) which ended up being just about the perfect combination. Johannes, who is slightly older and very German, was very insistent about doing certain activities which, although kind of annoying at first, was realized to be a good thing because we enjoyed everything he made us do and recognized that we would not have opted to do them had he not been with us. Winnie, on the other hand, is very free spirited and equipped with an incredibly shrill voice.  She definitely added to the spontaneity of the group and was always assuring us that everything would be alright. And I think thanks to Chris we visited and played on just about every play structure that we encountered. I like to think that I was the trip’s photographer- I took more than 300 pictures- about 100 of which are posted on facebook.

Day 152- 30 June 2010- Day 1 of The Great Winter Break North Island Road Trip

We began our trip by heading to Rotorua which is about 3 hours south of Auckland.  Immediately upon arriving in town we could smell the sulphur- warm, rotten egg fart sort of smell- a smell that would stick to my clothes for the remainder of the trip. As we were checking out some hot bubbling mud on the side of the road I thought I saw some monopoly money so I ran to grab it. Turns out it was real NZ money- 50 bucks in fact-which I used to go zorbing. Zorbing is when you and some friends are put into a giant plastic ball filled with a little bit of warm water and are pushed down a big grassy hill. Chris, Winnie and myself went together and it was one of the funniest, most awkward experiences of my life. It didn’t really feel like we were rolling down a hill, but more like we were in one spot with the ball rotating all around us. It was impossible to try and sit or stand up and we ended up a big tangled, giggling ball of limbs at the bottom of the hill. Afterward we went for a walk in the ‘Redwoods’ which is a forest of trees that were imported from California a long time ago. It felt so good to be out of the city and in a forest that reminded me so much of home, even though in a way it was all fake. The funniest part was when we ran into this tour group of older asian men and asked them to take a group picture of us and then they asked if they could take a picture WITH us. Nice at first, but then super creepy when it seemed like they were following us around the trails in this miniature forest. That night we slept next to this park by a lake – Chris and Johannes both in their own tents and Winnie and I in the car.

Day 153- 1 July 2010- Day 2 of TGWBNIRT

Winnie and I awoke screaming and crying loudly because we had barely slept because we were so friggin cold. The sun wasn’t even up yet so we were running around trying to get warm. We packed up and went for a walk around a nearby lake and just as we got to a little lake beach the sun came out and we all laid down on the beach like lizards soaking up the rays. We then went to another playground but left when about 50 kids from a nearby school showed up and scared us away. We then hiked up Rainbow Mountain, so named because of all of its different colored rocks resulting from all the geothermal activity. The view was pretty epic, we all agreed that it was like looking out onto Hobbiton with Mordor to the south (really Ruapehu)and Winnie noted (as she would do many more times throughout the trip) that “omg this is soo lord of the rings”.  We spent the remainder of the daylight looking for Kerosene Creek and then decided to camp there because it was too dark to go anywhere else. This creek is naturally heated by geothermal activity but because it was so cold outside the water wasn’t boiling hot, but more like bath water that has been sitting for a bit. Nevertheless we got in anyway and then stayed in for an hour even when it felt cold because we knew getting out would be much colder. Afterwards we had to huddle in the car for a bit to get dry and then camped next to the creek.

Day 154- 2 July 2010- Day 3 of TGWBNIRT

Although Winnie and I had slept in a tent with Johannes to try and utilize all our body heat to stay warm, we still woke up cold and decided to get up and out of there quickly as if leaving that spot would make the whole day warmer. But it ended up actually being a slow start to the day as we drove Johannes to Wai-o-tapu thermal park and waited for him to pay 30$ to see a geyser and some multi-colored hot pools. We then drove the short bit to Taupo where we saw Huka falls and went swimming in another hot stream that was actually hot (same one I went to on my trip to Taupo earlier this year) after that it was almost dark again so we cooked some dinner in the park while cursing about the short amount of daylight hours in the winter. That night we camped right next to the shore of Lake Taupo.

Day 155- 3 July 2010- Day 4 of TGWBNIRT

Despite having put on every layer of clothing on that I owned I was still cold in the night, which made sense when we woke up to find that everything around us was frozen. We had left water in a pot outside and had to let it thaw before we could clean it. But even though we were cold and cranky from lack of sleep we trudged on to the next town to find something to do. At this point most of us would have been fine getting a motel room for the day and just sitting inside watching tv with the heater up full blast, but Johannes wanted to go for a hike and although at the time we hated him for it, in retrospect that was the best thing we could have done. We did a hike from Whakapapa village (pronounced fuk-a-papa in case you were wondering) to Taramaki falls. Although we were below snow level, we were just at the base of a mountain that was covered in what looked like pristine untouched white snowy bliss which made for some awesome pictures. Hiking got our blood flowing and warmed us up and we decided we should go check out the snow. After trying to use a dining common tray as a sled we sucked it up and pitched in to rent a real plastic sled which we used to terrorize the surrounding parents as they repeatedly watched us fly out of control down the ice and almost barrel into their slow moving children. But don’t worry we didn’t actually hit any of them, although im pretty sure I popped a lung by crashing into Winnie and then laughing uncontrollably with my face buried in the snow. On top of being already cold and tired we were also all wet so we decided to stay in a hostel for the night and make it to Wellington the next day. We ended up staying in Palmerston North (I tried to get everyone to nickname it Palmy but failed)at a little bed and breakfast sort of place that was run by a little old lady who loved in the upstairs. It was a very simple place but in comparison to a freezing tent it was the coziest house id ever been in. We cooked up a big dinner and watched some vampire show and then turned on our electric blankets and went to sleep.

Day 156- 4 July 2010- Day 5 of TGWBNIRT

Woke up feeling super duper, packed the car and set off to Wellington. Our friend Jake from ihouse lives with his family near the city so we picked him up first so that he could show us around. I asked him to take me to the best coffee place so we went to Cuba Street which is the young, hip part of town.  It was beautiful weather which is abnormal for Wellington so we spent the majority of the day walking around in the sun.  When it got dark we went to the national museum, Te Papa and explored the first floor. When the museum closed we walked to a bar and watched a rerun of a world cup soccer game and then we walked all the way up this massive hill to visit our friend Bronwyn, also from ihouse.  We had planned to celebrate 4th of July at her house so she invited some of her friends and her mom baked us an apple pie and bought us American beer- Budweiser. Some other friends from ihouse were in the area so they came over too and we ate brownies, apple pie, ice cream and beer and talked about how much better Wellington is than Auckland. We then walked to a park by her house and set off some old fireworks she had, yelling “happy fourth of july, wellington!” after each one. I think it was the most appropriate way to celebrate the American holiday, indeed. We then went to our friend Emily’s house, another EAPer, who most kindly let us sleep on her living room floor at last minutes request because our original couch surfing deal had sort of fallen through.

Day 157- 5 July 2010- Day 6 of TGWBNIRT

We had to wake up early to move our car out of Emily’s neighborhood because parking in the city is quite expensive. We drove up the hill and then walked back down through the botanical gardens. After exploring these for a couple hours (and visiting the playground) we took the historic cable car down to the main city area. We then took a tour around parliament and learned a little bit about NZ politics but probably more about the architecture of the buildings they operate in. And this is where all my hard work at school paid off- the tour guide asked the crowd what style of architecture the last building was and I cooly replied, “Neo-Gothic” and he complimented me saying I was a smart lady and told all the youngsters around to stay in school so they can learn heaps of unimportant trivia just like me.  At this point in the trip our group was a little bit tired of each other so Johannes split off and said he’d meet up with us in an hour or so. So Chris, Winnie and I went to some tourist shops and then an Art Gallery and then a bar. We met up with Emily and Johannes again and we met our couch surfer- a guy named mike who just finished studying environmental management at the uni in Wellington. That night we cooked dinner for Mike in exchange for his letting us sleep on the floor of his flat which was at the top of the hill, overlooking the city with an amazing view.

Day 158- 6 July 2010- Day 7 of TGWBNIRT

We woke up to typical Welly weather- cloudy, rainy and lots and lots of wind. So we decided to go back to Te Papa to try to see the rest of it, along the way stopping at the national art gallery. We all went our own way in the museum but afterwards met Jake again and went to the national film archive. This place has every film that has ever been recorded in New Zealand including commercials from as far back as the 30’s. I ended up watching a lengthy commercial from the 50’s that described how best to keep your pastry dough. It was old, cheesy, sexist and absolutely hilarious. We then said good bye to Jake and went to our friend Emily’s again to stay the night. The next day was her 21st birthday so we stayed up late playing drinking games and we “baked” her (more like heated up for her) a frozen pie we had bought at the grocery store.

Day 159- 7 July 2010- Day 8 of TGWBNIRT

We left Wellington in the morning and headed up the coast towards Napier/Hastings. This was an especially quirky part of the trip because it has relatively few tourist attractions compared to the rest of the country and it allowed us to get a better feel for real NZ- that is, one of down to earth farmer types. Also, because it is winter we were probably the only tourists within 100 miles and when we stopped at in isite in a little town called Carterton just to use the bathroom, the lady working there admitted that we were the first tourists she’d talked to in weeks.  We also stopped in a town called Masterton where we got fish and chips and Winnie talked to the owners who were also from Hong Kong. Then we stopped at the Tui Brewery where Chris, Winnie and I shared a tasting and looked around at all of the ridiculous merchandise. By the time we got to Hastings it was getting dark and we had planned to just camp at a road or beachside park but they were all pretty exposed to the wind (and the cops) and we couldn’t figure out how to get to cape kidnappers because it is possible that the road shown on my map doesn’t actually exist. So after sitting frustrated in a cold and dark car outside the only lit building we could find (which happened to be a liquor store) we decided to call our friend Andy from ihouse who lived in the area. I was reluctant to call him even just to hang out because I think he is sort of pretentious and sexist and he was quite mean to Winnie at the start of the year, but we hoped the least he could do was let us camp on his lawn. We knew Andy had to be rich because he has 8 siblings and his dad is a doctor and has his own car dealership specializing in Jaguars and Porsches (in fact the youngest daughter is named Porscha how cheesy is that?). Pulling up to his house our jaws hung open as we drove past rows of sculpted hedges and up to this grand adobe mansion with no less than 6 gleaming sport cars sitting in front. I guess we drove too quickly because we arrived just as the family was sitting down for dinner. We should have lied, but instead admitted to not having dinner yet so the dad fixed Winnie and Johannes a plate of the meat spaghetti and Chris and I ashamedly admitted that we are vegetarians. So while the rest of the family began to eat we stood in the kitchen with the Dad while he asked us what we DO eat. “you eat corn? You eat carrots? What about cauliflower? You’ll eat that won’t you?” He ended up fixing us the most bizarre vegetarian dinner I’ve even had consisting of steamed cauliflower and carrots, canned corn and canned garbonzo beans (which we had fetched out of the car as a result of our trying to insist that we could just eat what we had brought). All the while he was cooking he wouldn’t let us or his son help so we just stood in the kitchen while the rest of the family ate and peered at us. After we had finished eating, THEN the dad sat down to eat his meal so we were forced to watch him eat as he interrogated us about where we were from and what we were thinking trying to sleep in a tent in weather like this. He finally asked us what are sleeping plans were for the night and when we just stared at him blankly he decided to call up some patients of his to give us a good deal on a hotel room. It was actually very nice of him to do so, but the way he did it made us feel like trash, especially when he commented that we could each have two towels if we liked and implying that we needed to bathe multiple times. When we finally got out of there we were all cracking up at how awkward the whole situation had been and that people like that continued to live on, past the feudal era. The motel wasn’t as amazing as we’d expected but it was only 50 bucks for two bunk beds and lots of clean towels and we reasoned it was probably the cat’s pajamas back in the day when Andy’s Dad used to stay there.

Day 160 – 8 July 2010- Day 9 of TGWBNIRT

Another advantage to staying in the motel was we were able to wake up at 6:30 to watch the world cup match between Germany and Spain. Germany lost and if anyone else had been staying in that motel they would have known about it because we had turned into very passionately loud fans by the end. Afterwards we drove straight out of Hastings and stopped in Napier, the Art Deco capital of the world. Although it was a bit overrated, it was cool to see all the old buildings and we got to talk to an elderly woman who was part of the Art Deco society and gave us some special local details. We played on the playground for a bit and then headed to Gisborne to see our friend Beth from ihouse. Especially because of the experience of the previous night we were so excited to see a friend from ihouse that we actually really liked. We were also super excited because we had planned at the beginning of the trip to make homemade pizza at her house and discussing possible toppings had become a regular part of our road conversations. And we were not disappointed. First of all, Beth’s house is amazing.  It sort of resembles a mini-castle with turrets and rounded parts made mostly of dark wood with light blue trim. The house is made from old parts of local bridges and churches including huge beams and arched stained glass windows. Plus it sits RIGHT next to the river on about two acres of land in which they keep two goats, a sheep (which after a bit of chasing I go tot pet), 3 chickens, a dog and two cats. The first thing we did was pick up Beth and go to the grocery store to get pizza toppings. We devoted the rest of our night to making, and then eating A LOT of pizza to the point where I still feel full. We went on a little night hike but food coma set in so we went to bed kinda early.

Day 161- 9 July 2010- Day 10 of TGWBNIRT

The next day we slept in and then Chris made egg in my eye for breakfast (sunny side up egg in toast). Then, determined to walk off some of the pizza we had eaten yesterday we tried to find a good hike to do. We walked to the top of a big hill and then through the town and then drove out of town to another lookout. Then we went and got fish and chips and had another food coma/nap back at Beth’s house. We spent the rest of the day enjoying being inside with each other (and Beth has a ping-pong table, a pool table, a piano, and a play station) and then played some games with her family. Beth’s family is fantastic. They are the family that you envy in Disney channel originals, except better because they are not cheesy. After her smart little brother won in the dice game, Beth cooked us dinner and while we ate her Dad asked us about our lives and listened in a way that made me believe he actually cared what we were saying. Then her step mom calls over the dog yelling, “Douche! Douchey! Come here” as if it were the most common pet name in suburbia. Then we played Cranium in which Winnie and Beth lost horrifically, we found out that Johannes is the absolute worst actor ever and that Beth’s little brother does quite a good Michael Jackson impression. Oh and Chris and I won, btw. We then took a dip in Beth’s hot tub and got a chance to see some stars before it started to rain.

Day 162- 10 July 2010- Day 11 of TGWBNIRT

The next day Beth and I made waffles for the whole family and then we reluctantly packed up our stuff. Winnie was taking a bus back to Auckland the next morning so she go to stay and as Chris, Johannes and I waved goodbye I was sooo jealous. Not only had Beth’s house been the best part of the trip so far, I knew that without Winnie the group just wouldn’t be the same. But luckily, there was very good weather so although we were a more quiet group, we were in good moods and were being very nice to each other.  We took our time driving to the Coromandel, stopping a lot to get out and do little hikes in the sunshine. We ended up camping at a beach campsite next to a bunch of seasonal fishers and we got there just in time to take a walk on the beach and watch the sun set. I came up with the great idea to put my duvet blanket INSIDE my sleeping bag so, although I couldn’t move, I was much warmer and much happier.

Day 163- 11 July 2010- Day 12 of TGWBNIRT

The next morning we drove to Mt Manganui and did less than an hour’s hike up to the top. It was a Sunday and it seemed like the whole town was outside enjoying the good weather. We then went to the beach and I was amazed at all of the perfectly whole shells I found so, against my environmental studies morals, I took some home. We walked around the town a bit and then drove into the Coromandel to a free camp site. We took a little muddy hike up next to the stream and through a yak pen –despite their horns, yaks are so cute!

Day 164-12 July 2010- Day 13 of TGWBNIRT

It froze again that night and all the grass around our tent was crunchy with ice. I had been warm enough to sleep but felt really dirty and was not as ballsy as Johannes who decided to bathe in the freezing cold river.  We drove further into the Coromandel to do a hike in an area called Broken Hills. This was an old mining area so all the tracks were old miner’s tracks and they led us through old mining tunnels and caves which was pretty awesome. We made it to a lookout and all we could see around us was green green forest. We headed over to check out Hot Water Beach but the tide was high and wouldn’t be low until 1pm the next day. We were looking for a place to stay but the only free campsites were hours away and the nearest one was charging 16 bucks per person! So I suggested we just drive back to Auckland and that’s just what we did. We called an RA and had them reserve us late dinners so that when we got back we all took showers and then met again in the lounge to eat our dinners, the last of our road chocolate and watch a movie in a warm, comfy room. Good ending to a good trip.

GO BLACKS

Day 134- 12 June 2010

This Saturday I when to my first ever All Blacks rugby game, and it was, as the kiwis say, O for awesome. Myself, my friend Amanda, two guys from the eastern US and a girl from Holland drove all the way to New Plymouth and although it took 5 hours, it was such a fun ride that it didn’t seem long at all. Because we got to New Plymouth a couple hours before the game was supposed to start, we decided to get some snacks and chill by the beach. We found this amazing spot where giant waves were crashing on the rocks in front of us, just as the sun was setting. We didn’t end up ‘chilling’ much, instead, we scrambled around on the rocks and I ended up climbing up too high on a muddy slope and had to slide down the mud on my butt to get down. Just as we were about to trek back up to the car, it began to rain SO HARD. Even though we sprinted all the way up that slope, we were still soaked by the time we got back to the car so we made a stop at McDonalds on our way to the game and huddled under the hand dryers in a feeble attempt to dry off before standing outside for 3 hours. When we finally made it to the game, I was surprised at how many Ireland fans there were, including one of the guys we drove down with who we threatened to tie to the top of the car if Ireland won. I learned many things at this game, first being that although the Haka is always awesome and intimidating, when an entire team of rugby players do it, its spine tingling. Also, by using Amanda’s telephoto camera to see most of the game I have concluded that rugby players are indestructible, way more hard core than any American football player, and that numbers 18, 15 and 8 on the All Blacks are really good looking. After the game we tried to get some food but every fast food place was packed with rugby fans. We ended up at burger king, waiting in a line that went out the door, listening to drunken Ireland fans argue, and trying to figure out if they sold milkshakes or not. The ride home was much more relaxed, I spent most of it looking out the window at the milky way until we got back to Auckland at 4am. good day.

The Haka

Day 125- 3 June 2010

Tonight I attended a performance by my friends who are in the Kapa Haka class at school. The Haka is the traditional dance that Maori do only on special occasions for special people…or that the All Blacks do before every rubgy match. The class taught them this and several other dances which we got to watch at the university’s Marae (sacred Maori site). Technically only the boys do the Haka and they take off their shirts and stomp on the ground and slap their chests and stick their tongues out and its actually quite scary. The girls get to lead the mellower songs by singing and dancing with a Poi which is a ball on the end of a decorated rope. It was awesome because I saw just about every person I know that goes to Auckland Uni there tonight: people I met in class, at alumni dinners, friends of friends, roommates of friends of friends, EVERYONE.  And there were some people from I House that I didn’t know were in the class but I told them I came just to watch them.  After they performed, there were several other performances and just when I thought my bladder would explode, it was over and there was FREE FOOD. Luckily I stuck with my crafty friend Jeff and he somehow worked us to the front of the line and we dominated that Maori inspired buffet. I realized also that today had been my last day of classes for first semester and that a cultural performance, free food and a chance to meet up with just about everyone I know here was a good way to end it.

A Break from the City

Day 121- 30 May 2010

After three weekends of having virtually no excitement, spending my days indoors writing essays or procrastinating and pretending to write essays, I was finally able to break free from the city and live life once again. Originally, there was supposed to be a feijoa (yummy little green fruit) festival this weekend at hot water beach but it ended up being relocated because they didn’t get the proper permits-or something like that…but we had already organized a big group and hot water beach sounded cool so we decided to go anyway. After a leisurely Saturday morning we headed out to the Coromandel, which is the body of land sticking out just east of Auckland. Some tourist books have described it as a certain finger directed at Auckland, but being temp Aucklanders we pretend not to hear such things… We went straight to Hot Water Beach, which is this awesome beach spot located right over geothermal activity so you can dig holes in the sand and create your own spa pool (hot tub) right next to the ocean! We got there just after peak time which was awesome because most tourists had left and the tide had yet to come in. We borrowed a shovel and scooped out a little spot for ourselves and hopped on in! Actually it was barely deep enough to cover us when sitting down but it was HOT as and did the trick. Once the tide came in we drove to Cathedral Cove where we raced against the sunset to hike to the cove just in time. It was gorgeous. Then we met up with the other car and went out to dinner and back to the campsite to set up the tents just as it began to rain.

The next morning we went to Cathedral Cove again, because the other car hadn’t seen it and we wanted to be able to take our time with it again. We decided to see everything the trail offered so we stopped at Gemstone Bay- very rocky but beautiful and Stingray Bay-possibly the most beautiful beach I have ever been to. The best part was that there was literally not a cloud in the sky and it was sunny but perfect temperature. At Stingray Bay we climbed over some rocks to reach a little cave area and found some tidal pools. We must have sat there for an hour just staring at the blue sky, bright green islands and crisp clear water all around us. I felt like I was in a tropical paradise and yet it was May!: NZ’s supposed autumn. We finally made it to Cathedral Cove and the water was not cold at all so Chris, Nate and myself went for a long swim. We swam around the cove, over to a rock with lots of bird doodoo on it and to a cave that you couldn’t see from the shore. It felt so good to swim again that I swam back and floated in the water for a long time, while the rest walked around. Eventually though, it was peak hot pools time so we drove back to Hot Water Beach and this time brought our own shovel. We dug out a spot big enough for all 9 of us and sat there till we were wrinkly. A couple times it was too hot so we would run into the ocean for a break. People next to us had pried some mussels off the rocks in the ocean and were cooking them right there in the sand next to them. One group even had eggs. Eventually we had had enough so we trekked back to Auckland. But on the way back stopped for veggie burgers which consisted of a veggie patty, egg, pineapple, beet, “ketchup” and aoli sauce. In other words: delicious. Awesome weekend= just what I needed before my last week of first semester.

Take on the Lake!

Day 92- 1 May 2010

Just returned from Rotorua, where I ran my first 10k. We headed down yesterday afternoon and with Friday traffic and ‘incidents’ (they don’t call them accidents) it ended up taking us a lot longer than we’d planned. But no matter, we (myself, Chris, Amanda, and Amanda’s friend from home, Erin) played MASH to pass the time and I was actually very pleased with my life where I was married to Ryan Reynolds in the Netherlands with no kids and a white tiger for a pet. Once in Rotorua, we tried to find a real carby place to eat but decided on Indiann food which we split four ways and was quite delicious. We spent the next couple of hours trying to find an ice cream shop that was still open because EVERYTHING was closed after 7pm. On a Friday. ? Finally checked into our hostel, almost a good night sleep except that the rain was coming down so hard that it was loud enough to wake us up a couple times.

Next morning set out with a big group: Myself, Chris, Amanda and Erin and 5 of Erin’s flatmates: 1 who was not running, 1 who had just signed up the night before, 1 who had major shin splints, and two who had no significant ailments. It rained all the way up until the race started but for some reason was clear the whole time we were running, and then picked up again when we had finished. I felt that I did pretty good, would have done a lot better but had to stop in the middle for a potty break. But for not really training, and including the potty break, I thought .59:08 was not too shabby. After the race half of us hung out in the infirmary to get free ice and blister packs and then we headed to a café to get victory brunch, literally carrying one of our crew. I had some bomb as waffles with blueberries and bananas. We had planned to see some hot pools but, after eating realized we were tired and wanted to get out of that stinky town. So we drove back to Auckland, stopping at Candyland (a discount candy wharehouse) along the way.  I then convinced kids from ihouse to watch a movie with me instead of going out (it is a Saturday) and we watched Gangs of New York and they didn’t like it.