We are: Team New Zealand, 100% Pure, Sponsored by the All Blacks

This past weekend Anna, Isabel, and I went on a three-day biking trip with the Otago Tramping Club. We biked the Rail Trail, which used to be an old train track that has now been torn up and is a gravel path. It extends from two towns, Clyde and Middlemarch, that are 150 kilometers apart, and we biked the whole path (that’s 93 miles!). After getting sore bottoms, unattractive tan lines, and some battle wounds, the weekend ended up being a blast. Along the journey we came up with a chant for our 3-woman team: we are team New Zealand, 100% pure, sponsored by the All Blacks!

Riding the Rail Trail felt surreal at times. This is exactly the sort of activity I wanted to before coming to NZ and it was a great way to truly experience the South Island. Even if the slight uphill grade that looked flat but was a killer to bike up for kilometers at a time was tiring, all I had to do was look up, soak in the surrounding, and suddenly the slight uphill wasn’t so hard. We left Dunedin Saturday morning and returned Monday afternoon, and all weekend the weather was B-E-A-utiful! It was sunny and on average in the upper 60s/low 70s with a slight breeze; we couldn’t have asked for better weather! The only bad patch of weather we hit was on the last day, where there was a small section of the path that had gale-force winds that was practically blowing us off our bikes. At times we had to get off and walk with our bikes it was so windy, once I was almost blown off my bike but caught myself and jumped off instead, and Isabel was blown off her bike and drew blood! Thankfully this only lasted for an hour and a half, and the last 15km of the trail was calm and a smooth ride in. When we finished in Middlemarch, we treated ourselves to some well-deserved ice cream!

Sunday night was also an exciting evening for New Zealand because…WE WON THE RUGBY WORLD CUP!!! What are the odds that the one time the world cup is in NZ, the All Blacks actually win?!?! Well it happened. We beat France, 8 to 7. No big deal.

The rest of this week I will be living in the library, as I have a final on Saturday and then on Monday. After Monday, I’m done with uni in NZ! This is exciting yet sad, as this reminds me even more that my time here is quickly disappearing. A few hours after my exam on Monday, 5 of us are going to Fiordland for a few days to tramp around. This is a National Park on the West Coast that is renowned for its beauty. I know it seems like all of NZ is known for its beauty, but Fiordland is supposed to be stunning. After Fiordland, we’re going to Stewart Island to do a 2 night, 3 day tramp where we will be staying in huts along the track. I return to Dunedin for a day and then head to Australia to meet up with my parents, and then we come back to New Zealand and travel around even more! After my parents leave, I head to Nelson with Kate, my Kiwi host, for a few days. Finally, on November 30th, I leave NZ, but don’t travel far because my next stop is, wait for it…FIJI!!! I’m going to Fiji with Isabel for 6 days, but after Fiji I really am heading home, leaving on December 6th. So thankfully with the end of exams comes much anticipated traveling, but then it will be the unwelcome journey home.


Pineapple Track

After going to the Botanic Gardens a group of us hiked the Pineapple Track, a local 4.5hr return tramp. I had hiked this at the beginning of the semester with Anna and Caitlin and there was snow toward the top of the track, so it looked different this time. I had also forgotten how tough this track is! It is very steep and long, and we had to take a lot of breaks going up. The panting and sweating was well worth it though, as it was beautiful at the top!


Botanic Gardens

Two weekends ago the weather was beautiful; blue skies, sun shining, light breeze. Anna, Isabel, and I went to the botanic gardens to take pictures, which has also been spectacular recently with the arrival of spring and the flowers blooming.


Birthdays and Relaxing

My time studying abroad is flying by and I am about to enter my last week of classes already! I have my first exam in a week and a half, am finished with exams in three weeks, and have two months minus three days before flying back home. It’s scary how quickly everything has flown by.

I spent last weekend relaxing with friends and enjoying the sunshine that Dunedin offered. On Friday I experienced my first 21st birthday celebration. It was my international mentor’s 21st birthday, and here 21sts are a big deal. I would equate it with a sweet 16 (for girls at least) in the states; it’s your coming-of-age and true entrance into the adult world, and it’s often times a family event. Generally, people have lots of friends and family over to their house for a celebration, and the parents cook dinner and provide alcohol (I find the alcohol part a bit weird, but it is legal to drink at 18…). I also find the pairing of my mentor, Sam, and myself ironic and nothing short of God’s handiwork. Her 21st birthday was one day before mine on October 2nd, she studied abroad last semester at UNC Chapel Hill (and therefore has had a taste of the south), she’s a science (Physics) major, and she studies a lot. While we’re both pretty busy and unfortunately don’t hangout a ton, it is really great to spend time with her when we are able to see each other.

For her 21st, she had about 10 people out to her house in Hindon, which is an hour away from Dunedin. She lives on a sheep farm in the hills surrounded by rolling green pastures. The weather from Friday through Sunday last weekend was sunny and warm, so the beautiful weather made her location in the hills even prettier. When we arrived on Friday evening around 6:30pm, we had snacks/appetizers and all hung around talking. Later we migrated to the dining room for dinner, a delicious meal that her parents made, and then afterwards we had cake. Despite it being HER birthday and having her friends over to celebrate it, Sam was still incredibly thoughtful and, having stealthily found out from me previously that my favorite cake is red velvet, had her mom make me a red velvet cake and presented it to me after our dinner and before her cake. I was so confused when she was bringing out my cake and when everyone was singing happy birthday to me, but I was also very flattered by her kindness. I still can’t believe she did this! Needless to say, her mom’s first time making a red velvet cake was a success and it was delicious!

My red velvet cake and Sam’s ice cream cake:

Five of us spent Friday night at Sam’s house and in the morning we got to bottle feed some baby lambs! Lambing season starts at the beginning of August and is nearing the end right now. Since Sam lives on a sheep farm, there are little lambs everywhere. We got to spend time with the orphan lambs, petting them and then bottle-feeding them. These lambs were so cute! Lambs in general are just cute, especially when they frolic in the pasture and jump around. After feeding the lambs, we sadly had to return to Dunedin.

Sam’s backyard was cute and full of beautiful flowers:

Sunday was another beautiful day, which I began by going to church. It was great being back in church on a Sunday, since it had been a while since I’d gone, and it made for a good start to my day. After church I spent some time basking in the sun (while doing some work) on the balcony outside of my room, and then I saw the Lion King in 3D with Vanessa and Molly.

The view from my balcony (not that spectacular, but the hills in the distance are nice):
 

Sunday night my friends celebrated my 21st birthday (a day early) and we had a potluck dinner featuring breakfast foods. This dinner was DELICIOUS and reminded me how great my friends are here.

The apple & pear coffee cake that Anna made for me (it was as good as it sounds):

On Monday, my actual birthday, I got to hammock for the first time since coming to NZ. I took my Eno hammock to the Botanic Gardens, found a place off of the trails in the woods, set up my hammock, and attempted to read a book for English but instead took a nap. When I returned to my flat after class, I discovered that Kate and Jackie had decorated my room with balloons and confetti, which was a great surprise. I did absolutely nothing all day (except go to my 2 classes), and Kate took me out for a birthday dinner that night. We went to an Italian restaurant at St. Claire Beach and ordered a nice glass of wine to accompany our dinner (I felt like a real adult)! Afterwards my friends came over to my flat for chocolate cake that Kate and Jackie had made. Overall, my friends and flatmates made my 21st birthday in New Zealand a great one and I felt very loved!

Me and Kate roughhousing (as usual):
 

This weekend was another low-key weekend spent in Dunedin. On Saturday I went to a nearby beach, Sandfly Bay, with Molly. This is a great place to see sea lions and penguins, the former of which we saw. The sea lions come up on the beach and lie there, looking dead. They look like beached logs from a distance. The penguins usually come out at dusk and are already a hard bird to spot. They are characteristically camera shy and disappear whenever you whip your camera out or just look at them really.

On Sunday I ran a half marathon that I did not train for at all. Molly talked me into running it with her, and I finally agreed to this on Wednesday. Ironically, I ran it 1 minute faster than last time and finished in 1:56:40. Granted, this course was completely flat, like not a hill in sight, but it still makes me feel great about the 2 months of training that Erin and I did for our half almost a year ago. The weather was beautiful though and we couldn’t have asked for a better day, so overall it was a great accomplishment!

1.     There is no canned pumpkin, Gatorade, graham crackers, or goldfish here

2.     The windshield of a car is called a windscreen

3.     There are drive-thru Subways here

4.     Cars beep when in reverse

5.     The ground floor of a building is not the first floor; what is considered the 4th floor to Americans is actually the 3rd floor to Kiwi’s

6.     It is very common for the toilet to be completely separate from the rest of the bathroom

7.     Households typically have a compost and hangdry their laundry


The drive home was quite an adventure as well. We stopped several times to look at the view and take pictures, and we stopped at least 8 other times to play chinese fire drill. The 10 of us were in 2 cars for the trip, and we were driving on deserted country roads, so we thought we would have some fun and stop randomly and run around the car, sometimes hopping in the other car and other times even switching drivers. It sounds weird, but it was really fun.

We also stopped at the Moeraki Boulders on our drive home, which are a popular tourist attraction and just large, circular rocks on the beach. The boulders were fun to climb on and hop around, and the beach was very stunning in the fading afternoon light.


This weekend 10 of us went to Mt. Cook, a mountain range 4 hours west of Dunedin. We arrived late on Friday night to our accommodation, which was about 20 minutes away from the Mt. Cook Village. On Saturday we headed toward Mt. Cook to attempt to tramp, but the weather was cold and rainy. We went on a short walk to a lake with miniature icebergs, but after that adventure we decided to head back to the lodge. On Sunday the weather was sunny with a slight breeze, great tramping weather. We went back to the Mt. Cook Village and found a 2 hour return hike. The hike was tough and a very steep incline with a ton of stairs, but the view from the top was spectacular. We were surrounded by snow-covered mountains so every picture looked photoshopped. We ate lunch at the top before heading down, and then we began our journey back to Dunedin.


Mid-Semester Break

Alas! I’m finally sitting down to update my blog. To those of you still reading it, first of all, thanks for keeping up with it! Second of all, I’m sorry for the delay, but here is what’s happened these past two and a half week.

Two Fridays ago, Isabel, Matt, Dave, and I hit the road for our South Island road trip. We travelled over 1400 miles in Matt’s “sports car”, a 1991 Toyota Corolla. The NZ government called it a sports car, which made Matt excited, and she (surprisingly) didn’t experience any troubles on our trip! Our first stop was Franz Josef Glacier, which is on the west coast and a 10 hour drive from Dunedin. Thankfully this was the longest portion of our drive for the whole week and we got it over with first. There was never a boring moment driving around the South Island because everywhere you look there is beautiful scenery. On our journey to the West Coast, we drove along the ocean some and then hit a mountainy, windy portion of the road that had tropical scenery.

Our “sports car”:

Matt, me, and Isabel on our drive to Franz Josef:

The West Coast is also very isolated and deserted. You can travel for an hour without driving through any towns, and when you do drive through a town it’s gone in the blink of an eye. There doesn’t seem to be much civilization in that part of NZ, and what is there is very touristy, such as the two glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox (they’re about 30 minutes away from each other). After leaving Dunedin at 11:45am, we finally arrived to Franz Josef around 9:30pm, found our room at the hostel, and went to bed.

On Saturday Isabel, Matt, and I went on a full-day guided hike on the glacier while Dave went hiking on his own. You have to go on a guided hike to actually step foot onto the glacier for safety reasons, and they offer half-day or full-day hikes. It was a long day, having to be at the tour building at 8am and not getting back until 5pm, but it was well worth it! The glacier was a big block of ice in between two massive mountains. The walk up to the actual glacier was a large, open area covered in rocks and dirt, and there was no snow anywhere around the glacier. Our hiking group consisted of about 30 people, and we split into 3 groups based on speed. We joined group 1, the “fast” group, but our pace was still very manageable by any non-hiking standard. Our guide, Ben, was knowledgeable about the glacier and ended up being a great guide. The guides have to carry a huge, heavy axe to fix stairs that are cut into the glacier as we go along. We wore crampons, large spikes that you strap to the bottom of your shoes, to have traction on the ice. In the pictures you’ll notice that the ice looks blue in some parts. The deeper the ice, the more pressure it’s subjected to and the less air it has, which makes it a blue color. Our hike included climbing lots of ice staircases, shimmying through crevasses, and going through ice tunnels. As part of the glacier hike, we got a free pass to the local spa, which the four of us enjoyed on Saturday evening.

The glacier from a distance:

Crampons!

The three of us at the top (or at least the highest point we hiked to on our tour):

By the end of the day the fog had settled really low over the glacier, and it looked like this as we hiked out:

Our next destination was Nelson, which is at the top of the South Island and an 8-hour drive. On our way we passed through some fun towns, two of which we stopped in. Hokitika offered a nice view of the ocean and Sweet Alice’s Fudge Shop, and Punakaki had the well-known Pancake Rocks. The Pancake Rocks are flat, individual rocks stacked on top of each other that actually looked like one huge rock with horizontal cracks in it. Somewhere near Nelson we also stopped at the Buller Gorge Swingbridge, which is supposed to be the longest swinging bridge in NZ, but this was a disappointment. You had to pay $5 to walk across it and it didn’t even look that spectacular. We just looked at it through the fence and didn’t fork out the money.

[Side note: I’m sorry, but there are no more pictures for the rest of this blog post. I was almost done uploading all of the pictures then something happened and everything after this point was erased. I was completely gutted and don’t have time to re-upload everything as it takes a while. I’m going to direct you to Isabel’s blog for photos from the rest of break, as she was much more prompt about posting them. http://cran-kiwi.tumblr.com/ I’m sorry!]

We stayed in Nelson for two nights at Tasman Bay Backpackers, which was by far the best hostel we experienced during our trip (we only stayed in 3 different hostels though). What I’ve gathered from my hostelling experience, which began in NZ, is that hostels are a great way to travel for cheap (usually around $25/night), very homey, and very clean. Most are like being at your grandmother’s house – everything is clean and cozy. Each hostel is different, but in general there’s usually a living room with comfy sofas and a warm fire going where everyone lounges around in the evening. They also have a large, continental kitchen for you to do any cooking and a fridge for your food. It’s a great place to meet all sorts of people, and, should you talk to them, hear everyone’s story and what they’re doing in life. This particular hostel was great because we got free wifi and free chocolate pudding and ice cream each night. Since being in Dunedin, I’ve felt like a true college kid, where I have come to appreciate free pens/pencils/highlighters, free internet, and free (or very cheap) food. For instance, the Otago uni student association, OUSA, has $3 lunch everyday, where lunch is literally $3. The menu is the same Monday through Friday: pasta, rice and curry, rolls and soup, rice and lentil soup, then a surprise Indian dish each Friday. All of their meals are vegan, and while they’re not particularly healthy, they’re DELICIOUS and so worth the money. They give you enough food for 2, if not 3, other meals. This deal may even beat the ice cream from Rob Roy Dairy. Anyway though, back to Nelson. Our first night in Nelson we walked to town and ate at a Chinese restaurant, then made it back to the hostel in time for chocolate pudding (which was really more like cake) and ice cream.

For our full day in Nelson, we went to Abel Tasman National Park, which is New Zealand’s smallest national park. Even though it’s the smallest, it has a long, thin shape and seemed quite large to me. Abel Tasman is on the coast and the hike from one end to the other takes about 4 days. It’s very common to take a water taxi out to a certain point and then hike back, or hike out and take a water taxi back. We did the former, taking a 3 hour water taxi tour of the park before being dropped off to hike back. Abel Tasman is beautiful. Unfortunately we were there on a cloudy, rainy day, but it was still spectacular. The water is a clear aqua color toward the beach that gradually changes to a darker aqua-blue color as you get further out, and this would look even more stunning on a sunny day. Sunny or not though, Abel Tasman is what I imagine Hawaii or Fiji to look like. The land features a tropical feel with ferns so large they look like palm trees and with all sorts of other plants. The Abel Tasman track is also very flat, with inclines only going to and from the beaches, so it makes for an easy hike. Hiking back from our drop-off location, I felt like I was in Lord of the Flies with all of the tropical-feeling plants. Our hike took about 3.5 hours and we took our time, stopping along to way to take pictures or go down to different beaches. By the end of the day we were exhausted. On the hour car ride home Dave, Isabel, and I fell asleep, leaving Matt to stay awake on his own while driving.

That night at the hostel we decided to cook dinner, and we had rice with veggies mixed in and chicken. We also met this guy named Jack who was so interesting to talk to. He was from England and had been away traveling since November! He had graduated from university 2 years ago and saved up his money, and on his travels he was going to every continent except North America and Antarctica. He had already been to Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia, and his next and final stop was South America. I saw him eating his meal alone, so I invited him to sit with us for dinner. We talked to him all during dinner plus more afterwards, and I still could have talked to him all night I was so intrigued by his travels. I can’t imagine doing what he’s done– traveling by the seat of his pants, not knowing exactly what he would do in each country, just knowing when he was arriving and leaving; not always knowing where he would sleep that night or when his next meal would be, and living out of a hiking pack for the past year. It’s amazing to think how little we actually need to survive, and yet I’m always buying things that I “need”.

The next morning in Nelson Isabel, Dave, and I woke up early-ish and went to a coffee shop. Nelson is known for having a lot of quaint coffee shops, so it wasn’t hard to find a place to try. We picked a Swedish café that had the BEST croissants I’ve ever had. They were light and flakey and made with so much butter they melted in your mouth. I usually only like chocolate croissants, but their plain ones were better than most chocolate ones I’ve had. Delicious! Afterwards we went back to the hostel, packed up the car, stopped by the Nelson Cathedral on our way out, then headed to Kaikoura.

The drive to Kaikoura was beautiful and certainly even prettier with the sunny, warm day we experienced. It was a 4 hour drive that, once closer to Kaikoura, followed the coast, offering yet more stunning scenery. At one point we stopped for a leg stretch/scenic view by the beach, and on the beach was a seal soaking up the sun. Dave and Isabel decided to accost it by running over to it, upon which it responded by disappearing into the ocean, but we got a few good pictures before it left. Just outside of Kaikoura was the Ohau Waterfall that our Abel Tasman water taxi driver recommended we stop at. It was about a 10 minute hike to this waterfall that was nestled back in the woods.

We arrived to Kaikoura around 4pm and the weather was still beautiful and sunny. We went straight for the Kaikoura Peninsula to get a hike in before the sun went down, which turned out to be my favorite part of our South Island travels. The peninsula was gorgeous, stunning, spectacular, etc. Words and pictures don’t do justice to its beauty. Walking along the peninsula, there was a sheer cliff to one side, with the aqua-blue ocean below. On the other side were rolling green hills with cows grazing, in the distance were snow-capped mountains, and the baby-blue sky featured above white wisps of clouds. Despite going out and coming back the same route, the views were different both ways because on the way back the sun was setting, offering different lighting on the landscape and put a pink haze in the sky.

After the peninsula we checked into our hostel, the Dolphin Lodge, then headed to the one main street in Kaikoura to find dinner. Kaikoura is a tiny town that mainly profits from tourism, and during the summer they are packed with visitors. They are also known for their crayfish, which is a type of fish very similar to lobster. Crayfish don’t have pinchers and taste sweeter because, as we learned, “they are hunters not scavengers.” A whole crayfish can range anywhere from $90-$150 at restaurants.

The next day we arranged to go deep-sea fishing in the afternoon, so in the morning we decided to attempt to find a huge, 2500-year-old tree we were told about by our waitress from the night before. We were a bit skeptical about whether we would find this tree because her directions were a bit dodgy. We were instructed to follow the trail that would cross through a couple of rivers, pass through a gate marked with a “no trespassing” sign, take a left at the fork, and follow the barbed wire fence. We followed her directions as closely as we could, but when we got to a hippie farm/commune type place and were greeted by a pig, we decided to turn back and not complete this adventure. After our failed hike, we headed to a recommended roadside BBQ stand for seafood. This place was legit, and we ordered and split the seafood platter.

After lunch we met up with our fishing guy and went deep-sea fishing. He arrived with a tractor pulling his little speedboat, and we hopped in the boat, were put into the water, rode 10 minutes out to sea, and dropped the lines into the water. The weather was sunny but windy, making the water choppy and favorable to seasickness. Surprisingly, even after our seafood platter, only one of us got sick (and it wasn’t me). Our fishing guide was the real deal. His name was Nick and ironically we had heard about him from our water taxi guide and then given his name from the hostel as a good guy to go fishing with. He was practically a legend, and for good reasons. He was missing all of his fingers except a pinky and thumb, and he was missing half of his left leg (from the knee down). He knew what he was doing when it came to fishing. In deep-sea fishing, you drop your line to the very bottom of the ocean, and he could tell if your line was at the bottom or not by just watching you. He could also tell if you had a fish before you were able to feel it on the line. The fish that we were catching at the bottom of the ocean were gurnards, and they were biting like crazy. Within 30 seconds of getting your line to the bottom, you would be reeling it back with a fish (or two) on the line. Total we caught about 6 fish apiece, and Nick would fillet them right in front of us. As a part of this fishing extravaganza we were each given a crayfish, so on our way back into shore we stopped by the traps Nick had in the ocean and got the crayfish out. Since we didn’t have anywhere to put our catch and Crayfish can live for 2-5 days out of water, Nick gave us a box to keep our fish in (separated by newspaper so the crayfish didn’t eat our filleted fish). We stuck the box in the middle in the back seat and drove to Christchurch with dinner. In Christchurch we were staying with Peter, Isabel and Matt’s Kiwi host, at his parents house. We arrived around 7pm bearing dinner, baked the gurnard, steamed the crayfish, and feasted.

The next day we said goodbye to Dave, who had to get back to Dunedin for a geology field trip. He left early in the morning on a bus. We spent a majority of our day in Christchurch looking at the earthquake damage, which was tragic and devastating. I had never realized the damage that could be caused by an earthquake, and the disasters in Christchurch resulted in the whole city center being shut down. People were basically evicted from their businesses. Peering through some windows of stores, things were left exactly as they had been when the 22 February 2011 quake hit. One coffee shop still had the newspaper from that day on the table next to the window. Dirty plates and coffee cups were still on tables, and that day’s menu was displayed on the black board. Another travel store had pamphlets and brochures on the wall. Things were left in the exact same spot and businesses had notices on the door saying that they could not enter until further notice. Some buildings displayed obvious damage from the outside, and others looked fine but perhaps had structural damage that made it unsafe. Houses had plywood to reinforce some walls, and large cracks appeared in the pavement. Peter’s house even had cracks in some walls and other small structural damages, but overall they were not badly affected by the quakes. The mood outside the fences put up around the city center was eerie and devastating.

Other than looking at the quake damage, we went to the mall and later in the afternoon went sea kayaking. Peter and his family own 2 sea kayaks, and we went to the Lytton Harbor to kayak. While it was cloudy and cold in the afternoon, this was still a lot of fun and my first time sea kayaking.

Later that night Kate picked me up from Peter’s house and I spent the rest of the weekend with her at her house in Ashburton. It was Thursday evening when she picked me up, so I spent 2 full days with her. On Friday we lounged around and went to the center of town, which consisted of one main street and a few side streets. On Saturday we went skiing at Mt. Hutt, which was about an hour away. The mountain was small compared to ski mountains in the states, as they had a limited number of runs to the bottom and it took about 15 minutes from the time you got on the ski lift to the time you were back in line at the bottom. However, I did enjoy skiing and am glad that I was able to ski in New Zealand before the season closed. Overall, Kate’s house was nice and relaxing, and much warmer than my flat. It was a nice change and both of us didn’t want to leave on Sunday to go back to uni.

My first week back from the break, I was heads-down writing a history research essay due the following Monday. I was able to complete my rough draft by Friday afternoon, when I headed to the Catlins, a nearby mountain range, for the night. I went with Anna, Isabel, and 2 guys who were Anna’s lab partners. We went so that Anna and the guys could do their biology project, and Isabel and I came along to fill up space in the car and experience the Catlins. The Catlins are not what I expected, as it was more like a large farming region that happens to be in the mountains rather than a specific mountain. The Catlins have a lot of short, 30-minute walks, and you drive from one to the other. Isabel and I drove from track to track all around the Catlins on Saturday.

Saturday night marked the opening of the Rugby World Cup in Dunedin. The first game was on Friday night in Auckland, All Blacks v. Tonga, and the All Blacks obviously won. On Saturday, England and Argentina played in the new covered stadium in Dunedin. Dunedin was buzzing with fans, but despite this “large event”, it still didn’t compare to Athens on game day. The Dunedin stadium only holds 30,000 people, which is nothing compared to Sanford Stadium’s 92,000. I ended up watching the game with Kate and her friends in our living room on live stream. Our flat is located 2 blocks away from the stadium, so when the live stream would freeze, we would know if something big happened because we could hear the noise coming from the stadium. England ended up winning, 13-9.

This past weekend I went to the England v. Georgia rugby game. To be honest, I didn’t know that Georgia was a country before hearing about this match. It’s located in both Europe and Asia, between Western Asia and Eastern Europe, and it’s flag looks like that of England with 4 additional smaller red crosses (thank you, Wikipedia). England won 41-10. It was an average game of rugby with nothing too special occurring, but it was nice to see a RWC game live in Dunedin’s new stadium.

This week I find myself busy with work, again, as I have 2 essays due next week, one on Tuesday and the other on Friday. I need to get a significant amount of work done before the weekend though, as 10 of us are going on a trip to Mt. Cook this weekend with the Dunedin city tramping club (the same group I went with to the Routeburn). Mt. Cook is 4 hours away and supposed to have great views, so I’m excited! I’ll be sure to post about it (eventually).

Sorry for taking waaaay too long to complete my post on mid-semester break, but again, thanks for reading my novel.

Interesting Observations:

1.     New Zealand’s father’s day is the first Sunday in September

2.     “Z” is pronounced “zed.” Saying “N.Z.” sounds like “en zed.”

3.     There are only 8 Universities in NZ, 3 of which are on the South Island. Otago is the southern-most University in the world.

4.     New Zealander’s call high school “college”, yet university halls of residence are also referred to as “colleges”

5.     College (aka high school) here is 5 years and uni is typically 3 years (with exceptions, of course)

6.     All colleges (once again, think high schools) in NZ have uniforms

7.     Every pen that I’ve acquired or borrowed has been blue ink. The only black ink pen I’ve used is one that I brought from home.

8.     Some towns (like Kaikoura and Ashburton) have volunteer fire departments. To call the fire fighters, a siren goes off that blares through the whole town.

9.     Your last name is referred to as your surname or family name

10. NZ trusts you to not steal gas. At most petrol stations you have to pay inside after you’re finished and there isn’t even a credit card machine at the pump. 


Road Trip!

Today marks the beginning of our week-long road trip around the South Island. There are four of us traveling in an old (probably 1980s model), stick shift sudan. While rather cramped, she will do just fine in getting us around the South Island.  It will be me, Isabel, Isabel’s flatmate Matt (also the owner of the car), and their neighbor Dave (who came to Queenstown). We are staying in hostels each night until we get to Christchurch, where we will be staying with Isabel and Matt’s kiwi host, Peter. Here is our itinerary:

Friday 11am – leave Dunedin for Franz Josef Glacier

Saturday – full day guided hike on Franz Josef Glacier

Sunday – head to Nelson, arrive mid-afternoon, and hike

Monday – full day in Nelson

Tuesday – head to Kaikoura

Wednesday – hangout in Kaikoura then head to Christchurch

Thursday – spend all day in Christchurch, Dave goes back to Dunedin

Friday – Isabel, Matt, and Peter go back to Dunedin, I go stay with Kate

Sunday – Kate and I return to Dunedin

Dave has a geology field trip that leaves Dunedin on Friday, so we are getting to Christchurch on Wednesday so Dave can catch a bus back to Dunedin on Thursday morning. Additionally, on Friday instead of heading back to Dunedin with the others, I’m going to stay with my super-awesome kiwi host Kate at her house that’s an hour outside of Christchurch. I’m staying with her for 2 nights and we will return to Dunedin on Sunday. While I don’t feel like I deserve a break from school yet, I’m certainly not complaining about having a week off and I’m very excited (and nervous) about the break. Prayers for safe travels and fun adventures would be most appreciated! I will be sure to take lots of pictures and write down important details to share with you on my next blog post!

What would a blog post be without…

Interesting Observations!

1.     The uni central library on campus is open until 11pm everyday, even Fridays and Saturdays.

2.     Station wagons and small cars with hatchbacks are popular; while not particularly attractive, they are practical with the expensive gas

3.     Gas is $2/liter, which is about $7.50/gallon à they also call gas ‘petrol’ and gas stations ‘petrol stations’

4.     An elliptical is called a “cross trainer” but spelled x-trainer.

5.     Math and cross-country have an ‘s’ at the end. For example, “I’m studying maths,” and “I used to run cross countries.”


Queenstown Pictures

Views from the wharf:

Views at the top of the Queenstown mountain:

Left to right: Molly, Dave, Anna, and Vanessa

The 5 of us in action racing down the luge track

Fergeburger! (Stacy, don’t hate me)

AJ HACKETT BUNGY JUMP!!!!

Left to right: Jackie, Addie, Jo (our German friend), me, and Vanessa

Kate very excited about the snow on Sunday evening just after we returned from Queenstown

Mt. Cargill Sunrise:

Salina and me at Rail Jam:

Still my favorite building in Dunedin - the railway station:

Me and Allison with our Rob Roy Dairy ice cream :)


Two Weekends: One Adrenaline-Filled and One of Relaxation

Quick side note: I couldn’t get the pictures to upload in this post, so I’ll upload them separately.

My trip to Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world, two weekends ago was a success and a lot of fun! On Friday afternoon, 5 of us departed Dunedin in my kiwi host’s car, and we thankfully made it to Queenstown safely. I drove the first part of the way there, and Vanessa drove the second part. Everything almost fell apart at the end when we were trying to find the location of our hostel and having to turn around several times, and there may have been a few moments where we were on the right-hand side of the road, but in the end we made it safely.

Saturday was a beautiful day and our first time seeing Queenstown in the daylight. It’s a cute town that’s very touristy and has a ski town feel to it. On Saturday we hiked up to the top of one of the mountains, which you can also access by gondola. At the top we went luging. I’ve never luged before, but it’s basically like go carts without a motor and on a downhill track. Gravity and momentum take you down the track, and you pull back on the handlebars to brake. The track was windy and had sharp turns, and it was great for racing down, which the five of us did.

After hanging out at the top for a while, we were forced to walk back down the mountain since we didn’t want to pay to ride the gondola. However, the hike down was quick and much easier than going up, so it ended up being fun. Saturday night we went to a popular burger place for dinner, called Fergeburger, where we waited for an hour for a burger. One hour at a fast-food joint. It was worth it though, as the burgers were the size of your face and very delicious. After burgers we went to a dessert restaurant called Patagonia. Since this place had two of my favorite things – sweets and the name ‘Patagonia’ – I naturally loved the gelato that I ordered.

Saturday night we were a lame group and went back to the hostel and were asleep by midnight. Even though we were in Queenstown, which supposedly has a great nightlife, I didn’t care one bit that I was in bed early and was thankful to be traveling with others who wanted to do the same.

On Sunday I received my adrenaline fill for the weekend, because I finally got to go BUNGEE JUMPING!!!!!!!!!!!!! Looking back I still can’t believe that I did this, and yet I want to do it again (and again and again). It was awesome, incredible, amazing, etc. Vanessa and I were the two from our group to go bungee jumping, and we had to be at the AJ Hackett location in Queenstown at 8:50am (another reason why I was happy to go to bed early). Anna, Dave, and Molly left at 8am to go for a half-day hike, so they were off doing their own thing while Vanessa and I had a thrill of a lifetime. Once we met at AJ Hackett, we were bused to the Nevis bungee jump, which a 30 minute ride out of town. Incidentally, Sunday also welcomed snowy weather, and it had already started by 9:30am. Apparently snow is no issue for bungee jumping, and we continued our journey to the bungee site. Once we got there, we were fitted into harnesses and were quickly on our way to the bungee location. At the Nevis bungee jump, there is a structure, like a small hut, that is suspended on huge cables in between two mountains and over a river. You have to take a little metal gondola/cart that goes from one side of the mountain to get to the hanging structure. There were about 20 people in our group that left the AJ Hackett location to bungee, and I was in the first group of people to actually go to the hanging structure to jump. Incidentally, my flat mate Jackie and a friend of hers, Addie, were also in Queenstown for the weekend, staying at the same hostel, AND on the same bungee trip. Me, Vanessa, Jackie, Addie, and a German girl we met on the bungee bus were the first group of five to go to the hanging structure and take the 134m plunge.

The workers at AJ Hackett know what they are doing and have bungee jumping down to a psychological T. As we were riding the metal gondola to the hanging structure, the three workers were talking to us and distracting us from looking down. They would joke with us about what we were about to do (we asked them if they had bungeed before, and one guy responded, “definitely not, too dangerous”), but talking to them helped ease my nerves. They also told us what order we were jumping in that was based on weight: heaviest to lightest. Once we got to the hanging structure, they put on pump-up music and got to work. The music helped SO MUCH and made what we were about to do fun and exciting, not scary. I was the fourth to go, and waiting for my turn was exciting and not nerve-racking (because of the music). There was a glass strip in the floor that we could look through to watch the person falling who had just jumped. The speed and efficiency of the workers didn’t give you time to think about what you were about to do and change your mind. When it was my turn, they had me come to the front section of the hanging structure and they sat me in a chair that reminded me of a doctor’s chair. This chair allows you to prop your feet up so they can hook your feet together and hook the bungee rope up to you. After a quick minute in that chair, the guy swung me around the side and led me to the ledge, where I immediately looked down and couldn’t believe what I was about to do. In a matter of seconds the guy said, “ok, now look straight up and jump in 3-2-1,” and I leaped into the abyss.

They say that the Nevis gives you 8.5 seconds of freefall, and if that’s true then that was the shortest 8.5 seconds of my life. It went by so quickly, and the sensation I got during the freefall is hard to describe. I don’t remember getting the feeling of losing my stomach, but the freefall was still a bit scary and for half of it my eyes were closed. The bungee cord was so smooth that I couldn’t quite tell if I was at the bottom or still in freefall. Once I had bounced what I thought was two times, I released my feet so that I wasn’t dangling upside down anymore but sitting upright in my harness. The short time hanging there, waiting to be pulled back up, was a moment of excitement and realization that I just bungee jumped 134 meters, how awesome it was, and an opportunity to hang in a canyon surrounded by beautiful mountains and overlooking a river. Once I was back at the top, feet planted on firm ground, I wanted so badly to do the bungee jump again and again and again. It was that amazing.

After Vanessa and I got back to Queenstown from our bungee jumping, our group booked it out of town because a “large” snowstorm was hitting the whole south island, including Dunedin (and by large, it depends on where you are as to how much snow you get, but in the hills around Dunedin they got 7 inches, and in Dunedin we got maybe 1 centimeter). When it had snowed a month earlier (also about 1 centimeter), the road into Dunedin was closed and people got stuck in Queenstown. Getting stuck wasn’t an option for us, as I had a test on Tuesday and others had classes they couldn’t miss on Monday, so we had to make it back. Since Kate is awesome, she made sure that we had snow chains with us just in case. For most of the drive it was smooth sailing; it snowed almost the whole way home, and some places along the road had more accumulation than others, but overall the roads were clear and safe for driving. We didn’t hit any snow trouble until we were entering Dunedin. Our destination was at the tip of our fingers, just 10 minutes away from our flats, and the road entering Dunedin was a long, gradual hill. We were fine going up this hill, but going down was a sheet of ice. We weren’t going fast by any means, as there were other cars in front of us. At one point the car in front of us braked, so Vanessa stepped on the break and we started slowly sliding to the left, toward 2 cars that had pulled over to the side. Vanessa cut the wheel to the right and thankfully we stopped, and at this point Dave said, “Alright, everyone out of the car. This will help Vanessa out.” There were also 2 guys helping traffic get down the hill, and they talked Vanessa through what to do to get down: put the car in 1st gear, take your foot off the gas and whatever you do, don’t brake. The four of us walked down the hill, and Vanessa safely got the car to the bottom. After that we slowly chugged along to our flats and made it home safely without a scratch on the car and proud of ourselves for making it back!

Because of the snow, one of my two classes was cancelled on Monday, and my test got postponed to Thursday. Even though Dunedin sees less snow than Georgia, the University is still open on snow days and it’s to the teacher’s discretion whether to cancel class or not. This is surprising to me since a lot of students and teachers live in the hills around Dunedin, and getting to campus could be dangerous. Then again though, suing isn’t common in New Zealand, so perhaps they’re not as concerned about safety for legal purposes.

As for this weekend, I spent another weekend in Dunedin. I had really wanted to get out of town this weekend for Friday night, but all of my attempts failed and it was obviously God’s will for me to stay in town. I was supposed to go on a Tramping Club trip from Friday to Saturday to Silver Peaks, but this trip got cancelled due to bad conditions on the mountain. Then I tried to join Isabel and her flat for part of their weekend trip to Wanaka to ski, but the ride I arranged to get back to Dunedin on Saturday fell through. The reason why I had to be back by Saturday night was because Allison (my friend from Furman) and three others visited and spent Saturday and Sunday nights with me. They go to the University of Waiketo in Hamilton, which is on the North Island, and are just starting their 2-week mid-semester break. They rented a camper van and are going around the South Island, and their first stop was Dunedin. Despite my failed attempts and reluctance to stay in town, God revealed his sovereignty and I ended up having a good weekend. Friday was a pretty unproductive day, despite my attempts to do work, and Friday night I went to a German play with Kate (who just came back from a semester in Germany, is a German major, and used to be in these annual plays) that was supposed to be non-German friendly but wasn’t. Even people who knew German didn’t understand what was going on in the play. On Saturday I hiked Mt. Cargill with four others from the Uni Tramping Club to watch the sunrise, and we met up for this at 5:45am.

After a successful and fun hike, I was back by 10am and went to the farmers market. I also did about 2 hours of work that was actually productive, and then I went to hangout with friends of mine from the Overseas Christian Fellowship group, Salina and Angela. I spent time with them at their flat and then we went to a Muslim Mosque where we observed their custom of praying and breaking their fast after sundown during Ramadan. This experience was so interesting and I had a lot of fun. I met the two nicest Muslim girls who are in their last year at uni, and they were so kind to answer all of my questions (which, as you can imagine, I had a lot). Observing the Muslim traditions was very interesting. Men and women were separate and in different rooms while at the Mosque, and everyone was required to remove their shoes. They first broke their fast by eating a date, then they had about 10 minutes of prayer where a guy was reading the Qur’an in Arabic (which sounds more like singing than speaking words) and they had cycles of standing up, leaning over as if they were touching their toes, and then getting on the floor with knees bent and head on the ground. Then it was time to eat, and the girls that we met served us food. Again, these girls were so incredible nice and humble, putting others first. They made sure that everyone else, including ourselves, had food before they sat down to eat theirs. I was so amazed and wanted them to eat before I took their food, since it had been 2 hours since I had last eaten but 10 hours since their last meal. The dinner was rice, lamb, hummus, a roll, and salad, with several desserts afterwards like cake, cookies, and a few other desserts They also told us that a few women cooked all of this food during the day, meaning that they were cooking food but couldn’t eat it until after sundown. This concept just blows my mind away because I’m constantly eating while cooking!

After going to the Mosque, Salina and I went to the Octagon to stop by the Rail Jam. This event was taking place on Saturday night and was a snowboard and skiing competition on a short downhill slope with different “rail” jumps. They set up a huge ramp with three rails and put snow on it, and the competitors went down the slope and did jumps.

After spending about 45 minutes there, Salina went home and I welcomed my friends into Dunedin, who were just arriving. They were tired after their travels, and I was tired after having an early start to my day, so we hungout for a little bit at my flat and then went to sleep.

Sunday was a fun day with my friends as well. We went to the railway station and the Octagon in the morning, and then I gave them a lot of suggestions for what to do around Dunedin and they headed off to Baldwin Street on their own. I went to church instead, and afterwards they went to the Otago Peninsula on their own and I went to the library to finish an assignment that was due on Monday. Sunday evening I showed them around Otago’s campus and took them by Isabel’s flat to see what her place looked like. We finished up the night with a trip to Rob Roy’s, something that you must do to have a true Dunedin experience.

They left early on Monday morning (7:15am!), and while their visit was short it was really nice having them. I’ve found that I enjoy hosting people, showing them around Dunedin, and telling them about the city. It was especially nice getting to spent time with Allison and be around someone else from Furman and the south. I feel like we’ve been friends for longer than we have because we get along so well and picked up right where we left off in Rotorua!

We have one more week of class at Otago and then it’s our mid-semester break (which we only get a week, whereas most schools get 2 weeks, including Waiketo). For the break, I’m going around the South Island with Isabel, her flat mate Matt, and their neighbor Dave (the same Dave who came to Queenstown). Matt just bought a car and the four of us will pile in his car and either couch surf (stay on people’s couches for free) or stay in hostels. We are going to Franz Josef Glacier and going on a full-day guided hike, then going up to Abel Tasman and Nelson, over and down to Kaikora, and then ending in Christchurch. I’m very excited for this trip and can’t wait to experience more of what the South Island has to offer!

Interesting Observations:

1.     Time is written with a period instead of a colon. For example, 7.30-9.30pm.

2.     A period in a sentence is called an end stop.

3.     A popular outdoor store here is called Kathmandu, after the capital of Nepal and pronounced Katmandu.

4.      New Zealanders refer to American football as grid iron.

5.     All eggs are brown, even ones found in the grocery store. Eggs in the grocery store are also not refrigerated and found in an isle in the middle of the store.

6.     The date is written dd/mm/yyyy. August 22, 2011 would be written 22/08/11, or 22 August 2011.