Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dreams, Dad, Distracted

It's funny because everyone always says how Australia is so big, but people often view it like Canada, as though you could see the whole place in a week or something. While I was aware of this common known knowledge, I didn't really realize until I started driving around Australia.

So this is what I've learned: Australia is big. it has a lot of people. It has some pretty big cities.

For some reason I think I've always just picture Australia as a random island with sparse people here and there living in the wild with crocodiles, koalas and kangaroos and running away from oversized snakes and spiders.

To my shock, there are lots of people and civilization! They have cars, tvs, everything. While this may seem funny to you and you might be thinking, "obviously", for some reason I have never pictured it this way even though i know my ideal picture is completely false.

So recently my nice little images have been shattered to bits.

Another thing that I am pleasantly surprised by is how incredible the coast is. The beaches are stunning. And there's a lot of them (obviously, it's an island). And they're not all crocodile ridden or full of killer sharks and jellyfish. Quite nice to swim in and surf on in fact.

So these are the things I'm learning about Australia. Well, I know them before in my head, but now I'm truly learning about them in an experiential kind of way.

Right now I'm at the ywam base in Wollongong. How fun is that to say? Very. I know a bunch of people here, mostly from high school, and funny enough, one from elementary school, so it's been fun to see people and catch up. Great to meet new people too. And they live like five minutes away from a stunning coast, so how can you go wrong, right?

Last night I had two really interesting dreams that I thought I'd share here because one was quite funny and the other quite thought provoking.

In the first, I was getting married. But for some reason, I had forgotten to get a dress, to ask people to be in my wedding party, to invite people and a few other small details I forget. So I wrapped myself in blue wrapping paper as a pseudo wedding dress and as a couple of my friends walked in wearing jeans and t-shirts, I told them to come join the wedding party. It was lovely. Right. I walked down the aisle and then realized that no one I knew was there. So I decided not to get married because I wanted to wait until I could have a huge party with all the people I knew. Morale of the story: When you get married, remember to invite people, and to wear an actual dress.

In my other dream, I was with my dad. Now I dream about my dad fairly frequently and it's always weird when I wake up, because I suddenly remember that he's not alive, yet in the dream it brought me back to a time when he was alive and we hung out. So that's a bit strange to begin with. Anyway, we had a fantastic day together just him and I hanging out and doing some really fun things, essentially really enjoying each other's company. Then we came to this gift shop, and suddenly I needed to buy a bunch of things and that's all my focus was on. And we lost something and that's all I could think about. As we were leaving, my dad was really sad and I was filled with a type of emptiness. And then I realized that he just wanted to spend time with me and I was being completely distracted.

I was struck with how much of a picture this often is of my relationship with God. He just wants to spend time with me. That we can get to know one another and enjoy each other's company. Yet along the way, I become so distracted, looking at what I can attain, whether it be anything from material items to an experience to a picture taken. He wants to experience life with me, not be ignored in certain spots where I lose my focus.

Anyway, those are a couple of the thoughts floating around in my head after a night filled with vivid dreams.

Enjoy the weekend! I will enjoy mine and then will be home very shortly on Monday! Crazy how time has flown!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sydney, Seahorse, Surfing

Greetings again from Sydney! Has been a busy last few days. After becoming a professional surfer, it was obvious everyone would want to become my friend. So I have been busy networking for that. Riiiight.

Stayed with some friends of a friend a couple nights ago and it was great! Always fun to meet new people and I love it when they have kids too because it's fun to play! :) in the morning we went to the beach and swam and jumped waves. Have been stopping at beaches to swim, surf and relax and read.

Now I'm back in Sydney and staying in a hotel with the best view ever. They have a rooftop pool and hot tub which is right in the middle of downtown and has a perfect 360 view, including a perfect view of sydney harbour bridge and the sydney opera house at night. fun to see all the bats flying around the bridge at night.

Went to the aquarium and wildlife centre today along with some other stops along the way to see different things and just wander as well. Tonight I'm off to see a musical which should be fun! And then tomorrow off to visit some more friends!

And I'm not really saying much of substance but just wanted to send out a quick shout-out to say hello and I haven't been eaten by sharks.. yet.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Beaches, Banga, Brisbane

Greetings from the Gold Coast! The beaches here are incredible and the sand is so soft. The other night I was able to upload some photos from my other camera so I figured I'd share a few of those here as well.

Cedric likes to continually remind me to stay on the left side of the road. I put the sticker up for when he's driving.

Skipper's Canyon where I went jetboating! It was a 2 hour drive into the canyon on really narrow roads but the mountains around were stunning. (this was back in Queenstown)

Franz Josef Glacier that I did the half day glacier hike on!

One of the many random waterfalls that I drove down long gravel roads for and went hiking to go find!

The dune we went sandboarding down! It's not a great picture and is blurry but based on the size of people going up it gives you a bit of an idea of how big it is! (and the bottom part is missing too!) So fun! I need to find some local sanddunes...

Cedric at the beach, proving that even though he has no legs, that will not stop him from having fun.

Incredible NZ beaches!

Bread Capital.. in honour of my post about random places that dub themselves capitals.

The Hot Pools at Lake Taupo! So nice!

Geothermal Park of Orakei Korako

Huka Falls

Fly Fishing! I wear orange to attract the fish.. actually normally you wouldn't wear bright colours but because the water was so high and churned up, they wouldn't be able to see it...

One of the fish I caught!

Lake Taupo

GIANT kiwi!

One of my fave places I stayed! Cool atmosphere and great wall art! (okay I have a beef about hotels/motels and other places always putting horrible art on their walls, so I appreciate it when it's nice!)

I love the ferns! Evidence of that is how many pictures I have of them...

Cathedral Cove

Stingray Bay from a distance

Hot Water Beach

Digging my hot water pool at Hot Water Beach

Relaxing and trying to take a picture of myself in the hot pools! So lovely!

And such a beautiful view!

Me and baby E where I was staying. I miss her-she is so so so precious!! And full of smiles and giggles! I absolutely loved staying with Dave and Karin and was so incredibly blessed to spend time with them and be encouraged. So refreshing!
And they showed me a true Australian experience with a tour of their town, and some great eats.. Mmmm... we had kangaroo steaks, beef pies, deep fried pineapple and bananas, iced chocolate and many other tasty treats! :) Now I will eat vegetables for 2 days. :)
And we watched a rugby game last night so I feel much more educated on the game of Rugby. I even know a player's name. pretty much an expert what can I say.

Mmm.. I love the grease stains on the pie bag...

As I mentioned before, today I arrived on the Gold Coast and enjoyed walking around the beach, people watching and surfer watching! And I did a little bit of shopping. Well, that means I bought a really cheap suitcase that I can fill with Tim Tam's for friends back home. haha. If Air Canada allows me to have two bags, each weighing fifty pounds, it makes sense that I would take them up on their offer...
Tomorrow i'm taking up surfing! I decided (in a moment of sheer motivation and inspiration) that I would take up a minimum of one new sport/outdoor activity every year. This year's activity will be surfing! So I'm having a surfing lesson tomorrow and after the lesson, I will rent a board and keep refining my skills (which I'm sure will come incredibly naturally).
After surfing I'm going to go see some humpback whales (hopefully) and then going to church in the evening! The church name is 'Surf City Church'so it should be fun! Maybe it's a surfers'church? Can't wait!
And that's all for now, stay tuned! Oh, and Banga is in the title because for dinner I'm stir-frying vegetables and having kanga banga sausages! Which is pretty much kangaroo sausages.. Mmm.. I have no idea what the banga means actually. But I am loving kangaroo and am excited to eat more of it at home (there's an exotic meats place i'm going to start frequenting). They jump around all the time so they're all muscle. And I wrote Brisbane in my title because I drove by it, and it started with a b, and I needed one more word. Just thought I'd explain myself a little bit!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cedric, Crash, Crushed

For those who have wondered what happened to Cedric... Here was the last photo taken of him wholesome.. then the fish spat him out.. kind of like Jonah. Except Jonah came out whole. Now I call him Humpty Dumpty for short, even though that's not shorter. Below are the before and after shots...

Hope you are feeling better than Cedric today. But he's a trooper. He sends his love. As do I.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pictures, Preview, Pursuit

My posts have been lacking in pictures lately. So here is a small preview of a few of the places I've been, things I've done and sights I've seen. And trust me, there are plenty more where these came from! Enjoy!

The koala and I had a staring contest. I won.

Kangaroos!! Got to feed and pet them!

Emus! Didn't want to pet these guys because their feisty and tried biting a couple times...

This photo was taken of Cedric in Queenstown... this was before the fatal accident.

Incredible mountains! Covered with fresh snow!

The Remarkables! Rightly named! They serve as a lot of the backdrop in Lord of the Rings.

Bluff signpost in the south of the south island

I love these palm trees and can't stop taking photos of them.. then I realize I have fifty or so already so I should stop.

A nutural bridge cave. Very cool! Had to walk through a cow pasture to get there, but well worth it and part of the adventure! Except that my shoes were covered in.... mud when i got back.

The plane I stayed in! As I mentioned before, this plane actually flew in the Vietnam War. Crazy.

Me on the beach. as you can see by the hair, it's windy out.

Sheep. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

For some reason I found this sign funny.. Maybe because i feel like dog droppings should rather be dog's droppings? or maybe just because i'm immature. haha

Such cool plants!!

Kauri trees! This picture doesn't do them justice, because they are MASSIVE! And incredibly majestic!

A blurry waterfall picture. Haha.. Couldn't see itwas blurry when I picked this one off the camera but it was a lovely spot nonetheless!

Stingray Bay (near Cathedral Cove) where I walked yesterday

I haven't downloaded any pics from my waterproof camera which actually saw a lot more because it was pouring and therefore i didn't want to wreck my nice camera.. But hope you enjoyed this little sneak-peek! And now you can put a bit of a visual on the trip!

Today I arrived back in Australia and then drove to my friends', Dave and Karin's house to stay with them for a couple nights, along with their beautiful baby daughter. SO wonderful to see them and catch up and we've already been having a great time! Enjoyed some kangaroo steaks for dinner! Mmmm... And played some Trivial Pursuit as well. Played the children's version so we would actually know the answers (although I still failed at even recognizing some of the stuff!)
I miss NZ and actually wanted to cry a little at the airport this morning when leaving, but I have wonderful memories and know I will be back one day. And now is the visiting friends part which is proving wonderful so far!

These are my favorite plant in NZ. THey are feathery and wonderful!

That's all for now!! Have a great day!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pools, Pouring, Paradise

Remember when you were little and went to the beach and started digging holes in the sand? And then you'd get to a certain point where you hit water and the whole would fill up. And you would try to keep digging and water would keep coming in.

I did that at the beach today... the only difference was that the water coming in was super hot fed straight from a hot spring at the top of the beach. May have scorched my hand a couple times because the ride side of the hole I had dug was scorching hot (there was a stream coming in there) and the left side was perfect. I sat there for a few hours takin gn the incedibly colours of the waters and talking with a local guy about pretty much everything. It was wonderful. I even got a burn. I know burns aren't normally good, but I was excited about this one because it meant there was sun! Yay for sun! Okay it would pour rain with nasty wind intermittently but then the sun would come out again and all was well!

Right before I went to hot water beach, i walked to see cathedral cove which is absolutely stunning. I went to a couple other bays and my breath was literally taken away because it was so absolutely stunning. I can't get over how blue the water is-it's like youre in the caribean but better because there are so many different shades of blue mixed in.

When I got out of my car at the carpark, it was pouring rain so hard that i was soaked in the first minute of standing outside. But I pressed on. Once I got to the first bay, Stingray Bay, I looked up and it was completely blue sky and warm and sunny-amazing! I love how the weather changes so fast here. Very cool. And then it was sunny the rest of the day, intermittent with periods of a lot of wind and pouring rain. But it was wonderful nonetheless and I loved every minute of it.

This morning I am headed back to Australia, at the airport right now. I felt like I was about to start crying when I came to the airport because I love it so much here and don't want to leave.. sigh. But I am SUPER excited to see some friends of mine throughout Australia and a little bit scared to drive on the left side of the road there because the roads are way busier.. whereas in NZ, on some of the roads you'd see a car every hour.

Funny enough though I think I am accustomed to driving on the left side... I was watching a movie the other night and thought "Oh no, those people are driving on the wrong side of the road..." Oh dear. Perhaps the transition to driving on the right side will be more difficult than I thought. Hope I don't get in on the wrong side of my vehicle too many times!

I will be back to New Zealand as soon as I can and next time in summer! Here's hoping Australia is warm and that it stops raining there because all I no longer have any pants (trousers for those who think I'm talking about my underwear). My last pair ripped. And I threw away my shoes because they smelled like something had died in them and were soaked and saturated far beyond recognition with mud and muck (and who knows what else...) So my suitcase is lighter and ready to be filled with... who knows what.

That's all for now! G'day for the last time from New Zealand! Next time you hear from me, I will be in Australia! Have a good day!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Swimming, Summer, Sand

Just when I thought New Zealand couldn't get any more wonderful or beautiful, it outdoes itself, again.

Have I mentioned I love it here?

Except for the driving in gale force winds thing.. that's not so fun. I like driving when I feel like the wind is going to throw me off the road... or off a cliff.

After being on the east coast yesterday (stunning), I drove a little more north to the Coromandel Peninsula. Wow, wow, wow. The water is a light blue and is incredible. And the cliffs and hills and sheep and waterfalls and trees are great.

Went for a walk to see some Kauri trees (one of the world's largest trees... and it grows straight too) and they were amazing. So majestic. As I was walking, you could hear gusts of wind and I was worried about things falling on my head... just then a bunch of palm branches fell about a metre away from me. haha.. I thought for a moment about the gigantic Kauri trees falling on me but thankfully they decided to stay nicely rooted.

Went to some beautiful waterfalls too. The rough thing is they had the PERFECT swimming hole right in front of them.. but it was kind of chilly out and almost getting dark, so I decided to save it for another day. I definitely have to come back here during the summer.

On my drive back to the place where I'm staying, I saw the most incredible sunset. A myriad of colours shining brilliantly over the mountains and glimmering on the ocean, with storm clouds in the distance intermingled with patches of blue sky.

The place I'm staying is awesome. Probably my favorite place so far. And it has a perfect view of the ocean!! And the best part is that they have a year-round outdoor heated pool (everyone else's pools are closed in winter..) so tonight I'm going to go swim laps! Can't wait!

Tomorrow I'm going to go hike to Cathedral Cove (if you see advertisements/trailers for Prince Caspian-Chronicles of Narnia, it was filmed here!) and then I will go to Hot Water Beach to dig some pools for myself to relax in while the tide comes in (was going to do that today but missed low tide).

Off for some swimming and enjoying the sky! I didn't think I could fall more in love with this country but every day I do. I'm very sad to be leaving it the day after tomorrow. :( But I will be back one day!!

Enjoy your day!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Flying, Fly, Fish

Favorite dialogue from yesterday:
Me: I need to order another pizza because mine flew away.
Guy at pizza place: Seriously? It flew away?
Me: Um. yeah. It's windy out.
Guy: Oh, okay then.

Haha.. It is indeed windy and the wind picked up my pizza and threw it all over the road to become food for the birds. Sad day. Oh well, least I could go buy another. yesterday's pick was apricot sauce base with chicken, pine nuts, cream cheese and camembert. tasty!

Just got back from fly fishing which was fantastic! It's funny because I often fish when I'm away from home yet I live near amazing fishing. So it is my new goal to take up fishing when i get home. Which would mean learning how to actually tie flies to a line and get over being grossed out by picking up fish with my bare hands. It's not like they're going to bite me or something.

Anyway, reeled in two fish, one rainbow, one brown trout. Beautiful river, almost flooding, but lots of fun! I strangely enjoyed standing in the water as well even though that was a bit nippy!

Tonight going to an irish pub to listen to some locals play some music. Should be fun. And will hopefully redeem my last experience in a local pub... And hopefully the river levels lower so I can go white water rafting tomorrow. Have a good weekend!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Showers, Signs, Scented

Do you ever have moments where you see something you think is funny and you cannot stop laughing hysterically to yourself, even though you're all alone? And whenever you think about it, you start laughing again?

The other day this happened to me upon seeing a sign at the side of the road. It was one of those yellow signs, with a horse on it, warning you that sometimes there are horses on the road and you should try to not hit them. Anyway, someone had drawn a pointy horn on its head, making it into a unicorn. And for some reason, I started laughing quite a lot because apparently there are unicorns on the road in New Zealand... Maybe you had to be there... or maybe i'm crazy.

Didn't go white water rafting because there was way too much water in the river due to the storm. I've extended my stay here another night and will be trying to go on Monday. Kind of nice to lay low today, going for walks in the rain, and doing some reading and journalling.

The toilet paper in my bathroom is scented. I love scented toilet paper (yes I am crazy) and every time I'm in the bathroom, I have to smell it (before using it of course). Haha..

Now this next bit might be too much information, but I think it's funny so I will share it. I was at the geothermal park yesterday walking around and had fairly bad gas... (i know I"m so attractive). I was walking around just letting it go (reminded me a bit of my grandma) and thankful it was the off season and no one else was around... at least I know what I'll be like when I'm 80. Except then I probably won't care if there's other people around.

Another New Zealand wonderfulness I have discovered is pickled onions in rum and honey. SO tasty!! I think I will attempt to make some upon my return.

I also find it funny when places have showers with no ledge to stop the water from flowing into the rest of the bathroom, or the rest of the room for that matter. This is the second place I have stayed with that and I sure hope the drain works because I don't particularly want to flood the room.. unless that was maybe their intention?

Anyway, so ends a very random post with random thoughts from yours truly. Tomorrow I am going fly fishing and hope to catch a trout. Then I shall find a restaurant that will cook it for me (the only way you can get trout in restaurants). Funny enough, I don't even really like fish. But for the sake of my full fly fishing experience, I shall eat some. Mmmmm... G'day!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hot, Huka, Home

To begin, I must say that the "hot" in the title refers to hot pools, not at all to the weather. In fact, right now I am soaking wet and freezing. So I will make this blog post quick before the hypothermia sets in. But once I go to my room and shower, I will make dinner (nachos.. mmmm) and watch movies and be in my PJ's.

And just for the record, Hell pizza was AMAZING! So good! So hard to choose though. I think I will go again to try something else. Once I get home and have more internet time, I will post the different pizza topics/combos because they really are quite brilliant.

Last night the spa pools were awesome! There were private and public ones, all of varying temperatures. They were surrounded by palm trees and the rain cleared up so the sunset and later the stars were incredible! I met this couple and we chatted for about 2 hours. She is originally from California, he's from England, they met 8 years ago in NZ and both stayed.

Today I went jet boating on the river to a geothermal park. The hour long ride there wasn't always so pleasant and rain pelting at your face feeling like it's cutting it, isn't always fun. But we got to the park and wandered around-so cool! Random plumes of steam coming out everywhere and bubbling mud, and water that's steamy. And caves created by geothermal activity too. On the jet boat ride home, we did tons of 360 degree spins and it was sunny so that was nice.

On the drive back to where I'm staying, I stopped at a couple more geothermal areas to walk around. Then I went to Huka falls which are small but lots of water coming over, and it's the most brilliant blue colour ever, and it churns up into white foam-very beautiful!

And now I'm back here and will soon go prepare my dinner and enjoy a relaxing evening! Tomorrow is white water rafting which will be my first time, but I can't wait!

And I find it slightly funny that NZ is predicting the storm of the century this weekend. Heavy snow, heavy rain and gale force winds of 130 km/hr. Just my luck. :) White water rafting should be fun! And that's all for now! Thanks as always for all your comments!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Coke, Carrots, Capitals

FYI, a Kiwi (New Zealander) thing to do is to mix Coke with Raspberry Shweppes.. a guy told me about it today and although it looked funny mixing brown and pink it was actually quite tasty. So that's me being cultural.

I also drove by (okay stopped and took some pictures as well) a giant carrot today. I love giant random items. Definitely drove out of my way a bit just to go see it. And it did not disappoint.

Drove by the bread capital today. Bread capital of what? And besides, who decides these things anyway? Is there a committee that goes around deciding certain areas have an overabundance of goods and thereby dub it a capital? Not that I'm complaining, because I appreciated the giant bread loafs by the sign welcoming me to their town.. name of the town, no idea, but I will always remember that the bread capital is in NZ.

I have arrived in Lake Taupo and LOVE it. Okay I can't see much because it's so darn foggy and rainy. Haha. But apparently it is beautiful with lots of volcanoes. The place I'm staying is so wonderful I've decided to stay for 4 nights! Some of the things I hope to do in the next few days: white water raft, trout fly fishing, prawn fishing, maori cultural dinner, bungee jump (big maybe.. haha), jet boat to some waterfalls, sit in hot pools and walk in some geothermal parks! Should be busy! But I'm super excited! And there's a dvd player here (okay so that may not seem exciting) but I had brought dvd's along and have not had a chance to watch them but now I will have something to do late at night! No more going to bed at 9:30pm! Wooooh!!

Today I finally found a Christian radio station. There was a reading of James 1 on there and I felt bad for laughing through most of it, because the guy's voice was overdubbed (you know on movies when guys try to disguise their voice over the phone-that's what it sounded like) and then there were ocean sounds with seagulls in the background. Right. Anyway, as nice to listen to some praise music and I hope to find somewhere local to go to church on Sunday!

I have been reading through Psalms, Proverbs and the gospels and it's been really good to get back into the swing of reading the Bible daily. It's funny because as I read the gospels, I think "Hmm. the disciples and these other people didn't get it" in response to some of the stuff. Then I remember that I would probably react the same way.. and that perhaps in a lot of ways I don't get it. Humbling indeed.

I'm off to go swimming in some hot pools. Then I think I will grab dinner at Hell Pizza.. was looking at their menu and they have WAY more varieties of pizza than we do and they look tasty!! :) Have a good day!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sunsets, Sand, South

Figured I'd post again since it's dark now and there is really not much to do after dark... well, I could go out and meet some locals, but I think I will stay put for a bit.

Today I drove south along the western coast of the North Island- absolutely stunning! I made a commitment to turn whenever a sign pointed to the ocean and said 'surf beach'. There were a lot of them. Walked on each beach and loved the different cliffs along the ocean. Tons of really neat birds too. The sand is black which is kind of cool too.

After arriving at my destination this evening (took about 7 hours for what should have been a 2 hour drive.. haha.. yay for stops!), I drove to the ocean to read while the sun was setting. So beautiful! Despite all the sand blowing into my face mind you.

I may have mentioned this before, but one of my other favorite things about NZ is that most people wave at you when they drive by you on the street. SO friendly. Makes me feel like I know everyone who is driving by. I have started to wave all the time too, perhaps I'll bring it home with me.

I'm off to find something tasty for dinner! And then probably read. It's funny because never in my life when on my own, have I gone to bed so early. But I love it. Usually I go to bed by 10 and every morning I'm up at 6 or 7 and I absolutely love my time in the mornings... somehow I always forget that when I'm back home mind you.. maybe it will stick one of these days!

Enjoy your Wednesday-mine was great! :)

Today, Toilets, Tomorrow

Today it is sunny!! And I'm so excited I can see the mountains all around me! Driving on the coast, enjoying the calm ocean and mountains! Absolutely delightful!

I think it's funny that I am now the person with the accent. I have had a few people who have trouble understanding me and I think that's funny. Partly because of how I speak but also the words I use. My favorite went like this:

Me- "Oh, this toilet is plugged, so you might not want to use it."
Lady- "I dont' know what that means"
Me- "The toilet is.. full. You can't flush it."
Lady- Looks at me funny. "Oh, okay."

maybe they dont' get clogged toilets?

Another lesson I learned yesterday is: dont' put things on windowsills when the window is open. I was showering and put my shampoo bottle on the windowsill.. it proceeded to fall out of the window, onto some weird roof area that is completely inaccessible. Oh well, that was one way of making my toiletery case a bit lighter..

Tonight I am staying on the coast and am excited for some good hikes. Tomorrow I am headed up to see a giant vegetable monument and then I will go to Lake Taupo which is surrounded by 3 volcanoes (which hopefully don't blow up while I'm there). I am SO excited to stay somewhere 3 nights in a row. It will be nice to get settled. I'm hoping to go to some hot pools, see some geysers, enjoy the volcanoes and maybe even canoe or kayak or something!! Will be wonderful!

Having trouble sleeping at night because of recurring images from the other night. Not fun. But hoping that will pass soon.

And in response to someone's comment, i am now traveling alone. I was actually supposed to be in Bali right now. Things didn't work out and we went our separate ways and I decided to spend more time in New Zealand before heading back to Australia next week where I will visit friends! So that changes things, but I am enjoying doing things on my own although I do miss talking to people I know! That being said, I enjoy your comments as it makes me feel like you are all traveling with me!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Adrenaline, Airplanes, ATV

How do you pump your adrenaline in a matter of seconds? Sit at a bar chatting with people when you hear a shot. Thinking it was just a truck backfire I turned around to see a hooded guy waving a gun in the air. And a look of terror at the bartender who was just shot at.

Such was my evening tonight. Had met some friendly locals and some folks from Texas. We were chatting about guns actually... and then heard one fired off. After realizing it was real, we all ran out the back of the restaurant, to the patio, out the fire escape, into the bushes and down a gully, where we heard more gunshots, glass breaking and yelling.

Turns out, three of the guys tackled him and started wrestling him and punching him.. he got out and got on his ATV and drove right into the bar windows, smashing the glass. They tipped his ATV but he somehow got it back up and made his getaway.

So now I'm a witness. Crazy. I thought these things only happen in movies...

In other words, I'm staying at a very cool hotel right now. I'm actually staying in the last big bristol plane that left Vietnam. It has the original exterior, including doors and everything. Pretty cool. Except when in the middle of the night I heard someone walking on the gravel outside the window.. I learned then that it was just cows. haha. Hearing walking on gravel tonight might be a bit different after the evening I've had. But hopefully I will sleep all right despite all that.

Went for some amazing walks today. Saw natural tunnels, natural bridges, huge waterfalls, amazing vegetation, kiwi birds and much much more. The area I'm staying in is so incredibly green with rolling hills. Had some good close encounters with cows today as well.

I'm off to go try and settle down my racing heart and hopefully have a safe and peaceful sleep on my own this evening! Heading south tomorrow, not sure where, but hoping to get some golfing in soon!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sand, Sopping, Steep

I love how different decisions you make in life have completely different outcomes and sometimes when I make a different decision, I am pleasantly surprised at the wonderful things that end up happening.

For example, on Friday, I was driving up north and wasn't sure where to stay. The first 2 towns I had thought about didn't sit right and I was just driving through an area called the Bay of Islands on my way to spend the night in a different town when I figured this would be a good town, Paihia. The place I originally pulled into didn't really work and I was driving out of town again, when I drove by another place that I decided to stay at.

The lady was super nice and when I told her of my plans the next day, she suggested this trip so I wouldn't have to drive.

So, as it ended up, I took a bus to the northernmost point of the north island, Cape Reigna and had a fantastic day. It was great because only 9 people on the bus, all from different countries: US, Belgium, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, England and Japan. So great to have such a diverse group!

It was fairly rainy but that added to the fun in a way. We went sandboarding at some sand dunes and it was SO great!! You take about 15 minutes to climb up the steep and very high dune and then like on your stomach on a sandboard and you go flying!! It was so much fun. A bit freaky when I realized that putting my feet down wouldn't actually help me stop.. unless i wanted to cut my feet with the sand, so I just embraced the speed each time and went quite far across the stream at the bottom of the dunes! Was soaked and full of sand after, and didn't have a change of clothes, but oh well. Later when we stopped on the beach, I booked it for the Tasman Sea and washed the sand of my clothes :)

Aftwards we got to drive for 75 kms on the beach! So beautiful! Way better than the road! We had some other great stop, such at a gumdiggers forest, which was a buried forest and is actually the only forest in the world that is super old and hasn't been petrified or fossiled because it's on a sand base. Very cool. Had some good fish and chips too.

The coast here is stunning and the beaches are wonderful. I love stopping when driving and going for random hikes to find waterfalls and other things! Always something to discover!

And while I"m at it, other things I love about New Zealand:

-that they have random fences where people put up their stuff.. for example I have passed fences full of tied shoes, bicycles, gumboots, flip flops, bras... quite funny
-the fact that their roads are so incredibly windy and turny and curvy
-the speed limit (unless driving through a town) is always 100 no matter what kind of road you're driving on
-that I can buy a box of 10 golden kiwis for 2 dollars and it comes with its own kiwi cutter/spoon

That's all for today! Driving south to some really cool caves where more adventures await! And tonight I get to stay in a hobbit hole! :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Franz, Ferry, Forging

Greetings from Picton! I don't particularly like the name of this town.. but that's all right.

Picton is up north on the south island right by the ferry terminal, which means that I will be taking the ferry to the north island today! And we shall see what adventures await there. I've heard there's a hobbit hotel there, maybe i'll check it out?

The other day I hiked part of the Franz Josef glacier and it was fantastic! I've seen a lot of glaciers in my life, but it was very cool to actually be on the glacier. What a neat experience! We got crampons on our feet and everything. still sore two days later, but it was worth it! I guess I don't use my glacier climbing mucles every day. Perhaps I should begin...

I'm at a crossroads right now, but will keep you updates as to where the trip continues! But for now I shall forge on to the North Island!

Enjoy your Wednesday!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Haast, Hotel, Humans

Yesterday I found my new favorite road to drive in the whole world. It's the road from Wanaka to Haast, both tiny towns that have about 300 people in them.

Here are some things I love about Haast:
-the drive here is stunning, the mistiness of the clouds and the waterfalls you saw crossing the road every half a kilometre - you felt like nymphs and fairies would come out of the forest
-there are 14 one lane bridges on the way to Haast and I love those!
-there are penguins in Haast
-the brochure says "Haast is sparsely populated with the human species". Priceless
-you check into your hotel at the bar
-while at the bar, you meet all the residents in Haast
-you can have great conversations with everyone at the bar/restaurant
-you meet people from Holland and South Africa who moved to New Zealand because it is so darn beautiful
-where a fridge should be in your hotel room, there is a note (velcroed) that says sorry there are no fridges, they don't have enough power source
-have I mentioned the drive here is amazing?
-The name Haast is fun to say. And the bridge leading to Haast is called "The Gates of Haast"
-you can use the phrase "Life in the Haast lane"
-they have already offered me a job

There is much much more I could say about Haast, but I shall leave it with that. I love small towns with such character where you can meet people and just chat for hours. My favorite was after our evening, we were like "man, it must be like 1am". Yeah, it was 10:30pm... it gets dark early here. haha

In other news, I once again lack the ability to digest my food. Oh well... And today I'm hiking up the Franz Josef glacier and can't wait for the drive along the coast because I've heard it's amazing!! Enjoy your Labour Day in Canada and I will enjoy my Tuesday!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Earthquake, Eep, Earth

In the middle of the night my bed started shaking back and forth.

At first, I thought "I only had one glass of wine..."
Then I thought, "Maybe Ashley is rocking my bed back and forth?"
"Hey Ashley, is your bed shaking?"
"Yeah, haha, i'm glad yours is too."

Then I realized we're on the Pacific and they have earthquakes. Right. This morning I read that it was a 7.0 near Christchurch. No one's injured so far, just a lot of general damage.

Crazy how many earthquakes there seem to be around the world right now.

I'm just glad everyone's okay and that i'm not crazy for having a bed that rocks back and forth.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sheep, Snow, Stunning

New Zealand marks the 40th country I have visited.

New Zealand shall perhaps be dubbed my most favorite country visited. Well, tough to say, so maybe we'll say top 3... most beautiful perhaps.

Needless to say, here are some of the things I am LOVING about New Zealand:

-driving on the left side of the road
-turning my windshield wipers on whenever I want to turn
-the mountains-WOW
-the rivers and lakes (glacier water-stunning!)
-the people (so incredibly friendly!!!!)
-the culture
-the accent (when I can understand what is being said...)
-the SNOW! (yeah, it's 0 degrees here...)
-FergBurger (had a Bambi burger today.. at a uniquely NZ burger joint-SO tasty)
-getting stuck in sheep road blocks
-getting stuck in ram road blocks
-the wine
-have I mentioned the incredibly scenery?

Ahhh, those are just a few of the things I am incredibly in love with after only 2 days! I could live here.. I could visit here again. And I don't often say that about countries.

This morning we went 4x4ing which was fantastic. Remember in Lord of the Rings when all the black bad guys were riding horses through the river? I drove through that river today! Fun! It's neat seeing different scenes where the movies were filmed and I don't blame them for picking NZ-so stinkin' beautiful!!

And that's what I leave you with. New Zealand is amazing. I love it. It leaves me breathless, standing in awe of our incredible Creator.

I'm going to go look at the endless mountains!! G'day from Queenstown in the South Island!