Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I'm in the town of Christchurch now, still thankfully on the South Island. I have met over 12 women named Natalie while I've been traveling NZ. I just met another one from France two days ago in Invercargill and another one yesterday on the bus to Queenstown yesterday. I would have been keeping track along the way had I known it was such a phenomenon. Looking forward to exploring this city of gardens more tomorrow. And all the art and galleries here. I'm hoping to get away from the city again to do some more hiking.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Paradiso is Wanaka's cinema.  We ventured there twice during our five day stay.  Find a comfy couch and have a seat! 
This is the lounge area of the Purple Cow.  The best place to stay in Wanaka.  "Stormy" is their welcoming cat who spends a lot of time catching some rays on the front deck.

My hike to the top of Mt. Roy.  The sheep wanted me to tell you hello!

In the name of "Entertainment" for our Stray Bus Driver, Woody, he told us we had to get off the bus in order for him to safely drive the bus across it.  He said we exceeded the weight limit.  So we all obeyed and promptly got off the bus.  He laughed and waved at all of us as he drove past.  He was nice enough to wait for us on the other side.  Our trip has been filled with so-called "legend" stories and off the wall stories and practices of the Kiwi culture.  It's more for the bus drivers' sakes to save their sanity with all the driving and work they do year round for us backpackers.  Sweet as.

Our hike, sailing trip, and stay in Abel Tasman National Park.  Yes- that's a peacock visiting our accommodation in the morning before we left.  And a very bold bunny that hopped right by us as we were hiking.  

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fresh mussels cooked right on the Barbie by our Stray bus driver "Woody" in Abel Tasman National Park.  Yum.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tuesday, April 15th

Left my favorite town of Wanaka to make it around the rest of the South Island in time to get back to Auckland on the 26th.  Made it to Queenstown and staying in Deco, a once well-restored Art Deco building that has now been turned into a backpacker's accommodation.  We have a beautiful view of the lake and mountains from the garden.  

I've been thoroughly enjoying a simpler life with not much material possessions to worry about.  Life without a cell phone for the last 2 1/2 months has allowed me to forget what it was like to be attached to my phone messages and texting.  And only having to worry about a small amount of belongings I can carry all at once.  I can literally wash every piece of clothing I have with me in one load.  And hanging my clothes to dry in the fresh air has been a new, environmentally friendly experience.

I've been hanging out with a friendly group of "lads" and ladies from Ireland.  We've been living life together on the road and exploring new places.  I've had many good conversations about cultural differences, the difference between a "jumper" and "trousers" and much more.  It's been nice getting comfortable enough with people to discuss our differences and similarities while laughing at ourselves.   

Monday, April 14th

Hiked the Mt. Roy Trek.  This entailed 8 kilometers up a steep and rocky trek that was randomly "hit" with sheep doo-doo.  Watch your step!  I love when sheep see you coming along the trail and just stop and stair while chewing on grass.  It's the funniest site.  I caught myself talking to them several times.  Unfortunately none of them responded.

Due to my index finger's need to take so many photos, and the steepness of the trail, it took me 5 hours to get to the top.  I love the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction when reaching the top of such a challenging and breathtaking hike.  Yes!  I made it!  Taking in mountain peaks from 360 degrees as far as the eye can see.  It's just too hard to put it in words.  Coming down the 8 kms was another challenge but I made it to the bottom just as the sun was going behind the mountains.  Now to get back to the Purple Cow just another 7 kilometers away.  I made it to the Millenium Trek along the Lake Wanaka just as I lost all daylight.  My eyes surprisingly adjusted to the dark enough to follow the gray pebble trail back.  The other "Stray-ers" were going to call a search party if I hadn't arrived back within the last 10 minutes I came through the front door.  Ten hours was a bit much for a day hike but very satisfying and such a beautiful day.

Sunday, April 13th

Easter.  Photographed the sunrise over Lake Wanaka and just had quiet time.  Attended New Life Church for a nice Easter service followed by tea, cookies and good conversation.  Spent the afternoon at an art festival and sitting by the lake.  Attended an evening church service led by a woman named Natalie originally from Mammoth, California.  I've met over 10 Natalie's on this trip.  I was wondering where they were all hiding.  My arm, hand, and foot have been bothering me a lot from all the activities I've been doing and wanted to do another big hike on Monday.  The evening service opened up the floor for healing prayers for anyone that needed it.  I hesitated b/c I was a guest and it was such a small congregation.  But I quickly felt comfortable enough to ask as the people were very welcoming.  A woman named Katherine prayed over my hand and foot and it felt completely better in minutes.  I've never experienced such an instant answer to prayer.  This ongoing pain from my car injury has taken many different doctor treatments and time before any improvements have been felt until now.  I am in shock and elated for this healing and have God to thank for it.  There were many other physical ailments that were literally healed before peoples' eyes at their previous week's service too.

Saturday, April 12th

Just hung out at the Purple Cow, the place we've been staying in Wanaka.  It's been the best accommodation I've stayed in NZ so far.  The Tongariro Crossing National Park accommodation comes in a close 2nd.  

Friday, April 11th

Hiked around the lake with a few other "Stray-ers" and just explored the town.  Went and watched a movie at the local cinema that only holds 50 people at once with only 2-3 movies shown per day in a room full of comfy couches and an old VW Bug to sit back and watch the film.  They stop each movie half way through to partake in a meal or their well known homemade ice cream or home baked cookies.  Wish movies at home stopped in the middle for bathroom breaks, etc.

Thursday, April 10th

Got off the Stray bus in Wanaka, town of 6,000.  This was just supposed to be a one hour Stray stop but after reading up on Wanaka I knew I couldn't feel satisfied without spending a few days.  This town is situated right on Lake Wanaka with mountain landscape all around.  Loved every second of being here.  This has been my absolute favorite town in NZ so far.  It has the best of everything all in one.  A small town feel, access to everything one could need in way of shops, nice people, art galleries, art festivals, wineries, water activities, loads of hiking "treks" around the lake, up into and through the mountains, skiing in the winter, and tons more outdoor activities.

Wednesday, April 8th

Franz Josef Glacier

It rained the day before more than what London's annual rainfall!!!  That's a lot of H20!  So the "trail" in the rainforest taking us to the glacier had turned into a fast flowing creek.  It was a site seeing all of us trying not to get our boots wet.  By the time we got out of the rainforest, it was pouring rain again.  It just hadn't rained enough yesterday.  So the idea of keeping our feet and boots dry was comical to our guides to say the least.  We quickly learned to step right through water pools without holding back.  As we got up into the glacier, we added "clamp-ons" and an ice pick to our glacier outfit ensemble.  

Tuesday, April 8th

Hiked the Abel Tasman Trek from the southern most part and spent the last half of the day on a sailboat viewing the mountains from the sea.  It was a nice treat sitting back after a long hike through rainforest and along the cliff ocean coastline.  

Monday, April 9th

Maori Bone Carving.  Learned how to do this traditional art form by Maori people.  We got to start with our own piece of cow bone, pick our design, draw it on, and begin carving.  I chose a the traditional fishhook which symbolizes strength and determination.  The Maori custom is to give this symbol to a close friend as a gift.  It is not something to buy or make for yourself.  I will be passing this necklace on to a close friend when I return to the states.

Church in the Sky

Sunday, April 6th

So, I had a choice, I could go to church on ground level inside a building or I could experience fellowship with God in the sky.  I went for the hang gliding in memory of Poppa Bill and enjoyed taking in the sites and scenes of God's beautiful creation from above.  While living with Poppa in his last few weeks, he shared that he's always wanted to go hang gliding to see what it felt like to be a bird.  He loved birds.  I would have let fear get in the way of even considering doing this but wanted to cheers Pops up in the sky.  Thank you Poppa.  It was a free ride.

That evening we arrived in the tiny town of Barrytown.  Population: 19  We doubled the population when our Stray Bus arrived.  We had a theme party to make the small town a bit more exciting.  We had the challenge of wearing anything other than clothes to our dinner roast that evening.  It was fun creating an outfit of random objects.  I managed to use my laptop bag, foil, and a black plastic bag to create my outfit.  It was the dressiest I've felt during this whole backpacking trip.  Who knew those items would make a girl feel like a lady out on the town?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Relaxing Detour

Detour: Pujjis Wellness Retreat
So, I haven't gotten a chance to mention about my kayak adventure. I went kayaking 37 km on the Whanganui River a few weeks ago and aggravated my right hand injury to the point of having no muscle control/strength in most of my fingers. I quickly learned to do most things with my left hand. So Debbie, the woman I was Wwoof-ing for referred me to Arvind, a holistic doctor that she's had a lot of success with. He worked on my hand and arm for an hour and got it feeling a lot better in just one treatment! He asked me to do some photography for them in exchange for staying here for a bit. So, here I am, spending time in the sauna, relaxing, and planning image compositions for the shoot. It's been fun spending time here with Arvind, Rachel a co-Wwoofer from Australia and Cyndi, a woman originally from Youngstown, OH living in Luxembourg here on a two year travel adventure. The four of us have been hanging out, eating fresh food prepared by Rachel and getting to know one another. This place is very relaxing & spiritual.
Another reason for my longer detour in Nelson? I met a photographer at church on Sunday who invited me to go shooting with him at Abel Tasman in a few days. That's where I was heading next on the bus with Stray anyway, so it's all working out smooth. I can hop on the Stray bus in Abel Tasman later this week.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


March 28th
So, here I am, hardly caught up on my blog but having a jolly old time here in NZ.  I've been keeping a journal on my computer but can't seem to copy and paste things straight into this blog.  It's a shame I'm not better at technology and the simple steps I'm sure it takes to make things easier.  So anyway, I'm gonna start with today and go back in time if you will.  I'm currently in Richmond- a small town outside of Nelson- it's a lovely place on the South Island.  YES- I made it to the South Island!  It is beautiful here.  I've been working on a farm for over a week now.  Debbie & Warren's 10-acre farm.  It is as nice a life as one could imagine.  They are surrounded by about 75% mountains and 25% ocean.  The sunrise and sunset light and scenery are truly breathtaking.  Debbie & Warren have ostriches, lamb, sheep, goats, chickens, birds, and their sweet dog Missy to keep them company on this fine piece of land.  They tend a large flower, fruit and vegetable garden.  I laughed the first day or two when Warren would complain of a few cars going by throughout the day.  But now that I've gotten accustomed to the peace and quiet I've found myself turning my head and wondering who on earth is driving past their home.  It will be a shock going back to cars and the street lights.  
They live across the street from the largest estuary on the South Island.  Many birds come here from Alaska and other parts of the world during the winter.  Nelson is known as one of the sunniest places in NZ. 
I've learned how to make fresh basil pesto, why peppers are different colors (and different prices in the market), and that I'm more of a city girl than I realized.  I'm really loving learning things from the ground up and plan to make some changes in my day to day life when I return to the city. 

Sunday, March 8th
So I've been traveling on a "Stray" bus pass through NZ the past few days.  Stray prides themselves on going to out of the way places in NZ to see the places less traveled and catch more of the beauty of these islands.  Our driver, Rorey, otherwise known as "Beggans" has been cluing us in on the ins/outs of this beautiful country.  We even made a quick stop at his Mum's house in the suburbs of Hamilton, located on the North Island.  
What a day.  My new friend, Tanja, from Finland and I stayed in Raglan an extra night so we could take in more of this beautiful beach city.  We're so glad we stayed.  There is an amazing view no matter what 360 degrees you look from....beaches, mountains, surfers, tropical rain forests, and more.  After hitching a ride towards the heart of Raglan town from our hostel, I had a visit at the church just on the edge of town.  The congregation comprised of 22 people including the pastor, pianist, and a family also visiting from Portsmouth, OH and a guy from NYC.  What a small world it truly is!  The Portsmouth family was there on "holiday" from their new home in northern NZ.  They moved here as missionaries about a year ago.  
Tanja and I went to the harbor that afternoon to watch kite surfers- one which was William, the older guy I met from NYC earlier that day.  How did we get to the harbor?  Again, we hitched a ride with a lovely native couple Catherine and her husband Ashlee.  They toured us all around that afternoon showing us the best views of the ocean.  The typical New Zealander, or "Kiwi" as they call them, are very friendly people and sincerely go out of their way to help you with directions, a ride, or whatever you might need at the time.  It's been amazing receiving their kindness and a great lesson on how to treat others.  

I've had many, many accents running through my head and haven't been able to keep them all straight.  A lot of people are here from England, Ireland, Germany, Finland, and Canada.  Not too many US Citizens.  
This country is very environmentally friendly too.  They recycle everything, with recycle bins next to most "rubbish" bins on the street, switches on each power outlet, and toilet flushing options: 1/2 flush or a full flush!  What a great idear!  

Monday, March 9th
Got on another Stray bus with our driver, Blair, and headed for the town of Waitomo.  Known for their caves and imported Angora Bunnies (straight from Germany).  I got to pet some Angora Bunnies and watch one being sheared.  Apparently they'll overheat and die if they're not sheared at least 2-3 times a year.  They put the bunny in a sort of "pilates like body, rope stretching device and shear away.  It sounds painful but really it's been inspected and okayed by the SPCA and the bunnies seem to like it.  The rest of the day was spent hitchhiking with Tanja into the closest town 20 minutes away by car.  There were no grocery stores in Waitomo.  So they should also be known as the town of "little food".  And no worries- Tanja hitchhikes a lot in Finland - it's safe to do here in NZ too as long as you're with a friend or two.  Okay, so I'm taking some risks.  It's been fun.

Tuesday, March 10th
The next morning still in Waitomo- I explored the "Lost World".  This was an amazing experience of "Abseiling" (aka repelling) over 300 meters underground into a cave.  There were four of us including our guide.  We first hiked to the location, geared up, had some chocolate, and hiked to our abseiling location.  I love how they find a way to make chocolate a part of many experiences here.  Once we made it to the bottom of the cave, we hiked through the cave and explored the underground world.  Glow worms and interesting rock formations abound.  Four hours later we climbed out of the cave and made our way back.  Our eyes took a bit to adjust to the bright sunlight.  
Met back with Tanja about 11:30 that morning and chilled.  We saw the most beautiful rainbow after a short rain.  It was worth every minute of being in Waitomo for so many days.  We went into town for a burger, chips, & beer for dinner. 

Wednesday, March 11th
I was stuck in Waitomo for another day- no seats available on the Stray Bus.  Tanja headed north to Auckland with a friend and I stuck around for another Stray  bus to head further south.  No more hitchhiking for me.  Only with a friend or two.

Thursday, March 12th
Cougar, the Stray bus driver picked me up from Juno Backpackers in Waitomo.  She was a great tour guide and welcomed me to the group of Strays.  We headed to Maketu where we stayed for an evening of Maori Culture, a Maori show, and traditional dinner.  Yum.  Fish, chicken, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and peas, all slowly cooked together in the ground Maori style.  They taught us some of their Hauka dance, then slept "Maori" style, as they called it, on the floor in one big room.

Friday, March 13th
Stopped in Taupo for a few days.  

Monday, March 16th
Hiked the Tongariro Crossing in eight hours.  It was amazing.  It's so hard putting words to what I've gotten to see.  But this is truly one of God's best pieces of art.  It was the hardest hike I've ever done but worth every step.

Friday, March 20th - March 27th
Wwoof-ing (Willing workers on Organic Farms)  With Debbie & Warren.  I've been learning all kinds of things in the garden and kitchen.  Is there anything fresher than walking in the backyard, picking veggies right from the vine and steaming them up in the kitchen to eat less than an hour later?  I've also learned how to make basil pesto straight from the garden chef style thanks to Debbie.
Warren made his infamous Mussel Curry Dish that was super delicious.  Mussels are quite popular and once again fresh from a friend's farm in Marlborough.

Friday, March 27, 2009