New Zealand follow-up and the start of a new adventure!

I have received several messages asking what happened to me since I have seemed to drop off the face of the earth!  The end of my time in New Zealand and the weeks following the trip were hectic.  The past few months have flown by so fast, I am really not sure where the time has gone!

I realize I did a poor job completing the blog about my trip to NZ -- so I am going to post the log my mother and I put together throughout our trip.  This repeats some of the days that I posted previously, but for completeness, I would like to get it all up on the web :-).

Before I post the log, I wanted to update you on what I have been up to!  Last month, I received word that my adviser was granted 10 "Toolik Days" for us to travel up to Toolik Field Station located on the North Slope of the Brooks Range, where I happily spent my summer in 2009 working as the nutrient research assistant in the wet chemistry laboratory for the Marine Biological Laboratory.  I was (and still am) ecstatic for the opportunity to return to Toolik.  However, since we needed to be up to Toolik before the snow and ice set in (it is really difficult water sampling weather), we had about a month to prepare for the trip!  It has been a busy month indeed!

I don't want to start rambling on too long about Toolik before I really finish up the New Zealand adventure so here is the complete travel journal of our trip! (It is quite long so feel free to scan if you aren't already :-)

 

Tuesday, 25 Jan 2011

Lisa arrives in Christchurch and meets her triathlon coach Molina at the airport.  He helps her purchase a mobile phone SIM card and USB stick for internet (since free wifi in New Zealand is extremely hard to find, and costly when purchased by the minute/hour) and delivers her to the Apex car hire office.  She rents a Nissan Wingroad wagon (1.5 liter engine---quite underpowered for the vehicle size; definitely underpowered when loaded up with bags and bike!) and drove the 5 hours to Dunedin.  She arrived at Baldwin Street with only some circling (that’s the best thing about staying on the steepest hill in the world:  it was marked on all the tourist maps)!

We made a short trip to the grocery to get dinner-making supplies (including green-lipped mussels – a New Zealand classic!).

Wednesday 26 Jan 2011

We woke to more rain so we went to Bikram Dunedin and had a very very hot, very full Bikram class.  Funny to hear the Bikram dialogue spoken with a Kiwi accent!  After the class we wandered around the town a bit and shopped.  We found sushi for lunch and then had bubble teas! 

By evening, the sun had finally peeked out through the clouds so we did the tourist thing and walked up and down Baldwin Street taking pictures!

Thursday 27 Jan 2011

Lisa went for a weights workout and swim at the Moana Pool while Maya went to work at the Uni.  In the afternoon we met up and drove north toward Omaru to the Moeraki boulders! 

For future reference, if you park in the first beach car park (south of the boulders), it is a short walk up the beach to the Moeraki boulders and you do not have to pay.  Otherwise, parking at the main lot, you must use the “path” from the café there, which requests a donation for maintaining the short path to the beach (if it was a longer path I would agree, but it is really only 10 ft. or so). We had Hokey Pokey ice cream at the café and went for a long beach walk. 

We drove as fast as the Wingroad would go over the steep hills back to Dunedin to meet Trudy (one of Maya’s co-workers at the Uni) for the Speight’s brewery tour.  After the tour we had a beer tasting, where we could pour our own beers from the taps at the bar.  We both enjoyed the cider

which one was the slightly darker but more fruity Speights.    (

http://www.speights.co.nz/Our-Range.aspx

?  I can’t recall---too much tasting ;))  We decided to have a light dinner at the Speights restaurant next door, and shared a lovely vegetarian stack along with more cider!

Friday 28 Jan 2011

We went for a run in the morning, which turned into a run/hike up Mt. Cargill. The clouds started to roll in as we got close to the top so we turned around and sprinted down the mountain

We drove out in the grey mist to the Otago peninsula, with a brief stop at the Chinese Gardens at the edge of Dunedin.  Unfortunately they were closed, but we peeked into the windows. 

The weather turned quite poor during our winding drive hugging the coast on the narrow road onto the peninsula.  We stopped in the small town of Portobello to grab some fish and chips, and squid rings for dinner.  They were cooked fresh and wrapped in newsprint and everything!  We sat outside at a table at a closed shop to eat our meal.  

Despite the bad weather, we forged on to the peninsula.  On the way out, we saw a sign pointing up toward the Larnarch Castle.  Lisa navigated the little Nissan up the steep, narrow hill and we climbed, and climbed, and climbed.  We were rapidly engulfed in fog and could barely see beyond 10 meters in front of the car!  After a long winding climb on a narrow mountain road we approached a large stone gate.  We drove in, hoping to just glimpse the front of the castle (we really didn’t want to pay for a tour, and it was closed for the day anyway).  We did a loop around the gatehouse, but it was so foggy we couldn’t see the giant castle (even though it was likely 50 meters away!).

After the discouraging castle trip and the return ride down the same sketchy mountain road, we decided to push on to the peninsula point to the Albatross colony.  I was hopeful we would see the penguins or sea lions, but alas we did not have such luck that night.  However, we did learn about albatrosses at the Royal Albatross Centre and saw several huge birds gliding in the air out on the very tip of the peninsula.  The albatross makes its nest up in the cliffs that overlook the beach so that it has a high point to launch itself into the air.  The albatross doesn’t flap its wings, rather it uses its massive wingspan like a glider, jumping off from high points into the wind.

Saturday 29 Jan 2011

In the morning we headed to the Dunedin farmer’s market to sample all of the fresh produce and delicious prepared foods.  My favorites are still the crepes and Chinese steamed buns!  While we were wandering the farmer’s market, a light rain began so we pushed on to the St. Claire Beach pool.  Mom swam in the St. Claire outdoor saltwater pool and Maya hung out in the café reading, until she got kicked out and then moved to the car.  Then we geared up and went for a bike ride (Maya, on a bike rented from the Cycle Surgery bikeshop in town) around the hills of Dunedin in the rain.  The sun eventually came out and there was beautiful weather by the end of our ride!  We finished the workouts for the day with a run through the many rugby and soccer fields nearby and returned along the beach edge.

Sunday 30 Jan 2011

Maya worked all day and Lisa went for a long bike ride.  Lisa brought a picnic dinner of pasta and salad and caramel slice to the lab and  tried to help Maya by washing dishes.  We were up nearly all night trying to finish sample processing so that we could leave Dunedin the next day.  Got home at ~4:30 AM.

Monday 31 Jan 2011

In the morning we cleaned the house, packed up and on the way out of Dunedin stopped at Painted Rock Tattoos (got small matching spiral tattoos ---understated and classy ;-) 

We purchased bepanthen cream to put on the tattoos and then drove four hours to Wanaka.  The drive was beautiful with tons of sheep spotting the hills like lice (and we coined the term “sheep lice”).  On the way to Wanaka, we were slightly delayed by a true New Zealand experience – there were sheep in the road!  [include the video here?]

Just outside of Wanaka, we passed by Puzzling World and stopped to take pictures of the Leaning Tower of Wanaka!  As we approached the lake, there was much “Ooh” –ing and “aahh” –ing at the brilliant turquoise coloring.  It was simply gorgeous!

We arrived at the Mountainview motor lodge by dinnertime.  After unpacking the car, we walked to the Indian restaurant next door to place an order to go.  The poor guy behind the counter was working all by himself both cooking the food and serving the patrons.  The food was delicious, with most dishes made with a tomato based rather than cream sauce.

Tuesday 1 Feb 2011

We went into Wanaka town in the morning and rented Maya a bike – it was an awesome bike to ride on, with a carbon fiber frame and everything!  We explored the town a bit and started riding out toward Lake Hawea, but the road became pretty narrow and was super busy.  After crossing the bridge over the unearthly blue-green Hawea river, we decided to turn around.  We watched a few tourists jump into the river off of the bridge and they told us that the water was quite warm.  The surface of the water looked like it was almost bubbling up, which made us wonder about the presence of hotsprings in the area.

In the evening we drove to Queenstown and took a “shortcut” over the Crown Range mountain pass.  It was quite an adventure to get up the winding road with awesome views from the top.  However, we decided not to repeat the shortcut when we returned home that evening in the dark.

J

While we were in Queenstown, we walked all over the place to locate a market we read about in the Lonely Planet guidebook called the Mediterranean market.  We got directions from the person at the iSite tourist center, but they didn’t say which direction we were supposed to go.  We ended up walking in circles throughout Queenstown at a race-walking pace to make it to the market before it closed!  However, we were a tad disappointed when we finally found the ‘market’.  It was more like a gourmet grocery store, and most items were pretty expensive – and it wasn’t entirely focused on Mediterranean food as we expected.  We cobbled together a dinner between cold salads and Kumara chips, which turned out to be pretty delicious!

Wednesday 2 Feb 2011

We got up in the morning and Lisa went for a windy run in the rain around Lake Wanaka (Maya joined for the last half of the run) and saw tons of rainbows!!   After the run, we quickly showered and made a brief stop at the local library to purchase discontinued books ($1 each!). Then we hopped in the car and drove four hours from Wanaka to the Fox Glacier.  On the way there, we passed through an area that was full of waterfalls---it was amazing!  Every corner we turned, we spotted another one that looked like it was just peeking through the trees.  Several of them were so close that they actually splattered out on the road!

On the way to the Fox Glacier, we spotted signs for Haast and took a short detour into what we thought was downtown Haast.  There was a motor lodge, a gas station, and a small store.  If you blinked, you would miss it!  We stopped to take funny pictures in front of signs saying Haast (of course covering up the “t” so it looked like we were in Haas town!).  We took a short walk out to the beach, but the winds were so strong, we became cold quickly and turned back to the car.

We made it to the Fox Glacier town in the late afternoon.  We were both pretty wiped out and just wanted to find a place to stop and get out of the car!  We found a really nice studio room, which turned out to be located right next to the helicopter tour landing pad.  Throughout the afternoon, we watched tons of helicopters coming in and out shuttling tourists out to the glaciers and back.  The person that checked us into the motor lodge made us both feel really lame for being tired.  When he asked how far we’d driven that day, we said that we drove all the way from Wanaka and he said, “Really?  That’s all?”  Since the rain was starting to lift and we still felt guilty from the hotelier’s teasing, we decided to go and see the glacier that evening.  It turned out that was a good decision since the majority of the tourists leaving.  The road led almost all the way up to the ice and once the road ended we trekked up the path to the glacier front.  It was a gorgeous glacier – with a strong blue coloring!  The melt rate was quite high and meltwater flooded out from in front of the front of the ice.  We took plenty of pics and collected sand/rocks before heading back to town.  We stopped on the way home to pick up a pizza for dinner and ate in our motor lodge, enjoying snow-covered views of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasmin from the window.

Blue Ice!!!

Thursday 3 February 2011

We packed up in the morning and headed to the Franz Joseph Glacier.  The glacier honestly looked very similar to the Fox glacier – but was still pretty awesome to look at.  I love the blue coloring of the ice.  We decided to take time for a soak in the somewhat overpriced glacial hotpools after our trek down from the glacier.  They had 3 outdoor heated pools, each at a different temperature, so when you got too hot sitting in one, you can move to a cooler one.

We hit the road again by afternoon, heading north through the rain along the west coast.  We stopped in Hokatika to look at the jade shops and watched one of the jade carvers work.  We also spotted a small Kiwi reserve, which looked like a tiny store.  They actually had quite a few animals including a tank of giant eels!  As promised, we also got to see 2 live kiwis in a dark, barely lit ‘habitat’.  They were really cute, digging through the soil and bark with their long beaks.  They almost looked like they used there beaks to “see” around themselves – much like a blind person would do with a cane!  After we got our fill of cute and fuzzy animals, we continued on in the rain to Greymouth for the night.

Friday 4 Feb 2011 – Lisa’s Birthday!!

We got up in the morning and went to do mom’s birthday swim workout (51x50meters on a minute).  Afterward, we showered and hopped in the car to drive to the Punakaki (pancake rocks) and blow holes.  We saw some funny signs on the way up!

As always - windy road ahead!

The sun came out just as we arrived!  Although a little overrun with tourists, it was still awesome geology!  We got our requisite pics and videos of the blow holes and the cool rock formations and headed back to the car.

A gorgeous rock formation!

A face?

Pancake Rocks!

A blow hole and the rainbow that emerges after the water is blasted through!

In the parking lot we spotted tons of kiwi-like birds with shorter beaks that turned out to be NZ wild chickens or Wekas!  They were really fearless and bravely approached us in hopes of food.

Baby cuddling with mama seal -- nap time!!

After the punakaki, re-charged with diet cokes, we continued on the road toward Nelson.  Lisa spotted a brown state park sign pointing toward a seal colony.  So we took a detour to Cape Foulwinds to see the seals!  They were so cute, especially the clumsy baby seals!!

We continued on and made it into Nelson that evening.  We tirelessly searched for a hotel that was close to the beach but reasonably priced, and settled on the Beachcombers Inn.  The room was nice and clean, but had no cookstove.  We decided to completely unpack the car---for the first time since we’d left Dunedin--- before heading to the grocery to figure out dinner.  However, while we were cleaning out the car, we sadly realized that we had hit and killed a New Zealand Bell bird (small and yellow, like a canary) that was still plastered to the front grill.  ;((

That evening, we headed to the grocery store for dinner supplies and bought birthday punakaki (pancakes – which were actually crepes) for mom!!  For dinner we had a big salad with chickpeas, lentils, tuna, and cottage cheese.  For desert, we warmed the birthday punakaki on the outside of the stainless steel hotpot that was provided in each room.  It worked really well!  We soaked them in syrup and gobbled them up!

Saturday 5 February 2011

In the morning we went for a run along the ocean.  There were several spots along the retaining wall where rocks jutted out – making a nice little habitat for birds to sit.  On the way back to the hotel, we spotted a mama duck and her bunch of ducklings start the journey from one of these little rock alcoves to the shore.  The poor little ducklings were swimming as hard as they could toward shore, but were continually buffeted about by the waves.

After our run, we headed toward downtown Nelson with 2 goals: fix our emergency cell phone, which had the ‘white screen of death’ and rent a bike for Maya.  In search of phone/bike stores we discovered the Nelson outdoor market.  The market was a mix of crafts, prepared foods, and spices.    It was alot of fun to wander all of the stalls.  We found the Murchesen’s Brewery tent that was giving tastes of hard cider and vodka.  We left with a bottle of delicious 26000 Lychee Vodka and information on Murchesen’s market that was going to take place later that afternoon.

We failed in fixing the cell phone, but found a helpful customer service person in a Noel Leeming Electronics store who helped us purchase the cheapest Vodaphone compatible phone so that our SIMcard could be used.  We found another Cycle Surgery bikeshop to rent a bike for Maya and drove the bike back home.

In the afternoon, we headed out for a ride to explore the area.  We spotted paragliders leaping off a tall hill (much like the albatrosses!) who we watched for quite a while.  There were four of them just floating in loose circles around one another.  It actually looked like quite a lot of fun.  We headed out to the Murchesen’s market late afternoon for more cider and delicious pad tai from a mobile restaurant trailer.  After listening to the cover band perform for a while (they were on a roll with Beetles and Beach Boys cover songs) we decided it was time to head back to the hotel.

Unfortunately, we were delayed a bit with a very flat tire – but Lisa whipped out her tools and we were soon on our way back to the hotel.

Sunday 6 February 2011

We set out in the morning for a long bike ride (~50 miles total) through Mai Tai Valley and along the river.  We continued on from Richmond to Rabbit Island, where we actually  intercepted (and were engulfed by) a local bike race.  It was fun to watch the top packs zoom past.  Our ride took us past a farm, which had signs posted for fresh produce and fresh fruit frozen yogurt!  So we stopped, and purchased a small watermelon to share for a snack.  It was perfect fuel to get us through the end of the ride!  It was super juicy and made a delicious mess to eat!

After our brief break, we hopped back on the bikes to head back home to clean up a bit.  We had a mission – we were going to head back to the fruit stand to try the fresh fruit frozen yogurt and then continue on to wine tasting. 

Everyone in the North of the South Island seemed to eat pink ice cream.  We constantly spotted people with huge cones of pink ice cream!  It turns out that the pink comes from the fresh berries that are blended in with blocks of either frozen yogurt or ice cream to make a delicious treat.

We continued on to a local vineyard for a wine tasting.  We listened to the live jazz band out on the patio, while trying several flights of wine.  It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.  We biked home carefully.

Monday 7 February 2011

Our last morning in Nelson was quite busy.  Lisa headed out for another swim at Richmond ASB pool, while Maya went for one last run along the beach.  Once we both made it back to the Beachcomber’s Inn room, we hurriedly packed the car (including all of our luggage and BOTH bikes) and then headed to Cycle Surgery to return Maya’s rental bike.  We continued on to Picton.  As we were driving, rain and fog set in, making driving along the narrow, windy roads perilous.  We passed a horrible wreck, in which a car drove up overtop of the guardrail of the road.  We made it into Picton safely, but ready to stop driving. 

Tuesday 8 February 2011

In the morning, we headed over to BakerrIJ in Picton for breakfast to try some of the delicious baked goods.  We killed time wandering the town till we had to board the InterIslander Ferry to cross Cook’s Straight.  We were both nervous about the potential rough seas during the crossing.  However, we thankfully had an uneventful crossing with gorgeous weather!  The views of the Marlborough Sound were amazing from the boat; we had a great time taking in the amazing views and soaking up the sun from the top deck! 

Once we arrived on the other side, we returned to the car to make the drive from Wellington to Taupo.  The venture was a bit longer than we anticipated and night was falling fast.  The reception desks for motor lodges in New Zealand close very early (usually by 8 or 9PM), which often made finding accommodations after a long day of driving problematic.  We tried to push on to Taupo, yet the prospect of driving on the narrow winding roads in the dark was not very inviting, so we decided to pull off in the next town, Taihape.  We found one motor lodge, which was rundown but adequate for the night.  Despite charging a king’s ransom for the unit, the owner gave us complimentary beer and chips to lift our spirits after our long day of travel.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

After an early start, we made it to Taupo by late morning.  As we pulled into town, we spotted a bunch of black swans that were sitting at the edge of the lake.  Lisa pulled the car over to take pictures.  She pulled out the rice crackers we were munching on to attract the swans, an act which caused a foul riot!  Lisa was rapidly surrounded by the demanding birds who obviously were familiar with the real function of tourists – Food!

In the afternoon, we played the role of tourists to the extreme.  We headed to Craters of the Moon to walk around the hot springs and bubbling mud pits.  Along the way back from the hot springs, we stopped by the “Honey Hive” to learn all about bees and sample some local meads, wines, and of course honey!  We continued our day with a trip to the gorgeous Huka falls to tromp around.

We stopped by the grocery to purchase a picnic dinner (tortellini and salad) and continued on to the Hilton hotel, to use up a one night credit.  The hotel was gorgeous and decadent, complete with swimming pool, gym and hot tub.  (Ironically, though, our suite did NOT have a cookstove, like most of the motor lodges that we’d stayed at in NZ.)

Thursday 10 February 2011

We left the Hilton Hotel early for a kayak trip to the famously advertised “Maori Carvings.”  However impressive and gorgeous, we learned during the trip that the carvings were only 31 years old!  Although the guide claimed that they were not carved to increase tourism, the young age of the carvings somehow lessened their mystique.  We had sunny calm weather and a lot of fun paddling round great Lake Taupo in our double-seater, though!

We visited Lava Glassblowing Studio on our way out of town and watched one of the artists create glass pieces.  The blown glass vases and art were absolutely gorgeous and the colors (particularly blue) were breathtakingly vibrant.

In the afternoon, it was back in the car to drive to Rotorua and fit in a few laps at the local community pool there.  When we went up to the counter in the entrance to pay for the swim, the woman at the desk said, “I’m sorry we are closed for business so go on ahead and have a swim.”  Confused, but not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, we walked on past the counter to enjoy a free swim in an outdoor pool!  (Apparently, the computer system was down.)

On our way out of the pool, we noticed an unusual amount of smoke coming out of the ground in the backyards of the houses near the public pool.  Further investigation revealed several very large thermal vents and bubbling ponds!  What a cool but smelly feature to have in your back yard!

Friday 11 February 2011

The morning dawned cloudy with scattered showers, so we headed over to the remains of the Rotorua Bathhouse and Maori cultural museum.  Rotorua apparently used to be famous for its healing mud and thermal water treatments.  However, the acidity of the water rapidly corroded the pipes and baths, resulting in continual maintenance issues in the famous Rotorua Bathhouse.  Before we departed from the museum, we purchased matching spiral necklaces for ourselves and mud masks to give to all of our friends!  In the afternoon, we headed further north toward the Auckland airport to avoid potential issues with getting Maya onto her flight out the next day.  We stayed in a motor lodge in the nearby suburb of Papatoetoe.  There was an Asian market located next door, so we ended up purchasing several items and cooking up a small feast in our room (which had a galley kitchen in the entranceway), and eating it outside on our back porch in the garden.

Saturday 12 February 2011

We headed out in the morning for a short run followed by a swim at the Papatoetoe community pool, which had free entry.  Then sadly, Maya had to head to the airport to catch her flight back to the states.  In just two weeks, we had covered an impressive amount of ground—over 4000kilometers!  It had been an amazing whirlwind of a trip and we were sad to see our adventures together come to an end.  However, the trip was exactly what I needed after a rough season on the ice.  Although sad to leave New Zealand, I returned to the states refreshed and ready to tackle the challenges that awaited.

Posted on July 28, 2011 .