New Zealand - Fiords, Penguins,and Boulders

Eli and I went on an overnight hike in Fiordland National Park. We hiked the Routeburn track because it is one of New Zealand's "10 Great Walks." Due to heavy snow this past winter there was an avalanche blocking a part of the trail. Unfortunatley this meant we would have to pay $55 each for a "heli lift" (helicopter) to do the whole track. We opted not to do the heli lift and instead hiked up as far as we could and hiked back down. Day 1 - was overcast without rain and the views were mostly visible showing us glacially carved valleys and waterfalls. We set up our tent and a beautiful mountain lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks.
New Zealand has a great network of mountain huts for the multi-day hikes which most people take advantage of. They are simple but nice including a wood burning stove, gas cookers and bunks to sleep in. This leaves the campsites for us tent sleepers pleasantly uncrowdded...we are usually the only tent around. Since the Routeburn is one of the "Great Walks" the huts were $45 per person per night. We had pay $15 each to camp outside.
Day 2 - we woke in the morning to a steady drizzle which always makes getting out of the tent even more difficult. We ate our standard bagels and coffee in the little shelter area before packing up our tent that never seems to dry out. The hike down to the trail head was soggy and foggy all the way down. We got especially drenched as we passed near a 500 foot waterfall that seemed to double in force and volume from the day before.
I counted 85 streams that we crossed over that day during the 4 hours we hiked. Good thing for Gortex (waterproof) shoes but I can't say the same for the rest of our clothing. We reached our car in record time, quickly put on dry clothes, and scarfed down some lunch (granola bars, summer saugage, cheese, oranges). We debated about going to Milford Sound with the bad weather but we also knew we could not pass it up. Along the 1.5 hr drive to Milford sound we stopped to watch some curious Kea's trying to find ways into parked cars. These alpine parrots were much bigger than I expected. I love them. When we got to the Sound, it was shrouded in clouds so we had some coffee in a nearby cafe to wait it out. Sure enough, after a little while the rains stopped, the clouds partially lifted and we could see the beautiful Fiords of Milford Sound.
The one redeming quality about all of the rain was that it created literally hundreds of waterfalls streaming down the cliffed areas. We stopped at least dozen times on the drive back from the Sound to see the spectacular snow-capped mountains that we missed on the way in.
Eli couldn't take enough pictures! Definitley one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen. For dinner, since we were on a roll with poor food choices for the day, we regretably stopped to get some "takeaway" (take out). Takeaway is always the cheapest but always fried. With our fingers and lips glistening, we headed east to find showers and a place to rest our heads. We stayed in Gore, the "Brown Trout Fishing Captial of the World." We splurged for a cabin (double bed in a brick bomb shelter looking room) and it was everything we needed. Eli says the smell and style reminded him of his Grandma Everman's basement. He felt at home.
Our primary mission for heading east was so I could see some penguins. We drove out to Moeraki's lighthouse and perched in a camouflage shelter and waited with binoculaurs. After 20 minutes or so, out hopped a belly bulging rare yellow-eyed penguin! Shorlty after we saw a second. I think they were boyfriend and girlfriend.
Also along Moeraki beach we snapped some photos of the infamous round boulders. Eli thinks they are actually alien eggs waiting to unhatch on an unexpecting tourits. They do seem like they are from out of this world.
That evening while camping some of the surrounding campers invited us to their picnic table for some wine. By the end of the night, our group grew to include 4 Israelis, 2 Belguins, a German, and a Kiwi. Sadly I decided to retire to bed when the rain started and after I discoved I was the oldest one at the table. The Israelis were not shy about telling me how old I am. It was a great time to be in the company of diverisity yet sharing the same passions for travel, wine, and music. We even had a "knockin on heaven's door" jam session when one of the Israel's busted out his guitar. Apparently everyone knows Bob Dylan.

The following morning, Sunday, we made a bee-line inland to Mt Cook National Park. What a glorious cloud free sunshiney day. We went for an easy 3 hr hike the base of the mountain where we skipped some rocks and basked in the sun. Being in God's magnificent creation was our church for the day. Our campspot had a great view of the surrounding glacier covered mountains. During the night I woke up to the sound of some growling avalanches in the distance, which apperently is very common in that area. Around 4 am the wind and rain started. Eli was worried about the tent being flattened by the violent gusts so by 5am we packed up and started our Monday. This day we drove to a place called Castle Hill. This place is a series of grassy hills with scattered boulders, some as big as houses. We spent an hour or so jumping and climbing like kids on a playground. Another surprisingly magical place.

Our time in New Zealand is now winding down. When we first arrived, I was a little anxoius and had some restless nights thinking about living life on the road and out of our tent. Now I am glad to say that I am adapting well and have found some routine in our currently non-routine lifestyle. At night, I take comfort in our trusty tent and my faithful sleeping bag and I can sleep easy. Luckily I have Eli next to me everystep of the way to hold my hand and encourage me.

We will spend one more full day in Christchurch before heading off to Australia. We are sad to leave such a wonderful place but of course we are excited to see a new country and a familar face. We will be spending a couple of days with our friend Rachel that we know from High School. She let me know that she is planning to have Thanksgiving while we are there.


New Zealand - Keas, Rainbows, Sandfly Lullaby

Earlier this week we spent 2 days backpacking in Nelson Lakes National Park. We hiked up to Bushline Hut the first day and camped overnight.
I woke up a few times to the sounds of squaking Kea (green colored alpine parrot). according to some other campers, the birds had been picking at the strings of our tent.
Eli stayed sound asleep and missed the commotion even though I shook him a few times.
The hike up Mt Roberts was breathtaking as we climbed above the clouds along a rocky ridge. At one point, we looked down into a valley and saw a full rainbow. It was surreal to be standing above a rainbow. Our camera was too cold to work so we only got this one picture of it.
The last few days we have been fighting off swarms of biting sandflies. We are undecided as to whether we like them more or less than mosquitos. They are bloodsuckers too but more aggressive than mosquitos. They especially like Eli. We read somewhere that sandflys only sleep at night so to entertain Eli, I made up a "sandfly lullaby" one evening.

The one thing we forgot to bring on our trip was a wine bottle opener. We shopped around for a corkscrew and found one for $2.40! What a deal! Well on our first attempt at opening some wine, the screw broke.
Eli was able to use his pliers to get the cork out, thankfully. We've since decided to splurge and now we own the $6 corkscrew. Hope it works!

One of our favorite passtimes is skipping river rocks and building cairns (stacks of rocks). NZ has tons of perfect rocks.
We even stopped at a beach where there were thousands of cairns built by passerbys.
Yesterday we stopped at Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. Again, amazing.

We are currently in Queenstown, NZ and it is sunny and beautiful. T
he lakes and mountains have colors that seem unreal...vivid blues and greens. Our next adventure will take us into Fiordland National Park where we will do some more backpacking or "tramping" as they say in NZ.

Latest Itinerary

We purchased some more airline tickets!!

Latest Itinerary
Nov 25 flight Christchurch, NZ to Melbourne, Aus
Nov 28 drive to Sydney (tentative date)
Dec 2 flight Sydney to Cairns, Aus
Dec 14 flight Cairns to Darwin, Aus to Bali, Indonesia
Dec 23 flight Bali to Singapore
Dec 25 train Singapore to Phuket, Thailand (tentative date)
that's all we finalized for now....


New Zealand - celebrating 3 years of marriage

Yesterday Jodie and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary. It was a great day. We woke up early in Auckland in order to catch our morning flight to Christchurch. We had a bit of a close call when the cab we had scheduled to pick us up never showed, but luckily I happened to find one shortly so we made our flight in time. We landed in Christchurch to some crummy Portlandesque weather, it felt a lot like home. We had booked a hotel in advance knowing that we would be bed deprived, and it was a welcomed site after camping for a week. The hotel is very contemporary and looks like an Ikea catalog. The rooms are very small but nice and clean. We took advantage of the free internet to catch up on emails and to chat over skype with our families. We are so glad that we bought our netbook before we left, it has been great to be able to stay connected. Although, we often find ourselves randomly driving around neighborhoods at about 5 mph searching for wireless. Last night we decided to splurge and veer away from our normal diet of pasta and soups. We tried out a nearby Thai restaurant where we were seated right next to the glass windows facing the street. The food was decent but the real entertainment came in the form of us pretending to be mannequins when people walked by. I don't think we fooled anyone but we had a good laugh. Today we are heading north of Christchurch to start exploring the South Island.


New Zealand - Volcanoes, Boiled Eggs, Hot Springs

Eli and I spent today in Raglan, a small, trendy surf town. We sat on the beach and soaked up some sun. We are now currently south of Auckland with plans to camp in our car tonight in a park tucked off of one of the main roads. We just got done eating a hearty meal of baked beans and mac and cheese from our campstove. We must look homeless because a very nice Afghani family offered us some of there lamb kabobs fresh off of the grill. We accepted. The food in New Zealand has been tasty! Tomorrow we will head into Auckland to explore the city. We have been traveling the North Island for the past week taking it day by day with no real plans in mind. 2 days ago Eli and I spent the day in Tongariro National Park. It claims to be New Zealand's best day hike and we agree that it was spectaculur. The day was perfect, a bit chilly but just right for hiking. No clouds in site. We spent 7 hrs hiking up craters and volcanic areas. There was steam vents coming out of the mountain with sulfuric gas...smelled like eggs. So that night we went and bought a dozen eggs and boiled them to have as snacks. I am turning into my parents (as boiled eggs are a staple of any family road trip).
Yesterday we stayed in Kawhia, a small beach town on the west side of the North Island. Kawhia offered good fish and chips, which we devoured before the seagulls could get us. Kawhia is also known for the natural hot springs that hide in the black sands of Te Puia beach. We had to catch the springs near lowtide and then we walked around barefoot until we could feel hot spots on the beach. A friendly visitor had a shovel for us to borrow and Eli dug us a hole for our cold feet. The water was suprisingly hot. One couple on the beach actually dug themselves a shallow hottub!


Hawaii to New Zealand

We have finally arrived at our first international destination, New Zealand. It is wonderful here and we are glad to be continuing on our journey after some relaxing time in Hawaii. The last couple days in Hawaii were largely consumed by Halloween festivities in Honolulu. Jodie and I decided to dress as the Dharma Initiative (from Lost) because it was easy and cheap(goodwill jumpsuits). Si made an awesome costume of Max from "Where the Wild Things Are". With a little sewing instruction from Jodie and a pile of fake fur fabric, Si finished his costume and it turned out great. We saw a couple other "Max's" out and Si blew them away. We had a great time out with Si and his friends, so much so that we only managed about 2 hours of sleep before we had to be at the airport to New Zealand. Needless to say we were a bit rung out the next day but we managed to catch some sleep on the plane. Our original plan was to buy our "round the world" tickets here in New Zealand right when we landed because they were quite a bit cheaper than in the States. We also discovered that the company we were buying them from happened to have a 10% off sale that ended the day after we landed. Early the next morning after our much needed sleep we hurried off to the airport planning on an easy ticket buying experience. We talked to the man at the Qantas Airlines ticketing counter who didn't seem to want to help us because of how long it takes to book all the flights so he pawned us off to the phone
representatives. So we didn't really need to be at the airport after all even though thats what I had been told before. No big deal we thought, we will just call and book them over the phone. Well the lady on the phone told us that the 10% off deal was only available on the internet so we had to
book on the internet. We paid the outrages airport internet fees and tried to book them online but ran into more problems using the website, but we found out on the website where it specifically said that we could book over the phone and get the 10%.
We called back and finally talked to someone who was willing to help us so she took down our itinerary and said she would get back to us in about an hour when she looked up all the flights. FIVE HOURS LATER, we finally heard back from her with a itinerary that had only about half of our stops at about twice the cost. She said that some of the cities that we wanted to go to didn't fall under the tickets that we wanted so we had to do something completely different. (Which is not what I had heard before) We thanked her for her time, and decided that we needed to leave the airport after 8 hours, $40 in internet charges, and no tickets. It was a very frustrating way to start out our trip. Everything was fine once I cooled off a little and picked up our rental car.
Driving here (on the left side of the road) wasn't quite the anxiety inducing experience as it was last time I was here, but it still made me a little nervous. Probably the funniest part about driving with the steering wheel on the right is the blinker lever is also on the right and the windshield wiper lever is on the left so every time you try to turn on the blinker the windshield wipers fire on at full speed. It takes a little getting used to. Jodie is doing quite well behind the wheel.
We have been here for two days now and camped both nights since we got the rental car. Camping makes it way cheaper and the money we save on lodging more than pays for our rental car. Yesterday we went for a day hike up Rainbow Mountain near Rotorua and it was a wonderful view from the top of the rolling grasslands filled with sheep and dark forests. Today we will tour around the Taupo Lake region and plan a hike for tomorrow.