Monday, January 31, 2011

Abel Tasman: How Not To Do It

Wel eft The Palace on a bright sunny morning to head up to Abel Tasman National Park: which had been continually built up to be one of the most beautiful parks in New Zealand. We were excited to be on the road and the drive was fantastic on such a warm day. We stopped a lot along the way and one of the highlights of the day was this little fruits and veggie store that had a bakery, ice cream, and lots of organic food. We bought tons of local vegetables that were on sale and some "real fruit" ice cream and continued on our way.

It had been recommended to us to actually drive to the end of the Abel Tasman walking track and hike back in to the beaches instead of driving to the much closer beginning of the track where it would be more populated. We took the recommendation on good faith and I'd say it was one of our poorer decisions but one we had no way of knowing would actually be a poor decision. We spent our afternoon driving for hours and only stopping for a short period of time in the Golden Bay to have lunch. The sand was literally the color of gold and the water was warm but we decided to not swim as we had been promised better on the track.

We discovered that the final portion of our journey into the park was on gravel road uphill around a mountain with giant potholes. It took absolutely forever to find where we were going and it was 5pm when we finally started our hike. The hike itself was amazing: the forest here is sort of like a cross between a North American forest and a rain forest. But better. Of course because we're in New Zealand. We reached the closest beach, Anapia, at 6pm. It was secluded and beautiful but the waves were crashing and the sand flies were biting and we were exhausted. We had such a short time there as we needed to turn around and drive the two and a half hours back the way we came and then push on down to a campsite on the highway to Westport.

We couldn't have asked for better weather and poorer planning but every vacation has a bad day: when we finally reached a town with a supermarket that night everything but KFC and McDonalds was closed. We chose KFC and just used McDonalds free wifi and bathroom. It was a long, tiring day but the full moon guided us into the night.

The Birthday Weekend Photo Post

Carrie: "Hey I'm changing into jeans over here."
Tim: "Daniel we couldn't get you a stripper for your birthday so we got Carrie to take her pants off. Happy Birthday."

From Top to Bottom: (1) The Palace!,
(2) The magical playground where everyone falls off,
(3) Will spinning Tim off,
(4) Mike on the Flying Fox,
(5) The crazy tire claw,
(6) The view from our balcony at The Palace,
(7) Me on the beach,
(8) The group with Cindy,
(9) Tim and Dan like to dive when playing volleyball,
(10) Sand volleyball on the perfect day,
(11) Mike on the beach outside Nelson.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On Being Homeless

We're actually those homeless kids changing our clothes in the parking lot of McDonalds as people drive by in the drive thru.
We're the people brushing our teeth in the public library's bathroom.
We're the kids camping on the beach for free and using every single flushing toilet we can find.
We haven't changed our clothes in three days because actually taking them off to do anything but go swimming just sounds too difficult.
We are the people bathing in the river. Because we haven't showered in 7 days.
We have been sleeping in the trunk of our car. For three and a half weeks.
We are 4 Americans on the best 6 week vacation of our lives.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nelson: The Birthday Weekend

We arrived in Nelson at the Palace Backpackers two days before Daniel's birthday on January 17th and it became a true Birthday Weekend as we celebrated for three excellent days. The excuse for the absurd amount of food, juice (me), and alcohol (boys) consumed was that "Heeeey it's your birthday!"

We slept in the morning of the 16th and Tim and I ran birthday errands before we headed out to the beach for lunch and a great afternoon. We purchased a Boogie Board and a Skim Board (which is a heavier wooden board that skims along the waters surface as the waves roll in and out on the beach) to use and I definitely wiped out wicked hard on the Skim Board. I hit the sand so hard I was bleeding. We enjoyed the warm waters, beautiful mountains and weather, and a great time playing volleyball. We were joined by our new French friend Cindy who was great to add to our dynamic.

After our beach day we spent time in the hostel's hot tub and decided to stay another day for Dan's birthday! We cooked a HUGE meal with Cindy: pasta, red sauce, cheese, soy sauce veggies, garlic bread, and a big salad. We stayed up late chatting and playing cards which we became addicted to.

We woke up very late on the 17th and I made Dan breakfast for his birthday as he checked his facebook for well wishes. We left mid-afternoon to go to Richmond (the next town over) to visit the cutest cooking store: Baku! The women working there, Lyn and Linda, made us tea and chatted with us for over an hour. We bought presents and we headed back to Nelson to finally have a picnic lunch at 5:30pm. We also had fun playing on this tire swing claw contraption - wait for photos on that. It was hilarious.

We picked up some other people from the hostel to come play a game of volleyball with us: we were joined by Will from Britain, Danielle from Jersey (a British Isle), and Charles from Sweden. The game was awesome -- Danielle, Charles, Tim, and I triumphed 2 games to 1 over Mike, Will, and Dan. We played on the most amazing playground post-game: there were zip lines and spinning swings and tire claws!

We had a repeat of our meal the night before and shared cake and ice cream with our new friends as we played card games and finally fell asleep exhausted.

When we woke in the morning it was raining and we decided once again to stay at the Palace and avoid camping in the rain. We had a lazy internet, laundry, napping, errand day and had a fantastic dinner of stir fry and rice. We played card games with Charles, Will, Danielle, Cindy, and a few others that wandered in and wanted to join in our silent game of Spoons. It was a fantastic night and a great ending to the Birthday Weekend.

The South Island: Camping to Nelson

From Top to Bottom: (1) Catholic Church in Nelson,
(2) Sunset!,
(3) Mike napping in Nelson,
(4) Anglican Church in Nelson,
(5) Bridal party entertaining us during lunch,
(6) Lunch in the trees,
(7) The road to our campsite,
(8) Crystal clear stream,
(9) Our campsite our first night on the South Island.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Inter-Island Ferry: North Island to the South Island

From Top To Bottom: (1) Sunset on the South Island,
(2) Me soaking up the wind and the view,
(3) Sunset or "Magic Hour",
(4) Pulling out to sea!,
(5) Leaving Wellington's Port on the North Island.

Thermal Wonderland: Mike's Video

Wellington: Look to the trees!

From Top to Bottom: (1) View of Wellington from the Botanical Gardens,
(2) - (5) Some of the trees I hugged in the Botanical Gardens.

Foxton Beach

From Top to Bottom: (1) Dan embracing the local art,
(2) I want this bus,
(3) Tim, Dan, and The Windmill,
(4) Lots of local art!,
(5) That's what she said,
(6) The group lawn bowling,
(7) Tim in good form,
(8) Handstands are better than headstands,
(9) The green ocean,
(10) Foxton Beach on a perfect day!

Tongariro Photos 3

From Top to Bottom: (1) The last past of the hike was through a forest,
(2) The sulfer rocks,
(3) The prarie,
(4) The boys hiking the last hour and a half!,
(5) Me with the lakes,
(6) The first thing you see when you leave the desert is this.

Friday, January 21, 2011


"Ca vaut le coup" (French) = "It is difficult but so beautiful it's worth it."

We arrived mid-day in Nelson to find the Saturday produce and craft market just closing up for the day. We bought tons of fruits and veggies and a couple bracelets before having a picnic on a hill by the Cathedral. There was a great climbing tree right next to us and a bridal party came by to take photos as we ate our lunch. We each took turns napping, exploring the Church, and also wandering back into the shopping area for bathrooms.

Nelson is so charming: it's in the sunniest place in the country and has a great relaxed beach town feel to it. It's larger than most of the South Island cities but never actually felt like a large town.

Around 5pm we headed to our hostel: The Palace Backpackers (

It was recommended to me by my friend Aliza Brinton who traveled through New Zealand for three months just before we arrived ourselves. The Palace was SO incredible we stayed for four days - we couldn't pull ourselves away! It was this great villa on a hill overlooking the city: it's possible the best hostel I've ever stayed at - it's only competition is Sir Toby's in Prague ( We had our own private room with a huge window that we could climb in and out of onto the wrap around porch on the second floor. The whole hostel had huge ceilings and chandeliers and books in every language and a spa and DVD room and the best kitchen ever.

After we dropped our stuff we ran to Church at 6pm: I was really interested to see what Catholics in New Zealand would be like. They stare just like they do in the US, don't worry. They did change a lot of the words and some of the prayers, but provided these projection screens so you knew what to say next. It was interesting.

We made an epic meal that night: Crepes! Filling options: apple, bananas, strawberries, plums, blueberries, blackberries, cheese, honey, peanut butter, peppers, cucumbers, tomato, brown sugar, butter, mayo, and a hot fruit butter/sugar mix that we made. I think I gained 10 pounds. Tim spent time trying to explain "That's what she said" to our new French friend Cindy. It was probably the funniest thing I watched unfold in a really long time. I took a long hot shower after dinner and fell asleep in a comfortable warm bed.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The South Island

We headed from the ferry to a free campsite about an hour or so away. The moon was so brilliant that we could see the mountains and fields and vineyards we were driving past and everything felt so quiet and prehistoric. We drove and drove and drove out to the absolute middle of no where- through fields and past fences into Mt. Rushmore Alpine Forest and we never actually made it to the campsite. We had to guerilla camp about 2 kilometers away as poor Adi doesn't have 4WD and was struggling with the terrible gravel roads we'd already done - never mind the river and rocks ahead! We made a campfire before finally going to sleep.

When we woke in the morning we discovered that the small river we parked next to was crystal clear and the mountains were filled with miles of beautiful pine trees. I made a fire to boil tea and soon discovered that there were gigantic bees everywhere! We were so secluded from people and just spent the morning enjoying the peace and quiet and sunshine.

Tongariro Post 2 (photos backwards)

From Top to Bottom: (1) Looking back at my favorite view,
(2) The rock slide down the mountain,
(3) The Emerald Lakes,
(4) Me in front of the Red Crater,
(5) The clouds and the mountains unite!