Monday, March 21, 2011

Let's Go Down The Coast

From Top To Bottom: (1) Punakaiki Caverns,
(2) The Excursion,
(3) Dan leaving the Cavern like a true Hobbit,
(4) View of the sky from the cavern entrance,
(5) Riding down the coast,
(6) Sunset along the coast,
(7) We really like sunset,
(8) Upon discovering one of our best campsites we were really excited,
(9) REALLY excited - look at that stove!

Punakaiki Photos

From Top to Bottom: (1) The West Coast!
(2) The coast of Paparoa National Park,
(3) Our friendly Kiwi family,
(4) One of the best sunsets of the trip,
(5) This was our view from our beachside campsite,
(6) Campfire on the beach,
(7) The boys with the Pancake Rocks.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011

Queenstown: The Adventure Capital Of The World

Carrie: "Uh oh, I forgot to take my lactaid pill."
Dan: "Are you going to start lactating now?"

We arrived in Queenstown on the afternoon of January 26th after several stops at fruit stands and orchards where we lightened the Free Dried Fruits and Nuts tasting tables. The weather cleared up as we got into town but it was a better choice to stay indoors as the ground was still wet from all of the rain. We opted for the cheapest place in town: The Pinewood Lodge, which provided us with a private room with 2 bunk beds and access to shared showers and toilets.

It was a sterile, dorm styled place and immediately made us appreciate the Palace Backpackers that much more. It was definitely clean and cheap but had the vibe that a lot of dunk bros from the states came to piss and vomit in their own beds every night after bungy jumping their money away. Maybe that's a bit harsh but it's true that the environment an establishment provides allows the way its patrons treat it. The Palace provided a warm kitchen with free shared food, spices, and a heated towel rack - all of which encouraged people to share their own food and take care of the kitchen. The Lodge was the exact opposite: nobody did each other's dishes - there were hardly any dishes to use to cook with.

We quickly picked up some chicken from the grocery store and made a big stir fry dinner with some fresh vegetables from our orchard stops. I was exhausted and used the internet while the boys made friends with some other Americans and we all went to sleep around midnight.

In the morning, I forced the boys out of the dorm and left them in the early afternoon (after a nap in the sun) to go explore Queenstown. The size difference between North Island and South Island "cities" became even more hilarious as I strolled around the quaint, busy streets of Queenstown. More mountainous and ski resort-esque in its feel, it reminded me a lot of Wanaka but more vibrant, touristy, and younger. I window shopped and met a nice Frenchman named Julian at a candy shop who convinced me to buy some fudge after one taste of the Creme Bruelee Fudge. The weather was perfect and the town thriving along the lakefront. I returned to the hostel to skype with my mom for a bit and almost missed my ferry ride around the lake with Mike! I ran all the way back into town in my flip flops and we just made it aboard.

The boat ride was a cheap $25 for a relaxing hour and a half ferry ride in gorgeous sunny weather. It was exactly what I wanted to do: sit, chat with Mike, and enjoy the mountains (known as the Remarkables) and million dollar homes lining Lake Wakatipu. After our boat ride we bout some chips (the best french fries I've ever eaten) and wandered around the amazing botanical gardens which line the lake front before returning to the Lodge to meet Dan and Tim after their exciting afternoon on the Canyon Swing.

We finished our day by going to FergBurger which we all immediately fell in love with and didn't mind how much our wallets were lightened by the experience: I got a chicken burger with sun dried tomato tapenade, aioli, tomato, onions, and lettuce and downed it with a ginger beer. FergBurger is terribly expensive (what isn't in Queenstown?) but their burgers are MASSIVE and DELICIOUS. We ate along the lake front watching a Canadian street performer while the sun set over the lake behind us. We went in search of our British friends Danielle and Will from the Palace Backpackers who we knew were in town and we managed to surprise them in their hostel and they joined us for ice cream: also expensive, also massive, also delicious. Our bellies were so happy and so full that night. We said farewell to Will and Danielle who asked us where we were staying that night (as it was now dark and getting late) to which we replied "We don't know!"

Off we drove out of town to search for a campsite. We drove to Moke Lake and were certain we'd driven the wrong way as it took forever and we kept driving through gate after gate of Private Property Signs in the dark. For the FIRST TIME Dan and I slept in the tent at the request of Mike and Tim who wanted to sleep in Adi. We survived the cold night to be woken up by Tim in the morning whispering that we needed to be quiet and stay inside the tent as the Ranger was there and Mike and Tim were going to tell him that they were the only two camping there. This was funny enough as it was, listening to Mike and Tim try and be sociable with the Ranger in the least sociable way possible, but Dan also had to pee really bad and was squirming around and finally peed out the side of the tent that the Ranger couldn't see. After some stealth passing of our belongings out of the side of the tent, Dan and I finally ran to the car when the Ranger wasn't looking and covered ourselves with blankets as Mike and Tim broke down the tent and jumped in after us. We hit the dirt road, glancing over our shoulders, proud of our stealth moves and ability to save money: a whole $14 worth.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mmm Wanaka you make me sleepy

"The best part of waking up is Sprinklers up your butt!" - Mike
(to be sung to the tune of Folger's coffee commercials)

Getting up at 6 in the morning to avoid paying a camping fee: not as worth it as we perhaps thought. Sure we didn't end up paying any money and we got to eat breakfast on the lake front while the sun rose to light up the mountain ranges - but being that exhausted? No. Not worth it.

The boys made us oatmeal on a picnic bench and the sprinklers decided to come on in the middle of everything. So I watched, safe and warm from inside Adi, and decided to video tape them get soaked while trying to rescue breakfast. It was entertaining for certain.

We had already agreed that we would get a cheap motel room for that night as we knew we'd be sacrificing sleep, we hadn't showered in 7 days, we'd managed to camp for free all 7 days, and it was rumored to rain that night. So Dan fell asleep in the car, Mike went for a walk, and Tim and I hunkered down in the motel lobby to use the internet until we could check into our room. I had set up a much needed skype date with my friend and tour mate, April, and after several exhausted hours of internet use was able to take a shower in our motel room. We did our laundry and watched the worst television soap opera I've ever seen (hey- it was New Zealand made) and I fell asleep for a delicious three hour nap. I wish that I had had an opportunity to really hike around the Wanaka area because that is what it's known for: it's breathtaking views from its hiking trails up and around the lakes and mountains.

We made potato pancakes and a warm veggie salad for dinner before heading to Cinema Paradiso to watch "Due Date" starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. The theater was so worth the $14 entrance fee: it only has one screen and there are old comfortable sofas and car seats and actual cars for people to sit in while watching the movie - AND they make their own previews/ads - AND there were the most AMAZING warm homemade cookies that are served during intermission (yes. there. was. an. intermission.). Hands down awesome sauce.

The next day we got up early to find it was pouring rain and ended up spending most of the day curled up indoors reading, journaling, and catching up on blog posts. Mike and I booked us a hostel in Queenstown, where were headed to that night, so that we wouldn't have to camp if it continued to rain. We said fairwell to a now rainy Wanaka and headed for the "Adventure Capitol Of The World": Queenstown.

Hello Wanaka

Carrie: "Mike take my pants off!"
Mike: "As your brother I would be honored."

Now that I have your attention, I first have to apologize for the lack of posts as of late and specifically the lack of photo posts. I am currently back in the US and on a poetry tour and therefore have had very little time to catch up on all of my NZ posts. Additionally, Mike - who is currently in Melbourne - has all of my photos and has had difficulty getting them to me. BACK TO THE ADVENTURE (and the explanation of the above quote):

We rolled into the lakeside town of Wanaka after an incredibly beautiful drive through the bottom of the West Coast. We stopped so many times to just gasp and take photos and stand in sunny lake water that it actually got annoying. Nothing should be so beautiful but it is. The lakes that you see below are huge and brilliantly blue with these powerful green mountains lining them and the entire drive winds around them.

Wanaka is kind of what I imagine Aspen, Colorado to be: a small, gorgeous, resort town with lakes and mountains and sunsets and incredibly expensive everything. We picked up our most expensive groceries yet, got gas for a parched Adi, and scoped out information at the iSite which happens to be right on the grassy beach of Lake Wanaka. We ate some snacks, checked some emails, and Tim, Mike, and I went swimming in the blissfully cold lake water as the sun began to set behind the mountains. We made dinner at a picnic table (chicken sausages and beans) and drank tea as it began to get dark.

Mike and Tim were off chatting up some pretty foreigners as Dan and I got the tea ready and somehow I managed to dump my entire mug of tea across my lap while fighting with the honey bottle. I started shouting and trying to rip my pants off as fast as I could on a public beach front. Dan had no idea what had just happened and started to video tape what I was doing as Mike and Tim came over to see what I was shouting about. Let's just say it's a pretty good video and someday will surface. I was writhing on the grass with my pants around my ankles screaming "My crotch! Is! On! Fire!" and thus said the quote that began this post much to the boys' delight.

We rewarded undressing in public with ice cream and spent some time standing in front of the Real Estate windows exclaiming over the number of 0's on some of those plots of land. We heard from some other backpackers that we shouldn't freedom camp in the area as the Rangers were particularly active and that instead, we should camp in a nearby campground and just leave at the crack of dawn. That sounded like a good idea to us for some reason so we went to the campsite and tried to sleep through the loud techno music being played ("They have to be German" - Tim) and the full moon. Dan and I gave up and just watched an episode of Friday Night Lights on my ipod before passing out somewhere around 3:30 in the morning for two and a half hours of sleep.