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Archive for January, 2011

31st January
2011
written by admin

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31st January
2011
written by Justin

It turns out that there is in fact dancing in this town, even in enero (January) when it seems many of the dances shut their doors for the holidays. We found one on Friday that was at a cute little space near our apartment! Hazel had the great intuition to pick a place that is only 7 blocks or so from a couple of dance venues in the city, including the main swing one here:
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We had a lot of fun trying to understand things like “put your weight on the right foot” or “stop on 6” etc all in very fast Castillano. It was a trip! The dancing was really entertaining too — there were about 30-40 dancers there of all levels. We’ll be back next week!

27th January
2011
written by Hazel

Avenida 9 de Julio with the Obelisk in the background

It’s such an adventure learning our way around this city.  Last night we decided to go out dancing and even managed to figure out the subway to get there.  We were a little early, so we found a restaurant and had a really nice dinner.  Even though we’re starting to understand the menus a bit, there’s a lot of guesswork involved every time we eat.  Justin has a very brave strategy of picking something at random and seeing what shows up.  So far this has resulted in a really tasty beef sandwich and a nice chef salad.  I’m a little more careful and have mostly not been surprised.  Our dinner last night was $7 each for dinner, dessert and a glass of wine.  All of the food here is very expensive and very delicious.  We then went over to the dance, and were surprised to hear loud thumps instead of music.  Turns out the dance doesn’t start up again until February.  Oh well.  We’re anxious to get out dancing soon.

Avenida 9 de Julio

Time for Spanish class now.

26th January
2011
written by Hazel

We made it to Argentina!!!  Still working on getting our feet back on the ground, but so far Buenos Aires has been pretty good to us.  It was a looooong trip to get here.  We woke up at the holiday park in Auckland at 5 am and then got a taxi to the airport.  It was a 3 hour flight from Auckland to Sydney and a pretty bumpy one at that.  We only had about 35 minutes in Sydney to transfer and found out when we got there that we had to go through security again.  I was bummed because I had bought a bottle of water in Auckland for the long flight and not even opened it yet and it got taken away at Sydney security.  We had just enough time to get another bottle of water before our flight started boarding.  This flight was the longest that either of us had ever done at a little over 13 hours.  It was a nice flight on a giant plane and the food was actually good.  My favorite part was right before it began to get dark outside they came by and gave us hot chocolate with a marshmallow and a cookie as a goodnight snack.  I was able to sleep a little, but Justin didnt get any.

The airport in Buenos Aires was incredibly chaotic.  It took us over an hour to buy some shampoo, get some money from an ATM and get change for the bus.  By this point we were pretty exhausted and quickly realizing that we dont speak Spanish.  We somehow managed to get the city bus and arrive at our hostel in one piece (2 hours later).

Since then weve managed to get around a little better and are starting to lose the deer in headlights look when people talk to us.  We have registered for a Spanish class and will spend 4 hours a day for the next 3 weeks learning how to speak.  Weve had one day already and its incredibly helpful to hear a native speaker and start to get our ears used to the language here.  Its actually quite different from Spanish in Spain or Latin America.

Language school common room

The Spanish school has internet, so we should be able to check in fairly regularly.  Thanks to everyone who is keeping us up to date on everything going on at home!  And sorry for the weird punctuation in this post…I havent quite figured out the keyboard.

View from the language school

23rd January
2011
written by Hazel

Days spent: 49

Cost of postcard to US: NZ $1.90

Exchange Rate: NZ$1 = US$0.75

Average coffe price: NZ$3.75

Average price of petrol per litre: NZ$2.00  (that’s US$5.729/gallon!)

Vinnie’s average km/litre: about 11.  Not so bad.

Kms we could go on a full tank: about 300.  But sometimes the gas stations were REALLY far apart.

Fish and chips eaten:  Hazel 2.5, Justin 3.5 (unless we have another tonight!)

Pages of our NZ atlas not explored: 14 out of 91.  15%

Hours spent surfing with Steve: 6

Hours spent in caves: about 3

Hours spent in museums: about 5

Trigs climbed: 3

Most nights spent in same place: 4 (Christchurch, but on 2 separate visits)

Road most traveled: Lake Tekapo to Twizel.  5 times.

Most expensive internet: NZ$2 for 10 minutes.  Insane.

Longest camera exposure: 60 seconds

Biggest bird: Shy Albatross (we think)  8 foot wingspan!

Biggest fist: The shark caught on our cruise.  5 feet long!

Longest hike: 19.6 km

Hours until we leave: 13

23rd January
2011
written by Hazel

Highlights:

  • Our cruise with Captain Fiord and Fiordland Expeditions.  This was an overnight cruise and we truly cannot say enough about how much we loved it, how pampered we were, and how much fun we had with the fishing, kayaking, and amazing food.
  • Paua Nite!  Chris and Leah-Anne are some of the most gracious people we’ve met anywhere!  And good cooks!  And they have awesome kids.  It was so incredible to meet people who live here and chat with them and hear about their lives and we absolutely hope some day they will come and visit us!!!
  • Mt. Cook.  Incredibly beautiful.  Awesome DOC campground.
  • Franz Josef glacier.  It’s so cool.
  • Blackwater rafting and surfing.  Both absolutely great experiences and things I had never tried before.
  • Christmas in Christchurch.  We liked that town!
  • The Twisted Hop Brewpub.  Best beer in NZ.  Awesome sweet potato (kumara in NZ) fries.  Awesome atmosphere.
  • Hiking and wildlife and all things outdoors.  There are birds and trails and swimming holes and seals and strange scenery and waterfalls and cool tree ferns EVERYWHERE here.  It is not hard to find an awesome outdoorsy adventure every single day.
  • The Tongariro Crossing.  Totally unique.

Lows:

  • Being rained out a couple of times.  Most notably at Arthur’s Pass where the trail had turned into a flooded river.
  • One or two of the DOC camps were a little stinky.  Filthy smelling restrooms and right next to the highway.  That being said, we stayed in tons of them and it was only two that were a little unfortunate.
  • Mosquitos and sandflys.  If you do a little research it’s not hard to predict where you’ll find them.  But they are totally evil and Vinnie (our van) had no screens on his windows.
  • Queenstown madness.  This was actually in a couple of places.  Crowded town designed mostly to get tourists to spend their money.  Not hard to avoid, but a bit of an eyesore, and sad because the countryside around needs no money spent to have an amazing experience.  We mostly avoided these touristy places.
  • NZ coffee.  The same everywhere, but always a milky, mediocre experience.  (Except in Raglan and one place in Christchurch where we had very good coffee)

All in all, hardly any lows, and only minor.  We’ve loved New Zealand and would definitely come back for another vacation, short or long.  It’s an incredible country to visit.  Easy to get around, friendly people, incredible scenery.

23rd January
2011
written by Hazel
  • In New Zealand deer live on farms.  This is where all the delicious venison comes from.  But it’s still really strange to see an enormous fence with a very large herd of deer in a pasture.
  • Burgers here come with “salad.”  That “salad” consists of the usual burger toppings – lettuce, tomato, etc.  So if they ask if you want salad with your burger they are actually asking whether you want veggie toppings in your burger.  Live and learn…
  • There is at least one “USA” themed restaurant.  The food there is nothing like the food in the USA.
  • Kiwis pretty much only eat turkey at Christmas.  We asked for some in a deli and were told they just don’t eat it that way.
  • We learned what a trig is!  And if your hike has trig in the name then you should expect a long climb!
  • That the West Coast of the South Island really is the “Wet Coast.”
  • Lots of facts about livestock and NZ wildlife.
  • The ABC’s of surfing (which don’t start with A or C)
  • About Moas.  Awesomest extinct flightless birdlike creature ever!
  • What a Giraffe Weevil is.  One landed on Justin and then we later found a specimen in a museum, allowing us to identify the beastie.
  • In New Zealand they love lager.  In fact, this is almost the only type of beer you can find anywhere.  Even if they name says it’s something else.
  • Kiwis (the people, not the birds) are really friendly.  It’s awesome.
  • The glowing part of glow-worms is actually their poo!  Gross but true.  They use it to attract other tiny bugs who are then caught in their sticky little ropes and eaten.
21st January
2011
written by Hazel

We’ve had a water-filled couple of days!  We decided to go on a “blackwater” rafting trip, which involves climbing through giant caves and floating on a tube in the dark with a bunch of glowworms on the ceiling.  It was a really good adventure, although pretty cold, despite the wetsuits.  We climbed down into the cave and then waded through a long section of tunnel by light of headlamps attached to the helmets they provided.  We got to jump off a couple of waterfalls (one was only about 2 feet high and the other was maybe 5 feet high) and then turned the lights off so we could have a gentle float and see the glowworms.  That was really awesome – they looked like little stars and it was easy to forget that we were inside a cave.  We paddled the rest of the way out of the cave and then got to go back and have hot soup and showers.  It was a little touristy, but a totally unique experience.  I had never been in such an extensive cave system before.

Ready to Surf!

The next day we headed to Raglan, which is known for its surfing.  I had never surfed before, although Justin had gone in Hawaii, so we signed up for a lesson with Steve (a local instructor).  We met up with him at his house and got fitted for our gear and then headed out to the ocean.  It was pretty rough out there.  The waves were good, but there was a strong rip current and it was pretty intimidating at first!  The Tasman was a lot warmer than the water in the caves.  Steve was a good teacher though, and we both  managed to stand up on the surfboard by the end of the lesson!  In fact, we liked it so much that we decided to stay for another day and take a second lesson.  We had better luck with the ocean the second day and another great lesson.  It was really fun to try something new!

Cape Reinga - the NORTH of New Zealand

Once we were done in Raglan we headed up to the far north of the North Island.  We stayed in a couple of beautiful DOC campsites and saw some amazing beaches on the way up.  We even got to have another swim in the ocean.  There were a lot of mosquitos, which made for a sleepless night, but the views from the cape were well worth it.

We return our van tomorrow and leave the next day for Argentina, so we’re doing a lot of preparation for the next step.

We’ve had a water-filled couple of days!  We decided to go on a “blackwater” rafting trip, which involves climbing through giant caves and floating on a tube in the dark with a bunch of glowworms on the ceiling.  It was a really good adventure, although pretty cold, despite the wetsuits.  We climbed down into the cave and then waded through a long section of tunnel by light of headlamps attached to the helmets they provided.  We got to jump off a couple of waterfalls (one was only about 2 feet high and the other was maybe 5 feet high) and then turned the lights off so we could have a gentle float and see the glowworms.  That was really awesome – they looked like little stars and it was easy to forget that we were inside a cave.  We paddled the rest of the way out of the cave and then got to go back and have hot soup and showers.  It was a little touristy, but a totally unique experience.  I had never been in such an extensive cave system before.
18th January
2011
written by Hazel
On Saturday we did the Tongariro Crossing hike.  This hike is one of the most famous in New Zealand and supposedly the best day hike in the country.  It’s also 19.6 km long!  That’s 12.1788754 miles and it’s not called an alpine crossing for nothing.  It was a really cool experience and I’m so glad that my brother recommended it to us.  It took us 6 hours and we pretty much walked nonstop with just a few quick breaks.  The scenery was volcanic, colorful and spectacular.  But we had to contend with gale force winds (not kidding) and tons of other tourists.  They say that in peak season, on weekends 700 people a day do this trip.  And that probably isn’t an exaggeration.  You have to get a bus to one end of the trail and then have it pick you up at the other end – unless you’re absolutely crazy and want to walk both ways!  We loved it!!!

Volcanic Rock

Pretty desolate

 

It was windy up there

Red Crater

Emerald and Sapphire Lakes

 The woman in this picture isn’t just sitting down to rest.  This slope was very steep and very slippery, so everyone pretty much slid down.  She happened to fall just when I took the picture.

More Red Crater

 It was hard to take too many good shots because the weather was really questionable and I was mostly focused on hiking.  That night we found a DOC campsite (free!) at a river and got to have an awesome swim to wash all the dirt away.  Such an amazing day.

We were pretty sore the next day though, so no hiking at all.  We drove up a mountain instead – Mt. Taranaki. 

Mt Taranaki with cows

17th January
2011
written by Hazel
We were happy to have the chance on our way up to catch the ferry back to the North Island to spend another night in Christchurch.  The place we stayed at Christmas was really good, so we had another night there.  We also had a chance to sample a local brewery’s beer.  This was the Twisted Hop and we really liked their beer.  In fact, their IPA ended up being both of our favorite in NZ so far!

Favorite NZ beer so far - in Christchurch

 The next day we continued up the coast and stopped in at Kaikoura – known for its whale watching and sea life.  We didn’t go out on a boat, but we did go on a hike that was full of seals and birds.  There was a Red-Eyed Gull breeding colony along the way and birds just everywhere.  The beach there was pretty unique too.  Really unusual rocks.

Birds

Beach walk at Kaikoura

Baby gull

Really crazy rocks

More birds

 On our way back through town after the hike we noticed a wine bar, so we checked that out.  It had something I’d never seen before, but Justin had in Italy – wine dispensing machines.  They would give you either a small taste, a half glass, or a full glass and just keep track of the prices of what you drank so you could pay at the end.  Pretty nifty!

Cool wine dispenser

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