Mid-semester break

Its been a while since I blogged. First of all, thanks for being patient. As some of you may know, I was away for 9 days for mid-semester break on a trip to the south island. I will try my best to recap the past week.

Day 1:
Skipped my afternoon classes to catch my flight out of Auckland to Christchurch. The flight was barely over an hour. We had a camper reserved for pick up, but the rental place closed at 4:30. We didn’t have time to find a cheaper alternative to getting transport into the city. We ended up having to get a cab and just making it in time. We rented from a company called Wicked Campers. They can be spotted all over NZ. The campers all have customized paint jobs and a silly quote spray painted on the back. Ours was called ‘Road Kill’ and came complete with a kitchen table, fold out chairs, a sink in the back, a gas camping stove, a cooler, the back seat turned into a full size bed, and sexy pink fuzzy handcuffs (check out the pictures once I get them up). It was starting to get dark once we went grocery shopping and filled up on gas so we decided to hunt down a place to crash for the night. We headed for Akaroa which is a peninsula not far from the city. It took about an hour and half to get there as I recall, but most of the time was spent trying to figure out how to escape Christchurch. We decided to camp at one of the many bays that surround the area. Naturally we got lost and ended up following a steep narrow dirt road into the mountains with cows and sheep littering the road. EEK. After about 20 minutes of that we decided it was time to turn around and try to find another bay. We found one 30 minutes down the road from where we got lost. Camped on the beach that night.

Day 2:
Slept in. Started up the car and headed back to Christchurch for the day to explore the city and the last real civilization we would see for a few days. We walked around the Cathedral Square (saw a crazy lady), ate at a vegetarian restaurant (naturally), went to an aquarium and a kiwi bird sanctuary, and walked around the city’s botanical gardens. Kiwi birds are the national bird and very rare since they are endangered. NZ is the only place in the world where they live. They are big, goofy, long beaked, flightless birds. They are very elusive and nocturnal, so we made it a point to try to see them since we had the opportunity. We headed for Kaikoura to spend the night. It was about a 3 ? 4 hour drive north that night. We drove around and finally found a place to camp at a random pull off on the side of the road.

Day 3:
Kaikoura is a famous surf town in the South Island. Katie really wanted me to teach her to surf, so the first order of business was to rent some wetsuits and surf boards. Once we found the local surf spot we realized that it wasn’t a beach, but rather rocks. Not the ideal place to learn to surf. We didn’t have water shoes and our feet got pretty cut up. Katie didn’t really have any luck and I can’t blame her. I had a hard time myself. After a little over a hour of getting beaten by rocks and eaten by sand flies we gave up. Kaikoura is also known for its seal colonies. After lunch we went out in search of some wild seals. We came across some really cool cliff faces along the coast and decided to scramble up them for the view. We then set out for our next destination, Arthur’s Pass. Arthur’s Pass is the scenic drive through the Southern Alps. We wanted to see it during the day, so we set up camp that night just before we got there.

Day 4:
We got up bright and early and hit the road. The drive was amazing. We found ourselves having to stop every 15 minutes to take pictures and to let it sink in. The mountains were enormous and humbling. The road would curve around them in the valleys bellow. Since there is a massive drought here in NZ, all of the river beds were strangely bare. At about noon we got to the base of Avalanche Peak with the intent to do a day hike. The mountain is 1833m (6110ft) and overlooks a huge portion of the Southern Alps. It took about two hours to reach the summit. The views were spectacular. Some of the neighbouring peaks had snow caps. It was the first time we had seen snow since we left Boston in that snow storm, about two months ago. We headed to our next destination exhausted from the hike and went to bed early at a pay camp site (which, we got away with not paying).

Day 5:
Since we didn’t plan to do the hike the day before, we were a little behind schedule of our loose itinerary for the trip. We arrived at Franz Josef Glacier and did a short 1 hour hike up to the base of the glacier. I don’t think that I have ever seen one up close. Unfortunately, since we were behind where we wanted to be, we didn’t hike the glacier. It’s probably for the best, since the only way to do it is with a tour company. About an hour down the road was Fox Glacier. We didn’t spend much time here either since we had a lot of ground to cover. Our next stop was at Lake Matheson. It was a 45 minute walk to the other side of the lake, were we could see a perfect reflection of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman in the water. How picturesque. Since we got away with not paying we set camp that night at another pay camp site.

Day 6:
We were awoken by an obese man knocking on our trailer demanding payment for the night’s stay. Guess that didn’t go as planned. We drove around to see some of the sites where Lord of the Rings was filmed. I’m not sure if I was able to pick out specific scenes. Oh well. We got to Queeenstown in the early afternoon. Here we met up with some friends from Uni and used the shower in their hostel. First and only formal shower of the trip. Felt good. We then walked around the town and explored. Queenstown is know as the adrenalin capital of the world. If you have ever thought of doing something crazy, this was the place to do it. We had some time to kill before our bungy jump. We then hopped back in the car and drove out to the Kawarau Bridge just outside of town for our jump (sorry I didn’t tell you mom, it was probably for the best). This was the worlds first commercial bungy, with a 43m fall over a river. We had the option to do a water touch, where you hit the water on your jump. We both took advantage of this option, but unfortunately neither of us were heavy enough for it to work. I was surprisingly calm for the whole thing. The jump was sort of short and anti climactic. Before I realized what was going on, it was over. Apparently I was told that since I jumped out really hard I had a cool jump. I bounced all over the place. Once I got off, I found that several buses of Korean tourists had parked just in time for my jump. They were all clapping for me as I walked by and saying stuff to me I couldn’t understand. It was all a bit humbling and uncomfortable. Oh well. We headed back to Queenstown for dinner and to say bye to our friends. Our next destination was a long drive, so we hit the road earlier than usual. We almost ran out of gas just before our destination for the night. That was a little nerve wrecking, since most gas stations in the boonies close early. We set up camp along the shore in a small town called Te Anau with fumes left for gas. Some sort of possum/evil monkey was climbing the trees near our camper all night making weird noises.

Day 7:
We drove towards Milford Sound through mountain roads again. Very scenic and we once again found ourselves stopping quite often to take pictures. The road went through a mountain. Really cool. It was about 3 km in a tunnel and we came out on the other side of enormous cliff face. Milford Sound was beautiful but we were disappointed with how touristy it was. We wanted to rent kayaks and explore on our own, but found that this wasn’t possible without a pricey tour. We ended up just taking a boat tour of the sound and visiting the underwater observatory. We then had a 5+ hour drive to Dunedin, so we headed out while there was still sunlight. That night we camped at the end of a peninsula outside of Dunedin.

Day 8:
We woke up and hiked down the jetty that we had camped near. We walked down in search of penguins. Unfortunately we didn’t find any, but rather a small group of seals. We got pretty close until they got irate. That was our cue to leave them alone. We walked around on the beach for a bit before heading into Dunedin. We found an amazing cafe/rock club that severed vegetarian breakfasts and had free internet. I wish we had something like that in Auckland. We then had a tour of the Cadbury chocolate factory. Lots of free chocolate and I have to say that I was much more impressed than I was with Hershey’s in PA. We sat in the lawn in front of the famous railway house for a bit and did some people/tourist watching (always fun). We hopped in the van and went to another peninsula in search of penguins, once again, no success. Back to Christchurch it was, since we had a sky dive scheduled for the morning. We camped at a boat launch outside of a little suburb called Lyttelton.

Day 9:
We woke in the morning to high winds and some rain. The jump was pushed back to later afternoon in hopes of better weather. We now had some time to kill, so we headed into Lyttelton for a vegetarian breakfast. I really liked this small town. It was very friendly and had a sort of New England feel to it. I got a haircut at the local barber shop. We headed back into Christchurch so that Katie could get one too. Just as she finished we called up the sky dive place and were told the weather was not going to cooperate. So no skydiving for us. Bummer. We had some lunch along the water and walked around Christchurch for the rest of the day and then headed back to Lyttelton again to crash for the last night.

Day 10:
Flew back to Auckland in the morning. Nothing too exciting. There are A LOT of pictures to sort through. I’ll try my best to get them up soon. I may just do a little bit at a time so bare with me.

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