December 13, 2006


After our stay in Christchurch we hopped over the Tasman Sea to Sydney and then spent an amazing 3 days at Castaway Island in Fiji. Needless to say it was amazing and we went snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing and took in plenty of Fijian sun and tropical drinks. It was a great way to end my trip! This also means goodbye to this Kiwi Experience and back to reality but perhaps I'll make a new blog for my Argentina trip this August with the Ingrams. Farewell New Zealand I will miss you!

November 23, 2006


Yesterday we arrived back in civilization at Christchurch, population 350,000, the largest city in the South Island. We toured the cathedral and ate a wonderful sushi meal at a nearby Japanese restaurant. We plan to spend a relaxing day here before flying to Sydney, Australia, for a couple of days. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

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Kaikoura – “Crayfish Food?

Another long drive brought us to the Northeastern Coast and a town called Kaikoura (pronounced ky-coda), which in the native Maori means crayfish and food, named for the many rock lobsters along the coast. Here we stayed at a new resort called Hapuku Lodge, designed by members of a famous family of New Zealand architects. We stayed in one of the “tree houses?, with amazing views of the Kaikoura Mountains and the ocean. We went whale watching and saw two large Sperm Whales, the largest of the toothed whales and fourth largest living creature. You must wait several minutes to see them as they dive hundreds of kilometers to feed on fish and squid, staying submerged for an hour or longer. We also saw some large Albatross birds and got a brief glimpse of five dolphins swimming incredibly fast in playful formation alongside the ship.

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Seal Encounters

We woke up early to take advantage of calm seas and an available kayak guide the next day. After a 45 minute paddle along the coast into the Marine Reserve, a sanctuary for birds, fish and other wildlife, we got very close to several Southern Fur Seals. We also saw many sea birds, including Spotted Cormorants (known locally as “Shags?) and a rare, tiny Blue Penguin, the smallest of all penguins.
Kayak Adventure.jpg

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Abel Tasman National Park

After the all-day drive to the Northern tip of the South Island, we caught a ride on a “water taxi? along the coast to the Awaroa Lodge. We endured the hour-long ride in a covered speedboat with a 225 hp outboard motor, in rain, wind and 1.5 meter swells (up to 5-foot waves). Upon arriving at Awaroa Beach at about 5:30 p.m., we learned the lodge has no dock, so our skipper helped us jump into knee-deep water and carry our luggage to shore. A few minutes later, a porter met us with a four-wheeler and trailer to take us to our cabin, saying, “Welcome to Paradise.? We were not convinced until the next day, which was sunny and gorgeous. We walked the sandy beach for several hours, picking up a few shells while getting squawked at by Oyster Catchers, black sea birds with long orange beaks that were nesting nearby. The lodge served a variety of sumptuous food and we celebrated James’ birthday (which he missed when we crossed the international date line a week earlier) with a special dessert.

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Pancake Rocks

A highlight of the West Coast scenic highway are the “Pancake Rocks? near Punakaiki and Greymouth. Geologic layering and weathering have turned the coastal rocks into what looks like tall stacks of limestone pancakes. At certain times of the day, depending on the tides and currents, the waves crash into caverns called “blowholes? sending spray high up into the air.

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Franz Josef Glacier

We drove several hours on winding roads to Franz Josef Glacier, named for an old Austrian duke’s pointy beard. Melissa and James braved heavy rain and joined a guided hiking tour onto the glacier. John and Marylee stayed on the hiking paths and, even with raingear, got soaked to the skin in the downpour. This truly is a rain forest! Many fantastic, narrow waterfalls streamed down the mountains. The next day we drove several hundred kilometers up the West Coast on some incredible winding, serpentine, two-lane highways.

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Queenstown – The Sky’s the Limit

Queenstown is a spectacular town famous for bungee jumping (invented here) and other extreme outdoor sports. Despite mild-to-cool temperature drizzle and light rain, we enjoyed eating pizza, Thai food and lamb shanks as well as browsing through the many souvenir shops. A short gondola ride offers a marvelous view of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. Deciding that bungee jumping might not be quite terrifying enough, James and John signed up for a “tandem? skydive in nearby Glenorchy, location of scenes from the famous Lord of the Rings films. The Southern Alps from 12,000 feet are quite a sight! The ride up was almost as scary as the leap out, with the reassurance that, according to our jump guides, is actually safer than returning to the grass airfield in the small airplane. After 1 minute of free fall and 5 minutes of steady descent, we gratefully touched ground, Amazing!
Skydiver James.jpg

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November 13, 2006

Doubtful Sound

Day three we toured Doubtful Sound, one of New Zealand’s largest fjords and one of the rainiest regions in the world. It was a long bus ride and boat ride, but the views were amazing. We enjoyed standing on the “bow deck? fighting the gusty winds. We saw seals and a rare Fjordland Crested Penguin. Then we made the long drive to Queenstown, a beautiful resort town in the mountains accurately named Remarkables.

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The Catlins

On day two we drove to Tunnel Beach, with amazing ocean views (similar to Scotland), Nugget Point (lighthouse), Purakaunui Falls and McLean Falls in ancient cold temperate rain forests with giant ferns, pines and exotic trees. What a work-out tramping (hiking) on rugged trails and steep terrain! In between were long drives – on the left side of the road – on curvy, two-lane highways through green hills and sheep farms. Navigating round-a-bouts and one-lane bridges is thrilling. We stayed the night in Te Anau, a quaint town at the foot of the Kepler mountains.

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Kiwi Bonga!

My Dad has taken over the website... AH!

We arrived safely on Saturday around noon. We visited the University of Otago campus and saw the buildings where Melissa studied Cell Biology, Marine Environment and New Zealand Politics. We ate a delicious lunch of sandwiches and salad at the Black Dog Café. We also toured the Otago Museum viewing Maori (native) cultural artifacts and New Zealand flora and fauna, including fossils and extinct giant Moa (flightless bird) skeletons. Then we drive to Signal Hills for a view of the town of Dunedin (dun-EE-dun) and the “World’s Steepest Street.? The town reminded us of Duluth or Stillwater, Minnesota, with the climate of Portland, Oregon.

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November 6, 2006

End of School

Hooray I am finished with finals! Now I am waiting for my family to join me on my travels for 3 weeks before returning home! They arrive this Saturday and I am very excited. Everyone is beginning to pack up and the city of Dunedin is getting quieter and quieter the more students leave. Many of the international students have plans to stop at Fiji on the way home and are scared of a possible military coup the news keeps bringing up even though we have been reassured the tourist areas are safe. So much for now, I will update with lots of pictures and info once traveling resumes!

October 16, 2006

who woulda thought 30 degrees would be hot?

Friday we woke up to AMAZING weather. It was 77 degrees F at 10 am! Very unusual for Dunedin! So we went to the beach what else?! We played in the water and spent most of the time running away from the awful wind that spit sand at you at high speeds and hurt like the devil! The high tide was difficult to escape as well. Then we took the scenic train ride from Dunedin until Pukerangi on the Taieri Gorge Railway. It was pretty but hot as the max temperature for the day reached 86.

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Oct. 11th & 12th

Wednesday we spent lots of money buying souvenirs! Then we made the journey back to Dunedin. Along the way, we stopped at the scenic viewpoints and got some fresh fruit Ice cream cones in Cromwell. Then it was a flat theme night and we all wore sports outfits and played games. Thursday I actually had to go to class because it was the last day! Kirk spent the time getting some homework done and then we got dressed up and went to Quiz Night at a local Irish pub. We took fourth, only lost by 15 points, not bad! We also went out dancing and Kirk got his first taste of bar hopping.

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In Queenstown, we went on the Shotover Jet Boats. It was amazing as these oversized jet skis took us on a ride through the canyon and did 360s. They only need 4 cm of water depth once they get moving! We also got a coupon and got some amazing pictures for half off! We then walked around the Queenstown Mall, found some good shops, and decided our wind blown hair looked too goofy so it was time to shower. We got dressed up for our 2-½ year anniversary and went to the Speight’s Ale House for dinner; it was one of the best places I have eaten in New Zealand yet! After a nice stroll through town, we headed to the Minus 5 ice bar, where everything is made of ice including the glasses you drink from.

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