Bungy Jumping, Heartbeat, and Paragliding

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Bungy Jumping, 16 April

This weekend Anna and I headed out to Queenstown again! I feel like I've been there almost every weekend. We headed out on Saturday morning because we had plans to go canyoning on Sunday.

Much of the drive to Queenstown is along the Kawarau River and about 30 minutes outside of Queenstown there is a rickety looking bridge spread over the river. In 1986, commercial bungy jumping began with A.J. Hackett and he created the world's first permanent bungy jump at this bridge. So of course, when we passed it I decided that it was my turn to attempt the bungy. I knew that I would do this eventually and thought that if I had time, this was as good a time as any.

We pulled over into the parking lot and walked into the office. There's a huge tourist shop with pictures and t-shirts everywhere. I ran into the bathroom quick (just to be sure I didn't scare myself too bad) before heading to the desk to sign up for the bungy. There was no line at all so I paid for my trip and headed upstairs. Anna had done the bungy a few weeks earlier so she acted as my photographer.

I walked up a flight of stairs towards the bridge and met one of the workers there. He led me out onto the bridge and then onto a tiny little platform. Even out on the bridge no one else was in line for the bungy so I walked right up and started getting strapped in. I looked down and could see the beautiful blue water of the Kawarau River and the bright yellow autumn leaves on the banks. As the two workers strapped me in we discussed how I was going to jump off. Since the Kawarau Bridge is only 43 meters above the water, jumpers have the opportunity to dunk themselves in the water if they want to. I decided I'd just like to get my hands wet. It was a little chilly outside so I thought that going swimming might be a little much.

Once I was all strapped in I waddled to the edge of the platform. I waved to the camera as the woman holding me up counted down and then jumped!! It was incredible and terrifying all at once. When I first jumped I had my eyes closed for about two seconds and then panicked that I wouldn't see anything so I forced them to open. How amazing! It's almost impossible to describe the feeling of falling so fast toward the earth. Unfortunately I didn't fall far enough to touch the water but it was an unbelievable rush bouncing at the end of the elastic rope. I wasn't sure what to expect of that because whenever I see pictures it looks like people get bad whiplash but it wasn't like that at all.

After I slowed down a bit two men in a boat paddled out to get me as I swung around on the end of the rope. I flopped into the boat and they untied me. Then I rushed up to the top of the bridge again so I could see the pictures that Anna took. She did such a great job!

After getting my free t-shirt and bungy jumping certificate Anna and I headed over to The Winehouse and Kitchen, a winery right next to the bungy. A.J. Hackett's business partner, Henry van Asch, created this winery. There we tasted a few great wines before heading off to Queenstown.

Heartbeat and Paragliding April 2 & 3

This weekend I went to Queenstown with a group from school called StudentLife. It's a Christian organization on campus and in Queenstown we stayed at a Christian camp on the west side of Lake Wakatipu. There we spent time in different sessions and devotions. The main speaker is a member of the medical faculty and he's from Scotland. He had such an awesome accent! He spent time talking to us about what the Bible says about God's grace and truth. It was a great time. I met a lot of really awesome people and participated in some amazing ZUMBA! Haha!

Saturday afternoon we had free time so a group of us decided to go paragliding! We started out by riding up the gondola in Queenstown and at the top we purchased out paragliding tickets. My friend Sinna and I were in the second group of people to go. The paragliding instructors came to get us and we walked to another gondola and went even further up the mountain. At the end of the gondola the instructors loaded our parachutes on an ATV and drove them even further uphill. We, however, had to walk. After a ten-minute hike we came to a clearing and our instructors laid out our parachutes and strapped us in our harnesses. It was a little difficult to walk in them! Once we were all strapped in and the wind was just right we began to run toward the edge of the mountain. My instructor, Brendan, told me to keep running and running until he said 'ok'. He pulled the parachute up as we ran off the mountain and floated up into the sky.

It was an awesome view of Queenstown from in the air. We drifted above the city center and could see way across Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables. Everything looked tiny from so high up. Brendan took pictures with a digital cameral attached to an extendable pole. For a little while he let me steer the parachute and we dipped and turned above everything. He spun us around in circles, plummeting for the ground, and then stopped real fast and let the parachute pull us back up into the air. It was a weird feeling of weightlessness as we were pulled upward by the wind.

As we came closer and closer to the ground, Brendan told me what to do when we landed. We had an incredibly smooth landing. Once down on the ground Brendan packed up the parachute while I checked out the pictures he took and met up with Paula, Jenn, Sinna, and Ford to see how their flights were. We all had an amazing time! We waited around for Leslie and Tim to come down and then all headed out for some ice cream. A perfect ending to a fantastic experience!

Later that night at Heartbeat we played "fire soccer". The camp leader wrapped a bundle of sheets in chicken wire and then soaked it in diesel. After it soaked for a few minutes he lit it on fire and we played soccer in a dark field. It wasn't an actual game of soccer though because if we kicked the ball into the goal it would start the goal on fire. Instead we just kicked the ball around the field. Since it bounced off our feet pretty fast there was no problem with people lighting on fire and I even got one good kick in. =) Eventually the ball began to fall apart and we sat around it and sang songs while it burned out.

Otago Peninsula Visit with Dad and Marla

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Wednesday 16 March

On Wednesday of Dad and Marla's visit we decided to go check out the Otago Peninsula! I had only one class that day so afterwards we picked up our rental car (a teeny Toyota Corolla) and headed out. It was pretty amusing driving on the other side of the road with them. I drove this time so they could get used to how things go and then maybe drive when we go out on our longer trip that we have planned.

The road we took drives right along the north edge of the peninsula so there is a great view of the water the entire time. While we were driving along we passed by little tiny towns and saw many black swans out in the water. We stopped in a little town called Portobello for lunch. There was only one restaurant open for the lunch hour so we went in and ordered some food and observed all the other people in town while we ate.

After lunch we headed up a gravel road to an aquarium that the University of Otago operates out on the peninsula. Much of the aquarium is dedicated to research but they had a small gift shop and some animals for us to check out. We paid the fee and went down to check things out. The aquarium is right on the shore so there were beautiful views of the city of Dunedin as well as the harbor. There were two huge concrete tanks that we could look down into. In one tank there were a bunch of different fish. In another tank there were fish but also some eels. At first we didn't realize what they were. It was so interesting to see them slither through the water so gracefully but I don't think I'll get one for a pet any time soon...

Next we went into a 'submarine' where we watched a video that explained the different creatures in the seas around Dunedin. There were some pretty freaky looking animals that we looked at. After our 'submarine ride' we went into a little building to check out the animals they had. There was a big tank in the center of the main room that housed a bunch of animals that you could touch. There were sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and all sorts of other animals. In the tanks along the sides there were fish, an octopus, and tons of sea stars. There were some sea stars that had 8 or more arms, pretty impressive! My favorite part was a small cylindrical tank that housed 15 or so sea horses. They were tiny, yet they were the largest type of sea horse. They were very slow and graceful floating around the seaweed. When the sea horses came to a new piece of seaweed they would use their tails to anchor onto a piece.

At 2:00 pm we went outside to the large tanks again and watched them feed the fish. There was a group of school children there that helped the workers by throwing in chunks of fish. A few times the fish would jump out of the water after the food. We were told that they only feed the fish twice a week, one day being Wednesday. We were really lucky to come to the aquarium that day because otherwise we wouldn't have seen the fish so active.

After we left the aquarium we drove out to the end of the peninsula where you can see the albatross and seals. Last time I had been out there we didn't pay to go into the albatross sanctuary because we saw one flying around and thought we were pretty lucky. This time we were much more lucky. The wind was very strong and coming in just right so the albatross were flying all over the cliffs. We spent a long time getting some great pictures of them as they flew right past us. It was unbelievable how close they got and then even more unbelievable how huge the birds were. Their wingspans are about 3m (over 9ft) long and their bodies are the size of a small dog. Even so, they are pretty light and whip through the air at up to 115 kph (about 70 mph). After watching the birds for while we went down to the water's edge to see the seals. There were a few of them basking in the sun and we could get close to one of them. Most of them were asleep so we didn't see much action from them. We went up to the visitor's center and the gift shop to check things out before watching the albatross some more.

We headed back to Dunedin through the center of the peninsula and stopped off at a place called Allan's Beach. To get to the beach we had to follow a small trail through a sheep paddock. The sheep stared at us as we walked past and we stared back at them. We watched the tide come in for a bit and took some pictures of the ocean. There were a few seals on the beach but they were pretty quiet and we ignored them for the most part. One couple that was walking along the beach woke one of the seals up and it started coming towards them. That made us a little nervous but luckily he went back to sleep pretty quickly. We wandered back to the car through the sheep paddock and kept driving back to Dunedin.

On our drive we passed by a few farms that had absolutely beautiful views of the ocean and peninsula. There were sheep all along the countryside so we stopped for Dad to take pictures and I yelled out "Bah Ram Ewe!" to the sheep (Babe reference... if you don't get it you should watch the movie). Surprisingly the sheep stared at me as if they understood what I was saying but then became preoccupied with the grass that they were munching on.

We finished the drive back to Dunedin, dropped off the rental car, and headed home after a full day!

Queenstown, Milford, Franz Josef, Tunnel Beach

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It has been a whirlwind week! Dad and Marla were here so we spent six days traveling around the south island.

Day 1, Friday 18 March

Today we set out from Dunedin and headed northwest to Queenstown. It was about a four-hour drive and we passed fruit stands, cows, sheep, and wineries all along the way. We stopped for lunch in the little village of Roxburgh. As we walked down the main street we noticed that all the shops and cafés were closing at 2:00 pm so they could attend a funeral service. One of the locals must have passed away a few days before and it was a small enough town that everyone there must have known the person. We made it to a café just in time to buy sandwiches and get some ice cream.

We continued on our way through Alexandra and stopped for a bathroom break in Cromwell before plugging on to Queenstown. While on the road from Cromwell to Queenstown we drove along the Kawarau River with mountains on either side. We stopped along the way at a power station and saw how they generate energy for some of the region. We also passed by the Nevis Bungy - a 134 m jump above the Kawarau River. A little further down the road we came to a slight traffic jam and learned that there was roadwork being done ahead. This isn't rare in New Zealand; we'd been through roadwork every half hour for the past day. However, this roadwork was a bit different. Workers had put dynamite in a part of the mountain in order to clear away rocks that could fall onto the road. One of the sticks of dynamite hadn't gone off on time so they were going to give it another 15 minutes to go off before sending someone in to check it. After waiting for about 10 minutes we heard a large explosion go off. Then we watched a helicopter pick up huge buckets full of water out of the river. We think they were dumping water on the dust that developed after the dynamite explosion. A few buckets-full later we were allowed to drive through. The road was perfectly fine with no remnants of the rocks.

When we arrived in Queenstown we checked into our hostel and then walked around the town poking through souvenir shops and taking pictures. In the evening we took a ride on the Skyline Gondola up to Bob's Peak. We rode up over some sheep munching on the hillside grass and had a fantastic view of the city below as well as the Remarkables mountain range across the lake. It was drizzling when we got up there so there was a fantastic rainbow that would change places every now and then. We enjoyed the sites, taking lots of pictures, and checked out the gift shop before heading back down for dinner. Dad only freaked out a little on the way back down =) Apparently heights get a bit more scary as you get older.

We had dinner at the Lone Star restaurant that night: delicious food, American style, and a hilarious waiter. In our hostel that night we talked with a guy from Germany (Bremen to be exact, where Oma is from!!) and a guy from Virginia. The guy from Virginia and just done the Nevis Bungy that day and skydived the day before. He seemed pretty tired. We stayed in and read before going to sleep early in preparation for our big day ahead.

Day 2, Saturday 19 March

Dad and I woke up early in Queenstown to get some pictures of the mountains at sunrise. While it was still dark we broke down and stopped at Starbucks for breakfast. It was pretty similar to Starbucks at home =) The wind off the water was really strong that morning so we sat on a side street and ate, shielded by the buildings. After our quick breakfast the sun began to come up from behind the mountains and we had some beautiful views of the small harbor in Lake Wakatipu and the mountains across the lake.

Around 8:00 am we went and got Marla and headed from Queenstown to Te Anau. The drive to Te Anau was much more straight that the one from Dunedin to Queenstown. There were great views of distant mountains but this time we weren't actually driving in them. I even made it above 100 kph!

We stopped in Te Anau for a quick bite to eat and some gas. We munched our left overs from the night before while gazing across Lake Te Anau into Fiordland National Park. Lake Te Anau is the second largest lake in New Zealand (just a little smaller than Lake Taupo on the north island). Here we switched the reigns and Dad drove us through Fiordland National Park and up to Milford Sound.

The drive from Te Anau to Milford is only about 120 km and should normally take about an hour and a half but because of the way the road winds and all there is to see along the way, it took us much longer. We stopped off at numerous beaches, waterfalls and lakes. The mountains were amazing to look at because they jutted out of the river or lake, wherever they happened to be, without any transition or beach area. One of our stops was at Mirror Lake. The lake has perfectly clear water and you can see rainbow trout swimming around and ducks diving under for food. The signs also said that there were eels in the water but we didn't happen to see any.

As we drove further and further towards Milford the scenery changed a bit and more of the mountains had snow at the top. All the rivers and streams that we passed by were perfectly clear. At one roadside stop there was a sign that read, "Do not feed the kea". Keas are huge, curious parrots that live on the north part of the south island. They will pretty much get into anything and there are some pretty impressive YouTube videos of them tearing apart cars. They aren't very timid when it comes to human interaction so feeding them is discouraged or else they'll become even more 'friendly'.

Part of the road to Milford is through a huge one-lane tunnel called the Homer Tunnel. Construction on this tunnel began in 1935 because it would make it much easier for tourists to get to the Milford area. It was a difficult process and there were delays caused by area avalanches as well as World War II. It was finally completed in 1954 and at the time was just a dark one-lane road. There are traffic lights on either end to let drivers know when the tunnel is clear for them to go through. A tour bus fire caused them to upgrade the tunnel recently so now there are lights and fire extinguishers along the way. When we were inside the tunnel the lights emphasized the bare granite walls and really made us feel like we were in the depths of the Homer Saddle. While we were waiting for our green light on the east side of the tunnel we got some great pictures of the mountains around us and even spotted a kea hanging out by the people in line. These birds really aren't scared of anything!

After we got through the tunnel and made it into the tiny town of Milford and checked into our hostel before heading to the wharf for our cruise through Milford Sound. The weather for our evening cruise was uncommonly beautiful. Milford Sound is known as the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand yet for us it was bright shining skies. Our cruise was through Mitre Peak cruise lines. It's a less popular line, which was great because we shared the small boat with only 16 other passengers. Milford Sound is one of the most commonly visited places in the world so many of the other tour boats were packed.

There was a chilly wind out on the water so we bundled up in our rain gear and headed out on the boat. The captain gave us a little history of the area and described the way Milford Sound was carved out by glacial activity (which really makes it a fjord, not a sound). We drove the boat along the mountainsides and pointed out the jade and iron oxide in the rocks. All along the rocks there were trees just barely hanging on. The trees tend to root onto each other and then when they get too heavy they tumble down on one another in a tree avalanche/domino effect. We could see bare areas of rock were there had been tree avalanches before.

In there sound there are two permanent waterfalls, Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls. After heavy rain there are tons of small, temporary waterfalls that cascade down the rocky sides of the sound but since it was such great weather when we were there, there were only a few different falls. The cruise captain pulled up close to the Lady Bowen Falls and warned us that he would be 'washing' the front deck of the boat. That happened to be where Marla, Dad and I were sitting with a few other passengers so all of us ran inside quick so we wouldn't get soaked... all of us except for Dad of course! We watched from the warm, dry cabin as the waterfall dumped on him. It was hard to see for a few seconds since there was so much water washing up on the windows but soon we saw a triumphant arm in the air and excited wave.

The captain moved on down the sound telling us more about the rock formations and the history of the area before turning around in the Tasman Sea. On our way back to the wharf we cruised along the other side of the sound and saw some seals basking in the sun on a large rock. We turned another corner and saw Stirling Falls. This time the captain decided to wash the boat again and yes, Dad got soaked again.

After our cruise we went out for dinner at the Blue Duck Café and Bar. It seemed like every person from the little town had come to that place for dinner. We laughed at some of the kids running/biking/crawling around the restaurant and also discussed how one patron looked exactly like Kirk Cameron. We watched some of the Highlanders vs. Crusaders rugby game that was going on in Dunedin (which my flatmates were at) and then headed to the Milford Lodge for the night.

We were in bed pretty early that night and were just reading some books when our 'roommates' came in. In many of the hostels you share a large dormitory room with other travelers. It's always interesting to get to know other people traveling around New Zealand. As fate would have it, the Kirk Cameron look alike walked into our dorm room and said hi. I almost fell out of my bunk. Turns out, Kirk and his friend were near the end of a trip through New Zealand and had come all the way from Holland. We stayed up and chatted with them about theirs and our experiences before heading to bed.

Day 3, Sunday 20 March

We woke up on Sunday to more beautiful weather and went down to the wharf again to get some sunrise pictures of Milford Sound and Mitre Peak. At 1,692 m, Mitre Peak is the most famous site in Milford Sound. We took dozens of photos and then decided that since it was so fantastic out, maybe we should check into a helicopter ride.

We introduced ourselves to the helicopter pilot, Brendan, and explained where we're from and why we're in New Zealand. When he heard we were from Wisconsin he told us that he was planning a business visit to Wisconsin in 10 days! What a small world!
Mitre Peak as seen from the car park

About an hour later we were in a helicopter up above Milford Sound and the surrounding area. Brendan flew us past mountains and over one huge waterfall. It was amazing to see everything up close, and I mean very close! He assured us that everything looked much closer than it actually was and that he was flying safely. After flying around the waterfall and over a huge lake Brendan landed us on top of the waterfall. We were able to jump out of the helicopter to take pictures of the scenery around us. I crawled close the edge of the rocks on my stomach and took a picture from over the top of the waterfall. It was a very long way down! We hopped back in the helicopter and flew down the waterfall. Brendan had us pointing face down so we could get a good look at all the scenery around us. It was unbelievable! Good thing we had seatbelts on because we would have all been squished to the front of the helicopter otherwise.

Next we flew over the sound and saw many of the same sites from the air that we had seen in the cruise below just the day before. We climbed up over the rocky walls of the sound and saw snow covered mountains right in front of us and way in the distance. We flew around some of these peaks and then came to a huge glacier among them. Brendan landed on the glacier and we got out to take more pictures and soak in our surroundings. It was my first time on a glacier and it was awe-inspiring. We were completely surrounded by mountains. As far as we could see there was snow and rocky peaks. After a few moments we hopped in the helicopter and headed back to the airport.

Once we were over the helipad, Brendan slowly lowered the helicopter and blew everything away in its path... including a baby stroller that was near. He assured us that he checked that it was empty first since it's his own child's stroller. =) We jumped out and thanked Brendan and the other people working at the airport. Dad and Brendan exchanged contact information so they could meet up while Brendan is in the States. As Brendan was helping Dad back out of our parking space his kids ran up to say hi - the same kids from the restaurant the night before! I'm serious when I say Milford is a teeny place! We backed out, said our goodbyes, and headed off down the road back toward Te Anau.

On the way back we stopped many times along the road to check out all the different sites. We stopped to take pictures of different rivers and streams as well as the mountain ranges. Looking at the pictures, it's hard to keep track of exactly what's what from the drive. We made it to Queenstown that afternoon and wandered around the city for a while. As we were walking past the infamous Fergburger, Dad stopped and pointed out a girl in the window. It was my flatmate Anna having dinner with her friend who was visiting. We went inside and heard all about their trip to Queenstown and their bungy experience! Sounded amazing!

We wandered around the city a bit more and then had fish n' chips for dinner, a New Zealand staple. Then we walked around to the shops before meeting up with Anna and her friend Amanda for a pint at the Irish pub near our hostel. After a few drinks Anna and Amanda went to another bar, Marla and Dad went to get some ice cream and I went back to the hostel to do some laundry.

Day 4, Monday 21 March

After a quick sleep at Absoloot Accommodation in Queenstown we packed up early and headed out for Franz Josef Glacier. Instead of taking the main highway up to Wanaka we drove the switchbacks through the Cardrona Area. We had to drive up one side of a steep mountain and then down the other. We had some incredible view of the sunrise over the mountains so we stopped along the way to take a few pictures. We passed countless sheep and cows along our way and even saw a few rams! It's not often that you see the rams but their horns look pretty cool so we took a mental note to get some pictures on the way back to Queenstown.

We drove through Wanaka and then up toward Lake Hawea. Lake Hawea was beautiful to drive along because there were mountains completely surrounding the lake. It's really unbelievable how many mountains there are when you're driving through New Zealand. The road cut across to Lake Wanaka and through the McKerrow Conservation Area. North of Lake Wanaka the road followed the Makarora River into Mount Aspiring National Park. Throughout the national park there were waterfalls and places to stop to take pictures. We stopped along a few falls including Fantail Falls and Thunder Creek Falls. The rode we were on curved west toward the ocean and we followed the Haast River as it carved out Haast Pass through the mountains. Along the river there were huge gravel flats that had been carved out from melting snow flowing through. In the spring when the snow melts it carries down huge amounts of rock from the mountains and deposits it along the riverbed. Then when there is less water flowing through, that rock remains along the sides of the rivers.

This road, along with many other roads in New Zealand, had hundreds (or at least what felt like hundreds) of one-lane bridges. They put signs up to indicate which direction has the right-of-way and then the other cars have to wait for their turn to cross. For the most part the road that we were on had few cars and it wasn't a problem. I was the most nervous when we came to a little tiny bridge and there would be a tour bus crossing right in front of us. The bridges were tiny and the busses so huge that it looked like they couldn't hold them!

While we were stopping at all the places along the Haast River we realized we were running a bit behind schedule and wouldn't be able to stop anymore along the way if we wanted to make it to Franz Josef in time for our glacier tour. We flew through the little town of Haast before turning north to drive along the coast. We passed by many different beaches and could see the Tasman Sea for much of the drive. The land became much more flat in this area and we passed by tons of bikers. It was a perfect day for a bike ride since it was sunny without any rain, something rare in that area of the country. The land near the ocean is much less green than the rest of the country. It was a stark contrast to the thick forests that cover the mountains and national parks we had just driven through.

We stopped along the way at a salmon farm where we had lunch. In the parking lot there was a disclaimer saying that the restaurant was not responsible for any damage done to cars by keas. It made me a little bit apprehensive to leave the car but hungry overtook my nerves. There were huge tanks of fish swimming around just below the restaurant deck. Some huge salmon and rainbow trout as well as some baby fish. I had a smoked salmon sandwich and it was pretty good! I figured I had to have salmon if we were going to eat at a salmon farm. =) When we went back to the car we saw that it was completely in tact. What a relief!

We continued on our way and made it to Franz Josef about an hour later. We checked into our hostel and then headed out to the guide station. There were 22 people on our tour and we had two guides to lead us. The tour company outfitted us with anything we didn't have including crampons, rain gear, warm clothes, and boots. We drove to the glacier view on a bright red school bus. It was about a 10-minute drive outside the small town of Franz Josef. We got to the car park and hiked for about 15 minutes to the bas of the glacier. The walk to the glacier was through the temperate rainforest and then out onto the rocks that the glacier drags down off the mountain. At the base of the glacier we split the group up. One group (our group) went with the guide from Switzerland. This group went first and went a bit quicker than the second group. Our guide, Julia, explained to us that she grew up in Switzerland and lived in the UK and France before coming to New Zealand on holiday. She loved it so much that she ended up staying and had been here for 5 years. Levi, a guy from Alaska who had been working in New Zealand for the past 8 months, guided the second group.

We hiked up a small hill covered in rocks to get to the base of the glacier. Our guides explained to us that in recent years the glacier had been receding. Glaciers go through a cycle of advancing and then receding and as recently as 2008 the glacier had previously been advancing. They pointed out a line on the mountain where the tree line started and told us that that line is where the glacier used to go up to. It has receded an impressive amount in just a few years. Scientists constantly study the movement of the glacier and the guides check everyday to make sure the paths are safe for tourists.

On the hill we stopped to put on our crampons and Julia explained how to use them. Next we walked a little further and then stepped out onto the ice. It was so easy to walk with the crampons! They dug right into the ice so we didn't slip at all. As we walked Julia led the way and smacked the path with her ice axe. This was to make sure that the path we were following was sturdy enough for us to walk across.

Franz Josef Glacier was discovered by the western world in 1865 by Julius von Haast. He named the glacier after his financier, Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria. The Maori word for the glacier is Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere which translates to "the tears of Hinehukatere". The glacier gets its name from a legend of its creation. The story explains that Hinehukatere was a woman who loved climbing in the mountains so she persuaded her lover, Wawe, to climb with her. Wawe wasn't as experienced at climbing as Hinehukatere but he was so in love with her that he agreed to climb with her. One day he was swept away by an avalanche and died. Hinehukatere was broken-hearted and cried many tears that froze to form the glacier.

Julia led us further up the glacier, through some small passageways and up to an area that was a little unstable. She secured some heavy wire into the ice for us to hold onto while we went through. We weren't allowed to stop on this ice because there was a greater chance of it collapsing beneath us. After this we walked out onto a large mass of flat ice. Every once in a while we could see small caves in the ice. Inside the caves the ice was a deep blue color because it had not been exposed to as much air and was colder than the ice on the surface. At one cave Julia secured a rope and let us crawl through from one side to the other. It was really wet inside the cave and we had to climb through on our hands and knees but it was fun to see the inside and excited to actually be inside the glacier!

After a few of us climbed through the cave and got our respective pictures we heading back to the flat area of the glacier to have a quick snack before heading down. While we were having our snack we took some pictures with Julia's pick axe and watched some other glacier guides practice their rescue techniques.

We headed down the glacier in a different direction than we came. This way we went through one huge crevasse in the glacier. It was very deep but got tight and we were pushed up against the ice from the front and from behind. We spent a little more time on the ice, taking pictures and walking around before heading back to the rocky trail we came up on. We got to the rocks, took off our crampons, and headed down to the flat valley that the glacier had carved out in previous years. It felt weird to walk with out the crampons. We had to focus on balance again and make sure we didn't slip on the rocks.

While we waited for the other group, Julia led us to the mouth of the glacier below. There is a huge river flowing out of the glacier. All the ice that melts as the glacier recedes back into the valley creates this river. The water is very cloudy because it carries down small bits of rock as it flows across the mountain surface. The rock is quite light so it doesn't float or sink but instead remains suspended in the water. Julia told us that you could tell if a river is flowing from the glacier because it will be grey from the rock dust, not clear like many people assume.

Next we met up with Levi's group and headed back to the bus and back to Franz Josef. After returning our crampons we went out to dinner and a restaurant in town. Dad decided to try the traditional New Zealand meal of bangers and mash. He said it was pretty good! While we were eating we saw Levi walking past the restaurant with his girlfriend. We caught up with him for a little bit and then headed back to the hostel.

That night we decided to go to see the glacier in the moonlight. It was supposed to be a full moon so we thought it would be a fantastic view since the sky was so clear. It took a long time for the moon to appear over the mountains but it eventually did... not before we spotted a possum, however. In New Zealand possums are huge pests. They were brought over by European settlers and since they have no natural predators they have become overpopulated and are a large threat to many of the native bird wildlife. These possums aren't like the North American opossum. In fact, ours are much more disgusting looking. These have brown fur all over and look a little bit like lemurs because they have huge eyes that bug out. When we saw the possum in the glacier lookout parking lot we shined the headlights at it and I stuck my head out and yelled at it. I assumed it would run away, like more wild animals would, but it just stopped and stared at me. After look into the headlights for a few minutes it began to wander off again into the weeds. I kept shouting to it so we could get a few pictures. After focusing on the possum for a while we noticed some more movement. We flicked on the light and there were two keas bouncing around the parking lot! They weren't afraid of the car lights either and they just stared at us as we tried to get some pictures. We weren't very successful with our cameras in the dark though.

That night we headed back to the hostel and passed out pretty quickly.

Day 5, Tuesday 22 March

Tuesday we headed out from Franz Josef early in the morning and went over to Fox Glacier. We just drove the little road up to the glacier lookout and got some quick views. These glaciers are two of three glaciers in the entire world that come down into a temperate rainforest. The other such glacier is in South America. It was cool to see Fox Glacier from the road because we were in there among the ferns and other green foliage checking out a huge mass of ice. We also saw a hot spring along the side of the road. In the early morning sunlight you could see the steam rising off the pool of warm water.

We headed out on the road back to Queenstown, this time taking as much time as we wanted to check things out. We stopped when we got to Maori Beach, just west of Jacob's River and looked out onto the Tasman Sea. On the beach there was a ton of driftwood and many perfectly white rocks that people had written their names and hometowns on. It was pretty cool to see that there had been so many people there from all over the world. We took a couple little white rocks with us as souvenirs.

A little further down the road we stopped at another little beach. Here we walked through the sand down to the beach and saw dolphins! There was a pod of about 8 or 10 dolphins swimming in really close to the shore. I sat and watched their dorsal fins as they swam back and forth across the beach for about 15 minutes. Unfortunately I left my camera in the car... figures! There was a smooth stream of water flowing into the ocean and it was full of smooth round rocks. We spent some time skipping rocks into the copper-colored water and then headed out on our way back toward Haast and Mount Aspiring National Park.

While we were driving through the park we stopped for a bathroom break and took some pictures of a quite stream trickling through the woods. Everywhere you turn there is more natural beauty here. It's unbelievable. As we were driving away from the rest stop, we looked across the street to an enormous snowcapped mountain with a green valley below it. It was stunning.

Our next stop was at the Blue Pools. We hiked into the forest for about 10 minutes and crossed a suspension bridge before getting to the pools. The water was a beautiful transparent turquoise color and the signs said there were Rainbow and Brown Trout that could be seen in the water, although we didn't spot any. The water in the pools was perfectly still and was connected to a small, clear river that moved a little more quickly through the mountains.

We kept driving through the park, past Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, and through Wanaka. We took the small road through the mountains again and saw the rams (we got pictures this time!).

We stopped in the tiny town of Cardrona at the Cardrona Hotel for dinner. It was one of about three buildings along the road, including the ski resort, which was closed for the season. Here is how my dad described our dinner at the Cardrona Hotel: "As you walk in you see a large wooden bar. The wood floor is uneven and creeks. The bar tender greets you with "Cheers Mate". We ordered hard cider and a few snacks. We found seats around an old, heavy, wooded table near a huge stone fireplace with a crackling wood fire. The wood smoke was aromatic, rich and the air was warm. The room was dark. Dark wood molding and smoke stained walls absorbed most of the light from the few lamps and a single chandelier. Sunlight from the courtyard and flower garden cast beams through the smoky air. The walls were decorated with antique tools and farm items. At a table near us two couples were chatting about the days events. At another table in the adjacent room 5 older men were playing cards and enjoying their pints. I could have stayed there all night". It had a very intense 'small town' feel and seemed like everyone there knew everyone but us. It was a cool experience.

We headed back to our 'base' in Queenstown for our last night away. We spent the evening at a pub in town sipping pints and ciders while listening to a guitar player and his drummer friend playing different songs for passersby.

Day 6, Wednesday 23 March

Wednesday we headed out from Queenstown toward Dunedin. This time we were determined to find some wine and fresh fruit as we passed through the vineyards and orchards. We searched and searched for an open vineyard during our drive and drove up to a couple different houses but never ended up finding one.

We were a little bit luckier with the fruit. Just outside of Roxburgh we stopped at a small fruit stand and bought some peaches, plums, and apricot jelly. Of course we munched on these on the drive and then decided that they were so good we had to stop at another stand. We bought some more plums at this stand but they were a little different. We got some large purple plums, pretty standard, but we also bought some plums that were small, orange, and yellow. I think these were some of the most delicious plums I've ever eaten.

We stopped for lunch at the Kink in the Road Café in Milton. The main road through Milton has a kink right in the middle because back when they were laying the asphalt, two engineers worked from opposite sides of the town and decided to meet in the middle. Their measurements were off by about one entire road-width so they had to bend one section of the road so they could meet up.

That afternoon we took the side roads back to Dunedin and stopped along Tunnel Beach. We walked through a sheep paddock down to the sandstone cliffs of Tunnel Beach. There are many caves and cliffs that have been carved out by the ocean but the beach is also popular because in the 1870s John Cargill, a local politician, carved a tunnel through the rock down to the waterfront so his family could have private beach access. Now the area is open to the public and many people go there to see the sites.

That was our last stop before making it back into Dunedin. It was a great week full of many adventures and fun! On Thursday Marla and Dad explored Dunedin a bit more while I caught up on homework and classes. Friday they headed back to the states.


Catlins Day Trip

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Saturday 12 March, Leslie, Anna, Sarah, Alyssa and I rented a car and headed out for the Catlins. The Catlins are an area in southeast New Zealand full of temperate rainforest and beautiful coastline. Most of the area is dedicated to National park land and forest.

We rented a car from Thrifty car rental in town and took turns learning how to drive on the wrong side of the road! Anna took the first shift and drove the Southern Scenic Route south out of Dunedin and through small towns until we reached the Catlins area. Our first stop was at Nugget Point. There we parked in the car park and walked out to the lighthouse at the end of the point. From there we could hear sea lions and seals down at the shore below. They were difficult to see until they started moving around. Then it became obvious that all the little brown blogs were actually alive. At the edge of Nugget Point we could look out and see large rock formations jutting out of the ocean.

Leslie took the reins from here and drove down the Southern Scenic Route to Cannibal Bay where we got out to explore. Cannibal Bay is named such because a surveyor found human remains here... not because of any ritualistic practices that have happened, don't worry! We walked out onto a large rock formation that had kelp surrounding it. It was covered in tiny mussels and barnacles, which were impossible to avoid when walking along the rocks. The waves came in through the rocks every once in a while so we had to walk carefully and avoid stepping in water. Because of the tsunami there was some concern that waves and currents would be larger than usual by the beach but we didn't encounter any problems.

Leslie drove us through Owaka to the Cathedral Caves. The day we were there the tide was low at 2.30 pm so we were allowed to hike down to the beach any time between 1 and 4 pm. We hiked the 15 min down to the beach and walked along the beach to the Cathedral Caves. While we were walking along the water we ran into our friend Andrew who was tramping in the area with a group of people. What a small world! The cave is a u-shaped formation carved into the cliff on the side of the beach. When the tide is high the water comes all the way into the caves and it's impossible to escape so it's important to be very careful while you're exploring.

We spent a lot of time in the cave, exploring and taking tons of pictures. It was amazing to take pictures from inside the cave with the sunny shining on the ocean as a backdrop. When we came out of the cave on the other side, I stood on some rocks to take more pictures of the vegetation and barnacles. The ocean took advantage of the fact that my back was turned to it and it soaked my tennis shoes and pants. How rude! We walked back up to the car park where they were telling people to hurry down to see the caves and return quickly. Apparently the tsunami from Japan had affected the tides here and was making them come in earlier than normal.

After changing from my squishy tennis shoes in jandals, I drove us from Cathedral Caves down to Porpoise Bay. Driving proved to be a bit easier than expected... at least we didn't crash! The hardest part was judging where the car was on the road. I tended to drift a little closely to the outside line but it got better over time. I also kept forgetting that the turn signal was on the right side and the windshield wipers were on the left. Any time we turned, the windshield wipers would go off.

At Porpoise Bay we stopped for ice cream (one of our favorite pastimes) and then walked down the water. Porpoise Bay is one of very few places where you have the chance to see Hector's Dolphins, one of the smallest dolphin species in the world. They're only found in New Zealand and are just 4.5 ft. long. These tiny dolphins are a treat to see because there are only about 7,000 of them left in the world and we saw them right away! We walked down to the water and started to search for the dolphins. Over the crashing waves we could see distant bobbing fins. Of course all five of us shrieked with joy and decided to climb out on the rocks to see them - an interesting feat in jandals =)

When we got out to the rocks we could see the waves crashing against them and spraying up into the air. Every once in a while when the wind was just right we'd get hit with the mist spraying up from the water. The waves were stunning. Once we got out there, we searched and searched for the little dolphins but didn't end up seeing them again. After spending some time just enjoying the sunshine and the water we walked along the beach a ways and searched for more dolphins. The waves crashing on the sand were beautiful and it felt great to get my feet wet. The water was chilly but not too bad. After a few minutes your feet just went numb and you were fine.

Down the beach there were a group of people standing in a half-circle so we went to check it out. On the other side of the circle was a large sea lion moving around on the beach. Some of the people went quite close to him but I chose to stay away. There are signs all over stating that you should stay at least 10 meters (~30 ft.) away and not to go between the sea lions and the ocean. They feel threatened and clumsy on land so they're more aggressive and likely to be violent towards humans. In the water they're playful and fun.

After an exciting time at Porpoise Bay we headed north toward Nugget Point again to see if we could find any Yellow-Eyed Penguins coming in from the see. The Yellow-Eyed Penguins are one of two penguin species in New Zealand. They are one of the most rare penguins and it's believed that there are only about 4,000 of them left in the wild. I drove us back to Nugget Point and we got out at a different viewing point than we had before. We walked down a little track toward a hut that overlooked the water. From the top of the track we could see one stark white penguin belly. He was quite far away but his bright belly stood out and made it easy for us to spot him. We walked down to the hut and there was a slit in the wall facing the ocean where you could look out to the beach below where the penguins nest. There were two or three little Yellow-Eyed Penguins standing down there, preening and waddling around. They were so exciting to watch even when they didn't do much. We watched them for a while and took hundreds of pictures. As we were debating whether or not we should head home, there was bobbing in the water. We looked closer and the bobbing turned into another little penguin being washed ashore! He righted himself and waddled up the shore just out of the water. There he stood and shook, preened, and cleaned himself off after what I'm sure was a tough day of fishing. This little guy was so adorable we couldn't stop watching him. We probably stood there for another 15 minutes taking pictures of him. We began to walk back up to the car after no new penguin sightings but saw another one stumble ashore when we got to the top of the trail. How lucky! I couldn't believe the amazing things we were seeing.

Anna drove us home safely that night and we returned the rental car the next morning... after filling it up with NZ$75 worth of gas - and that was only half a tank! No wonder people walk here... =)

Paradise Tramping Trip: Sugarloaf Pass

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15 March 2011

Two weekends ago I went to Paradise with the University Tramping Club. Yes, Paradise is an real place... unfortunately I don't have a picture of the sign. Paradise is very near Glenorchy; about 1 hour northwest of Queenstown.

There were 90 members of the Tramping Club that went on the trip so we had one large coach bus, 3 vans, and 2 cars to get everyone there. On the way there we stopped in a small town, Alexandra, for dinner. Our group bought out all the bread in the little Subway and also mobbed a couple of other places in town. I had my first New Zealand 'fish and chips' experience and it was quite good! Once we were stuffed full we headed out for the last leg of the trip to Glenorchy. We planned to be to our campsite around 11 pm.

We stopped for gas in Cromwell, just east of Queenstown and when our van got to the petrol station we came across another van from our group. They were having car trouble; thought it might be a flooded engine. After further investigation the driver realized that he had put diesel gasoline into a regular gasoline tank... oops! We waited around for a repairman to come and rescue us, as no one in the group was keen on syphoning the gas out on their own. An hour later we were back on the road.

As we came closer and closer to the national park rain started to pour on us. Our two vans decided to sleep in a shelter for the night instead of setting up tents and flies at 1 am. Unfortunately, I offered to stow my pack on the bus for the ride up since our van was picked to the brim. We had no idea where the bus had dropped everyone off... After about an hour of searching we found the bus and my pack. I was very thankful to have both a sleeping bag and a sleeping pad for the night, as well as all my raingear.

Saturday morning we woke up to clear skies and snow-covered mountaintops. It made the chilly, late night totally worth it. The Tramping Club split us up into different group hikes and we set off on our tramp to Sugarloaf Pass. The path was very full of water and quite slippery. We fought our way up to the pass for a few hours, crossing the river and seeing some beautiful waterfalls. Once we got out into the open bush we stopped for lunch and checked out the view. A little while later we made it to the pass. On one side we could see Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown surrounded by many mountains, on the other we could see many snowcapped mountains. The view was breathtaking. We soaked it all in for a few minutes before heading back to camp.

Once we made it back to camp we dried out our gear from the wet track and napped in the sun. The New Zealand sun is incredibly warm but when it's not sunny out it's chilly! This just means that we like to soak it up whenever we get the chance =)

Saturday dinner was a competition. My trip leaders made guacamole, burritos and wine. Each group offered a meal serving to Jazz, the Tramping Club president, for judgment. At the end of the meal he offered awards for things such as 'best beer', 'best entre', etc. Obviously, our meal was the best... but he failed to recognize this and awarded the other teams =)

Later Saturday night some people lounged in the spa pool while others of us got involved in worm wrestling. Worm wrestling is when two opponents wrestle each other while wrapped completely in their sleeping bags. They look exactly like worms, hence the name. I helped cheer on some enthusiastic members of our tramping group until it was time to catch some Zs under our tent fly. We squished about 20 people under one tent fly. It sounds crowded but it meant we were nice and cozy.

The next morning we woke up around 8am to more snow covered mountaintops and a foggy morning. We had ambrosia for breakfast - YUM! We'd planned to have that as our dessert the night before but ran out of time so we ate it for breakfast. Dessert for breakfast is my kind of meal!

After breakfast we packed up and went on a 30-minute hike to Lake Sylvan where some brave trampers went for a swim. I was wearing a sweatshirt at this point still so I enjoyed the view and took pictures of the crazy swimmers. I also got some great pictures of a small bird, the South Island Robin. The birds are quite tame and will peck at your feet if you don't move too quickly.

Sunday afternoon we drove back to Dunedin but made a quick stop for lunch in Queenstown at the world famous Fergburger. The burgers were bigger than my head! They tasted amazing - mine had bacon, hamburger, and avocado, along with all the other normal burger toppings. Yummm!! I was with a group of girls and we all pushed each other to eat the entire thing. Many of us succeeded! =)

The rest of the ride home was nice and quiet as we followed the winding roads through the countryside. We arrived, exhausted, stuffed and happy, back in Dunedin on Sunday night.

Taieri Gorge and Stewart Island

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It's been a busy week!

Sunday 20 February, Anna and I went to the Dunedin Botanical Gardens. It's a large area with different themed gardens. We checked out the Rose Garden, Mediterranean Garden, and African Garden. We went to the visitor center and got some free duck food for the ducks in the small pond in the middle of the garden. The ducks were pretty aggressive and one even bit Anna's toe! We wandered further through the garden and up the hills. There were beautiful views of Dunedin and many rhododendrons. Dunedin is well known for it's rhododendrons and even has a festival in October.

The next day we went to the Uni Flats sports practice day. Each year during O week all the colleges (sort of like the dorms in the U.S.) gather to play different sports against each other. This is the first year that Uni Flats was competing. Uni Flats is where most of the international and exchange students live. Monday we learned how to play touch rugby and netball, two New Zealand favorites! Rugby was incredibly confusing... until they put it into American football terms =) Touch rugby is a bit different than normal rugby but it was fun to get the gist of it. Netball was not very much like any sports that are popular in the U.S. There are two teams of 6 players but they can't all go everywhere on the court. They goal is to pass the ball, without dribbling, and score by throwing through a basket. Sounds easy enough but the basket doesn't have a backboard and players aren't allowed to run with the ball. It was pretty entertaining to watch a bunch of international students attempt to play the games especially when the grass is slick =) When it finally came time to play the games the next day they got rained out! It was still a great time learning...

Wednesday we had our international student orientation and then took a train trip with all the international students to Middlemarch through Taieri Gorge. It was a gorgeous trip through the country. The Taieri Gorge Railway follows the tracks through the Taieri Gorge, weaving through tunnels and passed through sheep, cow, and elk farms. Three hours later we arrived in Middlemarch and there was a large barbecue waiting for us. We ate our fill and then sought out a local ice cream shop. It was right down the street - the only street in Middlemarch. I tried out the Hokey Pokey, a New Zealand favorite. It's caramel and honeycomb and I definitely think it's something to be introduced in the States.

Thursday was Clubs and Societies day at Uni and so we walked around checked out each one. I joined the tramping club right away. It sounds like they'll have a lot of trips and activities around the city and the country.

Thursday afternoon we left on our first backpacking trip to Stewart Island! We took the bus from Dunedin to Invercargill and stayed at Tuatara Backpackers hostel on Thursday night. We went out for dinner - delicious Indian food!!! - and went back and watched a movie before heading to bed early. Friday we took a bus to Bluff, a small town on the edge of the Pacific. The ferry in Bluff took us over to Stewart Island. The water was a bit choppy but no one ended up sick =) On our way we saw a small boat with a large crane on it. At the end of the crane was a shark cage. They were lowering people into the water to check out great white sharks! The ferry captain told us we could pay ~$400 to swim down there with the sharks but I decided not to... this time. The seven of us checked in at the Dept. of Conservation when we got to Oban, Stewart Island and headed off on our hike.

Day one was pretty easy. There was a little bit of mud and some uphill hiking but the views were amazing and totally worth it! We hiked along the ocean for most of the day and camped at Sawdust Bay. We spent the evening talking on the beach and watched the tide come in and the sun set. I don't think any of us slept the first night. Four of us were in tents and three under a tent fly. We were frozen in our sleeping bags, being bitten by sand flies, and listened to some crazy creatures. There are no native mammals on Stewart Island, only birds. The only mammals there now are rats and mice that have been brought accidentally by people. We're pretty certain that the screeching was from rats. They also sampled a lot of our food... Night 2 we were much more careful about packing up.

Day two was much more difficult. The trail was incredibly muddy and there was a lot of uphill climbing. After six hours of tough hiking we came to a suspended bridge with an amazing view of the beach we were planning to camp on. The waves crashing on the shore and the white sand made the sore muscles feel worth it. We spent the afternoon and evening on the beach, looking at shells, watching birds, and the boys even went swimming. It was waaaay too cold for me to get in the water past my knees but it felt great to clean up a bit. We packed cans of spaghetti and beans but our can opener broke so we survived on granola bars and fruit. It was ok though because the 69-cent spaghetti was (unsurprisingly) not tasty. That night I slept in the tent fly. It was much warmer but still pretty buggy so the sleep was miserable.

We woke up at 5:30 am on Sunday to try to catch the sunrise but it was so cloudy that we just ended up watching the waves while wrapped in our sleeping bags on the beach. We were frustrated so we packed up instead of waiting around for the sun, which never did visibly rise. We headed out early and made it back to Oban around 10 am. We caught a warm meal at a café there and then wandered around town until we were too tired to move any more. We dropped on the lawn in front of the Dept. of Conservation and napped until our ferry came at 3. The southern sun got me and sunburnt my shins... the only visible part of my body (I will look ridiculous for my first day of class tomorrow - it might be a jeans day). We caught the ferry to Bluff and then a bus to Invercargill. In Invercargill we switched bus companies and made our way back to Dunedin. We crashed when we got home. It was a wonderfully warm bug-free night of sleep!

Otago Peninsula and Dunedin Farmers Market

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Yesterday our friend Pippa from church drove us to the Otago Peninsula. The edge of the peninsula is about 45 minutes from where we live. It was a winding drive and we saw lots of sheep among the hills on our way there. We stopped off at a viewpoint and walked through a sheep pasture to a lookout point. From there we could look see down to the shore. There are nice sandy beaches but the water is way too cold to go swimming. Barely anyone swims but there are some surfers at the beaches in their wetsuits. Down on the sand on the peninsula we could see some sea lions. They were quite tiny from this view so we continued on to the end of the peninsula to see what else we could find.

At the end of the peninsula is a large lighthouse out on a steep rock face. There is also the Royal Albatross Centre. The Otago Peninsula is one of very few places in the world that the Royal Albatross nests. In order to see the nesting area you need to pay $30 NZD to go on a tour. We figured we'd probably all want to go do that when family visits so we decided to be cheap this go around and just walk down to the water. We were very fortunate to actually see an albatross flying above us. They are very large and very beautiful. They look a bit like seagulls from far away but we knew it was an albatross because of their large wingspan.

We walked down to the water's edge to check out some of the other wildlife and on our way a man pointed out some penguin nests to us so we went and checked them out. The nests were just small holes in the hillside, partly covered with grass. It was difficult to see the little birds inside the nests but every once in a while we could see their beaks when they moved.

Further down by the rocky shore there were quite a few sea lions. There's a large fence that sections off part of the beach to keep people away from the sea lions. I've heard they can be quite dangerous so I was thankful for the fence. There were a couple sea lions in the water doing flips and sticking their heads out every now and then. One came close to the shore, making us a bit nervous, but he never came on the rocks. They seemed playful and always looked like they were having fun. I tried to get a picture with one but every time the camera clicked he'd go under water... tricky little guy.

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This morning we went to the Dunedin Farmer's Market at the train station. It's a bit gloomy today so once again I'm very thankful for my rain gear - a good investment if you're planning on traveling in New Zealand. The market was great. There were lots of fresh fruits and vegetables! I was tempted to by loads of cherries, nectarines, pears, plums, and apricots but it's there every week so we decided not to rush it and risk rotting fruit in our kitchen. There were also many farmers selling meat and bakeries. Everything looked amazing. Some of the food prices were much cheaper than at the super market but the cheese was still very expensive. Living in New Zealand has put a slight hold on my cheese and meat intake since both are pretty pricey here. In just one week we've gotten pretty good at scour the coupons and finding good deals. One thing that is relatively cheap: wine. =)

Next week is "O week," the week before classes start. Apparently it's a big party week and this is when the couch burning happens. We have an exchange student train trip to Taieri Gorge and then we'll have a barbecue. We're also planning a short camping trip to Stewart Island before the weather gets cold. Stewart Island is off the southern tip of the south island so we need to get there before winter sets in. Should be some good tramping and we may get to see some kiwis (the birds)!

Getting to know Dunedin

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Dunedin has been a great city to get to know. At first it was pretty quiet but now more Uni (University) students are starting to arrive and the streets are getting busy.

Monday Ford and I decided to check out some local hiking. We walked to the Mt Cargill trail head and hiked up the mountain. The hike up was beautiful. The bottom of the mountain is full of huge trees that look similar to pine trees. As you make your way up the mountain the trail it starts to look more like jungle. There was a small waterfall that lined the trail most of the way and it wove across the path every once in a while (pictured below). Once we reached the top - it took a while since I'm out of shape =) - the plants were much more arid.

The view from the top was absolutely breathtaking. We could see all of Dunedin; the beach, the peninsula, the rolling hills. I took quite a few pictures and posted them below.

We could see so much of the Otago Peninsula. Out there, there are penguins, seals, sea lions, and albatross on the peninsula as well as the only castle in all of Dunedin! We haven't been out there yet to check it out but we're planning on going on Friday with our new friend Pippa who has a van. It's great to get to know people who can help you out =)

Yesterday I finished getting my classes sorted out and got an ID card. I had to get my classes approved by someone in the Management department and I think after wandering around campus I think I know where I need to go on day 1. My classes seem pretty interesting and one I'm excited for is "Management in Asia Pacific." I think it'll be really interesting getting a different perspective on management and business.

Getting settled in...

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12/02/11
Dunedin, NZ
9.15 pm

Made it all the way to Dunedin! The countryside is just beautiful and the entire flight from Christchurch I could see mountains on one side of the plane and the Pacific on the other. As we flew further south the mountains became snowcapped peaks.

Dunedin is definitely colder than Auckland was but I was comfortable in capris and a t-shirt all day. I'm soaking in every bit of summer that I miss in the northern hemisphere... for instance, it's 9.15 pm and the sun has just set. It's these little things that I forget about in the cold of winter!

Our flat is fantastic! Full size bed and a large closet and dresser in each room. Everything is furnished so there really isn't much to buy. Luckily, we also have two bathrooms... I was a little concerned that we'd only have one bathroom for all five of us.

My roommates are great so far. I met Ashwin and Ford today. We spent the day walking around town buying groceries and New Zealand phones. Ash is from Auckland and has been at the University of Otago here in New Zealand for a few years now so he showed us around a bit. We've been comparing countries and laughing at each other's accents all day.

We cooked a great meal together tonight. It was carbonara sauce and canned chicken on spaghetti noodles, homemade garlic bread, and a salad. We were all very impressed with ourselves...especially because Ford has literally only eaten peanut butter and jelly and eggs for the past 5 days he's been here. There has been talk of some cooking competitions in the future.

After dinner we went to a nearby McDonald's to get wifi internet. The internet in our flat isn't working yet and we won't be able to have it fixed until Monday at the earliest. So, if I'm not heard of for a while it's probably just because I haven't been to McDonald's.

This evening we sat around in our flat and made a nice list of what we'd like to do together especially before school starts in two weeks. We plan to catch a rugby and a cricket match, see the penguins on the peninsula, do both the Cadbury factory tour and brewery tour in town, check out the Otago museum, and have a bonfire on the beach.

I'm getting ready to catch some shut-eye. I can only hold off the jetlag-induced sleep for so long. Not bad considering it's 2.30 am at home.

Love from New Zealand.

Almost there...

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Auckland, NZ
12 February 2011
6.45 am

New Zealand is hot.

After getting off the plane in Auckland around 5.30 am we went through customs. I had to pick up all my bags to go through security. They all made it! I walked outside to the domestic terminal for my flight to Christchurch and then to Dunedin. After ten minutes outside I was roasting! Looks like I'll have to transition to shorts from now on.

The customs agent told me that I'll have an awesome time in Dunedin. He assured me it was the quintessential college town and that if I "like burning couches and drinking" it'll be great. I've never burned a couch... so we'll see. :) He also said it was quite hot there right now, which will be nice coming from 3 ft. of snow. I'm not sure what that is in meters... although I'll have to get used to converting to that as well.

Christchurch, NZ
9.30 am
Just got into Christchurch now. The area is beautiful. Fewer clouds than were in Auckland and now it's nice and sunny out! I officially cannot understand anyone around me which is pretty interesting. Just going to hang out here before my last flight into Dunedin.