Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sea Kayaking

I have never been kayaking. It strikes me as something I would not really enjoy. Yet, I burn with irritation at the existence of things I have never done. They taunt me until I give in, paying an exhorbitant amount of money to do them only to realize I was right all along. Yup, it pretty much involved just sittin there in the sun, arms growing tired and the gentle sea swell making me queasy. Counting down the hours till we would be on land again, soaking up the sun from the motionless security of soft white sand.

Luckily, we could not have picked a more beautiful spot to try out this not-very-enjoyable activity. Abel Tasman National Park is a easily one of the most beautiful places we've have had the good fortune of visiting. Now I know, you are probably sitting at home thinking "I get it Sabrina. New Zealand is beautiful. Get over it." What you may not realize however is that rather than "snow-capped mountains, turquoise lakes and rushing waterfalls" beautiful, this is more your "secluded beach paradise, crystal clear sea and lush forest backdrop" variety. A nice change of pace I might add.

Our day went a little like this.

Strapping into some serious double kayaks...

 ...allowing me to relax while Reece did most of the work.

Rowing to a stunning and empty beach...

...to enjoy cafe mochas while catching some rays.

Kayaking further into some glorious green waters...

...and arriving triumphantly at our destination.

Traveling by boat...

...to another perfect beach.

Taking a three hour hike through the forest...

...past several incredible viewpoints.

And finally, taking a celebratory rope swing...

...before hopping in a water taxi for the sleepy trip home.

If only we had a swimming pool at our campsite to relax after our active day in the sun. Oh wait, we do! Life is pretty much as far from rough as it can get :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

West Coastin'

Our drive up the west coast was highlighted by the following:

- Camping in the parking lot of the local pub in Ross (population 250). This is the kinda place where the menu is written on a scrap of cardboard and the deer head on the wall isn't fake. And, hell, where the only campsite in town is in the parking lot of a pub.

Turns out we missed a wild all-night jam-band drunk-a-thon the night before, which just ended around 5:00 that morning. That was devastating news since that would have been, well, AMAZING.

- Pancake Rocks. You know it. If something is shaped oddly in this country, it's a tourist attraction. Admittedly, they were pretty cool.

For a few photos of our little journey, click HERE.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I am starting to wonder if New Zealand ever gets tired of being so damn beautiful.

In Hiding

Let me tell you about a little thing called Sand Flies.

Reece and I have spent many a month debating which frequent pest on this trip is worse - mosquitos or flies. Mosquitos bite you. Flies love poop. Mosquitos carry malaria. Flies land in your food (after loving poop). Mosquitos sneak attack at night and require you to sleep under a net. Flies can't get enough of the open wound you get after picking the scab from the mosquito bite you have scratched way too much. Gross. I know.

Anyhow, little did we know that a horrendous hybrid exists. The SAND FLY. It looks and behaves like a large gnat. Only, rather than just annoy you, they also bite you. Hard. And those bites are ten times itchier than mosquito bites. The uncontrollable itch keeps you up at night. It distracts you so much that you have a hard time carrying on a conversation while furiously scratching the relentless little welts. Ugh.

And that's not even the worst part. Nope. The worst part, is that they are like heat seeking zombies that attack in droves. You step out of your car in a sand fly populated area, and within a minute there are a hundred of them surrounding you. Jump back inside in a panic, and they'll buzz against your windows just aching for a chance to get in and suck your blood. These guys seriously give me the creeps. And they live in just about every scenic spot on the west coast of New Zealand.

The locals have this charade going where they pretend like sand flies don't bother them. But I know better. Sand flies have been awarded the trophy or worst pest EVER. Which is why I am locked up in our van writing blogs instead of outside enjoying the sunshine. I hate you, Sand Fly.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Franz Josef Glacier

One of the best things about traveling is the ability to be totally spontaneous. What do you wanna do today... Peruse an art gallery? Go fishing? Hop on a cross-country train?

On this beautiful sunny morning (in a region that sees 300 days of rain per year) we woke up and decided, "Let's ride a helicopter to the top of a glacier!!"

For most of our time in New Zealand, we've been pretty much ruling out activities that are hugely expensive. We're scraping the bottom of the barrel these days, and just want to make sure the money lasts until we're ready to come home. And I'm not gonna lie, I take a huge amount of satisfaction in the fact that we are pretty much EXACTLY on the target that I estimated months before this trip started.

But today, it dawned on me. What if we did our route in reverse? Would we arrive in Peru and say, "Man, hiking the Inca Trail would be cool if it wasn't a thousand bucks." Would we get to South Africa and think, "Shark diving would be fun, but we're not gonna drop $200 on it." I sure hope not.

So, we're taking a small amount out of our 'coming home fund' to cover a few more must-do Kiwi experiences. We understand that times are tough and it may be awhile before we find jobs back home. But we also recognize that we're not likley to be in New Zealand anytime again soon. What's the point of traveling all the way here if we aren't going to take advantage of it. Right?? Right!

Twenty minutes after coming to this remarkable conclusion, we were booked on a Franz Josef Glacier heli-hiking adventure!! What we had in store after a stunning helicopter ride was an outrageous afternoon of hiking around ice-formations, crawling through ice-caves, rapelling into ice-caverns and sliding down ice-slides. We were worried that the experience may be too similar to the glacier in Patagonia to be worth the money. But it was so, SO much cooler.

By the way, how insane is it that this is our second time hiking on a glacier this year? I heart traveling around the world.  For lots of incredibly awesome ice playground photos, click HERE.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fox Glacier

During our visit to this town named for it's biggest attraction, we actually didn't go anywhere near a glacier. We arrived late on a beautiful afternoon, and were advised by a local to take advantage of this rare bout of sunshine. Rather than drive to the trailhead to view a glacier that really can be appreciated in any weather, she suggested we ride mountain bikes to a nearby lake to soak up the sunny bliss. Hey lady, whatever you say.

The next morning as we were preparing to head out to see Fox Glacier, we had an abrupt change of plans. A wild idea and a last minute opening on a gorgeous day proved too much to pass up. I think we did a good job making up for it...

For photos of non-glacier related stuff, click HERE.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


So it turns out I would make a better sniper than hunter.

The small town of Wanaka fancies itself to be a mini, more mellow Queenstown. Having satisfied our need for speed and adventure, we sought out some target practice instead on this cool grey afternoon.

"Have a Shot" is a facility bringing you all kinds of cold-weather fun. 22-calibre rifles, archery, a driving range and clay pigeon shooting, no form of ammunition is left unturned.

Count 'em.  That's SEVEN bulls eyes my friend.

I couldn't hit a clay pigeon to save my life, but boy howdy am I good with a rifle!

For photos of us shootin' it up in Wanaka, click HERE.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Queenstown Pics

We had a really good time in Queenstown.  Expensive, adorable, full of bars and restaurants and heart-pumping action - it's the kind of place you would love to stay for a while, if you could afford it.

To check out our photos of canyoning, frisbee golfing, luge-ing, bingo-ing, and general loving of Queenstown, click HERE.


Have you ever wanted to try ziplining, abseiling, cliff jumping or rapeling? How about swimming in rapids, climbing up canyons, sliding down waterfalls (right side up AND upside down) or freezing your balls off?? Then I've got just the thing for you!!

Canyoning. All of the above activies done in a crazy thick wetsuit and a helmet in a rushing (nearly freezing) river canyon. If that's not the best way to kick-start your day, I don't know what is.

Of course, the only real way to unwind after an adrenaline-fueled morning is with an alcohol-fueled afternoon... A waterfront pub tasting session followed by some fiercely competitive rounds of bingo at the local casino. I didn't win anything, but I did talk some quality trash to the folks who did!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Frisbee Golf

A little known fact: In addition to being the 'Adventure Capital of the World,' Queenstown also boasts what might be the 'Best Frisbee Golf Course in the World'! Rolling grassy hills and damp shady forests, the 18-hole course perched right alongside the lake encompasses all types of scenic terrain.

It sorta makes you want to throw it out of bounds on purpose.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Luge Awesomeness

You'll be pleased to know that our "anti-rain drinking-dance" worked! Sunny skies as far as the eye can see. And the great thing about summer in this part of the world is that sun ain't going anywhere till 10pm. You can sleep-in till noon, have a leisurely brunch, nurse your hangover till five, and still have an awesome afternoon of riding a gondola, watching people bungy jump, and racing luges. Fun!!

This guy is having way more fun than we are.

We never buy the cheesy tourist snapshot at these places, but this one was just too good to pass up.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Town fit for a Queen

Queenstown looks like it could be a really fun town. If it wasn't FREEZING and RAINING.

We heard that having beer chugging contests at the nearest pub could make the rain go away. We gotta do what we gotta do.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Milford Sound. Just about as hyped up as any place you'll visit in New Zealand. But when the barometer is set on 'stunning', it's kinda hard to be blown away by anything new. I wasn't quite as awe-struck by our Milford Sound cruise as I thought I'd be. It was gorgeous, obviously. Really, really beautiful. But, so is everything in New Zealand. I think I need to re-set my pretty-meter in order to start getting a fresh take on things. Show me something ugly, dammit!

Anyhow. Scratch all that. It sounds jaded and unappreciative, which is not at all what I am. And judging by how many photos we took, clearly we liked something about it. Milford Sound = Awesome. So is the nice toasty lodge where we drank wine in the evening and I kicked the boys' asses at Monopoly.

For our many Milford photos, click HERE.