Monday, February 28, 2011

The Little Vally

I know I just spent the last blog gushing about the beauty of Dunedin and Aidan's home, but I can't help doing again. His parents, Julie and Ken were so amazing, and spoiled us something silly. After spending our first day in "The Little Vally" as Julie would say, Kathleen, Keri, and I were all anxious to see the Otago Peninsula.

Aidan had already made some plans to hang out with his friends from Secondary School (High School), so it was just going to be the girls. We figure we'd take a bus out to the Peninsula, but Julie would not hear of it. She popped us into her own car and took us on a privet tour of the Otago Peninsula. We stopped three times the first was the Dunedin aquarium which is run by Otago University.

The aquarium hosts tons of baby sharks and a petting tank filled with all sorts of starfish, and shell like creatures. After the aquarium we were all a little hungry so Julie suggested a small cafe for lunch which was delicious. I couldn't resist the case of sweets and tried my first piece of Hummingbird Cake. It's a two layer spiced sponge with cream cheese frosting and pineapple and banana in between the two layers of sponge. I bought it with the intention of sharing it, but I am ashamed to admit that I definitely ate more than half of the very generous slice!

After lunch, Keri and I wanted to see Dunedin's castle. Yes you read that correctly, castle. The castle was build by William Larnach for his first wife. It was completed in 1874, and is now privately owned, but is open for eager tourist like myself who feel like walking around a three storied stone castle. For some reason I didn't think to take a picture of the castle itself, so I will have to show you one taken by someone else.
Julie'd seen the castle several times before, and Kathleen is transferring to Otago UNI so she wanted to wait and see the castle another time, so Julie offered to drop us off and pick us up two hours later. Keri and I had a ball exploring the castle, the only pictures I have were taken from the top of the highest tower, because no pictures were allowed to be taken in the actual castle.

After our tour of the castle we spent the rest of the evening with Aidan's family who provided us with a home cooked dinner of roasted chicken with plum source, rice with carrots, celery, and parsley, and a fresh salad. Needless to say I did not leave the table hungry, but the real spoiling did not begin until the next morning.

Aidan went with his friends to church, while Kathleen, Keri, and I stayed with his parents. While we were enjoying a nice breakfast of toast and jam Julie offered to give us a carriage ride. We quickly accepted her invitation.

Julie and her white pony took us up the hills and out of the Vally in order to look over the beautiful beaches of Dunedin. I got to sit in the front of the carriage, and ask Julie all sorts of questions while Kathleen and Keri sat in the luxurious back seat. Julie even let me drive the c. 1880 cart for a bit. My day had been more than complete, but little did I know that there was more to come.

Ken, Julie's husband, enjoys going to vintage car shows, and told us all about his 1920 Stanley Steamer. It's a car that runs on steam, and was made in Massachusetts, but engineered by two Mainers! According to Ken, there are only three of these car's in New Zealand, and his is the only one that is still on the road. The car is kept at his work, so we had only herd tales of the classic car. Unfortunately our time ran short and we had to go back to the bus station without seeing the vintage car. Little did we know that Julie and Ken decided to surprise us with a little detour before heading to the bus station. Instead of arriving at the station, we went to Ken's work where he proudly pulled out the steamer, and offered to take us to lunch in it. We sat in the back of the windowless car and watched people as they watched us putter through town.

I really can't thank Aidan and his family enough for being there for us while everything was in confusion and spoiling us so rottenly!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Dunedin is New Zealand's Scottish city. In fact, Dunedin is Celtic for Edinburgh. The city is a little smaller than Christchurch, but filled with older looking stone buildings. Kathleen and I took a bus from Christchurch to Dunedin on Thursday morning, and stayed the night in the Stafford Gables Youth Hostel. While we where there we met up with Kathleen's roommate Aidan who's from Dunedin and Keri who is staying with him and his for dinner. Aidan recommenced we go to Velvet Burger, a restaurant famous for the strange and massive burgers. They had everything from a classic beef burger to venison burgers with pineapple on top! It was delicious!

Later on that evening Kathleen and I said good night to Aidan and Keri, and decided to go out for some drinks. After leaving Christchurch we were ready for a little recreation. Kathleen and I found a small bar with a live Kiwi band. They were great and played some American and Kiwi songs with a little Raggae flare.

Today Kathleen and I left the hostel and headed out to Ocean Grove, the bus stop closest to Aidan house. Aidan's parents were kind enough to offer us a free place to stay, and we were quick to except them! On the walk from the bus stop to Aidan's we were able to get a good look at the out skirts of the city and how lush and green the land is in the southern part of the South Island.

Aidan's house and family has stolen my heart. His mother is really into driving (horse and carts), and she has 8 horses in her 40 archer back yard. Needless to say I am in heaven!

Aidan indulged my horse crazed nature and took Keri and I on a tour of the paddocks, where we met all of there horses including Collin the three/four year old stallion who's posing in the picture above. Walking through the fields I felt like I was in a dream because as we tramped through the muddy grass we managed to scare a hawk and rabbit out of the tall grasses. Even their family dog, Tymie, put on a show by finding a us a nice possum and presenting it to us with a rather proud look on her face.

I really can't express how beautiful this place is. I feel like I just walked into a dream land. Aidan's family is so generous, and I feel so lucky to be staying here. I just want to share one last picture of Tymie and I.

Before I head into town for dinner with Kathleen, Keri, and Aidan, I would just like to say thank you for all of the calls and e-mails you sent me after the quake. It was really nice to hear from you all and know that you are thinking of me. I will write soon about my plans for the rest of the semester, but until then trust that I am having an amazing time in Dunedin!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Hello everyone, as most of you probably know there was a 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch yesterday that hit about 12:50pm. I just want to let you know that I am all right, and am safe inside my dorm. I was on my way to class when the quake started. At first I thought I was blacking out because I lost my sense of balance. Then I realized that everything around me was moving as well and that it must an earthquake! Everyone around me stayed calm and stationary, so I did the same.

Once the quake was over, people seemed to be excited, so I just thought it was a normal aftershock. This was my first quake, so I just went along with the crowd.
It wasn't until later when the entire campus shut down and when we started hearing reports of the fallen cathedral that we realized how serious the earthquake was.

The number of injured and deceased is not cretin right now, because rescuers are still looking for survivors under rubble and fallen buildings. The most damage happened in the city center, although one of the building in Ilam (my apartment complexes) was cracked on the fourth floor. I don't know what the rest of the campus looks like because it is shut down, and people are checking out the dorms before they look at the rest of campus.

We are still experiencing after shocks about every 30mins to an hour, but everyone is pretty calm. Most people are leaving Christchurch because the Uni is closed for at least a week. I just booked a bus ticket to Dunedin with my friend Kathleen, so we are planning on spending the next week there. I will keep you all updated once I know whats going on. I have power, but the water and sewage is still not safe to use. I hope you all weren't too worried, and again I'm sorry I couldn't get in touch sooner due to the internet being down.

I miss and love you all, and I just wanted to let you know that I'm safe. Next time I post I should be in Dunedin, and hopefully blogging about something much happier!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Gardens

I woke up early Sunday morning, and felt like I needed to do some exploring. I quickly got dressed, and I was out of Ilam Apartments by 9:30 which is pretty early by college standers, and hoped on my bike who I just recently named "Big Blue."
Christchurch is known as the "Garden City" so I decided a nice walk in the Botanical Gardens was just the place to do some solitary exploring. I've already written about Hagley Park just about 2 mile from campus, but I think I failed to explain how large Hagley Park is. Within the park there are several Rugby fields, a golf course, tennis courts, two ponds and of course the Botanical Gardens. I had already been through the park several times on my ways in and out of town, but I still hadn't found the gardens. So Big Blue and I went on a little quest to find the gardens.
I soon discovered that Blue and I were not going to find them without the assistance of a knowledgeable civilian, so with the help from a nice lady and her large Newfoundland I was able to find the entrance to the gardens. I parked Big Blue and lock him with the other bikes, and had my first tour of the gardens.

True to the form of Hagley, the gardens are also huge with many different sections. The picture above is of the Rose Gardens. They have every color rose you could think of ranging from bight baby pink to a kind of mournful maroon.

The Rose Garden is encircled by green hedge about 8 ft high, and sitting in the center of the Rose Garden is a sundial that tells, not only the New Zealand time, but also the time in New York, Tokyo, and several other major cities in the world.

My favorite part of the garden is the indoor flower room. The entire room was filled with Begonia Tuberhybrida Hybrids also known as Tuberous Begonias.

These particular flowers are from Africa although they've been introduced in Asia and the Americas. The blooms are very large, and about 6 inches across, and come in a variety of colors as you can see. When I was in the green house I stumbled upon one flower that had either fallen or was knocked off by a careless spectator, so I couldn't resist taking a quick photo.

The rest of the greenhouse help all kinds of tropical plants and large trees with lost of alcoves for viney plants. This one I thought was particularly scenic.

The gardens were so spectacular I could go on and on about them and show you all of the 77 pictures I took there, but I think that might get a little repetitive. All I can say is that when I get back to the states my parents can be expecting me to be doing a little bit more gardening than usual.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Hike and a Bike

This past saturday Lin, Kathleen, Keri, Kendal, and I all decided to go for a hike in Port Hills about 8 miles from campus. So, the five of us hoped on our bikes and biked to Bowenvale Recreation Reserve a popular spot for hikers, mountain bikers, and runners.
We started on up on one of the normal walking trails than veered up towards Victoria Park. The hike was a little steep, but the views were incredible!

I'm not sure how long the hike took us because we took our time stopping when we needed to rest and enjoy various snacks and scenic lookouts.
(from left to right: Kathleen, Me, Keri, Lin)

When we got to the top we spent most of our time at the Sugarloaf Scenic Reserve. It look out over one of New Zealands may bays.

This is one of the most beautiful spots I've ever been, and if any of you get a chance to come out here I suggest you make this a stop on your trip. Not to worry for those who are not into hiking or biking because there is a scenic drive you can also take, that will bring you out to the same look out! We had a blast getting up the trail, and I have to admit the going down was pretty fun as well, but perhaps a little steeper at some points that I would have liked! I can't tell you all how much fun I'm having, and how incredible this place is. I love Peter Jackson, but even he couldn't capture the magic of this place on film. You have to be here to really understand what a special place this is.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sumner Beach

I can't believe I got a tan in February! Yesterday my friends, Kathleen from Ohio and Keri from Illinois, and I biked to Sumner beach. The bike ride there took us around two hours, and the ride back one, but it was worth it!

The ocean was so blue and when we got there it was low tide so the water was pretty warm.
The tides are pretty strong here in New Zealand and the coast is a little rocky so we didn't spend too much time in the ocean. We just sat and soaked up as much sun as possible, which isn't hard to do here because New Zealand is right under the whole in the o-zone layer. Sun screen is pretty big here!

I also got a chance to start reading a new book Black Ice by Anne Stuart a romance/thriller novel that I found at a used book store just up the street from UC (University of Canterbury), it's the perfect beach book. Over all we had a pretty relaxing time,

and I can back relativity unburned, but I did forget to put sun screen on my left ear which is, at the moment, the color of a tomato.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I've been in Christchurch for two days and I already feel at home. The city is pretty spread out and my university, the University of Canterbury, is about a 20-30 minute walk from the center of the city, Cathedral Square. So I decided to buy a bike. Nothing too special, just enough of a bike to get me safely around Christchurch, and maybe through some city parks. So a girl from my trip and I set off to the bike shop just down the street. Unfortunately Dave, the owner of the shop, didn't have any used bikes for us, but he did tell us about a nice used bike shop called Around Again Cycles, about 5 miles from the University. So, we hoped on a city bus, and walked to the bike shop where we were lucky enough to find two decent used bikes, and then biked the 5 miles back to campus, stopping briefly in the town center to look around!

Christchurch is famous for its beautiful European churches that are scattered all over the city. The one above is pretty iconic becuase it is the cathedral in Cathedral Square, where is seems that street prefprmers and adavde chess players like to hang out.

About a 5 minute walk from Cathedral Square is Hagley Park. This place is huge, and its right outside the city center. A couple of my friends and I spent the day yesterday walking around the park and exploring the city.

I'm pretty settled in the dorms. They are pretty big and have a kitchen, but no dishwasher. So it looks like I'm going to be washing a lot of dishes. My room is pretty big for a dorm room with big sunny windows.

So far I'm pretty impressed with Canterbury and Christchurch, and I look forward to exploring it more!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Beginning

If this week is any indication of what the rest of my stay here is going to be like, I’m not sure I can leave. I’ve gone caving, white water rafting, hiking in the Redwood Forest (the one in New Zealand, not California!), and I’ve even enjoyed a wonderful hangi, a traditional Maori meal! But the thing I loved most about this week was seeing the country.

I wish I could describe to you the beauty of this place, but I can’t even begin to do it justice. This country is simply green. The trees are a mixture of fern-like palm tree, and Californian pines. They appear to fit comfortably in between the rolling hills of the North Island. I got my first glimpse of New Zealand countryside on the bus ride from Auckland to Rotorua. I felt like I was in some kind of a continuous screen savor. It was so surreal. I felt even more spoiled when I got to raft down one of New Zealand’s rivers. The river had class three and some class four rapids, and they did not disappoint!

But I think one of the most beautiful places I got to see was Rotorua. Rotorua is known for their hot springs that literally pop up all over the town. The sprigs are heated by all of the geothermal activity in the area,

This particular spring was right behind the backpacker’s lodge, Kiwi Paka, we stayed at in Rotorua. Along with the hot springs and great white water rafting Rotorua is a simple two-hour dive to Waitomo and it’s famous caves. I was lucky enough to do a caving trip in Waitomo’s St. Benedict’s Cave. This was my favorite thing I’ve done so far, and I think I might have found a new hobby! The decent into the cave starts with two repeals a 60ft and 80ft foot drop one right after the other. I was the first to repeal into the cave, with the helps of our guilds Ryan and Scot of coures, but for the second repel Ryan had to stay on the platform to help the other people on my trip, so I got to spend the first 5 minutes at the bottom of the cave by myself! It was incredible. The cave was cool and damp with tons of limestone eroding and dripping with water. Unfortunately, I can’t show you a picture that I took of the cave because we weren’t allowed to bring into the caves, but I can show you one someone else took!

Oh yea, I almost forgot, and in the cave there was a zip line across a highly concentrated area of stalactites and stalagmites. I got to do it in complete darkness. The cave was so dark that I couldn’t tell a difference between my opened or closed eyes.

I’ve just arrived in Christchurch and am getting settled in. I can’t wait to explore the city, and keep taking advantage of New Zealand,s many opportunities!

Rotorua, New Zealand.