Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mid-Semester Break: Dunedin to Queenstown!

Well as you can tell Katie and I did not waste anytime being board in Rotorua, and we continued that trend all the way back through to the return trip to Auckland! But I'm getting ahead of myself.
So after a quite evening in Rotorua riding our bikes, Katie and I got up nice and early to catch our 8:30 flight to Dunedin. After flying one hour to Chistchurch, were our ten minute layover let us rest for about a minute, we hopped onto another small one hour flight to Dunedin, where our friendly shuttle driver was waiting to pick us up and bring us to Larnach Castle!
Some of you might remember that I visited Larnach once before with Keri after the earthquake, but this trip to the castle was going to be very different because unlike Keri and I, Katie and I did not have to leave at 5 o'clock.
Katie and I could only squeeze one night in Dunedin, so we talked it over and decided to splurge and stay at the Larnach Castle. Now don't get to excited, we couldn't stay in the grand bedrooms in the actual castle, but Katie and I did settle for the stable stay. So Katie and I spent the night in the stables of New Zealand's only castle! Before we settled down for a rather wonderful night of sleep, Katie and I spent the afternoon exploring the castle and grounds. Unfortunately, it was a little rainy, but the consistently changing sky made the views from the top of the castle unforgettable!
After waking around the castle, and making a few plans for the next couple of days, Katie and I hitched a cab to Plato, one of Dunedin's best restaurants, in my option, and had an unforgettable diner.
For those of you who are familiar with my sister and I, you cannot help but to notice some slight differences between us, and some might be wondering if those slight, and albeit minimal differences, might have become a problem, but let me tell you they did not! At this dinner, Katie and I spent around two hours slowly eating, and enjoying some of most New Zealand's wonderful wines, talking and laughing about family and differences. Katie and I despite our uniqueness proved to me quite compatible traveling companions, and will remember this trip forever!
So after our wonderful dinner of a cheese plate, squid, fish, salads, and two fabulous deserts, Katie and I headed back to the castle for some well deserved rest.
But again with no time wasted, Katie and I woke up early to a complementary breakfast in the stables, and left the castle ready to explore Dunedin, and start on the next leg of our trip.
Originally we had planned to go horse trekking in Dunedin, but the rainy weather deterred us, so instead we took a walking tour of Dunedin, and then a tour of the Cadbury Chocolate Factory. We spent two hours walking in the on-and-off rain seeing all of the famous sights of Dunedin, including the train station, which is one of the worlds most photographed buildings.
After the more informative tour, Katie and I were excited to see the inner workings of the famous and delicious chocolate factory. Katie and I enjoyed the tour learning all about the chocolate corporation and where they get their ingredients. One of our favorite facts about Cadbury Chocolates is that each factory produces different candy products. So for example, the factory in England is where all of the Cadbury Easter eggs are made. And because the factories are placed around the world, each factory has chocolate that taste different from the others. This is because they try and use products that are closer to the factory. So NZ chocolate uses sugar from Australia, and milk from NZ cows, but the factories in the UK use UK cows, which are fed off of different feeds, so the chocolate taste different! I will be bring back samples of NZ Cadbury Chocolate, so that we can compare US Cadbury Chocolate and see which one is better!
After our chocolaty tour complete with free samples, Katie and I met up with Kathleen from Christchurch for a delicious lunch of good old fashion Dunedin fish and chips! It was great to chatch up with Kathleen and see how she was surviving the transfer. After our lunch Katie and I were off to the airport again for a quick flight to Queenstown were our biggest adventure awaits us, but I have already wrote enough for one post, so you'll just have to wait to hear about our cruse through Milford Sounds, and our 12,000 ft skydive.

One last thing, I just wanted to say a quick hello and congratulations to the Castlemans, who I miss dearly, and I am told just celebrated their 60th anniversary! I am so happy to hear that you all are doing well and are following my blog! I miss you all and Tustie of course, hope spring is coming soon!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mid-Semester Break: Auckland and Rotorua

As the first half of my semester comes to a close here in Auckland, I get to celebrate my survival of an earthquake, two UNI transfers, and a tsunami warning with a visit from my fabulous sister. Katie was due to arrive in Auckland at 4:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday, but unfortunately when she arrived in Sydney her flight was delayed and did not arrive in Auckland until 3:00 am! Poor Katie, but regardless of the late hour I welcomed her at the airport and shuttled her home to a nice and comfortable bed.

For the next two days, Katie was pretty much on her own because I had two 9-5 workshops for my fish hook class. Katie took this time to explore the city, and take the same dolphin and whale cruise that I took before. We went out to some wonderful dinners, and tasted the sweeter side of Auckland at my personal favorite gillato place called Giapo. After my last workshop ended on Wednesday, Katie and I spared no time and were on a bus at 8 am the next day to Rotorua.

Some of you might remember that I spent my first week in New Zealand in Rotorua, and had a blast, so I bursting at the seams to share that same experience with Katie. We even decided to stay at Kiwi Paka the same backpackers I stayed at during the AustraLearn orientation. The moment we walked in the door Bev, one of Kiwi Paka's finest employees, welcomed us with smiles and hello's, and she even recognised me from my previous stay! Over the next several days, Bev became our NZ Mom introducing us to another fellow traver, Brian, and she took time out of her day to take us Zorbing (I will explain what that is in a minute), and she dropped us off and picked us up at the redwood forest.

Bev introduced Katie and I to our first NZ adventure together. Zorbing, a New Zealand invention, basically involves a human sized hamster ball, some hot water, and a big hill. Katie was reluctant to try this NZ thrill, but once Bev offered to take us and Brian, another Kiwi Paka resident, we couldn't say no! So, we opted to do the wet ride all together. This means that Katie, Brian, and I all rolled down the hill in the same ball together. Oh right, and inside of the ball was about ten inches of warm water. Bev said she could hear Katie screaming down the entire hill. I can't say that I'm surprised cause we were having such a blast!

After zorbing, Bev took the three of us to the redwood forest where we spent about an hour walking around and enjoying the lush forest, but our day did not end there. We then went to the Thursday night market where we picked up some Rotorua made, wine, cheeses, and sliced venison. Then we were whisked off the the Tamaki Village for a hangi meal and introduction to Maori culture. After feasting on lamb, chicken, fresh veggies, and pavlova (the traditional NZ desert) Katie and I were more than happy to crash into our nice and warm beds.

Friday morning, we were up by 7, and by 7:45 were on a bus out to Waitomo for some blackwater caving! I was particularly excited for this adventure because I really enjoyed my last caving experiences, but I knew that this trip just might top it. It's called blackwater caving because running through the cave is a small river, and in order to get through the caves a person needs to tube for some parts of it. So, Katie and I donned some rather cold and wet wetsuits found a tube that fit our backside rather tightly and descended into the wet caves.

In Ruakuri Cave there are two drop offs where a delighted caver (such as Katie or myself) gets to jump off the edge of a small ledge backwards into the water, and if you happen to be a little hesitant don't worry cause one of your caving guides would be more than happy to give you a slight push off the edge. Another highlight of this particular tour is the blackout section. When you jump off the little ledge you jump with your bum in the tube, so that you land comfortably seated in your tube. After the jump the guides instructed us to turn off all of our head lamps and look up. Above our heads are hundreds of little greenish-white lights that look remarkably like stars. The constellations of glowworms light up the cave ceiling and its our job to follow the tinny living illuminating creatures out of the cave paddling with our arms through the cave's until we reach the mouth of the cave.

After caving we decided to have a picnic dinner of cheese and wine that we bought at the Thursday night market. Brian joined us and so our evening of debauchery began. After finishing of two bottles of wine, Brain, Katie, and I are ready to go! We walk the five minutes to Rotorua's Lava Bar, where some free shots and a little too much beer makes it a night to remember! Feeling a little worse for the wear the next morning Katie and I are up by 6:45 and on our way to a big and greasy breakfast before our white water rafting trip. We dine at Milly's a local restaurant, and our hung over tummy's were more than thankful. After breakfast we met our rafting guides, and were anxious to get onto the Kaituna River which in one of New Zealands most highly rafted rivers, and host to fourteen drops the most famous one being a seven meter drop which is about twenty-three foot fall! Katie and I had a blast. Our entire raft was submerged after the largest drop, and three of us (including myself, and our rafting guide) we launched from the raft!

After rafting, Katie and I attempted to rent bikes and bike out to the Blue Lake, but bad directions and the encroaching darkness made us alter our plans just a bit. So instead of biking out to one of Rotorua's hidden lakes, Katie and I contented ourselves to bike around Lake Rotorua at sunset, and treat ourselves to some ice-cream. After such a wet and wild experience Katie and I were excited to set off for our next destination, Dunedin!

I can't wait to tell you all about our time in Dunedin, but the clock is ticking and Katie and I are not going to waste a second of it! Once I'm back in Auckland I will recount the rest of our adventures, (which hopefully encludes some skydiving!) and show you heaps of picture!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Long Time, No Post.

I'm a little ashamed. I've been neglecting you all. I was reminded by my mother that it's been far to long since my last post, and that I should try and update as soon as possible. I'm sorry for not keeping you all better informed, but what can I say, I got a bit distracted.
I think I left you all off with the recount of my whale and dolphin cruse. Well, I've been up to a lot since them climbing volcanoes, learning Cook Island and Samoan Dances, and making a fish hook out of root and bone. I know, I know. I have a tough life.
Last weekend Lynn, Alex, and I decided to go on a short day hike at Rangitoto, an island volcano about a 20 min ferry ride from Auckland. It was pretty cool seeing piles and plies of pumas stones randomly placed all around the island enclosed by forests of large ferns and green bushes.

The hike was not too steep, but we did stop more than once to enjoy the view and catch our breath. Just before the we got to the top, there was a small outlook that looked into the crater of the volcano. Clearly it's been quite sometime since the last eruption, but whose complaining?

Because the entire island is the result of years and years of volcanic activity there were several small caves situated around the island. After walking several feet into one of the cave tunnels, a small part of the cave opened up to the serface shedding some light on the once dark tunnel.

Unfortunately, Keri and Kendal couldn't come with us to the island because their presence was required at a rather inconvenient Biology field trip, but Keri and I did manage to get in some fun on the weekend before she left. Keri is an avid Bollywood fan, and after the first time I saw Bride and Prejudice I have to say I was hooked. Keri and I bonded over our mutual love of sappy and colorful films and went to a screening of It's a Wonderful Afterlife at the Auckland Bollywood film festival. We enjoyed Fro Flows (Mix berry frozen yogart and frozen fruit blended together into something like a soft serve ice-cream cone) as we watched the new film, which was directed by the same directer as Bend it Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice.

The movie was hysterical! Keri and I spent the whole time laughing, especially when they did spoof of Stephen King's crazed Carrie. Overall, I've been pretty busy with class, and trying to get things ready for mid-semester break that starts up this Friday. I'm going to need to clear some time from my schedule to make sure I clean up my apartment before Katie comes to visit me for break! I can't wait to tell you all about our time together, and all the fun things we're going to do!