Wednesday, May 18, 2011


After all of my traveling around this great country with my sister, I had wetted my appetite for domestic travel. Just one week after being in Auckland I was itching to discover and explore some new, and perhaps a bit more remote, section of New Zealand. So, my friend Keri and I did some flight searching on Air New Zealand's,, (a website for last minute and very cheap flights), and found a reasonable fair to Gisborne for the next weekend, a small town on the North Island's East Coast. Keri and I didn't know much about Gisborne, or as the locals call it Gizzy, but luckily we had a week to plan and find out more about our soon-to-be destination.

As it turns out, there are heaps of activities to keep two girls very busy in Gisborne. Most of the attractions surround looking at and experiencing the beautiful and jagged Eastern Cape of New Zealand, and the splendors of Poverty Bay, the lovely inlet that houses the little town of Gisborne.

It is even an important historical sight. It is the first place in New Zealand to be spotted by Captain Cook and his ship the Endeavor in 1769. It is also the first place in the world to see the sunrise. Keri and I were delighted by these little facts, and were ready to enjoy the quieter and more relaxed atmosphere of a small town after the busy city life of Auckland.

As, if Keri and I weren't ecxited enough to get out of the big city for the weekend, we also decided to splurge and treat ourself to a one night stay in the Te Kura B&B. Keri had never stayed at a B&B before, so we were both looking forward to some home style comfort. When we got to Gisborne, we went straight to the B&B to drop off out bags.
We were greeted by Paul the owner, and Ron Weasley their fluffy, nine-month-old, half-puddle-half-bison frise puppy. Both Paul, Ron, his wife, and their son all live in the B&B. Well to me more acculturate, they use part of their 1920's style river-side manor to house some weary tourists. It felt almost as if we had walked into an old sea captains homes, complete with a beautiful view of the Taruheru River. Keri and I were more than excited to sleep somewhere well away from the noise of city traffic.

After we acquainted ourselves with life at the manor, and some well deserved belly scratches for Ron, Keri and I headed out to the Titirangi Lookout on Katiti Hill, the highest point that looks out over Poverty Bay and Gisbore. It is home to the famous statue of Captain Cook. The reason why this particular likeness of the famed British sea captain is because it is not a likeness at all. The facial features look nothing like the man at all. In fact, the man who is depicted is not even wearing a British navel uniform. Who is the man on top of the hill? We shall never know.

After our walk in the Titirangi Domain we headed out to a nice dinner at the USSCO Bar & Bistroe, an restored building that used to house the Union Steam Ship Company, where we enjoyed some live piano music, some delicious entres, and even shared a bottle of Gisborne's own Pinot Gris. We then wrapped up our evening with a New Zealnd movie night. In the guest entertainment room, Paul and Bronwyn supplyed us with a number of movies including Whale Rider which was filmed just a few kilometers outside of Gisborne. So, Keri and I watched the film and decided to try and find some of the film sights while we where there.

The next day Keri, and I enjoyed breakfast at the B&B, but had to leave shortly after that and move into our next and perhaps less glamorous accommodation. Keri and I decided to stay at the Flying Nuns Backpackers, a convent that has been converted to a backpackers, for the rest of our stay. But before we explored the ex-nunnery, we decided to rent a car and drive out to the Eastwoodhill Arboretum, the Rere rock slide, and the Rere waterfall. Keri had left her license in Auckland, so it looked like the driving was up to me! I fared pretty well, but struggled with being able to turn on my turn indicator. For in NZ cars the drivers side is on the right, and center counsel is revered. So, when I reached to turn on my blinkers, instead of the familiar ticking sound that Keri and I expected, the windshield wipers came on and dutifully cleared my window of nothing more than some dust and pollen.

Keri and I spent that day driving through rolling mountains dotted with sheep and cattle, then enjoyed walking and picnicking in the Arboretum.

We then continued on to the rockslide and waterfall. Even though winter is fast approaching Keri and I were determined to do the rocksilde. So we picked up a cheep inflatable tube from The Warehouse (the NZ version of Wal-Mart), and donned our warmest ware. At first we had some trouble inflating the tube, and my inpatient nature of the better of me. I told Keri, that I would go down first uses the deflated tube as a very slight protection. I stepped inth the rushing water and immediately regretted it. It was freezing, but I wasn't about to chicken out. So I edged my way over the wet slippery rocks and started my decent.

What a blast! The rapids took you shooting down the smooth and slightly submerged rock face. I was fully enjoying myself until the bottom when I saw a dip in the rocks, and knew that my bum was about to suffer. My right cheek was a bit source after the fist rocky dip, but it really didn't feel it until the bottom. You cannot tell what the bottom of the slide is like because the recycled water served as a foaming mass of circulating water, but it turns out that it meats on a angle then several feet after there is a drop off into deep water. My bum found the rocks before the drop off. Slightly bruised and shivering I survived the rockslide, and was quite please with myself. Keri much more patient, and went down twice on the inflated tube.

After the slide we went 2 kilometers down the road to the waterfall, where we explored for a bit, and even was able to walk behind the rushing water.

The next day Keri, and I hug out around town and explored some of the local shops, and made friends with the cat's of the Flying Nun's, who enjoyed spending the nights with us curled up at our feet. To complete our lazy day, we decided to walk to midway beach around sunset and enjoy the array of colors.

That evening we went to bed early, for we decided to drive up to Tolaga Bay, and watch the sunrise on the longest wharf in the southern hemisphere at 660 meters long. As the sun rose we did some yoga, and greeted the day.

We spent the rest of the day driving back towards Gisborne on the beautiful coastal Rt 35. We stopped along the way to explore several small towns and beaches. We even found the small and unmarked village of Whangara where the film Whale Rider was filmed.

We finished the day with a trip to the Morere Hot Springs, but was unable to try a little dip because bad weather had diminished the flow of the hot springs to little more than a trickle. But we were still able to walk into the Morere Scenic Reserve and Rainforest, which was in itself a treat.

We were sad to spend our last night in the Flying Nun's, and leave our new furry companions, but getting an extra day in Gisborne by getting up early in order to catching the 6:40 flight back to Auckland on Tuesday morning was well worth it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mid-Semester Break: Queenstown/Milford Sounds back to Auckland!

This will be the last of the "Mid-Semester Break" posts. I think this one will finally bring to life all of the adventures Katie and I had! I left off with a description of our short time in Dunedin. I believe I wrote about flying to Queenstown, which is odd because Katie and I actually took a bus, I'm sorry I must have been tired after writing about all of our Dunedin adventures.
Katie and I took the lastest bus out of Dunedin to Queenstown and the YHA Hostel there. After about two hours into our trip the sun had completely set, and this should have left the beautiful landscapes in darkness if it hadn't had been for the huge, bright, and beautiful full moon. Seeing the landscape lit by moonlight was truly a wonderful sight that I will not soon forget.
Katie and I arrived at the YHA, and immediately booked a skydive for 7:30 the next morning. So with that exciting morning planed ahead we settled in and went straight to bed. The alarm rang very early that morning and before we knew it we were in a gray and red jumpsuit in a plane, attached to some strange, and rather handsome, Kiwi man about to jump ship!
Katie and I were lucky because they had just had there first snow the day before, which meant that Katie and I got to jumped out of a plane 12,000 ft above Queenstown's snowy mountains, green-blue lake, and green sheep laden fields. It was truly magical, and the moment I touched ground, I asked if I could do it again. They laughed.
By the time we got back to town it was only 9 am, so we had a leisurely and delicious breakfast in a small cafe then planned for a small hike up the sky-gonadal trail. Unfortunately, we got some bad directions and ended up on a rather strenuous trail. I had gotten a cold after all of the water activities in Rotorua and the wet Dunedin tours, so I quickly realized that thes hike was getting the better of me. I ended up leaving Katie to summit the rest of the mountain while I took a much needed nap.
We after Katie hiked, and I napped we decided to try some of New Zealand's wines at the a small Queenstown Wine Cafe. This small winery has over 80 NZ wines available for tastings. So Katie and I split a tasting card, and spent an hour or so tasting wines and enjoying a NZ cheese plate. Feeling good, we then went out for an amazing Thi meal, and then to a long awaited bed.
But once again, our alarm went off around 6:30 in the morning in order to awaken us for our bus and cruse to and through the Milford Sounds. It is so hard to convey to you the amount of beauty we experienced that day. With each turn of the bus or around each bend in the bay of the Sounds, a new a fantastic sight was there. We saw dolphins feeding in the Tasman sea, young male seals sunning themselves one huge amassing mountains, and a barracuda even jumped out of the water for us. Katie and I were just amazed by the awesome mountains covered in wild and untouched vegetation. This must be one of the most beautiful places in the world.
After our bus and cruse, we were surprisingly tired and even more hungry, so we went to Fergburger. Ferbgurger is famous in Queenstown for have strange and immensely large burgers. I tried a venison burger with plumb sauce (titled Little Bambi), and Katie had a beef burger with pineapple, both of which were more than memorable. Exhausted and full Katie and I managed to book a three hour horse trek to Paradise View in Queenstown for the next morning.
Katie and I really wanted to ride while we were here together, so both of us were so excited to do this in Glenarchy, only 50 away from Queenstown. Katie and I enjoyed the small farm which was a live with horses, pigs and their piglets, and several friendly dogs and cats. We trekked on horseback through rivers, forests and glades, and we even stopped on a high look out. There we got to see the gorgeous Paradise Vally where tons of famous movies were filmed including Lord of the Rings, Lovely Bone, and Wolverine. It was a great way to end our time in Queenstown.
On an afternoon flight to Auckland, Katie and I both enjoyed some well needed rest in time to have dinner with one of my friends.
Keri, Katie, and I all went to a late dinner and chatted about living abroad, we even convinced Keri to come and hike Rangitoto with us the next day. Again Katie and I rose early, and before our ferry to Rangitoto, we wanted to walk the Domain and look through the winter garden. The plan was then to eat a nice breakfast and hike the volcano, but we forgot it was Good Friday, and that most of the cafe's were closed. So a little hungry we met up with Keri, and hiked the beautiful volcano and enjoyed some home made PB and J's at the summit.
This last adventure brought my sister's stay, and my break, to a close. Katie and I had such a blast, and being able to tell it to you all allows me to relive it. Katie thank you so much for coming I couldn't ask for a better sister!