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What can I say? I like to travel.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Finally to Fiji!

So I haven't been able to update in awhile because of the lack of internet but I am in Christchurch right now! And yes, I have felt a few earthquakes. Baby ones, but earthquakes all the same.
The first one I felt when I was sitting in my hotel room with Sarah. It kind of felt like my chair was vibrating. After it was finished, I looked up and Sarah and I locked eyes. We had both experienced the same thing. Crazy!
You might be wondering why I am still in New Zealand when I should be on a beach in Fiji by now. Well, our flight was canceled because of the Volcanic Ash circling around the globe from Chile. Funny how a volcanic eruption from so far away can affect us all the way over here, eh?
We spent another full day in New Zealand, playing rugby in the Christchurch Botanic Garden Park. Not the worst way to spend a day, in my opinion. Oh, except I got sick. Wonderful. It's just a cold, but it made my throat hurt something awful and kept me up one night as my nose spewed out mucous like a faucet. But after having this gnarly medicine called Lemsip, I feel a lot better! I can actually breathe through my nose now!
This morning, we got to the airport to find that our flight to Nadi is actually still going! Yay! I think it's better, really, because the flight two days ago was to Auckland and then to Nadi. Apparently the flights getting cancelled have been with Qantas, which flies to and from Australia and from Christchurch to Auckland.
You can check out the flights here: http://www.christchurchairport.co.nz/
assuming that you click this link before I board my plane!
Wish me luck on my travels to Fiji! I love you all! I miss Jasper so so so much!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Heigh ho! Heigh ho! Off to the Glacier We Go!

June 16

Well, this was just a travel day! Peter and Gemina told us that we would be traveling for four hours. FALSE! Four hours translated into six and a half! That’s a lot of time in the bus!

But it’s okay, I guess, because I have not gotten carsick the last couple of days. I think that earlier, I was only getting motion sickness because of the jet lag.

I sat in the front of the bus, as usual. It was amazing to see the scenery change right before my eyes. First, we traveled through this plain-area, but then, all of a sudden, we were in a rainforest! Which was quite ironic, considering that we had to travel through a rainforest to get to a glacier. The juxtaposition of New Zealand never fails to impress me.

We stopped for lunch in this teeny tiny town right next to this mountain range. Well, it’s New Zealand. Everything is next to a mountain range. Anyway, I got a toasted sandwich with ham, pineapple, tomato, and cheese with chips (fries). Delicious!

After driving for a bit more through the winding rainforest roads, we stopped at this beach where people from all over the world had written on rocks and put them up by the road. It put me in a meditative, pensive mood to just see what everyone was thinking when they passed by this beach. Most people said something similar to “What a beautiful place!” or “I’ll definitely be coming back!” but the most moving rocks commemorated the dead. I just think it’s such an incredible thing to be honored in such a beautiful place.

After visiting the beach, we all headed down to Franz Josef (where the glacier was) and, lo and behold, found out that we were staying in yet another Top Ten Holiday Park! My roomies this time around are Alee and Kelsey. Jeez, Kelsey and I room together like all the time! But I’m not complaining. She’s cool.

Dinner time! We headed to this sports bar down the road. Carson and I split a Chicken, Bacon, and Brie Burger as well as Hawaiian Pizza. So good. Carson just knows how to order the best stuff. I need to share with her more often!

We had a pow wow again when we got back to the Holiday Park. I can’t even remember the question of the day, but I know it was a good one. Then Gemina showed us some pictures of her glacier hike from a couple years ago and it made me really excited and scared at the same time!

June 17

So we got the glacier tour hub building and it turns out that we were signed up for a half-day glacier hike instead of the full day one, which was fine, in my opinion. While we were waiting for it to be our time to get prepared, a big group of us (Alex, Sarah, Van, and Brittany, I think) played this game called Pterodactyl. It involved covering your teeth with your lips (so you look like a dinosaur), then turning to the person next to you and saying “Pterodactyl!” without laughing. You can also change the direction by doing some sort of mating call. We were all rolling on the floor afterjust less than a minute after this game.

Anywho! Glacier time! So, I decided to join the slow group so I could take a whole bunch of pictures. Nooot the best idea. Our guide, Rob, was fantastic, but this Indian family joined us and kinda ruined our trip. These two young girls in the Indian family decided after we had hiked through the valley to the glacier that they did not want to hike the glacier anymore. So, Rob had to call up another glacier leader guy to pick them up and take them back to camp. So we had to sit there in the valley and wait as more groups passed us up.

After that whole thing was taken care of, and we hiked up the hill to get to the front of the visible glacier, though, I think that the trip improved by heaps. We strapped on our crampons and Rob, our guide, told us a lot about the glacier while we were waiting. I know that some people reading are interested about this stuff because it is closely tied to geology cough Mom, Dad, and Pops cough so I’ll go ahead and repeat what he said.

The Franz Josef glacier is very unique because of the fact that it sits right next to the rainforest. A glacier formed there because it simply rains so much in that area, and the ice freezes up in between these two mountains. The glacier itself is pretty much right on a fault line, and you can see semi-horizontal cracks in the mountains surrounding it. The whole valley is made up of sedimentary rock, and on the mountains around the glacier; however, the lines from the rock being pushed together are actually vertical after being pushed up by the collision of two tectonic plates. Even though there are so many earthquakes over there, the glacier remains in tact. Some of the ice is constantly melting and seeping down underneath the glacier as more snow falls and freezes on top, creating more of the glacier. This means that the glacier actually sits on a layer of water, so when an earthquake hits, the glacier just floats back and forth slowly along the surface of the water until it reestablishes stability. The whole formation is just a miracle in itself. It was truly an honor to be able to see and walk on it.

Walking on ice with crampons is actually pretty difficult. Especially walking downhill. Every step, I was just unsure of myself. And considering that we had to walk with our feet apart like Texas cowboys (phrase courtesy of Rob after he found out where we were from) on two-foot wide steps, it was a little bit nervous-making. Once I got the hang of it though, I found that I really enjoyed it. Oh, I got to eat lunch on the glacier. (:

We got back to our little Holiday Park and I immediately took a shower. I was laying on my bed in clean clothes with a towel around my hair when Gemina knocked on our door and told us that we were going to the glacier hot springs. Awesome! I had just washed my hair and we were going to a public pool! That was sarcastic, by the way.

But I really shouldn’t complain. There were three hot pools, 36, 38 and 40 degrees Celsius. I clustered with a group of girls and we jumped from one pool the other with each other. After we pruned up for a good two hours, we went back to the same sports bar that we ate at last night (there are not a lot of food options over here in Franz Josef). I shared with Carson again! We ordered the Surf n Turf. The steak was really good and I loved the shrimp. The mussels were a little fishy though, and even though I loved them, the fishiness was just a little bit too much for Carson.

When we got back to our lodge, we had a little dance party (which was just all of us watching Van show off her moves from Spring Hoods) and then our pow wow. It was Alex’s time to present a question, which was a little bit confusing at first, but ended up making sense. It was about how we prepared for the trip. I, Ms. Procrastinator, did not prepare until literally the last day. That considered, I have gotten a lot out of this trip relative to the effort that I put into preparing for it!

June 18

Today has been a very chill day so far. We were planning on going out to take pictures of some lake, but the forecast was (accurately) rainy, so we just decided to stay in and chill in the common room, catching up on our pictures and on our blogs. It’s about noon New Zealand time, which means that it’s about seven pm for you guys back in Houston. It’s kinda weird to think that I will be eating lunch at about the same time y’all are eating dinner.

As I sit here in the rain, I hope that y’all are doing something really fun! I miss you guys! Please comment!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Still Searching for Legolas!

So, I bought internet at this other Top Ten Holiday Park we are staying in! That means that I actually get to write my blog in blogger instead of on a word document! Yay!

Yesterday, after waking up in our lovely hostel, the whole group journeyed down to this cute little bakery down the street in Queenstown. We could pick from an assortment of pastries and coffee to have for breakfast. I ordered this bacon, egg, and tomato sandwich, which came with something like bbq sauce and was just delicious. I also got a Cappuccino, which was so much better than one from Starbucks, simply because it had that personal, Mom and Pop feel.

Van, Alee, and I talked to Carl, our bus drivers, for awhile. He told us about holidays in New Zealand. Kiwis still celebrate Christmas in December, which is their summer, so a lot of people have started having Christmas barbeques instead of family dinners inside, which I think is really cool. There is also a surprisingly large amount of protest against starting Halloween trick or treating here. Some Kiwis will actually put up signs telling the trick or treaters to go away! That just seems to be a bit of strange behavior in a generally friendly community, but it guess it just is along the lines of resistance to change.

We also got to (finally) split up into small groups and do our own things around town! I was in a group with Van, Kelsey, Lauren, and Karter. We stopped by this really nice old church and I got this sweet shot of a bird, just staring at me!

blah blah blah. Lunch happened, we went up a gondola, got some pics of the landscapes. This kinda stuff is better expressed in pictures than in words, really.

Oh oh oh! I bought a hat! A really cool one. It is grey and blue and says New Zealand in it! Very good for keeping me warm in this chilly weather!

Once we were done with Queenstown, we all jumped back in the bus with Carl and headed off to Wanaka! We ended up in a Top Ten Holiday Park again, which I thought was awesome because we all got to be together in a lodge again. However, the beds and doors creak! If I try to go to sleep and I want to roll over, I am awakened by the sound of "Ehh aaa eehh aaa." Not so fun.

But I am ranting. This morning, still in Wanaka, we took some morning shots of the lake we are staying by, and a group shot!

Then we went to this place called Puzzling World. It has this giant maze and a whole bunch of rooms with different illusions! the first one was a bunch of holograms, the second, a room of following famous faces, the third, a tripppyyy room on a 45 degree angle that had us all falling over and sliding up! The last one was a perspective room, like how they made the hobbits very small in LOTR. I have some very funny giant and hobbit pictures to show you!

Oh, and I also fell in love with this game called 40 Noughts and Crosses. It would be an awesome coming home gift! *hint* You can probs find it online, Mom!

Oh, and I literally got lost in this GIANT maze. We had to find these different towers on all four corners, and Van and I just owned. We found all of them!

After the visit to Puzzling World, we all took a hike up Mt. Iron. Well, I say all but that's not really what happened. Before we started the hike, the group played a game of Bird on a Perch. So, you pick a partner in a big group, and the "perches" go counterclockwise in an inner circle, and the "birds" go clockwise in the outer circle. When the leader calls "Bird on a Perch!" The outer birds have to jump onto their perches! The last bird to get on their perch loses. I was the bird to Miles's perch, but we lost pretty early on. Carson, however, was slightly injured while playing and needed some time to recuperate before going on a big hike.

So, back to the hike. It was hard. Uphill, sweat, aching quads. Such a good work out, but it burned. Making it to the top was so worth it though. The view was beautiful.

Now, after laundry, and after paying $10 for internet (I thought it was worth it mom!), I am updating this blog! Now it's time to pick my Top Ten pics for today! Cheers!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Yes, Sam! I Slapped an Orc!

June 8 and not June 9, but June 10 (because we skipped it. Sorry Mom! Happy Birthday!)

My experience traveling to New Zealand can be described in one word. Tiring. We all arrived at the airport at 3:00 pm to begin our great traveling odyssey. Three planes, a few layovers, and one crying baby later, we are in New Zealand! I watched some pretty good movies on the 13-hour plane ride—The Fighter and The World According to Garb. Oh yeah, and I also watched Beastly on the ride from Houston to LAX.

About our leaders: Ms. Bottoms is awesome, of course, and I have really enjoyed getting to know Karter, the yearbook/photography/newspaper teacher at Spring Woods. I already knew Peter from our trip to Tanzania, and we all met our other leader, Gemina, at the airport in Houston. I like her. She seems like a hippie and she is very well-traveled.

Now back to New Zealand! I love it here. Everything is so green, the people are nice, and the air smells fresh. Not to mention that the water from the tap actually tastes great! We arrived at the south island in the afternoon (NZ time), and then traveled by bus with our awesome bus driver, Kiwi Carl, down to Te Anau, and then to where we were staying, the Top 10 Matai Lodge.

We ate dinner at this place called The Ranch, which tried to be like a Texas Steakhouse. I ordered a burger, which was served, interestingly enough, with an egg on top! Some other people also got a burger from The Ranch, but they asked for it to come without an egg and they did not like it because they said it tasted like meatloaf. I just think that it needed the egg on top!

I was just so so tired when we arrived back at our rooms, so after Orientation (which I can hardly remember because I was so sleepy), I just took a shower and went to sleep!

June 11

Today, we woke up early—around 6:00 am—to go visit the Milford Sound. I had cereal and an English muffin with peanut butter for breakfast. Yum yum!

To get to the sound, we all had to pile into our bus with Carl for a two hour bus ride up to the northern part of Fiordland Park. We passed through a beautiful valley of savannah-like yellow grass (reminiscent of Tanzania), drove through a tunnel through a mountain, and ended up in the sound, which is actually a fiord. Yeah, it’s a bit confusing, but I think that I finally have it. A sound is formed by flowing rivers, but a fiord is formed by glaciers. All of the sounds in Fiordland are actually fiords.

Anyway! To get a great view of the sound, we took a boat ride! It was awesome to be down at sea level and just be able to see the mountains around me rise up from the water. We saw a few waterfalls, and the captain drove the boat almost straight into one waterfall, spraying water all over my camera! But it’s okay because the Canon 7D is pretty weather-resistant.

When we finally reached the open water, the sun was finally able to reach us, no longer shielded by the mountains. I got a great shot of a boat’s silhouette sitting perfectly on a line of light reaching down from the sun across the water.

On our way back to the dock, we saw SEALS! They were just chilling on a few rocks poking out of the water. Just being adorable.

But probably the most exciting part of our ride was the DOLPHINS! I saw them at first about 20 meters away from our boat. I snapped some shots, but then they got closer! There must have been eight dolphins, and they rubbed their bellies against our boat as we cruised along. None of my dolphin pics were really awesome, but I’m glad I got some shots of them.

When our boat ride of the Sound ended, we took a walk down to “The Chasm.” The walk down this little trail was so peaceful and just green. Because the foliage itself was dark, I found that the pictures were more true to their subjects in the shade when they were slightly underexposed.

We took the bus back down to our Lodge, stopping about a bazillion times along the way. I got a nice panoramic shot of the Mirror Lakes, but stopping and starting so many times made me feel a little bit carsick.

We ate dinner at this pizzeria, where I ordered the Hawaiian pizza, and got a few pieces of Van’s salmon pizza. Yum!

Back at the Lodge, we played the game that we did in Tanzania, where we named our cameras. Everyone’s little monologue was hilarious, as usual. Since my old Rebel pretty much died, I named my new 7D Jeremy. I <3 him.

So far I am just loving New Zealand! I think tonight was when it finally just sank in that that’s where I am—New Zealand. It’s so awesome!

June 12

This morning I had a delicious breakfast of cereal and a croissant slathered in peanut butter! We didn’t really do much in the morning—just organized our pictures and had a slideshow/critique of everyone’s best picture from Milford Sound. I chose my picture of the boat silhouetted by the sun. Oh! And apparently a volacano erupted in Chile recently? Because it was raining ducks in NZ! At first, we thought it was snow, but nope! Ash!

For lunch, we all headed over to the Olive Tree Café, where Brianna, Lauren, and I all ordered a lamb wrap. I think it was the first time that I have ever had lamb, and I loved it! It was a big meal, but it tasted just so fresh and clean!

After lunch, we all took a walk down by Lake Te Anau, where we all snapped a few awesome shots of some ducks. We then took a pit stop at this Wildlife Conservation information center, where I bought a small book on the plants here, and we watched an amateur movie (I lol’d) on NZ conservation, specifically of Fiordland and the native birds. When humans arrived on NZ, we brought small mammals with us to a land that had developed without any small mammals. Because the birds did not really have any predators, they lost their abilities to fly. These mammals like Stoats, Rats, Weasels, and Possums, however, eat so many of these birds and just destroy the local ecosystems. As you can imagine, stoat trapping is very popular.

We continued our walk into a bird area, where we all got to see a Takahe, which was once thought to be extinct until some were found in Fiorland. There are less than 200 alive today.

Continuing our walk, but back into town, we caught yet another movie—this one definitely more professional. It was about Fiordland Park, but had no narrator at all, but just helicopter shots of the Park. Nevertheless, it was still awe-inspiring. In one shot, two rock climbers were climbing up this HUGE mountain. It was scary just watching them! I definitely do not have the courage to rock climb like that.

We all grabbed dinner at Bailez, where Van and I split the Surf ‘n Turf. It was just spectacular! The meat was a little bit overcooked for me, but the rarer parts just melted in by mouth. The shrimp was also just amazing.

This is our last night in Te Anau. Tomorrow we head off back into Queenstown. Time to pack!

June 13

Today we headed off to a sheep farm to shear some sheep! It began with—surprise!—another bus ride! A bit dizzy-making, but overall, okay. The beautiful scenery made up for my headache.

We finally reached the sheep farm after a little stop for directions, and were promptly greeted by two adorable dogs! Love! It just made me miss Jasper even more!

So, the farm-owner gave us a little introduction to his farm, and then riled up his dogs and rounded up his sheep! I got a video of one of his dogs just jumping on top of a group of scared sheep! Really funny.

We were ushered upstairs into this shack to be shown how to properly shear a sheep! To be honest, the cute dogs were a bit distracting. But I, again, got a video of the whole thing!

And now here I am! Sitting in a room in Nomads Hostel with Brianna, Sarah, Lauren, Brittany, and Carson. They have, however, been able to successfully upload their blogs on Joe’s Complimentary WiFi. But it’s not working for me. Joe doesn’t like me very much. Wish me well on my search for internet!

I found internet. :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Preparing for New Zealand

It has been interesting getting back into the serious photography mindset.

For the past, well, 11 months (after my trip to Tanzania), I have been taking pictures, just in the point-and-shoot technique, however. Completely automatic.

After a little refresher course this morning, though, I feel like I'm just sliding back into my old photography ways. In the "advanced" group class, we reviewed panning, then we took some geometric shots of Spring Woods' courtyard.

I have not packed at all, though. In fact, I'm not even sure if I have everything I need.

Packing tonight should be fun.