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What can I say? I like to travel.

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. :)

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