Monday, May 2

Oh, and if I didn't tell you before...

Over Easter break I went to the North Island for a week. I have to go to class, but I will write about it by Friday...TTFN

I have a lot of writing to do...So, lets go back in time.

Here is the info about the Tongariro Crossing that I did on April 30, 2011.

The super long 9 hour hike. Yes, it was 9 hours. It is actually scheduled to be 10 hours but I managed (with some Austrian friends I met) to do it in 9. From 7:15AM to 4:23PM. I hiked all the way up mount doom...which is just like the name. You are supposed to start the hike (which is two hours in to the 18K trail) by 9:15AM and we started it at 9:13AM. It takes 1.5 to 2 hours to clamber up and only a half hour (or less) to get down. It is windy as hell (70 knots), has lava rocks that are really slippery (just a ton of them like take one step forward and slide two feet back) and sharp. There is no track up mount doom. You create your own, up 600 vertical meters. All you have to remember is that you are not guided and if you fall you need to get your own help. So, I managed to make it up without falling to my death or losing anything permanently. I did lose both my hat and sunglasses due to the wind, but managed (with the help of kind people) to find them. The Austrians that I was hiking with helped me crawl and puff my way up to the top. They then rummaged in their bags and pulled out a Corona each and a self rolled smoke to toast to their success. They offered me a sip of beer but I knew I had to get down and hike the rest of the day. They told me is was only the FIRST BEER and that they had another set when we finished the trail at 3:30. Good god. Imagine carrying enough water (approx 1.5L) to keep you hydrated for the day AND a pair of beers in glass bottles. They were nuts. We had a good time getting down and making it to safety. The wind was blowing so hard in the end that large pieces of gravel (larger than sand) were being whipped into our faces and it felt like someone was shooting bbs at us. My face was dirty, my hair filled with dirt (I had to wash it twice after soaking it and scrubbing with my fingernails), even my ears had dirt in them from that dang wind. It was tough, but I got through it. Everything was a piece of cake from there. We climbed up, up, up through another saddle in the mountain range and down over the other side. The down part was the best! At about 1PM we were able to stop for lunch at the wicked cool spot where there were green/blue glacial pools (that smelled of sulfur) and found an awesome spot out of the wind to eat lunch. I have photos, but am too exhausted to put them up or download them or anything. I can hardly write this e-mail! :P Anywho, after lunch we went up one more tricky bit and then it was smooth sailing from then on! We walked down down down through the patches of snow with a nice cool breeze at our backs. We had fun making the trip go faster by throwing snowballs and talking about life. We made it to the final rest stop (a hut for those making a longer trek) and spent a half hour resting in the sunshine shielded from the wind. The final beers came out and we polished them off with ease. The Austrians didn't have the time pressure that I did to catch a bus at 4:30 and I realized that I was running a half hour late. So, I decided to RUN for a half hour to catch up with everyone else and to make it to the bus on time. I did it, but was pretty tired and gritty. I was lucky enough to stop by a stream and rinse my face off with glacial water which made the trip down fun. I made it to the bus with seven minutes to spare and was pretty darn tired. Overall it was a great day. I have an invite to Austria for skiing, and am very happy camper. This was probably the coolest day on the North Island and now I have to go to bed because of it. Tired and have to catch a bus in the morning. Will sleep like the dead.



Monday, April 4


Today it is raining and cold-ish here. I am able to get by without
wearing a winter coat and just wearing my nice fall wool one. I am
glad that you had a great weekend with friends partying it up. I
spent the whole weekend recovering from soccer and mass amounts of
schoolwork. I have managed to get through quite a bit and plan on
surfing with Amelia and her boyfriend on Wednesday.
This week I am very excited because we finally are allowed to walk
around more of the campus. This seemed like a pain before the
earthquake because there are so many paths, but now I understand why
they are there! It used to take me 10 minutes to walk from the bus
stop to the main area of tents where lectures are held. Now, with
more paths and walkways open it only takes me 5. This is a big help
because now I hate walking. I walk 15-20 minutes to the bus-stop, 10
minutes on campus to get to class, 10 minutes to get back to the
bus-stop, and another 10-20 minutes after soccer practice from the
bus-stop to Michelle's house at 8:30 at night. This accounts for me
wasting at least an hour every single day. It isn't as bad as driving
to school, but I spend a lot more time walking and waiting then I
normally do driving to class. It is just a different lifestyle that I
am not enjoying as much. I love it down here and I don't mean to
complain, but today is such a crappy day and walking in the rain is
not very much fun.
I am working my butt off for soccer and am relieved to know that
practices are reduced from two to one day a week. This seems lame
that I'm so lazy, but they are from 6-8pm at night...and it gets cold
when the sun goes down. So that means that I have to walk back in a
dark park all sweaty and hungry. It just makes for a super long day.
The girls that I play with are very nice and enjoy having me on the
team. They all came to the scrimmage yesterday hungover from some
massive party the night was noon when the scrimmage
started and they all looked like they were in a massive amount of
pain. Near the end they managed to get themselves out of their
hungover state and were joking about the antics that happened the
night before. I did not partake in those festivities, but perhaps in
the future something fun (and safe) might occur. I am quite rusty
from not playing for some time, and hope that I can make it back to
the standard that I was once at. I have to learn to shoot and float
the ball again...But the good news is that the soccer cleats that I
bought down here work, they haven't destroyed my feet and my knees are
holding up well. I am currently covered with black and blue marks
from playing for 4 hours this weekend in scrimmages...but I can still
Michelle has been busy getting ramped up for her new job. She loves
gardening and has been monopolizing the quake devastation on the
nurseries by buying a TON of cheap plants. They are all currently in
their little pots in the backyard...potted and waiting for her when
she has time. She says that she will get them all in the ground, but
her mom and I are quite skeptical. She reminds me of Grandma in that
sense....planning and starting a huge project that just gets pushed
aside when she gets busy.
Oh well, its her life. Now I'm waiting for my class to begin at
Uni...stuck inside like a billion other students in the 3-4 buildings
with computers and places to sit to study. Everyone here is focused
though, so it is actually productive unlike the Libraries in the US.

Well, hope the week goes well! I can't wait to come home to the
Northern Sunshine and 4th of July antics!

Saturday, March 26


Today was a new day. Yesterday we said goodbye to Hanae (the japanese study abroad student living with Michelle). It was so sad to see her sob at the airport when we had to say goodbye. The house is very quiet without the 4'10" bouncyball to welcome you home. Michelle is going away this weekend and i will have the house to myself. She plans on stopping by a friends and "just looking" at a pair of female kittens...I am sure that she'll come home with them.
I went out to the mall after class/two online lectures and shopped. I feel much better after yesterday's fever/sore throat/dry cough fiasco. I think that going to the two hour soccer practice literally ran it out of me. It was great because then I can actually focus on school now. Not that I wasn't before, but I just have a lot more energy. I also went bed early and naturally woke up at 6 am and couldn't fall asleep. So I got up and got ready for the day. I made it to the bus without running any of the 15-20 minute walk through the park. it is getting colder outside...I have to wear a fall coat in the mornings and late in the evenings. This is fine because I am sick of being hot all the time! The sun still shines and I is really nice during the middle of the day. The oak leaves are changing color and it reminds me slightly of home. No matter what I do to try and explain it to people. No one knows where Lake Superior or Minnesota is on a map. So they don't understand the vastness of the lake or the climate that I come from. so I give up and say that I'm from Canada. Everyone thinks I sound canadian anyways. Oh well. I'll run with it.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Dear All,

My classes are going just fine. I had a good time on my marine biology field trip to Kaikoura where we went snorkeling for about a half hour, looking through a microscope for about 3 hours a day (for 3 days), and walked along the tide pools for about 2 hours. I don't like plankton anymore (both zoo and phytoplankton) because we had to look at it under the microscope and identify it for so dang long. Otherwise I had a good time. I met some people who seem like they'll be a good crowd to hang out with (they know where I can get my hands on some horses)!

My other class that I have physically attended is Maori Cultural Studies class. In this one your dad would be super interested in the native culture down here. They love to eat, tell stories, and stick their tongues out. JK. We have only had four lectures about navigation, origins of the Maori people, and oral traditions. So, it is interesting, but there is going to be a bitch of a test at the end of the year. All of our classes have a final that counts for 50-65% of our grade. We also don't have a lot of tests due to the time crunch that the earthquake provided to fit in more tests and assignments, so everything that I do counts for a TON of my overall grade. (MAORI STUDIES IS THE MOST INTERESTING CLASS SO FAR)

Anywho, I have evolution and Antarctic studies (more of a geology class than I anticipated), which are cool except that they're all online. This means that I have to find them, download them, watch them and take notes all on my own. I have the motivation, but sometimes downloading them is so frustrating because the formats that they have them in don't work with the slow internet that I have so they constantly stop and buffer every 2-3 minutes. You would understand what I'm going through with the netflix buffer capacity at your house. So, thats when I go into school and use one of their computers to try and get a faster internet connection.

All the classes are work, but not too much busy work, just trying to keep up and not get behind. I was kinda screwed because we went on the marine biology field trip when the other classes were just getting started online, so I missed about 2 lectures in one day. So, I've been trying to play catchup. I also have 3 papers already assigned and have to be working on them constantly. Piled on top of reading the one textbook that I actually own at this point, I'm kinda stressed. So, to counteract that and to force myself to get outside I have joined the soccer club. We play 3 times a week in a competitive league. I haven't actually been to one of the practices yet, but I'm excited for the scrimmage that I have tomorrow. I forgot to bring any of my stuff down here, but I managed to buy boots for about 80 US dollars, and shinguards and socks for about 50. They will fortunately provide a shirt and I brought one pair of soccer shorts down with me. That was the most important piece because running shorts down here are $65 NZ dollars. THATS EXPENSIVE!!!

I'm sorry I haven't been updating my blog, I've just been busy trying to catch up with school and not be tied to the computer the entire day. It really sucks to have to look at a screen all day long and send e-mails to professors instead of asking them face to face. Overall, I would much prefer to just be able to go to class...even if it is at 8AM.

Thursday, March 10

Adventures Galore!

So, after I got back from my awesome adventure on the upper half of the Southern Island Amelia proposed that we head south for the remainder of the time before school starts. So, we went to the Catlins to see lots of wildlife.

Yesterday we decided that we needed to travel and headed south to Dunedin. We (Amelia and I) bought a tent while we were travelling before and are now camping. We froze last night and had to wake up to shove clothing down our nice 15 degree sleepingbags in order to keep warm. Today we had a lethargic day of our own. We went shopping after attempting to get free internet from Starbucks. Unfortunately, our information about free internet was false and we just ended up spending money on coffee. Whatever. We went shopping after that because we just about froze last night in the tent. I bought a new dress and a pair of cheap long underwear. I could've spent more, but I didn't.

Sorry for the lack of updates but here is only this super small Internet cafe in this vast wilderness. I am jealous about the fresh snow that fell all day. It has been raining here often and I finally got a warm sleep last night by cramming all of the clothes I brought down my sleeping bag with me in it. I woke this morning to the noise of a small yapping dog, but was informed by Amelia that it was really the couple next door having super loud sex. Bleh.

It has been super cold down here. I have been wearing long underwear and warm clothes all the time. The only reason I was outside at all is because we went birding and saw a ton of really cool birds including giant albatross and penguins! We also saw seals on the beaches with their pups. They were so cute!!! I guess we also saw some midget dolphins this morning. They look really strange and I will attempt to surf this evening with hem. They are supposed to be super curious, and I can't wait to see them up close!!

So, an update. After I left the internet to go surfing. There are Hector's dolphins in the bay and we saw them that morning. The nicest thing happened. As we were surfing the dolphins came within two feet of us!!! :D I couldn't believe my eyes! There were four of them and they were swimming around me as I was floating on my surfboard. One brushed my foot as it swam under me. I really had an awesome time surfing for about 3 hours. The only reason I was able to last that long was because the wetsuit that I rented came with these super nice booties that kept my feet warm. Ahhhh, I wish I could afford that for when I go again. It was SO nice! Anyways, after I went surfing I took a super hot shower and made dinner. We had cold salad and bread with nutella. MMMMMMM!
It was cold again that night and I stuffed all my clothing in the sleeping bag to keep me warm. It also rained, but it didn't matter...the tent was able to keep us dry again! :) We woke up to pack and go to the Cathedral Caves (attempt #2, the first time we got there and it was closed). It was really nice with these giant caves that were carved from these giant cliffs. There was a nice hour long walk to get there and the majority of it was along this beautiful sand beach. I took some pictures, but I don't know if they convay what I saw that well. Anyways, we hiked back to the car and made it to Owaka a very small town that rivals Two Harbors in size. We camped there last night with the same amount of cold and rain as the last two. We've got the technique down to stay warm and managed to keep dry as well. Before we went to bed we walked down Suart Bay (another beautiful beach) and saw these GIANT (and I mean 350 - 500 kg) male New Zealand Seals. They at first seem like giant logs that have washed up on shore, but then they have a small appendage that moves. There were about 5 of them on this beach and I assume that we walked for about 3 hours down and back. It was a really nice walk and made us feel better about driving so far in the car that day.
So, after that night we woke up ready to drive all the way to Omaru. This would involve a 3 hour drive up to see the little blue penguins. Unfortunately, the car that we have (A 1995 Subaru Legacy) that we have dubbed Gary decided that would be a bad idea. He first got a flat tire, in which we were able to haul the spare from the trunk and put it on to get to the only mechanics shop in town. They told us we put the nuts on wrong...dang and could replace the tires for new ones. This was good. So after getting an oil change there (because Gary needed one anyways) we were off. And then we weren't. About 10 minutes after leaving the mechanics we mysteriously stopped on a small hill. So, we called the shop and had them tow us back. This was a little more than thrilling because the guy that towed us back only had a yellow towrope and we barely had any brakes. After just about dying on a U turn that we took and flying up and down the hilly road we made it back to Owaka. The mechanics hmmmed and looked at Gary and finally (3 hours later) decided that the belt had shifted and had to be replaced. This would take until tomorrow. So, after leaving at 10:40 and it now being 4:00 it was decided that we would stay another night at Owaka. So, here we are at the old hospital which is now a backpackers, waiting for the car to be fixed.
We'll go out to the bar and have a few bumps with the mechanics and be on our way....all 5 hours to Christchurch if we're lucky. Then two classes start on Monday. Wooopie! I can't wait!

Friday, March 4

Last days of Trip

Alright, the underground rafting was a blast!!! We arrived in Charlestown (a town of only 150 people) and hopped on a bus to go up a sheep pasture to a mini train. The mini train took us along the Nile river to a path. After putting on a wetsuit bottom, top, socks, booties, hard hats with torches, and carrying our gloves and inner-tubes. We climbed 125 steps up to the mouth of the cave. The cave had been carved out by the flooding of the nile river and is considered a pristine cave. This means that there are no lights, paths, or unauthorized access to this cave. It was incredible climbing around the cave with stalactites and stalagmites! I will post pictures of them when I can connect my computer to the Internet, right now I am posting via my iPod which dies a better job connecting. After the crazy hike through the cave we hopped into the innertubes, put on our webbed gloves, and slowly paddled in complete darkness to see the glow worms. They are incredible little large that spit out bioluminescent strands that they sit above in a hammock to wait for prey to get caught. Later in life, when they are fat enough they spin caccoons (spelling?) and hatch to mate as moth like creatures. Unfortunately they only live for two days and the cycle continues. There were millions of these glow worms in this cave and looked like a wonderfully dotted milky way (in shades of green). After we emerged from the glowworm cave we hopped into the Nile river and floated down to the train station. Afterwards it poured and we stopped in Punakaiki for some Internet and phone calls. We went back to the the Te Nikeu retreat for a really windy night. The trees were whacking the hut and the wind was howling! I didn't sleep that well...but the long car ride the next day saved me. We drove down the coast to Hokitika to do a bit of shopping before we drove into the mountain pass. We spent about 3 hours there looking at Jade carvings and Amelia and Trixie went friggin nuts buying stuff. I didn't spend anything that day except the admission to the Kiwi Center. We went in and saw a lot of marine organisms that are considered endangered here. The best part was going to see the kiwi! I got to see one rummaging around in its habitat cage (very spacious and comfortable for the Kiwi). It was right next to the glass in a dark room and it looked quite happy. It was really cool to see the bird and realize how LARGE they were. They are about the size of a large yorkshire terrier! We weren't allowed to take pictures of the Kiwis so sorry everybody back home. After they are nursed back to health at the center they release them back into the wild. It was so nice to hear that!
After Hokatika, we decided to go through Arthur’s Pass to get back to Christchurch. Arthur’s Pass is a beautiful road that took 3 million NZ dollars to build through the mountains. It is the only man-made thing except for an occasional road and railroad that follows it. The mountains are beautiful, even in the rain. One of the reasons it is so beautiful is that all the mountain sides have huge rock slips and from those slips the bare rock underneath is exposed. This bare rock is millions of years old and when it rains waterfalls drop from them in giant cascades of white. There were probably about 50 of them when we passed through and it was beautiful to see them in their misty glory. These waterfalls were contrasted by the beautiful green trees with many many many epiphytes on them. Some epiphytes were mosses but others were delicate vines and it almost looked like another rainforest.
Even though it looked like rainforest, it wasn’t. It was colder in the mountains and we had to wear windproof or waterproof coats. At the hostel, they provided us with heated blankets and thick down comforters to keep us warm. New Zealand has a problem with housing design, namely the idea that insulation is a great thing to have. I met a girl at a hostel who was an eco-architect that explained all of this in detail to me in Kaikoura. Anyways, we took these last few days a lot easier with only two 1.5 hour hikes, and a lot of reading. I read the entirety of Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl Who Played With Fire”. It was good. But now I’m hungry for more. It rained on and off during the day so we got outside when we could. On the drive home we went through the most beautiful mountain valley I have ever seen. There were foothills with vegetation that made it look like the hill was covered in velvet. I wanted to hop out of the car and jump on a horse to ride until the sun set. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any time, nor where there horses so I had to admire from the confines of the backseat. I wasn’t able to take any pictures because I had stuffed my camera into a bag that was buried in the back of the car. Trixie took a ton of photos, so maybe I’ll be able to steal them from her.
Now I am in Christchurch and waiting for it to cool off! It is SO hot here! I am in a summer dress in the shade and still sweating! Who could have known March is so darn hot! AHHHHHH! It it coming up on 4 o’clock and I might take a trip down to the shops to see how everything is going. The city is recovering and the damage has been done. Everything you see on the news is true, but that is only the worst of the it. Everything west of Christchurch city central area is fine. It is amazing to not see any damage on the couldn’t have guessed there was an earthquake. I am very lucky to be where I am. The school was west of Christchurch city central as well. Unfortuantely they have to wait to get EVERY building on campus approved before they can reopen. The reopen date is March 14, so Amelia and I might take another little trip. We are for sure going back to Kaikoura because we are taking a field trip for the Marine Biology class. This is scheduled for March 19-22. We don’t know if we’re going to miss other classes due to this, but it is encouraging that SOMEONE is making plans to move forward with their class. Since we missed two weeks of school, the teachers have decided to cut some content instead of trying to make us play catchup. This is really nice for everyone, because most people don’t even have textbooks. We never had time. Anyways, it is beautiful outside and I need to be out there. Adios.