Friday, September 24, 2010

"Why I Travel"

"Why I travel: to learn and grow, to challenge myself, stretch my limits and foster an appreciation of both the world at large and the chair waiting in front of the woodstove back home."
- Tim Patterson, editor of, who compiled the following...

I've highlighted my favourites :)

The 50 Most Inspiring Travel Quotes of ALL Time:

1. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” - Mark Twain

2. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” - St. Augustine

3. “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” - Robert Louis Stevenson

4. “The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” - Samuel Johnson

5. “All the pathos and irony of leaving one’s youth behind is thus implicit in every joyous moment of travel: one knows that the first joy can never be recovered, and the wise traveler learns not to repeat successes but tries new places all the time.” – Paul Fussell

6. “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Jack Kerouac

7. “He who does not travel does not know the value of men.” – Moorish proverb

8. “People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes

9. “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” - John Steinbeck

10. “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” - Lin Yutang

11. “Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty-his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.” - Aldous Huxley

12. “All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” - Samuel Johnson

13. “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” - Robert Louis Stevenson

14. “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” - Henry Miller

15. “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” - Cesare Pavese

16. ″A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” - Moslih Eddin Saadi

17. “When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.” - D.H. Lawrence

18. “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark

19. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

20. “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

21. “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber

22. “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

23. “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”Paul Theroux

24. “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson

25. “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” Ralph Waldo Emerson

26. “Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” – Robert Frost

27. “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”Lao Tzu

28. “There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.” – Charles Dudley Warner

29. “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu

30. “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener

31. “The journey not the arrival matters.” – T.S. Eliot

32. “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill

33. “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain

34. “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy

35. “Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R. R. Tolkien

36. “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli

37. “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

38. “Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversation.” – Elizabeth Drew

39. “Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe." - Anatole France

40. “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca

41. “What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat Moon

42. “I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” – Lillian Smith

43. “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley

44. “Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” – Freya Stark

45. “The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” – Rudyard Kipling

46. “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.” – Paul Theroux

47. “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesteron

48. “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman

49. “A wise traveler never despises his own country.” – Carlo Goldoni

50. “Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” – Mark Jenkins

Monday, September 20, 2010

Auckland PR Visit

This past Friday, I was up at 5:30 a.m. Why on earth would I get up before the birds you may ask? Well, it was well worth it. As a member of MCSA (Waikato's Management Communication Student Association) I got the opportunity to carpool up to Auckland and spend the day visiting public relations firms. We left the car park before the sun came up at 6:15 a.m. and arrived in Auckland to PRINZ (the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand) by 8:30, after stopping for coffee and a breakfast break (obviously a necessity!).

Our group of 20 (18 girls, 2 boys... as is common in PR; wow I picked the wrong major.. ;) just kidding), split into two sets of 10 and visited a total of 5 downtown PR firms, most a short walk away from one another. First, we visited the Auckland Art Gallery and spoke to their main publicity woman. It was interesting to see how PR is used in that specific context and I quite liked how she compared PR to working as a "translator," helping the gallery and artists' messages reach the public in a way that will be easily understood and appreciated.

Next, off to TVNZ, NZ's main TV channel network (the equivalent of the U.K.'s BBC 1 & BBC 2), where we got to tour the control rooms, full of bright TV screens, broadcasting content from around the world, whizzing media input machines, and lots of professionals, monitoring all the output to ensure no on-air glitches.

Currently, TVNZ is undertaking its "Nexus project," its largest venture since switching from black and white to colour in the '70s - a $20 million capital investment into going digital. Every tape of footage that comes into the network's studios from one of its distributors (20,000 per year!) is "ingested" into the system, creating a digital copy that can be uploaded for easy replay, online or promotional use.

Their current promotional slogan - "Inspiring NZers on every screen" - ties into this idea of TVNZ footage being accessible on many media platforms and is helping TVNZ re-brand itself as more "hip," current and technologically savvy to appeal to the younger generations.

Next, we got to hear from TVNZ's Publicity Co-ordinator and Corporate Affairs Spokesperson. They described their roles perfectly - Publicity strives to promote and celebrate the positive things that happen at TVNZ and Corporate Affairs tries to squash the rumors and stop negative stories from manifesting. Their Corporate Affairs spokesperson was an older woman who seemed EXTREMELY knowledgeable and an amazing speaker (I can tell why she is so good at her job).

Some memorable quotes from my new idol:
"Dreadful headlines happen to all of us."
"Corporate communication requires a thick skin and stiff spine."
"PR professionals are not spin doctors - we provide context."
"The recession means media outlets are fighting for a diminishing number of eyeballs."
She compared media management to playing chess - blocking your opponent (journalists) as they attempt to find sneaky, negative story angles, and says she puts out so many fires, her title should be changed to "company fireman."
She also commented on the difficulties in dealing with senior level management, where there's "a hell of a lot of testosterone going around." haha..

Next, we had a lunch break - delicious, freshly made sushi :) and then made an epic trek across town, in the rain and wind, to the Telecom offices (think torrential downpour, hurricane winds, and inside-out umbrellas, not to mention an insanely attractive afro hair-do upon arrival). I should take a second to mention that right now the biggest storm on the planet - a monster the size of Australia - has been hovering around New Zealand, intermittently attacking for the past several days. It is SO windy that it will be monsooning with black thunder clouds overhead one moment, then clear and sunny, in the eye of the storm, the next, then back to angry-looking clouds again.

Anyway, we made the treacherous walk and arrived at Telecom, New Zealand's largest phone company provider, only a bit late. It was interesting to hear how they divide responsibilities among their corporate relations team, seeing as they have a larger group and more resources.

Finally, we went back to the city center where we met with the main PR co-ordinator for AA (NZ Automobile Association... sister to our AAA). He had an interesting perspective, having worked in politics/parliament in Wellington prior to his AA move to Auckland. One of my favourite things was simply hearing how these professionals got to where they are today. Almost everyone has taken a very round-about path to working in PR and all have very diverse experience, having changed jobs multiple times. In fact, the AA director specifically mentioned how it's almost expected for PR practitioners to switch jobs every 2-3 years or so. If someone has been in one position for longer than that, something's usually wrong (were they not wanted elsewhere?). Each move helps to diversify your experience and expertise. Statements like that reaffirm my choice to be in PR. I've always wanted an exciting career with mobility and variety - something that was reiterated all day long by each professional we visited - "No two days are the same." "You have to be able to manage multiple loose ends at once" and "must quite like a good crisis!" I loved hearing the phrase - "I love my job!" which popped up at every place we visited. That's definitely a good sign :).

Finally, we returned to the PRINZ headquarters where we had a mini meeting with some folks from NetworkPR, a small consulting agency. Overall, it was an amazing day. I learned something valuable from each place we went, got to spend some time with the other NZ PR students, and left Auckland feeling confident and overjoyed that I have picked this career path!

On the way home, the two girls I drove with and I stopped at a big mall for some dinner and a bit of shopping. The weather had been worsening throughout the day and, as we continued back to Hamilton, we saw several areas struck by power outages and sections of Highway 1 (the only major motorway in NZ) that had been closed due to fallen trees. We have been experiencing so much rain lately that the Waikato river, which runs along the highway, has severely jumped its banks and is encroaching - lets hope it doesn't make it to the road! I felt bad for those caught in the insanely long line of backed up cars headed into the city as we passed them on our way home, with lightning flashing like a strobe light on the horizon and rain hitting our wind-tossed car in buckets. Don't worry, we made it back safe and sound by 8:00ish, in time for a movie night with Erika, Gabe, and Sam!

I'll add pictures to this post from the day once they are sent out in the next MCSA newsletter! So stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Some Kiwi as, Kick-ass Videos

It's been a while since I shared some YouTube gems on here, so enjoy... :)

This pretty much sums up my entire trip down south:

No description necessary... this is just too cool:

baaaaaaaaa... (okay, this actually takes place on the hills of Wales... BUT it's awesome and SO applies to NZ, with the whole sheep thing). ;)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Great Race!

4-5 September 2010: The Gallagher Great Race & Fun Run

Last weekend, after we returned from our trip, I spent the weekend down by the Waikato river, volunteering at two fun, local events. The first, on Saturday was a short family fun run that wound along the river. The second, on Sunday, was the weekend's main event - The Great Race, an annual rowing competition between our University of Waikato and other international institutions with competitive crew teams. This year, the University of Sydney women's team came, as well as the U.K.'s Cambridge University men's team.

Lately, I've been volunteering in the offices of Parent to Parent, the non-profit organisation for which we are constructing our class PR campaign, that provides information and matches parents of children with similar disabilities so they can offer each other support. I've gone into the office twice to help with random tasks, such as putting together a bunch of info packets for last week's Autism conference, and plan to continue. As Parent to Parent was the benefiting charity of last Saturday's fun run, they gave me the Great Race/fun run volunteer contact info.

On Saturday, Erika walked into town with me and decided to stay and help out too! We were positioned on the finish line, handing out goodie bags, Powerade and spot prizes, cheering people on as they finished the race. It was quite fun seeing everyone so enthusiastic about the run - my favourites were some of the cute little kids, and two dads, pushing strollers, who decided to race it out on the final stretch. After helping, and getting some sweet Great Race t-shirts (to wear the next day too), Erika and I wandered into town, did a bit of shopping and had a delicious lunch - toasted cranberry, avocado, chicken panini on sun-dried tomatoe bread.. mmm.

On Sunday, we were up early and walked over to the event with another girl from the uni who was also volunteering (it's about a 30 min walk from campus to the river/city centre). We were assigned the task of walking around town and handing out flyers to encourage more people to come down to the river-side festival and watch the race. Then, we helped as event staff, walking around with race day schedules and pointing people in the right direction. There were several races throughout the day, such as the high school crew finals, a main stage with various forms of entertainment, including student performers and even a preview of Joseph and the Technicolor dreamcoat, which is currently on at a theatre downtown, a kids area, some yummy food vendors, and of course, lots of people from the surrounding community, picnicking on the grassy river's edge and enjoying the day. Unfortunately, it was overcast and kind of cold, compared to Saturday's brilliant sun, but we had a great day anyway. During the actual race, we had an excellent view, manning the far side of the river, near the large projector TV screen, representing the event staff, complete with walkie-talkie.

From the bridge overlooking the race/events area:
The crowd, cheering on good ol' Waikato, with a waka passing by (Maori boat). They also performed a haka dance for Waikato before the race:Our women's team won by quite a bit, but Cambridge was victorious in the major, men's race :(. It had been an even 2 to 2 tally in previous years, but now we must practice to beat them next time and even it up once again. It must be very difficult, seeing as the race takes place on the strong currents of the river, going upstream. Both teams used the strategy of hugging the river bank to make the most of the calmer water along the sides.

Highlights of the day include my hot and delicious lunch, purchased from the "sausage sizzle" (aka a common vendor used for fundraising that sells sausages, wrapped in a piece of bread, with tomatoe sauce and onions on top). Although, I definitely burned my mouth :(.

Erika's enjoying her strawberry crepe and I'm excited about my sausage sizzle:
Also, the Cambridge team's acceptance speech, made by an elderly British bloke. I don't think I've ever heard the word "faggot" used so many times, if EVER, in an award ceremony... OR a less tactful comment about the opposing team. He said something like: "Well, you know, you have to hand it to Waikato - they're usually never up against such stiff competition, like us; too bad their good rowers are all gone this year" (as our Waikato team was standing right there...) haha, WOW.

And finally, discovering that the British national anthem ("God Save the Queen") sounds remarkably familiar... Oh hey- it has the exact same melody as our American "My Country Tis of Thee." Was it written as a big "f" you to our old Motherland? Overall, we had a great time; it was fun to help out and get involved in a Hamilton community event!

Go Waikato!! :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

For Monique Evers

California, P.S.T. - 8 September 2010 ~ (New Zealand time - 9 September 2010)

"Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength." - Author Unknown

Today, from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm, Monique Evers will be undergoing an extensive breast cancer removal surgery at Los Robles hospital in Thousand Oaks, CA. She is expected to be in the I.C.U. until Saturday when she will be moved into a recovery room for several more days.

I have never met Monique, but she is a dear friend of my aunt Paige, who forwarded me a simple request to light a candle to honour and protect this "amazing, positive and loving woman... just a great person" as she undergoes today's procedure. Monique's friends and family will be lighting flames of hope and support, sending their love, and holding Monique in their thoughts and prayers throughout the day and the hours following the surgery - as will I.

Monique added...
"Can you mention that I don't mind if the email gets forwarded to various countries all over the globe? I'm fascinated at how many countries we can cover, do you mind asking people to let you or I know how far they have passed the email along? I have a mental world map with those little red pins of all the countries that send support and love."

"Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." - Chinese Proverb

This is for you, Monique: May you stay safe and recover quickly.

Wednesday the 8th at 7:30 am Pacific Standard Time is 2:30 am on Thursday the 9th here in Hamilton, New Zealand.

The candles will be shining outside of my room, on my window's small ledge, all day (a very sensitive fire alarm system, means we can't light them inside).

My candle has been burning since 2:30 am, and Erika, my best friend/neighbor in our residence hall, also added her candle this morning.

To Monique and her friends and family back in CA and elsewhere - sending love and good wishes from New Zealand,
xo Sarah & Erika

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Part 6: The Final Leg - Biking, brews, bathroom breaks, & back to the beginning

31 August - 1 September 2010: Greymouth, Arthur's Pass & Christchurch

On Tuesday, we awoke in one of the neatest hostels I have ever stayed in (Lauren - a tie with the Salmon Weir, our Gallway gem). Named the Global Village, this hostel seemed to be a converted two-story home, with the lounge on one side and the first-floor's long hallway of rooms below the second-story kitchen/bathrooms on the other side. Decorated with a global theme, it was filled with exotic furniture, tapestries, carvings and items from around the world, with a special emphasis on East Asian, Egyptian and African artifacts. A nice older couple, a Kiwi man and his Asian wife, had been running the place for the past 7 years. It was extremely clean and cozy, with lots of character. Check out the photos below...

Gabe's silly tiki face:
Having heard about Paparoa National Park, just a half-hour drive north along the coast, we had an early breakfast (fresh eggs, courtesy of the chickens out back - for sale for just 40 cents each!), checked out, and drove Sunny up to Punakaiki, home of Buttress Beach's "pancake rocks."

The photos explain the name:
How does this happen, you ask? Well...
Fun fact: Nature's Pancake Recipe - "Stylobedding"
  • Many, many years ago, under the shifting sea currents, the sediment on the ocean floor was buried and compacted, putting its grains of shell and skeleton under immense pressure. This pressure caused them to pass into solution, and for reasons still unclear, some of the minerals merged to form thin seams of mudstone between layers of limetsone.
  • The rock from the sea floor was eventually pushed to the surface, where weather and currents over 100,000 have eroded the mudstone more than the limestone, causing the pancake-like effect.
We had timed our day perfectly to fit everything in, so after a half-hour walk around, we jumped back in the car, returning to Greymouth to peruse the town shops, then back to the Global Village a little before 12. We then borrowed 3 of the hostel's free bikes for a jaunt down to the water. Erika and Gabe smartly chose some rusty mountain bikes, while I, on the other hand, being dumb and forgetting that they do not have gears or regular breaks, chose an old, stylish beach cruiser, with a plastic bag-covered seat. Wearing our dashing helmets, we set off down the road, trying to find some way to get out to the ocean, which we knew was close by. The way to the sea turned out to be an extremely bumpy (especially on my annoying beach cruiser) gravel road, which led from our hostel's road along a dirty retention pond and subsequent harbor.

Erika, lookin' sporty:
Gabe's bike tricks (what, no handstand?!):
We made it all the way to the end of an old pier, where Gabe decided to ignore (or just didn't see) the "Beware," "Continue at your own risk" signs and climbed out on the concrete blocks, resembling rocks near the edge. The waves were huge and the concrete precarious, but don't worry, we didn't hurt ourselves AND Gabe spotted some dolphins! They surfaced every few minutes or so in packs of 2 or 3, skimming the waves with their dark-coloured fins.

Posing on the pier with my pigtails and horrible-choice-of-a-bike beach cruiser:
We kept our helmets on, just to be safe :) (nice lazy eye Erika, muahaha):
Gabe and Erika searching for our porpoise friends:
Facing into the wind on the way back, the return ride was a killer on my already sore and out of shape legs, but we made it, with just enough time to have a snack before we headed on to our next adventure. We had a minor crisis when Erika's bike dropped a chain, BUT being the badass that she is, she didn't have a problem getting her hands dirty (aka black and slimy with grease) and fixed it right up.
Back to relax in the Global Village sun room/deck area for a few moments, while enjoying a snack, we then headed to Monteith's Brewery (after all, it was on our way out of town anyway)!

A much more up-close-and-personal tour, as compared to the Speight's Brewery, Monteith's tour took us through the entire facility, where they have been brewing since 1868, giving us a first-hand look at all the brewing stages - from the ingredient storage areas, through to brewing, bottling, and kegging, complete with a look at the huge coal boilers (whose operator is the oldest employee, 40 years and counting) and walk-in fridges.

Fun facts:
  • "Bright beer" is the finished product, beer that is ready for consumption.
  • Every brewery uses something different to filter their beer in the final stages to get rid of the last bits of debris, which cloud the brew. Monteith's uses diatomaceous earth as a filter powder, an extremely pure form of insoluble silica, also called "fossil flour." It's named as such because it actually consists of the tiny fossil skeletons of marine diatoms, which form a a filter sheet, capable of separating out particles that are less than one micron in size.
While walking through the brewery storage area, we saw a huge stack of boxes labeled as Monteith's Pear Cider (like hard apple cider). Turns out that this is an entirely new product, set for release in the coming weeks - too bad we couldn't sneak a taste!

We looped back to the brewery bar, where the guide led us through a very detailed (and delicious!) tasting, which included food pairing recommendations for each brew. For example, a whitebait fritter (aka little white NZ fish made into a pancake-type delicacy) is a perfect match for Monteith's Original ale. Monteith's holds an annual contest, open to restaurant chefs, who offer up recipes that best compliment a particular brew. This was by far the best tour I've ever been on and probably the best beer I've ever had (Blue Moon's neck and neck). If you're interested, this is a link to a list of the beers with descriptions. As a craft brewery, each beer had a very unique taste - I especially liked the Radler (hints of lemonade), Celtic red, and their new Spring brew. Sadly, Monteith's is only available within NZ and only exports to Australia, parts of the U.K. and D.C., Maryland, and Delaware in the U.S. Trader Joes used to stock a few, but has since stopped (I think a letter requesting the return of Monteith's is in order!).

Gabe acting like a cowboy, entering the tavern doors, which led to a display about the brewery's history:
After over half an hour of the guide's mouthwatering food-beer combo descriptions, we were compelled to stop for fish and chips, which we complemented with some Radlers and ciders we bought in the brewery shop. Needless to say, Gabe and I were very happy, and particularly giggly, after such a good tour. Erika (still slightly sick and not a beer fan) was a savior and offered to take her first try at NZ driving, fearlessly navigating Sunny on the last leg of our journey while we enjoyed our delicious purchases (I must say, she did a fabulous job, despite our humorous distractions). We had around a 3 hour drive ahead of us.

Highlights include when, I, in need of a toilet break, ventured into an auto-repair shop. "Excuse me, this is a funny question, but do you have a toilet I can use?," I inquired. "Uhhh... there're dirty pictures on the wall..." replied the mechanic (nervous laughter) haha. Also, in a seemingly deserted area, full of animal pastures, we paused for a roadside, group sheep-petting ADVENTURE - epic fail. Gabe had just hopped the mini fence into the paddock when a car's headlights were spotted, approaching in the distance.
Erika and I ducked, laughing, and hollered: "Gabe, act casual!"
This is what we got hahaha:
Later, we stopped again in a valley surrounded by mountains, located smack dab in the middle of the pass for an epic, sunset photo shoot by the Arthur's Park National Park sign:
We finally arrived in Christchurch around 8:30 p.m., checked into our hostel (Charlie B's... not great, but infinitely better than the Base). Then, met Phil and Brian, our Queenstown, U.K. friends for a drink at, ironically, of all bars, the Base's Saints & Sinners, which, to its credit, wasn't as seedy as I thought (but pretty seedy). From there, we played a few games at a pool hall. Although pretty much deserted, as it was a Tuesday night, there was a live band. Note to self: you suck at pool after a beer or two. Overall, a very good night. We were back in the hostel well before midnight, and sleepy, after such a long day of driving.

In the morning, we got up early, checked out and meandered around the city so Gabe could see Christchurch in the daylight, before making our way back to the rental car place. We said a tearful (not quite) goodbye to Sunny. We officially drove 2,866 km (1,780 miles) in 11 days... not bad.

The South Island was amazing and I had a phenomenal time, thanks to Erika, Sam and Gabe, and the fun people we met along the way! New Zealand sure has some EPIC scenery, but its the people who make the trip worth taking!

Part 5 : West Coast ADVENTURE - 3 lakes, 2 national parks, mountains, beaches, glaciers, with some jungles & sillyness - all in one day

30 August 2010: Mt. Aspiring & Mt. Cook National Parks

Monday was a 16 hour day, the first 3 of which involved Gabe taking a chilly dip into Lake Wakatipu and the fearsome trio climbing a mountain... all before 10 a.m. This was followed by 11.5 hours in faithful Sunny.

The morning:

6:45 a.m. - Erika gets up & showers.
7:05 a.m. - Erika wakes Gabe so he can mentally prepare.
7:10 a.m. - Erika wakes Sarah so she can see Gabe make a fool of himself.
7:15 a.m. - Erika and Sarah document Gabe as he crosses the road by the hostel, getting several honks as he does so, to jump into the freezing lake, while the sun is still coming up.
7:15 - 7:20 a.m. - Gabe has to quickly wade into the water (lack of a dock to jump.. damn), do a dolphin dive underwater, and hurry out (to more honks), as we run back inside.

Ooo nippy... Gabe, you crazy
7:30 a.m. - We are all packed, Gabe has de-thawed in the shower, in time for breakfast in the hostel kitchen (yep, you guessed it - more toast!!)

We decided to say a final, aerial goodbye to Queenstown by climbing the mountain. It was about an hour hike, and I must say, I am VERY out of shape. Highlights include seeing a rainbow across the lake, the view from the top, and sneaking onto the gondola to get a free ride down, despite Erika's morbid fear of these hanging metal death traps.

Halfway up; spy the pretty rainbow:View from the top:
Erika was not too happy about our gondola decision:
Gabe and I were haha:
We were down the mountain and back on the road by 10. Our final destination consisted of the Franz Josef & Fox glaciers on the way to Greymouth, a small town on the mid-west coast, near the mountain pass, which we would take east back to Christchurch and its airport, the following afternoon. However, we discovered so many amazing sights along the way that the glaciers ended up being mediocre in comparison to the rest of the drive.

First, our journey took us north, on the Cardrona Valley Road, which passed by several ski fields, through dense fog and high, rolling hills covered with round, orangeish shrubbery and sprinkled snow, reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss landscape. Next, we emerged to a section of winding mountain roads, which hugged the lakeside cliffs of, Lake Hawea, and then Lake Wanaka.

We stopped in Lake Wanaka for a toilet break and to play on this amazing (slightly dangerous) playground:
A few minutes after leaving the park, we saw this on the side of the road and HAD to stop for a photo op. It is outside of the Wanaka Puzzle Land (a family fun centre, full of mazes and illusions):Next, we entered the Mt. Aspiring National Park, en route to the coast, which turned out to be a beautiful rainforesty surprise, where we discovered this vivid, rainbow-waterfall (I will admit, I enhanced the photo a bit so you can see it):
Gabe chillin' on a rock in the frigid creek (no swimming this time...):
While driving around the twisty mountain turns of the forest road, we kept seeing cattle stops, which stop herds from crossing the road AND we came across something a bit more unusual - a "runaway vehicle ramp" (aka if your breaks give out on this huge hill, you make a ditch effort to the left, up this natural, sand-filled ramp on the side of the mountain that stops your out-of-control car).

Also, we started taking note of the kajillion creeks, streams and culverts we passed while driving through both national parks, which numbered well into the 7,000s (a number and name is posted by each creek).
Some of the best names we saw:
Dicks Creek, Dismal Creek, Chink Creek, Random Creek, & The Windbag

As we continued through the forest, with new sights around every corner, we suddenly emerged into a giant valley, where the river widened into a beach-like basin. It was a gorgeous day and we couldn't help stopping on the side of the road to adventure out onto this hidden beach in the middle of the mountains. The surrounding hills acted as a wind tunnel, making it seem like we had exited winter to find a bright and blustery summer's day!

Frolicking, running on the river bank:
"I'm flying!"
Erika doing a graceful leap (yes, she's a dancer):
Woo hoo, our star-jumps (we are not):We took a lunch/snack break before continuing on.
Gabe having some marmite on bread (of course) and being crafty (he's using a rock as a spreading instrument... we had no knives):
Half an hour later, we passed through the town of Haast and saw a sign for "Haast Beach." Indulging our adventurous natures, we made a sharp, last-second turn down the road and arrived at paradise. Now winter and summer had officially merged; where else can you see a summer beach, set against a wintery, snow-covered mountain backdrop?

Some choice photos:
Our "Titanic" shot, how romantic:
Handstand #46352749:
Awww...favourites:After our second, unexpected beach ADVENTURE, we continued on toward the Mt. Cook National Park and finally arrived at the Fox glacier around 4:30 p.m. From the car park, you can see the glacier, which appears to be a short walk across a dry, rock-filled river basin away. Silly us, we thought the sign saying "1 hr return" to the glacier face referred to a different hike nearby, not this "short" stroll... we were wrong (note to self: I cannot judge distance). Anyway, half an hour later, we got to the end of the glacier walk, which still ended a good ways away from the actual ice. Unfortunately, to actually experience either of the glaciers up close, you must sign up/pay for a guided expedition, which we decided not to do. Regardless, we had a nice little walk, got some photos, and were struck by the extreme size of this pure wonder of nature. Driving into the park, there are signs marking the road, indicating where the glacier was in 1750 and 1930 - to show how much the ice has receded (global warming up close and personal). The 1750 one is a good 10 minute drive away from the car park.

The mountain you can see behind the glacier is actually the famous Mt. Cook (we realized this later):
A kea bird, stalking poor Sunny.
Fun fact: These native New Zealand birds have become pests, show no fear of tourists, little inhibitions, and have been known to tear the rubber from car windows. There are signs in most of the national park car parks warning against feeding the keas.

Around 5:30 p.m. we made it back to Sunny, thankfully unharmed by the devil kea birds, and continued driving toward the other glacier, Franz Josef. By the time we reached it, the sun was sinking behind the mountains. We walked the twisting, 15 minute rainforest pathway to the glacier vista, took in the sight, but decided not to try to trek all the way to the glacier face once again (after all, we had already climbed a mountain that morning... sheesh). Plus, Erika, a definite trooper, had come down with a cold the day before and wasn't feeling too hot after our long, adventurous day.

We refueled on petrol and kept driving toward Greymouth, still a good 250 km away (2.5+ hours). Highlights from the rest of the drive include our epic brainstorming session of a plan for the following morning (we tossed around a range of ideas, from horseback riding to kayaking, hot-tubbing and another brewery tour... sadly, only the last of which actually came to fruition). Also, we stopped for a bit to star gaze... that is, until we got creeped out, having just been discussing horror movies and axe-wielding psychos who prey on stupid motorists when they stop on deserted stretches of roadway (like that one). It is amazing how many stars are visible when there is zero light pollution. Throughout all of our time in the car during the past few days, we hardly passed any cars, compared to how many you would see in any part of the U.S. or down here during the more touristy season.

Two lovely shots of the setting sun as we made our way to our final destination, after a long day of driving, good road trip music, and excellent company :):
We reached our hostel at 9:30, had a very late dinner, and wrapped up the evening with a quick e-mail check and lounging in the adorable living room, where I dueled Gabe at backgammon (and won...though to be fair, it was his first game and he was ruthless).