Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why Are There SOOO Many Bugs???

I've been contending with my fair share of insects during the past 3 months. The ants in Asia had a real knack for finding our food bag and raiding our stash as well as crawling into every nook and cranny in my backpack, for what reason? No idea! There was no food in there so I assume it was just to annoy me and cause me the grief of having to shake out everything I own lest I put on clothes with ants inside. Not pleasant! I realize how minor these annoyances are now that we've arrived on the South Island of NZ. Let me tell you that the bugs here take things to a whole new level.

This is our first time dealing with sand flies, which are actually small black flies that are similar to mosquitos because they bite and suck blood. However they're far more resilient, often recovering from being swatted to come back and bite you again! Our campsite outside of Murchison was routinely covered in no less than 100 sand flies at any given point. We had to start spraying the mesh with bug spray because they somehow found ways in! But now that we've moved to Hokitika, we're contending with the usual sand flies but have upped the ante with hordes of mosquitos. The "mozzys," as our Aussie friends call them, are not quite as resilient as the sand flies but they're equally annoying and we're often shooing them away at all hours of the day, not just at dusk. I killed no less than 30 of them inside our tent last night! They can smell our CO2 and are super excited to come in and take a nibble. Its getting highly frustrating trying to keep the bugs at bay and has become a large part of my daily routine. Even though its warm during the day, I find myself wearing several layers to provide an extra barrier against bug bites and spend more time in the tent or in the car hiding from the bugs than I'd like to admit rather than enjoying the sunshine, nature and several of the beautiful hikes in the area. I had no idea New Zealand's South Island would be like this. If you come here, bring LOTS of bug spray!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

South Island And Kayak Adventures

I realize I haven't posted anything in forever...since we were on the North Island over a week ago. My bad. I also haven't uploaded any photos, and its starting to get ridiculous. Yesterday's count was well over 150 since my last upload. And lets just say we've seen and experienced a lot! Tongariro Crossing, Lord of the Rings film sites, Castlepoint, Wellington, the tiny town of Murchison where David began his South Island kayaking, and now Hokitika, the base camp of the serious kayak trips. David got in his first helicopter boating trip with a bunch of really cool Aussies yesterday and had a blast. The pilot was nice enough to take me up for a quick flight around the river bed too! First time in a helicopter and it was TOTALLY AWESOME! We're working on acquiring more photos and videos of yesterday from the Aussies and will do our best to post them ASAP. Sorry for being so quiet lately! Internet access is tough to come by when you're camping out all the time! Its even harder to post when you're racing the clock to try to get something writen before time runs out and the computer shuts down the internet access. Fingers crossed this goes through!! More soon! David's doing more kayaking tomorrow, so I'll have some free time....

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Counter-Culture Shock

Coming to New Zealand has been a great experience so far. Its almost like a home away from home since its so Western compared to what we've been traveling through for the past 2.5 months. And while its great, its also a bit odd to be back in such a developed country. Dave has experienced this counter-culture shock on trips before but this is a first for me. I got so used to not being able to read signs or menus, speak much more than a handful of words in the language, calculate currency conversions in my head, concern myself over restroom conditions, carry my own toilet paper and hand sanitizer and ponder at what to eat that not having to do so anymore feels like we're cheating! Especially now that we've rented a car and eliminated the additional headache of figuring out bus and train schedules and worry about carrying heavy backpacks or shipping stuff home! Its meant that we can add luxury items like a cooler for all of our food and beer, camping gear to do things on the cheap, and of course, David's boat.

I can't believe what an odd feeling it is not to have to worry over our basic needs anymore. These daily concerns were ever-changing and required us to adapt quickly. It really became such a part of our existence that I almost feel a bit lazy for having more "stuff" (i.e. gifts) than I can fit into my backpack or carry comfortably by myself and a bit guilty for having toiletries that exceed 3.4 fluid ounces after being so limited for so long! Where are we going and how are we going to get there? Put gas in the car and consult the road atlas. Where are we going to eat? Grab something from the cooler. Or we can duck into a grocery store to buy things to cook on our camping stove. Where are we going to sleep? Doesn't matter, we have ground pads, sleeping bags, mosquito netting and a tent. We'll make it work. What if I have to pee? No worries, there are public restrooms with Western toilets, TP, soap and paper towels everywhere!

And we're back in an English-speaking country, so we can read signs (except our pronunciation of Maori words is AWFUL! Would you be able to pronounce the hill on the North island Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu without butchering it?) understand when people speak to us (even if the accents are a bit difficult sometimes) and we can absolutely be understood by those around us, which eliminates our previous ability to have rather private conversations in public without fear of being overheard. So even though we're still traveling, it doesn't feel like we're doing things much differently than we'd do if we were back Stateside. Its a bit of an odd existence to know that we're still 2 months from coming home, but in a way, we're already there. This whole experience has affected the idea of what my necessities actually are in a surprisingly profound way that I'm realizing I don't need nearly the amount of stuff not only to get by, but to be happy. Weird to me since I'm totally an American when it comes to consumer culture. Things are going to be different now....

Monday, January 5, 2009

Land of Kiwis, Sheep, Cows And The Biggest Ozone Hole On The Planet!

David and I arrived here in New Zealand yesterday afternoon at about 1:00 after an 11 hour flight. Despite only a 6 hour time change, we're having a really difficult time adjusting. Those overnight flights always kill me, though somehow Dave manages to catch several hours of solid sleep. I traded seats with him so that I sat in the middle and he had the aisle seat since he was going to be driving the rental car upon landing. Nothing like feeling like a zombie behind the wheel when you're driving on the left side of the road. Ever try to hug the wrong side of the road while sleepy? Doesn't work so well. David tagged a curb pretty hard on a round about and came close to swiping a few bumpers of parked cars before my screaming registered and he started to get the feel for things.

Things have been interesting during these last 24 hours Down Under. We're slowly getting over the jet lag and getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road. The landscape is absolutely gorgeous and its bright, sunny and warm all the time. Its light outside from 6am til 9pm, which is fantastic because the sun was setting at 6:45 in Thailand (which is great for "winter," but still....). There are more cows and sheep than I think I may have seen in my whole life. Milk is a HUGE thing here dairys and shops advertising milk are everywhere. There is so much to do and the people here are exceedingly nice, helpful and generous. My only complaint thus far is that the hole in the ozone above New Zealand is the largest in the entire world and the sun here feels like its scalding your skin even in the shade. For those who know, its like being on a glacier at 10,000 feet. People here wear sunscreen ALL THE TIME. You can wear 30 SPF and still get burned after only a few hours of exposure. Its really incredible.

We stayed in Tauranga last night with the sister of a guy Dave met while rafting in Colorado (he crashed on their couch for free for like 2 weeks). Christine and her husband Mike are wonderful and have volunteered their home for us to use as a base while we tour through the region. They're super awesome and we're going to totally take them up on it! Tonight we're back in Auckland staying with Jose, another boating friend of Dave's. No idea what's on the agenda for the next few days but we're going to spend some time tonight mapping it out over a few tasty beers. More to come!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Total Slacker

Okay, I know its been 10 days since my last post. I'm a total slacker when it comes to trying to keep this blog updated lately. But you should feel good about my attempts to update this thing since I haven't even caught up on my journal writing. Its January 3rd and I'm still trying to finish my notes on what happened in Cambodia on December 19th! I'm WAAY behind! And I can't promise it will be better any time soon.

David and I are flying out of Bangkok tonight on our way to Auckland, New Zealand. All I know is that we have a rental car waiting for us at the airport and we're going to try rounding up his boating gear and kayak at various friends' houses before heading back to Auckland to crash with some boating friends. From there, who knows? We're going to try to buy some camping gear like ground pads and either a tent or a tarp so that we can try to save some money by living out of the car/camping as much as possible. Will do my best to keep things updated, but I have very little idea of what to expect from our routine once we're in a new country. New Zealand is going to be centered very much around kayaking for Dave, since he humored me for 2 months following me around Asia and even extended our stay here, which cut into his boating. He's been such a trooper and I owe it to him to run shuttle at put-ins and take-outs for as many runs as he wants to descend for the next 7 weeks. Happy New Year, everyone!