Thursday, February 19, 2009


Since David has stopped boating and shipped all his gear home the focus of the trip has once again become tourism. This is my doing, as David would happily boat every single day and not see a bit of the rest of the country. We've spent the last few days running around the country to hit the known hotspots for lots of sea life. And man! Its been great!! We stopped at Curio Bay, which is a beautiful petrified forest that's located on the beach. We got super lucky and managed to see several rare yellow-eyed penguins even though they aren't usually there.

We also went over to the other side of the bay and managed to score a few sightings of the world's smallest dolphins, the Hector dolphins. They use the bay as a nursery, so there were lots of babies around. No luck with photography though. Bummer.

Next, we headed to Nugget Point, where there are seal colonies and sea lions. We scored both! There was a crowd of people on the beach surrounding this huge bull sea lion. I can't believe how close people were getting to this thing! I kept my distance...

As we were driving up the coast, Dave (my awesome navigator) brought to my attention that we were passing by a place that has blue penguins, which are the smallest penguins weighing only 1 kilogram. Turns out that there's a tour operated where you can actually walk through with an expert inside their man-made nesting area. Blue penguins are unique because they're the only penguins that live in burrows. They didn't let us take any photos and because it wasn't dusk, we didn't see any penguins returning back to their dens from the sea. But we did manage to get super close to some seals!

And then today, we went whale watching. I've never seen a live whale before and we were really excited about the whole thing. That is until it started POURING last night. As if that weren't bad enough, we'd been lazy the night before and left part of our dinner in the tent. Dave woke up at 5am because there was something on his sleeping bag. Turned out there was a mouse in the tent!! He got it out by scaring it back through the tent door, which is how we figured it got inside in the first place. We didn't realize how wrong we were until we were packing up and discovered it had chewed a hole in the tent and through the bread packaging. It left us a nice little mouse turd in the bread as evidence. Lovely.
So we'd already paid for the whale watching trip and weren't backing out for a little rain. No way! We arrived to find a prediction of "ideal sea conditions" for our scheduled departure, with "slight seasick conditions" for the departure after ours. I think they got things backwards. The seas weren't nearly as rough as they were returning from Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand, but it was still sufficient to turn me several different shades of green. Even Dave, who never gets motion sick, was feeling the effects. I eventually threw up (the only person on the boat who did!), and quickly recovered. I ended up feeling great and even managed to get a last-second shot of a whale's fluke before it disappeared beneath the surface on its way to another deep feeding dive.
We stopped on the voyage back to the pier to admire a giant albatrose. These birds have up to a 12 foot wingspan! They're really impressive in flight, though we never got to see it. Instead, it bobbed happily on the sea watching us watch it.
New Zealand has provided several "first" encounters with so much wildlife that I've really managed to get everything out of this trip that I wanted. We leave in two days to head to Australia and I'll be completely satisfied with this trip by then!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Snip Snip Here

We started this trip in October with fresh haircuts, among other things. We looked all neat, trimmed and tidy for our 10-year high school reunion that we attended less than two weeks before departing. Man, we were styling!

Four months later, that was not the case so much. You could argue that we were just fitting in with the rest of the backpacker crowd, but those are often some well groomed people who travel with large bags of toiletries, hairdryers and beard trimmers. I'd been asked by my mom what I planned on doing with my hair while traveling. She worries about a lot of things and apparently my personal grooming had made the list. I figured I'd either get a haircut along the way or arrive home with 6 months of growth, a huge ponytail and plenty of hair for Jamie to work with as she did her styling magic and gave me another awesome cut. I absolutely hate having hair that is longer than shoulder length. As David points out, it makes me look like a hippie, but I think it makes me look more like a drowned rat. We'd reached that point so it had to go!

Dave was first in line for the haircuts. We're on a budget so instead of going to a barber, we invested in a pair of multipurpose scissors and I gave him a haircut--my first (unless you count the time when I was 10 years old and overheard my mom talking about going back to the barber to have him cut my brother's hair shorter than he'd cut that afternoon. I took it upon myself to save my mom the trouble and butchered Scott's hair so badly that he practically had to have his head shaved by the barber to correct my attempt). Given my track record, I was less than certain about my abilities. David had full confidence in me though, fully aware that he'd have to wander around with a bad haircut if I failed. We took photos to document the progress and I had these great before and after shots of his haircut but my memory card died and I've been unable to recover any photos off the card at all. Instead, I have had to dig back through some earlier photos and try to find a picture of Dave without him wearing a hat or helmet, which is next to impossible because his hair is thinning and he's always wearing a hat to protect his head from sunburn. Many of my other shots of him are kayaking shots, which include the helmet. I realize he's wearing a helmet in this photo but its the best I could do. You can see his sideburns starting to curl and the long beard. Unfortunately, the helmet strap is covering his flowing mane of hair in the back. You get the idea though.

I sat him down in our handy dandy camping chair on a beautiful sunny afternoon and got to work with my rudimentary tools (i.e. multipurpose scissors and a huge, ghetto comb. The kind you buy in a dollar store with really wide teeth). We'd discussed giving him a mullet, as is the fashion here in NZ, or maybe a faux-hawk but he said whatever style I cut I'd have to live with until we got home in April. I decided that as funny as it would be, I'd rather not look at a balding mullet for another two months and he didn't really have enough hair to rock out a faux-hawk. My first priority, therefore, was to cut the back of his hair and work my way up. I've watched the stylists cut my hair for years and did my best to copy what I'd seen. I did okay with things until I got to the left side of his head, when I accidentally sliced into Dave's ear. OOPS!!

I felt really awful, especially since it was a gash about a 1/4 - 1/2 inches long and it wouldn't stop bleeding. After a few minutes to clean the flesh wound and for me to calm down about gashing my lover, I resumed my work and did my best to finish the job. Aside from cutting the left side a little uneven (out of fear of cutting his ear again), I thought I'd done a fairly decent job of things by the end of the haircut. David thought I'd left it a bit long on the top and couldn't figure out why I was cutting it so specifically. He said I'd done a good job but that he wasn't used to the look and thought he resembled college boys he'd hustle while playing pool. After about a half an hour of looking at it, I realized why I'd cut his hair the way I had. Its the same haircut my brother has had for years!

Dave thought it made perfect sense that I'd given him Scott's haircut since its the cut I'd been looking at for a good part of my life. The resemblance was really uncanny. He'd turn his head a certain way and it was like my brother was right there with us. That's not the first time I've experienced that--Cristen Hair pointed it out so eloquently at the football game during out 10-year high school reunion in October when she asked if I was sitting on the bleachers holding hands with my brother. It'd only been that afternoon that I'd first though Dave resembled Scott, so her affirmation hit me hard. Of course I'd never meant to make my mountain-man boyfriend look like a fraternity boy, so we decided that I'd shorten it again in a few days. In the meantime, I trimmed the beard down to a manageable length (so it wouldn't get in his mouth or itch in places). Of course the end result is being held hostage on my memory card, so here's a shot I found of us from this past week after the final trimming, illustrating his shorter look (not too bad, if I do say so myself!) and my scraggle. Two birds, one stone!

We've been in Queenstown for the last week and something about the humidity levels has been making my usually wavy hair really flat and dry. I've been looking in the mirror at hair that's started to creep past my shoulders and my first reaction is to grab the multipurpose scissors and attack it with everything I've got. And then that awful haircut I gave Scott all those years ago flashes through my head along with the trouble it was to correct the damage and I realize its not worth attempting to cut my own hair. So I sucked it up and went into town and found someone far more competent than myself. Here's the result!

I'm so glad not to have a mullet!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Same Same, But Different

Its been (again) quite awhile since my last post. I can only attribute that to a slow couple of weeks, much of which has been spent killing time as David kayaked around the South Island. For me, its been a routine of sleeping late, wandering around the tiny town of Murchison or the slightly larger town of Hokitika while waiting for Dave to come off the river, filling my days with grocery shopping, meal planning and quick jaunts to internet cafes which have been unable to read my camera memory card, making uploading photos almost impossible. This routine hardly warranted much blogging. As the famous backpacker phrase in Thailand adequately captures: "Same Same, But Different." Such has been my routine. Full of the same things each day. Doesn't make for exciting reading or blogging.

There have been a few exciting activities amidst all the boating though. First was our trip to Marlborough, which is the South Island's wine region, famous for their excellent Savigion Blancs and Pinot Noirs. We toured 8 vineyards in two days, sampling much or all of what each vineyard had to offer. New Zealand has been impressive in its wine offerings as far as I'm concerned. Most things on the island are expensive but the wine has proven both affordable and extremely tasty. We've been drinking wine for the past 5 weeks (sometimes more than a bottle a night) and I have yet to have a bad bottle of wine. Even the cheaper bottles are great! The vineyards were often some of the best wine we've had to date, as evidenced by the 11 bottles of wine we walked away with at the end of our tours. Some of that was bought to drink here on the island while some bottles were bought to take home and drink or as gifts. I'm in the process of trying to figure out how to ship some of the wine home while not spending a fortune on shipping (one company will ship 12 bottles for $270 and it will take a month to get there), or ending up with the unfortunate shipping experiences I've had so far.

Out of the 3 packages I've shipped from Asia, the two from China have finally arrived. According to my mom, the package I sent November 30th arrived sometime around January 28th intact, while the one I sent 10 days prior (marked "FRAGILE" on every surface of the box) arrived on February 8th. Here's what my mom had to say about that unfortunate package:

"Well, guess what? Your package that you mailed November 19th arrived today. The mailman was so sorry to deliver a package in such bad shape. Suffice it to say that everything you sent that was china/glass came back broken. The box was pretty squished. He had to bring it to the door in another box because glass shards were oozing out....It must have come by boat and had all kinds of heavy packages put on top. The box was really a mess."


At least it made it. I had already resigned myself to the fact that it was lost in the mail and that all the souvenirs I'd bought in Asia would never make it home. Guess I'll spend some time in April trying to reassemble some of the porcelain bowls I bought in Japan, though it seems the glass tea canister I bought as a gift for my dad is far beyond repair. With that rough treatment of boxes though it makes me nervous about shipping wine....

Anyway, we also did a short hike up to the Franz Josef Glacier the other day, which was part of the mountain ranges that were filmed in the "Lighting of the Beacons" scene in Lord of the Rings. Let me tell you that its some impressive scenery. We were there on an overcast day, but that didn't spoil it in the least! Gorgeous!

We're currently in Queenstown visiting one of Dave's friends that he met through (Stephan stayed on Dave's couch for a few weeks in Utah last year, so now we're crashing with him!). We're going to do some adventuring with hikes in national parks and visiting seal and penguin colonies on the shores in the coming days, which I'm excited about. In the meantime, I'm enjoying having a kitchen, a bed, a shower, laundry and a computer at my disposal. Ah, civilization!!