Monday, April 30, 2007

Goodbye New Zealand Hello Australia!

Christchurch Looking over Littleton

First arrival in Greymouth
Inside the Punakaiki Cavern
Walking towards Franz Josef Glacier
Overlooking lake Te Anau after a 4 hour hike

So after a month of being in New Zealand it is time for us to leave. We had an amazing time but it is time for the adventure to continue! We have been staying in our "home town" of Christchurch for the past 4 days and it really felt nice to be familiar with the area. However, we arrived to our hostel we were turned around completely. We had no idea where the "city center" was and how to get there quickly. Even with a map somehow, we never really found the correct way. Until last night when our nice hostel clerk told us to just make a right and then we would see the church (city center) and we would be there...she must be mad we thought, but we tried it anyway and sure enough within 5 mintues we were in the center, weird. A couple nights, actually all the nights before it took us at least 40 minutes to get home. On one of the instances megan had a breakdown and just started laughing histarlically. Don't worry i was able to record it for all of you to enjoy. Those that know Megan well, know that her laughing attacks can come without warning and be triggered by almost anything. So we leave you with this video and we will return "down under"

Friday, April 27, 2007

Hanmer Hanmer Hanmer Hanmer Springs

Welcome back kids!

So, we left Dunedin and headed to Christchurch for one night before we headed out to this place called Hanmer Springs (whatever you think it isn't Hammer Springs which would be way cooler). There, there are natural springs that are heated deep down within the earths core and they appear for us to enjoy on the lush soil that is New Zealand. Well, sort of.

Our brief stay in Christchurch felt like coming back home. We actually got excited when we say the sign "welcome to Christchurch". Right when we got off the bus, we knew where to go and that was nice for a change. The next day was a holiday so we knew to go shopping for groceries before so we would be set for the next day of travel. Turns out the holiday is a big one for New Zealand and Australia. It is called Anzac Day and it is to remember the many NZ and AU soldiers lost in the war. NZ and AU teamed up and became one large military, it was after that when they were slaughtered in a battle that is skipping my mind. Anyway, the "parade" started at 6:30am and finishes at around 8. Our room in the hostel was very close so we woke up to a military band playing some very nice music. It was almost calming hearing the trumpet played under a heavy fog, we headed down to see the ceremony an it was very moving and powerful.

We rallied that same morning after waking up at 6:30 and ate breakfast and caught our shuttle to Hanmer Springs. It was the best shuttle ever, nice leather interior, fully reclining seats AND it didn't smell! We arrived and saw the "springs" and our hearts sunk. It felt and looked much like a community pool, and it cost $12 bones each to just get in, plus $4 for a towel. Kind of a lot we thought just to go sit in some spring that cost them nothing to heat. Either way, we were there and we decided to make the most of it. We had rented a house for $90 and were excited to have our own space, it had a fireplace, stove, dvd player the works! It was a cute cottage just a short 1/2 mile hill from where we were dropped off (that was an adventure in itself carrying two packs each plus two arms of grocery bags). The two days we were there all we did was relax, played cards, drank wine, sat by the fire (made by a man!), watched movies and yes, eventually went to the springs.

The day we went to the springs was perfect, cloudy yet ready to rain and not as many people as the previous day. We stayed in the pools for 5 hours straight and looked like raisins by the time we got was exactly what we needed... a vacation from our vacation (let the hating begin!).

Dunedin do everything but go see chocolate

So we left the wonderful little TeAnau to go to a bigger city atmosphere. The bus ride was brutall and that was even before megans bag was broken by the Intercity bus people. But we were able to look past that and actually enjoyed ourselves in this smaller version of Christchurch but still very big in its own right.

We arrived shortly at our cool hotel "The Leviathan" (with a name like that, why wouldn't it be cool. This place was pretty old, everything was crickety and had it's oddities (one of the doors as you walked through it would just decide to close). You could say it felt haunted but check out the video and decide for yourself, the shot was taken from the stairs towards our room.

We ended up staying in Dunedin for 4 days and loved every day of it. There was one thing that we regretted the moment we started doing it.

You see, Dunedin is the home of Cadbury World (ya know the ones that make the chocolate eggs?) they have been there for a 100 years or so and i guess it is a "must do" if you are in Dunedin. Thinking that it woudl be an all exlusive tour a la Willy Wonka we decided to pony up the $32 bux and do the tour. WOW, what a waste of our time and money. We barely saw any inner workings of the factory, there was no fountain of chocolate that we could drink from, there wasn't even any munckins! All in all a big waste of time.

So you might be wondering, what IS there to do in Dunedin. Well, lets see there is watching a movie, then watching another one. Walking around to see all historic sites, making jewelery (Megans new addiction to replace shopping), eating at the same Indian food place twice (Anarkali if you are wondering) and that is about it. Such a neat relaxing place and that was even before we made it to Hanmer Springs.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Te Anau Surprise

As it turns out, Megan's parents were staying literally right across the street from us in Te Anau. So we headed over there to nearly give Megan's parents a heart attack and crashed their dinner plans.

Definitely a highlight of the trip (as you will see, their reaction is priceless)

Te Anau has some glowing worms...that we can't show you

So we left th awesome place called Franz to Queenstown. Immedietley upon arrival we knew Queenstown was not the place for us. It really felt like a place in the US transported overseas and plopped down. Yes it had some charm, but it was very touristy and we honestly were not ready to be in a city. So we basically found a really cool bed and breakfast that overlooked the lake and hung out there the whole time.


We left after a 3 days hiding in our room, we left on a bus to go to Te Anau. We were very excited to hear about the very small town feel (one street, was literally the only street). It had the charm and the hokeyness we have been seeking out all along this trip. We stayed at a very cool bed and breakfast place called Moptop B&B (i guess a moptop is a flower of some kind...and not some weird reference to a beatle). Yvonne the owner was very sweet and welcoming. In Te Anau we hiked around the a good portion of the lake to be in nature/rainforest and the highlight was going out to the glow worm caves. We had to take a boat to get there and the boat ride alone was very cool. When we got to the caves they informed us no photography was allowed inside so all we really could do was shoot before and after. Let me tell you, the experience in going in this huge cave that had a good size river spilling out of it was awesome. There was a walkway made above the river so we stayed dry the whole time and at the end of the cave we were in pitch black and boarded this small boat in silence. We were transported to a place that felt like a night sky. The ceiling was lit up by these glowing worms, they had a bit of a twinkle to them and just looked awesome. Everywhere you looked you were in the twilight of the glowing worms. We did hear about the request for a good sign off on the video but this video was shot before we read that. Next video, get ready.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Franz you are one hell of a guy!

Inside looking out of the "creepy tunnel"Megan climing down the narrow on Franz

Whats goin down party people! Glad to see hear that so many of you are enjoying our adventures, but i am pretty sure not as much as we are living them! So after Greymouth we headed down to the town of Franz Josef to see the glacier. We arrived without lodging this time and it actually worked out for the best. We ended up staying at a very cool place called the glow worm cottages. We sprung some extra cash so we could have our own bathroom, TV and kitchenette (basically a hot plate and some pots and pans). There are many things to do in Franz like go for hikes, go check out some glowing worms (glow worms as they call them), and go hang out at the local bar (the blue ice bar is a fun place to hang out with your 19 year old glacier guide).

So we initially were going to stay in Franz for 2 days but turns out the glacier tours are quite popular so we had to wait another day until then. We decided to not waste the day and go for a hike. The hike we went on was amazing and ended at an old aquaduct dug in the late 1800s. Me and Megan went inside the tunnel for around 50 feet before i shun my light on the ceiling and saw 100s of giant crickets and some pretty large spiders. That was the end for Megan, she high tailed it out of there. I did end up going back in and documenting some of the cooler features and to take photos of the ferocious insects. Then, as soon as it got dark we decided to go find these elusive glow worms everyone is talking about. The trail we went on was a 30 minute trail each way and was a very easy incline. We headed out with our headlamps (torches) and went out and found the glow worms. They are pretty damn cool, we turn off our lamps and the forest is all twinkly and purdy. We stayed there for a bit, trying to figure out what they look like but couldn't see them. So we trekked back and on the way back we encountered some of the most fierce animals in the whole jungle! The evil, blood thirsty, man eating POSSUM! Well, at least that it what Megan thought. I do have to admit, it was a bit creepy seeing these animals in the wild when all you are used to seeing is a few birds, insects and nothing else and that is before they started to make this creepy noise. Anyway, we escaped the claws of the Possum and went home, all safe and cozy in our place.

The next day we had our trek at 130p with the guiding company and our host Keane. We were fitted with spikes for climbing the ice and a brief instruction on what to expect. We then all pilled into the big yellow bus and headed to the glacier (around 10 minute drive). We arrived at the car park and started to hike towards the glacier. From a distance, the glacier looks around 1k away but in actuallity it was 3ks! So we hiked along and checked out other cool features (cracks in the mountains, waterfalls and interesting rock formations). As we got closer we could actually see just how large this thing is. The mouth of the glacier (where the river comes out of) was around 40 feet tall and around 150 feet wide. The mouth is a HUGE tunnel that goes around 50 meters underneath the glacier. We then arrived at the "terminal face" and put on our spikes and began our accent. The whole thing was so amazing, we saw "worm tunnels" (formed by water, air and a weak spot), blue ice (happens by magic as it turns out), and waterfalls within the glacier. All of this was very very cool and I hope our quick video gives you a feel on just how neat it was to be on this huge, very old piece of ice. Till next time peeps.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Punakaiki what a great place

...Well Punakaiki, the place with the funny name and even more fun to say was everything we heard about and more. Initially we went there to check out the pancake rocks (more on that later) and blow holes but we discovered, much like Greymouth that this place had many hidden treasures.

One of which was the Punakaiki Cavern. The women at the I-site place told us to bring torches and luckily after a mad dash we both had ours. We came across the cavern on our way to a 3k hike along the road. We initially thought it was a small cave to check out, what we didn't realize is how far back it went. It was pitch black, the sound of dripping water was everywhere and stalactites of sandstone dripping with coolness. Mud was everywhere, and some of the tighter spots coated us with it, we didn't care it was so cool it was worth it. The only reason Megan went in is because, in New Zealand there are no snakes, big spiders, weird bugs anything. It makes it nice to travel around in rain forests and not have some creepy crawly land on your head. We then made our way down to the Truman Track and arrived at an another rain forest like place. Words and pictures cannot describe how it is being covered in the canopy of the rain forest as rain drops all around but on you. The streams and rivers were in full force and the views for each were equally amazing. We made our way through the trail and it ended on the beach, breathtaking. The tide was starting to get high so we didn't have much time to hang out but the time we did spend was amazing. The beach is covered in small pebbles, millions of them. Actually, the beach does not have one grain of sand! From all the rain, there was a small yet tall waterfall dropping onto the beach. New Zealand, simply amazing you look to the right and it's rain forest, look to the left beautiful beaches.

What an amazing day

We have been having a great time in Greymouth, New Zealand. Our hostel "Dukes Backpackers" is 120x better than the other dirty hostel we were in for 6 days. Our first day here we just explored the town and found an amazing restaurant that was open for its last day (the women was going on a 2 month vacation, so she decided to shut down the place and leave...go figure). We did not know what to order so she just made a special plate of everything she figured we would like...and wow, what an amazing meal that was! The same women who cooked for us, also gave us a whole list of tips on where to travel and how to save some money. She highly recommended we "leave Greymouth" and find something cooler. We took her notes home and plan for the next day to actually check out Greymouth for ourselves to see what exactly this place is about.

So we woke up made our PB&J sandwiches and headed out. We knew there was a short walking trail for us to go out and explore so with our trusty map we started walking. We arrived at the trail head of "King Park Trail" and started walking. Immediately we both looked at each other and said "you can't be serious!", if you awoke in a forest like we were in, you would swear you were in some exotic tropical land. The trail was covered in lush green everywhere, stuff was growing on top of stuff and mud was everywhere from the winters rain. The whole walk was uphill and we knew the view would be amazing at the top, and it was. We ate lunch on a downed tree and checked out the amazing scenery from up-top. We didn't think we could find anything more beautiful than this but we were wrong...

Monday, April 9, 2007

Tranzalpine new hostel all great

So we had a great adventure yesterday, we bought an alarm clock (i know we couldn't believe it either) and set it for 5am (ouch!). Just enough time for us to wake up eat and be ready for the 6am bus...or so we thought. We were at the bus stop for around 20 minutes, and we were starving since we actually skipped the breakfast part to catch the ealier bus. Sure, plenty of time to get into town and eat there, efficient and a good plan. Oh wait, here comes the bus! So we get our stuff, the bus pulls over we walk towards the bus and it takes off, from there Megan is chasing after the bus, yelling HEY! WAIT! She has both packs on, one on the front one on back, it was really a site to see. Well the bus leaves us in the dust and we are freaking out. We now have to take the next bus which is supposed to come 15 minutes before we have to take our shuttle and it takes 15 minutes to get to the city, the odds were against us. So we waited, Megan was prepared and never took off her pack...both of them. She was standing there with both her packs on for at least 15 minutes, ready and waiting. Well the bus came at 5 till 7am and it took us right to the shuttle. Well, we were walking to where the shuttle pick up was and what did we see...the shuttle zooming past us! I said "there goes the shuttle" then Megan almost loses it and says "oh no". I never thought I would be the calm one, but i was, i said "lets just go there and see if there is another one", so we walk over there and sure enough another shuttle was on the way, problem solved. Well, Megan decides it would be a great time to go to the restroom and she hurries away, right when she leaves the shuttle arrives, so I am carrying her bags my bags in order to make sure we have a spot. The shuttle was packed so quick by the time she is even within site she is holding up the shuttle. So all the back seats were taken but one, so Megan went in the back and i was going to take the front seat. Being an american i walked over to the right side of the shuttle and all 14 of the passengers laughed in unison (Megan being the loudest) over my Americaness. Long story short, the Tranzapline was amazing, the views, the train everything was what you would expect and more. One problem, the windows were very reflective and it made it hard to get a decent shot of the amazing scenery, so yes i have photos but no they are not very good. So we had an adventure before the adventure and i guess that is what makes traveling so fun.
matt and megan

Our hostel no longer smells and we have our own bathroom and shower, and no more bunk beds, hurray.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

We are going to be on the move

Yesterday (Saturday the 7th) we did quite a bit, we woke up ate breakfast, went to the arts fair, spent a bunch of money on some cool crafts then went to a Rugby game, i guess it was a big one (the home team is in second place). We were lucky enough to sit next to someone who was willing to let us in on what is going on in this sport. The "Crusaders" really killed the other guys (they were wearing blue) at a score of 54 to Nill (See I am becoming a local already), it was a very cool game and we had great seats very close to the field. We ate like the locals and drank the local beer, ahh what a sweet day.

Tomorow morning (Monday for us i think Saturday for you guys) we will be taking a train to Greymouth, the train is called the TransAlpine and I guess the views are supposed to be amazing from the train. We are excited to leave for two reasons, one; to get the hell out of this hell hole of a place and start really exploring. Two; staying at a hostel that doesn't smell like moldy cheese and mildew got married (Don't worry i have taken photos, but they won't do justice, for it is the smell that kills us) would be really nice for a change. We realized that we know this city quite well, we know the bus routes and how to get around and so it is time for something new. So onward and upwards. I hope the next place we stay has faster internet so i can upload more and give you guys more of a glimpse into what we are up to.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Megan Likes Gelatto and I like to take photos

So after being here for 5 days we have noticed one thing. We like to live large here, for breakfast we either eat at our dingy ugly hostel or go out to eat. When we do go out to eat, i make it a point to photograph almost everything we order. I know it sounds weird but i think journaling food is just as important as the adventures you have. So i have quite a few photos of just plates of food, it is funny to watch other people react to me taking a photo of our wine, dessert, an entree and most of all megan eating her super good ice cream on the way to botanical gardens.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Everythings is almost normal but slightly different

So we have been here for 4 days now and there are a few things that I notice that are just slightly different than back home. Most are just me seeing things as quirky or funny but might as well post what i think is a lot different.

1. Beer is expensive, regardless on how you look at it paying $6 for a bottle of beer and around $8-10 for a pint is a lot of money. Actually, everything is expensive here, no matter how you look at it, we were at the grocery store and wanted to get some bacon...but the $13 price tag stopped us real quick. I know what your thinking, "Matt be quiet, you complain about the price of everything" but this is an honest case of even WITH our decent exchange rate we still have to pay more than we did at the states. Even so, we are living it up and having fun, we have not NOT done something that we did want to do because of the price, but sometimes we are shocked.

2. The toilets are funny. Some toilets have a HUGE tank hovering around 3 feet off the ground and a 2" tube leading down to the pole, and of course the toilets flush with a button instead of a lever and they flush backwards. Also, the men's urinals most of the time do not have a button or lever to push, i think they go off on their own but i have yet to see this.

3. Missing the lunch window is bad news. Lunch here starts at noon as usual but ends around 2p. So if you miss the two hour window you pretty much have to wait for the dinner window which starts at 6p and goes to 10p. We found this out the hard way and walked the city for an hour before we found a good non-fast food (MC Donald's, KFC, Burger King, Subway in full effect here) to sit down and eat and enjoy our meal.

4. For some reason, b.o. is all over this place, for us it seems to be more a part of the Maori culture and it does not discriminate with men or women. There are a lot of stinky people roaming around here.

5. There are a lot of hopped up cars here, I would say even more than los angeles. Cars here are just cooler looking, even the really small ones are very neat to look at and see.

Well I think that is about it, call this post more like a "fluff" piece than a log but just thought you peeps want to know whats up. I have uploaded lots of photos that we took and i plan to upload a lot more soon.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

You can't be serious!!

This is amazing, it hit Matt and I last night at dinner over our third glass of wine that this is our life for the next 2 months!!! This city is amazing...the buildings, the church (today we are going to hear the choir) the artwork, and being with Matt all the time...

Today we are going to ride the Trolley like the true tourists we are and then take the Gondola up to see the view of the city...which will be amazing today because it is a clear day. And the list of things we plan to do goes on from there...the penguins, the bed and breakfasts, the botanical gardens, Hyde park, and all the different restaurants...then comes the camper van, this will be the true pre wedding test!!

I hope you all are doing well and that we will still be friends when I get back!!!

Day 2 so much better than day 1

So, day 2 was a night and day difference from the first day. The first day we were here, we were tired, hungry and looking for something to pass the time. The second day we decided to do a little more investigating and check out the real cool parts of the city. WOW what an amazing city! The history alone here is worth to check out. The locals say Christchurch is as close to Britain as you can get without going there. Since i have never been to the UK i cant say but if it is anything like this i would love to go there. We walked all of downtown and saw the first church ever built in Christchurch and actually the church came before the there was even a
"Christchurch". It is a really cool, old looking church with such amazing architecture and history i could have spent hours inside just looking at all the old unique things. We walked to the center art square where they converted an old all girls school into art schools. Walking in all of these castle like buildings just makes me so inspired and realized that in the US we just don't have anything cool like this. We also went to the awesome Christchurch art gallery and saw some very interesting modern and older paintings. Some very cool great master artist (which all slip my mind right now, are even more amazing to see in person). We also walked into the work/sell art areas where artists of all kind sell their wares. I would have loved to buy a lot more, but we only purchased a tiny painting of 3 birds for the low price of $38 (it was actually one of the cheaper things we found). Oh yeah, just because the exchange rate is better for us doesn't mean anything is cheap here. An average dinner costs around $23 each person, $2 is like our .99 cents, hence the $2 store being the bargain basement of all places, the guy who runs the hostel says inflation is really high right now, yay us! So we are still within our budget but man, i thought we would live like kings, instead we are living like kings one day and peasants the next. Since the Internet at our hostel is so slow i can't really show you how amazing it is so just take these couple photos as proof on how cool it actually is. I have taken around 150 photos so far, and we are only on day 3. This slow internet thing is killing me, looks like i may have to buy a whole mass of SD cards for the very expensive price of $48 a gig!
I am amazed just how easy it is to get used to the time difference here. Day 2, no problems at all getting up and staying up until 10pm and then waking up at 7am. It feels like we have never changed time zones. Man this jetlag stuff is a piece of cake! Ok people, we are going to hit up the town and check out the gardens and then go up in the gondola! Hurray for us, if we find a faster internet connection i will post more photos, otherwise you guys will have to be happy with the brief tastes I give.

Monday, April 2, 2007

We made it here safe

Megan is about to eat the chair! Don't eat the chair!

yep i am happy we made it

Well, everything went well and we are now in Christchurch. The flight was very easy and we are still awake (it is 6pm here at the moment. A bit exhausted but ya know, that is to be expected.) So far we are just getting used to this city and we can't wait to explore more. Just wanted to post this to let everyone know we are ok and doing great. Here is the shot of when we arrived at Christchurch. Oh yah, i would upload a lot more photos but the internet is REALLy slow here hello 56k speeds.