Wednesday, January 28, 2009

From 17 hours in the future and on the left side of the road

I have finally made my way to the South Island!! I have heard so many wonderful things about this place. Everyone that we meet on our way says that you have to get down there. The further you drive south the better it gets!
Tomorrow, we are heading to Able Tasman National Park. This is the smallest park in the nation and we will be doing the coastal track. It could be the busiest most used park in the country for tourists. The water is clear and the rock formations are magnificent. With seals and little Blue Penguins abounding in and around the water, i am going to go ahead and say this could be one of the most beautiful things that I have ever experienced. I can't wait. We will be on this track for about 3 and a half days.
From there we will head south along the west coast and see the beauty of the rugged shoreline, that was formed by the wild Tasman Sea, as we drive towards Frans Joseph and Fox Glaciers near Mt. Cook. We hope to have time to strap on our crampons and do a little glacier hiking. After this we go to Milford for the Great Milford Sound Track. This is, by most peoples opinion, the greatest walk in the world!!!! I cannot wait. 4 days on the beautiful trail, with waterfalls, rivers, mountains, lakes, and fjords! It will be a walk that I will not shortly forget.
From here I will go to Queenstown and do the 3rd highest bungee jump in the world!! I am already freaking out about this one. It is an uncomfortable pit in my stomach every time I think about this one, but I will make myself do it. I know I will be wanting to do it again once I am done, much like when I sky dived a few years ago!!
After this we will head to Stewart Island. The most remote place in NZ and probably the most diverse in Animal life and flora and fauna. With only 400 residents, I am sure we will be able to find some pristine beaches with trees to hang our hammocks on and light a fire with out any trouble from the police! We will be on our own more than ever and I cannot wait!!! Seal's, Penguins, and Elephant seals abound as well here. I'm sure I will be able to tell you much much more about it after having completed the journey. I am just so excited that I had to tell everyone about my plans!

From there we will head back to Christchurch for Collins and Rob to go to school and I will be on my own.

Hope all is well back in the states! I got to go to Able Tasman and find a Penguin!! haha I love New Zealand!!!


Cathedral Cove/Fly Fishing

Before I have to go I have to tell you about Cathedral Cove!!! It was in the movie Prince Caspian. It was one of the opening scenes where they are transported from the subway/train station to this unreal beach that looks like heaven itself. Well, we went to heaven!!!! Go check out the movie or google it. Under water caves, over hangs of rocks, trees resembling Swiss Family Robinson, and waterfalls. Words nor pictures can capture the beauty of this place. I guess you just have to go!
The trip has been incredible.
I'm in Taupo now trying to catch a trout in the world's capitol of fly fishing, but so far I have been skunked. I have hooked into 2 very large fish and fought them each for some time, but eventually they broke my 8 lbs tippet. So, im going to say that they were both about 9-10 lbs each haha. (At least it makes me feel better) I was cussing at the top of my lungs when the line snapped. I can't wait to go to Colorado and Training Ground where I can get some advice on how the crap to land a trout. Haha


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Under the Shadow of Mt. Doom

Yesterday, I completed the Tongiriro Alpine Crossing. It was a one day hike that covered 19.5 Kilos (Roughly around 12-13 miles) of at least 3 different ecosystems. We started with a hilly desert landscape with an array of rock, sand and small golden colored plant vegetation. As we climbed up towards the volcanic mountain "Ngarhaoe" (AKA Mt. Doom) the vegetation had almost completely vanished and the ground was covered with pumice rock formed from the fire of Mordor! This was a strangely beautiful terrain. With volcanic rock gardens in the foreground and in the background the idyllic volcano covered in red and black rocks. A dark and eerie vista The last change in landscape was on the other side of the mountain and it was completely unexpected. As we wound down the cut backs on the back side of the mountain we walked around short desert plants that continued to get higher and higher on either side of the trail. Eventually they grew to be taller than we stood and like a tunnel it lead us into a beautiful temperate forest. The hike was long but amazing.

(I have to go I will add more about it later)


Hope all is well


Friday, January 23, 2009

Wahiki Island

(This is an Island off the north east coast of New Zealand near Auckland)
After getting off the 35 min. ferry ride to Wahiki Island, we caught a bus to Palm Beach which we later realized was a nude beach. We didn't see any skin until the next morning when Rob was writing in his journal and he gazed to his left and saw a man emerge out of the water and begin some morning yoga with the tree pose in the nude. I did not witness this but it was hilarious hearing Rob try to describe it.
That night though was great! We walked along the beach as the sun was coming down and walked around this massive rock and into a secluded cove. There was a perfect place for a fire and the stars were about to start popping out of the dark blue sky. We started to collect wood and set up camp. Once the fire got going we heard people come around the corner into our cove. They were all holding drinks and making plenty of noise. Without hesitation they came up to our fire and started messing with it. They were definitely locals. Most of them were nice and introducing themselves to us. We all were looking at each other with wide eyes that were saying "what the heck is going on??" Our peaceful night just got flushed down the drain, but these were locals and they all seamed nice. We later found out that some of them were Maori and just after that we found out just why the Kiwi were not to fond of the local indigenous tribe. A guy named Sam (who was a Maori) was more drunk than most and he was trying to prove himself to us and his girl Nakata. He kept looking at each one of us with his chest all bowed up saying "Who's this one" or "I'm going to smash you"! He was all in our face cussing and swearing as much as anyone could. We all came to the conclusion that he was a bi-polar drunk, because he would be yelling at us one second and the next he would be laying on the ground with his girl friend on top of him making out. It was so strange. The more we talked and shoved this Sam guy the more hyped up he got. All we wanted was to sit by the fire and have a beautiful and peaceful second night in New Zealand. As the night dragged on and the verbal instigations kept coming we realized he was all talk and we just started laughing at him. He kept saying that this was his island and he was a man that had been to" Juvi" (juvenile detention) and that he could pound us. We got into a pushing war but nothing more that. I guess he thought we were going to steal his girlfriend from him or something. It was an interesting night that ended late with Sam throwing up on the beach and leaving his jacket and cell phone. All in all it made for an interesting night and a great story.
We woke up the next morning on a beautiful beach and perfect weather. After a morning dip in the ocean we made our way back to our newly bought van and headed to Coromandel!
This Peninsula is great. Beaches, cliffs, sheep, and and old coupe we ran into who wanted to feed us oysters!! People are so nice in New Zealand.(Unless they are Mouri haha)


Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Zealand

I arrived in New Zealand on the night of the 14th of January after literally skipping the 13th of January by flying past the date line. Once we landed I could feel the beautiful summer temperature on my face and I knew I had finnally made it! It was a surreal feeling. I really could not believe my eyes were looking at the actual island of New Zealand. Rob and I hopped in a taxi van and drove to meet Collins at our hostel in Auckland named Ponsenby Backpacker. We ran in to some cool people on the taxi who were traveling as well and this would be the start of many short but great rendezvous of fellow travelers on our trip. So far the night in Auckland has been the only night we have paid for a place to slaeep.. We have camped on the beach of the Wahiki island just north of Auckland ( $32 ferry) where local Maori walked up to our fire drunk and ready to fight, we have slept in our van on the side of the road only to be waken up by a police officer writing us a ticket, to even sleeping in someones back yard! I have no clue where I will sleep tonight but that's all part of the fun of a New Zealand road trip.
The missin the first day was to buy a car or van to tour the country in. This was by far the biggest unknow of the entire trip. It was quite the make or break situation. As we wake up on the most beautiful day heaven has ever seen, we were on a mission. We found our way through the streets of Auckand to the "Backpacker's Car Market". Summer is most definitely a sellers market so we knew the prices would be higher than usuall and we were not sure if we would have any selection at all. As we rounded the corner and walked into the garage it was full of old vans and cars. We test drove a few we liked. Most vans had built in beds in the back and some even had shelves for cooki g and shades for the windows. As we looked we spotted the coolest van I had seen yet. It was a 1991 Mitsubishi Delica "Star Wagon"! It had 4 wheel drive and was a GLX turbo diesel. The coolest part is it was named after the mountain town in France, Chamonix! We were sold and we completed the process of buying and everything that that co
We with in about one day, which was what we wanted but I never thought that it could have been done. It was great.
That night we went to the island of Wahiki island and found a great place to sleep, only to be disturbed by the local Maori drunks.
(I have to go as of now. I will try to update this as I am a couple days ahead of this but the Internet is miserable in new Zealand. It is just such a rural place so keep checking back cause I already have so many stories from the land of The lost Garden: Eden!!!!!)

Monday, January 5, 2009


Yesterday I went to Africa, across the Strait of Gibralter and into another world. Driving in on the bus seeing towering mountains, some with snow on them, and poor cities with people looking through our glass with envy. We were just coming to visit for a day and leave, no questions asked. For Moroccans its a different story. These people made up the 53rd wealthiest country in the world which is not terrible, but with Spain, the 9th wealthiest country in the world, ( within view on a clear day) very close by, many cannot resist the temptation of opportunity. Over 12,000 bodies have washed up onto the shore of Spain over the years and those are only the ones that have been accounted for. It is a sad story, and as I look onto this counrty
and into these peoples eyes, I see someone no different then myself and I wonder why them and not me? I could have just as easily been born here as I could have in America. I do feel as if Moroccans havegreat patriotism for their country and do not mind living there, but when you have a skill that could give you so much more in one place then the other, it is hard not to want to go there.

Anyways, the day continuied as we arrived at the Madina (city). This was the market part of town where the streets were so narrow that you could reach from one side to another with our outstreached arms. Fruit, vegetables, chickens, cow hooves, fish, shoe salesmen, spices, toys, carpets, clothes, and so much more was sold through out the streets. Men sitting in coffee shops waiting for someone who needed the skill that they had to offer. Winding roads and tunnels were the normal passages of everyday life. Tarps and cloths were strung overhead of many of the markets and allyways for protection from the elements. The experience was unlike anything I had ever experienced. After walking through the town for a while, we headed into a local
oriental rug store. Rugs hung from the walls and the ceiling. Beautiful hand made Moroccan rugs everywhere you looked. We all headed into a room and were shown many different styles and sizes. As they were presenting them, anyone could call out "Maha" which means something along the lines of "I like it". As they were presenting them I saw the only one that appealed to me and called out "Maha"! Shortly
after that I was escorted into a room to negotiate the price. This had to be the best part of my day. I loved haggaling with these people and trying to get the best price possible. He started off at $750. I said I cannot even think about it at that price. At this point I really wasn't truly cosidering getting anything I just liked the the idea of it. So I said no way and walked away, but he was persistent and
followed me. He said what is wrong, this rug is handmade and silk "magic rug" which meant it was a Parisian style. He tried to prove that it was made from real and pure silk and it was not synthetic by holding a flame up to the carpet and saying it doesn't burn. As he did this he would move the lighter back and forth fairly quickly.
Obviously, if you put a flame on anything and move it back and forth it will never burn. Unless it is drinched in gasoline or something like that. So I told him to hold the flame still and put it on the rug. He said okay and just moved it over a shorter area and a lot faster. Haha, I laughed at him and said that that didn't prove a thing and continued to walk away. Of course he followed me and tried to find
a smaller more inexpencive rug. I didn't like any of them, so I told him the only one I liked was the first one. He said "write on this piece of paper your maximum price." I wrote $100 and he laughed and said that this rug is worth $1500. As we talked over a period of about 45 minutes, he went down to $650, then $500, then
$450. He asked my new max and I said $200. He, again, was a little bit upset and
appeared to take offence to this price. We told him we just don't have much money, and his answer to that was to just put it on "the plastic" no big deal. Pay later. Haha I thought that was hilarious and told him I would still have to pay for it and that I don't have any "plastic". We were still going back and forth and eventually got him down to $350. At this time, our group was heading out, and we were about to
leave. As his desperation grew, he said $300 and a little bottle thing sally ward liked as well. Campbell, Sally Ward and I all looked at each other and said we're only in Morocco once and took the deal! We each paid $100 for it. We left the store and I received such a wonderful sensation! We were not in Green Hills buying an oriental rug, I had just haggled with a true Moroccan man for a hand made rug
and walked out on to the muddy and narrow streets of a north African country! Hahahah it was amazing!

Shortly after this we went into a local spice shop. A man was telling everone what certain items were worth. I had just spent $100 dollars on a rug and I was not about to buy spices, I had my Moroccan souviner. As the presentation was drawing to the close and everyone was either talking or purchasing their items, the main man, that was giving the presentation, walked over to me with four packs of saphron. Each one of these packs were worth 10€. He said to me while grabing my wrist, "how about this saphron for that watch?" I was stunned and so was everyone around me. I was like I don't think so, but as this was going on I knew that I would have to buy a new watch soon because the Velcro strap was wearing down and would not hold very well. As I
barganed with him, Campbell was telling me that they were just spices and that I needed the watch. Sally Ward thought I had gone crazy or been hypmotized for even considering the offer. Andrew was also indisbelief of the situation and wanted me to do it for the sake of the story. All of them were correct if my watch was working well, but I knew it was not. After I told the man that he would have to give me a
few more items for me to do it, he gave me some more spices, temple oil, and ginzing. I said in an I can't believe I am about to do this sort of way, "deal!" Everyone was shocked around me. Everyone started taking pictures of the salesman and myself holding the watch and the
spices in the air. As of now my watch sits somewhere in Morocco and I
am now in the market for a new watch. Ha ha just thinking back on it
makes me laugh in disbelief.
To top my day off in Africa, we all went to ride a camel. Sounds cool
right? Well it was, but when you think about riding camels you usually
think about dry deserts, scourching heat, and dust blowing in your
face. This was not quite what I had in mind. Our group pulled off the
side of the road to a small parking lot and there sat two camels. The
mountians were in the background and a green field with a small lake
or it could have been a large puddle; not to mention, it was pouring
down ice cold hard rain. As we all ran from bus to camel, paid one
Euro and ran back to the bus, friends snapped pictures and laughed at
how ridiculous this entire event was. I ended up going very last,
right after Sally Ward and Campbell. I hopped on and rode this thing
like I was in a rodeo. I had to make the 30 second ride as fun as
possible, cause you never know when you will be back on top of a
camel. Even though it was a short ride the experience was great. The
camel was huge. So when he stood up you felt like you were 5 feet
higher than any horse. Once my ride was done I, for some reason,
decided to stand on top of the saddle with my arms streched out and
then jump off the saddle to the ground! Then the guy tried to charge
me more money for jumping off, but I just paid him the normal rate and
ran out of the rain and on to the bus. It was quite a crazy day in

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