Thursday, March 29, 2012

Time flies when you're having fun!

So I fell off the face of the earth for a few weeks, but i'm back to try and remember what just happened. The weekend before my parents came, I did my best to get ahead on schoolwork. That only lasted through Saturday. Sunday, I went to Orana Park which is a wildlife park just outside of Christchurch. We showed up a little after 10, and literally stayed until 4:30. It reminds me of the movie We Bought A Zoo. It's all spread out! You walk around and they have feedings lined up all day where they, yep! you guessed it, feed the animals and give you a whole spiel about why they're endangered. I'll fast forward ahead and tell you i've been twice since i've been here. This place is really cool! I learned all kinds of interesting facts about spider monkeys, lemurs, kiwi birds, rhinos, tigers, chetahs and on and on and on! and as far as the endangered stuff goes I can sum it up for you….
1) don't use products with palm oil
2) don't buy wood that's being taken down from the rainforest
3) don't use products with palm oil
4) spread awareness that rhino horns are just the same thing as our hair & nails
and 5) don't use products with palm oil
so of course, what does the rhino guy go and do… he tells me that Tim Tams are made with Palm Oil products… now, i'm not sure how much longer this is going to last, but I can honestly say since my last visit, I've been Tim Tam free!  Speaking of Rhinos. They were my favorite! I can see a trend here… large, grey, clumsy= qualifications to become my favorite animal. Mom and Katy really liked the Giraffes. I put up some really good giraffe pictures if you want to check them out. We got to feed them! The other thing I really like about Orana is that it's mostly run by volunteers. They walk around to the feedings and answer questions. Its amazing what they know, and you get to meet a whole range of people. When mom, Katy and I went we had these 2 volunteers, David and Margo. David was a young guy wanting to get into zoo keeping, and Margo was an older lady who comes out once a week. They were both nice as can be and basically walked around with us all day. Mom, Katy and I stayed to the last feeding. We left at 5pm!!! 

Ok, REWIND! After the first Orana visit: On Wednesday I had SERIOUS ants in my pants… I left class early to catch the bus to the airport to meet dad and Amy. When I say I ran from the bus to the terminal…. i'm unfortunately not joking. It was super anti-climatic because then I had to wait an entire 15 minutes for them to come out. When they came through the customs doors, I was ELATED!  SO exciting to see familiar faces from home. We took the shuttle to pick up the car rental, and headed off to a bar just outside of Hagley Park that had a fish and chips special on. Dad barely made it through dinner! He was in the middle seat between 2 other men on the long flight from LA to Sydney. Needless to say, he wasn't exactly well rested. That night Amy came to stay with me at Tess's. It was sooooo good to have her there. Skype is great and all, but there's nothing like sitting on the bed together chatting away. She finally hit a wall, and I realized I was talking to myself….. 

Thursday, we met for breakfast (had DELICIOUS scones) and then I went to school and sent Dad and Amy off to Akaroa, the little French colony out on the Banks Peninsula. We met up for dinner when they returned, and again hit the sack early because they were still not adjusted. Friday, I took Amy and Dad down to Ballantynes in the RE:Start area for more scones. They really enjoyed the opportunity to see what the earthquake did to CHCH. Afterwards, I very poorly navigated us from the city to pick up mom and katy. Between, all the construction, one way streets, and dad turning on the windshield wipers every time he wanted the blinker, I was a BIT distracted… Their flight was delayed, so we were right on time. There was literally a running welcome from the terminal. (proof on Facebook in Amy's pictures) I know people say this all the time, but really… Its only been 2 months and Katy has grown SOOOO MUCH. She's amazing. Anyways, we all piled in the matchbox car and headed to rent the campervan. We actually made it out of Christchurch fairly uneventfully. Dad did an awesome job at navigating the traffic circles and……. I forgot to tell you something. In NZ, for the past 60 some odd years, the have had a particular "give way rule"… here's the run down. When you are waiting to turn left in America, you have to yield to the folks going straight in the lane you'll be crossing. Makes perfect sense. Here on the other hand, the person going straight is to yield to the person wanting to turn!?!?! makes ZERO sense. To make things crazier, they changed the rule to match ours (but on the left side of course) within the time mom and dad came. SO Dad gets a lot of credit for managing that 6 berth home on wheels out of the city!!

That day we drove to Kaikora. What we anticipated being an hour and 20 minute ride, ended up being 2 and a half easily!! The last stretch into the town that brings you down to the coast was sorta miserable. Everyone was not quite all set on NZ time, and we were all getting tired. Thankfully, when we popped out to the water, it was overcast, but BEAUTIFUL!! A view like that has a way of making everyone happy!! We got settled into our first campervan site, sorted out our beds and went to have some dinner down the road. The best part of the meal was the homemade bread!! When we got back to the campervan, it was do not pass go, do not collect $200, GO TO BED! All armed with ear plugs, we nestled in. While this occurred every night, i'll make a comment on it now. Our home on wheels was great, but it sure is annoying when every single time anyone moves, the entire place shakes. At first it was funny, but after a while… it got a little old. 

Thankfully, we woke up to a clear sunny day!! We could see the mountains, we got MORE scones, and we took a drive down to the beach. Dad and Katy wasted no time getting their feet in that Pacific Ocean! We dilly dallied around and then headed out on the penninsula to see the seals. There weren't many to be seen, but the view was spectacular!! Kaikora is a stunning place. Where else can you get beach right next to mountain!? I also put up some beautiful pictures from this stop. After the seals, we hopped in the van and headed inland towards Hanmer Springs. It was about 2 hours of GORGEOUS driving. It was much less treacherous than the way into Kaikora. We drove through lots of farm lands and valleys. On the road, mom saw this "deer" that she described to be about the color of the cows we had been seeing. We gave her a hard time, and told her it was probably a cow she didn't see very well. After about an hour we stopped along this river for a lunch break. We made some DELICIOUS ham sandwiches with the bread from the restaurant we went to in Kaikora, and dad and Katy skipped rocks. Mom decided she wanted to take a nap in the back for the rest of the ride. So within 10 minutes of being back on the road, we see what she was talking about before lunch. We dubbed it a cow-deer!!!! Its huskier than a deer from home, but the same color as the brown/ red cows. We even pulled over to ask them what they were. They ran away. 

When we arrived in Hanmer, we got to the site, and went to soak in the hot springs pools. I must say, while it was great for Katy to go down the slides, it was not a favorite on my list. As Dad said, its like taking a bath with a bunch of other dudes… and then of course mom made us get into this magnesium pool. We smelled terrible leaving that place… Hanmer is a gorgeous town. I would have much rather done a short hike to check out the 360 degree views. That night was our first attempt at cooking in the home on wheels. It was a smashing success. Mom cooks, and Amy and I are either doing dishes or taking out trash continuously. After dinner, Dad, Katy and I went to throw the frisbee around. Dad, being a man with a drink in his hand, couldn't just lightly throw the frisbee. He kept chucking it at us with all his man strength. As could be easily predicted, he proceeded to through the frisbee over the fence into someones backyard…. This required a full on recon mission which included me jumping a fence to retrieve my frisbee. We called it a night after that one. 

In the AM we loaded up and headed west! The drive through Lewis Pass was again, GORGEOUS! Unfortunately, when we made into Greymouth, it was rainy and you couldn't really see much. We decided to keep driving and stay in Hokitika. It ended up being about 3 hours on the road which was just enough. We cruised around the town (can be done in about 5 minutes) and then settled in at our site. It cleared up a bit, and our campervan site was right on the beach! We spent the whole afternoon skipping rocks, throwing the frisbee and just laying around listening to the Tasman Sea roll in. The sand was black, and there were lots of rocks. it reminded me of the cape in the states. For dinner, we fixed up another 5 star dinner from the kitchen in our home on wheels. After dinner, we rented a Evan Almighty from the front office and watched it together. It's really a funny movie and it was perfect for the whole fam. The rest of the trip when we wanted to use an explicative we said SHEEEEEEEEPPPP! 

After another night rocking around in the campervan, we woke to RAIN!! We were so bummed, but decided we were going to the gorge and lake kanerie anyways!! As is typical in NZ, by 11am it was sunny and clear! The drive out to the gorge was great and the short little hike to see it was perfect! We got to cross a swingbridge which my dad thoroughly inspected and decided it probably wasn't all that safe. haha! None of us are big fans of things like that… After the gorge we headed over to Dorthy Falls and Lake Kanerie. As we got closer, the road became dirt, and we just hoped and prayed we didn't meet another 6 berth (OR ANY car for that matter) along the way. Lake Kanerie was awesome! We packed up a lunch, and walked down to sit in the sun and soak up the gorgeous scenery. This is where we all fell in love with coconut rough Cadbury chocolate. YUM! (i wonder if it's made with palm oil products.. i HOPE NOT!!) Dorthy Falls was just a short trek from the road which was also really pretty. We continued on the loop around the lake. We made it back to Hokitika and headed north again. On my map, I could see a small road that was a short cut to get to Arthur's Pass. It was the same color and width as the roads we'd been on, so I figured it would be alright. 2/3rds of it was paved and just fine, but the last third, I was feeling pretty guilty for steering us down the path to the washboard road… :X  FINALLY, we made it to the highway and headed back inland across Arthurs Pass. It was super super windy, and hands down, Arthur's Pass was the worst driving we did the entire trip. There are some steep gradients, and all kinds of blind turns which is 10 times more intimidating in a 6 berth campervan. There were some spectacular drops, and all I could think about was the poor folks that made this road. The Arthur guy was the one that pioneered his way through scouting to see if a road was plausible. If I were him, I would have said HECK NO!! Thank goodness there are more brave souls than me! It was along this road, that I saw my life flash before my eyes. We were almost down out of the mountain when we came around this blind corner and DUN DUN DUN!!! there were not 1 but TWO giant logging trucks. SHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. I could see the edge on my side, and I kid you not, we were like 6 inches from our doom!! Way to go dad on getting us out of that one safely… On this side of Arthur's pass we stopped at Castle Hill where I had been before with my orientation group. Katy loved climbing around and exploring! She said that was one of her favorite parts of the trip. We settled in just down the road from where I stayed in Springfield. Again, we prepared a meal for champions from that little kitchen, and played cards for the rest of the evening. 

It was so funny to wake up to sheep outside our back window in the adjacent field. That morning, we ate at the Yellow Cafe were they claimed to serve yummy food! (who could resist) It was a short 50 minute drive into CHCH to return our home on wheels. After doing so, we ventured over to the RE: start area for lunch and then over to the Antarctic Center for the afternoon. It was a pretty cool (ha ha!) place. We experienced an Antarctic summer storm, and got to see some really cute penguins that had been rescued from the wild. Each one had little colored markers that matched them with their partner and told their name. They were really cute! For dinner that night, we went over to Lauren & James's with Tess. It was SO great to have my Texas and Kiwi Families all together. 

At OH DARK THIRTY the next morning, mom and I went to drop Dad and Amy at the airport. We came back and slept for several hours. I had to go to class, so they came to school and sat at a cafe working on Katy's homework. After class, I was going to send them to Orana Park, but decided I would skip more class and go with them! great decision! We had a BLAST! After Orana, we ate dinner and caught up on American Idol with Tess. Thursday, Mom and Katy went down to Akaroa to ride on the Canterbury Cat and I went to class. FAR less exciting. They LOVED it. Katy took tons of pictures of the seals, dolphins, penguins and sea birds. I was really impressed when they were only 15 minutes late to pick me up. Katy is getting better at her navigating skills, and mom did so well driving on the wrong side! 

Friday, we got up and headed over to Lauren's because Tess's bathroom is being re-done. We played with Alec, and worked more on Katy's stupid homework. They took me to class, and afterward we ran some errands. It was really nice to have a car to do the things that would have taken me hours on foot/ bus. We even made it down to see the Christchurch museum. They just opened a CHCH Earthquake exhibit. Its really well done, and it was nice for mom and katy to check out. We had a delicious dinner with Lauren and James and after tea and biscuits, we went to bed. 

This was mom and katy's last day!! We got all packed up, and headed over to check out the NZ Air Force Museum. It was really cool and FREE! In fact, while we were there, we met the author of this book dad had been reading in the book store a few days earlier. Its called Skyhawk, and it's all about the A4 (which my dad flew). He offered to sign the book, so we bought it along with a NZ Air Force t-shirft for Amy. It was set in this big dark hanger, with these cool spot lights on the planes. I'm so glad we went! Then it was time to drop them off at the airport… I walked them in, and got them all situated, and had one last big hug from both of them. I really haven't been homesick at all since I've been here. There's been times when I wished I could be home for a day, but I haven't been ready to get back. Seeing mom and katy cry made it a little tough to walk away. I sure do miss them!! 

I took the bus home, and there to greet me was Alec and his adorable self! Lauren, James, Alec and I sat outside in the beautiful sunshine. Alec is such a great baby and SO much fun to be around. I'm really glad I've gotten to spend time with him. That evening, I hopped on the bus, and headed for campus. Erin, Michelle, and I were headed to the Canterbury Crusaders rugby match. It was a blast!! We bought bratwursts, beer, and chips. SOO nutritious. They game was awesome!!! There were definitely parts I didn't understand, but overall I had SO much fun and WE WONN!!! 

Since then, nothing overly exciting has happened. I wrote an essay for a scholarship to support my senior honors thesis, went to frisbee league and practice, and got a B+ on my Alice in Wonderland paper. WOO!   But don't fret, this weekend I leave for Rarotonga. I'll be there a week, then I get back easter weekend and leave Monday for Wellington for Uni Games (ultimate tournament). After that, it's more campervanning with Michelle and Rebecca around the North Island, and my 3 week adventure finishes with 4 days at Cass research station in Arthur's Pass for my ecology class. It's going to be fun!!!!! I know this is epically long, and if you seriously read the entire thing.. you must be bored. :) but thanks anyways. 

PS: tonight Tess is helping me make a Pavlova for my friends 21st birthday!!!!! I'll let ya know how it goes… 

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