wow. let me just say that the last 3 weeks were amazing!!!! Monday morning Lauren was nice enough to take me to the Christchurch museum to catch the bus to Picton at 7am. after a 6 hour bus ride up the east coast I met Emma and Bert, 2 of my fellow Honey Badgers (UC Ultimate team) on the ferry that we took over to Wellington. The ferry ride was beautiful though we honestly spent most of the time in the cabin because it was beyond windy!!! We played fruit ninja for almost 3 hours, and I can proudly report I've busted 500. hahaha my accomplishments in this semester are quite profound. Anyways, we made it to Wellington around 5:30 and hailed a taxi to the fanciest hostel in all of town…. i'm lying. It was, well cozy. There were 6 of us in 3 bunk beds shoved into the smallest room you can imagine. Emma couldn't even get into her bed seeing as the ladders were pushed against the wall. To add, 3 of us were boys who significantly contributed to the foul odor of our humble abode EVEN with the windows open 24-7. Anyways, we moved right in, got sorted and headed out for dinner. We went to burger fuel which was DElicious. Then after a wander around town, we finally found a bar open on Easter Monday. Thank goodness for those Irish folks keeping the pubs open without fail. haha We had drinks at Molly Malones, and then went back to the hostel for a FANTASTIC night of sleep. (s-a-r-c-a-s-m). I woke up with a cock roach in my bed. lovely. Don't let that indicate how awesome the rest of my day was though. Emma, Bert, and Chris were nice enough to walk around town with me and Mai (newcomers to Welly). We went to Te Papa, the local museum, rode the cable car, and wandered around Cuba street. Wellington is a really cool city. That evening we all dressed up in Tron outfits for the Uni Games opening ceremony. Nothing a little spandex and electrical tape can't handle. We had a scavenger hunt at the zoo which was fairly uneventful except that we won a $60 dollar bar tab for Thursday. That night was full of healthy socializing at the hostel and then off to check out Wellington night life. It was a fairly early evening which was good because Wednesday was the first day of the tournament which held 4 games. Games were first to 17 or hard cap at 2 hours of play. That's 8 hours clocked in for the first day. We woke up at 7 and headed to the fields. Everyone had to get their accreditation checked, and then games started at 9. The first game was against Massy Albany. Most of their players were pretty new except one awesome girl who plays for the Aukland women's national team. It was good for our team to get our feet on the ground. We won pretty easily and it was SOO fun. The awesome handlers set me up to score a gagillion times which is always exciting. haha one point I got sandwiched between 2 guys something awful. I definitely felt a few things pop which was sweet, but it was worth it because I scored. lol Anyways, the second game was against the other canterbury team. honey badgers v. honey badgers. :) It was a fun game, and my team came away with the W. The third game was against one of the Vic teams which is the university in Wellington. It was a pretty close game, but we couldn't make it happen in the end and lost by 3 if I remember correctly. At this point, you might imagine that we were all feeling pretty tired. It was raining, and we were all walking with some serious swag (or limping… your call). We played AUT. They were all new ultimate players, but they were super athletic and really did well for their experience. It was sorta funny because they kept saying maybe they could beat us because we were injured. haha thankfully we were able to win, but they drug us out nearly the whole time allotment. During that match we tried to some interesting tactics. my favorite would have to be Alamo. it's pretty simple. Pull the frisbee, then let Tom do all the work. Call me pathetic, but I was DEAD. I was so so sore. We hobbled back to the hostel, left ALL our shoes and socks outside the room and got ready for dinner. After dinner it was another fun night of socializing. I must say that Canterbury clearly knows how to have a good time. Several other schools came to party with us at the hostel. Ultimate is an awesome community internationally. I met SO many great people, and actually while we were out on the town, I ran into the girls I was going campervanning with at the end of the week, Michelle and Rebecca. It was a late night, and an early rise to RAIN. Despite the pouring rain we loaded up the van and headed to the fields. to sum the next several hours up. It was FREEEEZZING cold, raining and windy. They relocated us to artificial fields, and after hours of deliberation, we decided to play out the draw just like it was to begin with… right. STIFF doesn't even begin to describe how i felt. Regardless, we played Aukland which turned into a complete social game. The wind was impossible, and all the players were really just having a good time. We lost, but honestly gave them a run for their money towards the end when we threw our super special drunk d on them. haha! This game I did lay out to score which was a kinda cool first. Then it was an hour and a half to get stiff again before we played the other Vic team from Wellington. Seriously SO stiff and spent, but picked ourselves up for another game. We ran drunk d and actually played really well. High point for this game would have to be the hand block I got. This was my first tournament so give me a break for being excited about these little things. I'll also mention that I got skied really bad by a giant guy in the in zone. That was sorta embarrassing. I took a dramatic tumble. We won, and then it was more prep for another super fun evening in Welly. We had a $60 bar tab to use. (stick with the girl who has the voucher) we conveniently made it to the bar early. It was a great night and everyone from Canterbury was on form to say the least. The next morning, we entered semi finals play third seed out of 7. The first game was against Aukland again. We played surprisingly really well and led the entire game until the last few minutes where we hit hard cap at 10-10. After a nearly 30 minute universe point, we lost. We all put everything into that game, so the game we had to play directly after for 3rd was a complete joke. in fact, after 10 or so points, we just quit to go watch the final btw Vic and Aukland. When I sat down, my muscles would charley horse. spent is the only word to describe my state. At the awards ceremony, our team got the spirit award which was cool and several of our players made the tournament team. Also, Tom, one of our internationals won male MVP which was awesome. :) I met SO many great people at Uni Games and I'm really glad I got to participate. After, I got back to the hostel, I showered, packed up, said goodbye. My sweet friends Michelle and Rebecca picked me up in our SUPER fancy campervan.
We left Wellington around 4 and started our 4 hour drive to Napier. We stopped for gas and dinner in Woodfield and situated somewhere to park our campervan when we arrived. It was SO great to catch up with Rebecca and Michelle. They're the girls I went on the overnight hike with early in the semester. We all get along really well. When we stopped for dinner in Woodfield, found a place just off the main road that when we walked in was clearly a local joint considering everyone and their mother looked at us. It was great food, and then we were back on the road. I'll mention here how awfully slow I was moving at that point. It took my at least twice as long as the other girls to get in and out of the van and even out of my chair at the restaurant for that matter. In Napier, we managed to plug ourselves in, and then I PAASSSEEEDD out. It was a long and taxing week for my body. In the morning, we got sorted for a Hawks Bay wine tour. We drove into town and picked up groceries and then the van picked us up for the afternoon. We visited 4 wineries in the area. The first was called the Mission Estate. It's the oldest in Hawks Bay, started by monks in 1851. The drive was lined with beautiful trees and it definitely fit the picturesque image you would expect. Behind the winery there's a giant hill that they do concerts on every year played by pretty big bands where somewhere around 50,000 people come out!! It's a beautiful place, and I really enjoyed what they had to offer. In fact, this place had my favorite wine of the whole trip, Pinot Noir. I wish I would have purchased a bottle. Maybe I can order online while I'm still in NZ. The second stop was a place called Ngatarawa. It means between two ridges. The vineyard was owned by a family with an English man and Maori princess. The location of it is on their original estate. The horse barns have been converted into a tasting room. The grounds were again, BEAUTIFUL, and we had some more great wine. What's unique about Ngatarawa and the next one we visited called Craggy Range vineyard is that they're both Gimlet Gravels wineries. This is a piece of land that put Hawk's Bay on the map internationally. Apparently the area is an old river bed, and the rocky soil forces the plants to be smaller, but produce larger grapes because they put all their energy into reproduction and not growth. Also, just outside the gorgeous modern facility of Craggy Range, is the Te Mata peak which is iconic to the Hawk's Bay area. The legend is, Te Mata, a maori warrior fell in love with a maori girl who was conveniently the chiefs daughter from another tribe. He requested the chief to marry the girl, but he said Te Mata had to eat his way through the mountain range to prove his love. So he started eating the mountain, and had some trouble with one chunk, and then died up on the mountain. The peaks of the range look like a man's profile laying down. It's especially visible after a few glasses of wine. The last stop was a place called Clearview Estate. It's right down on the water. At this stop, they fed us a YUMMY meat, cheese and cracker platter and we tried more delicious wine. At this place they had a red dessert wine that was unlike anything i've had before (which honestly isn't that difficult consider i'm FAR from a wine connoisseur.) but I wanted to buy a bottle to bring home, and we weren't going back to Mission, so I went for the dessert wine. I figured I'm going to be strapped for space/ weight already getting home, so the smaller bottle was probably a good idea. I can't wait to enjoy it back home with the family! I'm thinking this will be for a dinner at the See's with all the usual suspects kind of evening. After the wine tour, we jumped in the campervan and started the 6 hour drive to East cape… Now you might be thinking that sounds like a terrible idea to drive after a wine tour in the dark on a windy road up to a super remote region of NZ. Let me give more detail. We drank approximately 1 glass of wine over a 5 hour period, and then ate, sat around for an hour on the drive back to Napier, and then got in car. We were all sober as judges. It was quite an entertaining drive though. The roads that lead up to East Cape are not top on the list for quality. I can honestly say that some of the roads I've been on here in NZ hold a dim candle to the roads of Costa Rica and Spain. The most exciting part would have to be the blind turns one after another that require you to reduce your speed to at least 40ks. Towards the end of the drive, I went back to take a snooze which wasn't very snooze like because as my dear friend Michelle described… THE ROAD HAD WAVES IN IT!!! haha and there were seriously rats and possums the size of cats which was DISGUSTING and worthy of some girly screams. When we made it to the free campground, it was after mid-night and there was NO one there. It was sorta eerie to be honest. None of us even got out of the van. We just crawled back into the bed and snuggled up!! haha We woke up at 5:30 to drive out on the East Cape to see the sunrise. It's the furthest East point in the world. So we saw the sunrise first. Unfortunately, it was sorta cloudy on the horizon line, so it wasn't as amazing as it could have been, but it was still well worth all the effort. It was BEAUTIFUL. Totally energized but the sights, I jumped in for my 4 hour shift towards the Cormandel Peninsula. It was seriously the most beautiful drive I think i've done in NZ. Not surprisingly, when I went to nap that afternoon, I was NOT feeling so hot. everything was catching up with me, and my body, rightfully so, was starting to get sick. I had a terrible sore throat!! Thankfully, I was able to rest the whole afternoon on the way to the Hot Pools Beach which I definitely needed. We hooked up our van and sat out basking in the sunshine. It was a gorgeous day.
In the AM, we got up, and headed over to the hot pools beach with our spade to dig us a hot tub!! HA! such amateurs. we dug this hole for us to sit in, and then realized we were on the wrong part of the beach… by that time, the tide was coming in and we only had time to go sit around the bubbling, BOILING water coming out of the sand. Poor Michelle actually stepped on the bubble and scorched her foot. Hot Pools is no exaggeration!! Then, we thought why not enjoy the sunshine. So we laid down on the beach and soaked up the sun. There was a guy playing the guitar just down from our towels and it was perfectly relaxing. After a while I noticed there weren't anymore people on the side of the beach where we were, so I recommended we pack up. Thank goodness I said something because the tide had come in and all these rocks were nearly blocking our way off the beach. We weren't exactly fit to climb over the rocks, so we just waiting for the right break in the waves. Unfortunately, our spade was carried away in the water and Michelle got soaked by a wave that crashed on a rock near where she was standing holding all her gear. When we made it to the other side, we decided it was safe to hang out a little longer considering that's where all the people had gone. (when I say all the people, don't be confused. there were maybe 20 people on the entire beach.) After that, we went back to the campvervan to devise a plan over lunch.
First on the list was head up to check out Cathedral Cove. It's a half hour walk down to this beach surrounded by rocks with a caveish thing on one side.. Harder to explain than I thought. Definitely check out the pictures on Facebook. It was pink sand, and completely picturesque. After that we started our drive across the peninsula to Cormandel the township. It was another drop dead gorgeous drive on an unpaved windy road in what looked like a jungle. The sun was setting, there was a river that ran along the road, and it was just perfect. Only about 10k from our designation, we came across this whole group of BABY baby pigs along with a whole slew of other animals. All three of us reacted completely appropriately squealing like children and jumping out of the van to take pictures. They were the tiniest pigs I've seen in person. The funniest part is after we made this big to do about the pigs, we get back in the van and start to drive off and notice there's a farmer standing just out of sight laughing at us in our obnoxious "BACKPACKER" campervan. We made it into Cormandel for sunset, found our holiday park and made quite the feast for dinner. In the morning, we started the drive down the west coast of the peninsula and around to Aukland. Again, it was great drive!! SO beautiful, and actually all paved roads :) Hamish, One of the guys I met at Uni Games from Aukland was nice enough to let us park our campervan at his parents house for our time in the city. They were all over the top good to us letting us shower and use their kitchen as well as giving us all kinds of advice on things not to miss in the area and all around the North Island. After getting situated, we took the ferry into the city central. We walked up Queen's street and then headed over to the Sky Tower. I'm actually really glad we went up because It was the perfect way to see Aukland with someone there to point everything out. We also watched someone buggy off the top.. NUTS. that's all I have to say. After the Sky Tower, Hamish's sweet sister took us back to Howick to get ready for dinner. That night we ate in town, and then enjoyed running around the city on a Tuesday night. real classy!! The last day of vacation, we drove out to Mount Eden (volcano) and hiked up to get another awesome view of the city, and then went out to Musick point to eat lunch and sit in the sun some more. That evening, Michelle and Rebecca dropped me off at the airport and they headed up to the Bay of Islands (JEALOUS i missed it). We were so sad to leave each other. it was pathetic. We just had been spending so much time in that little campervan, it was weird to say goodbye. There are not many people I would be willing to cram into a 2 person campervan with, but i can honestly say there wasn't one time I wanted to get out. We had the BEST time exploring the North Island and I'd do it a hundred times over.
My flight back to CHCH was a STRUGGLE. I did the head bob the entire way. Thankfully, Lauren came to get me at the airport and when I got home at 10:30. I had to unpack, do laundry, repack and get to bed for the last part of my 3 week vacation. The next morning, I finished off some last minute details, and literally ran out the door to catch the bus to Uni for my field trip with my Ecology class. We loaded the buses at 8:30 and headed towards Arthur's pass to Cass Research Station. I won't bore you with all the details of my trip. I identified plants, estimated lots of canopy coverage, trapped and counted bugs, measured 120 tree diameters, and struggled through 2 short reports. I have to say, it was the coolest field trip i've ever been on. I actually learned quite a bit and really met some MORE great people. Another American John, taught me how to take pictures of the stars with my camera. You can imagine that they were pretty spectacular out there, and while my camera doesn't even close to do it justice, I was SO happy to have captured the southern cross.
After this COMPLETELY full on 3 weeks, I returned to CHCH and had a lovely dinner with Lauren, James, his parents Alison and Ian and Tess. It was really nice! Today was my first day back of classes. hahahahahahahahahahaha classes. i'm in classes? right. thank goodness my grades don't transfer. There's not much chance i'll be paying attention for my last 2 months in this AMAZING country.