Friday, February 15, 2013

2 Nights in Queenstown!

Ok so I left off on Sunday so before I get into the good stuff of the last few days let me real quick. My fourth roommate Fonta moved in. She is a nice American so that brings our flat to 3 Americans and one Kiwi. The flat went out to the near by botanic garden to see the out door aviary and have dinner but it started to rain so we picked up some movies and ate dinner at home. We also went to the Otago Museum and visited their butterfly exhibit where you walk into this room filled with butterflies and just get to walk around while they fly around you and sometimes land on you. Finally I applied to the local SPCA to see if I can get a volunteer position with the dogs while I am here.

I left for Queenstown on Thursday with 5 others. We had Drews Kiwi host Maeve, one Canadian Johnny, and four Americans Sarah, Michelle, Drew, and I. We left for the 3 hour long drive at around 2:30 and when we got to the backpacker, called The Base, we met up with two other people in our group who chose to take the bus in who were two more Canadians named Landon and PK. The eight of us were supposed to get an eight person room together for the two nights but there was a problem with our reservation and Drew and I offered to stay in the room next door with six strangers. That night was Valentines day so Drew took me out for dinner at Wai. It was one of the nicest restaurants I have ever been to. I hade the oven rosted hake and he got the local market fish. The food was so fantastic! From what the menu said and what we understood of it all we knew we were getting was some type of fish and when our plates arrived I was blown away by how pretty they looked. I didn't want to ruin it by digging in but I was so hungry. The food was amazing, it had so much taste, I can't really describe it but it was amazing. We had strawberry and mascarpone roulade for desert which was also indescribably good. After dinner we went for a small walk around the lake but didn't make it too far since we were so tired.

Friday was a crazy long day we got up in the morning for bungy jumping. No I did not jump sorry to disappoint but I have no desire. But Drew, Michelle, Johnny, and Sarah did. It was pretty scary for my to watch as my boyfriend jumps off a bridge with just a giant cable attached to his ankles but he survived. Unfortunately my camera for what ever reason didn't record it but I have some pics of him getting ready and the bridge he jumped off of. He jumped off of the worlds first bungy jump called Kawarau Bridge. After that we headed back to Queenstwon to eat lunch and head out for our next adventure which was called River Surfing. River Surfing is when you suit up in a wetsuit, flippers, life vest, and helmet with a boogie board and ride white water rapids  It was pretty amazing and intense as we went over rapids that were at times over our heads some moments then others it was so calm that you could lay on your back and just enjoy the scenery.  We got to float by one of the sets from Lord of the Rings and even under the bridge that part of our group had jumped off a few hours earlier. It was so awesome but exhausting since we  had to kick most of the time to keep up and stay in the center of the river and hold ourselves on the boards when we went through the rapids. It was about two hours in the water and afterward we headed back to the Base to shower and head out for dinner. We had amazing burgers called Fergburger and got amazing burgers about the size of small plates! I got a Fergburger with blu cheese and couldn't even finish it. After dinner we headed out for ice cream and walked a little farther around the lake as a group. We hung out on some of the rocks and talked before heading back to Base to crash. Luckily one of the people moved out of the big group room so Drew and I were able to spend the night with the group and sleep soundly.

Saturday (today) we woke up and packed up for heading out to go back to Dunedin. On the drive back we stopped at a small gold panning village and walked around for a few minutes and got some nice pictures. When we got back to the flats Drew showed us the amazing GOPRO video from bungy jumping and I headed back to my flat for a shower and laundry. Now every one is caught up again! I am going to upload some photos on facebook so keep an eye out! I hope you all are enjoying my blog! Bye for now with love from NEW ZEALAND!!!!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Welcome to Beautiful Dunedin!

So where I left off was getting on the plane to New Zealand. Right now it is Sunday the 10th and 9:17 PM and I am officially moved into my flat! But before I get into today I will go over the last few days.

We go to New Zealand on Thursday morning at about 8:00 AM after flying for about 13 hours. When we arrived they were nice enough to take us straight to the hotel so that we could drop our gear and get a shower. Unfortunately we only had about an hour so it was not enough time for both of us girls in my room to shower so I offered to wait since I had a shorter journey then most of the other students. My room mate for the night was Francesca and after she got a shower we headed down to the lobby to go for a small basic safety meeting. After our little safety meeting we were taken on a walk around Auckland to see the sites and figure out where we were in the world. After the walk we were aloud to wander about and get food and cell phones. I purchased a $40 phone that only costs $20 a month on a monthly plan. It is a tiny thing that doesn't even have a key board so I am fighting with it every day to send out simple texts but I do get unlimited texting so I can't complain too much. We also grabbed some amazing sushi and ate it by the water. We met up after lunch and headed out for a walk and swim on the beach. The walk was up this small mountain I guess you could call it and the view from the top was across the harbor to Auckland. It was amazingly breath taking! Auckland is known as "The City of Sails" due to all the white sails of the sail boats in the harbor. After the little hike we went back down to the beach for a swim in the wonderful water. It was so nice and warm compared to the ocean in California. It was interesting because it went between warm spots to cool spots but it was so nice. THIS is a link to a cool photo of the beach and the little mountain that we climbed up. You can navigate around and get a feel for what it was like. Then we headed back to the hotel and I was finally able to get a shower before we headed into Auckland to grab pizza. After a lovely dinner we headed back to the hotel to crash long and hard for the next day.

Friday we got up around 7 for shower time and packing up luggage before breakfast and we headed out for Rotorua! On the way we stopped in a town called Matamata where some of the scenes from Lord of the Rings were shot and had lunch and some photo opportunities. Drew and I had our first meat pies which are like pot pies, Drew got a steak and mushroom and I got chicken and they were amazing! Then we hopped back on the bus to continue our journey. Our first stop in Rotorua was an amazing farm show where they showed us how they shear sheep and how they use their dogs to herd them. They actually have two different types of dogs, one to keep the sheep together and move them and another to run on top of the herd of sheep if they stop and get them moving again. After the show they took us outside and demonstrated how the herding dog works to get sheep through obstacles like fence gates and bridges and into a small pen. It was amazing to see the dog immediately react to the persons commands and focus so much on the sheep and what was being asked of it. The dog even knew the difference between left and right when it came to the sheep and could be directed to either side of the sheep. Also the dog never got too close to the sheep it moved them with just its body language and positioning. It was absolutely amazing. It made me think about THIS video that shows what skilled dogs and owners can get sheep to do. Next we headed out to Rainbow Springs to see rainbow trout and some kiwi bird babies! We spent our two nights in Rotorua in the Sudima Hotel right on the edge of a small lake that had many volcanic vents in it. After dinner we headed out to a Polynesian Spa for a lovely soak in some volcanic hot springs ranging from 39 to 42 degrees C!

Saturday we headed out to Wai-O-Tapu Geopthermal Wonderland and Lady Knox Geyser. We got to watch as the Geyser erupted and take a walk around an active geothermal field and see all of the amazing formations. Next we went ZORBING! This is when you jump in a ball with a little water in it at the top of a hill and you push yourself down and enjoy the water slide type ride down the hill. Its an amazing experience. Before we left they even let us lay on the track and rolled a zorb ball with one of our advisors over us. It was quite intimidating to look up the hill and see this ball rolling toward us but it barely felt like anything when it rolled over since it was going so fast and is mostly air. Finally for dinner we headed out to the Tamaki Maori Village for a night of cultural learning and experience! We started out with a traditional tribal greeting by the village and then they taught us some of their old games and customs. They even taught some of our boys (Drew) how to do the haka, yes I do have video proof he did do it and he did it so well! The night was completed with a traditional Hongi dinner where all of the food is cooked under ground.

Finally today Sunday we got up and had breakfast and had some time to pack up and relax until we left for the airport for our flight from Rotorua to Wellington and then on to Dunedin. The Rotorua airport was very tiny and ours was the only one getting ready to take off while we were there. Before we took off one of our students got the chance of a life time to spend the entire flight up in the cockpit with the piolets! We are still not sure how this happened but the flight attendent came up and asked if anyone would be interested in sitting up front and he went for it. Our next flight was from a slightly larger airport where they actually have a giant statue of Gollum from Lord of the Rings in the food court and the words "Middle of Middle-Earth" all to celebrate the release of the new Hobbit movie! We then hopped onto vans with our luggage and headed to our flats.

I am now moved into my 4 person flat. I am living with another American from Arcadia's group (Nikki), A Kiwi host (Charlotte), and another girl arriving tomorrow. I am right on the edge of campus in a tiny little quirky flat. We have a bike shed in the back that is infested with spiders and looks like it hasn't been used much, our washer and dryer are inside of our one bathroom and our dryer is upside down and seems to shut off for seemingly no reason while it is running. The door on the washer may just be loose since if you put enough pressure it starts up again. Well it is now 11:00 PM and my host is crashed already and I need to fold laundry before bed. I hope to put up pictures of my flat soon. If anyone needs my address for any reason let me know on Facebook and I will give it to you.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

On the way to Dunedin!

Well orientation has been amazing. We have been zorbing, to a Mauri village, to a hot spa, to a nature center, and more. I will post later about all of that, the reason it has been so long since my last post was due to the lack of internet in the hotels and not wanting to take too much time to find it and mess with it. For now I have 15 mins of internet in the Rotorua air port so I am going to get off and saving battery. We will be flying to Wellington and then off to school and settling into our flats. I can't wait to meet all of my flat mates and start to live my adventure! In the mean time here is a pic of Drew and one of my new flat mates Nikki and I after zorbing down a hill!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Waiting for Flight Time

Well as we wait for our 10 o'clock flight I think it is time to fill everyone in on the last four days.

Saturday we went to Santa Montica with Rachael and Allen. We walked around on the promenade and then walked down to the pier. After the pier we made it down to the water and got our feet wet and went for a nice beach walk. On the walk back we spotted a pod of wales out in the water splashing and swimming around. After about 5 minutes of them hanging out a motor boat scared them off. We walked back through the promenade we watched some street dancers. At the beginning of the show they collected money from the watchers and said that if they didn't make enough they wouldn't do the full show. After a few mins of goofing off they were done so I guess they didn't get enough. Next we went for my first Thai food experience. It was amazing my favorite was the Pad Thai it had an amazing texture and taste. After dinner we headed home to crash.

Sunday morning we got up for a rock climbing experience. We went to the Arc gym that is mostly bordering but Tiff let me do some actual on rope climbing. After rock climbing we were too late to go to the botanical garden and horse back riding so Drew took me on a long awaited date in old town. We went to a cool little hole in the wall pizza place and then went to a fancy theater for a viewing of The Hobbit. The theater was really cool, we picked out our seats when we payed and when we got in they were so comfy and the arm rests went up so that I could sit more comfortably.

Monday morning I got to give Allen a ride to work then promptly fell back to sleep. After a little morning cat nap we headed out to Hollywood. It was a quick drive surprisingly enough and the traffic wasn't too bad. We drove around looking at some of the sites then parked an walked around. We went to a look out and got some pictures with the Hollywood sign. Then we went to a pizza place and had fantastic artichoke and spinach pizza. We went and saw the Chinese Theater and saw all of the hand prints of the stars. After Hollywood we headed out for my first Whole Foods experience to grab dinner for the house. This Whole Foods was amazing, first you enter a parking garage that is at least 3 levels under ground and take an elevator up to the ground floor of the store that is actually two floors high. The coolest part was the escalators between floors had awesome cart escalators right next to them. Next we went to pick up Allen from work and start on dinner. Drew made his famous mediterranean pasta enough for 8. It was amazing and it was so amazing to have everyone together again for our last night just like we did for the first night.

Tuesday (today) was a pretty quiet day spent with laundry and Netflix. It was nice and relaxed since the washer took so long to do anything. We were going to take a hike but it just didn't end up happening. We made it a little bit after 4:30 to pick up Allen from work and head out for the airport and dinner. We had some Panera right outside of the air port and Allen dropped us off at the terminal. Checking in luggage took a little while due to the line but it was smooth sailing from there. In line we saw a few girls with two large checked bags and I started to wonder if we under packed a lot but now that we are with other students going in our program we feel more comfortable knowing that everyone else only had one large checked bag. Now it is 8:02 and we are sitting around talking to other students, we board at 9:15. I am going to see about walking around before 13 hours of sitting. My next post will be in New Zealand!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The City of Sparkling Lights

Well today got off to a good start waking up at 8:30 and doing computer things catching up on email, Facebook, and school work. Then had a wonderful breakfast with the handsome boy and did more hanging out and Skyped with Mommy and Midnight until we headed to JPL for a tour.

This tour was epic! Our first stop was the Mars Yard where they test out the test rover that is still on earth. One of Allen's friends who works at JPL showed us the rover and explained some of the amazing things it does. One awesome thing that it does is dril into solid rocks and suck up the fine grit, almost the consistency of flour, for testing. After that we got to see one of the rooms that they used to control the real Mars rover durring landing. We also got to see one of the ways that they test their systems before sending them. They set up all of the separate boxes on shelves connected to simulators and in some way simulate problems such as just randomly pulling cords or messing with what the simulators are telling the boxes. Then Allen took us to see his project the CubeSat and explained how it is going to work. It was amazing to see what he is doing and learn all about the most recent Mars mission. For those who may not know much about it I was told to youtube "7 Minutes of Terror" and "Where Were You When Curiosity Landed on Mars?." I will be watching those as soon as I finish writing.

After our tour we went out to dinner with Allen and Rachael at a lovely Mexican restaurant and then went up to the Griffith Observatory to enjoy the beautiful view of Los Angeles. It was amazing to see the beautiful shimmering lights of the city at night. I found it extremely funny to look over and see someone starring at their phone instead of the view. 

The plans for tomorrow are still in the air but Allen and Rachael are going to figure that out and since it is 11:30 here Drew and I are going to crash.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Battle between the Capulets and Montagues

Well we made it to California just fine we had a nice long bus ride to Allen's house and our driver was telling about an island near New Zealand called Bali that we should visit. When we arrived Allen and his wonderful roommates had a salad and lasagna with us and we just hung out and talked. Durring the night we were serenaded by the lovely battle between the Capulet and Montague cats outside. We were told last night that a couch outside had become the cat couch due to their territorial marking but not warned about the feud between them all night long. Luckily we were too tired to let it keep us up. The lovely ice palace is our home for the next few days since it has no real heat other then space heaters and it gets nice and chilly at night. As of this moment I have slept and been fed all thanks to my amazing boyfriend and its about shower time o'clock before we head out to JPL to get a nice tour by Allen and some friends. So far there are no solid plans for the rest of our stay, maybe some hiking or sailing or shopping. What ever happens is fine with me at this point.

It is just starting to set in that we are really going to New Zealand! My terror comes and goes in stages but knowing that I am not going to be in this alone makes me feel so much better. Well the shower is calling hopefully I will have more chances to check in while in California.