Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Seconds, Please!

We now come to part two of our blogs on food.  This part will analyze the differences in New Zealand store cuisine versus American store cuisine.  One of the first encounters with New Zealand food came while we were in Auckland.  Each room of two in the hotel was given a bag with some food in it.  Basically it was milk, bread, peanut butter, jam, cereal, and biscuits (aka cookies).  I'm currently lacking two of these items, otherwise I'd put up a picture.  So the first three items were pretty typical.  The cereal was made by Kellogg's and it was nutri-grain.  Quite tasty.  The biscuits on the other hand... oh my god.  They're called TimTams and they are one of the best store bought cookies, I mean biscuits, I have ever eaten.

I don't know what it is about these things but they are absolutely delicious. I've tried a couple types and my favorite is still the original.  I was introduced a few weeks ago to the 'TimTam Slam,' in which you bit off a small portion of opposite corners, dip one end into a drink (milk, coffee, and hot chocolate being the primary choices) and drink.  If you choose a hot drink option, the chocolate on the inside will melt and you just suck it up.  I will say it again, so good.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cuisine by Design

So recently I had a blog explosion.  One or two posts a day for a week.  A lot, I know.  I was just so excited to share two of the best weeks I've ever experienced with all of you.  And now I don't really have anything to post.  Quite a shame.

As of right now, I am super busy with school work.  And my busy social life isn't helping any.  Due to this lack of time, I have a lack of subjects to blog about.  However, there is a subject that will apply to everyone that even my school and social lives can't get rid of.  And that topic is, of course, food.
Who doesn't like food?  (Rhetorical question by the way).  I know I've mentioned food in this blog before, but I don't think I've gone into too much detail.  That is about to change.  The rest of this blog is dedicated to some of the foods I have discovered/ been introduced to in New Zealand, be they good or bad.  That way I can make you drool and also, if you ever come to New Zealand, you'll know what's up.  We will start with some general observations...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Piece of My Heart

I would like to dedicate today's post to a very special lady in my life, Sassafrass, my cat.  ...Just kidding.  I'm dedicating to day's post to my mom, Karleen Kenney, for obvious reasons.  I hope your excited mom, because here comes your shout out.
Many of you know my wonderful mother and I hope you would agree with me that she is a marvelous lady. If you don't happen to know her, just trust me. 

Crêpes and Rugby, My Favorite

4/30/11     Kaikoura -> Picton -> Wellington -> Palmy
This morning began relatively late for the Kiwi bus, 9:00.  We hit a little snag, however, when Andy (the driver) told us that the alternator was broken and the battery was dead, thus the bus wouldn't start.  Luckily the mechanic was super fast in showing up and helping us out.  We were on our way by 9:17.
Due to our late start each of our stops was only about 5-10 minutes.  We did get to stop and see some seals.  Honestly, if you don't like baby seals there is something seriously wrong with you.  They're just so adorable and awkward.  Anyways, our only other stop was a toilet break.  Everything else was straight on to Picton to ensure we made the ferry to Wellington.

Feeesh and Cheeeps

4/29/11     Queenstown -> Kaikoura
The following words describe my day: wake up, drive, eat snooze, drive, fish and chips, beer, conversation, sleep.  We spent 8am-7pm driving and there’s not too much to elaborate on.  The following pictures encompass the day.
Our hostel
View from the window
Mt. Cook (?) in the background
Christchurch through a bug- spattered window
Our English friend, Georgina
Kaleb clambering onto Nora's bunk in his sleeping bag.

The Ride of the Rings

4/28/11     Te Anau -> Queenstown
The four of us in the tent happily rose for the day around 7 or so.  I think I was the only one in the tent who slept reasonably well.  Poor Kaleb was probably close to getting frostbite on his toes and only slept for around 30 minutes.  Nora was also super cold and didn’t get much sleep.  Tony was fine until his nose stuffed up midway through the night and he couldn’t breathe properly.  I was plenty warm, thanks to Nic’s sweet as sleeping bag.  I did get some pretty intense leg cramps at one point, but that was all.  Jess and Travis slept in the van and they seemed to be fine.
For once on our trip we were on schedule.  We left exactly when we wanted to, somewhere between 8 and 8:30.  We stopped for a quick breakfast then began our drive.  Due to our spectacular timing we ended up taking a detour to Arrowtown before going to Queenstown.  Arrowtown is a cute little town.  They filmed some of the Rivendell locations for LOTR here.  I don’t think that we went to any spot where they actually filmed, but it was easy to see.  Take a look for yourself…
We spent about an hour in Arrowtown before once again heading to Queenstown.  Upon arrival we checked Travis and Jess into their hostel, found some parking, food, and bathrooms.  A quick lunch later had us splitting up once again.  Kaleb, Nora, and I headed to ‘The Station.’  Here Kaleb and I were picked up for our horse ride and Nora was picked up to go do the Nevis Bungy, the largest in the world at 134 meters (440 ft).
Kaleb and I jumped onto the shuttle and rode 40 minutes out around Lake Wakatipu to their base in Glenorchy.  There we paid for our rides, dropped off our bags, and received riding gear in the form of helmets and boots.  Those of us going on the Ride of the Rings tour then got back on the bus and rode another 20 minutes to where we began our ride.  I was paired with a horse named Cort and Kaleb was placed with Bob, the biggest horse there.As there were 16 riders we were split into two groups of eight, each with two guides.  Our group was off first.  The horses quickly formed a single file line, with very little instruction from us.  And we were off, exiting the paddock at a nice, sedate walk.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pacific Polar Plunge

4/27/11     Bluff -> Milford Sound -> Te Anau
Our poor planning once again affected our day.  We awoke around 8 or so, donned our togs (bathing suits) and headed for the coast.  It was time for our version of a polar plunge.  We were hoping to find some sort of dock or pier for total, immediate immersion, but we couldn’t.  Instead we found a spot to climb down to the beach and run in.  We were split evenly as a group, 3 diving and 3 spectating.  Travis, Kaleb, and I were the brave ones jumping in.  So we shed our clothes, handed away our cameras and went for it.  We waded in and dove under a wave.  We were off the coast of one of the southernmost locations of the South Island, in April, at 8:30 in the morning.  Basically, it was really cold.
After that first submersion it actually wasn’t too bad.  However, knowing how cold it actually was, I walked back out almost immediately.  What a way to start the day!
Our delusions that we were doing well on time lasted about another hour before shattering.  After showering off the salt water and packing up the van once more we were quickly informed by Bertha (the GPS) that we had a 4.5 hour drive to reach Milford Sound, which we needed to be at in 4.5 hours to catch our boat.  This led to the decision to skip the viewing of Stirling Point, a location I really wanted to go to.  Why, you ask?  Because Stirling Point has one of those posts with signs and distances pointing to locations all over the world, including the South Pole.  Sadly it was a no go.

Like a Kid in a Candy Shop

4/26/11     Dunedin -> Bluff
If you don’t already know (I’m not sure why you would) we are, as a group, terrible at planning things.  The ultimate result of that, at this stage in our trip, is no set plans on hostels, activities, food, or travel times.  Our general idea for the day today was to tour Cadbury World, their factory in Dunedin (Pronounced Duh-knee-din if you were wondering) or to tour the Speight’s Brewery.  After that we were to hit up the steepest street in the world, then drive to Invercargill/Bluff, find a hostel or campsite and hang out in town the rest of the day.
As general plans go it was a good one.  We did our tours, I went for the chocolate (obviously).
After that the chocolate group wandered the city for a while waiting for the beer group.  Once reunited, around 11:30, we drove across the city to find Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world.  We found it.  It did help that we plugged it into the GPS, but whatever.  This street just looked unrealistic.  And, of course, us being us, we walked all the way to the top.  Once there, due to the grade, you couldn’t see the actual street, just the very end.  It was just insane, I can’t really think of a better word.

Would You Like a Little Wine With that Cheese?

4/25/11     Wanaka -> Queenstown -> Dunedin
Today was utterly jam packed with action.  Well, not really.  We did a lot, though.  Today was Easter Monday and ANZAC Day.  (For those of you who don’t know about ANZAC Day, you can investigate here- ANZAC Day)  Basically it just screwed up timing for shops and everything.  There were parades and such too, but we didn’t see any.
Our first stop today was Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World.  This place was awesome.  There were illusion rooms, a puzzle room, a two story outdoor maze, and the Leaning Tower of Wanaka.  Due to time limits we could only stay for about an hour.  I could have easily stayed for two or three.
A quick drive then led us up to the Wanaka airfield where we picked up a fellow Kiwi traveler who went skydiving.  From there we were off to AJ Hackett’s Kawarau Bungy Centre.  We watched a film on the history of bungy and then went out back to the Kawarau Bridge and watched people bungy.  Some of them were even from our bus.  Four to be exact.  Two girls and two guys.  This jump is 43 meters (142 feet).  AJ Hackett also does the Nevis Highwire Bungy which is 134 meters (440 feet), which Nora is doing on Thursday afternoon.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Jesus, Rabbits, and Eggs. Happy Easter Everyone!

4/24/11     Franz Josef -> Wanaka
I would like to start this day off by saying Happy Easter!  I didn’t even realize it was Easter until someone said it to me.  And even then I doubted it.  How could it be Easter?  It’s so early!  And it’s autumn, not spring.  Confusing!
But anyways, we started out early again this morning, 7:30 am.  We headed out along a very twisty road to hit up Lake Matheson.  Due to the cloudy weather we did not “catch the perfect mirror reflection of Mt. Cook.”  But we did spend an hour or so walking around the lake.  It was still pretty, despite the clouds and brief rain.
Most of the rest of the day was spent driving.  We stopped at the Gates of Haast (which is a bridge) and checked out the river.  I have seen so many rushing rivers in the past few days and yet I’m still amazed at each one. 
After regaining the road we traveled up and over the Southern Alps, leaving the west coast behind.  We were soon captivated by the beauty of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea and stopped to take pictures of the latter.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A World of Pure Imagination

4/23/11     Franz Josef
I was awakened early this morning by the departure of Kristen and Tifah.  They decided to jump ahead a bit since they have assignments to work on.  So we are temporarily down to five people.  The rest of us got up about 8:15 or so.  Nora, Tony, and Kaleb were going on a full day glacier hike.  I was keeping an eye on the weather to decide if I really wanted to go on the 5 hour hike I had planned for the day.  You see, it was pouring rain outside when we woke up.  I didn’t really feel like 5 hours of walking in the rain.  I did, however, really want to see the Franz Josef glacier.
The rain had fizzled out by around 10 am so I decided to go for it.  By the time I left, about 10:45, it was raining pretty steadily again.  I quickly stopped at a shop and bought a hat, my best decision of the day.  I then forged on in my journey.  My first goal was to make it out of town, which I did without a hitch.  I had to cross a bridge that went over a rushing river flowing down from the glacier.  There were ice chunks being tossed about that were bigger than me. 

After getting my fill of awe-inspiring river currents, I crossed the one lane bridge and proceeded along the road for almost an hour until I reached the first hiking trail.  I used this trail to connect to my trail, where I was greeted by a sign.
If you cannot read this sign, it says “The track section at the end of Roberts Point Track is closed to the public until early May.  This is to allow the construction work to be completed for a new viewing platform.  The track is closed at the Rope Creek Suspension Bridge and it is not possible to see the glacier from there.”  I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I had just trekked an hour through the rain to reach this point, only to find out my trail was basically a bust.
I quickly (relatively) decided to keep going on my original path anyways.  I really wanted to go on some suspended bridges.  I walked along this path for another 15-20 minutes when I reached another intersecting trail.  This one led to Peter’s Pool, which my map told me was a “fantastic reflective view up the glacier valley” and the trail sign told me was only 20 minutes away.  I decided to detour and attempt to see the glacier before coming back and crossing the bridge I could just see through the bush.
About 15 minutes later this is what I saw.
Not too reflective, but it was pretty crappy weather.  After careful consideration, aka a split second decision, I decided to continue on my current path to hit up yet another different trail.  This one leading to a lookout point to view the glacier.  Also only a 20 minute roundtrip.  After reaching the apex of this trail, this was my view…

Sunday, May 1, 2011

When Men Were Men and Sheep Were Nervous

4/22/11     Lake Mahinapua -> Franz Josef
Our departure times have steadily been getting later.  Today it was 9:30.  We took a quick jaunt down the road to the Bushman’s Centre.  Here we watched a video on helicopter deer recovery.  It was really interesting.  These guys were pretty nuts, jumping out of helicopters onto deer before inventing net guns.  The movie even featured some Top Gun music.  Classy.  After the video we wandered around.  There were three possums (alive), two eels, two big ass pigs, a goat, a wallaby, and some deer.  I read some articles about the deer recovery and did the whole tourist in a gift shop thing.
After a brief breakfast we all trooped back onto the bus and resumed our journey.  Our only other stop along the way was at Lake Mapourika for a brief look.  After that it was straight into Franz Josef.  We stopped at the glacier company’s center so those people doing the hike tomorrow could be briefed.  I went inside a souvenir shop.  Kristen lost her phone.  It was a very eventful time.
Our next, and final, stop was the Rainforest Retreat, our hostel.  We were placed in the last open room they had, a 6-bed dorm.  We later determined it must have originally been a 4-bed and they just stuck in another set of bunks.  Overall that room just smelled bad.  The only time it didn’t was when there was no one in the room to say it did.  So basically the room was small and smelly.

Nora, Kaleb, Tony, Travis, and I decided to hike up to the Tatare Tunnels Walk.  The path led to an old gold mine which we trekked through.  Being an old mine the floor was covered in water, enough to reach the ankles in most places.  I decided to go barefoot and save my shoes.  Unsure of how far the tunnel went we just kept walking.  Due to the whole tunnel being pitch black without our torch light thing, we managed to spot some glowworms.  Sadly the pictures of them glowing didn’t turn out.  The pictures of their web things did, though.

Highway to the Danger Zone

4/21/11     Westport -> Lake Mahinapua
There was plenty of driving today, but I feel like there was even more stopping.  We began the trip with an hour and a half hike down the coastline.  We began near a lighthouse and ended just past a seal colony (yay seals!).  Everything in between was beautiful.
Our next stop was a little scenic overlook with a huge view.  From there we drove about another 10 minutes to a small track down to the ocean.  On the walk down we encountered two huge trees, literally in the middle of the path.  It was pretty cool.  Down by the water was awesome as well.  The waves were coming in really hard and it was nice to just sit and watch.
 About 15 minutes down the road from that stop we stopped again, this time at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes.  This place is amazing.  It’s about a 20 minute trek, but the scenery and the ocean make it a 30 minute trip, minimum.  There is no way anyone can just walk straight through without pausing to check out this force of nature.

Water, Water, Everywhere, But Do I Really Want a Drink?

4/20/11     Nelson -> Westport
Quite a bit of today was spent on the road, and quite a bit of my time was spent sleeping.  Over the past few years I have adapted to bus riding so much that it’s just natural to sleep.  It’s great for drum corps summers, but not so good when the scenery is absolutely gorgeous.  Oh well.  At least the time passed quickly.
Our first stop was the Nelson Lakes.  There we went on a brief walk through the brush.  We walked along the beach on the way back, even forging a stream.  After drying my feet it was time to eat lunch, feed ducks, and watch people jump into the lake, the crazies.

From there we did a great deal more driving, stopping in Murchison for some ice cream.  I signed up to do some jet boating on the way to the hostel.  This place also offered quad rides and horseback rides.  Out of the group of seven, only Tifah and I did anything.  We were dropped off with the others and the bus kept on going to the hostel.

Kayak Chaos

4/19/11     Nelson
The third day of our South Island journey.  For the second day in a row we rose before 6:30.  This time the plan for the day was a kayak trip through Abel Tasman National Park.  We were picked up shortly after 7am.  The first thing the driver, Reagan, said to us was, “Do you want the good news or the bad news?  The good news is that we’re going kayaking today.  The bad news is that the heating in the bus?”  And then he just shook his head.  This was terrible news because it was quite cold out and we were all dressed for kayaking.
So we sat on the cold bus for over an hour, huddling close to stay warm.  When we arrived at Kaiteriteri kayaking, we split into groups.  Six of us (poor Kristen was placed in the other group), along with two Brits, Matt and Jenna, were introduced to Emily, our guide for the day.  We then participated in a brief clothing dress up and a procedure run down.  After that we loaded our kayaks onto the trailer and headed down to the beach.
Before we knew it we were on the water.  We were all in two person kayaks with rudders.  Kaleb was my partner.  He sat in the back and was supposed to man the rudder.  It took him a bit to get used to it.  Even then his multitasking skills were nonexistent (sorry Kaleb).

Our trip started out pretty chill.  We paddled out to where Emily told us.  On the way we watched a gannet divebomb a fish only a couple of meters in front of us.  Pretty cool.  We then paddled over to some caves since it was high tide.  This is when Kaleb and I discovered our talent for rowing backwards.  We were pretty freakin good at it.  We then paddled across some open water to an island.  As we were crossing I told Kaleb I really wanted to see some seals.  My wish came true.  There were seals all over the coast of this island.  So extremely cool.
From there we paddled some more and made landfall to eat lunch.  Our lunch consisted of two sandwiches, a muffin, a cookie, hot chocolate, and apple juice.  Not what we were expecting out of a provided lunch, but totally delicious.  The second group caught up not too long after.  Emily had our group share some ‘talents.’