Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rees-Dart Track

2 Days until Christmas!


Moving into our new flat.


Adventure Sports

So we got back to Queenstown the other day after 5 days of being gone, and realized the summer crowd has infiltrated the city.  Seriously over the time span of a few days, thousands of people made it into the city.  As we were sitting in town eating delicious protein in burger form (we just got back from hiking and all we wanted to eat was hamburgers) we realized how uninformed we are living in our bubble.  We don’t watch the news or have internet readily available so we are able to check world events.  What we do keep up on is the Lakes Weekly Bulletin.  This is basically a Queenstown area classified with coupons for restaurants and bars in the neighborhood.  We love reading the bulletin so much it was to the point that Ash, our Roommates, and I were all sitting in a coffee shop reading our individual bulletin catching up on the sales and coupons as soon as it was delivered to the shop. 

Well during one of these regular pow-wow’s in the coffee shop we decided to make a list of things that we want to get accomplished before leaving.  The list includes but is not limited to:

*Blowing Bubbles in the Park  *Selling Rice Crispies  *Camping  *River Surfing  *Skydiving  *Finger Painting

In order for Ash and I to get a working visa here in New Zealand we were required to  

buy insurance.  Basically it just covers incidentals, but all in all it seemed like fairly good coverage.  Well after we purchased the insurance we were reading what was not covered.  Basically it does not cover any injury related to adventure sports including hiking, bungy jumping, skydiving, mountain biking, etc.  After reading these clauses we were a little depressed, because those were all of the things we were planning on doing while we were in the adventure capital of the world.   We decided we were just going to be careful, but mainly we found a loophole in the insurance policy.  When skydiving, the participant does not get injured…. they die.  So, we won’t need insurance for that anyway.  Serious loophole. 

The other day Ash, Dana, Tatty, and I all jumped out of a perfectly good airplane at 15,000ft.  You may think this sounds like an act of insanity, but it was seriously one of the most amazing experiences.  I was so excited and there really wasn’t enough time to second guess jumping.  First of all you are strapped to the front of a huge man, and basically he leans into you and you fall out of an airplane.  There isn’t enough time to turn back.  Tatty reminded me “It is exactly like all of the dreams I have had about flying”.  I am now considering a profession in skydiving, but that maybe expensive and time consuming.  But hey it’s worth looking into.  Mom, I know this freaks you out, but that’s why I didn’t tell you I was going before hand.  I just told you now so you would know I lived.  

The Reese-Dart Track

We just go back from our first major “tramp” in New Zealand, the Reese-Dart Track.  This is considered a high level class, but since we are so keen on hiking it wasn’t too difficult.  In addition to the 75 kilometers of the main walk we did a side trip of about 15 kilometers.  It took us four days of strenuous walking.  The first two days we walked about ten hours, and the second two days we walked about five hours.  My three companions (also my roommates in Queenstown) on this trip are all taller than 5’8”.  I on the other hand am barely 5’4”.  I have accepted my height and generally I don’t wish to be taller (although I still think 5’6” is the perfect height).  For this trip I was definitely working quite hard to keep up with the girls.  They weren’t necessarily moving ultra fast, but typically 1 of their strides is 1.5 to 2 strides for me.  Tatty made the observation that my legs take lots of tiny baby steps.  I was quick to say, “These are GIANT steps for me; your leg span is just 12 inches longer than my own.”  For some reason I move quite a bit faster down mountains than they do.  Basically I have realized unless I am nearly running I am left alone on the way up the mountain, and if I don’t consciously go slower on the way down I am alone in front of the pack.   Either way I am hiking at my own pace for a bit of each walk. 

We were blessed with gorgeous weather on the first day, but it didn’t stay that way for the rest of the trip.  The last two days we hiked in complete down pour.  Luckily New Zealand caters to tramping and they have handy huts to sleep in.  Every night after our hike we had a warm, dry place to sleep and refresh.  It is funny when you take off your rain jacket and it is just as wet on the inside as on the outside.  We were light hearted about the situation even though Ash and I have a phobia of rain since a near death experience in Alaska’s rain this summer. We were fairly good about remembering the nostalgia of rain when we were children, so we turned being cold into jumping through puddles on purpose.  Wet feet just became the norm, and coldness reminded us of playing in the rain as children (mostly).  I don’t even have that many blisters (well less than ten).   On our side trip we walked near a glacier in canyon saddle.  This was definitely a highlight of our trip.  As we were walking we heard a loud crashing sound, and when we turned we realized the glacier was caving on the mountain.  The breakage then created a small avalanche, which is probably one of the coolest things I have every witnessed. 

We made a few acquaintances on the trip and they were all sure to try and help us out as much as possible.  I don’t think that they knew how much of the terrain we were used to, and how competent in the outdoors we actually are.  Ash and I tend to go hiking/camping quite often in much tougher conditions, and the girls (Dana & Tatty) lead wilderness trips during the summer in the Northern Hemisphere.  Our “new friends” soon realized we would be fine when we would tramp passed them during the day and rush to do side trips.  I think that we just don’t fit the stereotype of outdoor, but it is pretty fun to play that role as well.  I am pretty sure they were just ultra confused.  Especially because we would wake up late (around 10am) and brew coffee in our French presses in the morning.  We just operate on a very different level than most of the population.  

We seem to do best when we are surrounded by nature.  It really just allows us to refocus, and realize how good living is.  Ash pretty much summed it up as she was walking a very strenuous, nearly vertical track.  At the top- done with the climb she leaned over the view of rows of mountains and exclaimed, “I am the luckiest duck!  I love life!”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Our Apartment

I guess sometimes I need to be reminded that you actually don’t know what is going on in Ash and my life… even though to us it may seem like mundane day-to-day stuff, you still don’t have much of an idea of what’s going on.  Thanks for the reminder of your daily checking the blog Char.

For the first month Ash and I lived in Queenstown we were living at a backpackers hostel called Hippo Lodge.  Because of work and other obligations we decided to move out of the Hippo into an apartment just down the road.  We are living with two other girls that we met at the Hippo, Dana and Tatty.  They are childhood friends from Maine.  We are really grateful to have met them because we have truly clicked.  Our roles so far seem to be the girls are like our younger sisters, and for some reason we were meant to meet and be together for this period of time.  Our mutual friend Tom was concerned and asked, “Is this a good decision to live together?”  So far it has been great, but I completely understand his concern because we don’t tend to get much accomplished other than “living in the now”.  The new joke is “I wish Tom could see us right now.”   This is especially said when we are productive, but is also asked when we are especially not productive. 
It all started on Thanksgiving.  We planned a pretty great feast, but first we decided Mimosa’s were merited.  Well Mimosa’s lasted longer than anticipated, and our Thanksgiving feast was pushed back a few hours.  Tom (a true English Bloke) witnessed the whole day first hand.   I am fairly certain he thinks we are ridiculous, but I am sure that he loved every minute.  He definitely only saw one side of our friendship with Dana and Tatty.  All in all Thanksgiving was a great day--- sun, friends, mimosas, and “thankfuls”.  The only way it could have been better is if you all were here with us.

It is funny to think that it is almost Christmas because it is about 70* to 80* most days.  It really feels like it should be mid June, I guess this is what we signed up for when we wanted an endless summer... that and the whole Southern Hemisphere thing.  Oh, PS I forgot that there are different stars here.  Yes, I remember we learned about the stars in the Northern Hemisphere vs the Southern in elementary, but sometimes I forget.

Back to my original train of thought, despite how the weather feels we splurged and bought Christmas decorations.  By splurged I mean we spent 13bucks at Salvation Army and spruced up the apartment.  I think it looks pretty chic, maybe shabby chic, but still chic.  We have the essentials a tree, lights, and tons of purple garland.  I know purple might not be the first color you think of when you think Christmas, but hey we were at Salvo and the choices were semi-limited.  It looks extraordinary, I promise.  We even made popcorn strands, but the microwaves here are tricky and we burned some of the popcorn.   I say it adds color, which is great since we can’t afford to buy cranberries for strand. Once again, “Eh, it’s good enough.” 

We live about a seven-minute walk to town, which is great for work and late nights.  It is in a nice area instead of our usual shady apartment in Anchorage.  Yesterday as we were all at work, Ash was home taking a nap after her shift, and had heard running water and thought, “Is someone taking a shower?” A few minutes later when she actually woke up she realized that no one was home, but the water was actually coming from the wall and ceiling.  Within the first week of us living in our new apartment we were flooded with 2 inches of standing water.  This would seriously only happen to us… which is why I think we were not surprised.  Our landlord is great, because he came over immediately and is fixing the problem.  As of now we are staying in an hotel (courtesy of Berry (Land lord) until the floor dries allowing us to move back in.  But at least we already decorated for Christmas.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

This is where Ash works.


The Mt. range behind us is called The Remarkables.

Fun times looping to Fernhill.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This is where we live...

This is the view from our deck.

View of Queenstown from the top of the gondola trail.

This is our deck.

Moss, the laziest hungriest cat ever.

Friday, November 21, 2008

In Queenstown

It is funny to think that we have been here just under two weeks, because it seems like forever.  Ashley has a job as wait staff at a local restaurant/bar in town called Winnies, if you want to check out the site http://www.winnies.co.nz/ .   I am still waiting to hear back if I have the bartender position at the same restaurant, but things tend to work out so hopefully it will work out soon.  With our new jobs we have started our more permanent residence here, and I definitely feel at home in Queenstown.  We have done a bit of hiking around our town, and we are started planning overnight trips.  We will probably start taking these trips within a few weeks, and then I think our idea of New Zealand will be more mentally solidified. 

I have just been talking with one of my housemates, Henry, and I was reminded how fortunate I am.  We are sitting of the deck of our home listening to music, drinking tea, and watching the clouds.  I am more accustomed to the scenery than he is (Brazilian) but still I feel so blessed to be apart of this town.  The clouds are high, with patches of blue, and the birds are chirping.  In this cloudy day there is so much hope.  The view from our house is nearly unbeatable.  We have the mountains, the city, and the lake.  I am sitting listening to my new friends speak Portuguese.   Usually if I can’t understand a language I assume that I am the topic of discussion.  Vain I know, but it is still the game I play.   This theory is usually thwarted because I pick up proper nouns like “work holiday”, “visa”, “Christchurch”, etc.  Anyway, I have recently realized sometimes I am more comfortable being around other world citizens than being around Americans.  It is really fun to be able to learn the secrets of another culture.  How they view work, fun, friendships, and relationships.  I am often stunned on how black and white issues to me are not black and white in every culture.  Even though I may be a bit concerned of what I have learned, I am grateful to be apart of the knowledge/beliefs shared.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Queenstown, New Zealand

November 11, 2008 

We flew from Sydney last week to Queenstown, New Zealand.  We have been busy (well sort of) looking for jobs and places to live.  We started our trip by staying at a local hostel.  In this stay we realized that there are loopholes to paying rent.   If we were fortunate enough we would be able clean for accommodation.  We had ruled this out because the manager basically told us no.  We found out that she had changed her mind (typical female I guess) when we were abruptly woken up at 8am asking if we were still interested.  Long story short we are living at the Hippo Lodge in Queenstown.  We have 5 roommates, four boys and one other girl.  They are all really great and easy going.  Mostly they all enjoy hiking, camping, and biking.  I think we’ll all get along fine.  It feels a lot like being in college, other than we don’t have to feel bad about not doing our homework.  We sit around most of the day talking, drinking tea, reading, and sleeping.  We work at a minimum 3 days a week, and that covers 3 days of accommodation.  This is great because basically our biggest expense is paid for, by a couple hours of work.  So right now all I need is a part time job to keep busy.  This will hopefully take up a bit of my free time and will pay for all of the things one is meant to do in the adventure capital of the world. 

The job Ash and I want most is to work at an outdoor company called Outdoor Sports.  This seems to be the best option because this will be a great way to find out where to go in these great outdoors.  I think that we might be easy ins though, because we played up the Alaska card.  Also to our advantage we were wearing our Arcteryx clothing and this was definitely noticed by the in store manager; the main reason is the store is looking to hire females (luckily we are correct gender).  If you remember please keep us in your prayers, because we would really like to work there.  

We have basically just been playing up the fact that we don’t have jobs, so we have been “tramping” about (hiking) and seeing as much of the mountains as we can.  It is funny how similar to home it is, but I have random moments when I have the realization “Sh*t I’m in New Zealand”.  It is just amazing!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Day in Manley


November 1, 2008

During the last few days of our cruise we were quite sad, but really ready to be on to our next adventure.  If we would have had enough money I am sure that we would have extended our stay on the Dawn Princess and sailed around Australia for the next 28 days.   During the last two days of our cruise we truly felt at home on the ship.  I don’t necessarily think we were so comfortable because of the duration of our cruise; I think we were comfortable because we lived what we like to call “Alaska Days”.  On our Second to last day sailing, we did a bit of scenic cruising through Fjord Land in New Zealand.  This was so much like being in Alaska, very majestic.  The mountains and waterfalls towered over our ship and really put into perspective how small we are.  Ash and I got up early- 9ish, and we bundled up- sweatshirts, hats, and mittens.  From the deck we just sat on the lounge chairs sipping our coffee watching the mountains drift by.  We didn’t appreciate how funny this might seem to non-Alaskans, until we looked around and noticed our fellow passengers were taking snap shots of us with our coffee and mittens. 

On our last day we packed and took our time saying good-bye to our temporary home and ship friends.  After packing we decided we needed to break, so we traveled up seven flights of stairs to the open deck and sipped Alaskan Summer Ale.  Three beers is always a great idea.  We revealed our quirkiness to a new bartender beginning up our last night with loads of giggles.  Our friends informed us of some things they observed of us.   The three that stick out most to me are the following.

Impression of Ash , “Hahaha, my name is Ashley, and in five minutes I will be Yelling.” (He was our bartender.)

About our dancing and overall demeanor, “It is refreshing to see people having fun, and not being concerned with what others are thinking.”

Our role on the ship, “You are the queens of the Ship.”

All are funny to think about, because all these things we knew, but it is interesting that others observe this as well.  I forget that in my people watching we are probably being watched as well. 

It’s strange to think that we have been in Sydney for a week.  We have walked about and seen the Opera House, the Botanical Gardens, the Red Light District, China Town, Paddington and the Beach.  We have three more days here to finish up all of our sightseeing, but I am certain we have seen Sydney to best of our ability and to the best of our budget.  So far the highlight of our trip has been a three-day camping/hiking trip to the Blue Mountains.  Luckily we have our camping gear with us because we love to be outside.  We only ran into minimal people on the trail, and minimal difficulties camping. 

We walked from Mount Victoria, through the Blue Gum Forrest, Down Govetts Leap Brook, to Bridal Veil Falls (said like Buddy the Elf).   We both climbed under one of the waterfalls and Ash braved the second on her own; it is an awesome thing to bathe under a waterfall.  After our first day hiking we camped near a river so we decided to bathe and wash/rinse our clothes out.  This was great because the water is much warmer than Alaska’s 34* water.  Basically we were in a canyon for 2 days and had to hike out.  It is so different hiking out of a canyon, because the hike up is seriously 90*.  Luckily someone had been there before us and had etched out these handy-dandy stairs (the stair-master’s got nothing on us, but my quads are a bit soar).  The canyon at its highest is probably 2500’ but it is so impressive we you look straight up and only see a wall of rock.  We had great weather and very little rain during the night.  The only slight scare we had was we ran out of water.  Don’t worry it ends well.  At the end of the summer we bought a Steripen, so eventually we found some relatively clean water and sterilized it.  So far we haven’t had any digestion problems, so I think the water was clean.  It couldn’t have been planned better, so thank you for your prayers we are safe.  

Fjord Land, NZ Cruise

Dunedin, NZ Cruise

Saturday, October 25, 2008

October 26, 2008

The other day our ship docked in Auckland, so we are semi-officially here!  We have been sailing around New Zealand for the last few days and we very much feel at home.  It is going to be great to start our adventure for real.  Basically in each port we walk off the ship and explore on our own.  In Auckland we walked around and by the end of the day we made our own pub-crawl.  This was great because we haven’t had beer since Alaska.  We were convinced to start this journey because there was a sign on the pub’s door that commanded, “Screw the economy, have a beer”.  Immediately we were sold and with that invitation, we actually helped support the economy (two birds with one stone, win-win).

We have been to Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin.  We have decided that we chose right to live in the south island because it is much more scenic and easy going (more our pace). 

Once again like good Alaskans we chose to go hiking while we were in Christchurch.  Only this time Ash actually researched where we needed to go to get to the trailhead.  Christchurch is more hilly than mountainous, but still beautiful.  Basically we knew that it would be a fairly easy day.  We had invited a couple of our crew friends along with us, but I think they forgot to consider they would be hiking with true advocates.  Ash and I realized that our friends probably weren’t in the best of shape when we started on the road to the trailhead and complaints were already heard.  Needless to say Ash and I reached the top a bit before our friends did.  The mountain we climbed is maybe 2000’, nothing to Alaska 4200’ hills.  It was a really great day and the view was nearly spectacular.  When we later saw our friends back on the ship we found out that they were very soar and we having a tough time working.  Our friend Amilton announced to us as he was walking through the atrium between shifts, “I am screwed”.  I guess he was truly soar.  Maybe next time I should consider how much hiking an individual does before such an invitation is given. 

While we have been in New Zealand for just these few brief days we have realized how unfriendly Americans are.  I know this because I judge us against the kiwis I have met.  They are continually quick to help with directions and information.  Ash and I walked into a t-shirt store and the attendant asked if we were American.  Our answer was “Yes, but were from Alaska”.  He quickly responded “That’s not America, that’s Alaska! Well Welcome to New Zealand!!”. He was very friendly and gave us sound advice to place a Canada patch on our packs so people think we’re Canadian.  This is helpful, but then people would think we’re Canadian.  I think we are just going to continue to say we’re from Alaska; it’s a good loophole. 

We reached Sydney today.  I think we are both to be off the ship, because we are anxious about beginning our new life/adventure.  I truly am going to miss being on the ship, but I know that I will be on again very soon, so it is a good consolation.    

Friday, October 17, 2008