Saturday, November 25, 2006

baked goods make for baked brains

first, happy barfday, mara! normally i keep family out of this, but my sister's birthday is today and i thought you all should know.

we've been in the hinterlands of nz for the past couple weeks hence radio silence. we conquered two of new zealand's great walks, the milford track and the routeburn track, were boxed out of renting a car, still managed to putter our way down to invercargill and stewart island, and are currently living it up in the oh-so-scottish dunedin. somewhere in there we spent a number of nights in queenstown and te anau, where we didn't do much but watch films while recuperating from walking. we did arrive in queenstown just in time for the opening of patagonia, a new dessert cafe, where i ate no fewer than three desserts for dinner. i also applied for a job there, which i later turned down, as by that point i was already in invercargill. it also occurs to me that i don't yet have a government tax number.

the milford and routeburn tracks were outstanding. photos are currently being handcrafted one pixel at a time by the little gnomes that live in my camera. by the time we arrive back up north they should all be compiled into a series of picturesque scenes that i'll be able to show publicly. i think brendan said it best though, when he said something to the effect of, "the north island has lots of nice sections, but the south island is just epic." both of these great walks were packed front-to-back with nature's grandeur. mountains, waterfalls, forests, rivers, avalanche zones, and freeze-dried meals (not natural, but still grand at the end of a long day of hiking). it also had smaller pleasures too, like a couple of fantail birds that buzzed about us while we had a brief respite. brendan almost got one to land on his outstretched finger.

y'know how people who live above the mason-dixon line make fun of/fear people below it? well, invercargill is below the non-existent mason-dixon line in new zealand. it is the southernmost city in the country (there are towns further south, but they're all pretty small). via a connection i made while in wellington, we ended up crashing on the floor of some students at the local polytech university. they were a very hospitable bunch and we had some good conversations about music, food, and politics. we were even able to catch an episode of the daily show: global edition, which was much appreciated after months of a jon stewart-less existence. okay. anyway, i re-learned the term "munted," which means "beat-up" or "damaged." for instance a wrecked car would be considered munted, as in "that car is totally munted." or, another example might be "michael jackson's face is totally munted." or, "michael richard's career is munted." et cetera.

up in dunedin, we've checked out the local art scene (which is thriving), gone to two design exibitions, gone to the movies, talked to a very reasonable born-again, eaten a ton of baked goods ("not baked goods, professor! baked bads!"), found an excellent saturday farmers market, and done other sundry city-related things, like walking.

some south island stats...

live music acts heard: 11
movies seen: more than can be remembered
movies seen in theaters: 3 (the departed, borat, children of men)
movies seen featuring selma hayek: 2
books read: 1 and about half-a-dozen partially completed.
crepes eaten: 2 (nutella with banana and strawberry-rhubarb jam fillings)
cars driven: 1
pizzas consumed: 1
casseroles maquerading as pizzas consumed: 1

have a nice day.

Friday, November 03, 2006

South Siyeeed!

mexico in christchurch

big flower at oamaru's public garden

this is what i have to deal with

oamaru is victorian

oamaru is blue penguins

spherical boulders at moeraki

queenstown: i forgot these mountains existed

Arrived in Christchurch a few days ago. Bummed about town there. No sign of the Wizard, a man who dresses in a wizard costume who stands on his soap box and rails about the social ills of humanity. Apparently he's in semi-retirement. Good, cheap asian food abounds. There are a ton of art galleries about as well. The town itself feels like an amalgam of New England and English cities. Found a copy of Cathedral by Raymond Carver at a local 2nd hand establishment. Brendan and I also purchased a rugged two-person tent, which we have subsequently slept in twice. Camping is kind of fun, even if the camp sites around here lack fire pits. (Malm, if you're reading this, I haven't showered in four days. I thought you'd be proud.)

Hey. I'm using capitals again. Just realized. Weird.

Anyway, we rented a car in Christchurch and drove down the east coast to Oamaru, where we planned to do some penguin spotting. Oamaru is known for being a good place to see both the blue and yellow-eyed varieties. We managed to see the former, but not the latter. Oamaru apparently also has a bit of a Victorian theme to it, lovely public gardens, and a magnificent bakery.

From there we cruised on to Queenstown, stopping briefly in Moeraki, where we ambled around perfectly spherical boulders. Queenstown is known for being a booming tourist town, but I have to say that the town center isn't much bigger than I remember it when I was here 12 years ago. The number of swanky houses, apartments, and hotels has vastly increased though. And the town has spread outwards. It's been infected with suburbs. There are also mountains about that I don't recall being here. I'm pretty sure they were imported from Colorado, but don't quote me on that.

This morning I awoke at 7:10 am voluntarily. Around 10 we hiked up a hill somwhere around town and took in the views. That was pretty much it for todays activities. Tomorrow we're bussing down to Te Anau where we'll prepare ourselves for the Milford Track, a four day hike through fiordlands. At some point we'll probably end up back in Queenstown.

* * *

Backtracking a little bit (just for you, dad), we did a jaunt out to White Island a couple of weeks ago. White Island is an active volcano a few miles off of the east coast of the North Island. It was mined for sulfur a number years ago. The sulfur mining was ultimately abondoned I believe because the conditions were too harsh. The atmosphere is extremely acidic, the winds whip through the island at consistently high speeds, and of course, the operation was perpetually at risk of being 'sploded. The island itself is kind of like a hyperactive Rotorua. There are steam vents and sulfur depsits all over, as well as mud pools, a boiling lake, and streamlets filled with sulfur. There are some remains of the mining operation there. The metal objects--some large gears, beams, container drums--are all completely rusted and corroded. The only thing left that seems like it's in any kind of decent condition is a rubber ring around a train wheel. All in all it's not a particularly pleasant place to hang out. Interesting though.

There really isn't much to say about the Tongariro Crossing. The first half is pretty difficult. The section nicknamed the Devil's Staircase is a strenuous, near-vertical, natural stairway. We were rewarded for that by a beautiful view of cloud covering. Then things get cold and windy. We hiked through slush, which did not do my feet much good as they were wrapped in very not waterproof shoes. I had to stop and quickly wring out my socks and then get them back on so I could get moving again in order to avoid my feet from going numb. I didn't notice the dampness after a while. And once we got to the Emerald Lakes, it was all worth it though. The views were spectacular (as I hope my photos show). The rest of the walk was nice, but nothing in comparison to the views at the saddle. I wish we'd known how quick the rest of the walk had been so we could've enjoyed the top more. We ended up finishing an hour before the bus arrived to pick us up. Bummer. But maybe we can do it again later this summer.

* * *

Speaking of backtracking, here's a video from the Tamaki Tours gig in Rotorua. It's a welcoming ceremony for unknown visitors (us) to their village. Apologies for the shoddy sound and camera work.

* * *

Don't know when I'll get to post again. Be thankful for what you got.