A little bit of KhoaSan Road, and a Whole Lot of Cambodia.

26 01 2013

Item’s I have learned today:

Sorry.. I have been seriously neglectful of this thing.  Life back in the States and updating the blog don’t seem to work out very well together.

-Khoa San Road (in Bangkok) is a seriously DANGEROUS place for tourists.. not in terms of crime, but in terms of large increments of money being spent, and the existence of a wonderful thing called “buckets”

-I learned all about ping pong shows.. I don’t feel the need to write about it on here (it’s quite disturbing)… you can google it…no, really.. don’t.

Back to the travel tales of my 6 week trip to SE Asia before returning to Seattle in September.  I had just finished up a week long trip to Northern Laos and was now on my way to reunite with my long lost buddy Bekah in Bangkok.  I had my first overnight train journey, arriving in Bangkok bright and early the next day.

After attempting to sleep in the hotel room that Bekah reserved (meaning.. I didn’t, and since I have such amazing abilities to sleep on trains – i.e.I don’t) it was off to explore Bangkok round two with about 3 hours of sleep. I sent Bekah off to the Grand Palace as I had seen it already in my first few days, then it was off to the see the Sleeping Buddah and explore all that is Khoa San Road.

SE Asia 243 SE Asia 249

After eating at a place called something like “We make cocktails REALLY strong” (literally, not joking, I’m pretty sure that was the name of the actual restaurant)  and having a bucket with Leigh (a fellow traveler, Bekah befriended while exploring BKK)… We called it a night as it was off to meet Bec (former flatmate and friend from NZ) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia the next day.SE Asia 253

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Cambodia was on a whole different level all together. Amazingly beautiful country, but with such a tragic recent past.  I was really completely ignorant before arriving. I had heard about the killing fields, but hearing and seeing are too COMPLETELY different things.

It was impossible to not be affected. We spent the day going from the killing fields to S21 (one of the prisons) but some how we didn’t have the same appreciation for the royal palace and the markets after words.

1-4 Cambodians (1 in 4!!!) were killed in these fields during the time of the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979. Estimates of total deaths is in in the millions.  It’s really hard to imagine that that was just over 30+ years ago.  The Khmer Rouge executed anyone they believed that was associated with the former government.. basically the entire educated class.  The one particular killing field we went to had over 8000 skulls, and was still washing up clothes from the victims.  It was heart breaking to say  at the very least.

Words can’t really do it justice.. here are a few pics…  (warning… not for the faint of heart, some of these images are quite upsetting).

Siem Reap, Cambodia

After a hard few days in Phnom Penh it was off to Angkor Wat and Siem Reap.  Now let me go back and say that despite the atrocities that happened to this country a little more than 30 years ago, the Cambodian people are still some of the most wonderful people I met during my 6 weeks in Asia.

Angkor Wat... no I did not take this picture

It was a completely different mindset to leave Phnom Penh and the killing fields and then head to the largest ancient Hindi temple and religious monument in the world.  Angkor Wat was fantastic. We took a “VIP” tuk tuk (it’s license plate… literally).. to the temples and saw Angkor Wat on Day One. We walked around, and stayed and watched the sunset.

Perfect thing to do at an ancient temple... fix your hair! :-p

Perfect thing to do at an ancient temple… fix your hair! :-p

ak1 SE Asia 311 SE Asia 317 anchor wat

We ended up staying at this place called the “Mad Monkey Hostel” if you are ever in Siem Reap, I highly recommend it. The crowd is young, the staff are cool, the owners alright.. haha 🙂 They have a roof-top beach bar complete with a beer pong table.. I won’t even begin to describe my amazing beer pong skills (meaning, I was lucky if the stupid ball hit the dang table, let alone made it into one of the cups… I lasted all of one game… and then opted out.. shockingly).

Day Two we went to Angkor Thom and Bayan (where tomb raider was filmed).  My camera managed to die while going through these ancient temples, but here are a few pics…

bk5 bk4 ak3 SE Asia 355

Day Three we decided to relax by a pool.. and then head on (as Bec had to be back in Malaysia for her flight home in a few days)

Sihanhoukville.

Part of Cambodia.. but not really.  It’s fun, there’s some cool beaches… theres some cool pubs/bars on the water.

We spent the day relaxing on the beach (only to be asked by every few mins if we wanted to buy bracelets, hairbands, sunglasses, get our legs waxed, etc). That was slightly vexing. You see these gorgeous Cambodian children, literally probably around 6-8, and instead of spending their days in school and playing, they are wandering around the beach trying to sell stuff to tourists.  I mean, what kind of childhood is that?  I’m not really sure what the solution to the problem is, but it def helps to put your own life and childhood in perspective (or at least it did for me).

Anyway.. rant over.  After a few days of lounging around on the beach, it was off to fly to Kuala Lumpur… Malaysia.  At this rate you will probably get an update on that by New Years (2014).

Happy 2013 everyone! 🙂





Going to “The Beach” – Phi Phi Island

8 10 2012

Item’s I have learned today:

-There is the whole system of organised theives on the overnight bus journeys in SE ASIA.  If you have anything of value.. keep it on you (or as they so over there “on your person”! ) I met quite a few people who had money, souvenirs, electronics, you name it stolen out of their bags that they were storing underneath the bus

-Fox caused a lot of drama when filming “the beach” as they tried to make it look more “paradise like.”  Having been there, I would say that’s pretty unnecessary as the place was AMAZING. damn film studios.. lol.

Lounging in Koh Phi Phi

Lounging in Koh Phi Phi

After a few days in Bangkok, it was off on an overnight bus adventure to Phi Phi Island (an Island on the West Coast of Thailand).  I hauled my backpack and gear to the travel office and waited. I should have known from the venture to my “bus,” that it was going to be an interesting journey. First off, I was supposed to leave from outside the travel agency at 6pm.. someone finally showed up to “escort me” around 6:45pm.  Next, my walking escort decided the walk was too far, got on a motorbike, sped down the alleys… and ever so politely occasionally slowed down so I could catch up (let me remind you I was carrying massive amounts of crap).  We ended up in one place, the motorbike escort determined it was wrong, so we walked to another.  On arrival at our second “pick up” location, Motorbike tour person realised that the first stop was the right place, and asked if I wanted to hop on the back of the motorbike. Um, Hello? Maria and coordination, and motorbikes in foreign countries are never going to be a good match, let alone when I have a 20k backpack on! So I trekked back to the original destination to board the bus. SUCH FUN. Not that I ever complain.. ever. But come on now? I’m not exactly the worlds buffest person.. so having a fun little adventure stroll with my massive back pack wasn’t exactly my idea of the best time ever.  Once I was finally on board….I pretty much had anything I cared about in a bag on my lap.. the only thing that actually went under the bus was my clothes.  The person next to me LOVED this. but whatever. I wanted to keep my personal belongings thank you very much!

The bus left at about 7:30pm.. we had a few stops.. took a late night break and then arrived some where else at 5:00am.  When I booked my ticket, I was told that it would be a bus and boat ride, and that I would arrive on Phi Phi Island by 11:00am the next day.  Well this wonderful little morning stop lasted 90 mins while we waited for bus number two.  We then drove for a few hours until we got to a travel agency where (surprise, surprise) we had to wait for bus number three.  This apparently happens all time. Tour companies will arrange the bus journeys, but you will make all sorts of “pit stops” where there is nothing but a travel agency or food.  The idea is that hopefully you book more, or buy something.  Finally after another hour, our third bus comes and we are off to the dock.  The boat departs at 1:00pm.  We get there around 4:00pm.   Not exactly 11!  I was fine, as I wasn’t on any sort of deadline, but I felt really bad for a couple I met on bus number three.  They only had a few days, this was supposed to be a nice romantic get away for them.. and they had lost a full day on our wonderful little bus excursion… oh the joy.

Reyana, a friend that I made while touring around New Zealand recommended a hostel called the rock.  She warned me that the beds are like rocks, but that I would walk in and make an instant group of friends.  Considering the fact that I was hot and cranky, I seriously doubted that I would form any serious friendships.. but she was right.  I walked in all tired and sweaty and was immediately followed by Lucy and Katie.  We bonded over our shared hatred for the stairs that led up to the dorm room, then immediately decided to head down to the beach.

Phi Phi island is a small island with out any cars. Everything is carried around in these huge trolleys.  It’s amusing because when you are in the way, the Thai drivers will literally just yell out “beep beep.”  The beach is beautiful, although it is slightly unnerving that a huge garbage pile boat lies smack dab in the middle of it… contaminated much? But on a hot day, when I had just lugged my 20k backpack around and climbed a butt load of stairs, I didn’t care. The water was warm and felt heavenly.. even if I was surrounded by yesterdays garbage (lol, aren’t I doing a great job of selling the place?)

It was then back to the hostel to meet the other roommates and head out on the town. The great thing about the rock is that it really does become an instant community as everyone is similar (well in the sense that we are from all over the world, on a budget, and travelling).    Phi Phi comes alive at night, with numerous parties on the beach and fire dances (where locals have batons made of fire and put on shows.. usually to trance music).

Entrance to our overnight camping trip (on the beach)

Entrance to our overnight camping trip (on the beach)

Reyana had also recommended doing an overnight camping trip at a place called Maya Bay.  Maya Bay is where they filmed the movie “The Beach.”  Aurelia, one of the girl’s staying at The Rock wanted to do the trip as well, so we booked it together.  Maya Bay has become an insanely popular tourist destination, with 5,000,0002  companies doing day tours out there. (I’m really not exaggerating…. all that much) The nice thing about doing the over night camping trip.. is that we had the beach to ourselves, it was literally just the tour group.  Although I do wish it had been a bit longer as the group was big and we were a bit segregated, but it was still amazing.

The overnight trip consisted of arriving just as all the day trips were leaving, having a pot luck dinner, doing a “jungle trek…” LOL now that one was amusing. I proceeded to change from my dress into pants and shoes… what I didn’t realise was that this trek was on a regular pathway with lights all along the side.. it was more like a leisurely stroll through the woods.. but hey, was still a good time.. although the gear change was completely un-neccessary.

We then all relaxed, took in the sites, and  of course went for a late night swim.  I almost forgot about the plankton!!  They are these little microscopic fish, but when you make movement they sparkle.. so literally it feels like you are swimming with fairy dust… straight out of a disney movie.  Probably one of the coolest experiences I had on the whole trip.

Maya Bay and I

Maya Bay and I

That and of course spending the night under the stars on the beach… that part was absolutely phenomenal..  you know just the small things in life 🙂  If you ever get a chance to make it to Thailand.. I highly recommend the overnight trip to Maya Bay.. it still has become a bit more touristy than years past. but at the same time, I am really really glad I had a chance to do it.





Spending my Birthday in the Land of Smiles – Thailand

28 09 2012

Item’s I have learned today (Ok, I apparently lied in my last entry.. I kinda sorta need to bring this  back for the tales of SE Asia)

-The freeway is apparently considered a restroom for cab drivers. No joke, I saw at least 3 in Bangkok in my first few hours on the side of the road…relieving themselves.

-The shoulder of the freeway becomes a lane in traffic… or should I just say is a lane.

– tuk tuk = don’t really know how to explain it… here’s a pic

Our VIP tut tut

Our VIP tuk tuk

-Health and Safety in Thailand pretty much just doesn’t exist… period.  Seatbelts? Life Jackets? Not so much.

we wear our sunglasses inside

we wear our sunglasses inside

I left New Zealand (after saying goodbye to the fam… one of my “siblings” Michelle is pictured above)  arrived in Bangkok on my birthday (August 6th.. it’s still strange for me to write the month in front of the day as I have had two years of doing the opposite).  As I have difficulties sleeping on planes, I rang it in passing out in the airport followed by my hostel. SUPER EXCITING.

Let me back up a bit.  I decided to have a last 6 week adventure before my return to the real world aka Seattle.

Rudy and I in Singapore

Rudy and I in Singapore

I arrived in Singapore on August 5th. I went out to dinner with a friend that I originally met at the very start of my travels in Australia, Rudy. I literally met him on day 1 in Melbourne, so it was kind of full circle to see him at the end of this particular adventure.  That being said… I neglected to tell him it was birthday, went to the airport, passed out and landed bright and early in BKK at 7am (I’m a great friend.. I know).

Taking in the sights

Taking in the sights

My first day in Bangkok I was excited, but nervous.  Here I was doing this six week adventure on my own. Yes, I had moved to two different countries (well technically three if you include England), but there is a TOTAL difference between moving somewhere and going on holiday.  I was taking a vacation alone… by myself… all on my lonesome.  I don’t even like going to bars/movies by myself, and I was planning on taking on SE Asia?? Plus it was my birthday.

So I woke up, went downstairs, and immediately starting introducing myself to people… lol. I’m not kidding. I am not necessarily the worlds most out going person, but when I need to, I can step outside of my comfort zone. I ended up meeting a really cool girl named Thais from Brazil, and Michelle from England.  We went out to dinner and then called it a night.  Not a very exciting birthday I realize, but I did spend it in two different countries… thank you very much!

Golden Palace

Grand Palace

Next day it was up nice early to tour the various temples in Bangkok. I went to the grand palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddah, which I can honestly say out of 6 weeks in SE Asia ended up being my favorite temple (outside of Angkor Wat).  Thais and I ended up getting there just in time for an English speaking tour guide.   Our tour guide was a prime example as to why Thailand is known as the land of smiles.  She was amazing, filling us in on bits and pieces of Thai history (like the fact that the King changes the Emerald Buddah’s clothing for each one of the three seasons) while having such a warm and friendly presence. I fell in love, even if she happened be a 60 year old Thai woman.. technical details 🙂

The day was finished by taking a river cruise.  We ended up spending around 500 baht for our “own personal tour”  Considering it was just Thais and I, we had no need for a romantic little rendez-vous on the river.  It also didn’t help that we soon learned of the public ferries that run for about 10 baht… ahfjaskfas.   Hey, we will just chalk it up to beginners NON-luck.   At least when I got ripped off I wasn’t dragged to some random jewelry store by a tuk tuk driver, forced to buy something (yes.. that does actually happen). I got a sunset “cruise” (and by cruise, I mean ancient wooden boat I was worried would crash and break…. literally every time we went over a wave).. but hey it was fun!

My very last day in Bangkok was spent going to the floating markets. I met a girl from Canada at reception the day before.  Our conversation went like this:

Me – “what’s that?” (she was looking through a tour book.. and this was the first time I had ever seen her/spoken to her EVER)

Girl – “Oh, it’s the floating markets, something that Thailand is well known for”

Me – “huh.. are you going to go?”

Girl – “I was thinking about going tomorrow morning”

Me – “I just might join you”

Girl – “Let me guess.. you’re travelling alone?”

And there you have it.  The pretty typical Maria invite herself/attempt to make friends over the next 6 weeks story.  The next day I woke up nice and early to meet Monica (formerly known as girl) to go on our floating market adventure.  After the romantic boat cruise from the night before, I neglected to get a paddle boat at the market but felt like I got just about the same experience.

Floating Market in Thailand

Floating Market in Thailand

It is kind of crazy to see people cooking and serving drinks while in paddle boats. I was told that they can be quite aggressive salesman while on the water too!  I could see it happening though, you don’t really have any where you can go when your stuck in a boat, especially in traffic jam. It would be hard to constantly fend off the “hey lady.. you want some scarves?? Buy something from me!”  or the ever present “Discount for you… discount for YOU!!” followed by “how much you want?”

I did manage to pick up a hand bag for my mother as well as have coffee at Madame Paew.  I absolutely loved this place, because not only did the Madame Paew have pictures of herself plastered all over the place, she was also the cashier.  And her pictures would read something like “Madame and a Movie Star!!” Lol.. apparently she was WAY more important than said movie star.  Pfft who needs a name when you are pictured next to Madame Paew.

After returning to Bangkok that evening, it was off to pack and prepare for my overnight bus and boat over to Phi Phi Island where I would be spending my next few days.

More to come 🙂





Hanging out with my bosses Fam

13 06 2012

Item’s I have learned today:

your man = that guy

The way Kiwi’s say their “e’s” sounds like the way Americans say their “i’s” so Yes becomes “Yis” … pretty sure that will be the only word that I will actually be able to say in a Kiwi accent when I get back home.

So back to the title of this blog… it all started on Christmas Day.  I had been working at LINZ (Land Information New Zealand) for  about 2 weeks… and had been in Wellington for about a month.  I was already quite homesick as the holidays were right around the corner, and I had to say bye to most of the friends I had met travelling. I was also stuck working 60 hour work weeks which didn’t leave much opportunity to make any new friends.

Now Ron, one of bosses, asked what I was doing for Christmas.  In my ridiculously retarded little mind (sorry rashi.. I still use that word.. all the time)… I immediately jumped to the conclusion that for some reason he might need me to work.. and I could earn some time and half.. and save up a bit more! WAY FESTIVE of me, eh? I immediately responded by telling him I had no plans.  “Well, that means you can come and spend it with my family and I”

Uh.. what?  Don’t get me wrong, I was incredibly grateful for the invite, and the idea of spending Christmas with a family was quite fantastic.  I literally didn’t have any other plans… other than having to work at the hostel at 7:00pm.. but I am bit shy/quiet/reserved until you get to know me and I feel comfortable. The problem was I didn’t really know my boss, nor had I met any of his family before.   Of course I accepted immediately.. and stressed out about the appropriate gift to bring along even though I “wasn’t supposed to bring anything.”

So Christmas day comes along and it’s a pretty wonderful day. I meet his wife Judy, and his three daughters (Nicole, Michelle and Carina) who are all relatively close to my own age.  As well as Alysia (Michelle’s childhood friend) and her parents and boyfriend.  I was worried about feeling out of place or invading their family time, but I didn’t feel that at all.  All though..it was still a bit strange to have Christmas be a gorgeous sunny day, but that just goes with living in the Southern Hemisphere.

Alysia, Niki, Carina, Judy, Nicole and I at Nicole's place after the fair

Alysia, Niki, Carina, Judy, Nicole and I at Nicole’s place after the fair

So a few weeks ago I received invite number two, to go to the Martinborough Fair “with the girls.”  It’s a big huge NZ craft fair that’s held twice a year about an hour outside of Wellington.  It’s aim is to give local crafts people a chance to display their goods, and it has grown to be so popular that demand for the stalls exceeds the space available.

Carina,  (my bosses youngest daughter) picked me up, from there we went to Ron’s house, grabbed his wife Judy and his other daughter Michelle.

Nicole, the eldest and Michelle’s best friend Alysia and her mother Niki met us at the fair.  Were there a lot of craft booths? yes.  Did I stuff my face by eating pretty much everything in any food booth we walked past? yes.  Did we all sit down and eat at the side of building making us look “like homeless people” (according to Ron), yes.  But did I have a great time? Of course.

nice quiet place for a meal...

nice quiet place for a meal…

I don’t think this sort of thing would ever happen at home, or at least if it has, I don’t hear about it often.  Where you move to a new country and then sort of get adopted into family events. I must say aside from the amount of crap Ron gives me at work… and I mean that sarcastically of course (he often says things to get a rise out of me.. currently being that I should learn to wash out his coffee cup each day if I want a good reference from him).. I think that it’s incredibly nice/sweet/wonderful that both him and has family have welcomed me in… every now and then.

One of his daughters made me laugh when she asked me if I have been adopted by all sorts of New Zealand families and brought along on their family trips.. Nope.. Just hers 🙂





A Case of the Blahs

26 04 2012

Item’s I have learned today:

Hospital pass: A project/something that is doomed to fail..

It’s a little strange that I’m still a bit neglectful of this blog.  Before I was way behind on catching everyone up with traveling that I did in my first two months in New Zealand, then I was working 5 million hours a week and too tired/exhausted/lazy to bother to update this.. and now, well  now I really don’t have any excuses other than lack of concentration/energy/focus…  Ok, so maybe I do have a few excuses.

I have noticed that my time in Wellington hasn’t been quite so carefree as my time in Melbourne. I’m not really sure why that is? Maybe it has do with the fact that I had been waiting to live in Melbourne since I was 21 years old (for those of you who didn’t know I was accepted into a study abroad program my senior year at the University of Washington to the University of Melbourne.. and I ended up cancelling at the last minute… and then making up for that cancellation 8 years later).

I mean don’t get me wrong, I do like it here. I definitely do not regret my decision to spend a year in New Zealand. I’m just finding it a bit harder to find my way is all.  I’m missing my friends and family back home, and those that I have met so far and become close to  in the year and a half that I have been travelling.   I like my job, I am really happy I am no longer working from 8:00am to 10:30pm and living with crazy people.. I love my new place… but I still feel a bit like I  haven’t really had Wellington come to feel like home.

Maybe that will change? Although I only have about 3 more months left here. Knowing my luck however.. I will probably fall in love with it all.. right when it comes time to leave. Meh, we will just have to see how it goes 🙂

Anzac day was earlier this week.  The relatively few of you out there who read this on a consistent basis will know that this my second year experiencing ANZAC day. Last year I spent it playing two-up in pubs in Sydney. There is a SIGNIFICANT difference in how it is celebrated over here.  Mainly… there isn’t a plan weeks out in advance of which pubs to go  to/how early we are going to get to said pubs to make sure we get in.  The most popular way to celebrate ANZAC day is not by going to the pubs… it’s by going to the dawn service.

Yes, you read that correctly.. a service that starts at 6:00am.  Did I make it to that service?? Does a bear sh*t in the woods? I am not a morning person!  I woke up to one of my flatmates leaving at 5:30am.. decided that it was entirely too early and rolled back over and went to sleep.

National Service - Tomb of the Unknown Warrier

National Service - Tomb of the Unknown Warrier

I happen to live right next door to the war memorial, and the tomb of the unknown warrier… and it just so happened there was a 10:30am National Commemorative Ceremony.. much more to my own timing.  So Tess and I showered and literally went and sat in our backyard.  It was a bit slow moving, but actually kind of cool. The Prime Minister was there and gave a reading, the various diplomats/ambassadors laid wreathes, the band played, the soldiers marched. It’s kinda of cool how seriously people take ANZAC day over here, makes me wish I did more for memorial day or veterans day back home.

That's a picture of the military band.. can't you tell? ;p

That's a picture of the military band.. can't you tell? ;p

And there you go.. I managed to complete an update.

Success.

Until next time. 🙂





And the rest of the South Island – All in One Entry

11 03 2012

Item’s I’ve learned today

-blogging about your travels gets old, especially when you want to be able to complain/moan about your current life.. haha

S0 I am condensing my last few weeks in the South Island into one entry. Partially because I’m tired of writing about what happened a few months ago, and partially  because I would like to catch up on this blog sometime before the end of 2012! 🙂

So I will capture places and highlights, and not update on each and every day (as I had done previously).

Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka

BEAUTIFUL. Absolutely amazing.  We headed there after our glacier hike in Franz Joseph.  Stopping first at at Lake Matheson for some amazing photo’s ops. The lake is so crystal clear that it literally looks like a mirror reflection of Mt Cook.  It’s not quite so peaceful when instead of walking the 20minutes and turning around and walking 20 minutes back, you accidentally do the full loop.. and practically have to RUN back (a 6-7k run I might add) to the freaking bus in the hopes that it won’t leave you behind… sigh. asdhjksahdjk.

So insanely beautiful

So insanely beautiful

In Lake Wanaka I was offered my first work for accommodation job.. working at the hostel pub.  I had for all intents and purposes planned on moving back there but then some how ended up going back to Welly. Lake Wanaka was so peaceful and serene. A small town yes, but being right on the lake, and having all these gorgeous mountains near by made it one of my favorite places to visit in NZ.. and almost ended up being where I lived.

Queenstown

Bekah, Delphi, Mike and I

Bekah, Delphi, Mike and I

We spent a week there.  WATCH OUT. Queenstown is AMAZING, but non-stop.. and not great for the budget or for the liver for that matter.  I loved spending a week there, but it was just enough time. Queenstown is said to have the highest living expenses in NZ and the lowest hourly wages. There is also pretty much something going on at all times.. always.

Michelle, Reyana, Alex and I

With a little bit of this

And some of this

And some of this

And that...

And that...

Captain Morgan? I think?

AND........ Yeah

It’s a really fun place to be, but not one that I could spend ample amount of time at.   For the adventure-seekers, its home of the Nevus Bungy (which no I did not participate in) and the Canyon Swing.  What’s a canyon swing you ask?  Google it.. haha 🙂 APPARENTLY the two are huge rivals…. It also has the best burgers I have tasted in New Zealand.. the FERG Burgers.

Late night ferg burger stop

Late night ferg burger stop

They are about the size of half my arm (not kidding.. well maybe exaggerating SLIGHTLY) and DELICIOUS. Perfect late night meal.. or breakfast.. or lunch.. or brunch haha.

It also has an ice bar… amongst other things.

Posing in my thermal

Posing in my thermal

In the one week I was there I managed to spill a drink served in ice (literally a glass made out of ice), go on a pub crawl with a 100+ people, drink out of a tea pot, witness Reyana (a girl I met and adore) down an ENTIRE bottle of cough service to calm her nerves for her bungy jump, dance on multiple platforms, eat so much pizza I thought i was literally going to be sick

fat badgers pizza.... one of the 5 million we ate

fat badgers pizza.... one of the 5 million we ate

have a friend go missing (ahem.. Jo), wear a dress (not a normal occurrance for Maria), ride up a gondula, see a bunch of dudes run around naked, watch about 15 people I know jump off a bridge

nuts...

nuts...

(no.. I did not do it myself) and spend entirely too much money.  All in all it was a pretty good week!

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

We took a day trip from Queenstown to go to Milford Sound. Did you know that Milford Sound isn’t actually a Sound? It’s a Fiore.. incredibly interesting I know. I heard that wonderful factoid about 20 times during that day trip.  Milford Sound is AMAZINGLY beautiful though.  You see mountain upon mountain rising up out of the water, not to mention the incredible drive up there.  They say that going to New Zealand and not seeing Milford Sound is like going to Egypt and not seeing the Pyramids.  It’s on the list of becoming of the top natural world wonders. It was pretty cool to see, although as usual a bit windy.

Apparently one of the top walks in the world is a 4 day trek around the Sound.  I obviously opted to do the day trip instead, in the comfort of a bus and boat with a catered lunch.. hah 🙂

Christchurch

christchurch

christchurch

I decided that I had to see it, and honestly it was rather hard to see. I would have regretted it if I hadn’t gone and seen the city and the after effects of the earthquake (or current effects as they are still happening). The city centre itself was closed off, so we couldn’t even walk around.

The closed off city centre

The closed off city centre

Earthquakes were/are still happening so the city couldn’t even really begin rebuilding/let alone demolishing the damaged/condemned buildings.  One church had a huge graffitied bandaid on it.. that stuck out as a symbol of hope. One building that had been demolished now had a make shift book exchange.  Cashel Mall had gone up..

Cashel Container Mall - literally made out of shipping crates

Cashel Container Mall - literally made out of shipping crates

Cashel Mall is a make shift mall made out of shipping crates which some people see as a big f’ you to the earthquakes and others were/are opposed to as peoples lives were lost where they are now building a shopping centre. One area I remember most is a demolished site where a family posted pictures of their mother with a note saying how that they missed her (concluding that her life was lost in that very spot)… yeah… Christchurch was depressing. But again, I’m glad I saw it.

Kaikoura

Apparently it’s one of the most interactive dolphin experiences in the world, but because I had already seen whales in the Bay of Islands, and the weather was quite crap.. we only opted to stay for a day. I did manage to see and eat at an excellent fish and chip joint there. Oh and watch the terminator at the “lazy shag” (the name of the hostel.. no I am not kidding). That was about the highlight of Kaicoura. It was slightly amusing though because there was this whole new group of people who were just starting on their bus tour.  They were SOOO excited about everything..  asking everything and their mom. and introducing themselves to everyone and their mom… OVER and OVER again! “Oh my gosh! Where are you from?? How long are you in NZ for?? What’s your favorite spot?? etc etc etc”  Bekah, Katie, Alex, Michelle and I (the veterans and ones wrapping up the trip) were unfortunately kind of over it. Sure we were nice and civil and all that, but my goodness was there a difference between our energy levels and theirs!

The trip back up

After Kaikoura, Bekah and I slowly made our way back to Auckland stopping in a few places we had already been. A few nights in Wellington (where I solitified that I would be working at Rowena’s Lodge and  managed to get my purse got stolen…camera gone.. so sad), few nights in Taupo where Katie,  Bekah and I had a completely RIDICULOUS but fun Thanksgiving day celebration

Katie and I

Katie and I

and a few nights in Auckland where we tried to tear Reyana away from her boy (un-successfully I might add) and eventually parted ways with Bekah on her way to Melbourne and me ready to start over brand new in windy Welly.

All in all it was an great trip! The two months of travel had now officially come to a close.  It was a bit hard at the end to say good bye and start out new and alone.  I had found that I had made all of these amazing friendships only to have to say goodbye, plus to go from traveling somewhere new every day to staying in the same place/looking for a job was a bit of a shock as well.  I wouldn’t take any of it back though. Although I haven’t seen everything I wanted to see in New Zealand, it was a great start, and a great way to open up the year that I will spend here (or technically 5 more months at this point).





Franz Joseph – the Great Glacier Hike

1 02 2012

Item’s I have learned today:

I was surrounded by a bunch of POM’s, I obviously didn’t learn much.. hahaha (I crack myself up)

bushman centre museum

bushman centre museum

First stop of the day was at Bushman’s Centre where Bex told us she would buy as all “jungle juice” if we were bright and cheery and said hello to the dude that told us about the centre (don’t you love how fabulous my memory is …  I can’t even remember his name?).

Anyway, we screamed a very cheerful hello to him (much to his surprise) and then he went on a 10 minute tangent on how we should watch this video about all the deer in the area that they hunt (and something else to, that I obviously can’t quite remember).  I feel really bad though, because the Poo Pub party was the night before so the last thing any of us wanted to do was watch a video about hunting deer/possums or some other sh*t.. we all just wanted greasy nasty breakfast food.  So although he made quite a compelling speech, 48 of us got off the bus and went over immediately to queue for breakfast, and I believe all of 2 paid to go watch the film/check out the museum.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmm BREAKFAST haha :)

mmmmmmmmmmmmmm BREAKFAST haha 🙂

I will say though that the Bushman’s centre had some HILARIOUS posters/signs up.  Their complaints section was the best, especially when they included their responses to said complaints.

The Bushman Centre Greeting Board

The Bushman Centre Greeting Board

and warnings...

and warnings...

I should also note that the breakfast menu also included a “possum pie” (again not kidding) it’s cost? donations only. hahahaha. I stuck to bacon and eggs.. at least I really HOPE it was bacon 🙂

After a meal and a chat we went on to Franz Joseph.  It’s in Franz Joseph that the Fox Glacier is located.  I had been planning to do the half-day hike, but then Luke informed me that even his grandmother had done the full-day and Bex went on (and on…. 🙂 ) about how the half-day does the exact same climb as the full-day, except that when you get up to the top bit you turn around and go straight back down. So grudgingly and the big wus that I am.. I signed up for the full-day hike.. convinced that I was going to go in the slowest group.  Bex also promised all it was going to be a bright and sunshiny day ….. LIES!

what a BEAUTIFUL day... sigh

what a BEAUTIFUL day... sigh

It was a quiet evening complete with a rock paper scizzors contest and our jungle juice reward in the Rainforest Retreat Pub before getting up nice and early the next day for the hike.

the start

the start

9:00am we make our way over to office. Once you check in they give you tags, one for your pants, one for jacket, one for socks, one for the beanie, one for the belt pack that holds your crampons, and one for your shoes.  Being the hiking expert that I am, I’m pretty sure I was the last one done and fitted out of the whole group. Bekah, Luke, Alice and I also all invested in getting tape to plaster our toes so we didn’t get blisters.  We pretty much covered our entire feet! We looked like we were trying to mummify ourselves, much to the laughter.. ahem.. I mean concern of the guides.  They basically just sat there and watched us.  We were determined not  to get blisters, even if we ended up coming across as complete and total idiots.

we definitely follow the rules

we definitely follow the rules

Next was a bus ride up and a 2k walk to the Glacier itself.  Once we hit the ice we put on the crampons.  They go over your boots so that you can easily walk 0n the ice.  I was determined to go in the slowest group, group 5.   Apparently there are wussier people out there than me (shocking).. so I got bumped up to the medium level group.   Now the walk itself was about 8 hours, you take breaks, and pictures and all that BUT I was still freaking nervous. I don’t even remember the last time I walked somewhere that took 8 hours  (I don’t think I ever have ever done matter of fact) let alone hiked some where.. IN THE ICE.

We ran into some folks who had done the walk the day before and complained about how sore their muscles were.. again.. not helping the nerves.

But it wasn’t consistently up hill.  And the fact that you are walking over ice.. blue ice to be exact (because of the reflection of the sun) helps ease things a bit.  Of course parts of it are challenging.  Our guide was in front of us with an ice pick, literally carving stairs into the ice for us to walk on.

hike up

hike up

Sometimes we literally had to jump over huge cracks in the ice (yeah.. ahem.. not scary at all.. definitely didn’t pause/gasp/freak out/fall on my ass), we also went through an ice cave.. and ate lots of chocolate to load up on energy/keep warm.

Ice Cave!

Ice Cave!

I think it’s about one of the only times I have ever been told that I had to eat chocolate.

What was nuts to me is that you would like for a bit and be so hot and sweaty, and then literally sit down and 30 seconds later you would be freezing! But it was incredibly beautiful, and completely and totally manageable/doable especially for someone as non-athletic and lazy as I am.  I was SOOOooo proud of myself at the end of the day.  On the walk back down I found that my muscles were sort of on auto-pilot.  You wouldn’t think it would be all that difficult to walk down hill.. but when you’re tired.. it is!

ANNNNNNNNND back down

ANNNNNNNNND back down

We all got back exhausted and made great use of the natural hot springs located right across the street from our hostel.

I hiked a glacier that day! I am writing this entry all of 3 months later and I’m still proud of myself.  Some people came back and said they thought it would be harder and blah blah blah.. but for me, it was just hard enough.. and considering my normal work out sessions (ahem meaning none at all) a major feat 🙂








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