28 December 2011

Christmas 2011

I arrived home from my travels (by hitchhiking!) at about 7ish in the evening of Christmas eve, which didn't seem too late to get all of the desserts ready for the next day. However, what I didn't foresee was the oven not working at all! I had a pavlova to make and no oven, so after about an hour of fussing around with the fuse-box it was time to go and use a different oven. I went off to my Dad's house but by this stage it was getting rather late and I was in a bit of a hurry. Perhaps I didn't beat the egg-whites for long enough, or perhaps the oven that I was using was just no good. Whatever it was, the pavlova was a complete failure! It has been years since I have made one, so now I have to make another attempt sometime soon just to prove that I can still do it. Luckily there was a store-brought back up - in strawberry flavour!

So after my pavlova failure of the night before, the next day I had to make a trifle and ambrosia. These two things are easy enough, and it would also have been very easy to change into some old clothes before I prepared them, so that I would keep the nice white dress that I was wearing clean. However, I did not do that, and while the preparation of the food went smoothly enough, when it was time to tidy up afterwards I managed to drip bright red berry juice drip all down my front! It was not the disaster that it seemed though - with the addition of the better part of a bottle of stain remover and a quick wash it came out good as new! Hopefully I have learn my lesson now. It all turned out well enough in the end, the desserts were a big hit, everybody made room for some even though we were all stuffed after a late Christmas lunch.

Christmas lunch itself was a hangi, the traditional Maori way of cooking which involves digging a hole, filling it with rocks (or in this case pieces of steel), lighting a fire and then, after it is incredibly hot, digging out all the ash, putting in the food and burying it for a few hours. It is really really delicious and I hadn't had one in years and years. Below is the fire in the hole:

Nobody quite believed that it would be successful, seeing as we had never done one before, but it actually worked and it tasted like a proper hangi! Here is the hangi being dug up:

Finally, here is the food!

After a long day, feeling way to full of food, I had to drive my Nan home, which was OK but can be difficult when she has no idea who I am! On this occasion she actually managed to remember my name but I think she's confused as to who I and my siblings are, on account of us not being children anymore, as she remembers us. She's now nearly 93 so it's somewhat understandable. While the food was really good, Christmas itself was rather hectic and stressful so I'm glad it's over! I did get some nice new clothes and jewellery though ...

23 December 2011

Rotorua, Feilding and Queentstown!

After I left Taupo the rain turned into a torrential downpour. I arrived in Rotorua and made my way to the hostel, which was just around the corner, but I still managed to get rather soaked. It rained steadily all night and the prospects of doing any sightseeing at all during my stay were not looking very good. So the next morning I began by going souvenir shopping and when it finally stopped raining for awhile I went along to find the Thermal Park. Being only there for about a day and a half I had no opportunity to see the more interesting areas outside of the city and the place itself is not actually that exciting. The thermal park was interesting though, it was full of small, steaming ponds and bubbling mud, which smelt quite sulfurous, but not as bad as I was expecting.

Then I wandered down to the lake, which was OK but the overcast day was a bit of a shame. At least it stopped raining for long enough for me to go for a walk though! I followed a track around a small part of the lake and managed to get my shoes utterly soaked through again. There were little sandflies everywhere, so that I was afraid to stop and take photos in case I got eaten. There were lots of birds on the water and signs to let people know not to feed the swans because they might attack!

There were pukekoes too, which are really cool birds so I had to take photos of them. Unfortunately there were no babies, they are really cute little balls of fuzz with big long legs and huge feet. After that it started raining again so it was time to return to the hostel. I was going to go to the museum but it was way to expensive for such a small place, and didn't look that interesting. What was most interesting was the way it looked on the outside and you could see that for free. Oddly enough, the musuem and some of the other city buildings were of a very germanic sort of style, I have no idea why. So instead of the musuem I sat around reading a book, and the next morning while I waited for my bus I browsed through all the souvenir shops.

The hostel I was at in Rotorua wasn't great, I chose it because it was cheap and had an Irish name, which I thought was funny. Considering the bad weather, I should have chosen the one with Spa in the name. Next stop was Feilding where I stayed a couple of days with a good old friend, but there is not that much to see in Fielding so we made the most of the nice weather and went other places! There was a windfarm up on the hill, it was incredibly cold and windy up there despite the nice day!

Then we went into Palmerston North to do some Christmas shopping, and went for a walk through the gardens. In the aviary there was a white peacock and a cockatoo that was digging a hole in the dirt.

We went to a town called Bulls, which is only memorable because of the way they work their name into as much as possible.

Finally, we spent time on the beach, sat around in the warm sand, went for a paddle but not a swim and ate way too much food!

I left Feilding via bus, which was 20 minutes late, and the guy I sat next to was from Ireland, weird coincidence! In Wellington the hostel was very hot and it was almost impossible to sleep but eventually it was morning and time to head to Queenstown. At the airport, I had just arrived at the security point when the fire alarm went off! At first all of the staff just looked up and swore a bit and hoped that it would stop but unfortunately it was an actual fire alarm so we all had to evacuate. Only the small part of the airport that I was in was affected though. After waiting around outside for awhile they let us go back in, back through security, and then not only did the plane leave on time but it arrived in Queenstown early! It was the first flight direct from Welly to Queenstown for that airline so at the other side there was a guy taking photos of the passengers departing, to commemorate the occassion! The weather was beautiful and there were ducklings on the lake.

I stayed the night in Queenstown, in the nicest hostel I've been in yet, at Nomad's hostel (it's a franchise), which turned out to be so nice because the building was brand new. They supply you with an evening meal and toast for breakfast, how great is that?! So today, Christmas Eve, I bungy-jumped from the Kawarau bridge, the place where bungy was invented. It was bloody scary! I did it once about 10 years ago and I remember it being scary but exhilirating. This time it was really just absolutely terrifying, I screamed the whole way down, then the rebound was OK, but I screamed again as I went down a second time, and then some more. I pretty much didn't stop until I was finished. Which was pretty quickly, the whole thing is so fast. However, I don't think I'll be doing that again, I don't know how people really find it fun, I find the entire free-fall thing like one of those falling nightmares. But they do, you can tell, they just jump as if it's not high at all and they whoop and cheer the whole way down. I wanted to be dunked into the water but it turned out that I was not heavy enough within my weight class (as in, the thickness/stretchiness of the rope that they use). The ropes are really scary too, they are made of so many really thin strands of elastic, the entire thing is just absolutely nuts. But I have done it now, next time I will save up my money and sky-dive!

17 December 2011

Lake Taupo

Taupo, a small town on the edge of NZ's biggest lake, has been mostly cold and wet, which is apparently unusual for this time of year but is pretty typical of my luck. No matter where I go and how unlikely that area is to have rain, when I arrive it will rain. So my first day here was absolutely drenching, but despite that I walked up the beginning of the Waikato river to Huka falls, apparently our largest natural attraction. The walk is mostly through native bush, but it is only planted around the walk, directly behind was mostly pine plantations. Still, there were some native birds to see, none of which I got photos of in the rain.

After getting thoroughly wet and cold, there was a geothermally-heated stream to jump into; turns out that Taupo is full of hot-springs! It was really good in the rain, like getting into a bath. After such a thorough wetting however, there was not much else to do but stay inside the hostel, reading books and eating.

I attempted to go out and see the lake when it stopped raining, but of course as soon as I was outside and a fair distance from the hostel, the rain started again! It took a full two days for my shoes to dry out.

My next day in Taupo began with sunshine, so I jumped out of bet and got out of doors as quickly as possible, before it disappeared. The lake looked much nicer than it did the previous evening, and I headed off to walk a little way around it.

The shores of the lake were covered with pumice and every now and then there were hot streams leading into the lake, some with warning signs like the one you can see below.

I walked around to a bay called 3 mile bay, so I assume it is 3 miles from the township. I was getting hungry so it was time to turn back, but I still hadn't really seen the bulk of the lake, it is that big. The sky was still clear for the most part and you could just see the mountains on the other side, which I think are the volcanoes of Tongariro national park.

There were a lot of birds on the lake, swans, ducks, gulls, gannets and herons. This heron was shy and kept ducking away from the camera, but then a dog came and chased it, so I managed to get a picture of the bird lifting off.

When I got back to Taupo I continued around the lake until I came to the very beginning of the Waikato river, which makes for much nicer scenery with blue skies behind it. However, even on the overcast, rainy days the water was a really nice, clear turquoise colour.

I got back to the hostel and decided that I wanted a swim so I headed back to the thermal park area, where I fully intended to have a proper swim in the river. However, the river is really icy cold. So I stuck to the warm stream instead. Only, while in the rain the previous day the stream had been perfect bath temperature, on this nice, sunny day it was too hot to stand in! Luckily, where the stream opens out into the river the waters mix. They don't mix evenly though, you are left with pockets of very hot and pockets of very cold, and have to keep moving to find the best spot.

After a good long swim (I did eventually jump into the cold water, but only for the briefest minute, then right back into the warm bit) the sky had clouded over and it was time to go back, before I got drenched again. I returned to the hostel, only to find that once again I had got sunburnt, even though I had been wearing loads of sunscreen! Maybe it is for the better that the clouds and rain keep following me about? By the next day, it was cold and drizzling again.

15 December 2011

The Far North

So I am currently in Taupo, where I would have a nice view of NZ's largest lake if it wasn't for the bloody rain. About a week ago now I began my foray up north, beginning with a bus ride up to Dunedin, where I froze my butt off (not literally). Then I hopped on a plane to Auckland, the pressure of which just exarcebated my bloody cold, leaving me with blocked ears and an awful cough. So luckily for the next couple of days the plan was just to veg out on my friend's little farm, playing with her baby boy and dog. Here is the view from her house, when I arrived and the weather fooled me into thinking I would get summer.

Here is a view of the cute little farmhouse and the ominous black clouds that plague my travels.

Next stop was Napier, to visit another old school friend. We had about one and a half good summery days, which is better than nothing! Napier is nice, the visit was great, but I don't have time to go on and on as usual because I have only 2 minutes remaining of internet time. Here is a view of the bay from a lookout area.

We went to a petting zoo where the animals were so keen to get at our pottles of animal feed that they tried to climb over the fences.

There was a five-legged sheep!

There were llamas and alpacas, which were also so keen to be fed that they stole my carton of grain out of my hands. That didn't help them much though, seeing as it just spilt all over the ground.

Plus there were lots of birds following us around, like this duck down here with the funny little top-do.

Another drive took us out to Cape Kidnappers, where there is a gannet colony. We didn't bother going to look for that, however. Just sat in the sunshine, with an iced-chocolate and scones.

So after only proper days, in which the presence of summer was somewhat dubious, it was time to leave Napier, which was still quite sunny and warm when I left, with a view from Marine parade of the ocean all bluey-green.

Finally, here is the cat that spent as much time as possible sleeping on my bed during my stay, covering the bedspread with black fur and making me sneeze. Still, it's always nice to have pets around.

05 December 2011

Arrived in Invers

So after a huge delay thanks to Etihad airlines (who I haven't complained to yet but they will be hearing from me!) I am in Invercargill. I'm still very tired and completely unorganised, plus the travelling has left me with the most awful cough. I was given a window seat for my first look in two years and my own country, and I managed to take pictures through the window, so below in a part of Invercargill, the south side, wrong side of the tracks and all that. Can't believe people actually say that about such a small, quite place as Invers. My old house is somewhere inside the red circle, but it's hard to say exactly because the picture is really not clear! I only found it because my old school is now a very noticeable eyesore with it's huge blue roof, and the hardware store is even worse, the entire thing is painted bright orange!

I keep on struggling to remember what day it is, and it already feels like I never really left, but I have only actually been here two days (today is the third). I have taken my sister out from the hospital each day for a break, and yesterday we went to a cafe where I was reintroduced to the classic kiwi milkshake - they're huge! I forgot how big they were, so I had to take a photo of it (it was strawberry flavour). My sister was embarrassed, I had to explain to her that it was only the beginning of my touristy picture-taking.

Not sure what we'll do today, but then tomorrow I'm off to Dunedin, then further up to the North Island for two weeks. I'll arrive back in Invers just in time for Christmas so don't know when I will have time for Christmas shopping. Now there's a downside to being home - have to buy so many more x-mas pressies!

Ok, so now it's the end of the day and I went to the beach. I am jet-lagged, tired, sick with a cold, hayfever and god knows what else but staying home and resting would not be making the most of it! I took my sister down to the beach and after saying she would stay in the car she decided the sand looked pretty solid, than went and drove all the way up to the water, until the waves were practically lapping at her wheelchair. Luckily, she didn't get stuck. So here is the road to the beach:

And here is the beach itself, Oreti beach, about 10 minutes from where I used to live in the city. It's really long, good for surfing and there are big sand dunes behind it. Sometimes the water is full of seaweed and at other times you might stand on a flounder or crab. It's still a good beach though. It's a part of state highway one, so you can drive along it, and the speed limit is 30 km per hour. Once I drove into a hole and got stuck, way back when I was learning to drive, and Dad was so unimpressed. Luckily some people drove by and they had a tow bar. I wasn't allowed to drive for quite awhile after that.