Jul 16, 2007

North Island Adventure

So this post is a little over due. It has been now a month since I actually left to go on the trip this post is about, but in my defense we got back the day before classes resumed, and frankly I've been putting double the effort in on that end since my set back.

Our expedition up north.

To sum it up in one word: Awesome!

Two words: Freaking Awesome!

I could keep going up in word number but that's be tedious for me to write and annoying for you to read.

Instead I'll give you the photo version which like my last vacation post means you'll have a novel sized version (ah got to love pictures been a 1000 words a piece!) once again.
I'm not going into gross detail here. Rather just anecdotes and weird happenings of the trip. If I peak your interest about a certain place or event post a request in the comments and you'll get a special post on it. I took over 800 pictures this trip (I had space on my camera for exactly 2 when I got back!)!!! These are just some of the more interesting...


Our first major stop was the capital of New Zealand. In most regards it is just a bigger version of Dunedin.

It's only major difference is that it is indeed bigger. With tall sky skappers and everything just like a "real" city.

Wellington's waterfront was very very nice.

A major highlight for me was the Te Papa museum New Zealand's national museum

A "pygmy" Blue Whale. Still very huge for a pygmy. It took up the whole ceiling in the natural history gallery.

Lake Taupo

Having ventured up as far north as the city of Hamilton (just an hour or so south of Auckland) we ventured into the center of the North Island rather then further up. We based our selves at Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest body of fresh water, and stayed at a batch owed by some Rebecca's friends.

Because we are teachers in training we have the same break as schools across the country, and as of such we weren't the only tourists riding around. This is my fav example of some of the cool custom painted rental vans in New Zealand.


The city that we in the end spent the most time in was Rotorua (affectionately known as Ro-Vegas by Kiwis). Out of everywhere I've been in New Zealand this was the first true Tourist trap, and most places in this country are focused on tourists. Not only do retailers jack their prices here (good thing we had a free batch to live at 2 hrs away), but even the museums charged admission (a true oddity for NZ as every other museum except those in this area are free).

Our first stop was the gondola and outdoor recreation joint on the edge of town. Andrew here is primed and decked out for land lugeing. Rebecca in the background also partook in this fun and fast pursuit.


Here was our craziest activity of this day. Andrew, his friend Dan (who travelled with us for 90% of the trip), and myself partook in a bungee swing. Not quite as hardcore as a true bungee jump I'll admit, but as the one who had to pull the cord to release us into freefall (which meant my hands weren't braced and made the whole thing a little interesting) it was close.

One of Rotorua's most defining features, you can't help but notice it getting out of the car, is the smell. It is on top of Volcanically charged thermals. Which were a fun geologic component to the whole holiday.

These thermals were sacred to the Maori as well, and as of such this area in times past was a major hub of Maori settlement and culture. Hence the Maori gateway arch in the middle of the thermal hiking trail.

With so much Maori culture in the area we couldn't pass up the opportunity to take some of it in. So for our one truly late stay in Rotorua we visited a Maori traditional village.

Included was a rather cool encounter with a band of traditionally decked out and equipped Maori Warriors who made a grand enterance by war canoe.

One of the highlights was the Hangi, the traditional Maori method of cooking food in an underground coal pit. Now most of the food probably wasn't traditional, but I suspect most of the meat components of such a meal would be endangered and thus illegal. Man oh man though. I'm sad to say that all none Maori prepared potatoes are inferior as of this dinner...

Mount Tongariro

Despite being quite famous now for being the country Lord of the Rings was made in, the majority of filming sites and locations are quite remote, and sadly I've now been to a grand total of 2 of them. Being 2 hours from many of them in Dunedin I do intend on fixing that situation sometime this year.

Of these 2 one of them includes this one which was the top of my list anyways. Mount Doom is this areas middle earth name. All the mountains you see here served a purpose in the film as this major Mordor landmark. To the left (if not covered in cloud) was the longshot full on volcanic version seen in CG Mordor. To the right was the mountain they filmed all the closeups of Frodo and Sam.

Cook Strait

As our trip grew to close we had to get back to Dunedin. Now we could have flown,but we discovered one last true Kiwi cultural event we had to attend in Christchurch (north of Dunedin on the South Island) which meant we could take in the ferry ride across the strait between the islands.

As we pulled out of Wellington the weather was somewhat miserable, and unpleasant.

When we hit the open sea of the strait the wind was quite annoying for me up on deck (where I was the whole trip), but it had one advantage. Lots and lots of Albatross flying around the boat. In total I probably saw some 40 of them on the crossing. The largest was probably just a wandering, but I couldn't be certain due to distance. I'm going to get around to a birds of New Zealand post with all the avians I've seen and photographed down here.

Was a very beautiful voyage come the South Island. The weather even was amazing.

Rainbows and all.


Our first stop on the South Island was the most northerly Picton. In the 30 minutes we were in Picton I saw my favourite sign ever!

This sunken dingy should be on some sort inspirational poster. Or uninspirational poster.

We had barely walked up a block of Picton to see these two things (and discover the aquarium was $15 with 10 minutes to go) before we had to leave.


During the bus ride I slept for the majority of the time due to the early get up (6am) to catch the ferry, and not sleeping during the 3 hour boat ride. The bus made a stop though in one of my favourite places in New Zealand, and that was of course Kaikoura. Though we were only there for 30min it was nice to wander up main street again.


Now from what little of it I've seen I'm not the biggest fan of Christchurch. Helping make up my mind about the place was our first night there I awake to a somewhat disturbing and unpleasant discovery.

Awakening to a sound like a trickle of water I look to the foot of my bed to discover some drunken dude in our hostel room peeing all over my stuff!!!

At the time this was something of a terrible thing (it's 6am, and I'm tired as), but now it's at the point I can kinda laugh at it. It did seal the deal on Christchurch being categorized as something of a dump in my books.

The only nice area of town was Cathedral square. It supported a HUGE variety and selection of buskers. These two kids are of note as their nationally known due to their opening for Jack Black when he came to play here in Christchurch in January. Part of why I found this so significant was if you recall Jack Black was ON my flight when I flew through Christchurch initial to get to Dunedin. Just a couple hours after he got off that plane he saw these kids playing, and impressed by their rocking out had them open his show.

To be honest they were cool for the first 10 minutes, but after exhausting their 3 song repertoire they got a little annoying (still impressive for kids I could be teaching in my current classroom!)

Amongst the buskers was this giant Kiwi trying to sell me stuff.

Our favourite of the street performers were the Motley Two. These guys entertained us with juggling, whip tricks, and a 10 foot high unicycle. One of the best busking routines I've seen. As we learned in the show if the street gig failed them they had the backup of returning to primary teaching.

Wonder if that was an omen of some kind?

The other big highlight of Christchurch (emphasising it's crapiness in my opinion as this is touted in every brochure as a top 3 thing to do here) is to play large size chess in the square. Me and Andrew finally got a turn at the end of the day. He was possessed to win till he made a mistake that resulted in the game being a draw.

Just off the square (but still part of it in my opinion) was the Museum. It actually is in some ways nicer then Dunedin's (though nothing compared to the Te Papa in Wellington). It also has the first Dinosaur I've seen here in NZ. Granted it's only a cast of an American Allosaur. They also have a cast of an Edmontosaur (made me almost homesick for Drum again) and the same Triceratops as the Tyrrell's mount.

Overall the layout of this museum was really well done I thought.

Later that second night (after being moved to a none peeing room) the event we'd made the journey for. An rugby game with the All Blacks, New Zealands national team.

This was a big game in the Tri-Nations Cup. The tournament between the three powerhouses of rugby New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. Tonight we'd see New Zealand eventually beat the stuffing out of South Africa. It took them till the last 5 min of the game, and it was a pretty boring match till then, but the experience was cool. That and we got to see the coolest part of the game live in person...

The concluding highlight was the Haka or traditional Maori war dance the All Blacks made famous. Man it was cool as!

So that was our trip. The brief version mind you. Again if you're curious about anything let me know via a comment on this post and I'll elaborate.

Stay tuned here again once a week as I'll be posting reliably again (just this big post took me the 2 weeks to get done inbetween homework)

Jul 3, 2007

More Than Meets The Eye

Alright so in a weird twist of fate New Zealand somehow got a movie released in it before North America.

We got Transformers several days early, and I went to go see it.

Going into the movie I was expecting some cool visuals and perhaps a moment or two of legitimate nostalgia coolness, but just a lame attempt at cashing in on the us aging 80's kids.

Man was I blown away. Despite the fact it was from the director of Armageddon and The Island this movie was AMAZING. Easily the years best!

I haven't seen a movie that left me as satisfied since the new Bond. I liken it's brilliance to Batman Begins in genre redefining.

I've already gone to see it twice (as a morale increaser), and it holds up easily to multi viewing.


Turns for the Worse

Well no easy way to break it.

I failed my second placement...

Simple and up front it was a disaster in the making. I was in a class of teenager wannabes (a historically difficult group for me) and my health didn't exactly help at a key moment. I blew my control period.

At the same time all is not lost. I lost the battle, but the war if far from over.

it was not an easy time for any of us. Stress was rampant and manifested itself in all of us. Sadly random handstands like Andrew is doing here in my doorway in the midst of the chaos (he too had placement) didn't help me. Andrew made out fine in his placement, but not all made it. Unfortunately myself included.

It was fairly fitting that the weather was terrible throughout this time period. We had snow and winter like Vancouver. Not really all that bad compared to Alberta. Here it only got to -5 and a cm of snow. For here though that was doomsday, and the city shut down twice in the midst of my crisis (only compounding my problem when I was delayed getting to the doctor by a day).

There is a great deal of complexity to this tale, but sadly I don't have the time to tell it at moment. I'll get it up soon.

The net effect is this. I have NOT failed the overall course. Rather simply have to redo this placement and control period. Meaning that I will have to do one final placement early next year meaning I'll be in New Zealand an extra few months more then planned. Not ideal, but yet is all at the same time. It complicates things for sure in any case.

Though I do so with some guilt I ship off up North for the break we're on now. Though I didn't pass I learned a LOT this round. The second go is going to be much better, and I'll be a better teacher from what I buggered up.

Be in touch with the rest of the story in 2ish weeks...