Friday, April 24, 2009

The Superb Southern Sabbatical

Ok, this post is my longest yet. Get ready...

I've just returned from my excursion to the South Island! That trip was awesome! It was 11 days, and I'll tell you about 'em all...

NOTE: All pictures will be in the next post, as this post is long enough as it is.

Day 1: I got to Auckland Airport at about 10. After checking in my bag, I bought some ramen in a miso broth. It was really really good, and quite cheap for airport food too. I flew to Christchurch from Auckland at around 11:30. It was sadly only an hour-long flight. I like long flights... Anyway, I arrived in Christchurch at about 12:35. In the airport, I walked about aimlessly for about a half hour, then ran into another person who was on the tour. We then sat about for about 20 minutes and I started reading The Runaway Jury, one of the 3 books I had brought. We then saw 2 others, who were planning to go straight to our accomodation. I went with them, and we arrived at the Meadow Park Holiday Top 10 park, where we got our room keys and I found out I was meant to bring silverware, a plate, bowl, and cup. I worried about that for a bit, until I found out from our tour guide that he could supply me for that night. For dinner we had roast pork, potatoes, garlic bread, and salad. For dessert we had peach crumble and ice cream. I had mainly crumble and ice cream, as I'm not a big fan of peaches. After dinner, we talked about the activities ahead as well as got "buddies". Now these buddies weren't paired like you may think. Instead of A-B and C-D, it was A->B->C->D->A. The person you buddied with was someone you had to get a small gift for to remind them of the tour. So I then spent the rest of the time talking and reading until I went to sleep.

Day 2: Wake up at 6:45, get a shower, head down to breakfast. Breakfast is the same thing every morning for every day on the tour except one. There's toast and cereal, with peanut butter, Marmite, various jams, english muffins and crumpets. Crumpets with strawberry jam are really good. Anyway, after breakfast and having everything packed, I volunteered to be one of the 4 coach-packers who pack and unpack the suitcases and food from the coach at every accomodation stop. We packed the bus, and headed to Christchurch. In Christchurch, I immediately went to the Christchurch Cathedral, and went up the tower. Man, going up those stairs is not for one with claustrophobia. It is just a small cylinder with somewhat steep steps. A long cylinder. Then you get to some even steeper steps, just like a ladder, then you're at the top. The view from that tower is great though. Anyway, after I got back down, I started walking aimlessly looking for a store that would sell me cheap plastic stuff for eating on and eating with. What ensued was a 2-hour aimless walk around Christchurch, the last 20 minutes being a frantic dash to the Warehouse that finally got me the stuff i needed. Then, after a frantic run to the bus to be on time, 3 other students were really late. We almost missed the next bit, but luckily we didn't as it was a big game of LASER TAG! W00T! 20 minutes of running frantically around a dark room firing red dots at each other was REALLY FUN. I wish we could have had a second game, hehehe... ANYWAY! After that little tad of awesomeness, we got back on the bus and drove 3-4 hours to Kaikoura. We learned that Kaikoura means something along the lines of "Food and Crayfish" as Kai is Food and Koura is Crayfish. Hmmm.... We then went to our accomodation, where we had dinner which was spaghetti bolognese as well as salad. Dessert was various small cake slices and cookies. Afterwards, I went to the spa pool, where...there was this drunk woman who kept just randomly talking to anyone, interrupting in my conversations with other tour members. Soon she left, and apparently she was found in the lodge a little later...unconscious. That was kinda weird.

Day 3: The whale watchers had to get up at 6, but I got to get up around 7 for my SEAL SWIM! There were 3 optional activities we could do, which we had all planned beforehand: Seal swim, Whale watch, or Dolphin swim. People who did none of them would go to look at a seal colony from afar. As I already said, I did the seal swim. After breakfast, we walked down to the place where we would be fitted with our equipment and such. it was the first time i had ever put on a wetsuit. It was quite...strange feeling, but after a while I got used to it. We drove out to a shore where a boat took us to a rock about 200m offshore, where we got into the water with our snorkels, wetsuits, masks and flippers, and froze for about 5 minutes. During and after that time we spent looking around in the water for seals. At first we couldn't find any, but then we found a good spot where some seals were lazing about. After floating there for about 20 minutes they actually started moving around more, but the best part came when all but me and one other person was in the boat. We had about 15 minutes left but I checked out the spot again, and I suddenly saw a large splash in front of me. Surprised, I looked around, but I couldn't see anything. It turns out a seal had actually JUMPED over me and almost landed on top of me! Too bad I couldn't see it though. I did see a ton of seals swimming around me beforehand though, and it was really cool how they could propel themselves so quickly yet make sharp turns on a moment's notice. After that, we got back, and I got my buddy gift, a pocket knife with a paua shell decoration on one side. We then started driving, for a total of a 6-hour drive to Motueka. In that time I finished The Runaway Jury, and resumed reading Death's Jest-Book by Reginald Hill, which I had started before the tour. That night, a group of kids including me were meant to help with dinner. My job: cook 7 kg of shoestring 50 minutes with 1 stove-oven. It didn't work out well. After trying to shove a ton of the fries in one oven, I realized it would'nt work very well, and dumped some into 2 frying pans, and started frying them. Another student came to "help", but the only thing they really did much of was eat the fries straight out of the pan. I was starting to get a bit stressed. Later, 2 more students arrived and did NOTHING except eat the fries, and even brought a jar of mayo for it. I started getting really stressed, and the people eating just said "Oh, just enjoy life." That was probably THE DUMBEST response I have EVER HEARD. The students ended up eating at least 150 of the fries. Then the tour guide came in and said "if they're hot, it's good enough". So I dumped the ones in the frying pan into a dish, and I took the ones in the oven out, intending to fry those as it was better for getting them heated up. Then even MORE people came in and started eating the fries that I had taken out of the oven to be put in the pans, and I suddenly had 6 Chef Ramseys on my back ranting at me how the fries were cold, tasted raw, etc. etc. etc. Finally another student came in and actually helped by assisting me in shoving everyone out of the room, and they DIDN'T eat any fries whatsoever. That student helped me the entire way through, through all the rest of the fries, which didn't all get cooked until dinner had already started. But at least the ordeal was over. And with salt and pepper, the raw-tasting fries actually were pretty good, with the raw taste adding something not too bad to it. Dessert was fruit salad with whipped cream. I spent the rest of the night reading, as there wasn't much else to do.

Day 4: We had to get up at around 6:30 this morning, as we were heading to Abel Tasman National Park to do some hiking and sea kayaking. After getting up, I quickly got some breakfast, and decided that my raincoat would be a good thing to bring as it was drizzling before we even left. We drove to Abel Tasman Watertaxis where there were guides, kayaks, and other various types of boats available for use. Our group was split into two different groups, one that would hike to our destination and kayak back, while the other kayaked there and walked back. I was in the group that kayaked first. We got a quick bit of instruction on sea kayaking, and we not-so-quickly got our things into the small holding cells in the kayaks in plastic bags. The area was covered in gravel, and as I had to put my shoes and socks in the hold as well, my feet really hurt as we carried the kayaks to the trailers that would take them to a beach. We then got into another trailer that was led by a tractor (there were 2 passenger-trailers, with 3 tractors. One of them didn't have a passenger trailer, only a trailer that held kayaks. It kinda reminded me of Allderdice Crew for some reason) which took us to a beach. We then got the kayaks out, and walked along the beach to get them at the edge of the water. We got paddles, got quick lessons in paddling for people who didn't know how, and we got in and set off. It's a good thing I had my raincoat, as we were given 3 things with the kayak: A sprayskirt (keeps water out of the inside of the kayak), life-vest, and a pullover jacket with a hood. The reason why the raincoat was good was because of the jacket. The jacket was wetter on the inside than it was on the outside, but with the raincoat it actually felt quite warm. Anyhow, my partner and I (the kayaks were doubles) started paddling out onto the water. We actually went at not too bad a speed, and since I had control of the rudder we didn't even have to worry about steering with the paddles. It was a long kayak ride, full of other people splashing each other for no adequately explored reason, while my partner and I just kept on paddling. There was a light drizzle the entire time, but I didn't mind. About 4/5 the way through the trip, everyone was told to stop and line up their kayaks side-by-side. At that point I started feeling a bit of apprehension. Quite right too, as we were all meant to STAND UP in our kayaks while not capsizing them. Let's just say we barely managed to do it, with one person almost falling out. Afterwards, we finally arrived at Apple Tree Beach, where there were no apple trees. Instead we just ate the lunches packed the night before, had some hot MILO, and changed out of some of our wet clothes. Some people who didn't have the area to dry their feet and get their socks and shoes on decided to walk back barefoot. Knowing I wouldn't be able to stand that, I found a dry spot (took a while), dried my feet and got my trusty Merrells on, as well as replacing my swimsuit with khaki pants. Ahhhh, nice and warm. We walked back through even more drizzle, and some extra mud. Took about, say 2 hours I'm guessing to get back to Watertaxis. Back there, we were given a nice amount of food, consisting of bowls of Pineapple Lumps, wine gums, small rolls that reminded me of mini beef wellingtons, and corn chips. That was a nice surprise, and I went through about 9 of those meat and pastry rolls. We then drove back to the Motueka Holiday Park, where everyone dried off, warmed up, and prepared for dinner. Dinner that night was roast chicken, peas, and of course, salad. Dessert was raspberry-chocolate logs a la mode. After dinner we waited for the other tour group, AFS2 to arrive. My group was AFS1, and AFS2 was a day behind us. As we stayed 2 nights at Motueka, AFS2 arrived. I saw 1 person who was from the Waikato North chapter who was in AFS2, but that was the only person I recognized in that group. I played a bit of chess on the giant chess set nearby, then read some more, and got some sleep.

Day 5: Wake-up at 6! Early breakfast and quick packing! We have a lot of driving to do! *hums "Got a Lot of Livin'" from Bye Bye Birdie* Anyway, we start driving, and after about 2 hours we arrive at what seems to be just another cafe. However, we get to go to the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks! Mmmmm....pancakes. Yeah, those rocks are large rock formations that have strange parallel grooves in them, that make them look like...well, stacks of pancakes. I also saw some nice gorges filled with rushing water, and a few "blowholes" in the rocks. It took about 20 minutes to walk around and see all the rocks. We got back, and started driving again. 3 hours later, we arrived at the Westland Greenstone Factory. Greenstone, known to the Maori as Pounamu (POH-nah-moo), is a stone that is well known to many in New Zealand. It is rare to go a day through a city and not see someone wearing a greenstone necklace, usually carved into some shape or other. This factory is one of the places that they carved the greenstone. In the factory, we learned that greenstone is actually nephrite jade, a gemstone with a hardness a bit over 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. Being a gemstone freak, I was quite interested. There are 7 main types of greenstone, all with different shades and specks of green throughout, with some also having other colors. We learned a bit of interesting history about the greenstone as well. The old Maori tribes used Pounamu for edges and heads for tools, spears, and other weapons as well. They didn't have the diamond saws and knives that the people at the factory had to carve the stone, so they used a different method for breaking apart the stone whenever they found one. They heated the stone over a large fire for a few days, then quickly put it in the ocean, where the quick change from hot to cold would crack the stone. They would then use hard stones to crack apart the stone into usable pieces. After that, they rubbed with rough animal skins and chipped with hard stones for days on end to smooth and shape the stone. Here in the factory, all they needed was a diamond saw and drill, but it still took a long time. After the brief history lesson, we got to browse the shop for various greenstone things. I saw a bunch of interesting things, like axe heads made entirely out of greenstone that were worth about 280 NZ$, but the priciest thing was a sculpture of a bird in flight, that had a hefty tag of 5500 NZ$! Not having much money on me, I bought a nephrite jade narrow-banded ring. I learned it wasn't made from true NZ nephrite jade, but that didn't matter to me as I liked the color, and even if it isn't NZ nephrite jade, it's still nephrite jade. After the interesting interlude we continued to drive for about another 2 hours until we finally reached our youth hostel at Franz Josef Glacier. We unpacked our stuff, got our rooms, and I started walking around the hostel as usual until dinner. A little before dinner I learned we were heading to hot glacier pools immediately after dinner, so I changed into my swimsuit and got a towel. Dinner was my favorite of the entire tour, penne pasta with a cream sauce and salmon, as well as...Yep, salad. Dessert was PAVLOVA, an iconic New Zealand dessert. For those of you that don't know what pavlova is, it's basically sugar, egg, and air. Pavlova is often served with ice cream, whipped cream, or fruit. We just had whipped cream. Throughout the night I had 4 slices of the pavlova, yet we still had quite a few left, so I offered them to a family of 4 that was playing Monopoly next to me, and they quite liked it. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. After the dinner we walked to the Glacier Hot Pools. If you remember from my post "Fire and Ice, Plot Progression, and a Whole Lot More", you'll remember that I had gone to hot pools on my ski trip. However, the public hot pools there were nothing in terms of looks compared to these ones. We only went in the public hot pools, but they looked much more...natural. While the one on my ski trip had looked like a normal swimming pool, the 3 (yes, 3 pools!) pools here had plants all arond them, and the pools had the appearance of being made out of rock, with fake rocks in the pools to sit on as well. The 3 pools had 3 different temperatures: 36, 38, and 40 degrees, Celsius of course. For ease of understanding, that is the equivalent of 96.8, 100.4, and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. I started out in the 38, then moved to the 40. I only lasted about 15 minutes in the 40 until I had to go back to the 38, as I'm not the most comfortable person with hot things. I spent probably a half-hour just stretching myself across a gap in the pool, hearing muscle fibers stretch. It was very relaxing, but then some other students and I decided to try something out. We went into the 40 pool, then after about 2 minutes we quickly went into the 36. The 36 felt COLD at that point, and I found the sensation really interesting. We lazed about for another half-hour or so, then we headed back to the accomodation, were I ate a little more pavlova (making up the 4 slice total), played some Scrabble, and headed to bed.

Day 6: Another early wake-up, but this time so we can head off to our HELICOPTER FLIGHTS! Yep, I signed up for a 20 minute helicopter flight, with a landing on the glacier! We headed off to the Franz Josef Alpine Centre, where we listened to a few safety precautions, then headed to the choppers. 6 people per chopper, 2 separate groups of 3 choppers. On the ride up, I was in the back seat, glad for the sound-muffling headphones that we got, because without them I'd probably be deaf. When we landed on the snow, the view was spectactular. I felt the nice chill of snow around me, and got to take in the awesome alpine air. I love snowy mountains. They're my favorite type of scenery. Glaciers are really awesome, and this one was great as well. After the landing, we got in the chopper, with me in the front seat this time. We started flying out over the glacier, when I got to see the big drop down right in front of me. It was quite the -for lack of a better word- breathtaking experience. When we got back, we had to walk back to the accomodation, pack, and set off again. We stopped by Fox Glacier, intending to walk close to it to get some good pictures, but nature was a noob, and it turns out there was a rockfall recently so no one could go. That was annoying. Still, we continued on. This time we were heading for Wanaka. However, we first stopped at one of the strangest places I have ever seen: Puzzling World. Puzzling world is famous for 3 things: its Great Maze, its Illusion Rooms, and its Psychic Challenge. I did the first 2, but I lacked the ESP and the 1000 NZ$ for the third, and I would not have wanted to do that anyway. Anyway, the Great Maze is a large rectangular life-size maze with 4 colored corners: Yellow, Green, Blue, and Red. The normal challenge is to go to all 4 corners in any order, then get back to the center. It averages 30 minutes to an hour for that. The difficult one is to go in the order I just stated above of the colors and head back to the center, taking about 1-1 1/2 hours. I did the normal challenge as I had been to the Illusion rooms beforehand and didn't have 1 1/2 hours to spare. It took me 10 minutes to get to every corner...and 25 minutes to get back to the center. Man, it's harder than it seems! All the winding turns, bridges, and dead ends make it hard to remember your path. Now to the Illusion Rooms, which I had done first. The first room was a room full of holograms that appeared when you looked at them at a certain angle, as well as a strange wall with 6 tubes that lit up around your hand if you moved your hand near to them or touched the wall. I still don't understand how that works, but I have a theory or 2. The second Illusion Room was a room where you looked into a smaller room that appeared normal. However, people who walked from wall to wall in that room suddenly got bigger! That's because the room was angled, and its checkered floor pattern hid the angle. The third room was the creepiest. It was just filled with deep impressions of famous faces. However, because of the way they were displayed, they looked like they were jutting out from the wall, and ALL of them followed you around as you looked at them. Very very creepy. The final Illusion room was my favorite. It was a room where the floor was angled, so everything suddenly appeared off-center. Thanks to that wall, you could see strange things like a golf ball rolling UP a pool table into a pocket, a chair slide that slid UP stairs, and water that flowed UP a slope into another trough. The other 2 things was a set of stairs that when you stood on them, you appeared to be standing upright at an angle, and a swing that at its resting position hung at a strange angle to the ground. It was definitely the most interesting room of the bunch. Now, I didn't do anything else, but I'll explain the Psychic Challenge. Somewhere in a 100m radius of Puzzling World there were 2 promissory note pieces. The challenge was that the ambitious psychic would ask the owner of Puzzling World any questions about their location for 30 minutes, but the owner would only THINK the answers. The psychic then had an hour to find the notes. If they found them, they would gain their 1000$ entry fee, as well as 100,000$! However, if they couldn't find them, they would lose their money and the money would go to charity. 7 psychics had tried since 1994 when it started, and none had ever prevailed. Anyway, we drove then to Wanaka, where we stayed at probably the worst of the accomodations. I then went into town alone to look for a restaurant, preferably Japanese. I couldn't find one, but then as I walked about with 3 other students, we found a Thai/Japanese place. For dinner I had 12 salmon maki sushi, also known as roll sushi, as well as a nice bowl of rice. 2 of the students went to the Cinema Paradiso to see Changeling, but I wasn't interested in that since I don't like horror movies, so I just headed back and *shock!* read. At the end of the night, I was just reading, reading, reading, and then went to sleep, preparing for an interesting experience the next day...

Day 7: Today, I jumped off a bridge. I jumped, 43 meters high (141 feet), down to a river. But more on that later. We woke up early in Wanaka, had breakfast, packed, blah blah lathered rinsed and repeated our previous 5 mornings' routine. Then we drove to the Kawarau gorge, and...the KARAWAU BRIDGE. Mean anything? Possibly yes, possibly no. But it meant a lot to me, because that's where I did my BUNGY JUMP! Yep, I decided to jump haplessly off a bridge with a cord made of tons of latex strings as my only lifeline. And before you start ranting at my spelling of "Bungy", it truly is spelled like that when referring to the jump. That is because the guy who popularlized it, AJ Hackett, decided to call it that with the "Bung" from bungee cords as they were very stretchy, and the "y" as in "Why are we doing this?" I was also the first to jump that day. I chose not to splash in the river as I didn't really feel like getting wet on my first jump. After a little time waving to people and ensuring all pictures were taken, I recklessly jumped forward into a swan dive. Man, that ground rush was intense! The 1-second fall felt like 5. Yet, I felt no pain whatsoever, no stretch from the tautness of the cord. All I felt was the blood rushing to my head as I grabbed for the pole that would bring me to the raft that was floating on the river. I then bounded up all the stairs back to the bungy center, and got my free shirt, but declined pictures and DVD as they were way too expensive. I then watched everyone else jump. One student was hilarious in their jump as they screamed their entire way down, and when they inadvertently splashed into the river, they screamed some more. The reason why they splashed down was that they kinda tumbled off of the platform instead of jumping forward like I did. I was told to jump forward so I wouldn't splash, and apparently that student didn't hear that. With my new shirt on, we headed out to Shotover Canyon, where we got to go on a JET BOAT RIDE! The Shotover Jet is one of the greatest jet boat rides in the world, and rightly so. We rode at around 40-50k an hour, going quickly through a narrow canyon, drifting around corners, and doing a bunch of 360 degree spins! The ride lasted about 20 minutes, and it was definitely one of the most fun experiences I've ever had. Once again, however, I didn't get any DVDs or pictures because of the price. After that, we headed the remainder of the distance into Queenstown, known as the adventure capital of New Zealand. We had a free night that night, and I scouted around for a certain type of restaurant. Based on the past parts of the blog, try to guess what that restaurant was...Yep! Japanese! And I found two different ones, but I went to the one that was just that little bit cheaper. Also I wasn't very hungry anyway, so I didn't have much to worry about. I had a nice set of 6 mini maki salmon pieces, with an extra bowl of rice, and it came with some really good miso soup too. After dinner I kept walking aimlessly until I just decided to head back to the accomodation, where, after a long time, everyone came back, and a bunch of people decided to watch American Psycho on TV because we only had 2 channels.

Day 8: I got up with no worries whatsoever about when, since I had the entire day free. I had a relatively late breakfast at 9:30, then started walking about Queenstown with no real objective. I had heard about a skating rink that was somewhere nearby, so I walked over there, only to find that it was conveniently closed on Mondays. I then walked around some more, examined the disc golf course at the Queenstown Gardens where the skating rink was, and eventually headed back to that Japanese place I had went the night before for lunch. I had their lunch bento (japanese lunchbox), which was an awesome choice, as the lunchbox had 4 pieces of teriyaki chicken, 3 tempura, 2 salmon sashimi, 3 salmon rolls, a good bit of rice, salad with the traditional dressing, and it came with miso soup to boot. Very tasty. While I was eating I saw 2 other students walking past the window, but they didn't notice me. I ran into them later, and just for the heck of it told them about it. It turns out they were looking for shops to get buddy gifts for, so I helped them out a bit, and they finally decided on something after about 3 hours. By then I once again had nothing to do, so I headed back to the accomodation. There, I read (shock!) until it was time for dinner. Dinner that night was an authentic hangi. A hangi is a traditional Maori method of cooking where they make a large hole in the ground and place the food around various sources of heat. I'm not completely sure how it is, I think they burn various woods and such, but I can't remember the details. Either way, I had a nice dinner of beef, chicken, pork, lots of potato and kumara (if I haven't mentioned that before, kumara's like sweet potato), with a bit of stuffing to go along with it. After dinner I didn't bother to go out again, instead just sitting inside playing cards with a few other people.

Day 9: We finally say goodbye to Queenstown. We pack up everything yet again, and head off, this time heading for Milford Sound! We once again have a long bus ride ahead of us. We stop at a few places again, cafes, lookout points, etc. An interesting place that we stopped at was the Monkey Creek. The creek was a creek of water that was straight from a mountain spring. At first I thought it was ridiculous, but everyone was drinking the water, and I tried some as well. It was actually really good! I filled my camelback with it and it ended up staying cold for the next 2 days! And it was really refreshing too. But the most interesting of the stops we make is the one right before Homer's Tunnel. That tunnel is a tunnel about 5/8 of a mile long that goes under the Main Divide of the Homer Saddle. You have to go through that tunnel to reach Milford Sound by land. Before we got the go-ahead to enter (there was a traffic light that went green every 15 minutes), we saw a Kea to the right of the bus, and it actually WASN'T chewing through a car! Keas are heavy alpine parrots that are known for their sharp beaks that can chew through the chassis of cars. The one we saw, however, was just standing in a parking lot. As we went through, the driver randomly decided to play the Batman theme. It actually was strangely fitting, and strangely funny as well. Once we got through the tunnel, we saw a GIANT EXPANSE of probably one of the most beautiful mountain landscapes I have ever seen. I have a hard time describing such things though, so just wait for the pictures. As we headed towards the Sound, we stopped by the Chasm. Now, when we first got to the small parking lot there, I didn't see anything interesting. I went on the 5-minute walk to the Chasm, and the walk wasn't interesting either. But when I got to the Chasm itself, it was quite a surprise! I suddenly saw a river flowing FAR BELOW me. On one side there were rocks right beside me as if it was on normal ground, but the other side was a huge drop! There was also another bridge that you could get to, and you could see the river flowing into that hollow in the rocks on both sides, which gave me a bit of perspective. I took a small video of it. We continued driving down until we reached the port where we would board the Milford Wanderer. The Wanderer was a small ship that looked older compared to the other sleek crafts in the dock. However, when we got on, I liked the looks of the ship. Once again, I have pictures in the next post for description. I looked up on the menu, and found we had a dinner set for that night... Roast pork drizzled with applesauce, red cabbage, potatoes, and a dessert of peach crumble with ice cream. Scary, huh? That's very similar to another night...Anyway! Before all that we had a safety briefing, as well as tomato soup that tasted remarkably like a high-quality marinara sauce, as well as dinner rolls with butter. Tasty. After we cruised out onto the Sound for a bit, we stopped in Harrison's Cove, near the mouth of a small river. There we could do 3 optional activites: Kayak, ride in the tender craft with the nature guide, or swim. I chose to kayak. The kayaks didn't have sprayskirts so it was a tad awkward getting used to it, but I had some fun kayaking around the cove. When I got back to the boat, I changed back into normal clothes, and by then, dinner was ready. The dinner was quite good, and there was also couscous and salad. I ate about 3 small bowls of couscous since it's one of the most awesome things ever, and even though I don't like peaches, I still liked the dessert anyway. After dessert, everyone got out cards, and the ship had some board games on it. I first played probably the shortest game of Monopoly I have ever played, though it was the NZ Here and Now edition, so I think the prices were a bit higher for the game to go a tad faster. Either way, it was pretty fun, even though Monopoly is almost entirely luck-based. Afterwards I played some backgammon, checkers, and chess, in that order. Then I went to sleep in the cabin.

Day 10: The last full day. I got up at around 6:45, ready for breakfast at 7 when the engines turned on. It started out only continental with cereal and such, but they later brought in toast, and after that, eggs, bacon, sausage and hash browns. Not too bad. Then we started heading out of the Sound onto the Tasman Sea. I then went up straight to the prow of the ship, and it felt GREAT to have all that wind rushing around me, blowing my hair and my coat back. We sailed out for a bit, then sailed back in. On the way back to the port we stopped by a waterfall that had a legend that any woman who got touched by the spray would look 10 years younger. Though I had that gender problem that wouldn't fit the legend, I went out to look at the waterfall anyway. The spray did feel quite nice. There was one more thing that we got to see before we arrived back. We saw a large cliff that actually hung over a little bit. However, it appeared to be nothing much, until we leaned backwards over the boat's rail and looked at it upside down. That view gives a strangely different perspective that's very hard to describe. Whenever you're looking at something tall next time, try bending your back towards it and looking at it in that manner. Perhaps your perspective will change too. I stayed inside the cabin on the way back to the port after that, trying to rid my hands of their lethargy from the cold of the wind while I was standing on the prow. We got back to port, and quickly got back in the coach. We then began our long drive back, to Mount Cook. After a few hours we got to one of the cafe areas we were at before. Everything started out fine, but after a little while things started to get a bit...wrong. I'm not at liberty to give details, but let's just say something happened, and because of it we got delayed by about 2 freakin' hours. When we finally got on the road again, we were very late. We finally got to the accomodation, and to my dismay, we couldn't go to the base of Mt. Cook. I felt like swearing a whole lot at that point, because I really like mountains and I really wanted to see Mt. Cook up close. Instead we just got cooking right away. That night we had nachos, sausages, garlic bread, and of course, salad. For dessert we had cookies. Lots and lots of cookies. During that time we also presented our buddy gifts to each other. I got a mug with the Haka on it. We also sang each of our country's national anthems. After that there was just a random party consisting of unnecessarily loud music for a time such as 12:00 AM. I went back to my room and finished my last book, The Two Minute Rule, and about an hour later everyone came back because the party had to be stopped because of outside complaints of the noise. I found that rather funny. Anyway, the day ended with me a little frustrated.

Day 11: We had to get up at 5:30 to get to the airport by 11:45. Luckily, everything was packed. Breakfast was eaten in the same manner as before, and we got on the road. We stopped at about 8 at a small cafe, as usual, where I got a pretty good lemon meringue pie for only 2.50. Quite a good price. We kept driving, and during that time we got our group photos that were taken at Abel Tasman National Park. We also got titles for various quirks that happened for each of us during the tour. My title was Mr. Chips. We then arrived at the Christchurch Airport, where I had a whopping 10 hours to kill before my flight. I said goodbye to everyone, got a bag of Minties for free from the tour guide who was just trying to get rid of the extra candy, and headed in to the airport. I put my suitcase in baggage storage, then caught a bus into the main Christchurch area. Once in Christchurch, I looked around for a restaurant. Of course, I was looking for a Japanese place, and I did. Got some good sushi, some strange-tasting miso soup (the miso didn't taste like every other miso I've had), and a nice bowl of rice. I then walked around town until I reached the library. I took Bleachers by John Grisham off of the shelf, and read it cover-to-cover in about 2 hours. I then took a bus back to the airport, got my bag, checked it in, and went to the gate. There, I waited. And waited. And waited....until FINALLY my flight was ready to depart.

Nothing else to say other than I got back without incident. There you go! That was my south island trip! As for what my favorite day would be, it would probably be the 7th. Bungy jumping, jet boating and Japanese food all in one day. Awesome. Anyway, before I stop, I'll tell you a few fun little facts about my trip...

-Out of the 8 different hostels and holiday parks I stayed in, 5 had cats!
-The Kawarau Bridge was the site of the first commercialized bungy jump.
-Conveniently, a lot of the hostels had Scrabble, so I played that a lot throughout the tour.
-Completely by luck, I was in the same room as a certain student at 4 of the 8 hostels.
-Everyone was obsessed with playing the card game "Scum", also known as "Presidents" throughout the entire tour.
-Whenever there was a Subway in sight anywhere where we stopped, about 95% of the students had lunch there.

Yeah, those aren't exactly natural facts or anything, just funny little quirks mostly. Anyway, that was my really long post! Thanks for reading it! Or at least I hope you read it... Because whoever doesn't read it won't know about the trip! I'm not going to talk about the South Island trip outside the blog unless you have proof that you read it. As proof, you must say the name of the bird that is known for chewing through car chassis! =P

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Singing of a Loss at Stations of the Cross

This is my last post before the South Island Trip! I thought I'd just update you on the few things that have happened before I go on my 11-day excursion. Term 1 at Fairfield is OVER! W00T! I did my kayaking and pool assessments, and managed to get Achievement with Merit. I only missed Excellence because I can't roll a kayak on my non-preferred side. But, either way, it works. I've taken care of any exams that I've had, and gotten through them all, too. But now, to the topic of the title. Stations of the Cross took place at quite a few churches and other areas here, but the one I'm speaking of is the art exhibition at the Hamilton Gardens. WOVEN sung there, so that's how I was there. We were singing a piece made by WOVEN called "Dolore Sensa Misura", also known as "Grief without Measure". We didn't sing in Latin whatsoever, but what the piece was a 5-part cycle about the 5 stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. We sung in a small tunnel around the station where Jesus is nailed to the cross.

Something felt awkward about it though, as our piece was 100% secular. There were a few possible references to it being religious, but the words were completely non-religious. We sung for 2 hours on 6 nights, and every person attended 3 of those nights, except our director of course, who attended all 6. We sang through the piece about 10 times each night as well. My favorite part of the whole thing was probably the free hot chocolate at the end, hehehe...I like hot chocolate, especially since it wasn't scalding when I drank it. Anyway, the main other thing I've done recently is go to 3 night/afternoon church services, on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Saturday before Easter, for what I believe is called the Tridium, or 3 services that all connect, some not having beginnings or ends. It was made as if it was 3 services in one, starting on Thursday and ending on Saturday. I had never been to such a combination, so I actually found it pretty interesting, especially the Easter Vigil on Saturday.

So, that's just about it from me for this one. When I get back from the South Island I'll make sure to tell you all about it (and show you some things, too!). Have a Happy Easter, everyone! And for everyone who may not celebrate Easter, secular or religious, have a good...whatever you are celebrating, be it Passover or something else. Or if you're not celebrating anything whatsoever, just have a good day!