Archive for September, 2008

September 23rd – 29th: About (and above) town

September 29, 2008

Another update! We haven’t left the city at all, but it’s still been pretty busy. Becky’s been working for about a week, waitressing and occasionally bartending at a swanky seafood restaurant on Queen’s Wharf. In her first week she’s already served a tableful of drinking, singing politicians whose names have recently made the papers for bribery and corruption scandals. (And we thought we’d gotten away from DC.)

Taken from near Becky's work, overlooking the Wellington harbor.

Taken from near Becky's work, overlooking the Wellington harbor.

Our house is circled in red, to the right of the church on the hill.

Seagull! (Our house is circled in red, just down the street from the brick church on the hill.)

A couple days ago we went to the top of the mountain on whose foothills we reside. It was hella steep — we were glad we weren’t the hacking, sweating fools we saw running up from sea level.

Wellington and the harbor from atop Mt. Victoria. The brick church, near the bottom of the picture, almost looks like it's at water's edge. Queen's Wharf is the innermost wharf in the bay.

Wellington and the harbor from atop Mt. Victoria. The brick church, near the bottom of the picture, almost looks like it's at water's edge. Queen's Wharf is the innermost wharf in the bay.

Over Becky's shoulder is a straight shot to Antarctica. Anybody care for a swim?

Over Becky's shoulder is a straight shot to Antarctica. Anybody care for a swim?

We’re heading back into the country this weekend, so expect more pictures then, if not earlier!

September 15th – 22nd: Home Sweet Wellington

September 22, 2008

For the last week, we’ve been getting settled in Wellington: learning our way around the neighborhood, stocking our kitchen shelves, buying lamps and hangers, the works. We’re beginning to really explore Wellington and already have favorite Thai and Indian restaurants; this town is charming.

Oriental Bay as seen from a bit further up our street

Oriental Bay as seen from a bit further up our street

Jonathan’s been working for a few weeks now, and Becky’s on the job hunt with a handful of good prospects. We’ve been getting to know our roommates too and have done a little barhopping. Unfortunately for everyone back home, we haven’t been bringing our camera with us much when we’ve been out, so the shots of downtown will have to wait, but we don’t have to go far from home to get a great view.

Wellington from our front porch

Downtown Wellington from our front porch

Becky poses on the front porch. Our bedroom window is left of where she stands. (Check out the stairs we have to climb just to get to our front door!)

Becky poses on the front porch. Our bedroom window is left of where she stands. (Check out the stairs we have to climb just to get to our front door!)

September 10th-14th: Wellington and Paekakariki

September 16, 2008

After a lot of house-hunting upon our arrival in Wellington, we found a great room in a big old house in Mt. Victoria, a neighborhood on the southeastern edge of the main commercial district. It is, as its name implies, on a bit of a incline, so we’re guaranteed good exercise every time we leave the house.

Since the room wasn’t going to be vacated until the following weekend, we went back into the country for the three days’ wait. We stayed in Paekakariki, less than an hour’s drive north of Wellington on the Kapiti Coast. It was an adorable little town, with a grand total of maybe seven shops and restaurants, and our hostel had an amazing view of the beach.

The sun setting over the South Island

The sun setting over the South Island

Then we moved into our home for the next couple months! Our room itself is stunning – high ceilings with gorgeously patterned crown molding and two stained glass windows, one of them the size of a door. The house is pretty big, with a half-dozen housemates, most of whom we’ve met by now. It’s a pretty transient group, with a lot of international travelers.

Move-in day!

Move-in day!

So this means a permanent address now, too! If anyone wants to send us presents, or even plain old letters, you can reach us here:

64 Hawker St.
Mt. Victoria, Wellington 6011
NEW ZEALAND

September 7th and 8th: More roadside attractions

September 9, 2008

Our tour of the Northland completed (at least for now), we were ready for more permanent surroundings, so we set out down State Highway 1 bound for Wellington. On the way, we came to the conclusion that New Zealand has way more awesome roadside kitsch than the US. Also, pigs.

Becky fell a little in love with this charming gentleman.

A lonely pig grazing amongst cows. Becky fell a little in love with this charming gentleman.

Inside this structure is a shop that sells - you guessed it - woolen goods from New Zealand's finest.

Inside this structure is a shop that sells - you guessed it - woolen goods from New Zealand's finest.

This WWII-era plane was converted into a (cookie-themed) cafe.

This WWII-era plane was converted into a (cookie-themed) cafe.

On any long drive you’ll have to stop for a bathroom break, but how often are the comfort facilities actually a tourist draw in their own right? In Kawakawa, the public toilets were desgned by the renowned Austrian artist and architect Frederick Hundertwasser, who had retired there. It was his last major work before his death.

The windows are made of wine and liquor bottles in cement.

The windows are made of wine and liquor bottles in cement.

We stopped at Whangarei (FANG-er-ay) Falls in Northland to stretch our legs and see a beautiful waterfall. It was a short, easy hike down to the foot of the falls, and we were even able to walk over the river right at the top of the waterfall (on a footbridge — don’t freak out, Mom).

hanging out at Whangarei Falls

hanging out at Whangarei Falls

We hit Wellington just before dusk on Monday and were able to see a little of the city before checking into our hostel and starting our housing hunt.

Home at last, once we find one!

Home at last, once we find one!

September 6th: Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga

September 9, 2008

On Saturday we took a bus tour up to the northern-most point of New Zealand, along Ninety Mile Beach – a bus tour because they actually drive on the beach itself for the majority of the way up. Our car, champion though it is, didn’t have the 4-wheel-drive capabilities to keep itself from becoming a permanent addition to the scenery. It wouldn’t have been the first one, either:

Oops.

Oops.

Along the way, we saw several seals lounging around on the beach. There were also tracks in the sand from the herds of wild horses that live in the dunes and brush off the beach, but we didn’t see any.

Damn tourists! Get off my lawn!

Damn tourists! Get off my lawn!

At Te Paki, we headed inland through the dunes. Some of these were massive — several stories high and ridiculously steep. So, of course, we pulled out the boogie boards and prepared for mouths full of sand.

Rad.

Rad.

At last we reached Cape Reinga. The view from the top overlooks the meeting of the Tasman Sea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east, and it was amazing how visibly different they are.

The lighthouse at Cape Reinga and the meeting of the oceans

The lighthouse at Cape Reinga and the meeting of the oceans

The turquoise waters of the Tasman Sea

The turquoise waters of the Tasman Sea

On our way back down, we stopped at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom shop. mostly they were trying to sell us ludicrously expensive furniture and knickknacks hewed from ancient swamp kauri, but they also had a rockin’ staircase carved inside a massive, 45-thousand-year-old kauri log.

This picture only captures about half the log's width.

This picture only captures about half the log's width.

September 5th: Roadside attractions

September 8, 2008

Our drive toward the northernmost point of New Zealand was greeted with fairly gloomy weather; apparently, New Zealand had decided to remind us that we’d arrived in early spring. (September showers bring October flowers?) The morning was brightened, though, when we saw about a dozen wild (we assume) roosters hanging out on the side of the road.

No, what are YOU doing here?

No, what are YOU doing here?

The morning was brightened still further when we discovered a rare treat of Northland: calla lilies, growing wild by the side of the road. They’re apparently as common as weeds here; we’ve seen them many times growing wild along fence lines.

With weeds like these, who needs flower boxes?

With weeds like these, who needs flower boxes?

On yet another impromptu stop we saw a huge field full of sheep at pasture in a valley below the road. When we approached for a picture, though, the nearest handful of sheep glanced up at us and fled in panic. The rest of the herd soon followed suit, leading to a full-scale stampede down the slope.

where tourists are tourists and sheep are nervous.

New Zealand: where tourists are tourists and sheep are nervous.

We finished our drive up to Ahipara to book our hostel, and then following advice from the information center we headed up to the Karikari Peninsula for the afternoon. Matai Bay is a completely isolated, indescribably beautiful beach; it’s also a government-protected biodiversity area, so there was an impressive array of native plant life. We stayed until near sunset.

The unspoiled beach had some excellent shells and the like, including this live starfish.

The unspoiled beach had some excellent shells and the like, including this live starfish.

The skies open up over Matai Bay.

The skies open up over Matai Bay.

September 3rd and 4th: Driving North

September 7, 2008

Once were safely on the ground in Auckland, the first mission was to buy or hire a car. We ended up with an adorable, zippy little 1996 Toyota Starlet for just NZ$11 a day for our trip. We’re quickly adjusting to driving on the left side of the road. Trickier is the fact that the controls for the turn signal and windshield wiper are reversed from what we’re used to, so we end up signaling some turns by wiping our windshield.

Isn't it cute?

Isn't it cute?

We set out in our new car to New Zealand’s Northland. We stopped for an afternoon in Devonport, just across Torpedo Bay from Auckland, where we had a terrific view of the Auckland skyline.

A view of Auckland from the beach

A view of Auckland from the beach

Our first trip out into the country also gave us our first of what will surely be many sightings of New Zealand sheep. They were somehow not as excited to see us as we were to see them.

Baaaaah.

Baaaaah.

From Devonport we drove north along the east coast. The scenery in Northland is spectacular. We camped in a park on Hauriki Bay, where we were awakened before dawn by a multitude of bird calls that sounded really unnatural. The park is the site of a project to reintroduce native fauna to the area, so they were probably denser there than anywhere else on the island. So much for sleeping in!

Jonathan gets stuck in the tent.

Jonathan gets stuck in the tent.


We went on a hike from our campsite to a hilltop with a magnificent view of Hauriki Bay and then down to the beach, where there were a bunch of pohutukawa trees, some of the most bizarre-looking trees we’ve encountered yet.

The gnarly branches of the pohutukawa make for good seats.

The gnarly branches of the pohutukawa make for good seats.

Heading up the west coast of the North Island along the Tasman Sea, we drove through the Waipoua Forest, home to the world’s oldest and largest living Kauri trees. We had to stop for about an hour to wait out a rainstorm, which was fitting for this rainforest. The vegetation was incredibly thick and was the most surprising combinations of evergreens, desert-like brush, and palms. The tallest and oldest single kauri tree, called Tane Mahuta (God of the Forest in Maori), scrapes the sky at over 50m tall and a whopping 14m wide.

Look closely -- Jonathan is short, once again.

Look closely - Jonathan is short, once again.

Sadly, the camera battery died before we were able to capture the breathtaking views from the northern end of the park, looking out over a small valley filled with lush greenery. The sun, just coming out after a spell of rain, added even more to the scene. We stayed in a hostel not far from there, overlooking the Hokianga harbor, where as we watched the sun set that night, a seal was playing in the surf.

September 1st and 2nd: Southern Hemisphering!

September 2, 2008

After traveling for two days and crossing the international dateline, we are finally in New Zealand!

Jonathan smiles through the exhaustion at the Auckland airport.

Jonathan smiles through the exhaustion at the Auckland airport.

We checked into our hotel where we would stay for the first two days and started planning our next moves in detail – then took a long and well-deserved nap.

We set out to see Auckland the next morning, starting off in beautiful Albert Park. The trees are amazing, and we got a good view of the Auckland skyline, including the Sky Tower. The spirit of adventure in NZ is so strong that people regularly jump off this building (okay, with wire harnesses, but still).

If you look closely at the large image, you can see two people getting ready to jump.

If you look closely at the large image, you can see two people getting ready to jump.

We were frustrated yet again by an art museum being remodeled (it’s not funny anymore, guys), so we had a delicious breakfast at a cute little cafe and checked out some of the shops and other neighborhood sights. We couldn’t resist going into a bar we found which was entirely made of ice, right down to the glasses our drinks were served in. It was wittily called Minus 5 (that’s 23 in American degrees!). They suited us up in parkas, gloves and boots for our half hour in the freezer.

Rowr - Becky is fierce.

Rowr - Becky is fierce.

We walked down to Prince’s Wharf and enjoyed looking out on the harbor of the City of Sails. It’s windy and a little cold here, where spring is just beginning.

It's hard to believe we're really here.

It's hard to believe we're really here.

August 23rd-29th: Last days in the US

September 2, 2008

We left Medford on Saturday the 23rd to head up to Becky’s grandmother’s house at Black Butte Ranch in central Oregon. Becky’s mom and sister came with us part-way to visit the Rogue River gorge and to get some pie at a favorite nearby cafe.

The Rogue Gorge

The Rogue Gorge

We also stopped along the way at Crater Lake National Park. Despite the sunny August weather, there were still patches of snow near the lake.

At Black Butte we relaxed, went on a bike ride, and enjoyed spending time with Nannie at her beautiful home in the mountains. The time there is never long enough.

Nannie and Becky talk over breakfast at the Black Butte Lodge.

Nannie and Becky talk over breakfast at the Black Butte Lodge.

We then made our way to Portland, where we spent a few days bouncing between our various loved ones who live there while trying to pull together the last-minute loose ends before leaving the country. (We wish we’d had more time!) We had fun seeing Jonathan’s brother Eric, going out with Jonathan’s sister Ann, and wandering north Portland with Rose.

The ever-charming Rose. (The only picture we took in Portland – and what a treasure it is.)

The ever-charming Rose. (The only picture we took in Portland – and what a treasure it is.)

On Eric’s recommendation we camped for one night at Bagby Hot Springs near Mt. Hood. It was a phenomenal experience to bathe in steaming hot water, in a hollowed-out log, with a canopy of old-growth trees for a roof. The hike into the springs along the Clackamas River was pretty breathtaking as well; we felt like ants walking among trees so tall.

Ha ha, Jonathan is short.

Ha ha, Jonathan is short.

We flew out of the Portland airport on Friday night, concluding our three weeks of travel in the States and beginning our travels halfway around the world.