Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My New Favorite Place...

Wow! What a week! Where to start...?!

Well, I'm now in Queenstown - which is my new favorite place, EVER. This town is uber cool, with such a great vibe, not to mention it is in a most fabulous locale!! I love it!!

Getting here on the other hand, has been a bit of an epic. Okay, maybe 'epic' is an exaggeration... but I've definitely learned alot about myself this past couple of weeks... Oy!! Travelling half way around the world, by myself, shortly after some major life changes... honestly - laugh if you will - I've contemplated more than once, just getting on a plane and coming home. I know, I know - I'm such a baby!! Hee hee!! But I worked through it, and I must say that the people I've met have truly made my adventure more amazing than I ever could have imagined! And now, with the end of my vacation drawing near, I am at the other end of the spectrum - I would give anything to stay!  **SIGH**

So... what's been happening... Well, last week I took the ferry from Wellington to Picton. And that experience seriously ranked in the top five MOST UNFUN things I've ever done! The winds were blowing 60kts gusting to 100kts... seas were 5-7m... the ship listed hard to the left and the ride was incredibly rough for the entire 22km Cook Strait crossing... Suffice it to say, I made damn sure I knew exactly where the liferafts were located!! Luckily, I opted to upgrade to the Executive Lounge where food and drinks (liquor!) were free... Upon my arrival in Picton, the unfun turned into some serious fun, when I hung out for the evening at a local Irish Pub - the Kiwis seem to love Canadians and I was made to feel more than welcome at my first stop on the South Island.

Next, I made my way to Christchurch and then to Greymouth, where I joined up with the second hiking group. We had quite a variety of personalities in this bunch: Oliver, a German lawyer; Anna, a British insurance company executive; Marion, an Aussie agricultural specialist; Angela, a horse breeder from Britain; Maryna, a structural engineer from the US who lives in Australia; and our guide Scotty, who was an enthusiastic, full-on Kiwi.

While we did see a few incredible places along the way, the weather didn't cooperate nearly as well as for the North Island trip. So after 4 days of perpetual rain and cold temps, I opted to head to Queenstown. Maryna decided to do the same, and we hopped a bus at Fox Glacier and arrived in paradise - aka Queenstown - yesterday. And - get this - as the bus door opened, I was immediately greeted with "Hi Cheryle!"... On a completely random hike a few days earlier, I met a couple of locals and chatted for at least an hour with them... and in this small world we live in, one of them happened to be sitting there on the bus! How's my luck!

The ferry, pulling into Picton.

Check out some of the ferry cargo!!
Train ride from Picton to Christchurch.

Pacific Coast

The second hiking group.
Random plant life.

Rainy day at Okarito.
Wandering on the beach at Okarito.
Fox Glacier
The gang at Fox Glacier - Marion, Oliver, Maryna, Anna, Angela.

Fox Glacier
Paradise - seriously!!
Paragliders above Queenstown
Launching near the gondola.
Maryna gets ready to launch.

We have lift-off!

Ahhhhh, life is good!!

As you can probably see, Queenstown is aptly named - fit for a Queen, the town itself is phenomenal and the weather here is completely awesome. It is supposed to stay that way for several more days, and there is so much to do here I don't even know where to start! I went up the gondola today and then took a boat tour of Lake Wakatipu... and a wine tour, a Milford Sound tour, and a day or two in the Remarkables are all possibly in my future - but I'll keep you posted!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Train Time!

I'm in Wellington at the moment, killing time while waiting to get on the ferry to head to the South Island. The last two days have been spent on the train - the Overlander, which runs between Auckland and Wellington. What a cool way to travel! It is like flying in first class, since there is more leg room than you can imagine, plus you can get up and walk around, eat and drink at will, and even step outside for fresh air and to check out the scenery! 

The Overlander

Mt Ruapehu - last erupted in 1995 and again in 1996.

Crossing over a viaduct.

Everything goes by in a blur!

Sheep, sheep, everywhere!

The Raurimu Spiral - a railway engineering feat - google it!

Me - NOT leaning over the viewing platform railing at the moment!!

Have you noticed a theme yet, in the photos.... the theme being GREEN! Yes, the landscape is truly that color.... it is amazing.... like nowhere else I have been! Gorgeous!!

I will be hopping the Coastal Pacific train in Picton tomorrow and taking it to Christchurch, where my next trip begins. I am so excited!!

Well I guess I better get going - it will be a long, cold swim if I miss the boat... LOL!!


Monday, November 21, 2011

This is going waaaaay too fast!!!

Wow!! I can't believe I'm approaching the half-way mark of my trip already!! What I've seen of this country so far is absolutely gorgeous... and the people are super friendly and helpful, everywhere I've been!

Where to start... Well, my first hiking trip was awesome - the group I was with was amazing! Kate, who is traveling by herself for a month, from Oz... Lee, who is also traveling by herself, and who is also from Oz, and who booked the trip at the last minute and celebrated her birthday with us... Jeff and Annette, a couple who are enjoying a quick holiday, from Chicago... and our trusty guide Justin, a born-and-raised Kiwi farm boy who did a fantastic job leading us around the North Island countryside.

We checked out some very cool glowworm caves, which truly are one of the neatest things I've ever seen... we hung out and played frisbee on the most beautiful white-sand beaches EVER... we hiked through every kind of terrain imaginable, from Jurassic Park jungle to farmers' fields to desert sand dunes... we drove for miles and miles and miles along the fabulous 90 Mile Beach (google it!)... we sea-kayaked (21km along the Pacific coastline, through caves, across a harbor, and up rivers)... we sandboarded (I swear I'm still brushing sand out of the cracks and crevices!!)... and we basically circumnavigated (on foot) the entire Cape Reinga peninsula. We even wandered through a Kauri forest (Kauris are massive trees) in the pitch dark, in search of the elusive and nocturnal Kiwi bird - too fun!!! Every day was a different adventure and I loved it all!

Now I'm on my way to Christchurch, where I'll start the second hiking trip. I'm traveling via train, which has been awesome - I've not been on a train before (except like commuter trains in cities) and I tell you, it is a kick-ass way to go!! I stopped yesterday at National Park Village, with hopes of hiking up around the volcanoes. However, it was socked-in pouring rain when I got here, so I spent the evening letting all my gear dry out while I sat in a pub and visited with the locals. Today it is clearing off a bit, and I'll be continuing on to Wellington shortly.

As far as weather goes, it has been nothing but sunshine and perfect temps, up until yesterday of course. Hopefully the sun will be back by the time I make it to the South Island... it is still fairly cool down there and I'm thinking I'll be needing the long underwear that I packed!!

Helena Bay - look at the turquoise water!!

The gang! Kate, Annette, Lee, moi, Jeff... and some random horse...

Gnarly tree - they are everywhere - I love the foliage!

The Bay of Islands

Sea kayaking... a wicked good time!!

View near Whangaroa Harbor

Gorgeous NZ sunset! This is on 90 Mile Beach.

Sand dunes - very cool and such a contrast with the lush landscape.

Cape Reinga - where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. 

Do Not Lean Over The Viewing Platform... I listen well, don't I!!!

North Island countryside, as seen from the train.

Waterfall - in case you couldn't tell.

I hope everyone back home is fine and nobody has strained themselves with all the snow-shovelling that is likely happening! Ha ha!! The rainy day mellowed me out a little, and I must say I'm missing quite a few of you... but I know I'll see you soon so I'll get over it... hee hee!!

Take care and I will try to update again before I leave Christchurch.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

First look at NZ....

Well.... I'm here!! Only about 18 hrs after my anticipated ETA... Oh well. Sh*t happens. I'm on vacation so I am NOT complaining!! Hee hee! It's all good!

Wow, Auckland is a gorgeous city! It totally reminds me of Melbourne; lots of cool architecture - older structures but at the same time, unique. The streets are narrow and packed with cars and shops and people - Toni would love it! The landscape is amazing - lush and green with an ocean view in almost every direction! And the people are all super friendly!

The Sky Tower


No this is not a campsite... protesters at City Hall!
Neatest things so far about Auckland:
  • Everybody is soooo laid back!
  • At major intersections downtown, every 5th change, all lights are red and pedestrians can cross in random directions - even diagonally!

  • Flat whites! Hee hee - I learned to love love love these in Australia's coffee shops... imagine my delight when I discovered they are here, too! Yum!!

Mmmmmm my favorite!!

Tomorrow I join the first backpacking group for the hiking tour of the North Island... I am excited! The weather is perfect - about 18C and breezy and everyone has been telling me that this is the best time of year to be here - awesome!

Alright, well I will try to post again next week when I'm back, before I start heading south. Hope all is well back in Canada!!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Layover in YVR...

Ha ha!! How's my luck! I am sooooo darn excited to get to New Zealand... only to land in Vancouver this afternoon and be told that my flight to Auckland is cancelled! D'OH!!!! Apparently there was some damage done to our plane during a windstorm earlier today - as in, there is a hole in the tail piece - so we are not going anywhere tonite!

However, on the bright side, while waiting in line during this debaucle, I met a ton of Kiwi's who are on their way home and are obviously also delayed. Air New Zealand is putting us all up at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport (the most luxurious airport hotel in the world, so they say! and yes, it is pretty posh), so several of us are meeting for supper so we can use up the massive amounts of food and drink vouchers we were given. It is crappy that I'm not somewhere over the Pacific right now, but, I've made some new friends already and the airline is definitely being decent about the issue.

So, I guess I will try again tomorrow!

Never a dull moment in the world of Cheryle, hey!


Zero More Sleeps

Wow! I can't believe it's here - I'm leaving today! I am so excited!!!

While in New Zealand, I will blog whenever I can. However this trip will be a first for me, where I'm not taking a laptop, cell phone, etc. so keeping in touch might be a challenge. My itinerary is pretty full though, so I doubt I am going to miss all of my technology! Hee hee!

Alright, well I hope everyone has a great month, and I also hope that I miss some really crappy weather! Keep checking back for updates and I will see you in December!