New Zealand 2012

NZ 2012 drawn in the sand.

"I wrote a short story, do you want to read it?" "How long is it?" - DLL

Random coffee shop sign in Sydney

It was a typical Friday morning in Honolulu, spring rains, sunshine. Something however was atypical for two office jocks; it was time for a well deserved holiday. The destination was another island chain in pacific ocean, New Zealand. As usual they were running somewhat late for their plane, dashing through the airport, they shouted "were going to new zealand" and after a somewhat uneventful plane ride and a fine evening/day in Sydney, the two finally made it to Christchuch.

Christchurch was struck by two major earthquakes, which devastated the city. It was the second largest city before the earthquake, when we were there it seemed to be mostly construction workers, and a few people cruising, which was odd because it was Monday. We pulled into the first coffee shop in the city, ordered the most delicious bacon and benedict, and had a cup of coffee -long black maybe?-. As we dined on our first of many amazing breakfast spreads, we watched the building next door being torn down. After a pretty and uneventful, car ride we found ourselves in Dunedin.

Our first stop in Dunedin was at the gas station, for a map. We located ourselves and made it to Hi'i's place. Hi'i had arranged for a tour of the Speights brewery - Pride of the South -, never one to shy away from a brewery tour, I was excited. The tour was interesting, and the beer was fantastic. After the tour we strolled around Dunedin, which is a beautiful city in its own right. Getting hungry and sort of buzzed from the brewery, we found something to eat. I order a dozen Bluff oysters, which I might add, could go toe to toe with Washington oysters - no small compliment from me -, and a crab chili of sorts - fantastic -. After dinner we made a quick stop in a sketchy ally bar, where we wrote on walls and listened to the White Stripes. After a short walk home and a whee bit of whiskey, we went to bed. We woke up mid morning and had another fantastic breakfast, good eggs, then hopped in the car and were on our way to Invercargill.

Shot of Dunedin from a hill

The drive was a quick one, passing through the trout fishing capitol of New Zealand, Gore, where we stopped and had a bite to eat. We decided to go with the lamb instead of the trout, but I am sure that the fish would have been fresh. We drove through a few other towns along the way, but trying to make good time, we merely looked out the window and appreciated. We made it to Invercargil, found our hotel, and were delighted to see that there was a full kitchen on our floor. We decided to make dinner, so we walked to the grocery store, got some nz beef to grill up and had burgers, as we do. Made a quick stop at the bottle store, where the clerk welcomed us to paradise. While he was making a joke - having a crack? - about people from Hawaii visiting Invercargill in the fall, I thought that the town was nice, and the people were friendly. The next day we woke up early had mimosa's and went to Stewart Island.

Some rocks on the beach

We made the short drive to Bluff in no time - Aside from the ferry, the town of Bluff is also well know for it's oysters, as mentioned above -, where we found the ferry that would take us to Stewart Island. As the ferry left the Bluff behind, an island started to grow in front of the boat. Stewart Island is mostly a national park, and the mountains of the north and south of the island looked untouched by civilization. When we arrived on the sandy shores of Oban, in the center of the island, we could see that even here, life moved at a different pace. A nice lady offered to rent us a car for the day, and we took her up on that deal. As we drove down the coast looking at beautiful beaches below us and forested hills above us we were in awe of the place. We found a rope swing 40 seconds down the road, and immediately pulled over. I touched the water for the first time on the trip, and while not freezing, it certainly was not warm. We jumped in the car and drove a few more minutes down the road, where we got out and went for a walk. We hiked through some nice forest that almost reminded me of Volcano, but the beach was right next to us. We saw a group of penguins swimming, and sang songs about the kelp. We toured around the south end of town for a bit, but started to get hungry, so we drove the five minutes back into Oban. There, was a fantastic fish and chips place there. The guys hauling in the catch showed up while we were there, hard to get fresher than that. We ordered a plethora of fried seafoods, as well as some chips. As we were in Oban, it only seemed fit to have a little whiskey with lunch, I had only brought Bushmills, but it did the trick. After lunch, we headed north out of town, and found some more amazing beaches and a cave. We picked up a Japanese guy who was walking to the end of the road, and then around the north tip of the island. We traded a short ride and some whiskey for a nice photograph that he had taken. We left him to his adventure and resumed our own. We headed back into town again, and this time followed Main Street out of town, which quickly turned into a gravel road. We came to a fork in the road where Back Road branched from Main Street, I decided to continue on Main, where we found a Frenchmen walking. We offered him a ride, which turned out to not be a long drive, as the road dead ended a few hundred meters up the road. We walked with Nicholas - the Frenchmen -, for a while, listened to the exotic birds of Stewart Island, and then turned around, as we had to return the car. We had a little over and hour to kill before the ferry came to take us back to the Main Land, so we had a few pints at the only pub on Stewart Island. The sun was setting as we returned to Bluff, so we drove to the tallest point in town, not surprisingly a bluff, and soaked in the final rays of the day. We drove back to Invercargil and had another fantastic dinner.

The ferry ride to Oban, a shot of the skyban from the eastMalama and Hi'i on a rocksA nice beach just north of Oban

We took our time the next day getting up. We had another wonderful breakfast and got on the road. Our destination was Queenstown - Gibston valley to be exact; Pinot Noir country - where we had reservations to stay for two nights at a vineyard. I decided it would be a good idea to take the scenic route around the south-west of the island, which turned out to be really pretty. The coast line was reminiscent of Santa Cruz, northern California, but more rugged and remote. In the distance we could see giant fjords looming in the mist. We drove over some small passes and through valleys, until we reached lake Manapouri. We got out and enjoyed the views of this massive lake, surrounded by jagged mountains. We headed off for the town of Te Anua, which was on the lake. We stopped briefly in Te Anua for some petrol and food. I ordered a meat pie and, as always it was really good. We spent most of the rest of the day driving from Te Anua to Queenstown. We finally arrived at the vineyard a little before sunset. The Kawarua river ran right next to the vineyard, so we sauntered down to the river banks, skipped some rocks and enjoyed. As night came about, we drove into Arrowtown, went into the first pub we saw, and got some dinner. We met some nice older gentlemen, who were excited to have some ladies to talk to. We had a few beers, some good laughs and it was time to go home. When we arrived at our temporary abode, we gazed at the stars which were incredible, the milky way went from one side of the sky to the other. I have never seen so many stars packed into the sky. Being a man of the northwest I started a fire; a bottle of vodka later and we were frolicking in the rocket's field. We sang songs and walked on hay bales. Then, we sat for a while, yelling against the canyon wall, listening to our echo's. Finally we all agreed, it was time for bed.

Pegan Vines

Not gonna lie, gotta little hung over. Back to arrow town sometime in the morning? Ate as much breakfast as could, back to bed. When we woke up mid afternoon we were all starting to become human again. So we made the trek into Queenstown. Queenstown is the destination spot of the south island, possibly of New Zealand, not just for travelers, but also for Kiwi's, and this was mid semester break, needless to say, it was busy. We got into town fairly early in the evening and strolled around the waterfront. Listened to some bag pipes, and ate another great dinner. After dinner we walked around town, where we found a cafe, and some chocolate ice cream - for the girls -, and I saw a giant eel. After all the coffee and ice cream settled, we went bar hopping. Having a pint at the various locations around town. At one bar they were playing American rock and country hits, which was pretty fun, as the whole bar seemed to know the words and there was no shame in singing along. We rocked out for a while, watched some rugby in another bar, a dj at another, and finally it was time to go home.

The next day we slept in. It felt good to not get out of bed early. We started driving around noon, and were headed back to Dunedin, to drop Hi'i off. Following the Kawarua river east, we crossed some hydro-electric stations and some fun little canyon roads. The canyons start to open up around 50 km in a town called Cromwell. There we stopped to fuel up, and continued on. On a bluff above the town, we looked down at lake Dunstan with Cromwell town hugging its shores, and enjoyed the views. We decided to take a longer, more scenic route to get back to Dunedin, which took us through a wonderful plateau, covered in dried grass and random oak tree oasis. Towards the end of the day, we all needed a break and found a charming hotel/bar in the middle of nowhere. We stopped in, and sat down. Ordered a pitcher of beer, and thought about all the wonderful landscapes that we had been through in the last few days. Another couple of hours and we would arrive back in Dunedin.

Some yummy food.

Going to the Baaa. The Baaa, was a great little college bar. It came fully equipped with pool table and dart boards. We played - poorly - a few games of pool with some Kiwi's and then The Baaa kicked us out, not because we were being bad, but because they were closing. We met some people that lived in Hi'i's apartment building and we all went out for a few beers. Bar hopping again, we found ourselves ending the evening at the same sketchy alley bar that we had been to previously. The next day we woke up and took a scenic drive to Tunnel Beach, in south Dunedin. Walking down the hillside, we can see that a large bay is divided in two by a headland. As we get closer, Hi'i veered off to the left, and started walking down to an opening in the rock. We followed her through a long and sloping tunnel, and finally we are spit out onto a large beach, dominated by boulders and steep cliffs. After playing in the sand for some time, we head back through the tunnel and up the headland, where we laid down and had a rest.

Monteith's Beer

It was time for us to go back to Christchurch, leaving Hi'i behind to finish her studies. We said our goodbyes, and began the long drive back to Christchurch. There was a heavy fog on the road that we were continuously dipping in and out of, as the hills rolled. It created a really neat effect as the fog would rise above us, like a ceiling of clouds right above you - Aotearoa -. Our flight left early the next morning and we were back in Sydney before I was really awake. The rest of the day in Sydney was nice, and in the evening we boarded our flight back to Hawaii. As I slept on the plane, I had dreams of all the palaces that we had been to and all the people that we had come across. They were nice dreams.

The gang