You Driving There?

You may want to read Zona before carrying on with this one.

Rather than eat some random food from some random person’s fridge (we were staying at an Airbnb), we opted to go have breakfast at the Dunkin’ Donuts up the street.

The lady at the counter was very nice but made me question what was really in the coffee. What started this questioning was when we told her we weren’t really sure what to get because we have never been to Dunkin’ Donuts before.

“You’ll be back. I used to go to Starbucks but ever since having this stuff, Starbucks just tastes…..blah.”

Well hopefully it doesn’t ruin my already shaky relationship with all the kinds of coffee I drink. I don’t really have a place I go to, it’s basically just whatever is closest or easiest. I have only just begun this adventure into the world of coffee and I must admit I struggle to see what all the hubbub is about.

Then when I ordered my iced coffee (my logic was it was hot outside and I didn’t want hot coffee) she comes back with, “You don’t want some cream or sugar?” Like it was silly to not have any so I fell for it and said, “Yeah, I guess I’ll have some of each, sure.” This wasn’t my first rodeo but I’m no seasoned vet by any means.

Between the two of her comments I was slightly curious, almost to a point of being a bit worried, about what exactly was in this coffee I was about to drink. After a few test sips I decided it tasted just like coffee and it was cold, so I guess that is what I ordered after all.

Then we were out on the highway or freeway or I-whatever. It was a big road with two lanes of traffic in each direction and what seemed to be minimal rules. I am convinced that the speed limit signs are just mere suggestions. As if to say “This is how fast you could drive if you have no idea how fast to go, but if 75MPH feels a bit on the slow side, feel free to try 10-15MPH faster.” I was constantly driving 5MPH above the speed limit and lets just say I was being passed way more than I was passing others. I was even passed by multiple cops of different titles (Sheriff, State Trooper, and a few others), all of which I have no idea what they do because it isn’t pulling over speeding cars.

A few times I even went passed a cop car, of some degree, hiding behind a bush between the two lanes. And even though I was going 5MPH above the speed limit and was being passed by a car going at least 5MPH faster than me, no sirens were sounded.

Then you have some other wonderful individuals who drive 90MPH as they pass you. Then, once in front of you they don’t necessarily change lanes, but slow down and drive like 60MPH. I swear there was one car that I must have passed 6 times (not always on the proper side, as changing lanes is also just a suggestion apparently) and caught up to him an start passing him, only to have him speed off into the distance. This same car, along with many others as well, are super skilled at squeezing their vehicle into spaces between other cars that most people wouldn’t think possible, or smart.

And heaven forbid you take 2 seconds “too long” to get back into the right lane after passing someone. The amount of times I was passed on my right side just as I was about to get back into the right lane was record breaking, at least for me. Here is another one I love.

When a line of cars goes to pass another vehicle but someone in the middle of the line inevitably gets impatient and goes into the right lane to pass all this line of cars that they are following. Only to get stuck behind the car that the line of cars is about to pass next, and then watch that impatient person have to slow down and wait to get back in the line, often further back than where they started……Priceless.

Impatience was on high display on this road.

Which brings me to my next question of this trip. The 5 or 6 cars that I did see pulled over…..What were YOU doing?! You had to of been going like 20 or 30MPH over the speed limit. Or you must have almost HIT the cop. Like, were you driving the wrong direction? I feel like you had to be doing something beyond general comprehension to be pulled over.

Anyway, I didn’t have any problems with the police or anything like that. I had many other issues, mostly with other peoples’ driving, but I did not have any problems with the variety of police officers that I seen.

We eventually made it to Montezuma Castle which was, to be honest, slightly anti-climactic. The walk to the castle was much shorter than I anticipated, and you had to pay like $10/person to get in. The castle and its story was pretty cool though. Basically, a long time ago some people had come to these cliffs and built a building with about 20 rooms in it (Montezuma Castle). They also built a 40 room “apartment” in the side of the cliff right beside the castle. The castle is still there for the most part and looks super cool but the apartment building is gone now. You can see the outline of some of the walls in the cliff and some of the base structure on the ground but the greater majority of the building is gone.

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Once we had wasted as much time as was possible at Montezuma Castle, about 20 mins, we then started our voyage to Bull Pen Canyon.

When I looked up how to get there the directions were pretty simple. It said things like which road out of Camp Verde to take and you will turn and “drive down a five mile long, pretty decent dirt road…”. Decent dirt road? I am not sure where this guy usually drives, or when he drove on this particular “decent dirt road”, but lets just say he was a bit off. It was more like a crappy goat-path at best. And I feel that is saying quite a bit as I have driven on some interesting back roads in my lifetime. For example when driving in New Zealand when the gravel road was okay but random parts of it were missing, because it fell down the side of the mountain! And that would still pass as a decent dirt road in my books. This one did not.

The greater majority of the “dirt road” was in fact made up of rocks. And I don’t mean like “oh, so it’s a gravel road”. NO! Like rocks. Not gravel. Rocks the size of my fist, EVERYWHERE! So no it was not dirt, or decent!

To add to this lovely drive we  eventually caught up to a van that was going so slow I thought it was going to start sliding back down some of the hills towards us. The first hill we both encountered I did not anticipate this snail pace and may have gotten a little close. I probably gave him a bit of a small heart attack as I was less than a safe distance behind. Lets just say that if I wanted to sit on the hood of my car and push him up the hill, I would not have needed to get much closer….. On the remaining hills to be overcome I let him crawl his way over before following behind, only to find him still going the same snail pace down the back side of the hill.

After playing this catch-up, stop and wait, game for about half an hour our total time to get out to Bull Pen Canyon was about 45 minutes. After the parking lot there was another half hour or so of walking to do before you got to the little watering hole and its small sketchy cliff jump.

 

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The problem was not the hight but the fact that you could clearly see the rocks at the bottom, coupled with a few other people informing me to “land on your feet so you don’t hit your butt on the rocks”. How badly do I really want to jump off this? Apparently bad enough. And apparently I did not land “on my feet” enough as they slipped right off the rocks as they came up and kissed me right on the butt. Luckily I have many reps of falling on my butt through all the various activities I have done throughout my life (snowboarding, skating, climbing trees, etc) so it came out of the water no worse than  when it went in.

Most of the time we spent at Bull Pen Canyon was just relaxing on the boulders that were randomly plunked in and around the river. We spent a solid couple of hours there and managed to not even get sunburnt. A huge win for us.

On the way out from Bull Pen Canyon we did not encounter any vehicles, the slow-poke we met on the way in left well before us. This trip that took 45 minutes on the way in was about 25 minutes to exit. That is how slow that van was going.

Next we drove to our Airbnb with the help of Google Maps. It took us on some wild zig-zag way of getting there as we drove to and then up the side of a small mountain. The most bizarre part was once we got to the top we turned onto about 7 different roads before finally getting to the house. It is the TOP of a MOUNTAIN, how can there be so many different roads on TOP of a MOUNTAIN?! Later on in the trip we noticed that a lot of the mountains are very flat on top. Some I don’t even know if they would be considered mountains because once you were on top it was like a giant plain opened up all around you. Not the typical British Columbia or New Zealand pointy top mountain situation that is for sure.

The Airbnb brought on some relaxing time as well as some time spent playing with Wolfie.

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Zona

The plane left early. I didn’t know planes were allowed to do that. I thought, for some reason, that planes needed to take off and land at precise times as to not make physical contact with one another. I guess I was wrong. This plane left early.

Which was fine by me as I was comfortably sitting in my seat reading by the time they decided that we were going to leave a bit early. Aside from leaving early there really wasn’t much for excitement on the flight down. I guess we were just saving all the fun and interesting adventure for once we got there. I was also fine with this. Flying in an airplane is enough of an adventure never mind if you add some extra into it like they did on our way home.

Side note: This post will not contain the explanation of the “extra” added to the flight home. Far too much happened between start and finish in this trip to all be contained in one post.

Once we landed there things got a bit more interesting.

Gathering our bags and getting ourself through the airport wasn’t a big deal until we went to find the shuttle to the car rental place. So like Step 3: find transportation. Which comes after Step 1: get off plane, and Step 2: get bags.

After a short attempt at trying to figure out where to go on our own we decided to ask for some directions. We found someone to help us easy enough and asked him the simple question, “How do we get to the car rental place from here”? This proved to be less simple than we thought.

His directions were, “go down this escalator and through door number two, the first door on your right. Outside there will be a green bus and that will take you to the car rentals”.

Sounded easy enough. Down the escalator we went and looked to our right. There we found a door, well done my man. With a 7 on it. This causes some concern. Giving the man the benefit of the doubt we made our way through these doors thinking he just mixed up the numbers but got the door placement right. Not bad, he is shooing 1 out of 3 at the moment. Once outside we found it surprisingly difficult to locate a green bus, which we thought should have been the easy part. After standing on the sidewalk struggling to find a bus of any colour we decided to ask for some more help.

“The busses are on the other side of the building.”

So now the man has given us the wrong side of the building but possibly the right number on the door and possibly the proper “first door” direction. Back into the building we go. On the way in I open my big yap, “funny we didn’t see a sign saying Car Rental Shuttle or something”. Right above the door on the other side of the building, door 8, there is a sign Car Rental Shuttle ->. Well, the information received so far has been less than helpful. Across the building and down a few doors we decide to go outside, through door 4. A little ways down the sidewalk we see a lineup of busses and on those busses the words Car Rental Shuttle. We found them!

In line and relaxing a bit I look back to the building and what do I see? Door 2, right beside us. So the man had the right number, but the wrong end and wrong side of the building. He wasn’t totally right or wrong with the bus colour though. There was green on it, but there was also an odd blueish colour and white. With more white and blue than green. Being the nice guy I am though I’ll give him a 2/4. Which, depending on the situation, could be really good. If you bat .500 you are doing pretty darn good. If you get the weather 50% right you are doing awesome. If you get 50% on a test, you might need to put in some more work. If you get half of the groceries, you might have some upset people upon arrival back home.

Anyway! To the car rental place we go, and find the counter for the company we are renting from easy enough. Many questions later the biggest issue was what car we wanted. I ordered a compact, cheap on gas because we had a fair amount of driving to do over the week. This however was not a good idea in the eyes of the lady at the counter.

“You sure you just want a little car?”
“YUP.”
“You are going to be spending a whole week in this car….”
“Yup, that is fine” (I don’t plan on living in it the whole week)
“I can get you a sports car, like a Camaro.”
“No, thats fine, we traveled around New Zealand for 2 months in a Swift. We will be fine.”
“You sure, everyone has big cars, Escalades, trucks, big SUVs.”
“No we will stick with our little guy, thank you though.”

After sorting that out I was given a little booklet of paper, and told to go around the corner and down the stairs. At this point I am unsure how I will start the car, but I’m gonna go get it anyway, so off we go. Down the stairs there is a man informing other people where to get their cars. Seems like the right guy to talk to and get some keys.

“See that red pole over there?”
“YUP.”
“The one with all the pipes on it?”
“YUP” (its the only red one out there)
“Pick any car from that line.”

And then he just walked away! So I guess I come back once I pick a car or something? Once we get to this “red pole with all the pipes on it” I’m more confused. We rented a compact but this line has signs for midsized….. and can we pick from either side of the “red pole with all the pipes on it”? I clearly should have asked more questions, but we wing it and pick 1 of the 5 cars in the line. This is when I notice that all the cars have the keys on the dash!

Side note: Clearly I have never rented a car in North America. I have rented cars in New Zealand and they gave us the keys first and then showed us the car. Apparently this is not how it works here.

All packed up we get half way to the exit…….maybe we don’t like this one. Turn around and go back only to find there are now no cars at all in the line, on either side of the “red pole with all the pipes on it”. I guess we will just have to get used to this one.

Getting out of the parkade and the city went surprisingly well and by the time we left Phoenix we were liking our little car and were on our way to the Biosphere 2. Just for future reference not everyone drives big vehicles, there were all different types of cars out and about.

On the way we found a Sonic and decided to stop in and give it a try. At first glance we thought it was a gas station because of all the individual parking spots under the multiple canopies. Needless to say we were pretty confused how the place worked when we got to it so we panicked a bit and I’m pretty sure we parked in the staff parking area. All the other parking spots had canopy above them and signs in each stall, it was weird. Then we tried to go inside and order. Nope. Can’t do that.

Apparently this is a drive IN. So you are supposed to park in the parking spots under the canopy with the individual signs. There you just push a button on the sign and order what you want and then they bring it out to you when it is ready. Being slightly embarrassed that we couldn’t figure this out we sat on the patio and ordered from there, which also took us an embarrassing amount of time to figure out how to do. Eventually we got our order in and got our food, which was really good and filled us up way too much.

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This is our first 4 or 5 hours in Arizona. Things are going great……..

The Biosphere 2 was super interesting but hard to explain. It started with a 2 year experiment where there were 8 people living in this facility where they had to live off of the land so to speak. In this facility there are 5 different types of “model systems”. They have a rainforest, an ocean, a desert, a savanna, and a mangrove area. They also have a place for the people to stay that has a kitchen and and a few other necessities like that. That first two year experiment has been done for a while but they are still doing research in the facility. They change different inputs into different systems and see the reaction of the system. Things like drought, carbon dioxide saturation, among others. They also have areas where they are learning about the soil and how to grow different things more efficiently and effectively. I think a lot of it has to do with either coming up with ways to fix earths current problems (lack of food, coral reefs dying, etc) or how we could possibly go to another planet and make a sustainable system there. I am sure there are many other things going on but those were the main points I got out of it.

The last stop for day one before heading to our Airbnb was at Organ Stop Pizza. My first hint that this place was going to be cool was when we went to pay for our pizza. Naturally I take out my credit card. To this the cashier replies “cash or cheque”. It was a good thing my girlfriend was with me because I just stood there staring at this poor cashier. I didn’t know how to respond. I’ve heard “we only take debit” or “no credit cards here”. But I do not think I have ever heard someone at a pizza place ask for payment via “cash or CHEQUE”. Who pays with cheque? Who even knows how to fill out a cheque? I had so many questions.

With me still slightly bewildered we paid with cash and went to find ourselves a spot and enjoy the show. The show was amazing! There was one guy sitting at a HUGE organ that was somehow connected to a bunch of other instruments like drums, chimes, pianos, and symbols. That wasn’t even the half of it. Sure all these other instruments played off of one organ, but some of these instruments were also strapped to the roof! Then to top it off, when he was finished a set the organ spun itself into the floor while he played the last song. Oh and yes, the pizza was pretty darn good too!

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Next up You Driving There?

Well That’s A New One!

A list of some words and sayings I had to ask for explanations for while I was in New Zealand. They are not all necessarily New Zealand sayings, rather I just heard them said while I was there.

Pear shaped -> Go sideways, get out of hand.

Kia Ora -> Hello.

Sweet as -> That’s it just sweet as. Unless they get excited then they might throw in a bro at the end.

Tarpaulin -> Tarp. This is what a tarp is actually called.

Partner -> Applies to all couples.

Tyres -> How they spell tire.

Aluminium -> How they spell and say aluminum.

Toilet -> The bathroom.

Long drop -> Outhouse/Porta-potty. After-all, it is a long drop….

Guard Bail -> Guard rail.

Fork hoist -> Fork lift.

Windscreen -> Windshield.

Boot -> Trunk of a car.

Choice -> Awesome.

Chilly bin -> A cooler for beer.

Heaps -> A lot of something.

Torch -> Flashlight.

Mince -> Instead of ground beef they have minced beef, or just mince.

 

South Island Hiking

These are some of the walks that I did while in New Zealand. All of these were ones I did in the South Island. I did a few hikes on the North Island but none compared to the ones I did on the South Island. That is not to say there are no good ones in the North Island, I just did not do many walks in the North Island, even though I know there are some good ones. I have gone through and ranked them in various categories for how they felt for me.

Difficulty:

T8: Queenstown Hill (Nice zig-zag trail that went up gradually and wasn’t too hard)

T8: Mount Crichton (Not a very long hike and did not have any quick changes in elevation)

7: Rob Roy Glacier Trek (Has a few spots that are decently steep but not for too long and I didn’t notice it too much because I was too busy looking around at the scenery)

6: Routeburn Track (The start was very flat and then for the last hour it was pretty much all uphill)

5: Ben Lomond (This was the first big hike I did in New Zealand so I think that contributed to how hard it felt. It was also a full day hike and the top bit from the saddle up was pretty tough)

4: Cameron Hut (Some pretty sketchy sections as well as not the best trail added to the difficulty of the multiple changes in elevation. Having packs on, loaded for an overnight stay, added weight and an extra obstacle in some occasions to the equation as well)

3: Roy’s Peak (This hike was all up-hill, looking at the same thing pretty much the entire time so you couldn’t get lost in the scenery as much. It also took us all day because we walked from Wanaka and then back after as well)

2: Breast Hill (This one had almost everything. There were points we basically had to crawl up. Other parts were steep for long periods of time. There was wind added to the factor at the top as well as lots of cliff faces that you don’t come back from if you decide to ride them down)

1: Mount Isthmus (This one was hard for a few reasons. One: that you looked at the same thing for the majority of the hike. Two: it had some very steep parts, pretty much the whole thing is up-hill. Three: we ran into snow at the top. Four: we did not know where the top was so we were tricked a few times which really messed with our heads and made it harder than it was)

 

Views:

9: Queenstown Hill (Overlooking Queenstown and Lake Wakitipu)

8: Mount Crichton (Had a waterfall and a nice view out into a small valley)

7: Roy’s Peak (Overlooking Lake Wanaka, Wanaka, and a decent 30 degree view)

6: Ben Lomond (Pretty outstanding 360 degree view of pretty much just nature)

5: Mount Isthmus (360 degree view overlooking Lake Wanaka as well as Lake Hawea)

4: Cameron Hut (A view from the bottom of a valley surrounded by mountains with a river running behind the hut and a waterfall just 2 min walk away)

3: Breast Hill (360 degree view of Lake Hawea as well as some absolutely amazing cliff faces)

2: Routeburn Track – (At the Routeburn Falls Hut there was an awesome set of waterfalls as well as a really good view over the valley you just walked along)

1: Rob Roy Glacier Trek (Constantly changing views with an amazing view of a glacier at the end. I did this hike once in the rain and twice on sunny days, never disappointed)

 

Favourite:

9: Queenstown Hill – Really easy with a nice view over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu

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8: Mount Crichton – Has a waterfall and cool gold mining hut. It is away from the city.

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7: Roy’s Peak – View is the same all the way up, looking at Lake Wanaka. The view from the top is decent though.

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6: Mount Isthmus – This one was hard but the view all the way up and at the top was awesome.

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5: Ben Lomond – I would do this one again. The whole way up you have really nice views into the valley and up to the peak of the mountain.

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4: Cameron Hut – The walk to the hut was really cool but also pretty sketchy at points. There were quite a few small river crossings and one big river crossing. The big one was up to my knees on the way in and then on the way out it was nearly up to my waist. There were a couple of spots that rock slides had happened at one point that we had to walk across. The actual trail itself had lots of ups and downs and lots of it was on ledges, rather than a nice flat wide path. The hut was small and had four bunks with a counter, a fire-place, and even had a few wires and strings set up as clothes lines. The hut was right beside a river and when you walked out the door you looked up at a waterfall. This was the first time I had stayed at a hut.

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3: Breast Hill – Like I said this was a really tough climb but the views were really good. It has probably the best cliffs I have seen on any hike.

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2: Routeburn Track – This one had a nice easy start to it to get you warmed up, then the last hour is a pretty aggressive uphill to the Routeburn Falls Hut. The view was ever-changing and you went through quite a few different landscapes. The view from the top was amazing. From the hut, looking out over the valley we just walked through was awesome as were the waterfalls just above the hut.

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1: Rob Roy Glacier Trek Rain/Rob Roy Glacier Trek 2 – This track is a nice one that anyone can do. It has some challenging bits but nothing too crazy. Getting to walk through a forest for most of it is really cool and the glacier at the end looks awesome.

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Honourable Mentions:

Upper Clutha River (near Wanaka) – The walk from Wanaka, along the east side of the lake and along the river is very pretty. Once you get to Albert Town it is not very exciting as you just walk along streets back to Wanaka.

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Glendhu Bay (almost) – It was a really nice walk along Lake Wanaka. It was harder than the east side of the lake but still very doable. The bay before the actual Glendhu Bay is very peaceful and pretty. It has a cool cabin, which was locked, and an old outdoor kitchen area. It had kind of an eerie feel about it but was a neat find.

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Dublin Bay – Really easy walk, hardly any hills. You can get down by the water in some areas although there isn’t really a track once down there. The river’s edge is really mossy and squishy, my feet got wet. I seen two people and a dog, don’t think it is a very popular walk.

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Hope you enjoyed my little recap. Until the next adventure comes calling for me, Stay Positive, Be Better, and Go Get It!

Abel Tasman

Sun was supposed to be in the forecast for today but mainly we got rain.

This did not stop us from doing quite a lengthy walk. To get to our walk today we did things a little differently. Instead of hopping in the car we were renting and driving to the start of the track we had a bus come and pick us up right from the hostel. The bus drove us up the road to a place called Kaiteriteri. It was here that we were issued tickets for the boat that would then ferry us out to Medlands Beach. On the way we stopped at Split Apple Rock which is a large round rock that is cracked in half sitting on a pile of stones in one of the bays. We also stopped at an island that had a colony of fur seals that lives on it. In just a short pass we saw probably around ten seals.

Now in fairness it did not rain all day. It really didn’t start raining until we were about half way to our drop off spot. We weren’t too concerned about the rain because we were told that most of our walk would be in a forrest and the trees would protect us from any light showers.

I have no doubts that the forrest would have protected us, if it had been a “light shower”. It seemed to be a little more towards a “heavy rain” thus the trees just simply weren’t strong enough to hold back the rain. In short we got quite wet on this 4 hour walk. Even though we did get wet it was still a very cool walk.

First we headed in the wrong direction to go look at Bark Bay which was pretty cool. Don’t worry, we did it on purpose, the guide who told us to go there also made sure we understood we had to turn around and come back in order to make it to our proper destination. From Bark Bay it was a quick 180 degree turn to head back the direction we came from, which would take us  along the middle portion of the Abel Tasman Walking Track and eventually to Anchorage Bay which is where we would get picked up by the boat in about 5 hours. So we had around 12 km to walk plus a little 40 minute detour to a cool little spot where we made a friend, all to do in those 5 hours.

Piece of cake.

This walk was a little bit hilly but not too bad considering being in New Zealand. There wasn’t anything crazy amazing about this walk but it was still quite beautiful and had some really spectacular views looking out into multiple bays along the path. There was also a suspension bridge along the way which is always a fun time when walking with someone who doesn’t particularly like them.

After about 3 hours of walking we made it to the point where we left the main track and made our way to Cleopatra Pools. We had to climb over some rocks and quite a large fallen tree to get to the actual Cleopatra Pools. Pretty much as soon as we got there a duck came flying in and landed in the pool right in front of us. I had my GoPro on the extended stick and was filming under water. The duck started to swim towards me and I slowly lifted the GoPro out of the water and he slowly turned around a swam a safe distance away. We did this 3 or 4 times before I stoped with the GoPro and just let him do what he wanted.

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He jumped out of the water and wattled straight over to Alanna. She got close enough that she could try to pet him, although when she did actually end up touching him he let out quite the honk and jumped back into the water.

He didn’t stay away for long though. He did a circle around the rock we were standing by and then jumped back out of the water again. We tried to get him to come right up to us but he always kept a foot or so back from our outstretched hands. After about 10 minutes of this we decided to head back to the main track.

To our surprise, as we walked away the duck followed us! He waddled his way across the rocks and up the bank to the spot we had to climb across the big rocks and the large tree. We made our way across and he stood there surveying the area. Looking as though he was trying to figure out how he was going to get across too. Once we were across we started calling him to follow. “Come on Mr. Ducky”. The scary part was, he listened! He launched himself into the air and flew across to land in the water just below our feet. He then jumped up on the bank and walked with us again up the track a little longer. It was quite funny.

We then said our goodbye’s as we were getting hungry and we still had about 3km to go to get to Anchorage Bay. The last bit was probably the hardest. We had to climb up a bit of a mountain to get to the other side where the bay was. It ended up being about 200m incline over about a half hour period. Then it was a slick climb all the way back down the other side. Had it not been raining all day it would not have been much of a problem, but with the rain it made for a bit of a slippery slope.

An hour later, and still an hour to spare before our boat was due to pick us up, we had made it to Anchorage Bay. A short exploration of the beach then lead us to find a spot on the beach for some lunch.

About a half hour after finishing our lunch, and having seen a few birds dive bomb into the water of the bay to attempt to catch fish (this was cool as it was something I had only seen on Discovery Channel and never thought I would se it in person), our boat had arrived to take us back to Kaiteriteri.

White Water

After having a pretty chill day the day before (our excitement for the day was going to watch Trolls in the theatre, we both agreed it was a good movie) we decided that the next day would be a little more exciting. We decided to do something neither of us had ever done before. We had both been white water rafting before, I had actually done this exact river 3 years ago, so we decided we would go down the river in a way we didn’t even know existed until we seen it on the website.

White water sledge (AKA: riverboarding).

As opposed to getting into a raft with 4 other people and a guide we were going to be putting on flippers and grabbing an oversized plastic boogie board with a handle. We also got a helmet and life jacket.

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This river has the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world at 7 meters! Luckily we didn’t have to battle our way through that one as we started after that section of the river. Trust me, the “little” 1 or 2 meter ones we went down were plenty difficult and washed out our noses, ears, and even my mouth, quite well enough.

After being given the proper safety briefing (of which Alanna understood next to none of as the guides had a fairly heavy accent and talked pretty fast) we grabbed our sledges and headed down the hill to the edge of the river. Once there the guide said a bit to the river as it was a very sacred river to the Maori people, sacred as in they used to “bury” their dead in it. I’m not exactly sure what he said, it was all in Maori, but I think he asked the river to be nice to us and allow us to safely enter into the waters.

With that it was time to jump in. Literally. Flippers, helmet, and life jacket on we jumped into the river having our sledges tossed to us once we had resurfaced. We then went over the few ways there are to roll over and get back on top of the sledge in case we happened to end up not on it at some point. Even in the fairly calm waters of this section of the river this proved to not be easy, but we eventually got it sorted out.

Performing that to the satisfaction of the guides (we each had our own as there was only us two doing the sledge) off we went down the river.

I’m not going to lie, I don’t remember a lot of specific details as it was all one big blur (especially the five or six times my contacts decided they wanted to almost come out of my eye). I don’t remember how many waterfalls we went down but it was enough. Most of them we would go straight down first then kick of to one side so we could circle back around to the edge of the falls.

Once at the edge of the falls we did a few different things. A couple of them we actually climbed out of the water, up onto the rock, and jumped back into the waterfall with our sledge. The idea was to land just at the edge of the waterfall and “surf” the “bubbly” part. More often than not this did not go according to plan the first time and we were flipped around, upside down, backwards, and spit out the other end of the  “bubbly” part into the river. This usually also was paired with having your nose and/or ears cleaned out really well. Then we would regroup (usually making sure both contacts were still in my head), revise the strategy and try it again. The second time generally went better than the first although we still had a less than graceful exit from our “surf”.
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Other times we swam into the waterfall from the edge where it was a bit more calm and then enter back into the “bubbly” part to try to “surf” again. This was done with much the same lack of grace as the jumping into the waterfall was done but it too usually went better the second time.

One of the waterfalls created a sort of whirlpool off to the side so we decided to have a play in that. It was one of the easier things we did as the water pretty much did the work for you. All that was required from us was to swim into the flow of the river right below the waterfall and hold that for longer than you wanted to, and then spin around and face down river, letting it take you where it pleased. Again on the second try things went much more the way they were meant to and what ended up happening was that you would go down river for a few seconds then be swept to the side and spun around in the whirlpool a few times before entering back into the flow of the river and repeating the ordeal.

On the last waterfall we did things slightly different. We still started the same going down river with the current only this time we twisted sideways so we were looking at the bank and pressing the edge of the sledge, that was going into the waterfall first, down into the water. This waterfall was slightly different and instead of spitting you out the other end it would grab the edge of the sledge and twist you around so you faced up the waterfall and would “surf” the waterfall. If you did it right. I apparently did not as I only glanced the waterfall in passing for a second before being sucked under and given a right proper face wash. It felt like I had stuck my head out the window of a speeding car only it was water that was slamming my lips open onto my face and cleaned my teeth for me. The I was promptly spun around, flipped upside down, and spit out the other end.

Again gathering my wits and organizing my contacts back into their proper spots I swam to the edge of the waterfall to watch Alanna go. And. She. Nailed it! Side of the sledge down, water grabbed it, flipped her facing up the waterfall, kept the nose pulled up so the water went under, and didn’t pulled her under like it did to me, then fairly gracefully rode out the end of it.

Then it was time to do the jump into the waterfall for a “surf”. On my first attempt things went pretty well according to plan. I managed to “surf” a few seconds then give a thumbs up to the camera before I pulled the nose up too far and the water pushed me over backwards, spun me around a few times and spit me out the other end.

Alanna’s turn to jump in came next. She jumped in, landed exactly where she need to be, kept the nose up just enough, then started to tip sideways. We all thought that was the end of it. Until she barrel rolled out of it and right back up into her “surf”. Wow. All of us watching started to hoot and holler, the guides leading the excitement. Again it was a fairly graceful exit from the waterfall for her.

This next time we jumped in was going to be the last. The idea was that we would all jump in and “surf” the waterfall for the camera lady to take a group picture. One of the guides jumped in first, not before telling me, “she’s showing you up so far, better show us what you got on this one”. With that he was off into the waterfall. He stuck the landing. Now the pressure was on. I jumped. Sledge slammed onto the water. Got it. The guide and I were “surfing” beside each other. Now it was Alanna’s turn. She jumped. Sledge slammed onto the water. Nose dove down. Alanna disappeared for a brief second before she presented her fins to the sky and her face got a good wash as she nearly flipped ass over tea kettle. Somehow righting herself she grabbed out for whatever was in front of her. Turns out that something was me as her sledge had been ripped from her hands and spit out behind her. It wasn’t too long before she too followed suit and was re-acquainted with her sledge as the guide caught it and then her. With that it was my turn to take a less than graceful exit from the waterfall, although it was much more graceful than Alanna’s. With that botched we ended our sledge down the river.

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Once back at the office and out of our wetsuits and back into street clothes we got a chance to check out our pictures. This is when we found out that the last attempt for a good picture was not completely botched as the camera lady caught Alanna’s golden exit of the waterfall. We had quite the laugh when we saw them, hopefully you enjoy them even half as much as we did.

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Didn’t Even Die…..

Remember that time we almost died….but we didn’t?

YUP!

If you ever go to Cathedral Caves in New Zealand make sure you bring some shorts, and maybe a snorkel and some goggles if you want to see the other caves around the corner.

Okay well it wasn’t that bad but shorts would have been a decent idea.

After we looked at the main caves that are called The Cathedral Caves we decided to go around the corner and see some other caves, which are not The Cathedral Caves (as the lady at the gate made sure we understood). It was low tide because you can only go to Cathedral Caves at low tide and because the ever helpful lady at the gate told us it was low tide. She also was the one that told us about the caves around the corner. She said we would get wet but that we could get there if we wanted to.

Alanna decided to take her shoes off and carry them and a few other things, like her phone, in her hands. I decided I was going to leave my shoes and pants on, roll up the legs to just above my knee, and leave the stuff in my pockets because the water wasn’t going to get that high anyway.

With shoes in her hand and me holding up my pant-legs we started walking through the roughly knee high water. Already I was slightly regretting some of my decisions. The initial part of the walk through the edge of the ocean was fine. The water was staying low enough and we were moving along nicely. Then, well……watch the video.

So yeah….. Rolling up the pants did not make much of a difference seeing as how the water ended up at my bellybutton. Also holding things like my phone, wallet, and GoPro batteries in my hand, above my head like Alanna did, rather than leaving them in my pocket, might have been a good idea. Or I could have left them in the car from the beginning. Turns out I didn’t need my wallet, with only credit cards in it, on the beach where the closest town is over half an hour away. Who woulda guessed?

By the way turning around and seeing Alanna in waist deep water holding her shoes and phone above her head was actually quite funny….you probably had to be there. That was until I realized she was not enjoying the ocean bath as much as I was. With a few words of encouragement, and a few not so encouraging words, we both did make it to the other side relatively unharmed. Alanna maybe a little more scared from the events than I was….

But hey! We didn’t even die! So it’s all good…..right?

Just so you know the walk back was less eventful as the ocean cooperated a lot better and we decided to link arms as we walked back. In hindsight, probably should have done that on the way there too.

And just to clarify…there were fur seals and then penguins at the end of the video. I wasn’t just taking videos of the rocks!

Hope all is well in your world!

Take care!