Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Just Another Day in Paradise, June 28th

   The past couple days have been a nightmare. We were supposed to leave for Fiji last Friday but beause of the ash cloud our flight got cancelled. Then Jan (the evil Qantas lady) told us that there wouldn't be any international flights until the 30th but we ended up being able to fly out yesterday afternoon. 
   Our bus driver was about two hours late to pick us up from the airport (welcome to island time!) so we got to our hotel around 1 o'clock in the morning after driving for three hours to VoliVoli on completely unpaved roads.  
   We all pretty much crashed looking forward to a full day of relaxing at the beach. 
   And then it started to rain.
   The rain started at around five in the morning and since we were, literally, not ten feet from the ocean it felt like we were in the middle of a hurricane. The doors to our room were slamming, water started to pour in through the uncovered windows. 
   Needless to say we didn't get our beach day. 
   Instead, we hung around the covered area near the beach catching up on True Blood and magazines. 
   Later in the afternoon we went into town for about an hour. That was the first time I really felt like a "traveler" instead of a "tourist". Our taxie driver seemed to know everyone (which isn't surprising since only 750,000 people live in Fiji all together) and as we were pulling into town he hollered out the window at a farmer to cut us off some sugar cane (sugar is Fiji's main export). 
   Then he took us into market. I ended up leaving my camera in the room since it was raining and I didn't think there was anything to photograph. Ms. Bottoms was nice enough to lend me her point and shoot instead. It was so weird not shooting with a giant camera. It was definitely easier to carry around but the picture quality isn't nearly the same. Not that I have them anyway--Ms. Bottoms is staying behind in Fiji with her niece, Brittany, to go on a family trip to Australia. She took her point and shoot with her (hence the pictureless blogpost). 
   Right now I'm sitting in gate 7 in the Fiji airport. There's a band playing in Hawiian shirts and--oh--they just called for boarding! 

See you soon!

The Shaky City, June 23rd

   This morning we woke up early and left Hamner for Christ Church. The drive was only about an hour and a half but the change was huge. For the first time in the past three weeks we were in traffic. It felt like being home. 
   Carl and Dave were both from Christchurch and so they started showing us around the West side which was built on compact gravel and not affected by the quakes. 
   After lunch they took us to the East side. 
   It was like a bomb had been dropped. The streets were completely deserted, rubble was everywhere. All the shops were abandoned. Restaurant still had reserved signs on tables and pepper shakers on the ground that had fallen off the table and shattered. Trash was all over the floors. In one restaurant there was a stack of newspapers strewn over a barstool dated February 22nd, the Earthquake before the one on Monday.
   I know it was an incredible opportunity to photograph but I couldn't help feeling like an intruder. Even though we'd only been a few hours away for the last quake, it's been something really personal and emotional for New Zealanders and we weren't really affected by it.  
   I felt like I was a foreign photographer in New York right after 9/11. 
   But I did get some great shots. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hamner Horses, June 22nd

   It's so weird to think that we only have two more days in New Zealand. I keep forgetting about Fiji. I feel it's the understated part of the trip but I keep thinking that when we leave we're going home. It's going to be so weird not having to bundle up to go outside! To be fair, because of the ash and the quakes and general apocalyptic symptoms (last night we were in a 5.6 earthquake! It wasn't that strong here, but we could feel it) the winter here has been really mild (I spent most of the day in a t-shirt and jeans), but still. 
   We hit up Hamner Horses around 10 for our horseback ride. Everyone had been making jokes about how we're from Texas and ride a horse to school, and the owner laughed and then pulled out an English saddle. 
   And nobody knew what it was.
   Except me, obviously. I had it in the bank. 
   The ride through the mountains was amazing and the guide let me and another girl canter up a hill. It was was awesome.
   Then we shoveled poop for half an hour. That wasn't as awesome.
   After that we grabbed luch and hit up the natural hot springs. The warmest pool was a 'sulfur spring' though so we all just put up with the smell. 

G'Day Kiwis! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

For Narnia, and for Aslan! June 21st, 2011

  This morning we woke up early and set out for our drive across the coast. Carl said it would take somewhere between 8-10 hours (although the actual time on the road was closer to 5. I see what Karen means about all the extra stops). Ulla wanted us to make a photo story about our travel day so we were all snapping pictures of people making sandwiches and Carl loading the bus. 
   We stopped first at Arthur's pass. It was pretty but nothing we hadn't seen before. The real show came later at Castle Hill, AKA the setting for the final battle scene from the Chronicles of Narnia? Yeah. I freaked out. 
   Also the Dali Lama declared it a holy buddhist place or something. But obviously that's not nearly as big a deal. 

    We watched Ulla's fiancee Sebastian boulder. Which was awesome but super intimidating. 

    From there the drive to Hanmar was another 3 hours or so which I very happily slept through. 
    Once we reached our next Top 10 Holiday Park we met Dave, the trip coordinator Dave who's completely rescheduled our last few days in New Zealand. 
   Because of the lack of snow we're not going to be able to go skiing, and because of all the earthquakes and ash we can't spend very much time in Christchurch (although we just heard that enough roads had opened so that we could go photograph the destruction the day after tomorrow). So instead we're going horseback riding in the morning and then to some natural hotsprings tomorrow night. I've decided that this is a good thing since I'm not a skii-er anyway. 

   G'Day Kiwis! 

June 20th On the Road Again

This morning we woke up at what seemed like the crack of dawn after last night's long talk. We drove an hour and a half to see the Pancake Rocks. 
   We were something like 70 kilometers away when the bus ran out of gas. Carl threw it in park but we all had to rush off because we were around a curve and oncoming cars wouldn't be able to see the bus. So the boys (minus Michael), Carl, Gemina and Peter stayed behind to push the bus into a safe spot while the rest of us walked the rest of the way. I was beginning to feel a little jipped after hearing all the crazy survival stories from Africa last year (they ate a wildabeast that they found on the side of the road. A lion had already eaten half). So I guess this counts as an adventure. The hike wasn't bad and we found a Maori hen. Which, I think, is about like a chicken. 

   Carl then hitched a ride about a half hour back to Greymouth to get petrol while the rest of us went exploring. 
   After we grabbed lunch Carl showed us the Truman Trail. It was about a 1 minute hike through the rainforest down to a bluff next to the ocean. I think it's my favorite place we've been so far. There wasn't really a beach and the tide was coming in so we climbed down to this rock and we felt like we were in the middle of the ocean in the midst of all these crashing waves and salt spray. 
   Then we headed back to our cabins and ordered pizza (from Fat Peepee's) before we set out to see the glow worms. 
   I didn't get any good photos--they were all just globs of light in the middle of a dark background but it was cool to be there and see. 

   G'day Kiwis!

Monday, June 20, 2011

June 19th, 2011

   Yesterday we had our much needed rest/catchup day. we spent the entier day in the common room working on our pictures and bogs. It was raining (hard) so it's not like we were missing out on anything. Good timing! 
   That night we all compiled our "funny pictures" and made a slideshow. That's Peter, our guide. 
   Afterward we watched Anchorman which I'd never seen before. It was funny, but not as funny as I thought it was going to be after all the hype. To be fair most of the hype was from, like, 7th grade boys. So it's not THAT big of a let down.
   This morning we drove an hour and a half to Hokatika to meet Ulla Lohmann our Nat Geo Expert. She and her fiancee, Sebastian (they got engaged inside of a volcano. Whatever) , finally made it after 5 cancelled flights. I was beginning to doubt she existed. She's completely precious.
    We all went on a hike around the gorge and then to the black sand beach that's a couple of blocks from our 'cabins'. 
   Then we went out to dinner (Lindsay and I split the most AMAZING salmon) then to the owner's house for Ulla's first talk. As it would turn out, the owner's wife is in a small photography club and they wanted to sit in. 
   Ulla started to tell us her story: at 15 she discovered a new dinosaur (well, I guess it was old. you know what I mean) and then won a science competition that gave her a scholarship to go study amphibians in the Amazon. Promptly afterwards she went to college in Australia (the school hired her for a year after she graduated as a photographer) then she went and discovered a lost tribe and their mummified ancestors in the forests of Paupa New Guinea. All before she was 21. I'm feeling a little behind schedule. 

G'day Kiwis!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Up until now I haven't been able to upload pictures. BUT now I can! It's all very exciting, so we're going to play a quick game of photo-catchup and then hopefully now I'll be able to post photos with time appropriate blog posts. 

Milford Sound: 

Lake Te Anau:

The Sheep Farm: