Tuesday, January 11, 2011

No shirt, No Shoes, No Problem

Everywhere I go people are barefoot  in New Zealand.  When I first arrived, I was shocked to see people barefoot in the city, in the shops, in take away restaurants and even in the supermarket.  But I get it now, it's just part of Kiwiana.  It represents the attitude and the carefree life.  I have welcomed this summer more than I've welcomed most and I'm trying to take advantage of it as much as possible. It hasn't taken much time off of work and in the sun for my feet to look like they belong on a New Zealand beach.  Here's a recap of my busy but wonderful holiday break:

- Christmas Eve was spent in my old flat so that I could wake up with people around and was surprised when I actually had something to open on Christmas morning (thanks to my flatmate, Meagan).  Christmas Dinner was a BBQ with my friend, Amanda, and her family where I was treated to some nice dishes that I've never tried before (including Christmas pudding).

Tent in Pauanui, Coromandel
- On Boxing Day Amanda and I packed up the car and drove to the Coromandel peninsula which is about a 2 hour drive east of Auckland.  The peninsula is lined with beautiful beaches and beach communities.  We camped on a plot of land hired out by Amanda's brother and his friends.  It has a small building just large enough to fit a kitchen on one side and bathroom on the other and the rest of the plot has space for tents and a few camper vans which we used to keep our food in.

Daniel, Olivia, Carl, Amanda
- After a few days in the Coromandel we went back north through Auckland to the west coast of the north island.  We met up with our friends in Opononi (which is just south of 90-mile beach).  There were about 13 of us (not including the 7 children) camping outside of a bach (which is basically a rustic cabin on the ocean).  We had did some sandboarding, ate BBQ, set up a campfire, sang songs, drank and played games.  It was a perfect way to bring in the new year. 

- On Jan 2, Amanda and I packed up our tent once again and headed directly east to the other coast to see the Bay of Islands.  We stayed in a hostel that night and after the bars closed we kept it going by ending the night drinking warm Reisling from the bottle, sitting on the beach, with some of the guys we met at the bar.  It tasted disgusting but I enjoyed every minute of it.

- The next day we were heading out to Urupukapuka Island and Amanda tripped and although there was some blood the most damage was to her knee which quickly swelled up and couldn't take any weight.  It was a bad way to start off the most physical part of our trip (we had everything with us for two nights of camping including all of our food and water that we needed to carry up a steep path over a mountain to the other bay where we would camp).  It made things a bit tough but we were fortunate to have beautiful weather for our time there and we caught a concert on the island featuring Jordan Luck, formally a lead singer in a Kiwi band, The Exponents.

Mangawhai Heads tent site
- We got back to the mainland and stayed another night in Paihia at the hostel and had Amanda's knee checked out before heading south to Mangawhai Heads about 2 hours north of Auckland.  Another small beach town, this time we set up our tent at a site directly in front of the beach.  We took in another concert on Friday night (Fat Freddy's Drop, another Kiwi Band) and then lounged around the next morning, slowly coming to terms with the fact that the vacation was over.

Flight around Auckland
- The Sunday after we returned we closed out the vacation with a voucher I purchased to fly around Auckland in a small prop plane.  As we taxied to the runway I nervously asked the pilot how long he had been flying.  With three years under his belt and the plane already lined up to takeoff, I decided I didn't have much of a choice but to stay calm.  I was happy I did.  It was an amazing experience and I even got to fly the plane a few times.  Of course, I noticed he always checked to see that it could basically fly itself before handing over the controls, but I actually appreciated that over the alternative of plummeting to the earth under my control.

I spent two full weeks on the road.  Have become quite tan for the first time in years.  Cherished spending time with all of my friends here.  And absolutely LOVED spending time in New Zealand without the stress of a job.  Throughout the entire trip I had trouble remembering why I wanted to go back to the United States.  It's such a wonderful country and I have made awesome friends.  I can already feel the melancholy trying to take hold.  It's amazing how my mind changes as soon as the end comes nearer.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Technology Free and Loving It

Today is my first touch with technology in over a week.  No television, mostly no cell phone service, no internet and no computers.  After camping for the last week, it's been a pleasure to bury myself in books and activities that don't involve glaring screens in front of me.  Today I'm breaking the trend long enough to let everyone know I'm still alive.  Later, I'm hopping on a ferry and heading to an island for a concert and a few nights of camping in the middle of the Bay of Islands.  The weather forecast looks good and the island campsites are fully booked out - should be a good party.