Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Getaway to Hokitika

After a long summer spent working hard on my thesis and other things, I was in much need of a break. I had been itching to go on a road trip for a long while, and the long Queen's Birthday weekend (June 4th was a holiday in NZ) was a good opportunity to get away. We decided to go to the little tourist town of Hokitika on the West Coast of the South Island, since it is only a 3-ish-hour drive from Christchurch and I hadn't been there before. Did the car overheat on the drive over, forcing us to limp back to town (and blast the heater on so it could make it) and switch it out for a rental car? Yes. But that did not prevent us from having a good weekend away!

It turned out to be a really nice time. The sunsets were pretty, the mountains were gorgeous all covered in snow, and the weather was amazingly clear and sunny the whole time! (The West Coast is known for always being rainy.) We could hear the ocean from the hostel room, and it was a soothing sound.

They're big into the driftwood art here and have an annual competition for it, which is kinda cool.

There is a glowworm cove accessible right from the main highway, so we went there at night and got to see hundreds of glowworms in the trees. The next day we drove the 33km out to the Hokitika Gorge with its pretty glacial blue water. There were a ton of fantail birds flitting around all of the tourists. There must be a lot of bugs around. After one brushed me, I realized there were indeed sandflies buzzing around and that was it. Thankfully I avoided getting bitten so no itchy bumps that last for weeks when you get home!

The scenery was nice: lots of farmland surrounded by mountains, and then the rocks on the oceanfront and an old washed-up ship. We splurged on one nice meal which was well worth it. The scalloped potatoes were delicious -- I haven't had them in many many years.

We also drove up to the Pancake Rocks, which are a unique geological feature and they're not quite sure about how they formed. The tide was low so we didn't get to see the full blowhole effect, but it was still beautiful and we could still hear and see smaller splashes and the thundering when water gets stuck in an underwater cave and howls.

We still had time to see the Brunner Mine, which actually had some good historic plaques and lots of abandoned machinery and bits. There was a collapse back in the day which killed a bunch of people. The ponies knew something was up and refused to go in, but they forced them to. :( You gotta listen to the animals -- they have different (often better) senses than we do.

On the drive back, we stopped briefly to walk around the Londonderry Rock. It was one of those rocks that doesn't get ground up by a moving glacier and rides the top of it, so it never has a chance to break down. The miners tried to break it up but it was too big, so they just worked around it. The thing is massive. I wouldn't want to be anywhere near it for an earthquake.

We also stopped at Arthur's Pass on the way back and saw four kea in the parking lot. They are such intelligent parrots. Some of the other tourists were feeding them (which is a big no-no) and photographing them. They get so much attention. Unfortunately they are more endangered than the kiwis, with only a few thousand left after they were hunted by farmers back in the day because they would attack their flocks.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Changing Car, Changing Place

There's usually a rush at the end of any big project it seems, but it's rarely pleasant. In the midst of doing revisions of my thesis draft, I also had to get another car and move house again, so things have been busy.

I took the Toyota Camry that we had had only since the start of last year to the wreckers at the end of last year -- it was overheating constantly and the repairpeople said a blown head gasket wasn't worth fixing on an older car. This left me worrying that it would stop working when I needed to get to work, and I was also worried about insurance issues. So I found another Subaru Legacy, like the first car we had here, which is newer and only needs to have a Warrant of Fitness (WOF) check once a year instead of twice. The seller was nice and seemed to have taken good care of it. My friend helped me pick it up and take the old one to the wrecking place, where I just got a pittance for it. But it was better than nothing.

Finding a new place was another hassle. There's not much affordable in the Christchurch area and they just don't have studio and 1-bedroom apartments like in the U.S. One place I saw was literally a shoebox size room that had been carved out of an existing building. The bed was up a ladder in a little loft area with a huge skylight, so the sun would be blasting in the morning. There was no oven or stove, just a hotplate, and a tiny bathroom squeezed in. And that place was almost as much as getting a regular small house. I decided it was time to find a place with other people to bring down the price, so I happened to find a house with a separate sleepout building in the backyard that was a decent size with two medium-size rooms that I could keep the cat in. I have full use of the main house but have my own space as well. It's not ideal and has taken some getting used to, but it will work for now as I finish things up and make a decision about where I want to go.

I've been participating in a business course over the summer at the university and it has been a great learning experience. I wish I would have learned this stuff earlier, and I really think it should be required for everyone to learn a little about business whether or not they think they want to be their own boss someday or disagree with the whole system. It's part of the world we live in, and it's hard to change something you don't understand. I've found it encouraging how often I've heard other students talk about sustainability and the environment -- it seems like a trend that has staying power.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Taste of Home

It's been awhile since I posted, but things have been busy in addition to the thesis. I ended up having to go back to the U.S. unexpectedly, and then coming back and moving house, and all of that took a lot of time and energy. But I am settled back into the rhythm of working seven days a week and hoping to be on the last stretch of the thesis journey this year.

The good part about being in the U.S. was the food and company. I miss the variety of restaurants and the cheapness and meal deals. And walking into Target's pantry section was both horrifying due to all the sugary, unhealthy stuff, but also so exciting and colorful. I made sure to take photos of a lot of the food so I could share them and remember the tour of my favorite stuff and new things I tried. It is good for the budget that Christchurch doesn't have affordable eating-out and not much to tempt me, but also lame.

First meal in the U.S. - Mexican!

strange to see bleached eggs again, and they don't taste as good

wall o'Oreos (America is doomed...)

I love Belgian waffles

French-toast style Belgian waffle

Denny's Pancake Breakfast

Olive Garden - unlimited breadsticks and salad

Olive Garden fettuccine alfredo

Olive Garden's new cookie butter cake was delicious.

Ravioli with sausage and bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dip

Blueberry coconut pie - yum

Costco pumpkin pie (didn't make it through it all... :( )

Had to get the classic Eggo waffles. Taste exactly the same!

Airport restaurant's Clam Chowder
Note the carb-o-licious / dessert theme in most of these foods... There were some other things to note as well. Apparently games now have to list the materials they are made out of (so if you're gluten-free, you won't lick it??...). There are robots at airports. I tried out the Amazon Locker delivery service and it was easy and convenient.

Coming back to New Zealand, I noticed that CookieTime has finally realized the wonder of butterscotch in cookies.
Finally, seeing the snow-covered Southern Alps is always a treat. It's a perk of coming in during daylight hours.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Trip to Lake Coleridge and BBQ

We went for another day trip out of Christchurch -- this time the weather was even colder and there were very strong winds we had to walk into. We were near the ski fields of Mt Hutt, south of where we went last time to Castle Hill. Unfortunately there was no snow at ground level, which I had been hoping for. We went for a walk near Lake Coleridge, which is part of a hydoelectric power plant, but the only exciting things were fantail birds and sheep. The fantails are so cute, flitting around and showing off their tails. There were three of them very close to us on one of the forest paths. The sheep were more afraid of us. There were one black-faced one and some were pregnant. The walk was fine on the way out to the lake, but the winds were blisteringly harsh and cold on the way back.

We took a detour to eat at this Texas BBQ place I had read an advertisement for in the paper recently. It's got a great name -- Truck Norris BBQ -- and is run by a Kiwi guy and his partner who is a Texan woman. She must be the one in charge of the Facebook page because it was very friendly and cheery on there. The guy is a typical Kiwi who doesn't say much and doesn't have the customer service skills we expect in America. I figured that would be the case and didn't mind too much because I am used to it. I just ordered the food and didn't make conversation. The food was indeed American-style and the BBQ sauce was soo good. Just like what I've had in the Southwest. We got a sampler platter with BBQ chicken, beef brisket, and pulled pork as well as macaroni and cheese and seasoned fries. I would be eating there all the time if it weren't such a long drive away. Maybe for the best!

I can't wait for winter to be over. The electricity bill was over $340 last month, and that's with us not being home during weekdays. There has been flooding in surrounding areas due to a huge rainfall in the past week, and tomorrow the high is supposed to be 6 C (43 F). It is just crazy that people don't have proper and affordable heating systems to cope with this kind of weather. And drainage systems cannot cope with the amount of water and the fact that the city is built in the floodplains of the river.
Fantail with the white and black tail