Saturday, December 28, 2013

NZ Scenery & Itinerary

I'm not really satisfied with what I've posted of New Zealand so far.  Basically I just need an outlet to share some amazing scenery photos, so enjoy!

At the end I will go through a day-by-day itinerary for anybody who stumbles upon this blog when planning their New Zealand south island roadtrip.  I would have found such a list incredibly helpful when planning my journey, so I hope my hours upon hours of planning can benefit someone out there besides just Martin and I.

Shotover Canyon
Drive from Queenstown to Wanaka
Lake Wanaka

Diamond Lake

Pancake rocks, Punakaiki

Kaikoura peninsula
Lake Tekapo

Key Summit, Roteburn Track, Fiordland

Day 1: Fly in to Queenstown
Day 2: Queenstown to Wanaka
Day 3: Wanaka to Franz Josef
Day 4: Hike on Fox Glacier
Day 5: Franz Josef to Punakaiki
Day 6: Punakaiki to Marlborough wine region
Day 7: Biking around wineries
Day 8: Marlborough region to Kaikoura
Day 9: Dolphin swimming and albatross watching tours
Day 10: Kaikoura to Christchurch
Day 11: Christchurch to Lake Tekapo
Day 12: Lake Tekapo to Te Anau (via Queenstown)
Day 13: Doubtful Sound day tour
Day 14: Milford Sound day tour
Day 15: Return to Queenstown to fly home

I will make a few points/give sage advice:

Seconds before I booked our flights to Christchurch I thought to look at Queenstown instead.  BOOM!  Half price flights!  Check them both before booking your flight.  It essentially makes zero difference which one you fly into.

This itinerary didn't allow us to do Abel Tasman National Park or Mount Cook up close and personal.  Both were just too far out of the way (roads are few and far between, remember) to justify.  We did see Mount Cook from the Lake Tekapo area from a distance, so I don't feel like we missed out on that.  Wine biking in the Marlborough region (near Blenheim/Renwick) was a huge priority of mine so Abel Tasman had to go.  If I got to redo the trip I'd make room for it, though.

The most we drove in a day was 4.5 hours, usually much less.  I aimed to not be driving every single day, nor have any days of hellacious driving.  If you wanted to cover even more ground than we did, you could grit your teeth and do it.

As for things I'd change, Wanaka could easily have been chopped out in favour of a day at Abel Tasman.  It was a very pretty area but this is New Zealand, it's all pretty!  I stopped in Wanaka just to break up the drive between Queenstown and the glaciers, but I should have bit the bullet on one long day of driving.

We stayed in the city Franz Josef when we were in the glacier region.  We should have stayed in the city of Fox Glacier because that's where we started our glacier hiking trip.  If you're hiking on Franz Josef (via helicopter only, $$$$) stay there.  If you're hiking on Fox Glacier (no helicopter needed, less $$) like we did then stay there instead.  I could've saved us a half hour of driving on two different days had I known that Fox Glacier actually had accommodation options.

There is no need to stop for the night in Punakaiki.  Stop to see the pancake rocks, absolutely, but there's no town to speak of and nothing outside the pancake rocks to see/do.  Again this is an instance of stopping the night just to break up a long day of driving.  Had I just planned a few long days of driving I could've budgeted enough time to see Abel Tasman.  Just stop in Punakaiki to stretch your legs if you're in the area, it's definitely not a must-see.

We went clockwise around the island, and every single other traveler I talked to seemed to be going counterclockwise.  I don't know why that is.  Consider both directions before picking one, but first plot out what are your must-see's and must-do's.  We were bound by our desire to bike in the Marlborough region and swim with dolphins in Kaikoura.  The rest was just filler!

We backtracked to Queenstown before heading to the fiords, which we had to do since we were skipping the southern tip of the island (Invercargill/Bluff area).  We skipped the whole south and southeast (Dunedin) part of the island, which I don't regret.  There was no must-see or must-do's for us down there, so it didn't make the cut.  You can't do it all in 2 weeks.  If you have the time (and money!) I think you could do it properly in 3 weeks.  I mean south island only...the north island is a whole other ball of wax (which I know nothing about).

I will end with where we ended our trip: the fiords.  Martin thought it would be a good idea to "save the best for last", so we did that last.  I think a lot of people do it first, if they fly into Queenstown, since they go in a counterclockwise direction.  I wanted to do an overnight trip on one of the fiords, but 1. It would cut out our ability to see the other fiord and 2. It was obscenely expensive.  If you can only do one fiord because of time or money, you're not going to be disappointed whichever one you choose.

Martin says he'd pick Doubtful Sound if he could only pick 1, I say Milford.  Doubtful is more secluded so way, way, way more expensive.  I found Milford to be much more striking (taller, more abrupt landmasses) even if it was far smaller and less maze-esque than Doubtful.

I don't know how people do day trips to the fiords from Queenstown (unless they're choppering in and out).  What a looooong day that would be spent mostly on a bus rather than the fiord.  If you can get yourself to Te Anau, do it.  It'll make your day shorter and more enjoyable, so you can get right to the good stuff.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

We No Speak Americano - Part Trois

I'm back for another addition of funny shiz Aussies say.  Familiarize yourself with parts uno and dos if you have not done so already.

Ranga = red head 
So named because of the OGs:

Not that kind, silly, I mean original gingers:

Gratuitous addition of vowels where entirely unnecessary
I've seen a few words where random additional letters have been snuck in.  Not like neighbour or flavour; those I have come to begrudgingly accept (while quietly ridiculing).  I remember being so proud of myself in 4th grade for learning how to spell 'encyclopedia'.  But here?  Encyclopaedia.  Though that might be more British than Australian, The Google tells me.  Australian English (and everything, really) walks a fine line between the two, as I will illustrate in the next example.

Here are a few more "WTF, where did that letter come from?" words:

foetus = fetus
oesophagus = esophagus
faeces = feces

Not that I go around spelling feces or fetus in my day to day activities, but if I did I would want them to be as short and discreet as possible.  I wouldn't be adding unnecessary letters to make the words longer and [even] more obscene!

"Cheap as chips" 
This means something is cheap/affordable.  A rare phrase, actually, in a land where Martin didn't look at the price tag and paid $3.50 for one cucumber (I won't ever forgive him for that).

The chips this phrase refers to, however, remains to be seen.  There is no standard definition of what "chips" are.  In the UK "chips" means fries, period.  Doritos and the like are "crisps".  Two different terms for two different [equally delish] foodstuffs.

But here chips can be fries ("fish 'n chips") or they can be Doritos.  Or Pringles.  Or Funyans.  Nah, just kidding about that last one.  The gloriousness that is Funyans has not spread beyond American shores.  Which reminds me I've been meaning to start a petition/organize a march/start a riot about that.

So when something (overseas, obvs) is cheap is it



The world may well never know.

Where's Wally?
This is "Wally":


Naughts and Crosses
'Naught' means zero.  And crosses aren't just for crucifying messiahs anymore!

Blaspheme, party of 1.

Derby is pronounced darby
They seriously say Kentucky Darby.

These people clearly have an issue with appropriate vowel usage.

"4th of the 12th"
An example: Today, December 12th is the 12th [day] of the 12th [month].  A month from today it will be the 12th of the 1st.

Dates are written flip flopped in the everywhere-but-USA part of the world.  Which is fine, I can appreciate that the day is more important than the month.  My birthday being 04/12/1992 (December 4th; year may be fudged slightly) jives with me just fine.

But putting both the day and the month into numbers?  That's taking it too far.  Because it requires thinking, and that's not how I roll.  The 21st of the 4th...think about it...calculate....wait for it...ah, OK I got it: April 21st.

See?  It just takes extra time to mentally calculate what month you're talking about.  Just say the damn name of the month and leave math in hell where it belongs!

Shit House
Definitely in my top 3 favorite Aussie slang terms, because it is 100% versatile and funny to boot.

Feeling hungover?  "I feel shit house, mate."

Q: How did the test go?
A: Shit house

"It broke right after I bought it.  Absolute shit house."

I love this phrase not least because my favorite phrase in the whole of the English language is "crazier than a shit house rat".  Because if you were a rat who lived in a shit house (outhouse, outdoor toilet, portable loo, port-a-potty) then you would be really, really crazy.

I die of LOLz.

I'll leave it on that classy note.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

New Zealand: To Do

We recently got back from 2 weeks on the south island of New Zealand, which was our big vacation for the year.  Did you know that New Zealand is made up of two halves, a north and a south?  I didn't, until I moved to this hemisphere and became their neighbors.

I think we struck a nice balance of activities, relaxing, sight seeing and stuffing our faces while we were there.  The activities were definitely the highlights of our trip, so I'll go through them in chronological order:

Queenstown: Skyline Gondola (+ buffet dinner with this view)

Queenstown: Shotover Jet

Fox Glacier: Hiking on a glacier

Franz Josef: West Cost Wildlife Centre

Marlborough region: Biking to wineries

Kaikoura: Swimming with dolphins

Kaikoura: Albatross feeding trip

Christchurch: Quake City Museum

Lake Tekapo: Hot Pools

Lake Tekapo: Stargazing tour

Doubtful Sound cruise

Milford Sound cruise

We also did a fair bit of hiking.  I would like a medal for this because some of those hikes were not easy!  Here's a picture of us after walking uphill for 2 straight hours:

New Zealand is, hands down, the most scenic place I've ever been.  It is so different from Australia, which I wasn't expecting at all.  The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed here, due to the scenery which I have deemed "totes beaut".

Saturday, November 2, 2013

An Eating & Drinking Guide to Melbourne

I recently made my second trek to Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, again for the purpose of visiting friends.  Martin and I went in February this year, but this time he stayed home as Laura and I went down to visit our girlfriend Olena who's moved there from Brisbane to do her MBA.  Yay, ladies weekend!

I said this in my previous post but it's worth repeating: Melbourne is not like Australia.  At all.  Or what you think Australia looks/feels like.  It didn't help that there was a cold snap going on, so the warmest day of our 3-day trip was way, way colder than any winter day I have ever felt in Brisbane.  For real!

It is exactly like being in Europe!

The weather, the architecture, how people dress, the cafe culture.  All identical to Europe.

So it's only appropriate that we spend all of our time inside eating, boozing and drinking coffee.  Do as the Europeans do!

Allow me to walk you through everything we ate and drank, to use as a handy pocket guide if you ever go to Melbourne.

Snacks - boozey:
Jetstar airplane

Nothing but class (meat pie + warm white wine) for us

Seven Seeds

Eggs Benedict
French toast with bacon
Baked beans with cornbread
Snacks - sweet:

Diabeetus (part 1)

Snacks - boozey:
Miss Chu

Oops, I forgot to take a pic of the dumplings before diving in
Borsch, Vodka & Tears

Perogies - probably my favorite food ever
Polish beer
Naked for Satan

Salted caramel vodka on the rocks is to die for!
Made ourselves at home

We are budding chefs
Snacks - sweet:
Koko Black

Diabeetus (part 2)
Snacks - boozey:

Love everything about this place, especially the polenta chips
Shanghai Village

The crowds don't lie - cheap 'n cheerful

Cocktails from every decade of the past 200 years
Madame Brussels

Booze is best served in pitcher form
Golden Girls vibe - Miami circa 1985
Snacks - sweet:

Diabeetus (part 3)
Yes, that is a cronut!
Rockwell & Sons

Down home American biscuits and gravy
If you don't gain 5 pounds in Melbourne, you're doing it wrong.

You could spend a lifetime eating and drinking out in Melbourne and not get everywhere worth visiting.  My theory is the cafe/bar/restaurant culture is so finely tuned because the weather is such shite that people have no choice but to seek refuge indoors and stuff their faces. Not that I'm complaining!

Melbourne is great for what it is, but real Australia?  That's back home in Queensland.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Tasmania has a lot of scenery.  Lots and lots and lots of scenery.  Including...

A random field in somewhere in the state

Cradle Mountain

The seaside in Hobart

Bay of Fires

Freycinet National Park (but totes looks like Queensland)

Lighthouse at Freycinet National Park

Wineglass Bay

Bruny Island

Liffey Falls

Mount Wellington

Or Mount Beef Wellington as I call it, because I want some beef wellington and it's really hard to find, goddamn it.

Mount [Beef] Wellington is probably the coldest place in Australia.  I bet you could prove that.  It's a mountain overlooking Hobart, and when we were up there it was below freezing!  And blowing really hard.  Without that viewing shelter you see there it would be completely un-visitable.  It was our first and only below freezing experience, though there were a few other close calls.

Not only is there muchos scenery to be seen in Tassie, there are also super cute animals, including:

Tasmanian devils

Like a rat meets a teddy bear.  They are cute, but fierce.  They are scavengers and live off of dead carcasses (carci?).  They eat every shred of a dead animal, bones and all.  Their teeth and jaws are like nutcrackers, and sound like it, too!


Probably my favorite Aussie animal, which I had never seen until I moved here.  They are incredibly soft and I can only assume cuddly, but they're diggers so have big-ass claws.

They are marsupials, so carry their young in a pouch.  Because of the aforementioned digging their pouch faces downward, towards their butt, instead of towards their head, so dirt doesn't get in while they're digging down.  Evolution is clever like that.


Don't let the cute, furry, fatness fool you.  These things stank.  Really, really bad.

Whatever this little kangaroo-type animal is

It lived in a parking lot and lives off the scraps of humans.  I will never tire of seeing these things.

Of course Tassie also offers a plethora of activities.  You can:

Go 'quad biking'

A.k.a. 4-wheeling.  I had never seen such a vehicle before, but this is a two-person 4-wheeler.  I love it!  It's like a Hot Wheels for grown-ups.  A fun way to cover a lot of (rough) terrain in a short period of time.

Visit a winery

I love my wine.  Drinking it in its natural habitat is only natural.

Go on a ghost tour

Even if it's not, ya know, scary.

Take a jet boat tour

It's not enough to simply enjoy nature at a leisurely pace when you can whip shitties through it instead.

I enjoyed our Tasmanian roadtrip and would recommend it to anybody who's got lots of time to spend traveling Australia.  If you're coming to Australia for a month or less whirlwind trip, though, I'd skip it.  There's just so much "typically Australian" stuff to see that I wouldn't recommend prioritizing this over that.  It seemed like most other tourists were mainland Australians, not foreigners, so I don't think I'm alone in that sentiment.

I totally missed my favorite sign in my previous funny signs post.  Though it's not technically a sign it is hilarious, and worthy of international pointing and laughing.  I present to you the King of Pop:

Ain't no way I can top that so I'll leave it there and go out on top.  Forever magical!