A Travellerspoint blog

Guru of the Snowy, Snowy Mountain.

Perhaps my calling in life?

all seasons in one day 3 °C

Let me paint you a picture.
A girl, of blonde curly locks and a suspiciously tan face for both her colouring and the time of year, sits wrapped in a flannel with a fuzzy, blue blanket draped across her lap, cupping a warm mug of tea in both hands and watches the flames dance in an open fireplace but metres from where she sits. She contemplates writing on her blog to her dear friends across the ocean, and telling them all about how she has taken a leave of absence from university and settled in Wanaka, working at a small organics store where she serves steaming herbal teas to locals, has an unlimited supply of cashew, cauliflower and coconut soup and drinks too much organic coffee. She has made a myriad of friends by hitching most days up to one of three snow fields, either with kites, skis, or on her most daring days, a snowboard. Apres ski is hot lemon and honey tea at another local cafe with other hitching friends (cars are for people with money and she is not among those) and on weekends house parties abound where the first question asked is, ‘what is your name?’ but the second is, ‘ski or board?’. Time is measured by how many runs are left before the lifts stop, and how much more dancing can be done before she can’t stand up anymore, and collapses, laughing, into a friend’s spa under a blanket of stars, only to do it all again the next day, and the next, and the next.

Forgive me my fantasy there, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t contemplate almost constantly such possibilities while I was in the South Island these past three weeks. Internet-less and phone reception-less, I was surprised (and mildly concerned) about the amount of emails I had on my return thinking I had done just as above - with friends expressing concern I had donned my ski jacket, shirked responsible adult life and become an adventure-seeking bum, because honestly- no one would be surprised.

My humblest apologies for a complete lack of blog entries over the last couple of months- I was caught in a storm of assessment that really didn’t warrant writing about (‘And today, I tried to cram a ridiculous number of Chinese characters into my poor, weary brain. Again. Tomorrow’s forecast- more of the same’) and when I finally emerged, blinking, into the crisp sunlight of holidays I immediately jumped ship for the South Island and immersed myself in snow snow snow. However, said snow has given much fodder for my return to the blogosphere, and so here we are!

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4:30pm on the 1st of July heralded the long-awaited end of my exam period, and also the beginning of harried packing and last minute organising- which included, but was not limited to, attempting to eat all of my remaining food (regrettable choice before a yoga class), questioning past Lucy’s logic at booking a 7am flight, saying goodbye to other exchangies who would be returning home in my absence and trying to fit all my snow and kiting gear in an insufficiently sized pack. Despite such complex and varied hurdles (oh, first world problems), 7am the next morning saw me checked in for my flight and ready for my first taste of the much lauded South Island.

I flew into, and spent my first and last few days in Queenstown. Living up to its reputation as the rowdy party animal of the South Island, bars outnumbered everything but outdoors stores, every night was a big night and Fergburger, an iconic burger joint, was always brimming with hungover hoards.

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My housemate from Auckland, a wonderful Canadian named Amanda, and I had a ball mucking around in snowboarding lessons, ice skating, dancing and hunting out Bikram yoga classes on frosty Friday evenings. We delighted over the amazing mountains that ring Queenstown, pondered how cold the lake would be to swim in (too cold, was the consensus), huddled over hot hot (and pricey pricey) coffee and watched many a dreaded busker doing their thang.

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We capped our time off with a massive dancey night out (I was certainly dressed to impress in a thermal singlet and hiking boots) then went our separate ways- Amanda back to the land of all things maple and myself over the Crown Range to Wanaka, and 2 weeks of throwing myself at the mountains in any way possible. With a willing and able partner in crime, Skip (a Wanaka native whom I instructed with last summer in Aus), we hiked up to glaciers, shot down hills on skis, hauled ourselves back up hills with kites, explored on bikes and mountain boards and even, sometimes, radically, on our own feet.

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While Queenstown may talk really loudly about how much skiing it does and how hardcore it hits it, Wanaka is getting out there, taking on cliff drops and crazy backcountry chutes. Quiet, small, and so much more relaxed, you wouldn’t immediately realise that Wanaka harbours a ridiculous amount of pro-skiers and boarders. Almost every car is a Subaru, decked out with roof racks packed with skis and boards. Wearing your ski jacket around town is not only normal but encouraged (because it is so freakin cold), and Mons Royale, a locally designed merino thermal range, is the height of fashion (and I know ALL about fashion).

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I lost track of days as I quickly fell head over heels for Queenstown’s unassuming neighbour. The weather did all its very best tricks- from heavy snow falls my first few days, to ridiculously clear nights of stars for forever, to lazy foggy mornings or ominous storm clouds boiling on the horizon. The snow was as varied- I went from 30cm of never-been-touched powder while kiting in the bowls of Snowfarm, to glimpses of dirt and sliding around on ice (which does nothing for my skills) during an afternoon at Cardrona. I met a silly amount of Australians (are there any of us left in Aus?!), but I also met a silly amount of awesome Kiwis, Canadians, Brits, Germans, all there for the same reason- snow, sweet snow.

Returning to Auckland has been a shock to my system- ski jackets are no longer the norm and my feet are boiling in snow boots that were just perfect for Wanaka’s sub 5 degrees. Uni started yesterday- with a diary already chock-full of assessment dates and some really hard classes coming my way. (I totally didn’t realise my Spanish linguistics class was taught in Spanish (FOOL Lucy!). In the first class, when my teacher was defining what a word actually was, he argued that the textbook’s idea of it being a unit of language with a blank space either side of it wouldn’t work because of how WE speak, and oh how I felt like interjecting and saying it is simply because SOMEHOW Spanish speakers DON’T BREATHE AT ALL WHEN THEY ARE SPEAKING. EVER. But I couldn’t say that in Spanish, so held my silence... something I feel I will be doing a lot of in that class.) However, all of my classes do look like they will be really interesting, and challenges may mean I don’t blow off class for activities quite so much this semester.

Maybe.

My love to you all, hoping you are well and happy, whereever you are!
Lucy, apprentice mountain guru .

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Posted by lucyfbaird 13:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Like A Kid In A Candy Shop

ie. Lucy in Rotorua.

all seasons in one day 25 °C

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Disclaimer- This entry contains a staggering (but completely necessary) amount of hyperboles along the lines of ‘awesome’, ‘amazing’, ‘wonderful’, ‘absolutely-completely-freakin’-brilliant.’ And also many pictures of geese doing yoga. Consider yourself duly warned.

If, dear reader, I could get away with writing this entire post in an OVER-THE-TOP-BOLD-CAPS-LOCK-ARGH-MY-EYES-WHY-OH-WHY combination of font, and perhaps with a different colour for every word as well, I would. Oh, I would, because I feel that would allow me to at least approach being able to convey my excitement about the shenanigans of my school break just past- a.k.a Lucy- Running Free Across The Plains. (Well, let’s be honest, there aren’t really any plains around here. And rather than running, I was swimming, riding, scrambling, tramping and driving. But wow, doesn’t that title just scream ‘freedom’? ...I gotta find me some plains.)

Having now been a working girl for a month or so, and suddenly facing a week off from what is proving to be a very hectic school life, I decided to combine having cash, a car, and time off to finally head down to Rotorua- the geothermal and mountain biking capital of the North Island. Before driving down through the most ridiculous storm I have ever seen (the sky was a ludicrous mustardy-purpley-bruisey colour, and the rain was nothing short of torrential. If I could have seen the edge of the road, I would have pulled over, such was its intensity. Instead, I gripped that steering wheel and activated all my spidey-driving skills) I went for a misty-morning exploration of Rangitoto- A volcanic island that is but a ferry ride from downtown Auckland.

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Racing up to the summit to beat the crowds, I was rewarded by some precious alone time to take in the panorama of Auckland city, sweeping around to the other volcanic islands dotting the harbour. Rangitoto is both the largest and the youngest of the volcanic cones in Auckland’s volcanic field- erupting only 600 years ago, but a blip on the geological time scale. The steep scoria slopes are super chunky and still barren in some areas, but with moss and lichens starting to take up residence and beginning the wonderful process of- well, life. After the ascent of this rocky mount I found myself tumbling through lava tunnels- Typically Kiwi in the lack of any sort of guard-rails-fences-around-stuff-Lucy-is-likely-to-want-to-climb-in-or-over, Rangitoto has a warren of old lava tunnels, dark and oh so quiet. With my head torch I was able to explore quite far, and was rewarded with a perfect perch for lunch under misty sunlight filtering in through amazingly intricate spiderwebs and foliage clinging to the edges of a skylight-esque hole.

Speaking of lunch, (which I do so love to do) the picture below is from my birthday picnic- though in the interest of full disclosure I do have a habit of justifying absolutely everything I feel like doing as a ‘birthday’ treat for about a month after said birthday. Having received a package of amazing gourmet olive oils and salad dressings from my family in Yarrawonga, I went to the local farmers market and purchased a chewy baguette and some dolmades (the baguette and dolmades have since become a Saturday lunch habit- today’s treat being the Honey-Walnut Baguette of Brilliance), grabbed my picnic rug, guitar, book and headed for a quiet, sunny spot in the park, where I alternated stuffing my face and serenading sea gulls.

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And here it begins. Awesome. Amazing. Brilliant. Plains or no, exploring the surrounds of Rotorua has certainly been one of my highlights so far of my time here in New Zealand. I drove into Rotorua at night, and marveled as steam wafted from the gutters and gusted around Sheila, filling her with that oh-so-distinctive sulphur (a.k.a rotten egg) smell. Said smell was to accompany me for the duration of my trip, and persist in my clothing even upon arrival back in Auckland. Tasty.
I spent little time in the town of Rotorua itself, as I was not there for the ‘Roto-vegas’ scene but the rollercoasterrific mountain bike trails and geothermal treats that dot the surrounding landscape. I did have lunch at the lake after biking on my first morning- and as a testament to how exhausted I was after this taster of Rotorua’s trails I became convinced that the geese watching me eat were actually doing yoga, posing just for me so I could capture their zen.

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With rain storms looming on the horizon, I decided to go for a ‘tramp’ (the delightful verb used in Kiwi-land instead of ‘hike’) up Maungakakaramea (Rainbow Mountain- aptly named when you look at the cliffs striking skywards and the Crater Lake below.)

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The summit afforded a stunning view of the approaching rain storms- though sadly the alpine region to the South was so engulfed in cloud I couldn’t pick out any singular peak- way to cut short my Mt Ruapehu-hells-yeah-I-want-to-ski-on-a-volcano imaginings.

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I scrambled back down under sporadic rain and tramped through to Kerosene Creek- a natural thermal springs that tumbles through lush bush, hiding at the end of a gravel road. Following the spring I found this wonderful pool- with water the temperature of a warm bath, a sandy bottom that you could dig down into with weary toes to find hotter water, and no one else around, I had a giggle to myself at my luck as I splashed around and removed the muck of muddy mountain bike trails and Rainbow Mountain tramping.

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My geothermal desires not nearly sated, I was found bright and early the next morning clutching my camera (on SPORTS MODE. So I could capture the MUD BUBBLES!) at the door to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Sounds kinda kitsch, but at 18 square kilometres, this park has the largest area of surface geothermal activity of any in the Taupo Volcanic Zone- ie, SO MANY mud bubbles, SO MANY crazy coloured mineral deposits! SO MUCH I wanted to touch, but SO GLAD I resisted- I do like my fingers in the (relatively) unspoiled state they are. I had a wonderful time oohing at the sinter terraces, and aahing at the Lady Knox Geyser. Here is but a taster from my pictures:

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I spent the afternoon riding again at Rotorua- it was fantastic to see how many different sorts of people were getting out amongst the redwoods and burling down trails- from mum-dad-two-kid family units, to 15-year olds on downhill specific beasts, every man and his dog (yes, I actually did see people riding with their dogs) was out enjoying the brilliant craftsmanship of the close to 100km of trails. I caught a downhill shuttle bus to the top of the mountain and enjoyed (had my abilities sorely tested by) a solid 3 hour downhill loop, involving gnarly off-camber root sections (ie. Hard stuff) and gnarly off-camber root sections while climbing and also on the edge of a cliff (ie. Really, really hard stuff), AND really, really cool looking mushrooms (which were SUPER distracting and thus a serious danger in themselves- oh hi there, EDGE OF CLIFF). After said 4 hour loop I was so exhausted I began to pretend I was in Mario Kart, and at the top of every jump was a little chocolate soymilk carton hovering like the coveted rainbow boxes in that stalwart of a 90s childhood. I chased down the soy milks, ‘capturing’ each one with a cackle of delirium. Which was much better than my earlier delirium-invoked let’s-play-pretend of 10 minutes earlier, where I became convinced I was being hunted by Ringwraiths (It was raining, the forest diffused the rain into mist, it all felt very Lord Of The Rings: The Mountain Bike Edition, and well THAT was just GREAT, thank you over-active imagination). Hallucinations aside, the trails at Rotorua are definitely the best I’ve ever ridden, and I absolutely cannot wait to return to those choc-soymilk hunting grounds.
I spent my last night in Waikite Valley, enjoying the thermal pools that were open until 9pm and opened again at 6am. It was pretty magical to let the hot water draw the tension out of my body (ALL my muscles hurt. ALL of them.) as I watched the steam dance upwards from the creek that fed the pools I was lounging in.

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So if I don’t blog again it is because I have left school, work and Auckland and moved to Rainbow Mountain. You can find me delighting over mineral deposits and smelling like rotten eggs.
P.S IF anyone DOES want to see MORE pictures of mud bubbles and geysers, I took almost 200 photos in 2 days. I would HAPPILY take you through them one by one. ‘And this mud bubble, I named him ‘Super Mud Bubble,’ he was PARTICULARLY fantastic because…’ No takers? Really?

Posted by lucyfbaird 20:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

'No, your MUM is a PENNE!'

sunny 25 °C

Yeah, so that is an inside joke. As in, something that you would only get if you were here, with my friends and I. Because I have FRIENDS here now. That’s right. I’m not saying this to highlight how not-here all of you are, but more how settled I’m becoming. I no longer get lost trying to find my classes, even when they are in the glass monstrosity that is the new Owen Someone-or-other building. I can give directions to key places around (the best pizza shop, the cheap Asian supermarket, icecream that will melt your heart while it melts in your hands and covers you in chocolate, and of course, the best coffee- (which, if you’re interested, is a tiny hole in the wall Italian café that makes espresso the very smell of which whisks me oh-so-romantically back to Rome)). I know I can make it from bed to class in 13.475 minutes, a handy fact discovered when I didn’t set my alarm and almost missed a presentation class- made it in the aforementioned record time, clutching a peanut butter-banana-toast power breakfast in one hand, my presentation in the other… but with no shoes. Can’t win ‘em all.
This particular joke spawned from a night out with my work mates- smelling like pizza and parmesan, we discovered a wonderful bar close to the restaurant with pool, darts, craft beers, and black-board tables with ample supplies of chalk. I went completely ballistic; covering every surface with scrawls and scribbles, including a T-Rex on Jasper’s black shirt. Ahem. I call it… Artistic license.

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Life in this lovely little city is indeed settling into a routine- my week revolves around classes attended, classes not attended in the name of I-study-better-at-home, classes not attended in the name of naps (a noble, noble reason) and working at a local Italian pizzeria (getting this job seemed a little like fate- enchanted by the huge wood-fired pizza and divine smells emanating from Archies, I wandered in to explore… and noticed a staff wanted sign. A month later, I have eaten my weight in mind-bogglingly good pizza, roast veggies, olives and olive oil. I met the supplier of olive oil/olives last night, a wonderful pony-tailed Greek man, and offered myself as product tester/apprentice/anything-at-all-really-please-let-me-just-DOUSE-myself-in-olivey-goodness). Work and class is punctuated with climbing and mountain biking; I am slowly gathering a crew of people I can count on for a head-lamp-only climbing sesh at a local gym, or a burl around the local single track. Autumn has really hit its stride- cooler weather accompanied by a feast of red, red leaves and misty mornings. Cooler weather heralds (eventual) snow; I am now well-versed on season pass options for every ski resort in this country, and am collecting snow kite partners and information every chance I get.
In a wonderful change from this weekly routine, I was visited by a French friend from Australia (turns out most of my friends from home aren’t actually from home at all. Hum.) and eagerly employed the you’re-only-on-exchange-once card and took off up north for the week. Armed with chocolate, kites, more chocolate, and a limitless desire to see/hike/explore/do absolutely everything, we jumped in Sheila, the tubby goddess of the roads, and began winding our way up to Cape Reinga, the northern-most tip of New Zealand. A friend at university (oh yeah, FRIENDS. At UNIVERSITY. Just in case you didn’t note that.) asked me the next week when I returned, tanned and salty-dreadlocked, what the highlight of my trip was- I actually stopped dead, and offered a look of despair- how on earth could I chose? Was it chasing wild horses through a pine plantation forest, only to end up on the beach and see a storm quickly approaching, which prompted a breathless-run back through said forest to Sheila and shelter? Or being surrounded by piglets, grunting and squealing as they decided if we were friend, foe or food? Taking the fins off Nick’s kiteboard and snowboarding down the mega-dunes at Te Paki? (Te Paki actually blew my mind a little. Nick spotted them from the road as we were heading to Spirit’s Bay, and said, ‘Oh man, take the next left. Ah! The next left!’ Having no idea what we were heading for, (and given that he is French, imagining only a mountain of cheese could incite that sort of excitement) it was humbling to come upon these enormous dunes. Once we’d scrambled our way to the sandy top you were enveloped in their scope- I felt like I’d stepped into Arabian Nights or Aladdin. Kept my eye out for genies, but to no avail.) Maybe it was watching the Pacific Ocean collide with the Tasman Sea (which, in Maori culture, is the man sea combining with the woman sea and… well, making baby seas), at the very tip top of New Zealand, and looking back to the isolated cove where we had camped under our kites the night before. Or it certainly could have been swimming under Haruru Falls in our underwear- I mean, there were no guard rails! They were practically begging us to climb down/frolic under/scramble back up! Our water-loving selves not sated, we kited until we couldn’t move anymore, (I consider taking off my wetsuit that night one of my greatest achievements to date) and was then taken in by a lovely kiwi kiter who fueled us with coffee and pastries, consumed on a swinging chair under a full moon, before a long night of driving, smoothed over by good music and good conversation.
Yeah, so highlight choosing? Not going so well.
I feel I need to end here before I get too carried away, especially as I can’t placate you with many pictures. I was incredibly lazy with my camera while road tripping- partially because it was normally buried under piles of mattress, and partially because I was so sick of seeing the take-picture-move-on hordes of Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga. Instead I chose to simply experience, lingering in the waves, scrambling up dunes and Scottish-highlandesque hills, letting piglets nibble on my fingers (‘That was a love bite!’) and accepting that I will never, ever, get all the sand out of my hair. And I can tell you, black sand? Kinda looks like nits.

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Posted by lucyfbaird 14:11 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

'Clever girl...'

Nothing like an early-morning Jurassic Park reference.

all seasons in one day 25 °C

As the week has passed here in Auckland so too has the summery weather- as I nestle in several blankets there is a steady tropical-like downpour drumming on my roof. That being said the forecast is for sun these coming days, so I’m enjoying this cooler interlude while it lasts. Such weathery shenanigans didn’t get in the way of an adventure-filled weekend- I am lucky enough to have a crazy German nesting on my floor as I type this, who is determinedly catching some shut eye before her 3am wake up call tomorrow morning- I’ll say nothing on the wisdom (or lack thereof) of booking 7am flights. Mona came for but a whirlwind visit, though we made the most of the time- heading out in Sheila, (a Mitsubishi Chariot, pictured below) and setting our compass (or GPS) due east for the Coromandel Peninsula- a.k.a Jurassic Park.

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The Coromandel Peninsula is a fascinating mix of rugged coastline, Jurassic-esque dense, dense ferns, white sand beaches and quaint fishing towns. Loaded down with kiting gear, a guitar, cameras, food and bikinis, we had a wonderful time adventuring around- parking the car by the beach to sleep at night and exploring said beach and surrounds by day. Our first attempt at finding-isolated-beach-to-sleep-at was not the most successful- waking surrounded by other cars, as we'd parked next to an (apparently very popular) fishing harbour! But the views, oh the views...

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Our second night, however, more than made up for it- waking to a completely isolated beach, with Scottish-highland-like vistas behind and crashing waves ahead. The weather when we woke was also reminiscent of the highlands- grey and rainy. However, this only served to make us even more grateful for the amazing coffee and kumara chips we had at a local café after getting thoroughly soaked exploring- with surfboards as tables, very comfy couches and a wood-fired pizza oven warming up the whole café, which had a garage door for a roof, we were very happy with this post-weather-acting-as-supersoaker find.

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We dutifully hit the tourist site of Hot Water Beach, near Hahei- what complete chaos! The geology nerd in me was super excited for my first-ever geothermal experience, and with water temperatures of 60-64 degrees celcius, I was not disappointed on that front. The hot water spring is only accessible 2 hours either side of low tide, when the crashing surf retreats enough to allow every man and his dog to dig themselves a pond of steaming hot water and wallow. Mona and I found ourselves incredibly bemused to find the entire beach empty except for the spring area, which looked like this:

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Having wriggled our toes in the hot, hot water, we decided not to fight the hoardes for space to build our own pool, but instead played ‘Spot the German,’ a game we are so adept at I feel I should put it on my resume.
We also took a break from being beach-bums to check out a few hikes into the Jurassic- I was ardently hoping for bay stegosauri to come and weave through our feet, but sadly this was not to be. We saw the wonderfully cold Waiau Falls (try pronouncing that one, I dare you) and then a kauri grove- awesomely old trees (600-800 years) with such large girths- up to 6m!

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It wouldn’t be a blog entry from me without some mention of food/coffee- I’ve made a wonderful discovery on Queen St, of an icecream research kitchen! (I’ve since returned to validate the awesomeness of said kitchen three times. May need to return a few more just to be sure.) With flavours such as ‘Organic Cocoa’ and ‘Wild Plum and Pinot Noir,’ this is probably the best icecream I’ve ever had. And to top it off, (pun intended), they garnish your icecream with whatever would suit the flavour best- I’ve had fairy floss and violet petals on berry sorbet, dark chocolate sauce on coconut… Be still my beating heart.

A few final pictures from another beach adventure- heading out West of Auckland, Ryan and I went in search of a local surf spot- can’t wait for sunrise surf sessions. The sand is a stunning black, and the water still ridiculously blue. The surf is similar to home- wild and untamed. This area feels very similar to Byron Bay at home- small surf shops, winding roads through walls of green, spotless beaches and a very chill vibe.

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Posted by lucyfbaird 14:27 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Star Light, Star Bright.

sunny 25 °C

Hello again, darling travel blog followers! I am writing this to you from my balcony (ooh la la), with occasional breaks to admire the amazing old trees in the park that my apartment borders and beyond them the city skyline and the blue, blue sea. The sun is beginning to set and soon the stars will appear- a real treat in a city, to have such clear night skies. Walked into a fence pole the other night as I was so distracted by their scope- good one, Lucy. Then swore not to tell anyone of my foolishness. Hum. The pain from the bruise from that incident, however, has simply merged with my pain-from-trying-to-keep-up-with-bouldering-freaks-at-uni-climbing-wall and the classic pain-from-Auckland’s-stupidly-steep-hills-no-matter-which-way-you-walk. Luckily there is an abundance of Whitakers Chocolate here to soothe my broken body- Whitakers being the only chocolate brand I know of which makes a ridiculous range of dark chocolate that I can eat- I set myself the lofty goal of trying them all. Which I achieved in an (I believe record breaking) 3 days.

Auckland, with its abundance of ridiculously blue turquoise water and aforementioned huge trees, gives off a distinctly Aussie beach-town vibe- everything seems a bit more genuine, a bit more laid back, than Melbourne. My university reflects this on a smaller scale- while the student population is certainly ethnically varied, there are no hipsters to be found- goodbye corduroy-pants-rolled-up-at-the-ankles-with-my-grandpa’s-cardigan, I won’t be seeing you anymore. My classes appear to be a complete mixed bag- while my advanced Chinese and Spanish classes appear to be a step up from Melbourne and promise to be quite challenging, my 3rd year Geography subject so far has involved brainstorming on butchers paper, and a crazy French lecturer whose first words were, “Ok, I’ll just say them now so you can move on quickly, yes? Here we go… Beach. And… Sheet.” (Imagine this with quite a strong French accent and you’ll see why we were amused). He then proceeded to tell us about our assessment, which is a treasure hunt, and how he wasn’t going to give us the readings until after class so we wouldn’t approach the lectures with bias. Magnifique!

I’ve been thwarted by maps frequently, with Google declining to mark contours- not a problem in flat flat Melbourne, but an oversight which has lead to me facing many a challenging hill climb while searching for kiteboarding shops, vegan cafes or just somewhere new and exciting.
After an atrocious coffee experience at uni, I decided that trying-out-the-cute-café-just-because-I-love-its-quirky-décor is NOT sufficient reason to risk a weak-and-watery-yet-still-expensive letdown. Thus, I did my research and emerged from Google clutching a list, which I slid into my Lonely Planet ready for those coffee cravings while out and about- so far I haven’t been disappointed, finding that Auckland’s coffee-loving hipster vein beats strongly in small, out of the way cafes, hidden amongst industrial districts or narrow laneways.

After cornering every bike shop employee I’ve happened across and interrogating them about the where-when-what-transport-trails of the Auckland mountain bike scene, I’ve been informed that night riding is the bomb in Domain Park- you aren’t allowed to ride the trails in the daytime as they are for walkers, but apparently come dark headlamps are cranked up to full and some sweet stair sections and tight corners turn into a playground. Oh, and did I mention Domain Park is my backyard? My. Back. Yard.

The first few days of a new city always involve putting yourself at the mercy of strangers- which, while somewhat daunting and occasionally dignity destroying, is a really good way to get the feel for a country and those who call it home. I’ve had a bus driver, who had 12 minutes before his next route began, drive me to the bus stop I should have been at- I’ve had another bus driver wait patiently while I sorted my money ($2 coins are the larger gold coin here, say what?!) and then waited until I’d unloaded my kite bag and safely sat down before driving off. A very far cry from my last bus experience, which was Russia’s gnarly speed-of-a-luge, unforgiving-grunt-of-a-mac-truck excuse for a public transport system. This bus hopping adventure was all in the name of my first time kiting here in Auckland- enter Point Chevalier. Huge, mirror-like flat water, gusty as it is a little inland but practically empty- as the population here is so small, when you take the proportion that kites you end up with a bare handful of kiters, as Lee explained- a lovely Kiwi who as a kite school here, took pity on me walking and gave me a gratefully accepted lift to my new local spot.

The to-do list for this week involves acquiring a car-My American housemate Ryan and I are going to go halves in some sort of vehicle- Ryan wants a wagon, I want a van, we would both love an amphibious-army-special-issue-conquering-all monster- I’m sure we’ll reach some sort of compromise that leaves both of us able to get to the surf most days of the week, which is actually all we really care about. I’m also going to check out some local climbing crags with another American, Morgan, who is a neighbour here in the student apartments- so many Americans, I’ve already fallen prey to ‘duvet’ and ‘college’- I may return with an American accent. You have been warned. Oh and maybe I’ll go to class. Probably. (Calm down Mum, of course I’ll go.)

Here are a few pictures from my first week- exploring with my housemates, or just wandering around (usually completely, blissfully, lost) by myself.

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The Civic Theatre on Queen St, which is Auckland's answer to Swanston St- Bustling with tourists, though still nowhere near the volume of people you would expect on Swanston.

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A tasty soy latte before my kiting adventure, from a small hole-in-the-wall cafe in an industrial area near to where I live.

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Kiting at Point Chevalier- such a huge, flat area. And so few other kiters out! I felt quite spoilt... can't wait to find some more empty spots further out of the city! Hello early morning waves.

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Heading away from Auckland on the ferry, looking back at the mix of Harbour architecture.

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Looking from Devonport out to Rangitoto, one of many islands around Auckland. Spent a lovely afternoon wandering up hills and along beaches with my housemates, planning to explore all of these islands... also to commandeer a vessel and become pirates. Oh, Sunday afternoon plans.

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Me, looking from the highest point of Devonport back to Auckland.

Posted by lucyfbaird 23:53 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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