Tuesday, November 28, 2006

tramping the milford track

Clinton Valley, Milford Track

We (me, Mum, Dad, and Uncle Peter) survived all 53.5km/33mi of the Milford Track, one of New Zealand's 8 "Great Walks". The track is in Fiordland National Park in the south western part of the South Island. The track is 3 nights/4 days and with the annual rainfall in the area approaching 6-9 meters per year, we were expecting at least a day or two of rain. We were lucky though and out of the 4 days had about 2 hours of rain, 3 hours of snow at the top of the MacKinnon Pass (with amazing views!) and sun and blue sky for the rest of the trip.

There are two ways to walk the Milford Track. We did it as "independent walkers" through DOC (Department of Conservation). A maximum of 40 people can start the track each day and our group was full. A pretty diverse group that ranged in age from 10 years to about 60 and included both local Kiwis and others from all over the world. We booked into the DOC huts for the 3 nights which were complete with bunkrooms (10-20 beds per room), a cook house with stoves and picnic tables and a toilet block with sinks and FLUSH toilets! So much for roughing it in the bush!

The alternate way to walk the track is on a guided walk with a private company. These folks stay in somewhat plusher lodges and have their meals cooked for them and linens on proper beds. As a result their packs only contain their own clothes and lunch. Overall not a bad deal if you're willing to pay $1500NZD per person... I was happy with my bunkbed and flush toilet...

Here's a brief rundown of each day.

Day 1- We left my car at Te Anau Downs and took a 1hr boat ride across Lake Te Anau to Glade Wharf, where the track starts. The walk this day was short- about 5km through forest with little change in elevation through the beginning of the Clinton Valley. We spent the night at Clinton Hut. Each hut has a DOC ranger in charge of the hut and the walkers. Peter was at this hut; he led a guided walk that afternoon and pointed out some of the local and native flora so that we would have a better idea of what we were looking at for the following 3 days!

Waterfall in Clinton Valley

Day 2- We got off to a somewhat early start (around 9am) but late compared to some of the others who left at 7am! The weather was beautiful all day as we walked through the Clinton Valley towards MacKinnon Pass (which we climbed the next day). The mountains on either side of the valley were breathtaking with countless waterfalls cascading down their sides. The river ran through the valley and was crystal clear with lots of fish! We spent the night at Mintaro Hut at the very end of the valley. Since the weather was so fabulous, some of the group decided to hike the MacKinnon Pass to get a good view, just in case the weather turned rainy the next day and the pass was all clouded in. None of us decided that we need anymore physical abuse that day- so we hung out at the hut and crossed our fingers for good weather the following day. Total distace was about 16km.

Just to show you how clear the water really is!

Day 3- Woke up to pouring rain. I was beginning to think that our luck had run out. We started off that day knowing that it would be the toughest, with the most change in elevation- over MacKinnon Pass and down into Arthur Valley which leads out to Milford Sound. We suited up- rain pants, rain coat, hat, mitts, etc (Dad and Peter in their ponchos) and set off. The track starting climbing immediately and we walked up for a solid two hours. Somewhere along the way the rain changed to snow and the path became less muddy and more slushy and even icy in some places.

The green and yellow monsters (aka Dad and Uncle Peter) climbing MacKinnon Pass

View of the Arthur Valley (under the clouds) from the top of MacKinnon Pass- awesome!

However, at the top of the pass we were met with incredible views of both the Clinton and Arthur Valleys, as well as the surrounding mountains. We asked one of the guides (from the expensive guided walk) if this weather was typical. He told us that he hikes the track 32 times a year and that he rated the weather that day as a 13 out of 10! Apparently

it's fairly rare to get snow at the top of the pass and even more uncommon to have such a clear view of both valleys. Again...lucky with the weather! We reached a small warming hut at the top of the pass and enjoyed some hot soup. At this point I thought that the tough part was over, after all how hard can walking downhill be?!

Is it nap time yet?!

About 4 hours later I realized that going downhill was indeed harded than going uphill and my knees and ankles were not very happy. We reached Dumpling Hut around 5pm that night and were very very glad to take our boots off! The total distance for the day was "only" about 14km but it was by far our longest day on the trail!

Day 4- We hiked out this day, 18km from Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point where we caught a boat to Milford Sound. The trail was pretty flat and overall not a problem...that was until I lost my footing on a set of metal stairs coming off a swing bridge and bounced my way down to the bottom...on my bottom. At first I was sure I had broken my tail bone, but it seemed to be intact. Instead I was left with a massive bruise that was about the colour of beets. We even took a picture, but I'll spare you the visual image.
Again, the weather was stunning and we had a good view of Milford Sound as we arrived by boat.

Sandfly Point, the end of the trail!

Milford Sound

All in all a great trip! The photos don't really do it justice though!



Friday, November 03, 2006

an unofficial undergradute

So, it's unofficially offical, I'm done with university! I had my last exam this morning and now I'm done! Pretty good feeling. Overall, exams went well and now they make us wait a month for the results.

I finally got around to taking some photos around campus today- they're posted below.
I also had the chance to watch Hayden play cricket this afternoon at school- he's captain of the Harewood school cricket team. Unforunately they lost 52-19 runs... I'm slowly but surely getting the hang of the game!

Mum and Dad and Uncle Peter arrive tomorrow afternoon from Malaysia and we're heading south- likely to Wanaka tomorrow and then onto Milford on Sunday so that we can start the famous Milford Track on Monday morning. We'll spend most of next week hiking (tramping as they say here) and then drive up to the North Island.

Anyway- I'll definitely post some photos of our track. Cross your fingers for good weather and not too much rain! Keep in mind that the Milford area gets 6+ meters of rain per year...



University of Canterbury Library...classic concrete!

Harewood School Cricket Team

Saturday, October 21, 2006

the beginning of the end...but not quite!

By now you're likely tired of me saying how fast this year has gone by and how I can't believe that it's already May....July...September....and now October! I feel like I'm in some kind of bizzare time machine- but maybe that's more because it's October (which I associate with pumpkins and fall harvest) and yet the tuilips are blooming and my allergies are out of control. Nevermind, you'd think by now I'd be used to the opposite seasons.

Right, so it's spring in New Zealand which unfortunately brings along the end of the semester (not such a bad thing) and exams (which unfortunately equal stress). Study week is now over and my first two exams are next week (breathe...) and are Biochemistry and Industrial & Organisational Psychology. Cognitive Psyc is the following week and then I'm free! Exams here are quite different than what I'm used to back at Auburn where the exam period lasts five days and most exams are re-testing information that was tested throughout the semester. Here there are no tests during the semester (except possibly a midterm in some courses) and so final exams are worth a lot- anywhere from 50-75% of the final mark. Hence the stress.

The light at the end of the tunnel is becoming visible- after exams my parents and uncle are coming to NZ for two weeks and we have what should be a great trip planned. First week includes Queenstown, Wanaka and hiking the famous Milford Track in Fijordland (wayyyy down South) one of New Zealand's 8 "Great Walks". The second week we're heading North- from Christchurch to the top of the South Island, across on the Interislander ferry and then up to Auckland.

From there I'll head back to the tropics (Malaysia) for a few weeks of sun and then back to the US. I heard yesterday on the radio that Christmas is only 13 weeks away!

Enjoy the fall weather on your side of the world, and get extra candy for me at Halloween- New Zealand kids haven't quite picked up on that trick yet!



Sorry- no new pictures to add...my textbooks aren't that exciting! I'll try to take a few pictures of campus soon though, the Spring flowers are impressive!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

weekend at Lake Brunner

Last weekend I spent at Lake Brunner, on the west coast of the South Island. My Rotary host counselor Valda, and her husband Rex own a bach (cottage) in Moana, the small community on the shore of Lake Brunner. We had a really relaxing weekend- on Saturday we went out of their boat and I water skiied a bit but it was freezing! I was wearing a 3mm wet suit but it the water was a mere 52F (11C) and my hands were numb after about 20min. We did a bit of fishing and caught 3 brown trout!

The west coast is well known for its mining and fishing- a lot of coal and gold mining went on there in the mid-late 1800s. The Brunner coal mine (pic below) is an old mine that is not a heritage site- a lot of the old machinery is still there. We also went to Nelson Lakes gold area- they used huge water cannon to cut out deep trenches in the hillside and then washed the gold out with water and filtered it. There are countless of these deep crevases in the hillside, some of which were also dug by hand using rock picks.

On Sunday (in the rain) we drove north to the Punakaiki blow holes and even though the weather wasn't great, we were there just at high tide so it was pretty impressive!

Enjoy the pictures...


Punakaiki Blowholes

Water Cannon for gold mining- Nelson Lakes area

Brunner coal mine

me and my somewhat slimey brown trout!

Water skiing on Lake Brunner--there was actually snow on the mountains around the lake and I could see my breath...insane.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Spring did start on September 1 and even though there are still from frigid nights and frosty mornings, it’s definitely getting warmer! I spoke at the Bishopdale-Burnside Rotary club last week and was invited to the rugby game on Sunday at Jade Stadium- Canterbury v. Counties Manakau. Their club has a contract with the stadium to sell programs before each game. Daisy and I went along on Sunday afternoon and after donning some very attractive gear we were off to shout “programs for sale!” for the next two hours outside the stadium. It was actually pretty fun and we met some interesting rugby fans. A lot of people thought that a) the programs were free, or b) that I worked at the stadium…so it made my job interesting! The best part was that we got into the game for free and I sat beside an avid rugby fan so I picked up some tips on how the game works.


Sydney and Melbourne

During the second week of our two week midterm break (I love this school schedule), I met mum in Aussie! We had a great week of sight-seeing, eating, and of course, shopping! I flew direct from Christchurch to Sydney (at 7am) and then had the joy of getting held up at immigration in Sydney, apparently because of some problem with my Canadian passport. After getting told by a man in an official uniform that he was “sending me home” (although I’m not even sure where he would send me) I was able to leave his little office, collect my bags and walk out into the sunshine of Sydney. The first thing I noticed is that Australia is, overall, much warmer than New Zealand. In Sydney we took in all the sights, the famous Opera House, the Rocks (cool market area), Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, the SkyTower…the list goes on. We took the ferry to Many, a cute little beach town about 30min from downtown. One night we saw the Sydney Symphony perform in the Opera House which was impressive to say the least.
After our whirlwind tour of Sydney we flew to Melbourne (on the southeast coast) for a few days. I really enjoyed Melbourne, although I think I preferred Sydney! We checked out the downtown area which includes Bourke Street mall, an outdoor pedestrian mall, and the Immigration Museum a really cool interactive museum that tells the story of people who settled Australia…the convicts and all. We also spent a day down at the beach in St. Kilda- complete with a great boardwalk and cute cafes!
We had 6 great days in the land of Oz which definitely wasn’t enough time to see even half of what there was to see…and that’s just in two cities! I’ll be going back for sure…



Downtown Sydney, Circular Quay

Sydney Opera House + rainbow

Harbour Bridge, Sydney

Mum checking out the view from the SkyTower, Sydney

St. Kilda's beach, just south of Melbourne

blenheim and nelson Rotary week

We had a midterm break for two weeks (August 18-September 4) and for the first week, I headed up to the "Top of the South", the area of beautiful vineyards, stunning coastline, and really really friendly people. I spent the week with the other five ambassadorial scholars who are studying in Christchurch spent the week together in Blenheim, Picton, and Nelson- the area at the tip of the South Island. We were hosted by various Rotarians and between the six of us, spoke to all 10 Rotary clubs in the area. While we weren't wining and dining with Rotarians, we were touring wineries (and tasting!), boating on the Marlborough Sounds, and hiking in Abel Tasman National Park. Overall it was a great week!!

Glen, Jesse and me in Kaikoura at the seal colony on the way to Blenheim

On the boat in the Marlborough Sounds- Glen, Andrea and Henrik checking out the catch. We caught some really tasty scallops!

The group on the boat 'Eliza' in the Marlborough Sounds- Andrea, Henrik, Daisy, me, Glen, Miriam (daughter of a Rotarian), and Jesse

Daisy and Henrik hiking down to Anchorage- the first part of the Abel Tasman walk (one of NZ's 8 Great Walks)

Abel Tasman National Park

The incredible view from our host's house in Nelson- looking towards Abel Tasman National Park

Henrik, me and Daisy getting ready for a Rotary meeting in Nelson.



Saturday, August 12, 2006


Although Spring doesn't officially start in New Zealand until September 1, it's apparent that Spring is on its way...lambs are starting to be born! We drove to Rangiora yesterday for Hayden's soccer game, about 45min north of Christchurch and lots of the fields were full of baby lambs- white, black, and everything in between!
The Sopers have a small herd of sheep and this year are expecting about seven lambs. Two of them were born in the past week! The one I'm holding below is just a day old- probably weighs only a few kilograms and was very squirmy! They're both black and really cute...not to mention really fast runners when you try to catch them! They hang around their mums but suprisingly the mummy isn't agressive or overprotective when you catch her lamb.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

around the farm

Jamie after a bath...aka Batman. I love this picture!

Until yesterday, I hadn't actually explored the farm that I'm living on...the Sopers have about 16 acres behind their house, where you will find olive trees, lavender bushes, a veggie garden, some old berry patches as well as several sheep.

We took a walk around the farm yesterday with Jamie- mostly to check on the sheep, about 7 of them are expecting lambs soon! Unfortunately one of the ewes, who we think was expecting twins, fell ill with sleeping sickness (apparently common for pregnant sheep expecting more than one lamb) and passed away this afternoon. She's burried in the very back of the farm in the pet/animal graveyard. According to Noeline the sheep used to all have names, but it got too confusing, so now they are just Sheep 1 through Sheep 11 (well, Sheep 10 now).

Jamie and Inca...the impatient sheep dog!

Sheep 1-10.

Jamie and Benny the cat after a bath (Jamie, not Benny had a bath.)

Jamie and I with Sheep 11. Rest in Peace.




Lake Tekapo

Skiing at Coronet Peak!

Sunset over The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu

Paragliding into the sunset

The (awesome) luge track!

I think I might have found it---one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. Queenstown is touristy, which is a good reason why most Kiwis don't care for Queenstown...but you have to agree that it's still beautiful. Kathryn and I spent four days there with her sister (who lives and works in Queenstown) over our semester break. On Thursday we went up the Skyline Gondola to the lookout over the city and The Remarkables mountain range. That's where we went down the luge track (picture above) which was awesome! You sit in a little cart and race down a concrete track...while overlooking the incredible mountains. Pretty cool! We were there around sunset which made it even more spectacular. Note the paragliders in the pictures above!

On Friday we skiied at Coronet Peak which was also amazing. I really think that skiing above the tree-line is much better than having the chance of getting stuck in trees. We had great weather and the snow was pretty good- a little icy near the top though!

Saturday was a day of recovery for our poor muscles- we slept in and then took a walk around the other side of the lake from the actual town of Queenstown, in an area called Kelvin Heights. This is the rich area, not only because it's right on the water, but also because they get the most sun. Claire, Kathryn's sister lives in a condo that doesn't see the sun for 3 months out of the year! Needless to say their heating bill in the winter is pretty steep.

On Sunday we drove back to Christchurch through Lake Tekapo which was beautiful. The lakes in this region are an incredible turquoise colour. According to my trusty Lonely Planet guide, this colour is due to the "rock flour" sediment in the water. This is from when the lake's basin was dug out by the glacier. The sediment gives the water a milky appearance and refracts the sunlight! Another great day weather-wise with some stunning views. Then on Monday it was back to school!



Thursday, July 13, 2006

new semester, new home!

Time seriously does fly...I can't believe that July is half over! I'm sure most of you are sweating and complaining about the heat while I'm snuggled under a wool blanket and scraping ice off my car in the mornings!

I had a great break last week, Kathryn and I took a trip down to Queenstown to ski and relax! I'll post more about that later...

Two weeks ago I moved from the student apartments at Ilam to a home-stay with the Soper family. Rebecca, a friend from Auburn who was here last semester doing her student teaching lived with the Sopers and they invited me to live with them this semester. I have my own (huge!) room and bathroom! I also now have two younger brothers, Hayden is 10 and Jamie is just 3.

Jamie's latest obession is anything with holes. He had a hole in his sock the other day and insisted that he couldn't wear it. Now he checks everyone's socks, shirts, pants, whatever to make sure they don't have any holes either. He found out that his pyjama shirt has button holes...it took a lot of convincing to assure him that they were ok!

Hayden and Jamie



Sunday, July 02, 2006

skiing...in june!

It's been quite a busy week...I had two exams on Monday and Tuesday, moved to my new house (pictures coming!) and volunteered at the hospital on Wednesady, went skiing at Mt Hutt on Thursday, and said goodbye to one of my flatmates on Friday (going home to the US).

My new house, and family (the Sopers) are wonderful! I have my own room with a huge bed and tv, own bathroom complete with a heater towel rack and heat lamp...a necessity for cold New Zealand mornings! My new family consists of a mum and dad (Noeline and Nigel), two brothers (Hayden age 10 and Jamie age 3) and a random assortment of dogs, cats, and sheep! The house is on 16 acres on the outskirts of Christchurch, about a 10min drive to campus. The family is in Picton this weekend at their bach (lake house) because it's the beginning of school holidays.

On Thursday Katie and I went skiing at Mt Hutt! It's one of the biggest and closest hills to Christchurch, about a 90min drive. So far this season they have had more snow (130cm base) than they had all of last year! It's quite different skiing here, everything is above the treeline so there is no need to cut out runs between the trees! That also means that there are no trail maps at the top of the lifts...you kinda just get off and go! I found the snow here to be quite wet and sticky, not exactly the powder that North America is spoiled with! The views are incredible though and it was overall a great day! Katie leaves tomorrow for home and although she is so excited about getting home (even in time for July 4th) I'm going to miss her being next door to me next semester!

This week I'm heading south of here about 5 hours to Queenstown, apparently the "adventure capital of the world!" with my friend Kathryn to go skiing at The Remarkables and Coronet Peak. Her sister just moved there to work so we even have a free place to stay!

In the meantime, I'm trying to stay warm (I think maybe Kiwis can learn a thing or two from Canadians about how to stay warm in the winter!) by hanging out in the living room by the fire. I was very proud of myself for being able to light the fire today!



Sunday, June 18, 2006

stress (exam time)

Study week is almost over and I feel as if I've only done about 20% of what I need to do before exams...fantastic. Fortunately I only have 3 of them, but they're all worth between 40-60% so it adds just a tad bit of pressure. Not to mention that mcat scores get released next week (talk about perfect timing). I'm debating whether or not to check them when they come out or to wait until after exams. I'm not sure I have enough will-power to wait.

On a somewhat happier note- I went to the observatory last night with Kathryn and her friend Sarah (who knows a lot more about astronomy than I do!). Unfortunately when we got there it was too cloudy to actually see anything, but the view of the city from the top of the observatory was impressive in itself. The observatory is on the old UC campus (downtown, now known as the Arts Centre) which dates back to the mid 1800s. It's a really beautiful campus with all stone buildings...it's really too bad that they moved out to the suburbs and now have 1960s concrete buildings. The telescope dates back to 1891 (perhaps the oldest in NZ?) I'll have to go back on a real starry night to check out the Southern sky.

Nothing else too exciting at the moment- I'm planning on going to ski in Queenstown during our semester break (first week of July) and am also moving to my new home then! I'm living with a family next semester who has two boys- Hayden who is 10 and adorable Jamie who just turned 3! I'm really looking forward to having a Kiwi family and my own bathroom!



PS- they are forcasting snow again for the South Island tomorrow...maybe not all the way down to sea level but I wouldn't be surprised!

Monday, June 12, 2006


June 12....not even officially winter here yet and it's snowing. Apparently it ususally only snows here every second year or so and rarely this early in the year. Yesterday the weather forecast for Christchurch was "fine" with a high of 10C. The weather website did say that Queenstown (south of here) would have "bone chilling southerlies". All weather here is based on the wind direction which I am slowly but surely figuring out. Southlies means cold wind, although it's weird to think that the further north you go the warmer it gets.
Anyway, so I woke up this morning to white stuff. The ground isn't frozen so it likely won't stay for too long. But it's 11am and it's still snowing. It's a shame that classes are over for the semester otherwise they probably would have been canceled today. I did go to the gym this morning in shorts...probably not the smartest idea! Oh well. It's a good day to study and look outside at the snow. I'm going to a Rotary meeting for lunch today so I need to shower and get ready.

Have a great day!