Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Wrapping Up New Zealand

Hey everybody, when I wrote this we were in Brisbane, Australia! It is quite the change in climate and I'm sure Evan and I will have much to say about our time in Brisbane. Right now though, I want to go over the last two weeks in New Zealand.

'Merica taking the field

So two weeks ago was the Sevens Weekend in Wellington! It was really crazy weekend as people from all around the country came to Wellington. The Sevens is an international Rugby tournament where they play 7 on 7. Rugby is usally played with 15 people for each team. The fun thing about the Sevens weekend is not only the tournament but also the atmosphere. Apart of the experience is dressing up for the event! Everyone in the city pretty much has some sort of costume on. But the costumes are taken to a whole different level by going in groups. You will be walking around and then see 15 guys all wearing only kilts. The tournament is two days long and Evan and I both went to the games on the first day. Most of the people from Georgia Tech decided to wear American attire and it worked out great.
Nikki and me with some German Boy Scouts
We had been told that 7s was the biggest party in New Zealand and on the second day we understood why. The second day's prices were much more expensive so we just hung out and watched the games on TV. After the games ended we all went downtown to get the full experience. At night, after the games, they shut down a major street in Wellington and there was a huge party in the street. It was easily 20,000 people and it was chaos. Here are some more pictures from the weekend!

The Boys

The last week was kind of boring because of the fact that we had to write final papers for our two classes. That took a good amount of time. But, fortunately I got done early and got to take the last day to go fish one more time. I hopped on a train and ran up to Alicetown( a suburb of Lower Hutt) to fish the Hutt River.
First time on a train other than MARTA

An appreciation for England and Harry Potter
The Hutt river sure wasn't beautiful but it was a river with trout in it. The river was pretty big and really flat. I had to walk a ways to get to anything that looked to hold  fish. After an hour or so I did end up catching one fish. It wasn't the size that I had grown used to seeing in New Zealand but it was an awesome fish and fought super hard. It took a nymph that I was dropping behind a blowfly. After catching that one fish I ate dinner and tried to catch one last fish. Towards the evening there were what looked like size 16 mayflies coming off the surface and the trout were loving it. There were fish rising up everywhere. In typical New Zealand fashion I couldn't get one single fish to even come up to my fly. I think I put on 7 different patterns of mayflies and nothing. It was really fitting. It's gunna be really differnet fishing back home and being able to get away with so much more!
About 16"
The section of the Hut I fished
I want to wrap up New Zealand by saying this place is absolutely amazing. It was on my bucket list of places to go for awhile now and I can honestly say it totally exceeded my expectations. It is a truly amazing country and the fishing is unlike anywhere else in the world. I really can't wait to come back because I definitely will.

A couple other things to say before we. 
1)McDonald's here are pretty amazing. It's nicer food and they also have full coffee shops in them. Some even have meeting rooms and computers.
2) L&P is amazing. It's a Kiwi soft drink that taste kinda like lemon ginger ale. Their slogan is "Good Lemonish stuff. We think that's a pretty good description. If you come to NZ, you gotta try it.
4) Our time here as been Sweet As! Sweet what? It's a phrase that we've fallen in love with that the kiwis use. It mean awesome. Expect us to continue to describe things as Sweet As in the future. 
3) Again, this country is insane. If you haven't come, then do it. We'll for sure be back. 

That's it for NZ! We are right now seeking adventure in Brisbane and hopefully have some fun stuff to write about very soon.


Friday, February 7, 2014

3.1.6 The South is Always Better

Hey Everyone!

So this weekend, if you can call it that, was without a doubt one of the most fun times I've ever had. It all started by hopping on a plane on Wednesday afternoon. We got to the airport and checked our luggage and as we started to go towards to gate the most strange thing happened. Well it was more of something that didn't happen. In New Zealand there is no security for domestic flights. Yeah, you read that right. All there is, is a clause that you have to accept when checking in to say that you won't bring any forbidden items. We had a quick flight from Wellington to Christchurch and then another 45 min flight from Christchurch to Queenstown and we were there!

The view over Wellington
As we got off the plane in Queenstown, we couldn't have been more excited. Everyone we had talked to all around the country has raved about Queenstown and how awesome it is and they were all right. It has a feel of a ski town but there aren't families and retirees. There are mainly just young adventure seekers and Asians everywhere! Since Queenstown has an international airport many Asians fly in to see the Milford Sound. As Evan and I got settled in we walked around town a bit. It was a little discouraging that it has a very "touristy" feel but not the same as let's say Pigeon Forge. This was a very different type of tourism. Like I said before, there are the Milford Sound people and then there are the young people that go bungee jumping.
The view of the city and Brooks Prettyman jumping off a perfectly good platform
It is the sense of adventure that really fuels the town. It is right on the lake and you have the opportunity to go do pretty much anything in the outdoors at your fingertips. So in order to do as much cool stuff as possible, Evan and I went to bed early to get ready for an early start on Thursday.
A great view of Lake Wakatipu (the lake Queenstown is on)
Thursday January 30th, 2014 was one of the best days I've had in a long long time. We woke up and met our fly fishing guide Jeff Jones (www.fishing.co.nz) at 8AM sharp. Originally Jeff was worried about the weather but it turned out to be an awesome day out on the river. The creek that we fished was Diamond Creek. It is a slow moving meadow stream that is a brown trout only stream. At first the fishing was a little frustrating because I was still getting used to lowering my expectations about the quantity of fish that are expected to be caught in New Zealand. After a good bit of fishing I was able to hook into the biggest trout of my life.
Lovely Diamond Creek and Jeff
Jeff was on the bank and saw a fish rise but couldn't tell how big it was. As I got up to him, he showed me exactly where to cast. I casted right on top of the spot and then I saw a huge brown rise up. Unfortunately I picked up the fly right before he could take it. I immediately threw it back out there and hoped for the best. Luckily he went after the blowfly( small horsefly) imitation and took it. I fought the fish for a good twenty minutes before we were able to net him. We had a scale and he weighed in just over 5 pounds. I didn't have any way to tell how long he was besides my arm but I would estimate that he was around 28 inches long. After that fish I caught the second biggest trout of my life twenty minutes later. It was a truly amazing experience of fishing and won't be the last time I'll be toting a fly rod around Queenstown that's for sure. It was a shame that Evan didn't get to land any fish, although he did have some good strikes.

The Beast

3.5lbs and about 25"
After our awesome morning of fly fishing we met up with the rest of our friends to go bungee jumping! We got all of our gear packed away, signed our lives away, and rode the 40 min bus ride to the site of the bungee jump. The jump we did was the famous Nevis Bungee. It is 134 meter high or 440 feet! It has approximatly 8 secs of free fall and it was awesome. It is the tallest in New Zealand and the 14th tallest in the world!

I will try to describe what it felt to jump out off a platform and fall 440 feet. The staff at the site do not want you to think about the jump at all. They walk you out to the platform and count you down to jump really soon. For this reason, the first few seconds are very surreal. You are just taking in the scenery. Then your body realizes that you are falling and the wind rushes past your face. You fall for a few seconds more and then the bungee cord grabs you. It was a truly amazing experience and was unlike anything I ever experienced before. After we got done with the bungee jump we hopped in the car and drove to the Milford Sound!

So this weekend was all about firsts and the extremes. After catching the biggest two trout of my life and bungee jumping for the first time, we went to explore the most beautiful place I've ever seen and what is commonly referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World. Evan and I split up for the tour of Milford Sound as I took a cruise and he and Brooks kayaked the sound. It really is hard to describe how awesome the place is in words. The glacier cut walls are so steep it is just insane. Everything is super lush because it rains all the time. Fortunately we had a perfect day but we were told that it rain around 265 days a year! There were so many waterfalls all over the sound that are mostly fed by only rainwater. All in all, it was a stunning place and I would recommend anyone to go see it for yourself because no words or pictures can do it justice.

One of the many amazing waterfalls
As we left Milford Sound we quickly learned that the beauty was far from over. Since we did the drive there in the dark we saw some amazing sight for the first time on the way back.
The Chasm: a waterfall that worked its way through the rock

a waterfall coming off a glacier

more waterfalls

We spent Friday night again back in Queenstown before setting out for Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. We were very lucky to use an awesome system called Transfercar for our rental cars. Because of the high amount of tourism and people dropping cars off at different rental locations than where they rent from, there is a need to relocate cars. We got the opportunity to relocate two 2014 fully loaded cars for Budget with a free tank of gas! We had heard of the company but were so glad it worked out that we could get exactly what we needed in a car for free!
super blue Lake Pukaki near Mt. Cook
We drove through the amazing countryside from Queenstown to Mt. Cook. Again, I want to emphasize how crazy the landscape changes here. You can drive 20 mins and it look totally different. Right before Mt. Cook we stop to see the beautiful Lake Pukaki. It is a beautiful sky blue color because of the mass amount of silt in the glacier fed streams that flow into the lake. We got to the Mt. Cook National Park and did a quick hike to a Hooker Glacier and Hooker Lake. We ran into some friends that were coming from the lake as we were heading there and they showed us a video of them swimming in the glacial water. And being the very smart and mature people that we are, we obviously had to jump in the water too.
As cold as it gets: standing on a glacier in a glacial lake
To say the water was cold would be an understatement. Because of the silt and the fact that the water was moving we're pretty sure that it was sub freezing water. So after that experience we dried off, put on our clothes, and booked it back to the lodge to get a warm meal. Sunday morning Evan and I along with our friends Maggie and Andy woke up at 6AM to be on the trail at 7AM. The crazy thing about the Southern Alps is that they are so tall and steep. Either you have a nice leisurely hike in the valley or it's straight up a  cliff. On Sunday morning we decided to do the straight up a cliff thing.
The view halfway up the trail
The hike took us up over 2200 stairs just to get to about 60% to the top. Then from there we hiked the rest of the way picking our own path over exposed boulders. All in all we climbed about 3300 feet of elevation. When we got up to the saddle it was totally worth it. The view to our right was the peak of Mt. Cook and to the left was a huge glacier. As we were sitting there we could hear mini avalanches of ice falling down. It was truly an awesome hike.

All in all it was an awesome weekend that I won't forget anytime soon. Thanks for sticking with this long blog post! Stay tuned as we finish up here in NZ and move on to Australia!


Sunday, January 26, 2014

3.1.5 - Tongariro National Park

Hello friends.

On wednesday, my parents came to town after spending a few days in Melbourne at the Australian Open ( Happy 25th Anniversary!). The stopped in Wellington only to see their oldest and favorite son. It was great to see them, but the thing Davis and I were most excited was to have a meal outside the Weir House. Being used to slimy lunch me and curry flavored everything, the steak dinner Mom and Dad took us to was PHENOMENAL. Seriously, I can't stress how amazing those steaks were.

The next day, the 'rents shipped out to Queenstown, and on the other end of the country the entire Pacific Program piled on to 2 separate buses. The red bus, which is clearly the superior bus, was full of all the non BIO 2100 students (and thus Davis and I) and the yellow bus had a lovely ride with our fearless leader and sometimes dictator, David Garton. I was awake for about 7 minutes total on the 5 hour ride, while the yellow bus received a lecture from DG (nickname credits to Davis, which has now been adopted by the whole program) every 15 minutes, just to make sure that everyone stayed awake. But after a long ride and stop at the Tangiwai Rail Disaster Memorial Site, we arrived in Taupo to our "luxury" accommodations.
The Memorial for the Rail Disaster

After an evening of more good food (aka not Weir House food) we woke up at 7am to head to out on our guided hike to the Tama Lakes. Our guide, Daryl, was a part of local Moari tribe in the Taupo region, so he had lots of insights about the land scape around us as we trekked from the Whakapapa Ski Field to the base of Mt. Ngauruhoe. He told of Moari legends about how the volcanos had souls, and walked around to find a husband or wife, Tongariro being the biggest and most significant to their traditions. He also told us of Tama, one of the first of the Moari leaders to land on the North Island in his Waka (war canoe). The hike was gorgeous, with amazing waterfalls and pure blue lakes at the base of some of the coolest volcanoes you can imagine.

Davis and I at Taranaki Falls
Lower Tama Lake
Upper Tama Lake
The next day (Saturday for those struggling to follow), Davis and I split our separate ways. I let him edit the post to talk about the fishing he did, but I'm here to tell y'all about my absolutely awe inspiring day on the 25th.

Davis dropped me off at the base of Ruapehu around noon, and I set off to summit the beast. Mt. Ruapehu is the tallest Volcano in New Zealand as well as being the most active in recent history. The last major eruption was in 1995, with the most recent being in 2007. The hike begins with a ride on a ski lift from 1000m to 2020m, then a climb up a marked trail to 2300m, and a final rock scrambling accent to 2732m to Te Heuheu. Once you hit the summit, its a scenic walk on the crater ridge lines around the Plateu Glacier to Crater Lake, a body of water that has formed in the mouth of the volcano. Heres the pictures detailing my accent. Keep in mind, I was by myself, so most of the pictures are awkward self timer shots...

Lunch stop at beginning of unmarked trail
Summit (Mt. Ngauruhoe in the background)
Summit Plateau Glacier
(if you look closely at the right skyline, you'll see Mt. Taranaki) 
Crater Ridge
Crater Lake
Crater Lake again
Beginning the windy descent
Whangaehu Glacier

The hike was absolutely amazing. It was one of two times I've ever seen something that was so beautiful, it quite literally took my breathe away and almost brought me to tears (the other being the finish line in Louisville). I'd recommend anyone who comes to NZ do this climb. It'll change your life.


Davis here! So after I dropped off Evan at the Ski lifts I was back in the car to get Hailey back in Taupo to go fly fishing. I grabbed Hailey and a bite of lunch and we stopped into the local fly shop to ask for some advice.
Our "Hamster Ball" looking as cool as it ever will
One note about "fly shops" in this country. I was expecting to find a situation similar to what is seen in the American West. That is, in every major town with trout fishing around, there are two maybe three fly shops. These shops are where you get flies, equipment, information, and possibly book a guide. That's what I was expecting to find in New Zealand as well, but I was pretty shocked to find that there are almost no fly shops. Instead the best place to get knowledge and flies is a store called Hunting and Fishing. In this store it basically a Bass Pro Shop but super scaled down. I guess that there is so much demand for guides that they can make money without also working out of a designated fly shop. But who knows. None the less, we are directed to the Tongario River and told that the cicadas were the go to fly.

Hailey's first awesome rainbow around 22"
We got all suited up and had about 3 hours until we were to pick up Evan. About this river, I'll just say this is when I finally "got" how awesome the fishing is in the country. The water was gin clear and wadeable. You were casting to rising trout and could see many more. We talked to one guy that said he caught an 8lb brown trout the other day! So we get out on the the river and we had a decent day. Hailey caught two awesome rainbows. I had two strikes but unfortunately none on the line.
This one was around 24" and starting to get a little spawning hooked nose
All in all it was a good day on the water and an overall good weekend although I have yet to catch a fish in this country. Hopefully Thursday with a guide it'll happen. We have a short week this week as we fly out to Queenstown, NZ on Wednesday afternoon! Please pray for safe travels, safe adventure, and that we can concentrate on schoolwork when needed. We miss and love you all!

God Bless,