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Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

3/10/10

We spent the night last night at the Auckland airport because our flight out to Sydney was at 6am and we didn’t want to worry about getting to the airport at 4am. (This makes two nights spent at the Auckland airport, and I have to say that I much prefer Changi.) Accordingly, I woke up at 4:15am to the sound of my alarm, sat up in my sleeping bag liner, rubbed my blurry eyes and saw Kevin wide awake sitting on the chairs across from me, just looking at me.

Z: Did you not sleep?
K: No, I just spent the whole night staring at you.
Z: I know we’re married now, but that’s still creepy.
K: No, I’m just kidding. I slept, but there was so much noise going on that I thought we missed our flight.

But, as Kevin should have remembered from our other night spent in the Auckland airport, it’s quite the happening place at four in the morning.

Having spent only four hours sleeping, we debated the merits of brushing our teeth but then decided against it. We checked into our flight and sat at the McDonald’s while Kevin ate our entire remaining stock of food – two hard-boiled eggs, five or six Ritz crackers and two pieces of bread. I couldn’t stomach the idea of eating anything at that hour, and I marveled at how Kevin had the fortitude to eat all those unappetizing things before five in the morning – especially the Ritz crackers. Ritz crackers are great in their place (like under tuna or cheddar cheese), but they are most definitely not a breakfast food.

We then both slept through the flight to Sydney, waking up only to eat a delicious airplane breakfast of gelatinous egg and some kind of muffin. After a few hours in the Sydney airport sitting next to approximately 1,000 giggling Japanese schoolgirls, we boarded our flight to Buenos Aires, where the guy next to me hogged the empty seat between us and made me very passive-aggressively angry. I imagined all the things I could say to him, from the polite, “Do you mind sitting in your own seat?” to the more abrupt “You over-cologned, seat-hogging, inconsiderate space-taker! I hate you!” But I never said them out loud.

I think I need to learn to become more assertive.

Finally, 22 hours after waking up in Auckland at 4:15am, two flights, three movies and a few naps later, we landed in Buenos Aires at 10:15am with a full day ahead of us. And I have to be honest with you, I thought that it would feel so great to gain that extra 14 hours and be able to see into the future, but now that we’re here in the future I can tell you with confidence that it’s not all that it’s hyped up to be. Turns out time-traveling really tires you out. Who knew?
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Puzzles for Postcards

This Anagram Is on Fire!

Feared Luge Riot
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Picture of the Day: Since we can’t really read the menus, when Kevin saw the word “pollo” (pronounced posho here in Argentina) in a cheap sandwich, he went for it. Hmm.

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3/8/10: Auckland, New Zealand

Sometimes I almost forget that Zhou and I are on our honeymoon. On one hand it feels like we were married years ago while on the other many people think we’re a teenage brother/sister traveling band (our big hit song was clearly “All My Life”). On both hands though there’s one big thing missing from our honeymoon: free upgrades!

Today I definitely did not forget that we are honeymooning.

After cooking ham and cheese melts for lunch in a kitchen that was dirtier than Orlando Pace’s jockstrap after an overtime game (I’m just guessing here, I don’t know this firsthand), we finished a couple games of Scrabble amidst a flurry of flies which we can only assume were big word freaks themselves. Then, in the same clothes that we’d been wearing for the past three days, we headed to the bus stop to catch the cheapest ride we could find back to Auckland.

Then our Nakedbus pulled up in all its glory. (For those of you who are curious, the bus company name in no way refers to the attire required on board.) Based on our past experience, approximately 50 people would cram into this bus and suck all the fresh air out in the first few minutes of the ride. Not today. We climbed aboard to find 12 of the most comfortable-looking recliners where the tiny rigid seats should have been. The driver claimed that the crew was too lazy to change the seats since the bus wasn’t full, but I’m almost positive that the Nakedbus crew in Paihia are all avid readers of nohurrycurry and they saw Zhou and me wandering the streets the day before. It’s amazing how popular this blog has become.

Anyway, the ride itself was actually incredibly uncomfortable as our driver seemed to be trying out to be a stunt driver in the next Jason Statham movie. She zigged and zagged all over the road and I’m pretty sure I saw her drift like an expert Mario Kart driver around one corner. But by the time Zhou and I wanted to throw up as we got off the bus in Auckland, the only thing that mattered to me was our upgrade.

And it wasn’t even the last upgrade of the day. We showed up at our hostel ready to relax in our version of a honeymoon suite: two beds in an eight bed dorm room. However, the manager had overbooked the dorm room, so he sent us down the street to another place. At this point I would have been a bit leery, but I had noticed the “I LUV NHC” bumper sticker on his car so I knew he too was a fan of the blog. Sure enough, we had nothing to worry about. We were escorted into the family’s guesthouse where we were shown a nice large private bedroom complete with decorative pillows on the bed. Turns out we were sharing the entire guesthouse with only one other couple, so we only had to compete with the two of them for the bathroom, kitchen and common area. It was definitely the kind of hostel living I could get used to.

Now if only we can continue our roll and get bumped to first class on our flight to Argentina…
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Picture of the Day: Reminds me of a Dr. Seuss flower.

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3/7/10: Paihia, New Zealand

Today’s post will cover three topics.

  1. Miniature golf
  2. The re-emergence of a certain someone as the undisputed Scrabble QUEEN
  3. Book exchanges

Miniature golf

There is a miniature golf course not too far from our hostel that bills itself as “the most difficult miniature golf course in New Zealand.” This description appealed to both of us – to Kevin because it contained the phrase “the most difficult” and to me because it had the word “miniature.” (What can I say? I’m quite small myself.) So this afternoon we walked over to the course and paid our $10 each to challenge ourselves with the daunting task of playing the MOST DIFFICULT MINIATURE GOLF COURSE IN NEW ZEALAND!

I don't know what the Blues Brothers have to do with miniature golf either.

A particularly delicate and well-hit chip shot.

Getting ready to tee off on the first par three.

I think I had four do-overs on this one.

Kevin wrestles an alligator a la Happy Gilmore.

Since Kevin has been playing golf since before he was old enough to go to PG-13 movies (which obviously gives him a great advantage in a round of miniature golf), we leveled the playing field by allowing do-overs at our own discretion. What’s a do-over? You’ve never heard of that in the game of golf, you say? Well, I invented it on the first hole. A do-over is when after you hit the ball, your first instinct is to immediately wave your arms in the air and loudly shout, “Do-over! Do-over!” I took twenty do-overs. Kevin took five. But! In the end we tied, 81 all. I consider that a victory for myself.

[Kevin informs me after reading this section that do-overs do exist in the game of golf, and they are referred to as “mulligans.” But I like my way better, so I’m leaving it. Besides, who wants to shout “Mulligan!” every time you mess up? It sounds ridiculous!]

Re-emergence of myself as undisputed Scrabble queen

You may have noticed that we haven’t been playing Scrabble recently. In fact, our last Scrabble game before we arrived in Paihia was played in Africa. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that one of the reasons we haven’t played any Scrabble in the last few months is because Kevin was leading in our running tally by two games and over 100 points, and I really didn’t want to lose again and get even more behind. (At an earlier point he led by as much as four games and 200 points) But since we have been on a vacation from our vacation here in Paihia, we had lots of time to break out the (t)rusty Scrabble board and play a few games. A few being seven. What can I say? We had a lot of time on our hands. What do you do when you go to the beach? Anyway, out of those seven games we played in the past two days, I won five of them. This means that I now lead Kevin by two games and fifty points. Which means I have finally taken back the Scrabble crown after a tough string of losses (at one point six in a row), and I have to write about it right NOW because tomorrow I probably won’t be able to truthfully write the same thing. Because even though I know more words than Kevin, he is the more strategic player. At least for now… We’ll see what things are like in another 1000 games or so.

That section was really boring for you guys to read, wasn’t it? I’m sorry, but that’s our marriage.

Book exchanges

One of the good (and bad) things about this trip is that unless you want to spend a ton of money, you don’t have too many choices when it comes to what books you read. Having patiently examined the book exchange at every single hostel we’ve stayed at, I’ve come up with some general guidelines for the kinds of books one might find at a book exchange. (This excludes our Acacia bus. The Acacia folk all seemed to have good taste in books.)

  1. Every book that looks interesting upon first glance will inevitably turn out to be written in Dutch.
  2. There will be at least three books by Robert Ludlum. Two of them will be the same.
  3. There will be at least two romance novels, each of them written by women with big hair who will be pictured on the back cover.
  4. At least 30% of the books will be (bad) science fiction or fantasy.
  5. At least 50% of the books will be (bad) crime thrillers.

This usually poses a problem for me – because I don’t like crime thrillers, I can’t read Dutch, I don’t read sci-fi or fantasy anymore (except re-reads of the Pern series and the occasional Piers Anthony and of course Harry Potter, but everyone reads Harry Potter!) and I don’t enjoy romance novels. But sometimes I do get lucky and find a winner, like when we stayed at the Black Sheep Lodge in Queenstown. Have you ever heard of www.bookcrossing.com? At Black Sheep Lodge, I found a book that had been registered on bookcrossing.com and then set free! That made my day.

Liberate your books!
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Picture of the Day: My dad shows off his new Pumas to us on Skype. What did people do without Skype?

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3/5/10: Paihia, New Zealand

Kevin books read for fun all through high school: 0.
Kevin books read for fun today: 1.

Yes, I finished an entire book today. No, it wasn’t Dylan’s Day Out or The Bernstein Bears or even Where’s Waldo?. It was actually James Patterson’s 147th international bestseller, Four Blind Mice (surprisingly, it was just ok and I probably wouldn’t recommend it). I know what you’re thinking: “That book is almost 400 pages and you read more slowly than Karl Malone shoots free throws! You’re a dirty rotten liar.”

You’d be wrong. I’m a reader now, and you need to get that through your thick skull. Here’s how it happened:

Zhou and I woke up late today because we’re near a beach and that’s what you do in beach towns. The plan was to go kayaking after lunch, so after a quick breakfast I dove into the Patterson thriller. By lunchtime I had read almost 70 pages, nearly equaling a record for me in one day. At that point I began bragging to Zhou about how I could read faster than she could. Then I realized she had already finished the first 200 pages of the book she just started. I switched gears to the tortoise and the hare example, saying how silly it was for her to read so quickly when I’d get her in the end.

After lunch we kayaked out to a small uninhabited island not too far from shore. We had the beach all to ourselves, so we did what anyone would do: we picked our books back up and read.

Page 103!

After a couple hours with our noses dug into our books, Zhou had finished her book which was clearly meant for a first grade audience, while I had gotten to page 190 of my difficult adult book. (Ha! Zhou just reconfirmed what I wrote by saying her book won the Pulitzer. Isn’t that the medal they give to the children’s book with the best illustrations each year?) We kayaked back to Paihia and Zhou immediately took a nap, giving me more time to read and catch up to her.

That's Paihia in the background – wow, we paddled far.

By dinner time I was up to page 290 and at this point I realized that nothing was stopping me from finishing the book in one day. After all, it has been a lifelong dream of mine to waste a whole day with nothing to show for it. It’s not easy being as productive as I have been every day for over 25 years now.

After dinner (and a quick walk to get Zhou some ice cream), Zhou did end up finding the only thing that could possibly come between me and my dreams: TV. More specifically, American Idol. We spent the next two hours watching 12 girls we didn’t know sing very mediocrely. As I look back on it, there were only two good performances: one by the girl who looks just like Brooke White and sings a bit like Megan Joy Corkrey, and one by the Ohioan girl (O! H!) who plays the harmonica and guitar. We actually did enjoy Ellen though. It would be nice is she was a little harder on the contestants, but I liked how she didn’t pretend to be a world-class singer and just said things like “as a person who loves music, I thought you were really good.”

Back to the books though. It was now 10:30pm, but I wasn’t about to let one two-hour setback get the best of me. I immediately grabbed my book and kept reading. I was so engrossed in the book (well, technically I was engrossed in the idea of finishing the book) that I lost track of the time and plowed through page after page at a rate of at least one page every minute or two. (Even in pressure-packed situations like this one, my mind still continuously wandered to other things, like if bugs always fly toward lights, do they ever try to travel to the sun during the day?)

I just realized that I gave away the ending of this post at the beginning, so by now you know that I did end up finishing Alex Cross’s last pre-FBI case before going to bed. It was a great day, one that I’ll remember for at least another day or two. Unless of course tomorrow I read two books. And who knows? It may just happen. I’m a reader now.

[To see all of the books that Zhou and I have read, check out our new “Reviews” tab.  You won’t regret it!]
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Picture of the Day: On the way to get Zhou’s ice cream, we stopped by the docks so I could pump some gas.

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3/4/10: Paihia, New Zealand

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed this strange Kiwi phenomenon. It’s not terribly common, but it’s not uncommon either. It’s this: people go shoeless. And it’s not just in places where you might expect people to be shoeless – say, at a shoe store, where one, by necessity, has to be shoeless for a certain amount of time if one wants to actually try on shoes before one buys them, which I think I can safely say that most people do like to do. But here in New Zealand, you’ll see people walking shoeless around town, at the grocery store, down the street – and they’re not crazy hippies or anything like that. They seem like perfectly normal people, except that they have these inimical feelings toward covered feet.

After arriving in Paihia today, a cozy town by the Bay of Islands, I thought it would be a perfect time to do as the Romans, or this case, the Kiwis, do and go around barefoot for four days. I just really wanted to immerse myself in the local culture, you know? Ok, that’s not why. It’s really because we discovered that I had mistakenly left my flip flops in Auckland at our last hostel. “I thought you packed them!” “I assumed you packed them!” No matter. This is just like that time I left my sunglasses on the bus in Kuala Lumpur or that time I lost my wristlet in Hong Kong. By some magnetism or luck or combination of the two, my belongings always find their way back to me. So I wasn’t worried about getting my flip flops back, I was just a bit concerned about what I would do without them for four days in a beach town.

But then I thought – this would be the perfect time to try on the shoeless lifestyle. Would it be more comfortable? More breathable for the toes? More free and airy and in touch with nature? Maybe I would find going shoeless so pleasant that I would want to do it all the time. I could start a revolution in the States! Down with shoes!

Everyone goes shoeless on the beach.

We started the shoeless experiment with a trip to the grocery store. The grocery store, which was a 20-minute walk from our hostel. In hindsight – and I know you’re thinking exactly what I’m about to write, because you are a smarter person than I am – this was not the best idea I’ve ever had. The walk wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been on grass or mud or Jello or SOMETHING WHITE, like fluffy clouds or marshmallows or Cool Whip, but crossing the asphalt streets with the tiny bits of gravel everywhere and walking on the hot, gray, gravelly sidewalks for twenty minutes to the grocery store – well, it wasn’t too fun. By the time we got to the store, I felt like there were dozens of tiny rocks embedded in my heels (which there most likely were), digging deeper into my foot with every step. It was a huge relief to step onto the cool white tiles of the grocery store. I think my feet even sizzled when they first hit that floor. “They won’t kick me out, will they?” I nervously whispered to Kevin. “You know, like at home sometimes they won’t let you into places if you don’t have shoes on.” He just shook his head and sighed. “Why didn’t you just wear your shoes?” he asked me. A good and quite reasonable question. I ignored it and went off in search of some cheese.

We bought four full days worth of groceries, carefully accounting for all meals and snacks so that we wouldn’t have to go back to the store. Because shoes or no shoes, a 20-minute walk for groceries is a bit far. We left the store with several bags of groceries. I asked Kevin to push me back to the hostel in our grocery cart, but he declined to commit theft for the comfort of my feet. Or perhaps it was because he was afraid of looking ridiculous. Either way, it was quite ungentlemanly, if you ask me. So we made the long, 20-minute walk back to our hostel, Kevin strolling along happily a few feet in front of me in his flip flops, me stepping very carefully and gingerly behind him around the bits of rock and broken glass – shoeless still.
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Picture of the Day: Silly puppy, plums are for humans!

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3/3/10: Auckland, New Zealand

When we planned our trip, we didn’t make a lot of ground rules. Having no idea what a world trip like this would be like, we decided it would be best to figure things out along the way. However, I do remember one request of Zhou’s: every now and then we had to stay at a nice hotel room instead of the run-down hostels I like.

Yesterday, we stayed in that nice hotel room at the Hotel Grand Chancellor. As it turned out, I think I ended up needing it more. Ever since I began planning this leg of the trip, I have been cutting costs by booking us into dorm rooms. In fact, before last night we’d spent 26 nights in Australia and 19 had been in dorms. Of the remaining seven, two were on buses and one was in the Auckland airport, so we’d only had four nights where we were able to unpack our bags and spread out. This lack of personal space had finally been catching up to me. Zhou, on the other hand, seemed to be enjoying the fact that she didn’t have to spend too much time alone with me. (Who can blame her?)

Anyway, the point is that I loved every minute of our time at Hotel Grand Chancellor. It was so enjoyable that I voted to stay there as long as LAN would pay for it, rather than going out to explore the most beautiful country in the world for one more week. Notice how I said everything in past tense there? Today we were kicked out of the hotel.

No, they didn’t kick us out because we were too rowdy, or too smelly, or too backpacker-y. I didn’t make the hotel go bankrupt by eating the entire buffet. This morning LAN issued a statement saying they would no longer be paying for the accommodation of travelers waiting on flights to open back up to Santiago. And even though our room was still available tonight, that was as good as kicking us out. (By the way, I was incredibly angry at LAN for ruining our fun, but can you imagine how many travelers all over the world they had been paying for because of an earthquake that I believe was completely out of their control? No wonder airlines never make any money.)

Doing our best impression of backpackers again, we decided that $8/hour for internet at the hotel was too expensive and we wandered the streets trying to find something cheaper. Eventually we struck a deal with another lodge to use their internet all afternoon for $7. We booked – you guessed it – a dorm room in the city (and of course watched the gamecast of the Vandy/Florida game online), much to the delight of Zhou. Me, I felt like I had gotten pecked in the gut by an angry kiwi bird.

The whole reason though for my false hope that we could stay somewhere nice for a while was the earthquake in Chile. And really, I hated even thinking that we were benefiting from all the suffering that is going on there. I’m no expert on earthquakes, but I’ve never heard of anything even close to an 8.8 before. I can’t imagine how bad it must have been to create waves so large that Japan had to warn their coastal population.

It’s never easy to rearrange flights and travel plans during a time when everybody else is doing the exact same thing. Normally people treat cancelled flights as if their lives have been ruined, and in this case we’re pushing all our plans back an entire week and then flying into a completely different city than before. But what if we had planned our wedding two weeks earlier (as we originally wanted to do) and started our trip right after? We might have been taking a bus right through the area that was impacted worst by the earthquake. So I guess in the grand scheme of things, getting stuck in New Zealand for an extra week isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened to us. Rather than spending more time writing this blog, perhaps we should go enjoy ourselves.
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Picture of the Day: All Curries $14? That includes you, Zhou!

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3/2/10: Auckland, New Zealand

[Editor’s Note: If you’re reading this in your Google Reader, come check out our new header!]

Today should have been our longest day of the trip. Here’s what should have happened:

3/2/2010 6:30am – wake up in Wanaka, walk to the town center
3/2/2010 7:30am – take the bus to Queenstown airport
3/2/2010 11:50am – land in Auckland
3/2/2010 4:40pm – take off for our 14-hour flight to Santiago
3/2/2010 12:10pm – land in Santiago, 4.5 hours before we take off
3/2/2010 10:00pm – hit the hay, ending our 42-hour day

And I was so excited, because think of all the possibilities for a blog post on a day when our flight lands 4.5 hours before it even took off in the first place! It means we would be able to see into the future! I could have told you all sorts of things about what’s going to happen, like the Powerball numbers and what you’re going to eat for dinner. Sadly though, that’s a post for another day. Because though all went as planned until we reached Auckland, when we arrived at the airport, we were greeted by the news that our flight to Santiago had been cancelled. This didn’t come as a huge surprise to us since we knew the Santiago airport still wasn’t operating because of the damage caused by the earthquake, but I have to say that we were still a bit thrown off.

We checked into our hotel, courtesy of LAN and then spent the next five hours on the phone with three different people from two different airlines trying to somehow book ourselves on the next available flight to Santiago or reroute ourselves to get to South America. Out of those five hours I spent on the phone, about three of them were spent on hold. Kevin, being the loving husband that he is, entertained me by starting an impromptu game of Pictionary.

“Jamaican bobsled team! That’s an easy one. But where’s the lucky egg?” I asked. “There wasn’t enough room for the lucky egg,” Kevin replied. I studied his picture and drew a little egg next to one of the team member’s hands. “There!” I said proudly. “Um, nice try.” Kevin said matter-of-factly. “But that’s not Sanka. Sanka’s the brake man.” As if that were the most obvious thing in the world, and how could I be so stupid to not realize that Sanka is the brake man?

That cracked me up, but maybe you had to be there.

Anyway, after speaking to Qantas, who told me to call American, who told me to call Qantas again, we finally got our ticket re-issued with a flight to Buenos Aires on March 10th. This meant that we would have to rearrange our South America travel plans a bit, but it also meant that we now have an extra week in New Zealand. And even though that won’t be too nice on our budget, who am I to complain about spending another week in the most beautiful country on Earth?

[By the way, I’d just like to mention here that the American Airlines person was not very nice to us at all, but Qantas – oh man – they are the kings of airline customer service. They were the nicest people ever, and thanks to them we’re now on a Qantas RTW ticket instead of an AA RTW ticket, which is what we should have done in the first place!]

[Also by the way, I felt super awkward when spelling my name for the Qantas people, because I knew had to say “ZED” for “Z,” but it felt like I was lying to say “ZED.” So unfortunately it came out: “Um… ZED? Um… H – A – N – G.” I ended up just sounding like an idiot, as if I wasn’t sure how to spell my name in the first place.]

After we got our plane tickets sorted out, we went to eat our complimentary hotel buffet dinner. Kevin had one bowl of soup and three plates of food, and I finished off my dinner with a bowl of fruit and three slices of cake. So even though we didn’t end up having our 42-hour-longest-day-ever, hey, at least we got to eat until we felt sick! Which is always a good way to finish the day.
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Pictures of the Day: Acting like the small children we are in Wanaka.

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