Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kia Ora Aotearoa--The land of long white cloud

Special thanks to our birthday girl (Nooi Hoay)& Ryan (whose passion is travelling) for making the trip so memorable! As usual, we had a huge group-- Daniel& Yeu Sheng, Chau Wang, Nooi Hoay, Shea Chuen, Li Ping, Jessica, Chean Ying, Ryan& I :) Not only did we had a well-scheduled trip, we also shared some secret-sharing sessions :p

We rented 2 cars to go around the country. Li Ping, Jessica, Chean Ying, Ryan and I were in the same car.

Day 1-Zzzzzz @ Christchurch
Due to flight delay, we touched down at 2305! It was raining and there were a couple of glitches. Daniel found his bag torn and Nooi Hoay lost her luggage!

By the time we turned in, it was already 2am.

Day 2-Hanmer Springs
Thanks to Chean Ying's scouting(she asked the 'aunty' selling winter hats in Melbourne), we experienced the first and last snow in NZ on the way to Hanmer Springs.(Apparently, NZ doesn't snow that much!)

It was genial to immerse ourseleves in 40degrees hotspring but trust me, you don't want to go through the frigid bit of leaving the pools with only swimsuit on at 0 degree(the pools were outdoor and it was absolutely gorgeous to be able to take photos with us surrounded by snow)! I literally could not feel my feet even though I was walking on snow. Trusting the beautifying power of sulphur, we dared ourselves to step into the pungent water. Being playful at heart (still!), we also annoyed the lifeguard by trying out funny positions in the water :p

It was our intention to photographed the all magnificent Punakaiki(pancake rocks+blowholes) yet we could only reached there after sunset(at just 5pm!) Because of that, 2more hours were spent driving in vain.

Day 3-Fox glacier+glow worms
I caught a cold from the cold weather :( but this was not enough to deter me from climbing the 3rd largest glacier in the South island.

Besides having to climb steep stairs through the temperate rainforest with the sturdy yet heavy boots provided, we also had to walk stomping into the glacier cladding the ice cleats. I could feel cold air searing into my lungs but it became quite warm afterwards with some walking.

Our guide was very informative as well. Fox glacier had been retreating for some years but it is now growing again. He also explained about various geological formations such as morraine, neve and lakes formed from the melted ice downstream. The lakes have an attractive turquiose hue due to mica deposition.

Instead of joining a glow worm watching trip in Te Anau, we decided to brave into the dark and cold ourseleves. It was amazing to see the tiny ones wrapped in a silk-like cocoon shining so brightly in absolute darkness. We had to form a line by holding each others' hands as we only had the one and only torch from Daniel.

Day 4-Road trip to Queenstown
Having to rise bright and early in the morning, we set out bringing our little picnic to Lake Matheson aka Mirror Lake to watch sunrise. We were told by our glacier guide that this breathtaking view should not be missed. It was pitched dark when we reached with thick frost adhering strongly on all the car windows. And we were lucky to have a worker nearby to point us the route to the lake. No one expected a 20 minute walk to the lake so we had to leave our picnic behind :( Somehow, we could not witness the sun rising between Mt Tasman and Mt Cook but we did have fun photographing the lake.

Guided by a very useful roadtrip booklet, we pulled over a couple of times to admire the beauty of nature. Details on Facebook photos.

Day 5-Queenstown
Everyone of us had our pictures photo-shopped while taking the Gondola up for luge-ing. I found those photos too fake so I did not venture myself to buy any. We had good fun luge-ing down the slope with Ryan crashing into Shea Chuen's luge during the first time. I was doing it slow and steady :) Some of us were lucky to experience the advanced track with steeper slopes and sharper turns as the track was closed due to the icy condition in the morning.

I was the ultimate mastermind for making 7 of us do bungy jumping but little did I know that I ended up petrified! I was the 3rd person to jump as I burst into tears after watching Shea Chuen jumped. Ok, enough of all the embarassing moments, I did manage to jump and experience freefall. I mustered enough courage to open my eyes to enjoy the scenic view upside down and I was so relieved when I was finally in the rescue boat. It was freezing but I felt nothing and that pretty much described the adrenaline rush I felt.

The list of heroes who thwarted fear(in order of bungy): Shea Chuen, Li Ping, me, Ryan, Jessica, Nooi Hoay, Chean Ying

Of all of us, Chean Ying was the one who did a perfect dive with a smile on her face!

Day 6-Queenstown
My PBL tutor was adamant that we should ski in NZ and he was absolutely right! The same 7 of us took the beginner course at Coronet's Peak. Nooi Hoay was already the expert but she didn't want to ski alone. We had a difficult time try to maneuver around with the weighty ski boots, more so when the skis were put on. I had trouble sliding the second ski into place almost everytime. However, I am quite proud of myself as I had only fallen twice selectively (as I felt like I was not able going to brake) in the whole day. I have also realised that skiing comes naturally to kids as they have a much lower center of gravity. And the champions of the day were Chean Ying(who nearly snowballed) and Li Ping(who skiied 'into' Chean Ying's skis)!LOL...

Day 7-Queenstown
NZ trip can never be complete without visiting Deer Park Heights where the Lord of the Rings and the Rescue were shot. It was quite daunting to feed the llamas, goats and donkeys at first but I soon enjoyed watching the animals. Ryan was the shepherd of the day who used his formidable aluminium feeding tin to gather the animals! The view of the Remarkables took our breath away.

Day 8-Milford sound
After staying overnight at Te Anau(the nearest populated town to Milford sound), no town could possibly be more gloomy and creepy! The whole town was shrouded in thick mist which made visibility less than 10m. Only 2 restaurants were open. And that reminded us so much of Twilight.

The cruise brought our adventurous trip to a more relaxed one. The excitement of watching wild dolphins weighing 300kg swimming with the ship just centimetres away from us was unsurmontable. The wonder of marine life was also manifested by the visit to the Underwater Observatory. And I could just make out the outline of Hobart far far away!

Day 9-Dunedin

As chocolate lovers, we headed to Cadbury World. I called the visit a very 'benign' activity. Nevertheless, we had a good time learning about cocoa and the products such as cocoa butter, cocoa mass etc. The chocolate fall came as quite a shock but it's such a shame that we were not allowed to bring our cameras into the factory. According to our guide, the fall was inspired by the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Ryan & I also broke our promise by buying heaps of chocolate.

Lunch was with the INTEC Otago friends and I had a busy time trying to remember the names. Afterwards, we drove up Baldwin St, literally! This is the steepest street in the world. Ryan& I had a race to the top of the street. The birdeye view of Dudedin was very rewarding as well. Photo snapping was of course the priority and I found Li Ping's lying on the road the most creative one.

After bidding farewell to 5 of us who decided to fly back to Chrischurch, we had an amazing journey at Otago Peninsula, driving precariously on a windy road next to the ocean without any fence. We managed to hear penguins and seals but dusk prevented us from seeing them clearly.

And we had the most homey accomodation at Chillawhile Backpackers & Art Gallery. The atmosphere was of art and culture. I was even tempted to read fictions in bed. The accomodation was much more than what we could imagine and asked for!

Day 10-Christchurch
The 3 hour drive was a very boring one as the road was as straight as a ruler! It was completely in contrast with what Daniel discovered from some other tourists on the way. We stopped for some real fruit yoghurt ice-cream and photo-shooting with the sheep(but the sheep went helter-skelter after seeing us..LOL..)

We managed to meet up with Yi Chiann, Merlin, Shuang Xiu and Terence. And to my utmost surprise, Yi Chiann was my primary school mate!

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We had to remove layers and layers of clothing once we reached Melbourne! It had been freezing while we were at NZ. We then had a small party for Nooi Hoay who always has her birthday during winter break. And due to the 2hours time zone difference, I am suffering from a tiny jetlag for waking up feeling so refresehed at 4am :x

Ka kite ano Aotearoa!
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
Eleanor Roosevelt