Category Archives: Travels

Middle Earth

Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn (aka dirty human), Sam, and Legolas (well that’s all the LOTR characters that I can think of) had it special when they were travelling through Middle Earth. Now I didn’t do a LOTR tour, but totally not necessary as every place we went to looked exactly like the set. NZ really is a stunning place, filled with 100s of waterfalls, glaciers, cloud-piercing mountains, and sheep (lots and lots of sheep).

A few things about NZ:

  • New Zealanders are called Kiwis (too cute!). There is also the Kiwi bird and Kiwi fruit (tasted so much better in their own land).
  • Kiwis are not the same as Aussies. Don’t make the same mistake that Aziz made here.
  • Aotearoa, ‘land of the long white cloud,’ aka New Zealand was first inhabited by the Maori people, who travelled from French Polynesia about 1000 years ago.
  • NZ is rugby country. If you’ve never seen the All Blacks perform the haka, it’s chilling.
  • Keas, a native parrot, is a vicious bird. Do not feed it. It will attack your car trying to get food
    Kea attacking! I was eating a cookie at the time.

    Kea attacking! I was eating a cookie at the time.

  • Kiwis are outnumbered by sheep; the ratio stands at 1:9.Sheep!
  • Tramping, aka hiking, is a common activity.

Here are my highlights of our NZ trip:

Day 1: Akaroa & Bains Peninsula
Who knew we’d find France all the way in NZ? Akaroa is a cute seaside French town, complete with Frenchies and all! The views around Akaroa were amazing, definitely a good hideaway from Christchurch.

Overlooking Akaroa

Overlooking Akaroa

Day 2: Christchurch & Arthur’s Pass National Park
Christchurch was demolished in the 2011 earthquake and has yet to recover. The entire downtown is closed off with a wire fence and you cannot enter. Buildings are have there. Very sad that it’s taking them so long to rebuild. They do, however, have a really cool mall called the ‘Restart Mall.’ It takes old shipping containers and reuses them as buildings!

Restart Mall in Christchurch

Restart Mall in Christchurch

Day 3: Arthur’s Pass National Park & Franz Joseph Glacier
Morten and I camped in Arthur’s Pass Natl. Park which was freezing! We did the Otira Valley tramp, which ends at the footbridge but you can continue if you’re mountaineering.

Enjoying the walk through the Otira Valley

Enjoying the walk through the Otira Valley

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Otira Valley walk

Otira Valley walk

On our way to Franz Joseph Glacier, we picked up some hitchhikers, Mike and Steve, from the US. They were WFA-ing (pronounced woofing), which is short for Working for Food and Accommodation. Apparently that’s the best way to do NZ, as it’s free and you get luxurious meals and digs at the homestays.

Franz Joseph Glacier

Franz Joseph Glacier


Mike and Steve from the US

Mike and Steve from the US

Day 4: Fox Glacier & Wanaka
Starting to get tired on our long drives, we didn’t get up to Fox Glacier but did manage to do a walk around Lake Mattheson. Lake Mattheson has stunning views of Mt. Cook in its background and it a very well-maintained track. It is only 1.5 hours return, which we did in 1 hr.

Circuit loop around Lake Matheson with Mt. Cook in the background

Circuit loop around Lake Matheson with Mt. Cook in the background

Enjoying Lake Wanaka

Enjoying Lake Wanaka


Wanaka was gorgeous, probably one of my favourite spots. The residents are seriously spoiled by the views they have on their lake.

Day 5: Te Anau
Gateway to the Fiords and at risk of being totally bypassed by the proposed underground trainline from Queenstown to Milford Sound, Te Anau was gorgeous and the people were even friendlier.

Day 6: Milford Sound in the Fiordland National Parks
Before heading into the sound, we did a 4hr return walk into Gertrude Saddle. It was a challenging walk since I couldn’t tell where the trail was and it was pretty rocky. We stopped right before the saddle since we knew we still had a full day ahead of us in the Sound and needed to conserve some nergy.

Gertrude Saddle

Gertrude Saddle

Just out of LOTRs, there is an air of eerieness to the sound. We caught it on a good day, which is rare, but our photos didn’t come out as amazing as we’d hoped. On our way back, we picked up more hitchhikers, Magnus and Mads from Denmark. Nice dudes and Morten got on very well with them since all they could do was talk about cycling the entire 2.5 hours back to Te Anau.

Milford Sound in the Fiordland National Park

Milford Sound in the Fiordland National Park

Day 7/8: Queenstown
I didn’t know what to expect in Queenstown, adventure capital of the world. Seriously, this place was bumping. Everywhere you went, there were backpackers, young and old, signing up for jet-boating, skydiving, bungy-jumping…you name it. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like going fast and I’m a big ol’ scaredy cat so there was no way I was doing any of those things. Probably better for it as it cost over $150 to do any of that. Morten and I were content enough to hang out around town, drink some Montheiths (their west coast brewery is here), and enjoy some Ferg Burger. Our kiwi housemate gave us a few recs before we came to NZ and one of them was to try Ferg Burger. Hailing from the land that brought us burgers and all of its glory, you can sense my skepticism of any other burger joint. Well, well, well…was I put in my place! Now let’s relish in these glorious, mouth-watering photos of the ‘Mr. Big Stuff’ burger that nearly ended my NZ trip (I was pretty much bed-ridden with a food baby after this beast).

Mr. Big Stuff = mouthwatering

Mr. Big Stuff = mouthwatering

Day 9: Mt. Cook Aoraki National Park
Mt. Cook or Aoraki or ‘cloud-piercer’ is 3,754 metres (12316.273 feet) and is the tallest mountain in NZ. One of the best things about Mt. Cook Village was the visitor’s centre, which carefully details all the history about the mountain, the region, the first glacial expedition, the first female mountaineers to climb it, the way it was formed and so much more! It was a mini-museum dedicated to the region. Very cool and a definite must if you’re interested in learning. We had gorgeous weather and rushed to climb up the Mueller Hut Hike because the next day was supposed to be rainy and windy. This was my first over-night hike.

Just look at this!

Just look at this!


Mt. Cook and Mt. Sefton

Mt. Cook and Mt. Sefton

Mt. Sefton and Mt. Cook

Mt. Sefton and Mt. Cook

camping

camping

Tramping!

Tramping!

Sunrise over Mt. Cook

Sunrise over Mt. Cook

Day 10: Lake Tekapo
After spending the morning enjoying Mt. Cook, we headed to Lake Tekapo. It was absolutely gorgeous, aside from the fact that it was so packed we couldn’t find a bed in any hostel! We ended up camping another night, but I didn’t mind since we had a view like this.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Day 11: Back to Christchurch
Our last night in NZ was spent driving around for about 1 hr trying to find a place to sleep. There’s an accommodation shortage due to the 2011 earthquakes. We pretty much gave up on finding a place and met up with Morten’s friend, Cyril, who he met during his North American adventure earlier in the year.

Scrabble!

Scrabble!


After a good night of catching up with Cyril, we ended up camping at the holiday park for our last night and managed to camp next to Magnus and Mads, the Danish hitchhikers we gave a ride to in Milford Sound! It’s a very strange thing to see people you’ve met traveling on the other side of the planet, where you plan it or not.

All in all, NZ is amazing place, which is unrivaled in its beauty. At any one time, you can be surrounded by mountains, lakes, creeks and dense old growth forests. Even if you aren’t doing anything but driving, it’s still more beautiful than some of the places I’ve seen around the world.

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Going to the Outback MATE!

Arnheim Land view from Ubirr

Whew, it is HOT! This post is about 2 mo overdue, but I’m still feeling the heat (and bug bites) from Darwin. As part of my goal to complete my bucket list before I leave, I decided to book some tickets with my girlfriends to Darwin…all the way in Northern Territory to trek through Kakadu National Park. It is a long way to go for just a weekend trip, but the Melbourne winter was making me hate all my friends in CA even more for complaining about all the sun they were getting, while I was getting pastier than the creme you find in an oreo.

I’m not sure why, but everyone we told about our trip to Darwin was making this face O_o. It’s no duckface, but it’s also not very comforting when we knew it was just going to be just us 5 girls, going around the Outback. I think it’s more because most Australians had never been to Darwin so it made them realise that I, an international kid, was seeing more of Australia in 2 years than they had in their entire lives! But then again, my boyfriend has seen more of the US in 6 months than I have in 24 years.

Well getting on to our adventures (or mis-adventures really), 5 girls in a 4WD…Darwin and Kakadu (and us) should have been warned.

Now, what’s funnier than 5 girls trying to navigate our ways in a 4WD? 5 girls trying to navigate in THIS 4WD.

our sweet ride. not!


just when I thought massive cock was bad…


(Seriously? Who thinks of these things?!). Everywhere we went, we were asked ‘Oh you’re the girls in the massive cock, right?’ ‘Yes, man old enough to be my grandfather, we are the girls riding in the massive cock. Glad you think it’s hilarious…’ I don’t think I could have been any more mortified, but at least that is the great thing about Australians, they can always laugh. I guess if we were 5 dudes driving around in that, no one would have thought it was hilarious, but fortunately we are 5 cute (or so we were told by everyone we spoke with) girls driving in a massive cock.

So lessons learned from our trip:
1. Travel with girls and everyone offers to help.
2. Always put on insect repellent (my poor legs!)
3. Stopping on the side of the road to take a break from driving is a foreign idea to men.
4. Karaoke at 1am is always a good idea, especially when the Asian hostess is begging you to sing Achy-Breaky Heart.
5. Even if it’s the dry season, crocodiles are still around. I swear I saw one when we were at the river.
6. Always be open minded. You never quite know who you’ll meet! Totally true seeing as we ended up camping alongside some awesome Darwinians on one of the nights in Kakadu.
7. I’m really good a busting u-turns in a massive van. My lack of direction requires that I master this skill.

Now here’s some photos to make you jealous.

View of Arnheim Land from Ubirr

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My traveling bucketlist

A bucket list? Really? Could I be anymore cliche? Why yes I think I could. Well regardless of how overdone these lists are…I’m still making one and should you choose to read it, then good on’ya 🙂

Here it goes:
1. Go to the Outback. Nearly 1.5 years here and I haven’t been to the outback? What am I doing with my life. New mission: go to Uluru asap.Uluru in Northern Territory

2. Eat crocodile and emu. I don’t care that I’m a vegetarian…or occasional for that matter, I’d still like to try these suckers. I’ve had kangaroo, now to move onto some wilder meats. [Update: totally ate crocodile and it has the consistency of calamari but tastes like chicken? strange. it was deep-fried and i dipped it in aioli which makes everything on earth better.]

3. Adelaide and Barossa Valley – time for me to sample the fine wines of Southern Australia. [Update: heading here on April, 7!] [Update 2: did not end up going, still on bucket list]

4. Perth and Freemantle, WA – 35+ degree weather all year round? Sounds like paradise. Must go here when Melbourne is too cold to function.

5. Kakadu National Forest and the Daintree Rainforest: Just look at this video! Kakadu National Forest, Northern Territory
Oh and I must go ziplining in the Daintree, just look at her go! [Update: Tickets booked for Darwin in August!]

6. Canberra, ACT: Lived here for 1.5 years and I haven’t been to the nation’s capital? Appalling, especially since I did a mini-lecture on the urban planning of it! [Update: Visiting Canberra in July and it’s a lot smaller than I thought. Julia was not there so I couldn’t hi-five her. Bummer.]
Parliament House in Canberra, ACT[/caption]

7. Driving on the left side of the road! [Update: Successfully accomplished]

8. New Zealand: I must find Frodo and the rest of the hobbits soon! I’m planning this for September!

9. Dingoes! I have to see a dingo in the wild! I’ve seen kangaroos, echidnas, koalas, wombats, wallabies, and kookaburras out in the wild. Time to fly up to Fraser Island to see these cute doggies! [Update: Dingoes = not so cute doggies. Spotted one walking around Jabiru in NT and I just felt bad. It was a mix stray dingo and I didn’t take a photo because it felt like animal cruelty…poor thing.]

10. Graduate! Not really a traveling thing to do, but it’s the real reason I’m here (as much as I try to forget lol). Just 6 more month til you can call me Master. Bow down minions.

This list will probs get updated the closer I get to graduating. Cross my fingers I can tick everything off the list!

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Getting an edumacation…

In total, I’ve lived in Australia for 1.5 years in the last 3.5 years and there are definitely a few things I’ve learned. I know you’re probably saying ‘Wait, Kristine’s over there to learn? We thought she was just hemorraging money via drinks, traveling, and shopping (more or less true).’ For all you non-believers, I’ve compiled a list of all the things that I’ve learned during my time abroad (or at least remember).

1. If you’re clumsy off a bike, then you’re clumsy ON a bike I know how to ride a bike, just not well. How does that work? Easy. I fall a lot. Thank god for helmets…I should really wear knee guards but I don’t think that’s acceptable for a 23 year old, right? My last fall was more embarrassing than usual. How, you ask? Well, imagine me coming to a stop and managing to fall off my bike as I was trying to get off. Is that even possible? Yes, I have my scars to prove it. What’s worse? The look from the dude who was walking toward me as I did it. Shaking your head at a total stranger should be outlawed.

2. Disco nap. How did I not know what these were called before? If you don’t know, they are naps you take before you gotta haul ass to get to a disco. lol. Going out here is so diff from home and sometimes I don’t come home until 5/6am, meaning, I need lots of energy to make it through the night. Red bulls, monsters, and V’s are okay but nothing is as satisfying as a disco nap to keep me nice and refreshed before a night of going out 🙂

3. Doing things with people is overrated. Shopping alone, watching movies alone, dancing alone, eating alone, traveling alone, drinking alone…you name it. There isn’t one thing that I haven’t done where I didn’t have to do it alone at least once. And you know what, it’s awesome. No one to rush you, to judge you (maybe on the drinking alone part…but you don’t know them), or to force you to do something that you don’t want to do. Awesome.

4. American-isms or just Kristine-isms? I’m not saying I’m a weird, but there sure are a lot of things I do that are unique. The two biggest things are probably my facial expressions and they way I pronounce/emphasize things. Now, I don’t necessarily know all of them but I have been asked numerous times by my Aussie friends ‘Do all Americans do that or is that just you?” That is HA-larious.

5. Every Australian actor that has made it in Hollywood was on Neighbors or Home and Away.

6. Americans rule when it comes to donuts, among other things. Lol, not that I really needed to go abroad to learn this, but my travels has just reinforced it. First of all, american donuts are bomb. Australians seem to believe that good donuts = jam donuts. Psh. They are rudely mistaken. Good donuts are bready donuts made by Cambodians, am I right?

7. Always carry an umbrella or jumper. Melbourne is the city of 4 seasons in one day, no joke.

8. Never read the Herald Sun, unless it’s for the quiz. One of the most right-wing and conservative papers, the Herald Sun spews more than a lightweight college freshman. Unfortunately it is one of the most read newspapers in Melbourne, so you have people actually listening to Andrew Bolt, among other spew-writers. Bleh.

9. Australia is the largest continent by area where everyone drives on the left side.

10. The coffee here is boss. Coffee snobbery has taken a new level here in Melbourne. Back in the 1980s, Melbourne underwent a massive city revitalisation project where they took back the streets and coverted dingy alleyways into beautiful laneways, boasting over 300 cafes. Two coffees a day is now typical for me. Don’t talk to me before then.

11. Summer festivities rock! From music festivals like Meredith to Falls, or outdoor cinemas, Melbourne is great at organising outdoor events during the summer months. Any day of the week you can entertain yourself by going to the night market at Vic Markets, to a movie at Moonlight Cinemas, or to Symphony in the Park! I’ve never known another city to be so dedicated to summertime activities as Melbourne and I gotta say, other cities should adopt their approach fast! http://www.broadsheet.com.au/melbourne/ and http://thethousands.com.au/melbourne/ are great blogs for all the happenings!

Well I’m sure I’ve learned more, but that’s all that my little brain can write at the moment.

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Surfing USA! Sorta…

So it takes me a trip all the way to Australia to finally learn how to surf? Yea yea yea I know..CA is known for all of our surfing and whatnot…I mean we totally walk around in our bikinis and surf in between classes lol. No but really, my last encounter swimming out at sea was getting thrashed in the coral reef in Fiji so you can understand why surfing would make me a bit nervous :-/ But it was actually fun! We went down to Anglesea as part of our Postgraduate Environment Network (PEN) group, a nice study break. It wasn’t the best day for surfing but the sun decided to come out to play. Our instructors gave us about a 20min lesson and explained the basics…um, who knew that it’d be such an arm work out? And for those of you who know me…I have absolutely no upper body strength! However, once I got out to the water, I was rocking it. Okay that may be a bit of an exaggeration, BUT I did manage to stand up 4x! Hells yes! Total pro…now I just need a hot bikini to be like those chicks in Blue Crush…watch out California…new surfer on the waves!

Exhausted!


Learning!


Showing off our technique!

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Americans down under!

Something I’ve been waiting for since I first arrived in Melbourne finally arrived! The Americans!!! Amanda, Michelle, Michelle, Sarah, Kirsten and John all came to visit a couple of weeks ago. We spent 4 crash course days in Melbourne experiencing all things Melbourne, from cafes in laneways to hidden bars to dirty hipsters. We went around all the happening hoods and stayed right on Flinders Street in a sweeeet apartment! Day 1 was pretty rough…everyone was experiencing jet lag and their first taste of Melbourne winter…chilly! We explored Fitzroy, the CBD, Collingwood, Carlton, and Brunswick. I was definitely cracking the fun whip to get everyone going to prevent them from succumbing to the jet lag and to make sure we saw as much as possible. Our goal was to stay up at least ½ hr more every night…considering they only made it to 10:45p the first night!

We were able to do a day trip out to Phillip Island to see the Little Penguins (aka Fairy Penguins)…smallest penguins in the world. Our party bus was pretty sweet…nice astro van to haul all the kids ☺ We managed to make it out of Melbourne and I will have to admit, Amanda was the best choice for a driver despite her choice in radio stations (Bruno Mars is never okay). I’ve never been out to Phillip Island myself so I didn’t know what to expect but we were able to see wallabies (aka wombats), koalas, black swans, kookaburras, and penguins. As awesome it was to see everything…it was FREEZING! How painful to sit there and wait for the 20 penguins…though I did get to perfect my penguin walk. Pretty awesome and realistic as everyone will tell you, haha.
The rest of the time was a blur…as we rushed through the last bits of our Melbourne itinerary…hitting everything from Victoria Markets for souvenirs to souvlakis in the CBD to kangaroo steaks at the Napier to laneway bars. How sad that the only kangaroos that we saw…were on our plates! Oh well, I’m pretty sure everyone agrees that they were pretty freaking delicious ☺

As we packed up our bags and headed to Sydney, the sun finally came out in Melbourne and everyone saw Melbourne live up to its name of having 4 seasons in one day! Our trip to Sydney was spent enjoying the Sydney Harbour as we stayed in the YHA – The Rocks. We did the Sydney Opera House tour, which was awesome and gorgeous! I would totally recommend it, though seeing a show there would probably be cooler. We also saw Bondi Beach, despite all the protests from Michelle and Amanda (and their stupid beach song)…you can’t go to Sydney without seeing the most famous beach of all! It was a cool and windy winter day at the beach but a lovely sight overall…nice and relaxing time for our whirlwind trip. The last night in Australia was spent at the Rugby Union game: Australian Wallabies versus South African Springboks…which Australia totally killed! Rugby + hot men + beer = the perfect way to end our trip! I’m pretty sure by the end of the trip, John was over us objectifying men! I’m surprised he survived the trip with all 6 of us girls! Goodonya mate!

But alas…all things must come to an end ☹ Saying goodbye to everyone at the airport was difficult…more difficult than when I first left in February. I’m very blessed to know that I have wonderful friends back home who are willing to come all across the Pacific to visit…if only for just a week. It was a teaser of what I have back home…great family and friends. I can’t wait to be back in the states for Christmas knowing that I’ll get to see everyone again. Love you all!

Holiday? On a wetland?!

You’re probably wondering what I’m talking about so let me tell you…Dani and I decided to go on holiday to Brisbane. First of all, we should have known how disastrous the trip was going to be since we couldn’t decide where to go in the first place. Well we finally decided on Brisbane in hope of some sun. Our trip to Brisbane started off well enough, early morning flight and then settled into Bunk Hostel in Fortitude Valley. Man, is Brisbane boring! Tuesday night and nothing to do…what a disappointment! Luckily we met up with some of Dani’s friends in Brisbane to plan out a canoeing and camping trip for Thurs-Sat. On Thursday we headed to Gold Coast…apparently it’s the Vegas of Australia. What a weird concept…it’s such a tourist trap!

But anyways, onto the real exciting part of the trip. Our idea was to canoe to our campsite from Elanda Point in the Noosa Everglades. The campsite was ‘supposedly’ 2 hrs by canoe…though they had expected it to be ~3 hrs since there was a strong wind warning. So we get 4 boats (2 in each, 1 guy and 1 girl). We launch offshore and we’re paddling…it’s looking okay and BAM! The wind and the rain pick up. OMG, I forgot how much I hate boats. We’re all struggling a bit and then Dani’s boat capsized! Luckily it was a shallow zone so they stand up and get back into the boat. Continue paddling…2 hours later, we’re all wondering why we haven’t reached the campsite yet. We’re all thinking ‘Man Australians must be EXTREME if they can paddle to the campsite in 2 hrs…we must be weak!” My canoe paddles out farthest…we lose the other 3 boats and at this point, I’m freaking out! Once the rest of the boats reach us, we’re freaking out because we can’t read the map and have no idea where we are. We call the canoeing company to ask if they can pick us up because we’re not at the site and have no idea where we were…unfortunately they said no. It was after business hours and no one was around. So next time, I’ll need to be more courteous and try to die between operational hours!

Now our group is freaking out even more, we decide to call 000 (Aus’s emergency services aka 911). They ask if there’s any injuries and there wasn’t so they told us to sit tight and to make camp…it was going to be a long night! Forced to camp on the wetland, we tried to cook some dinner while water encloses all around us and we’re freezing our bums off basically. Finally we have some dinner and manage to get into dry clothes…bed time at 6:30p. It was the most uncomfortable night ever as we tried to cram 6 people into a 3 person tent and the other 2 in a 2 person tent. I managed to get some sleep but it was definitely interrupted by bird calls, intruding water, and fidgeting people. Finally morning comes and we pack up…to our relief the canoeing company calls us to tell us that they’re rescuing us because another strong wind warning was issued and there’d be no way we could paddle out before it hit. We finally see the boat, relieved we didn’t have to paddle back and they tell us we’re the very first group that they’ve ever rescued. We gave a great name to foreigners lol.

From this, I’ll never go canoeing again no matter how good the weather is…too much effort for the result lol.