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Fasten your seatbelts it's going to be a fun ride

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hokey Pokey Ice Cream....

Off on the magic bus again. I've managed to get the front seat each day now. Maxime is always with his personal translator now. He's sweet and my French is getting better being forced to use it. Drove around the lake that is the size of Singapore (the one we sailed yesterday) and took some photos of the Lord of the Rings volcanoes. (well I didn't so don't expect one here)
It's a long day of driving today, not much to see until we arrive in Wellington tonight where we plan on going for a good seafood dinner.
We made our lunch pit stop and I had a very very interesting experience. The ketchup containers here are very different and 3 of us all struggled to figure out how to open them. I was the first to find out. It sprouted like the geyser we saw the day before...all over my pink dress.
Then as I ate my lamb burger with a bun the size of a loaf of bread and a patty like a silver dollar, dripping that awful mint sauce.
We heard clippers and lots of baaahhaaaaing so wandered down the path to find a shearing demonstration. Hysterical. Can't upload the video so here it is...
Bulls is a town where all the businesses have signs that play on the word.
Trans-port-a-bull = moving company
Const-a-bull = police station
Bloom-a-bull = flower shop
Bank-a-bull = bank
Stopped off again in a little roadside town and I'd like to say the following.
Hello, my name is Nancy and I'm addicted to Hokey Pokey ice cream. Now you say, Hello Nancy.
Wellington is the San Francisco of the southern hemisphere. They in fact imported two wooden Victorian homes from San Francisco as an experiment to see if they would withstand the earthquakes. I was able to pick them out going up the steep hill to a fantastic look out point like Twin Peaks. Absolutely gorgeous city!!!

They call it the windy city and let's just say that I walked back from a swim at this fantastic pool
on the waterfront with my hair wrapped around my head. I hardly saw a thing.

Ended up going out for a cocktail at a bar where this time I came prepared. I ordered a double, double in two glasses no ice then a small bottle of ginger ale and a lime and I made own damn cocktail right in front of the bartender. His eyebrows went up so high they got lost in his hairline so I explained, I come from the home of the martini. You people might think you make martini's here because you use that type of glass but I can assure you that you have no idea what a martini really is. He laughed at that.
Then we wandered down to the waterfront to find our seafood restaurant at $40 an entree. It turned out to be a thumping club with an open air restaurant on the 3rd floor. We ate some weird fish I won't even try to repeat here to techno music. I insisted on a cab home being completely frozen.

Spring. What spring? It's the damn rainy season here. You know how cold it gets in SF during the summer well I won't hesitate to say it's even colder here. In fact, I don't think I've been warm since I arrived and I didn't bring anything warm to wear. I did bring my raincoat that Natasha gave me for a birthday and she was right at the time in observing it's not something I would pick out for myself but it has really saved me here. It's been raining pretty much the whole time. Not complaining though, since I love that.

You know how in life annoying things like being stuck in traffic happen, or missing a connection? We just feel frustration that things didn't go according to plan. However, I've started to suspect that when things don't go the way we want them to it's perhaps a way to avoid disaster but because we can't see the "what if" we feel cheated.
Upon entering the Wellington Hostel, I groaned audibly to see that we had metal bunk beds. (they creak and wiggle)
So I prayed I would get a considerate upper bunk mate. Well last night ding-bat in the bunk above me tossed and turned all night long. I even made her bed so that she wouldn't wake me up when she came into the room later because it was already midnight when I got back. I slept but I was woken often. I finally got so disgusted with her that I got up and asked if she was ok. She said yes and I said 'Ok just wondering because you haven't stopped tossing and turning for the last 2 hours and I can't sleep'. She calmed down a bit but started up again soon after that.

Anyway, she started rolling around again this morning and I was going to go back to sleep when I thought hey maybe I should check the time. 7:10. OH MY GOD.
Frenchie overslept, he was my alarm clock. So I raced to his room, woke him up and we had 15 minutes to get ready or miss the only ferry to Nelson.

It was an exciting morning to say the least but we made it.
As we pulled out of port the wind was so fierce that we actually saw huge sheets of water whipped up 30 to 40 feet high. It was a 3 hour journey where I spent the vast majority of my time outside shivering or at the inside observation deck, shivering.
Arrived at Picton. The scenery coming into port is simply indescribable but I'll try...turquoise clear water, lush hills with thick forests, white sand crescent moon beaches dotting the coastline along the way, large voluminous clouds heavy with rain overhead, a smell of purity and clean unlike any detergent commercial you have ever seen on TV.
We hopped on the magic bus and headed to Nelson.

Stopped off again at a roadside cafe that is famous for their chicken and Camembert cheese pies. We both got one and about halfway through I suggested that it must be like a "king cake" because we could not find the cheese.

Let me explain. In French countries, it's called Le Jour Du Roi. It's a special day of year when you buy this pastry that has a bean hidden in it and share it with friends and the person who finds the bean is the king for the day.

I finally found a tiny piece of cheese in mine, Maxime never found his. Pity, it was good. I bought a couple pies to go, they were so yummy. I even called ahead to book my room for tomorrow and Steve who took my booking asked if I was calling from the ???? place (couldn't understand him) so he clarified, 'the pie place', ah yes right, right. You know they make the best pies on the South Island they do.
Oh and no lunch would be complete without that hokey pokey ice cream. mmmm

Our driver, Mike who's as nice as Greg and Ian and the size of both of them combined explained all sorts of weird and wonderful things on the way. (They love to say that here "weird and wonderful", right right, -long pause-)

Forestry is a large business here, sections are cleared and replanted. Plywood is made out of most of the branches that are trimmed, and I believe them. I stayed in a hostel where the floor, the door and the bed were all built out of that stuff, and they didn't cover it with fake veneer either. They should have called it 'the plywood room'.
In fact, I have also seen plywood tents.

Spending a quiet night in Nelson. Laundry, some soup, some bubbly and met some fun people. Watching a movie in a loft space in an old converted Victorian house. It's a cozy homey place and a good place to relax. Except for a lack of hot water in the showers. There are 3 of us in the room and we all want to go to bed early. Hehehe.

The room next to ours looks like a laundry mat. And the door lock and handle installer must have started happy hour early the day he worked on our doors because as you can see, I don't think he could make up his mind how to install them.

Left Nelson bright and early after a good nights sleep (had two blankets on me again so I was nice and toasty). Heavy fog today and light drizzle. Perfect.

Winding our way between tall mountains in the deepest part of the valleys. Low hanging clouds look like ghosts hugging the tops. A river follows us most of the way. Single vehicle bridges must be crossed once in a while. Some of the road is so narrow and windy that mirrors are used to see around the bend. Along the road are these grotesque signs about driving accidents. They usually say something harmless like "tired? have a rest" but the image is of a dead body with the name tag on the big toe or a kid screaming and looking terrified.

Our breakfast stop was at another cute roadside cafe where they finally made a hot chocolate hot enough for me (but not without some grumbling and cheers at the end of the odorous task) and walked around town. Cute houses with flowers planted all around and bathtubs holding more colorful plants. Saw a whole group of Pukeko birds again.

Buses. People live in buses here. You'll see chimney stacks out of the top with smoke coming out. Wonder what the buses were used for before they became homes. There are even Internet cafe buses.

Pukey girl is puking again. That's it, I'm giving her a gift of motion pills next pharmacy I find. (and I'm going to have to find hiking shoes since mine are in my suitcase at the bottom of the cargo hold) Actually ended up buying some super cute flip flops that worked just fine.

Decided to forgo the glacier hike for instead a kayak trip on the mirror lakes at sunset. (I WILL use my dive and swim gear at least once, and if I'm feeling brave, or perhaps stupid, I'll take a dunk in the crystal clear water).

So let's talk sheep. Why is it that if you wash wool in water it shrinks and yet these animals are in the rain all the time and they don't look like a fat girl in tight Jordache jeans when they get wet?

Another weird and wonderful thing...our driver has a huge umbrella and since it's been raining pretty steady now for the last two hours I asked him when we stopped for the seal viewing along the Tasman sea if he was coming with us or staying on the bus, he said, on the bus so I innocently asked if I could borrow it.
Well enjoy yourself with your umbrella Mr. Mike. (I take back that comment that he's nice)

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Barbary from Alameda

Kiwi's come across as so very polite, I think because of their crisp accent and saying thank you so much however they have many many rules and should you dare to break one, they won't hesitate to scold you past the point of utter humiliation in front of as many people as possible for the maximum effect, all the while smiling.
One poor woman giggled a tiny bit during an announcement and the bus driver spoke to her over the microphone for a good two minutes about listening to him. He managed to say it in about 3 different ways. Not a peep out of anyone after that for quite a while.
And this morning I bought some water and started peeling the kiwi but the woman behind the counter that was to busy to hand me a knife in the first place miraculously found the time to come out from behind her busy counter to tell me that I could "not do that here" in front of a room full of people in a nice loud voice.
She got some Nancy attitude back and being a master at the rebuttal I chastised her enough so she shut right up and walked away. Cheers! (with a smile)

Heading to Tuapo today. Geothermal area.

Smoke is billowing out of rocks and pools everywhere, a nice reminder we do in fact live on a large molten ball of lava, amazing topography.

I saw a huge white tower with steam billowing out the top, NZ only geo-thermal power plant.
We arrived at the geothermal park and Maxime and I enjoyed the 1.5 hour walk around arsenic and sulfur bubbling pools. Want a quick divorce? Just send your spouse for a closer look into one of those pools.

Drove through one of the national forests. It spans from coast to coast and is quite beautiful. There is a whole industry around just keeping the forest trees properly trimmed with huge piles of branches dotting the land.
Next stop was some more adventure stuff and a honey store. Honey soap, honey cream, honey wine, honey candy, honey condoms (just kidding) although it was pretty funny when this one guy was calling out "honey" for his girlfriend and both sales girls looked up like, yes, I know there's a lot of honey here but which one do you want???

Stopped next at a bungy jump platform high above the river.

It's a gorgeous site. There were tubers and kayacking going on. The water was a gorgeous color of light turquoise. Looking at it made me feel like a junkie in need of a fix.
Finally arrived in Taupo, we (Frenchie and I) are taking the sail boat out to some immense Maori stone carvings along the water. Very much looking forward to that. Then a late dinner of fish, oops, I forgot to mention some cocktails before.
Holming said there is a much higher rate of drinking here but I wouldn't know it, everywhere we go it's dry.

OK now I took a photo of a flush button for the toilet.
I couldn't really grasp the difference between a half flush and a full flush. Well let me educate you now. A half flush, leaves half of whatever you don't want and a full flush gets rid of all of it.
That's the difference.

The sailboat is called the Barbary,

it's 52 ft long and was owned by Eroll Flynn, it's home was Alameda but most impressive of all, the sleeping cabin has mirrors on the ceiling. (3 wives and countless affairs)
Our captain was agreable and fun. Spewing facts like Ruaehu Volcano once did pumice stones and ash.
It was a calm 3 hour cruise that involved two very friendly ducks who flew on board to get some dinner.

The carvings are not old but they are of a great great grandfather of one of the Maori artists who did this 28 years ago.

Came back to town and headed to Mulligans where the crew liked to drink. Ordered a double whiskey and ginger ale, and got a 1/2 ounce for each normal full "U.S." ounce. (Erik this should remind you of our quest for a long island ice tea in London). So then I decided to try a triple but she couldn't put it in the glass. She was required by law to serve it in a shot glass but remember we only have an ounce and a half of alcohol now in a glass full of soda and that's called a triple here so I left it on the bar.

I did have a real glass bottle of coke though....

I decided that I was too grumpy and stinky to hang out with the gang so then I wandered back to the hostel. I kept seeing this one taxi go round and round and wondered if there was more than one so I tried to notice the license plate. Now this town is quiet, with wide streets, all shops closed. It felt like a small one horse town and this one lonely taxi buzzing around city blocks like a girl playing hard to get. I would have gladly flagged him to get me to the hostel since I was tired and slightly disoriented.
Got back and found they had booked me in a co-ed dorm room. I don't think so. I got upgraded to a private room with a heater right out of hell. I turned it on, went for a shower and came back to a sauna.
Made it back to "downtown" (consisting of a few bars and a burger king) and found everyone had already returned so I picked an empty bar for some peace and solitude and hopefully a strong drink. Nice kiwi bartender sympathized and gave me a normal Castro style cocktail, it hit the spot. Got some bar food and tried to ignore the drunk next to me who wouldn't leave me alone.
The bars here have ATM card swip pads just like at gas stations. Er, um, yes I'll have a beer and $20 cash back.

Back home to a nice toasty sleep in my room all alone and my double sized bed!
Off on the magic bus again. HIS PERSONAL TRANSLATOR NOW> He's sweet and my french is getting better.

Drove around the lake that is the size of Sinapore (the one we sailed yesterday) and took some photos of the Lord of the Rings volcanoes.
It's a long day of driving today, not much to see until we arrive in Wellington tonight where we plan on going for a good seafood dinner.

We made our lunch pit stop and I had a very very interesting experience. The ketchup containers here are very different and 3 of us all struggled to figure out how to open them. I was the first to find out. It sprouted like the gyser we saw the day before...all over my pink dress. Then as I ate my lamb burger with a bun the size of a loaf of bread and a patty like a silver dollar, dripping that awful mint sauce.
We heard clippers and lots of baaahhaaaaing so wandered down the path to find a shearing demonstration. Hysterical.

Bulls is a town where all the businesses have signs that play on the word.

Trans-port-a-bull = moving company
Const-a-bull = police station
Bloom-a-bull = flower shop
Bank-a-bull = bank

Man today is a long driving day. Stopped off again in a little roadside town and I'd like to say the following.
Hello, my name is Nancy and I'm addicted to Hokey Pokey ice cream.

Wellington is the San Francisco of the southern hemisphere. They in fact imported two wooden victorian homes from San Francisco as an experiment to see if the would withstand the earthquakes.
Absolutely gorgeous city!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Macaroni & Maori

Had some nice dreams last night. Woke up to the sound of those kiwi birds. They are nocturnal so you only hear them at night. Holming dropped me off for the magic bus a little early where I met a girl Mari from Japan but she was going on a different tour.
Then met the two tour guides, Ian and Greg and we got on the big magic bus, (mushrooms not included) stopped at two hostels to pick up more passengers and off we go to Mt. Eden, an extinct volcano. In total 64 volcano's dot the Auckland cityscape. Nice view from the top...

April fools. The ultimate prank. A group of University students put a huge pile of tires in the hole and lit them on fire early one morning. Residents around it saw the billowing black cloud coming from the center of the volcano and packed themselves into cars for a mad exodus from the city. No one wanted to go up and investigate but eventually the police realized it was a prank and everyone was told to return home. There are cows all over the mount and according to our driver they like to lick the bus tires. So that's the funny taste in my steak last night?!?!

Now one of the worst disappointments of 2008 is that I missed seeing Def Leppard in Auckland by one day.
Second worst disappointment is missing Guns'n'Roses while I'm here on Nov 22nd. (I'll be halfway to Queenstown).

Trees: In the downtown they leave them be, out in the country they cleared them out. It's said that some unscrupulous land sellers in England took advantage of many buyers selling them land say in the lake Waitomo region. Can you imagine? Move your whole family and life, bringing everything you own to your new home just to find out your farm land is at the bottom of a lake.

Stopped off the road at a food pit stop and there was a bacon restaurant. Bacon and Eggs. Bacon on Mac'n'Cheese (which I had and I can feel my arteries clogging as I type) and Ian had a BLT with half a pig between the buns.

Also had a hot chocolate. It wasn't very chocolaty, and it tasted incredibly strong. Everything here, meat, milk, eggs all have such strong flavors. Trying to get used to it.

We went around the bus with a microphone and introduced ourselves. Name, where we live, what we do and a personal problem. Guess what mine was? Max is French, cute and very single, hello Max. Noel is from SF and a tattoo artist. Some more Frenchies, Irish girls who drink too much, and a couple American boys who have crazy girlfriends waiting for them to come home. All in all, an interesting fun bunch. Just passed through Hadley where there is a coal burning power station. Plug in those electric cars and sleep better at night folks.

Of course Kiwi's have funny ways to talk. They say cheers all the time but without holding a cocktail. They also like to say "it's all good" and "right, right" and one more that sounds like "nice ass" but it's something else.

Beautiful rolling hills and green everywhere. Lot's and lots of cows here, apparently cow tipping is practically a national sport.

Giant rolls of hay are wrapped in light green bags so the fields look like the Jolly Green Giant
dropped his bag of green marshmallows all over.

One of the girls who introduced herself said her personal problem was that she gets sick easily so sure enough, she did.
Then pukey girl puked a second time, but this time she sat next to me. If it happens one more time there will be group puking going on. (Thanks Leslie for packing my lunch in a plastic bag...)

Went abseiling.

Free fall on lines to a cavern floor about 6 stories down (maybe more-hard to tell) with Rodney.

It took me 4 times to get his name right...that accent is so hard to get used to. He chatted away furiously (it was only us, everyone else opted for freezing cold cave tubing) and I swear I understood possibly every 6th word.
He had me put on some huge nasty overalls then started strapping me up with ropes and buckles and when we were almost done I said, "this is probably not the best time to tell you I have to pee".

Next on to the glow worm caves where we saw gorgeous limestone formation and glided down a very cold underwater river in a boat to see the constellation above of hundreds of thousands of glow worms. Mesmerizing.

Nice walk back to the bus with cute little flowers that smelled of honeysuckle and jasmin.
I put my nose in one so much all the orange pollen was smeared over me and I got strange looks from a couple people.

Stopped at the town where another power plant is located on a river with a dam. There is a 'Golden Gate' looking suspension bridge from the town to the power plant.

It was built to allow the employees to get to work. Next we meandered through a town where the brand "pump" water is bottled. And let me tell you, it's all slow going. No highways here, just rolling hills and windy roads. Just drove by a sign that said "relief milker available". ???

Next stop Rotoroa.

Arrived at our hostel, the floor above squeeks when someone is walking. (note to self, drink a lot of dig out earplugs tonight).

The hostel has a natural thermal hot pool that I might hit after the event tonight.

Went to the Maori village show and dinner. I cringed a little as I paid $50 and hoped it wouldn't be a cheesy event. All my fears were left behind quickly enough.
I'd like to try and describe the beauty and reverence of the welcoming ceremony, the uniqueness of the village depicting normal daily life, the customs and intricate facial and body tattoos. In one word, awesome. And I mean awesome as the word uttered by the first deep sea expedition where glowing and phosphorescent marine life was found or awesome as meant when one simply cannot find any other word to describe something they have never seen before and are totally overwhelmed by.
(Oh and Leslie, I found hot Maori guy to smear lamb all over) We first went to a welcome area where a challenge was performed, then into the village full of tall trees and shrubs dotted with their small homes where we met them one by one and learned of their ways of life. Then into an audience hall where they performed many dances and most of them quite expressive. Then on to the dining all where all the food is cooked in the earth in their own juices. Wonderful! I filmed some of it below and you can watch a clip of the welcome ceremony. A truly magical evening I will never forget. (will post it tomorrow, come back, its incredible. Not like this internet connection which is far from incredible, or perhaps incredibly slow so I can't get it uploaded.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rain and wine...

Woke up a bunch of times. Dreamed I was eating fly pate. Really, I had found Leslie in the kitchen grinding up flies and lamb into a pate. Strange what lack of sleep and too much lamb will make you dream.
Finally rolled my lazy butt out of bed around 10am and spent 2 long hours trying to figure out my blog and how to post photos. Sheesh!
Took a very excited dog for a long walk. I was so paranoid that I kept poor Sunny on a very short and secure leash. If if was up to him, we would have stopped at every single blade of grass and post for a sniff.

Now junk mail is the bane of most everyone. The Kiwi's figured it out here. All the mailboxes have "no junk mail" signs on them.

BUSTED. I booted up the computer to check email and I heard some rustling but didn't pay much attention to it. After another 5 minutes I got curious and low and behold I found a certain kitty had managed to pull out a bag of dog treats from the pantry and shredded most of the wrapping to get to the food. I admit it's my fault for finding the cashews and not closing the doors but I didn't think she'd be that sneaky. Makes me miss my kitty.

Well I loaded up on kiwi's today, ate 3 of them and some other fruits. Will head to the pool soon, I just can't give it up, junkie I guess.

Leslie came home and picked me up. We decided on visiting wineries. Stopped off at the first one called Lincoln and started tasting. For FREE! Like it really should be but Napa has turned into a Disneyland for adults. Sampled quite a few and picked an ice wine and exchanged stories of the origins of it with the salesperson.

We then decided to try another winery that had beautiful roses and an amazing view of the Auckland skyline. We rounded the corner where I saw a field of cows with the skyline in the background, a great paradox, they call it a town instead of a city. Auckland is pronounced Oakland....well more like awwwkland.

Drove by an 'indoor black light mini golf' I have no idea. I should google it, well then again, maybe I don't want to.
Anyhoo, we finally went to the pool where I was horrified to see a giant piss, er I mean wave pool for kids and asked with much trepidation, where is the lap pool?
Thankfully it was separated. Now I'm embarrassed to say that a 10 year old overweight kiwi almost whooped my butt in that lap pool. For the record, I'd like to blame it on the wine and jet lag.
Back at home where I'm trying to cram everything into a small back pack for the trip and losing faith that I can pull it off. *sigh*
Tomorrow I start my magic bus tour of 8 days. Should be super fun!

Monday, November 17, 2008

007, Flight, 007

007! Truly. It was flight NZ007. Now the customs official in Auckland didn’t think it was funny that I simply wrote 007 on my entry paperwork, he crossed it out and wrote NZ7. Pronouncing “N” and “Zed” “seven” with an eye roll of my friend Chad’s caliber. Making friends already.

I also made a friend at the check in counter at SFO. I gave him my best smile as I walked up after waiting what always seems like an eternity to check in my bags. He asked me if I wanted a good seat, to which I replied, “No.” Startled he looked up and then I said “I want a really really good seat” and boy did I get it. Exit aisle, window with no one sitting next to me but I did get a cute Kiwi sitting in the seat in front who helped me smuggle in more booze than I was allowed. Leslie’s lament is how expensive the alcohol is here so they will be well stocked for a couple months at least.

Now mind you, perhaps it’s because I spend so much time traveling now but I think I managed to sleep at least 6 and maybe even 8 hours on that flight. Left SFO at 7pm, of course after spending 5 hours working on my Cougar then going to swim at Koret, preceded by a late night at the opera before and a frenetic packing early that morning, but I digress.

I was able to fit in Batman the dark knight 3 hours, sleep then Wall-E and then we landed! Of course, it’s a lie to call it sleep, more like torture but well I put on my fancy silk eye cover and dozed in contortionist positions Mongolian acrobats would be jealous of.

New Zealand takes customs very seriously. They have not one occurrence of rabies, very little disease and many indigenous plants that they protect reverently. So they announced on the plane over the loud speaker a whole list of scary penalties and disagreeable things that could happen if you were caught lying on the forms.

Welcome to New Zealand. Turns out the weather is rainy in New Zealand, which suits my mood well. (but I jump ahead)

Holming was right on time. 5am. Eee Ghad, if I wasn’t convinced of his friendship, now I am. What was I thinking but then there weren’t that many flights to choose from anyway.I am proud to announce that when we walked up to the car, I went to the correct side, the passenger side, on the left. We drove out of the airport in pitch black, even the sun wasn’t up yet. Down winding roads to their very cute house tucked amidst tall trees and ferns. I have the whole lower half of the house to myself and a shower stall that would be an issue for anyone over a size 10.

They don’t believe in scald guards here so I think I burned off a thick layer of calluses from the bottom of my feet when I stepped into the pooled 200 degree water. I was grumbling Friday night after my pedicure, never convinced that she really scrapes enough dead skin off, probably a good thing I thought to myself as I hopped from foot to foot like when you eat something too hot and suck in as much air as possible to cool it down.

They have a wood burning fireplace. I’m watching it now as I type. Real flames and not gas. OK OK, well it’s a fake log but that still counts.

We started with driving to the little village up the road for a $40 breakfast. When we arrived at 6:55am, we asked when the cafĂ© was opening and she said in 5 minutes. It was a bit comical. She had this, ‘no you have to wait outside in the rain until it’s 7am’ look. They had “face cookies” in the display case, I just had to take a photo.

And apparently when you get anything with froth on it, they trace out a lovely fern leaf on it. Leslie says it’s all in the wrist.

Well we finally sat down and I had lamb!

It’s actually called mince with poached eggs, super yummy and most welcome after the thing they called “breakfast” on that airplane. I then decided that 2 US dollars wouldn’t go very far so I pulled out monopoly money from the machine. It’s plastic. It’s brightly colored. It’s all different sizes and the best part is it’s .55 to the one US dollar! Just a few months ago, it was .85 tothe dollar, so I picked the right time to come.

Hopped back in the car and drove to a visitor center where there was an awesome Maori totem pole with well, er um, some very seriously realistic male accoutrements.

Then we headed downtown. Still getting into the car on the correct side which I suspect will become harder as my brain capacity wears down from exhaustion, but for now I’m holding it together. We proceeded to go to the highest building in the southern hemisphere, sort of like the Seattle needle or the Toronto tower. We walked the round room and sat down for a nice view. We took the glass floor elevator down and walked through the casino there and saw some very gloomy faces at the poker tables. We then walked to an

outdoor market that used to be an incinerator, then some shopping for Keens which arrived too late for my trip.After finding a pair that cost $180 NZ (which would roughly be $100 US) I opted instead for the super sexy, strappy highheels at the store next door with a killer sale going on. Practical Nancy.

Well we then headed to some fun pedestrian streets with boutiques where I found more nick nacks. And Dad, I found an oven mitt even you will use, instead of my nice towels.

We meandered into many stores, one of them being the local liquor store where I proceeded to glean an education on the local sparkling wines. (already bought 3 bottles-note to self, find accomplice to bring back more than limit of bubbly)

I found a cool knife holder. Can’t even describe how cool it is so I’ll just put the photo here.

I also found the cutest hat, it’s a kiwi bird with the long yellow beak.

Then down a little alley street to find a very old rustic rounded small door where perhaps a hobbit might live but alas it was barred shut.

Now traveling abroad always brings quirky experiences like seeing strange signs and scratching your head wondering what the hell they really mean like on this one here. Caution, trucks manoeuvring in this vicinity. Where do trucks not menoeuvre? Oh and I purposefully spelled that “wrong”, you know they write things different here.

This place is full of neat pubs so I might actually, *gasp* drink a BEER one of these nights.

We drove to a lookout point where we saw the Pukeko birds. Cute blue birds with goofy walks and no wings. I filmed some while Holming was saying; oh Leslie is going to be so jealous. We saw a whole family but I do attest I did the ‘focus so much on the filming of them that I didn’t quit get to watch them enough with my eyes’. I hope the video turns out well. (I am writing this later, after some local bubbly and I dare say, they didn’t, turn out, that is…)

Time to pick up Leslie from work and headed to the grocery store. I mysteriously gravitated to the champagne section, again. Bought some fun feather and flower hair pins for my hair (Leo, you’ll love these, they will tickle your nose while you twirl me on the floor) and drove home.

Leslie and Holming are both on the couch with their laptops and I with my alphasmart.

Kinda weird and surreal. Switches are upside down. They use DE-humidifiers here. The outlets have on/off switches and the coke here are in glass bottles and delicious. Now I’ve heard from people who have gone to the Coke factory in Georgia that the recipe changes from country to country so I always make the Coke taste test a top priority.

Irony. Irony is mailing a copy ofthe mailbox key to my dad who can’t get into the mailbox. What was the postman’s name again. Jeze Louise!

So dinner is almost ready. Guess what lucky Nancy is having??? Yep, you guessed it. Lamb. I plan to be rightly sick of it by the time I leave next Friday. The local bubbly is quite good but then the deliriousness (is that a word?) has set in by now, so whatever I say from here on out is nonsense.



Goodnight :^)