Feb 25, 2015

Attack in the night!

Our first night with the camper car were bumbling about inside attempting to set up the sleeping area when were heard a distinct rustling sound coming from amid the grasses outside. Soon these nocturnal noises became a source of alarm, with shining of flashlights to determine the source, but every time there was nothing to be seen. The situation was tense. Unknown beasts stalked us in the dark, and having committed to carry-on luggage we had no defense from our imminent predation. The sounds seemed you surround us on every side. Then I heard the rapid patter of tiny feet across the roof of the car. We had parked on top of a massive nest of mice.

Throughout the night I continued to hear them running all over the car, seeming to sense the loaf of bread tucked into the driver’s seat, seeking to gain entrance for the purpose of unimaginable nibblage as we slept. At one point there was a definite exchange of fisticuffs taking place on the rear bumper, just inches from my head.

Queenstown to Christchurch

For the trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound we picked up a charming Danish hitchhiker named Helle who was able to enlighten us on the virtues of possum fur as well as providing other entertainment (and salami) during the awe-inspiring drive.

On the road to Milford Sound

Milford Sound itself proved to be a largely uninhabited launch point for cruises only accessible through a death-defying one-way tunnel.

Tunnel to Milford Sound

A bit later we found ourselves in Christchurch, coincidentally on the 4th anniversary of the tragic earthquake which so scarred that city.

Christchurch Cathedral

But the somber memorial service gave way to a triumphant tune from the band. It is clear that the city is fighting hard to reclaim what has been lost. Many shops (and even banks) have been reconstituted in shipping containers, which now serve the citizens of Chirstchurch the finest wares and services from within walls of corrugated steel.

Re:Start, Chirstchurch

Feb 20, 2015

First photo evidence

Let me preface this entry by letting you now that I jotted it down in my notebook sitting here:

Lake Wakatipu outside of Glenorchy

That's right, the view is so big it doesn't fit on the internet; NOT EVEN CLOSE. But I'm getting ahead of things...

Back in the US I had been putting the finishing touches on final plans and frantic packing with a little time for some snowboarding (video thanks to Tim Ramsey). As I closed the final zipper of my backpack a profound sense of calm took hold. Things were now ready and the NEroute journey would begin. First stop: New Zealand.

The NZ air is most striking to the senses; almost offensively so. It is so sweet, pure, and clear that even amid the jetwashed asphalt of Auckland airport, somehow the environment had endeavored that the most prominent aroma be fresh flowers. It was as if we were in a greenhouse nurturing the blossoms of paradise rather than nurturing the bounty of Chinese tourists on holiday to welcome the year of the sheep. The final approach to Queenstown lent some stunning aerial views, but for here on until Mandalay we would be leaving air travel for the challenge of less lofty transport.

Upon emerging from the cabin I was fully struck by that other quality of the air as the mountains loomed and rolled off into the distance of Lake Wakatipu, all resonating with vibrant colour through the crystaline atmosphere.

View over Queenstown, New Zealand

It is a particular tragedy of the industrial revolution that has shrouded many of the planet's greatest views in haze. Once, Emperor Tiberius was able to gaze upon vast swaths of his empire from Napoli down the entirely of the Amalfi Coast from atop his cliffs in Capri. The same view is no longer possible for us commoners who are now permitted to amble Tiberius' Leap. The same forces that banished the dominion of empires have also veiled the majestic vistas of antiquity. Fortunately in New Zealand we can find preserved a slice of that majesty.

Two somewhat more commonplace forces have quite clearly shaped the tourism landscape of New Zealand and Queenstown in recent years: The popular Tolkien-based movies of Peter Jackson have popularized the country as a whole. This is evident from the sheer number of Hobbit films available on our Air New Zealand flight and the flight safety video featuring Elijah Wood with sundry other characters. The bungy-jumping crusade of Mr. A. J. Hackett in the 1980s followed by his establishment of the first commercial bungy jump in Queenstown put the pin in the town as the primary hub of extreme sports entertainment. I'll leave you with this:

Queenstown Ledge Bungy

Feb 17, 2015

Queenstown, NZ

We are here! Thanks to our amazing donors, as of touching down here we are at an estimated $7,200 in pledges to World Education and Doctors without Borders! Currently Nick (Doctors without Borders) is winning by $103. We're quite close, but I (World Education) will pull ahead yet.

After months of planning (and what feels like months of flying) we've finally begun. Adding to the list of reasons to try to get to Burma without flying - intrigue, challenge, and greener travel - we can now add the fact that I don't even want to look at another airplane for as long as we can manage. **Obligatory reinforcement to our parents that yes, we're still planning to fly home... eventually**

The flights themselves were actually not that bad, but anytime you need to take 3 legs to fly somewhere it's going to be less than a cake walk. Wait, now I'm thinking about cake. Do they have cake in New Zealand? Do they have something called cake but it will be different, like ordering chips in England? The important questions. Not that I'm even a huge fan of cake, it's just going to be so exciting discovering things like this while we travel.

Anyway, the flights here. Relatively painless, not a cake walk. In NZ time our flights went:
1pm - 3pm
6pm - 7am
12pm - 2pm

so it really worked out with setting our internal clocks to NZ time. The idea was to stay awake on both short flights as well as the first few hours of the looong flight, sleeping the last 8 hours of that one. Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men...
Side note: I actually had to look this up, the ending to that quote if you want to get fancy is "often go awry."
Well that's the English paraphrasing of the original Scots "Gang aft agley." Impress your friends.

I watched the first hobbit movie, dozed uncomfortably in and out for a while, then gave up and watched the second hobbit movie. I guess it worked out decently, though. It's 4 pm here now and if we stay up for just a few hours more we should be fine in the morning. Piece of cake. Oh no, not cake again. Easy as pie? I think I'm hungry. Time to try some local cuisine!

Thus we begin.

Feb 16, 2015

Bag Contents

As we sit at our connection here in Auckland (yes, we are technically in New Zealand, although my family's rule has always been "you can't count that you've been somewhere if you haven't left the airport," so I won't actually be declaring that "we're here" until we leave the Queenstown airport) I will give an inventory if the bags we brought with us. A big thank you to my mother for typing out all these objects I named as I was spreading them out over her table and floor:

On my back:
sports bra
tee shirt
zip off pants
main pair of shoes (Merrell waterproof Azura)

In my pack:
mini toothpaste
dental floss
travel shaving cream & razer
mouthguard (anti grinding)
1.6 oz deodorant
nail clipper
travel comb
sleep mask
13 pairs earplugs
3 oz concentrated biodegradable laundry detergent
1 oz 98% DEET
sewing kit (bandaids for our clothes)
minimal feminine products
tampon alternative (diva cup - google it if you want to know more about me than you ever needed to)
- tested, appears to work well
female stand to urinate device
- have not tested, am terrified of it
emergency whistle
emergency water purification tablets
uti medicine
100 malaria tablets
cranberry pills
doTerra OnGuard beadlets
2 mini sunscreens
NEroute business cards
lucky jade elephant named Isabella
laminated picture of Nick (in case we get separated)
personal/backup debit card
shared debit card
personal credit card
2 shared credit cards
driver’s license
NYC and DC subway passes (don't know where we'll come home to)
emergency US $$
reading light
1 unlined notebook
1 lined notebook
1 dotted line notebook
cell phone
shared charger for cell and kindle
2 large garbage bags
cigarette case
2 pens
1 deck playing cards
1 camera w/ 3 extra batteries w/ batt charger and car adapter
3 SD cards 1.0gb, 256mb, 512mb (for the go pro in Nick's bag)
plug adapter for :
  • GB, Ireland, Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore
  • South Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia, Caribbean
  • Northern Europe
  • Japan, South America, Caribbean
  • Australia, NZ, Fiji, China

waterproof phone case on lanyard
sleep sack
day pack
Documents folder containing:
  • Australian e-visas
  • NEroute campaign info packet
  • proof of bank funds (E)
  • proof of bank funds (N)
  • proof of vaccinations (E)
  • proof of vaccinations (N)
  • International driving permit (E&N)
  • 6 passport photos (N)
  • 1 passport photo (E)
  • 3 copies of each Passport
  • list of countries which honor Intl driving permit
  • doxycycline Rx (malaria tabs)
  • eyeglass Rx (N)
  • copy of American insurance card
1 pair zip off pants
2 pairs black shorts
1 skirt
1 bathing skirt
1 one piece bathing suit
1 bikini
1 pair harem pants
2 regular bras
1 sports bra
8 panties
1 tank top
1 nice shirt
4 tee shirts
7 pairs socks
1 bandana
1 pair flip flops
1 pair nice(er) sandals
1 windbreaker/shell
1 sweater
1 pack hygiene wipes
3 oz shampoo/conditioner
pack rain fly
1 USB drive

On Nick's back:
tee shirt
main pair of shoes (Sperry Top-Sider)

In Nick's pack:
"I finished packing while you were laying out all your things on the floor" - Nick

Feb 14, 2015

Amateur Barbering

Don't you hate it when you put on your backpack and it pulls your hair out? Or when you don't have access to a proper shower for days and your long hair gets super icky? (Short hair gets icky too, there's just less of it to be grossed out by)

Well with this tried and true method you won't have to worry about swarms of terrifying Australian killer insects making a nest in your hair. You won't have to wait hours to dry off after you fall into a river in Thailand. You can even forget to brush it for 6 days and nobody will notice! Watch and learn, my friends.