28 February 2011

Earthquake Update

I have more fun blogs to post, but I just feel weird doing it with all of the devastation in Christchurch.

An update for those of you not following the stories (found on NZ 3news website): Currently, 50 people are still missing, and 148 bodies have been identified.  Rescue efforts are still ongoing as the recent quake in Haiti showed success rescuing a girl who had survived 15 days under rubble.  About 65 per cent of the city had at least some water yesterday, and power has been restored to about 85 per cent of customers. An estimated 10,000 homes have become uninhabitable as a result of both earthquakes, and anybody with a job in the inner city is dependent on employers being able to set up shop in another part of Christchurch. Today the nation will stop at 12.51pm to observe two minutes' silence as a sign of unity for the people of Christchurch and out of respect for those who lost their lives (Source: Stuff.co.nz).

Pictures of the inside of Christchurch Cathedral have recently been released.  It took 40 years to build this magnificant church, and less than a minute for it to be destroyed by the earthquake.  Officials fear that as many as 40 people could still be trapped inside the rubble.
Watch the full video from which I snagged this image here.

It makes me sick to think that I went to the last Christmas Mass that they'll ever have in that church.  It was an amazing experience, one for which I am very thankful.  I was seated next to a local woman, and during a break after the carols and before the mass, she and I chatted a bit.  We talked about the earthquake that had happened in September as I didn't know much about it.  She said that the church had suffered some damage like much of the city, but nothing too extensive and they had all begun to rebuild.  I commented that the leader of the carols service was fantastic - he was funny, relate-able, and had a fantastic energy about him.  His name was Peter Beck, the Dean of Christchurch Cathedral.  This woman went on to tell me how he had really served as a pillar of strength and inspiration for the congregation during the weeks of uncertainty following the initial quake.  I'm happy to report that Peter was not injured in the quake, and I just hope he can once again serve as a pillar for his community during this unbelievably difficult time.

I've just read that they vow to rebuild the church as it's iconic to the lifeblood of the city.  I hope to one day be able to return to Christchurch to see it built anew, but it's hard to even imagine at this point.  Who knows, maybe I'll head down there sooner than later and help with the clean up.  I do have construction experience!

22 February 2011

Destruction in Christchurch

I wouldn't normally do this, but I want to say I'm sorry for my latest post this morning.  I was traveling the last 5-days, and have only just found out about the unbelievably devastating earthquake that hit Christchurch over the weekend.  I wrote that post a few weeks ago and had very poor timing in publishing it.

To provide some background, a large 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit the city on September 4, 2010.  This quake was very bad, and caused widespread destruction, but when I was in Christchurch in December they were repairing what was broken, and residents were thankful to be moving forward with their lives.  Then on Christmas day, Christchurch was rocked by a strong aftershock, I believe a 5.0, and many buildings had to be evacuated, including the Base Hostel where I had stayed (I left Christchurch on Christmas morning and did not feel this aftershock). 

The effects of yesterday's quake, a 6.3 magnitude, were much worse yesterday than in September.  The epicenter was closer to the earth's surface, and thus caused more widespread damage. 

Base Hostel and the St. Matthew's Church, where I attended Christmas Eve Mass, have been almost destroyed.  Here are before and after pictures of the church:
The pictures of the devastation are unfathomable.  Here is a another church which was under construction while I was there.  See my before picture:
 And the same church today.
 
At this time, at least 65 people have been reported dead, with more than 100 people still missing and feared to be trapped in rubble. 

I can't imagine what I would do if something like this happened in Seattle.  It really makes me thankful for every day.  My heart goes out to you people of Christchurch.  I'm sending you good vibes as you try and recover.  If I learned anything about Kiwi's on my trip, it is that they are a hearty, warm, and resilient people.  My heart is heavy for them today.

Read more about the quake here.  "After" pictures credit goes to NZ Herald.

Gag Gifts

I'm just going to let these pictures speak for themselves...Dirty Kiwi's....

16 February 2011

Restrooms & Changing 'Sheds'

Americans are probably the only people in the world who say they are going to the 'Restroom'.  It's polite...or something.  Most other places, they say Toilet.  It's simple and concise, and frankly I like it better.  I mean, it's not like we're resting when we go to the restroom...

I digress.  The point of this post is to show you some of the more amusing toilet signs from Down Under.

At A.J. Hackett Bungy:
At my favourite, Mac's Brewery:
Note: Most Toilet's have one main entrance, thus the boys and girls being on one sign.  Once you go through the main door, you go through another door to your 'designated area' to do your business.

On a semi-related noted, I was in a soccer jersey store in Auckland and saw these amusing "changing shed" signs.  Pretty sure they mean changing room.  Ha! Changing Shed....crazy Kiwi's....

14 February 2011

Mmm....beer

I don't think it's any secret that I really enjoy beer.  Especially a good microbrew.  With all the traveling I've done, I've come to appreciate that Seattle has some of the best beer in the WORLD.  Seriously.

That being said, I can normally find decent beer on my travels.  Well, I'm sorry New Zealand, you have AMAZING WINE, but you left me wanting when it came to a good microbrew.
I already wrote about my run in Hamner Springs where I spent the night camping alone.  After the run I tried this beer (above) from Monteith's - their "Winter Brew."  As I got up to leave, some Kiwi's invited me over to join them and try their beers, so of course I was happy to oblige.  I tasted the cider, IPA, and porter.  They all looked very different, but they all tasted just like Bud Light!  No offense, I heart But Light (in the right setting), but it was really weird to be drinking a dark beer that tasted so...not dark.
This story repeated itself with most of the beers I tried in NZ...until the discovery of Mac's Brewery that is!   Mac's beers were delicious!  They also had great food!  So much so that I ate at not one, not two, but THREE breweries when I was Down Under!  Look how happy Mac's made me:
 
Not only were their beer's delicious, but the people at Mac's strive to make drinking an enjoyable experience.  They write hilarious descriptions for each of their beers, and even have the pitcher's labeled to maximise amusement.
When a brewery wasn't available, I had to settle for bottled beer.  Don't worry, it wasn't really settling...
Here are some shots from inside the Brewery in Auckland, where they have famous pro-drinking quotes written on their brewing casks.  I've also posted pictures of the beer menu from Wellington.  If you have time, open the pictures in a larger screen and read the descriptions.  Pretty hilarious!
My favourite description?:
In a world that’s up to here with ME-TOO lagers, Black Mac chooses to swim upstream.  As you will soon discover, that stream is dark and rich and it carries mellow hints of caramel.  You’ll also become aware of a suggestion of velvety chocolate floating by on the current.  Frankly, writing this is making me thirsty. 


 A big thank you to Mac's for making my trip beer-tastic!

13 February 2011

Ode to Yield

Driving down under was quite the experience, as I already mentioned.  One HUGE difference, besides driving on the wrong side of the road, was that almost every intersection was either a round-about or had a yield,or 'Give Way', sign.  Occasionally, you'd see stop lights, but only deep in the heart of a city.
 
 
I've done some math, and in total I covered a little over 4,000 km, or 2,200 miles, driving in New Zealand.  That's a LOT of time behind the wheel (on the wrong side of the road I might add).  In that time, I can remember seeing 3 stop-signs.  These people are crazy about their round-abouts! Can't say I blame them - they are so much more efficient!  Reminds me of growing up in Montana driving a 1970 VW Beetle, or Slug Bug as it's affectionately known.  I never wanted to stop because I'd lose all my momentum, and start-up took forever in that 27 horse power little bugger.  It would have been the perfect car for Down Under!

07 February 2011

Down Under Update

I've now been home from my trip one month, meaning I've been back longer than I was gone.  This is always a significant milestone for me because it's generally when I start to feel like I'm finally getting over my PVSD - Post Vacation Slump Disorder.  To get through PVSD, one must go through the 5-stages of recovery: 
  1. Adjust to local time zone
  2. Stop converting things to "American money"
  3. Clean apartment after luggage "throws up on living room"
  4. Sort out trip finances - i.e. I spent how much?
  5. Pick out pictures and share trip stories via blog, facebook, and awesome slide shows
Usually by now I've gone through all of 5 stages and am well on my way to planning (and budgeting for) my next great adventure.  Unfortunately, something just feels a little different from this trip.  Maybe it's the fact that, due to a massive technology FAIL, I've lost about 1,500 pictures - pictures from, probably, the most epic day of the trip.  Or maybe it's because I spent 2,200 miles in the car (4,000 kilometres) and drove on what are said to be the most iconic and scenic roads in the world, yet all I really saw was a bunch of fog and rain.  That's right, I drove right past Mt. Cook and never even saw it!

Don't get me wrong, my trip was GREAT, but I also can't help but feeling like New Zealand hates me a little.  At the very least, the weather gods are clearly out to get me.  RECORD rainfall in New Zealand while I was there - FOUR TIMES the monthly annual average!  I've got to look on the bright side - at least I experienced history right? - and now I'll just have to go back and do it all over! 

I do have some good pictures, and I'm coming up with blog theme ideas to be able to share them.  To tide you over in the meantime, check out this blog from Inspiring Travelers about the Tongariro Crossing on the North Island (thanks to Ryan Thurston for finding this for me).  This epic one-day trek takes you past Mt. Ngauruhoe, also known as Mt. Doom from the Lord of the Rings and then onto the iconic Emerald Lakes.  I did this hike, and even hiked to the top of Mt. Ngauruhoe and skreed (slid down the mountain on my feet - look for another blog on this topic soon) to the bottom, but by the time I got to the Emerald Lakes the fog was so thick I couldn't even see them, and I was mere feet away.  That's kind of the story of my trip.

Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but I am working on some stuff to put a more positive spin on things, so check back soon!  And to leave you with something to smile about this Monday morning, check out this shot of the Pacific Northwest's own Rogue Brew.
Not to hate on Kiwi's, but their beer was terrible.  All of the beers looked very different, but tasted exactly like Bud Light - with one exception which I will tell you more about later.  So you can imagine my elation when I saw this in Wellington!  I *almost* bought it, but at $21.99 per 22oz, it seemed a little steep.  That's roughly $16 USD!  These babies sell for about $7 in the US - but then again those beers haven't traveled 4,000 miles!