Sunday, March 23, 2008

2-27-08 New Zealand

Well, here's the post finally. I started typing it less than 10 hours before we left the country. New Zealand was definitely different, for so many reasons, than Thailand. Not just the culture, but the way we interacted with it. Anyways, here goes our NZ story!

The plane ride to NZ was GREAT! We ate so much food, and since we were so deprived of anything but Thai food for so long it was AWESOME! On one of the flights we even had ice cream! We drank wine with our meals, and the carts wouldn't stop coming! There were all the movies we could possibly want to watch "on demand," as well as ridiculous games we could play (Nath got hooked on a bad version of Tetris for hours).

When we got off the plane, we promptly realized that we were missing a bag when the carousel kept spinning and our bag didn't come out. It was, of course, the trad climbing gear... :( We went over to the Qantas desk, where they promptly gave us about 63 NZ dollars! Bonus! We called our car rental company and someone picked us up in minutes with our new home!

Since it was peak season, EVERY hostel was full in all of Christchurch so we went to KMart and bought ourselves a budget tent - only $60! So far we had already landed a free tent with 3 dollars left over! We found a "Top 10 Holiday Park" to camp since we had no idea what else to do, and learned about a recurring theme in New Zealand: everything is prohibitively expensive!!! It was about $35 to CAMP! Yes, they have extensive facilities at the place, but all we needed was 2 x 1.5 meters for the tent. Nath did some quick math and pointed out that if we were to camp there for a month, that would be over $1000!!!

We headed into Christchurch in the morning, and continued our shopping for our ourdoor gear. We picked up some sleeping pads, and after visiting a few out door stores realized that while our tent was too small and the cheapest thing I've ever seen, there's no way we would buy anything else due to the fact they started around $300 and quickly went up from there! That made me happy to sleep in our little tent where my head and feet both touched the walls... We might have been able to find a cheaper tent at one of the stores like the army surplus store, but there was another trend to our trip we discovered: Everything closes early in New Zealand. It was Saturday, and by 5pm the city was dead! We ended up rushing around in order to purchase the last few things we needed before everything closed. We grabbed some some kebabs at a Turkish restaurant where Nathalie finally realized what people were talking about when they said the lamb here was good, and then we were off!

That night we cruised out to Craigieburn where there is some free camping right next to the world famous Castle Hill! Castle Hill was amazingly beautiful. I wish we still had the pictures. The rock formations are something that could be out of a modern art exhibition, but huge and beautiful. We rolled in late at night and ended up meeting a bunch of climbers who were still awake and planning on heading to Flock Hill, one of the lesser climbed areas near Castle Hill. They invited us, and we packed our backpacks since they wanted to stay the night, and off we went in the morning. We hiked into the beautiful playground in the morning, and then at somepoint dropped the packs and started searching for things to climb. There's no guide to Flock Hill, so you just look around for things to climb. It was a blast! I'm sure nothing was a first ascent, but everything had that feel since we didn't know how hard stuff was, and we had to figure out how to do all the moves without seeing chalk on all the holds. The rock is limestone with beautiful curving rounded features carved into it by wind and rain. If you want to see pictures of the area, do a google image search for "bouldering castle hill" for an idea of what I'm talking about. Unfortunately, all of the problems are "reachy," and Nath was completely shut down by essentially all of the boulder problems that we found. Power and technique only gets you so far if you can't even reach the holds!

We stayed the night, got rained on in our tarp that we had brought up, and woke up to more rain. We decided to hike out, and after we got back to the campground the day cleared up quite nicely. I wanted to get one more day of exploration and bouldering in since Nath wanted to leave, so we headed to the world famous Quantum Hill and Flock Hill where most of the developed climbing is. It took me a few hours of wandering around (literally) to be able to spot a line since the rock is much less featured, but by the end of the day I found an area where I went on a rampage bouldering and soloing everything I could find. It was a spectacular 2-3 hours by myself while Nath worked on writing her blog for Thailand. The bouldering there is truly world class, but in a league of its own. The routes are predominantly slopers and big pockets, and no other climbing I've ever seen could get you ready for it. The moves are always reachy, but at my height that wasn't a problem. I'd say it's worth visiting if you're in the area, but if you're not a hard core boulderer, then it's not a destination in and of itself. That said, it's probably the highest quality climbing on the south island that I saw, and I went to most of the best places.

Eventually, at the end of the day, we hopped in the car and headed off for our next destination: Mt. Cook!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Photos de THAILAND Pictures!!!!

We FINALLY have the pictures up for Thailand at the following location!
Unfortunately, Josh's digital camera was lost in NZ and so we lost most of our pictures from NZ.... On the bright side, we should be able to finish uploading NZ quicker as a result! We'll start working on the NZ blog ASAP. We fly to Melbourne, Australia in the morning.

Nos photos de la Thailande sont FINALEMENT la!!! (Cliquez le lien ci-haut). Ca en a pris du temps... Mais profitez-en, car malheureusement la camera de Josh est disparue avec la majorite de nos photos de la Nouvelle-Zelande... Plus de nouvelles bientot!

Nath and Josh