Hanmer Happenings

All of us chowing down on thai food after a long day of travelling

So our stay at Hanmer is almost over now. I haven't covered the last couple days of the trip though so here it goes! 
Hanmer is the wannabe Mt. Hutt. You see, as you can see from my Route It Out post, we were supposed to go to Mt. Hutt directly after Hokitika. But there was simply absolutely no snow to ski on, so Mt. Hutt didn't seem as thrilling anymore without the whole skiing thing. So Mom and Dad, I read your last couple comments and could hear the concern through your demands to be super careful on the slopes, but no worries! No skiing for any of us. Definitely a bummer, but instead, we changed our route a bit and ended up in Hanmer. And luckily Peter and Gemina pulled some strings and planned us a very nice replacement day in lieu of skiing. But before I get to that, I want to tell you all a bit about our day of travelling from Hokitika to Hanmer.
It was a long one indeed. Probably the longest bus ride of the trip. But our long exhausting bus rides are never complete without many stops along the way! We drove through this historic place called Arthur's Pass and stopped at the information center to learn a bit more about it. That's where I get this bad boy:

We were just about to get back on the bus and this parrot was sitting on top of the roof of the outdoor bathrooms. I snapped a shot straight into the sun just as the bird was flying away and this is what showed up on my preview. Definitely one of my favorite silhouette pictures of the whole trip!

Ecstatic about my crazy parrot shot, I got back on the bus with a smile plastered on my face. It wasn't long before I realized we were stopping again at this place 20 minutes or so away called Castle Hill. This place was unbelievably beautiful and so peaceful. In fact, it was named a "Spiritual Center of the Universe" by the Dalai Lama in 2002. 

We all got out our packed up lunches and had a nice picnic with the sun beating down on us. It's always refreshing when you finally get to shed a couple layers as the sun comes out when you initially thought it was going to be another frigid day outside. Ulla and her fiance, Sebastian, had tagged along with us to drive to Hanmer because her session with us wasn't over quite yet. Once we arrived at Castle Hill, Sebastian, was ready to climb some of the huge boulders. He climbed up some different ones for us so we could snap some shots. 

Once we left Castle Hill, it was all driving from there. We finally made it to Hanmer and celebrated with some Thai cuisine. We then woke up this morning ready for our activities Peter and Gemina had planned for us to make up for not being able to ski. Instead of skiing in Mt. Hutt, we got to go horseback riding and then hit up the Hanmer hot springs Spa! Horseback riding was a blast; I can't even think of the last time I got on a horse! We got to go on this long trail, went up some hills, and by the end of the trail, we could see the whole town of Hanmer. Absolutely beautiful. After some fun horseback riding, we came back into town for a quick lunch at a yummy bakery and then to the Spa we went! It was very different from the one we went to in Franz Josef, but still just as fun! The Franz Josef spa was much more relaxing and calm, while this spa in Hanmer was more like a waterpark! They had a bunch of different hot pools but then they also had a variety of slides and other water activities. As miserably cold the walk was from one pool to another, or the pool to one of the slides, it was all definitely worth it. After the Spa we came back to the hostel and freshened up and then went to dinner at one of the most delicious places we've dined the whole trip! Ulla made her last presentation while we waited for our food to come out and everyone else in the restaurant was very intrigued by all of her pictures and work displayed on the projector. She had a bunch of amazing pictures and stories to show us yet again. Before we knew it, dinner was done and we all had to say goodbye to Ulla. I was so sad to see her go! She was such a fun soul to have around the last few days! We all miss you already Ulla. 
Well now I'm laying in my bed, ready to get some serious sleep before our drive to Christchurch tomorrow morning. I cannot believe that my stay in New Zealand is ending so soon. It feels like I've been away for so long but it went by so fast all at the same time. Once we're in Christchurch tomorrow we're checking out some of the earthquake damage and taking pictures here and there. Then from there we're catching up on our photography work and enjoying our last moments in New Zealand. Then Friday morning we fly out of Christchurch to Fiji! Can't believe I'll be in Fiji in like a day! Cannot wait!!

Lastly, I would like to wish the man I look up to most in my life, my daddy, a wonderful happy happy belated Father's Day. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to actually post something on the actual day. But I love you so much, miss you so much, and want to thank you for being the most fantastic father a girl could ever ask for.


Hokitika Updates

So you can probably gather from my previous post, Route It Out, that we are now in Hokitika. We arrived here mid morning yesterday and it's yet another lovely little town full of beautiful sights and picture taking opportunities! The most exciting thing about this spot is not the town, however. But the person we got to meet once we arrived here! Ulla Lohmann, our National Geographic professional photographer, finally was able to meet up with us here in Hoktika after many failed attempts to get here. Because of the volcanic eruption in Chile, flights have been delayed recently because of all the ash. In fact, I don't think I ever told you all this, but back in Te Anau we walked outside the first day and there was something falling from the sky. Naturally, we thought it was snow, but it turned out to be ash! Coming all the way from Chile! Pretty weird.

Anyways, Ulla goes beyond all my expectations. She has travelled all over the world, discovered an ancient tribe in Papa New Guinea, lived and worked on a boat for a year and a half traveling all across the globe, photographs volcanoes, speaks numerous languages, is originally from Germany, and is the sweetest, most genuine, passionate, adventurous, and talented woman I have ever met. I've only known her for two days and I cannot begin to tell you how much she has inspired me. Not only in just photography, but in living life to it's fullest as well. Having her here with us to teach certain techniques and help us improve our photography has already had a major influence on me. Her passion for photography and adventure motivates me to get the perfect shot so I can run and show her. I am loving having her around!

My two photography idols. Ulla on the left and Mrs.Bottoms on the right :)
So yesterday once we introduced ourselves to Ulla and all got acquainted, we grabbed a quick lunch, and went on our way to a gorge a little bit outside of Hokitika. Once we were there, Ulla challenged us to use different angles and asked us what we could do to make our photograph unique. We walked on this long swing bridge and once I was on the other side, I totally got my creeper on. I waited for other families to walk the bridge and eagerly took pictures of them. They seemed to be fine as they naturally modeled for me. 

After spending a couple hours at the gorge, we drove back into town and then walked to a nearby beach. This beach was beautiful- the sand is a much darker color and the waves are huge. We all went camera crazy once Ulla told us to capture the perfect shot explaining how we felt while on the beach. 

After the beach we all had a delicious dinner. As we were driving home from dinner, Gemina and Peter announced that the woman who owns the hostel we were staying at was in a photography club and her and the other members invited all of us into her home to listen to Ulla's first presentation about her photography studies. It was so neat to hear more about Ulla and her amazing stories. Her fiance definitely proposed to her on top of a volcano. And they have an unreal silhouette picture of the engagement on the volcano! How sweet is that?! Hearing what Ulla had to say about photography and her work and being able to experience that in a living room of a random house full of people who have the same love for photography was a really sentimental moment for all of us. 

We woke up Monday morning with a whole new motivation to get great photographs. After hearing Ulla's talk the night before and seeing the extreme measures she went through on a daily basis, everyone seemed a bit more determined. We ate a quick breakfast and got on the bus for a long bus ride to see the Paunakaiki Pancake Rocks. Just as we were pulling into the small town, however, our bus ran out of gas. Our poor bus driver Carl felt awful, but we took it as an excuse to walk through the town and explore before we went to the pancake rocks. It was quite a funny scene when we were all walking on the side of the freeway with cameras around our necks, trekking through the town. But the trek was definitely worth it because the Pancake Rocks were amazing! It was a great spot for pictures. We walked into this mini rainforest, tall blades of grass forming a tunnel towering over us, and then we turned the corner and the waves blast against these flat looking rocks, forming the neatest looking shot. Once we fooled around in there for quite some time, we got back on the bus, but before we were on our way back to our hostel, we stopped at a place called Truman Track; another rainforest path leading you to a rough tide shore. The lighting was just right once the rainforest opened up to the beach. So naturally, I totally got my silhouette pictures on. With some helpful tips from Ulla of course!

We came back to our hostel, exhausted, ready for some grub. We stuffed our faces with some pizza and then were on our merry way, headlamps secured on our foreheads, on a 2 minute walk to the glow worm caves. It was pitch black once we turned our headlamps off to get some glow worm shots, but it was a really fun night activity! 


Route It Out

As you all read my posts and follow me across my journey through New Zealand, I seem to write about these towns and cities as if you all know where they all are. I had no idea how our journey was going to play out and how we were going to be able to see all these places in just two weeks. And I had no idea what places we were going to until Gemina read over our itinerary the first night. So I thought it would be beneficial to y'all if I showed a map of New Zealand and list my route for the trip!

From Houston we flew to LA and from LA we flew to Auckland, New Zealand. Then from Auckland we flew to Queenstown and that's where our official journey began. 
1. Te Anau
2. Queenstown
3. Wanaka
4. Franz Josef
5. Hokitika
6. Mt. Hutt
7. Christchurch

And then off to FIJI! 
[thanks to Google images for this bad boy]


Thursday, June 16, 2011 & Friday, June 17,2011

Okay everyone. Brace yourselves for a long post because I am going to cover two days. Are we all ready? Okay good.
So we are currently in Franz Joseph; the smallest town yet. Seriously. Like there is a glacier called the Franz Joseph glacier here and I think that's the only reason there's a town here. There's one working restaurant that we've gone to twice now to have dinner, one souvenir shop, and a few hostels. And that's about it, folks. But it's really nice and quaint and I like it a lot. We've finally had today to completely relax. I totally slept in until 10:30 and have been appreciating every second of it. Right now it's Saturday the 18th and it's around 12:30. We haven't done anything today and it has been so nice. We are catching ourselves up on picture uploading and blogging and resting time after our exhausting glacier hike yesterday and I think it's safe to say everyone is enjoying this breather day. The first rainfall of our trip is pounding away on our hostel roofs and it couldn't be more calming as I lay in my actually comfortable bed and reflect on the last two days of the trip so I can share them all with you on my blog! ( that was horrible grammar and that's like the most complex sentence ever but hopefully you still get the point)

So let's rewind a couple days so I can give you all a recap.

Thursday, June 16, 2011
Another long day. But they all seem to be quite long at this point. We packed our bags and loaded on the bus for another travelling day from Wanaka to Franz Joseph. What was supposed to be a four hour bus ride turned out to be a 7 hour bus ride if you include our stop for lunch and all of our little picture taking stops. The long ride was definitely worth it though. As we drove from one side of the island to the other, it was so neat to see how it transformed. At one point we are surrounded by mountains as if they are caving in on us and then we are driving through a tunnel made of trees into this beautiful rainforest and then as we emerse through the tunnel, a beautiful beach is awaiting us. As the bus pulled over, we eagerly piled out, ready to dip our feet in the sand and run across the shore. At this beach, people from all over the world use sharpies and write on the beautiful pebbles and have created this long message thread that lines the start of the beach. We decided to make a National Geographic rock and all signed it and placed it with the others. And then of course, Michael and I had to make our own too because we're cool like that.

Here's some other shots I took at the beach:

If you haven't noticed yet, I seem to be taking a bunch of silhouette pictures. For part of our work for this trip, we have to do an On Assignment Project and I've chosen silhouettes. So hope you aren't sick of my silhouette pictures because they are going to keep on comin!

After we stopped at the beach, we loaded back up on the bus and continued on our way to Franz Joseph. Once we got to Franz Joseph, we settled in our cozy little hostel here and then went out to that one restaurant where literally the whole town hangs out. When we were walking around the town it was deserted. Then we walked into the restaurant and realized that's where everyone who lives in the town is. All the time. 
Then we went to bed early to get a good night's rest for the big glacier hike the next day.

Friday, June 17th, 2011
We woke up early ( I feel like I write that "we woke up early" every day so I apologize for the repetition) and got on the bus to go to the glacier hiking place. I was so scared. I woke up with nerves in my stomach and was not looking forward to the hike. But after putting their smelly pants, their clunky boots, and their waterproof jackets on, there wasn't much I could do to prepare myself anymore, so we started our hike through the rainforest and to the glacier we went! 
Much to my surprise, I actually thoroughly enjoyed the glacier hike. Trust me, I'm just as surprised as you all are. ( Sterett and Tess, if you are reading this, please refrain all laughs and jokes about me not being athletic) We split into groups and Kelsey, Brittany, Mrs. Bottoms, Lindsey, and I decided to form the "slower more pathetic" group and the pace was almost TOO slow for even me! I'm proud to say that I was the first person behind the guide on the hike the whole entire time! I was an eager little glacier hiker. ( Sterett and Tess, this is where you comment on my blog and tell me y'all are proud of me. P.S. I miss you two so much)

Here's some shots from the glacier hike:

Kelsey peeking through a little tunnel we all got to go through in the glacier.
Unlike anything I've ever seen before.

Kelsey, Britt, Me, Mrs, Bottoms, and Lindsey with our glacier guide, Rob. 
Rob leading the way as we hiked through the glacier. They had man-made stairs and everything! So nifty!
The slower pace group chilling in the glacier tunnel. What a fun day!
Our glacier hike came to an end and we loaded back on the bus, more exhausted than ever, with an aching sore covering our body from the combination of our glacier hike and our mountain hike a couple days prior. We all shed our sweaty layers and flung ourselves in our beds, just before Peter and Gemina ran in all the rooms surprising us with the news: "Get your swimsuits out kiddos, we're going to the glacier hot pools!" Yeah, that's right. I said swimsuits. I never thought my swimsuit would see the light of day while still in New Zealand. But alas, there I was, opening my Fiji stuff tucked into the very bottom of my suitcase to grab my swimsuit. We arrived at the glacier hot pool Spa and I'm not going to lie, it's definitely been one of my favorite things about New Zealand so far. This spa was in the middle of the rainforest! It was SO neat and relaxing. They had four different pools with all different temperatures: some colder, some super hot. Unfortunately, I couldn't get any pictures because I decided to not bring Cam the Cam along for the Spa Adventure, but I snagged one off of google for you all to get a glimpse of what it was like:

After the relaxing glacier hot pools, we went back to the same trust restaurant we had dined at the night before. It was still just as yummy :) 
And THEN came back to the common room at our hostel and surprised Gemina with a birthday cake and trick candles and had a huge dance party to celebrate her 25th! It was definitely the longest and most exhausting day, but also one of my favorites.
And finally, this post is coming to a close. Now back to more relaxing and working on our pictures on this rainy, calming day.
Miss you all. 10 days until I'm back in Htown kiddos. Just 10 short days.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What a long two days it has been! I know I haven't posted anything since the night before our puzzle world adventure in Wanaka, so I must provide you all with updates! Yesterday morning we woke up early and all walked down to the beach with tripods in hand just before the sun was rising to capture the beautiful sunrise. It was so peaceful to stand there in my selected area with tripod legs pushed into the sand as I watched the clouds make way for the sun to brighten the lake and highlight the details in the mountains standing before me.

After numerous sunrise shots, we all decided it was time for some much anticipated breakfast. But not before we all lined up our tripods in a line to take some group shots of us in front of the beautiful scenery! We were all laughing hysterically as we all lined up our tripods, stood by them as we counted to three, and all simultaneously ran to the shore to get in place so we could make it in time for the picture. After many failed attempts of half of the group being in the shot, or all of us being out of focus, or none of our eyes being open, I ended up getting this shot. And I ended up loving it more than I would have liked just a regular group photo. Cars drove by us and must have thought we were crazy. But at this point we are pretty used to the odd stares we get as we all run around like crazies snapping away. 

After a yummy breakfast back at the hostel we were staying at in Wanaka, we got on the bus and drove to Puzzle World! Puzzle World was crazy. Wanaka is this cozy little town right on the lake up in the mountains, which was why I was so shocked that Wanaka of all places had this crazy place called puzzle World! I haven't seen anything like this place. It's almost like Ripley's Believe It or Not, but even cooler. This place had multiple rooms; filled with optical illusions, artistic puzzles, a challenging maze outside, and this crazy warped room where everything was at an angle. Literally. You walk in, and you think you are standing up straight, but this is how it looks when you are standing:

Real talk.
Then Michael, Sarah, Britt, and I decided to brave the maze and boy was it challenging. We definitely cheated multiple times and climbed over fences and under walls to get to all the different towers. But it was still so fun!
Loving our self-timers for these shots. Love these kiddos too :)
Then after Puzzle World, Peter and Gemina decided it would be fun to hike up a mountain. Me, not so much. But it was definitely a good experience. It was not my favorite activity of the trip, but it did challenge me and bring out my more outdoorsy side. Didn't really know I had it in me!
Then last night after our exhausting hike, we decided to order in delicious pizza and call it a night early. But not before we had the chance to work with our tripods some more and some super slow shutter speeds and make some crazy glow light pictures!

Pretty neat, huh?


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Michael and Sarah trying out some goofy hats. Queenstown definitely knows whatsup with the hats.
So Queenstown was a total success. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner last night in Queenstown at this restaurant called Flame. Lindsey, Sarah, Carson, and I decided to order the Combo Meal and it ended up being huge... such a big deal that we had bibs. There will be pictures up later on that, don't you worry.  And today was SO fun! We finally got to wander around a little in smaller groups today as we ventured through Queenstown and it was a blast! Shopping, picture taking, and the warmest weather we've had the whole trip all came together to make this my favorite day of the trip so far. We all had breakfast at this cute little bakery a couple blocks away from our hostel and it was delicious! I tried my first meat pie and I must say it was pretty yummy. Michael made me have a bite of his and I ended up having to beg Gemina to let me buy one for myself. Then we all split up in smaller groups and Sarah, Michael, Brittany, Alex, and I all went with Ms. Bottoms to do some shopping and exploring! We had such a fun time and got some pretty neat things too. Then we all met back up again and after a quick photoshoot in a really neat old cemetery, we all decided to ride the gondola to the top of one of the hills to see yet another beautiful view of New Zealand. 

We snapped a bunch of pictures and then all had a lovely lunch, surrounded by huge windows overlooking New Zealand. Then we loaded back on the bus and headed for our next stop: Wanaka! To get to Wanaka, we had to drive up the highest road in New Zealand! Pretty professional stuff. So we got settled into our new hostel in Wanaka and then went to Bombay Palace and had Indian food. Michael and I could not help but laugh at our ignorance with Indian food. All of the students and I were a little skeptical at first, but it ended up being quite a fun dinner! Well I'm off to bed; I'm exhausted! After all that shopping and eating, I need some sleep! Gotta get up bright and early tomorrow morning with my tripod ready for some early morning sunrise pictures! Then off to some maze exploring and optical illusion puzzle trails and special things that Wanaka has to offer. Can't wait! :)

P.S. If you click on My Photography tab at the top right above this post, you'll see a bunch of pictures that I've taken so far on the trip! I'll be updating that periodically when I have internet connection and time. Enjoy!


Monday, June 13, 2011

After a relaxing day yesterday spent becoming even closer with our tight-knit group and another delicious breakfast this morning, we were off! We packed our bags again and loaded everything on the bus and were on the road again, heading back to Queenstown to stay there for the night. But on the way we stopped at a sheep farm! It was quite the experience. Seeing these super smart dogs herd all the wandering sheep was priceless! It made me miss my puppy at home. But anyways, I don’t think I will ever take that many pictures of sheep ever again. Seriously. I have like hundreds of pictures from today and they are all of sheep. Too funny. 

So now we’re in Queenstown staying at this really sweet hotel called Nomads. It’s really unfortunate that we are only in Queenstown one night because it’s a really neat place. It’s a nice change from the unpopulated little town we’ve stayed in for the last couple days. But I’ve heard some really great things about Queenstown and it’s fun nightlife and it’s awesome people so I’m excited to see what it has to offer! Besides what’s going on here, with all these long bus rides to different locations and early bedtimes, I have a lot more time than I thought I would to think about home and how much I miss it. Not having any way of communicating with anyone back home is hard, but I know it will all be worth it in the end. Just know that I am thinking of you all and I’m missing you a ton and wishing you were all here to share this amazing experience with me. It’s weird to think that in a month and a half, being far from home will be normal. I’m going to college this fall and it’s starting to really hit me. I’m not one to get very homesick, but I have found myself getting sentimental multiple times on the trip. But with us all being such a close group already, I think I’ll get by just fine!