Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas in New Zealand

The holiday season has been a bit different for Jess and I this year, the strangest thing of course being the weather. It has been quite odd having Christmas in the summer, and it has certainly been a departure from our normal 'white' Christmas adjusting to the Kiwi tradition of beach and barbecue on Christmas Day. While we both missed our families and friends this season, we did our best to make the most of our summer Christmas by being the ultimate beach bums. In fact we spent Christmas Day, and the three days leading up to it, at four different beaches!

This leads to a beach
Our Summer Christmas Beach Extravaganza began on the Saturday before Christmas with a visit to Tunnel Beach. Why is it called Tunnel Beach you might ask? Because you walk down a Tunnel to reach it. The beach itself was beautiful. It was a small, pristine, and mostly empty stretch carved out of the surrounding cliffs. The water was also relativity warm, as the beach was somewhat sheltered. The best part though was the view. We'd never been to a beach before that was carved out of the rock in such a way. It was quite the experience. And though it was summer and we couldn't make a snow man we tried the next best thing.

Hey Mr. Sandman

There were in fact cliffs
View from the beach

Tunnel Beach

It's December!

Holland America Y'all
The next stop on our beach extravaganza was Aramoana Beach. Aramoana is a bit outside of Dunedin, right past Port Chalmers. The water of Otago Harbor is too shallow near the city, so most of the large container ships and cruise ships that stop here dock in Port Chalmers, about 15 minutes up the shore. After stopping there to ogle at the cruise ship in port, we drove up the coast another 10 minutes or so to Aramoana. The drive was a bit hair-raising, as the road was incredibly narrow. While Jess had driven before for work, this road was my first experience driving on the 'wrong' side of the road. It was quite the tutorial.

The beach itself was not nearly as beautiful as Tunnel Beach, but it was still pretty fantastic. The best part though was the wildlife. Not only did we see a number of sea lions but we also saw a pod of dolphins. They swam right up to a walkway near shore, racing each other and playing in the water right next to us for about about 10 minutes. It was pretty incredible.

Aramoana Beach

Beaching it up in December

It's a Dolphin!

We also attempted to take a video of the dolphins with Jess' camera. It did not go as well as we had hoped. If you are wondering we did not, in fact, realize that the camera was filming.

On Monday, Christmas Eve, our beach extravaganza continued when Jess finished with work at noon. We spent the afternoon at St. Clair Beach which is the most popular beach in Dunedin. We only spent enough time there to soak up some sun and try out the new beach chairs we had bought (they were an excellent purchase). Some of our German roommates were nice enough to invite us to Christmas Eve dinner. We had a lovely dinner with them, made by our roommate Lisa's visiting parents, and then opened some presents together afterword. It turns out that Christmas Eve is the more important day for Germans, and is when they have their big Christmas meal and open all their presents. 

On Christmas Day we were back at our beach going ways. After opening some gifts, and driving about  twenty or so minutes outside of Dunedin to Seacliff in order to help a friend with some car trouble, we stumbled upon Warrington Beach which is a few minutes outside of Dunedin in the little town of Warrington. So we spent almost all of Christmas Day relaxing in the sun and enjoying a beautiful day at the beach. We were even able to go for a swim! The water was actually fairly warm and we had a great time swimming in the surf. I can confidently say that it is probably the best weather either of us has seen on Christmas Day. We also made sure to follow Kiwi tradition and grill out for Christmas dinner. 

Enjoying the beach and the beach chair

Merry Christmas!

A beautiful day in Dunedin

I am smug about the weather and ability to grill

Our beach streak ended on Christmas day, but we did manage to have some fun on our first celebration of Boxing Day (the day after Christmas is also a holiday, which is nice). Our roommates Amy and Vea had been to the local racecourse to celebrate Melbourne Cup Day (the Australasian version of the Kentucky Derby) earlier in the year and so the racecourse sent them free tickets to the Boxing Day Races as a Christmas gift. They were unable to attend though, and so let us use the tickets. The weather wasn't great (another reason our beach streak ended) but we managed to have a good time. We wound up using the money we brought along to buy mini donuts, rather than use for betting, which may not have been the best decision. It turns out Jess has an uncanny knack for picking horses; she picked the winner or near winner 2 out of 3 times. She rubbed my face in her superior handicapping enough, without there being any money involved.

The weather did not cooperate the rest of the week (such is Dunedin, the weather is streaky and unpredictable) but we were able to get a really nice day of weather on Saturday for our trip to Moeraki. Moeraki is a tiny fishing village about an hour north of Dunedin famous for the Moeraki Boulders that populate a small stretch of beach nearby. After arriving in town we spent most of the day walking along the beach in order to see the famous boulders. They were, to be honest, very underwhelming. While cool and all, there were not that many and they were not quite as awe inspiring or incredible a natural phenomenon as we were led to believe. Still we got some pretty cool photos.

A famous boulder of Moeraki
Jess loves the Moeraki Boulders

I am trapped in a boulder

King of the Boulders!

View from the penguin hide
After visiting the boulders we drove over to the Moerki Lighthouse, which also had a hide to view Yellow Eyed penguins. Luckily for us we were able to see two of them! Unfortunately they come out of the water so suddenly, and move off the beach so quickly that we weren't able to get any pictures.

On Sunday we woke up early for our main reason to visit Moeraki, a sea fishing trip. The weather was not the best, as it rained our entire time out and the seas were fairly rough (we both had to deal with a bit of nausea). All and all though it was a good trip out. We caught an incredible amount of fish (sea perch and blue cod), and Jess and I went home with 44 filets to stock our freezer with. Even cooler, once we were far enough out on the water we were followed by albatross the entire time. At one point I think we had about 50 following the boat! They were some pretty incredible birds, they had huge wingspans and looked like they could glide for days, but landing was not exactly their forte. We had a few Royal Albatross following us, but most of our entourage was made up of a slightly smaller species.

Albatross Landing Zone

Caught a lot of these

After our eventful Christmas we are taking it easy and hanging out in Dunedin for the New Year. This coming Friday though we start our first big road trip of the summer. We'll be driving up the South Island to Nelson and Abel Tasman National Park. Once we get back we should have plenty to post about, so expect another big update then!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Update 12/17

Hello again from New Zealand! Since our last post, we've been keeping busy with work. Jess is now working full time, and I'm trying to stay as busy as possible with my research. We do have some big trips in the works. At the beginning of 2013 we are heading to Nelson on the northern part of the South Island and in February we are heading to the North Island for a long camper van filled road trip. We still have managed to have a bit of fun while working. I spent the first week of December in Wellington at the New Zealand branch meeting of the Australasian Association of Philosophy. It was a blast, and a massive geek fest, to be at a full scale philosophy conference. I saw a lot of great talks, met a lot of cool people, and really enjoyed the city of Wellington. The city was also pretty decked out for the Hobbit, as the premier was the week before the conference. Here are some pictures!

Baggage Carousel as the Shire

Wellington's Waterfront

The Company
Gollum in the Airport

The New Zealand Parliament

When the weather is nice here in Dunedin, which has been more often now that we've hit summer, we've taken the chance to do some exploring around the city. One of the really nice parts of the city is the Botanical Garden. For some reason Dunedin has a massive and really beautiful garden in the middle of the city. It includes a bunch of different themed gardens, an aviary populated with a number of parrots, a huge duck pond and more. Last Sunday we had some great weather, and Jess took some great pictures. Enjoy, and hopefully we'll have some more adventures to share soon!

The front gates
Told you the gardens were beautiful
Flower Power
Garden Party!
What a view!
Enjoying the view
What time is it?
It's a Sequoia New Zealand! 
Sometimes it's good to stop and smell the roses. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving in New Zealand

While Jess and I were certainly sad to miss out on Thanksgiving back in the US with family and friends, we did our best to bring Thanksgiving to New Zealand. As it turns out all of our flatmates, remember primarily German and Austrian, had heard of but never celebrated Thanksgiving and were excited to join in with us. (It's worth noting that knowledge of Thanksgiving is limited in these parts, one of Jess' coworkers asked if American Thanksgiving was the same as New Zealand Christmas). So, we set about organizing a Cargill Street Thanksgiving feast.

After a numerous trips to the grocery store and the discovery that turkey here is very expensive (and I mean very expensive, we bought a 13 pound turkey for $85 dollars....on sale) Jess and I spent most of Thanksgiving day cooking a giant meal for the entire flat (With big assists from our roommates Sandra, who helped us throughout the day in the kitchen, and Amy, who made a delicious stuffing). We were a little nervous, as we'd never cooked a full turkey before or a meal for so many people. The meal turned out great though, and the turkey in particular was delicious. All and all it was a great Thanksgiving. To keep from going on and on about how much we ate though, I thought I would fill the rest of the post with pictures. Hope you enjoy!

Two Americans and a Turkey, in New Zealand

Bird is the word

Jess and Sandra working on the Turkey

A non-native flightless bird of New Zealand

Our Thanksgiving table
Fancy Napkins!

Carving the turkey

These guys are excited for Thanksgiving

The whole Cargill crew

The aftermath

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Update 11/11

Hello again from Dunedin! First of all, thanks again for visiting the blog hopefully that last philosophy post didn't turn too many people off. Second of all, happy birthday to my wonderful Mom, Terri Darcy. I hope that this blog post can serve as a birthday treat. It has been a while since we've posted pictures of our adventures over here, the main reason being we haven't had too many adventures as of late. We are saving our money for a big trip this summer (February to be precise). We've rented a camper van and are going to spend ten or so days trekking around the North Island. It's gonna be pretty fantastic, so we are pretty excited. Despite a recent lack of travel though, things are still pretty exciting here in our neck of the woods.

The biggest event in the past month or so was Oktoberfest. A number of our roommates are either German or Austrian, and one is actually from Bavaria, so celebrating Oktoberfest was a must. It was a blast and Jess and I learned quite a bit about the holiday. For instance, one tradition is to wear giant heart shaped gingerbread cookies around your neck (you give them out in the same way you would a Valentine) which was quite festive and also delicious. We had a lot of really good food, the highlight being homemade pretzels. We also did some dancing, this song was a particular favorite It was stuck in both Jess and my heads for days afterwards. Here are some pictures!

Jess and Lisa making pretzels

My department mate Paul and I enjoying some Burgers
Not sure what's over there...

Jess and our Bavarian roomie Sandra
Just me and our landlord Dale

Enjoying our first Oktoberfest

There was dancing...

...and eating

Jess and the roommates

All and all Oktoberfest was lots of fun, the only downside was the nasty weather. Dunedin is not exactly known for its wonderful weather. That being said, we have gotten quite a few nice days since we've arrived. When it is nice a good way to spend the day is down at the Uni by the Leith River.

The park area by the river

The Clocktower Building

Enjoying the sun by the Leith River

We also keep busy with visits to the Dunedin farmer's market, which runs year round. The other week we found some rhubarb that we'll be using for pie (once the strawberry prices go down) and some really delicious pizza dough.  
Farmers Market goods
There has also been a fair amount of baking going on around here. For instance we made and decorated (and by we made and decorated I mean Jess made and I helped decorate) some cookies for Halloween. They were a big hit in my department and at Jess' office. 

Pacman like cookies
Sandra with some cookies

That's about all that is new here. Our level of travel will be picking up shortly. This summer we'll be traveling to different points on the South Island almost every weekend, and in the even shorter term I'll be heading to Wellington in a few weeks. A paper of mine has been accepted, so I'll be speaking at a conference which I'm very excited about. Hopefully, then, we'll be blogging again soon!