16 March 2006

We're back! We made it back into town last night around 6:30. Nothing eventfull with our travels. The big news is that today was match day and we now know where we'll be for the next four years. Brian's going to be doing his transistional year here at Riverside Methodist Hospital and then we'll be moving to Portland, OR for the last three years of his training and Oregon Health Sciences University Medical Center. That gives us a year to get our house together and on the market and lots of time to find a great place to live in Portland. We're very please, couldn't be happier! Watch this space because we plan on posting some pictures from the last few weeks of our trip.

13 March 2006

Hi from Samoa! There's something I haven't said before! We arrived safe and sound here early Saturday morning. The airport is very small and when our airplane pulled up they turned on the outside lights to greet us. We had a small issue in customs because they only allow you to bring 1 liter of alcohol in and we both had several bottles of wine we had bought during our travels. I thought we were going to have to drink it right then! But they eventually let us keep it since we told them we were only going to be in the country for less than 72 hours. After that we went out to find the bus to our fale for the night. (Everything is a fale here, a meeting fale, a sleeping fale, a breakfast fale - basically a floor and a mat or cushion with a palm leaf roof on top.) As we walked out someone was holding a sign that said Prine and Kate. You guessed it, Brian's name is now Prine. Anyway, the city of Apia has most of the modern conveniences, but is still very small. We spent the last couple of days on the beach. On Saturday night the place we were staying at had a fia fia, which means celebration. It was very neat, there was even a traditional fire dance! It's very beautiful here but this place is hotter than you know where. Last night I had the bright idea that we should leave the mozzie (mosquito) netting off so that it wouldn't be so hot when we were sleeping. Poor Brian woke up this morning with over 100 mozzie bites. No exaggeration, either. He's being a very good sport about it. Yesterday we went snorkeling and saw thousands of beautiful fish in every color you could imagine. And we were only 20 - 30 feet from shore! I've enjoyed our time here but I'll be glad to go back to the states where them temperature isn't 35 degrees celsius! I think we're going to go see a movie this afternoon just to pass the time before our flight leaves in a place with air conditioning. See you all soon!

10 March 2006

One last post from NZ. Our flight leaves in a little less than two hours. We're sad to go! We've sold the kiwicar (300 bucks, woohoo) and spent most of our NZ money. All we have to do is catch the shuttle to the airport and then start our journey home. We'll be in Samoa tonight through the 14th and then we fly to LA. We'll stay in LA one night and be back to Ohio on the 15th. Just in time for match day on the 16th! See you all then!

08 March 2006

Hello from NZ! We finished the three day Routeburn Track and then stayed at the lovely About Time Bed and Breakfast which had what I can honestly say was the BEST shower I've ever encountered. The owner's were lovely people as well. Last night we stayed at Cardno's which was nice and quiet and had a lovely view of the sea. We're in Dunedin now and will be driving back to Christchurch tomorrow. So sad that our adventure is almost over! We fly to Samoa on Saturday and then we'll be home before we know it. We are excited to come back and see all our long lost family, friends and pets but we will definitely miss this paradise. More stories soon...

01 March 2006

We're back from the Kepler Trek. Unfortunately I can't upload any pictures from the internet cafe I'm at. I can, however, give a quick rundown of our past few days.

We started our hike on the 26th. The first day was a total of 13.8km which is about 8 1/2 miles. The beginning was through very pretty rainforest and then we started the uphill portion. All in all it took us close to hours to get from the carpark to the first hut (Luxmore). The last half hour or so was above the bushline along the ridge - no protection from the winds which we blowing at close to 70km/hr. The hut was really nice with a kitchen and a lounge on the first flour and bunkrooms and flush toilets on the second. The kitchen/lounge had solar power lights and heating, running water and gas stoves, so it was the nicest camping I've ever done! In NZ you usually don't even have to filter your water, you can just dip right into the stream and drink up! (As long as you make sure there's not a sheep farm upstream!) After we got the hut and claimed some bunks we walked to some near by caves where we did a wee bit of spelunking. We climbed down for about 45 minutes and saw some really beautful formations. It was a tight fit at some points but definitely worth it! We cooked a delicious dinner of pasta, mushrooms and onions with some fried tortiallas and had snickers bars for desert. Then we headed off to bed to rest up for the next day.

The next day's tramp to the Iris Burn Hut was 14.6 k, or around 9 miles. This was supposed to be the most beautiful day with the best views. Unfortunately for us it was raining and freezing and there were 80 km/hr winds. We spent the first 4 or so hours of the day crossing the ridgelines of the mountains, passed emergency shelters and finally descended around 800 - 900 meters to the hut. It rained the ENTIRE day. Once we got below the bushline and had some shelter from the wind things settled down, but up on top it got kinda scary for a bit! Mostly we were disappointed about the views, but we learned to appreciate the amazingness of what we saw, even if it was through clouds and mist and rain. It was pretty neat to think we were hiking ABOVE the clouds at some points, not just through them. At the hut that night we had some yummy back country pizzas. We met a Canadian pharmacist named Stacey who was taking 6 months to travel around the world, literally! She had been to NZ 6 or so times and was doing some pretty big hikes while she was there.

Day 3 was my favorite day of the trip. The distance was the longest at 16.2 km (10 mi), but the weather broke and we had blue skies all day. The walk was also mostly flat so I hit my stride and was making good time. I actually got ahead of Brian and Andrew while they were taking some pictures and when they caught up they were both like, what were you doing, running? That's a big complement to me because my motto for going uphill is slow and steady, and I stick to it! Anyway, this day was just amazing. Shortly after leaving the hut we came to an opening the woods referred to as a big slide which was cleared by a tree avalanche after heavy rains in 1987. It was amazing because we could see all the mountains around us, and off of every rocky areas was a LOOOONG waterfall. Usually we wouldn't have gotten to see so many waterfalls but since we put up with all the rain the day before we got a reward! After getting through that area we came to the most beautiful area I've ever seen. It was the greenest, lushest, most amazing enchanted forest you could imagine. There was bright green moss growing on everything and long pieces of soft green moss hanging from the trees. Every fallen log and branch was covered with green moss and lichens. There were ferns as tall as I was and tall straight trunked trees with little curly branches. And every leaf had a drop of water hanging on it so that every time there was any wind everything sparkled every color of the rainbow. I know it sounds cheesy but it was so beautiful it almost made me cry. I spent most of the day walking by myself, just walking around looking up in awe. I almost wandered off a couple of (moss covered) foot bridges. The hut that night was called Moturau Hut. It was on a bay called Shallow Bay off of Lake Manapouri. It, like the others, had flush toilets and all the other good stuff. Around 8 a pretty crazy looking storm started to roll in accross the lake. Brian got some pretty neat looking pictures of the black clouds above the lake and the mountains.

Our original plan was to hike out the long way the next morning and head to Milford Sound for our cruise. We were going to get an early start around 0630 so that we could get our 15.5 k out of the way by 1100 and get some showers and laundry in before the cruise at 430. But when calculated it out we decided we would never make it in time. Lucky for us it was possible to catch a shuttle after 6 km. So we got to start a little later and end a little earlier. This was especially nice because it was POURING down rain all morning.

We headed up to Milford Sound with another tramper we met, Felix, from Germany. The cruise was really amazing. Milford Sound is actually a Fiord. Apparently sounds are carved out by rivers and fiords are carved by glaciers. The weather cleared up right at the beginning of our cruise. The boat we were on was small so there weren't too many people around. We got some really neat views of waterfalls and saw some seals. Then it started raining so we went inside the boat and sat on some really comfy cushions and drank some wine and ate some cheese and bread Brian and Andrew had had the forsight to bring along. Then the rain cleared and we went back outside for some more views. After the cruise we had about a 2 hour drive back to Barnyard Backpackers where we stayed for the night. The people that own it also have a deer farm on the property. It never fails to amuse me that they FARM DEER here! There's nothing like driving down the street and seeing a herd of deer roaming around a farm! Anyway, at the backpacker they had a dog named Zach who wanted to play with Brian and a cat named Honey. You know we liked them!

Today we got to sleep in and then we drove to Queenstown which is supposed to be the extreme sports capital of NZ but is really just the touristy capital of NZ! We're getting some laundry and grocery shopping and such done and then tomorrow we have to do some car shuffling around before we leave for the Routeburn tramp on Saturday. Just 8 days left in NZ and we're trying to make the most of it!

Thanks everyone for all the great comments. There is one rumor related comment I'm going to delete just to keep everyone from getting in any trouble! Some things are better sent in email, even if they did make me chuckle! I miss you all (well most of you) but I'll see you soon enough!