Monthly Archives: April 2014

Bungy jumping from the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge

Hey all!

On Tuesday, we were treated to the nicest weather we’ve had since we arrived in Queenstown – in fact, it may have been the nicest day I’ve experienced in New Zealand. The sun was shining, the air was warm, the mountains and water were sparkling. Kylie and I decided that today was the day we’d find out why Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand.

Around 11 a.m., we stopped in at an event-booking shop and weighed our options. Since we only have a few days remaining here, we decided to do what Queenstown is known for – bungy jumping (and yes, that’s how the spell it here). There were three locations we could choose from, so we decided to go for the original. After a twenty-minute bus ride through more beautiful mountain scenery, we arrived at our destination.

The Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge is not only a historic place in New Zealand; it’s also the site of the world’s first commercial bungy jumping company, AJ Hackett Bungy Company.

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The bridge was completed in 1880 as a key access route to goldfields. While it was replaced by a new bridge highway in the 1960s, it still serves as a way for walkers, runners, and bikers on the Queenstown Trail to cross the Kawarau River. And of course, for insane people to throw themselves off of while supported only by an elastic band around their ankles. Forty-three metres down is the river.

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If you can tear your eyes away from the gorgeous water for a moment, you’ll notice a boat. These kind gents wait at the bottom of the drop to reel in jumpers, so they don’t have to hang upside down while being hoisted back up. It saves time, allowing the next jumper to get in position, and also saves you from having all the blood rush to your head.

Kylie and I staggered our jumps so we could take pictures for each other, and I was up first. I got fitted into my harness and then had a bit of a wait, which was the hardest part. Dancing from foot to foot, I wasn’t sure if it was due to the cold – I was wearing shorts and we were pretty high up – or the terror. Probably a bit of both.

Finally, it was my turn. As I was getting all tied up, the guy told me I should jump as far as I could, or I’d be getting a healthy dunk in the river. I assured him I’d do my best. Kylie captured the moment.

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A couple years ago, I jumped out of a plane; it was similar to this in that I barely remember the freefall. I remember gazing out onto the water and repeating to myself to jump as far as I could, and next thing I knew there was a rush, and I was on my back in the boat. I vaguely remember letting out a shout or two – it seemed weird to plunge within centimetres of the water and stay silent – but couldn’t confirm until I watched my video again.

When the boatmen had me back on land, I made my way back up to the waiting area where Kylie was watching our stuff, and swapped her in. She was a real champ and made me proud, taking the leap with almost no hesitation. When she rejoined me at the top, we chuckled over how our hands and legs were shaking as we went through an adrenaline crash, and reviewed our videos. While it was not my intention to purchase the professionally done ones, after we watched them, we just had to get them. It was only an extra 45 bucks each, and a very cool memory. We were also rewarded with free t-shirts, and these awesome certificates.

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The bungy jumping is one of Queenstown’s staple attractions, and I’d recommend it to anyone who goes. Although you’re basically hanging from your ankles, I felt no pain or discomfort in the slightest, and the staff made me feel safe and calm the entire time. As our bus driver said, the riskiest part of our day was the bus ride there. However, our day was not done, as we had paid for a combo deal that included a zip line ride. Luckily for us, the zip line was right beside the bungy, so we went over and got strapped in. I went a normal style – sitting – while Kylie took on a superhero stance.

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The zip line wasn’t nerve-wracking at all after the bungy jump, but it was nice and relaxing. We shot down the line, then were turned around and brought back up, giving us a chance to enjoy the scenery and watch other bungy jumpers take the plunge.

With our swag bags in hand, we boarded our bus and arrived back in Queenstown around 4:30, making the entire excursion a bit less than four hours. Definitely worth it, in my opinion.

When we got off the bus, we were both ravenous. We decided to check out another Queenstown staple – we had both received recommendations from some crazy friends on Facebook – and went to Fergburger.

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I can say with no hesitation or doubt that this is the best burger I have ever had. Giant, juicy, scrumptious patties with cheese, all sorts of sauce and toppings were barely contained within delicious buns. For those of you who recommended this place, kudos. Kudos to you. You are good people.

Here are some prices if you’re considering a Queenstown adventure:

Bungy jump – $180

Zip line – $60

Combo with both – $200

Pictures or videos of bungy – $45

Fergburger – $15 – 20

Time: Approximately 4-5 hours.

The bus ride was included in the price, and was available every hour and a half or so. There are other places you can jump, as well; the ledge jump is right in Queenstown and is the same price, and the Nevis jump is $270 or so, but the jump is about 100 metres higher.

All in all a bit pricey, but definitely something any visitors to Queenstown should experience. More photos and the full, professional video will be posted when I return to Christchurch, so make sure to follow along so you don’t miss anything!

Twitter: @CamMParkes

Instagram: cam_parkes

Love,

CP

Categories: Adventure, Blog, Holiday, New Zealand, Queenstown, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Milford Sound-bound

Kia ora! Yesterday we had a long-ass day that involved more than 600 km on a bus, as well as a two-hour cruise on a ship.

The day started before the sun was up. Buses weren’t running, and neither was the shuttle service from our hotel, so we cabbed to our bus stop. The wrong bus stop, as it turned out. And this is where I learned that not all transit systems are absolute garbage that don’t give a shit about their customers (cough LTC cough); we ran to a cab that was idling at the stop and showed him the receipt for our trip, which apparently had the stop printed right on it. We asked if it was where we currently were. He said no. So we asked him to take us there. Instead of taking our money – about fifteen dollars, probably – he took out his phone, and called the travel company. He then got them to contact the bus driver, who happily agreed to take a small detour to get us at the stop we were at, so we could save time and money. Wow.

Also, the sunrise was pretty okay:

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After that, our bus picked us up and the five-hour journey began. Unfortunately for me, I hadn’t known how long the ride was, and brought nothing to do. Fortunately for me, I can sleep anywhere, any time, so I just leaned back and caught some Zs.

I was awoken several times, mostly because our bus driver was also doing a commentary of the scenery – which was beautiful – and it’s hard for even me to sleep when a voice is talking right above you. Lots of pictures on my camera, which I’ll upload when we have dependable internet.  One of our stops was called Mirror Lakes; I don’t know why.

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With a few more stops, more commentary, and a voyage through a long tunnel and down a long, winding mountain road, we arrived at Milford Sound. Along the way, we learned lots of cool facts: the water there is between 98.9 and 100 per cent pure; Milford Sound was carved out by a glacier (meaning “Sound” is actually incorrect); and their tallest waterfall is nearly three times the height of Niagara Falls. Speaking of waterfalls, here’s a nice one, though not the tallest.

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We cruised around the water looking at different points of interest, including bands of iron ore and quartz, some seals just chilling out, and a species of mussel that gathers where the tide line is. When we came to the aforementioned tallest waterfall in New Zealand, we went right into it. No pictures are available because we were literally a foot from the waterfall. We got drenched.

After that, it was back to the harbour and back on the bus. The ride home seemed shorter, and we also got to watch a movie called The World’s Fastest Indian, which was about a Kiwi named Burt Munro who set the land-speed record in the 1960’s on his Indian motorcycle.

Oh, and this happened:

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When we finally arrived back at our hotel, we went into town briefly to grab some dinner, and then came back and relaxed. Three days left in Queenstown, and we still have lots to see and do. Follow along!

Twitter: @CamMParkes

Instagram: cam_parkes

Love,

CP

Categories: Blog, Holiday, Milford Sound, New Zealand, Queenstown, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I will ride, chase the wind, and touch the sky

Hey all! So, both Kylie and my phones ran out of data, leading us to purchase an internet pack from the hotel. I did this for YOU, readers, so you could stay updated on my life. You’re welcome.

Yesterday (Friday) we ventured down into the town to figure out what activities we wanted to do. It’s really great having the shuttle to take us there, as the buses are somewhat infrequent and also eleven bucks a ride. This was the view from the shuttle around 11 a.m.

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When we arrived in town, we got some food, and then took refuge from a sudden storm in an adventure activity store. We perused the options, and decided to book a day-long trip to Milford Sound, which is a place somewhere. All I know is the scenery is supposed to be awesome, and it includes a two-hour cruise somewhere. Sold!

That’s for tomorrow (Sunday) though; we needed something to do that day. We elected for the cheapest activity: ride a gondola to the top of a mountain and luge down it. When the rain stopped, we headed over to it. Here’s a lovely picture from the base of the mountain…

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…on the way up…

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…and at the top.

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As you can see, it was quite the view; it was also very cold, but at least the skies were clear. So, when you get to the mountain top, you actually learn it isn’t the top; you take a chairlift up even further, and then luge down. The luges are like little go-karts, kind of, that you steer down the slopes; I took a video of my descent, but due to the shitty wi-fi connection here, I won’t be able to upload it until back in Christchurch. Just believe me, it was cool.

As we finished our fourth of five rides, another deluge of rain threatened to numb our hands and possibly drown us, so we ran into a café and had some nice hot beverages. Again, the weather couldn’t seem to decide what it wanted to do, and the rain shortly left, revealing a secret long kept hidden: where the rainbow ends.

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After that, the luging was closed down due to the weather, so we headed back inside. We visited a souvenir shop as well as the Jelly Belly Factory, and then took the gondola back down the mountain. It was a bit chilly then, and we were hungry, so we went to Domino’s and got some pizza, and then headed back to the hotel.

Today, we attended the Autumn Festival in nearby Arrowtown. It’s a quaint little place, and had a bunch of vendors, an airshow, and even a parade. My phone ran out of juice so I didn’t get too many photos with it, but I’ll upload an album from my camera when back home. Thousands of people turn out for this festival, and it was a gorgeous day; I actually wore shorts and a t-shirt, and put on sunscreen for the first time.

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Okay so it was warm for me, maybe not for the residents of New Zealand.

Tomorrow we catch a bus for Milford Sound at 6:35 a.m. I am not looking forward to that, but the lady who booked us told us there would be free coffee, so I guess it isn’t all bad.

Follow along with me!

Twitter: @CamMParkes

Instagram: cam_parkes

Love,

CP

Categories: Arrowtown, Blog, Holiday, New Zealand, Queenstown, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Queenstown or Bust

Hi all! I’ve had a little bit of trouble accessing internet since we left on our trip for Queenstown – apparently New Zealand hostels and hotels don’t offer free Wi-Fi. Or, much of it, at least; we have 250 measly megabytes to last us the whole week. Oh well, we’re not here to browse Facebook anyways! (And that’s what phones are for!)

Quite a bit has happened, but I’ll try to stick to the most exciting bits in order to prevent you getting bored. And don’t worry; I’ll include lots of pictures.

We left Christchurch Wednesday morning – and an early morning it was. We left Kylie’s res at 7:45 in the AM to make it to our bus that would take us to our bus. We had left with the idea that arriving early would be better than arriving late (a theme of mine, apparently) and due to a lack of passengers on the bus, arrived at our pick-up location about a half hour early. The day was bright and sunny.

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Now, the bus we took was called the Naked Bus – I was worried at first because it had no washroom (remember this was a nine-hour trip for us!) and no outlets; however, it didn’t prove to me much of an issue, as we stopped a bunch of times for bathroom breaks, as well as lunch. As for the lack of power, I played Pokémon Diamond until my battery ran out, and my phone got down to two per cent; it lasted long enough to get some good photos.

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The bus stopped at a nice little area overlooking a body of water called Lake Tekapo. It was great to get a stretch in – oh, and the view wasn’t bad either.

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After gawking at the view for a while, Kylie and I went to a little café/shop. When we first got to it, I saw something at amused me…

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…and Kylie saw something that attracted her.

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After that brief rest, it was back on the bus we went. I took a bunch more pictures of mountains (I’ll post more of them later) and the scenery. We saw a ton of sheep – but no men at work – and other animals, too. The cows in particular seemed to share my fascination with the rocky cliffs; here is a picture of them cheering on the mountains in their race against the clouds.

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The bus continued on, and followed a long, winding road that took us between cliffs, and along sheer drops which would have ended our trip rather abruptly should the driver have listed slightly to the left. He didn’t, though, and around six in the evening we arrived in Queenstown. We didn’t have much time to take photos, as we were grabbing our gear and trying to find our hostel. With the deal we booked, we got one night at a hostel, then the remaining seven at a different hotel. Our hostel was fairly nice, except that the lock I had didn’t fit our locker, and the hostel was out of them. A quick trip down the street to a convenience store solved that problem. After that, Kylie caught a nap while I dove into a new book, and after we had recuperated, we headed downstairs to a bar called Loco that was attached to the hostel. I remember the atmosphere of hostel bars quite well from when I backpacked in Europe a couple years ago; everyone was friendly, drinks were cheap, and the live music was pretty good. Around midnight we headed back to our dormitory room we were sharing with eight other people. Kylie snuggled into her blankets on the bottom bunk, while I read a bit more on the top bunk, before settling in for a good night’s sleep. Or so I thought.

At about 2:30 a.m. we were all awoken by an alarm and a robotic voice telling us to get the hell out or burn, or something along those lines. Luckily it isn’t cold here, and we had a chance to grab our shoes and sweaters before we filed out. We were outside about twenty minutes before allowed back in; when we checked out, we learned the kitchen had flooded, which for some reason caused the fire alarms to go off. Ah well, we got a free breakfast because of it, and then it was off to find our new hotel. The day was another beauty.

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Our Google Maps showed us that it was about a 45-minute walk to the new place – Goldridge Hotel – and since we weren’t checking in until 2 p.m., approximately four hours from then, we decided to hoof it. Unfortunately, a four-kilometre hike with all your gear is tougher than I anticipated, and I had to stop for several rests due to carrying the weight of several small children and climbing steep roads. At least the scenery was good.

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We ended up caving and taking a very expensive bus the last kilometre or so, and when we arrived we found we could check in early. Kylie appreciated this very much.

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We both took naps, showered, and took a free shuttle into town for a nice dinner, and to grab some supplies. Then it was back to the hotel to relax. Tomorrow, we start to look at things to do in Queenstown, the tourist capital of New Zealand; some options include bungee jumping, kayaking, zip-lining, white-water rafting, a gondola ride to the top of a big mountain, various safaris, five-dollar pizzas at Domino’s, and many more. Most of them are expensive, but I’m already planning on trying one tomorrow around lunchtime.

Follow along with me on Twitter,

@CamMParkes

and Instagram:

cam_parkes

to see my posts and pictures daily.

Love,

CP

 

 

 

 

Categories: Blog, Holiday, New Zealand, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

No shoes, no problem

Hey all! Happy Easter! It’s been a week since my last post.  That’s mostly because a) how do you follow a post about the royals, and b) Christchurch got with the program and started having really nice weather, so I’ve been outside. Way to go, Christchurch!

In the last week, Kylie finished up her schooling for the holidays – they get a two week holiday for some reason, but hey, we’re not complaining – we explored the city a bit, saw another movie, and bought lots of discounted chocolate. We also found an XBOX One and tried it out.

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I also received a nice little package from home. We had to let it thaw out, as it was still frozen from its time in Canada (HA!). Some of the people here had never even seen a FedEx box before!

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So yeah, that’s weird. Another weird thing I learned this week about New Zealand – they don’t care if you wear shoes. And with the recent good weather, I’ve been toughening up my soles.

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Okay, yes, admittedly that is me standing in some grass. But I swear, you’re allowed to go shoeless anywhere. We even saw a few guys in the mall in bare feet, and one went into Domino’s (yes they have that here!) naked below the ankle.

Not too much else is going on at the moment. By night, Kylie and I have been catching up on The Walking Dead – finally all caught up, and WOW – and by day, this is what I get to enjoy.

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I’ve been spending some time writing, and the beginnings of my project are starting to take form. It’s exciting to see something that has been just an idea for so long take shape. I even bought paper and pencils to sketch out maps and stuff.

Other than that, we’re just planning for our week-long trip to Queenstown. From what I can gather, it’s quite the touristy town, so there will definitely be some sweet blog posts and pictures in the next little while. Follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss anything!

@CamMParkes

Love,

CP

 

Categories: Blog, Holiday, New Zealand, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The British are coming! The British are coming!

Alright, as promised, here is the post about the royals. I’ll try to keep the writing brief, and include lots of pictures.

I cabbed to Latimer Square, arriving at about 11 a.m., to this massive crowd.

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If I was correct, the royals and their entourage would be coming from the south up the road in the following picture, and pass right by my spot.

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Using my height and elbows in tandem, I made my way to a spot that would hopefully allow me a good view of the royal couple as they walked by. I tested it out on some security dudes that came by first.

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Success! The people in front of me were short enough that they weren’t in the frame. A sudden hubbub from down the street caused everyone in my area to look that way. Our first glimpse of the lovely couple! You can see Kate in the red dress, and I think that’s William between the two poles to the left.

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Before they came down our path, the couple et al stopped at the cathedral for a quick ceremony. While they did that, some more security came to ensure the way was safe.

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Of course, wherever a royal couple goes, the media goes first.

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Now, I had pictured it as Kate and Will walking side by side down the middle of the path. Not so; in fact, they both took one side of the path and strolled up, talking to and greeting people in the crowd. I was on the Will side.

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Those are just two of about a hundred I snapped. Kate went up the other side so it was hard to get good photos of her, but this one isn’t too bad.

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I have about 10,000 of the back of her head, but I didn’t think I’d include them here. The couple completed their walk down the path and met with some ladies who apparently had kids around the same time as Prince George (who was with his nanny in Wellington today).

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And lastly they took part in a little cricket exercise – Kate struck out, but looked much better swinging than Will.

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So, while I may never be a royal, at least I got to see some members of royalty. Yay for me!

Follow me on Twitter:

@CamMParkes

Love,

CP

Categories: Blog, Holiday, New Zealand, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

We’ll never be royals (but we might get to see them!)

Hello all!

Just a quick blog update because I’ve come into some exciting news. Last week, some people you might recognize landed in New Zealand.

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That, of course, is Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Not pictured is Prince George, who did accompany his parents on the two-week trip.

Now, I was perusing their itinerary and noticed they’re visiting Christchurch on Monday, the 14th. This excited me a little bit because, hey, what are the chances the royal couple would visit the city I’m in of all places? Still, ChCh has a population of about 350,000 – it isn’t tiny. I figured there’d be no way I’d be anywhere near where the couple visited.

An updated list of their itinerary revealed Will, Kate, and possibly George, will be taking a public stroll through a place called Latimer Square. Whoever runs that website sure made it easy for the public:

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Out of curiosity, and not really holding my breath, I looked up directions from my place to this Latimer Square area.

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Click for larger image.

Holy shit! Only a 15-minute drive away?! I don’t have a car, but luckily, one of Kylie’s flatmates does, and she’s hell-bent on seeing royalty as well. The plan is to go early, get a spot in one of those red spaces – probably near the front, to snap pictures before scuttling to the back red space – and if everything goes as I picture it, being noticed for having a Canadian flag on my backpack, being pulled out of the crowd, and then taking selfies with Will and Kate. It’s foolproof!

Want to see pictures? Follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss anything!

@CamMParkes

Love,

CP

Categories: Blog, Holiday, New Zealand, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ten things new Kiwis need to know

When you’re traveling to a new country, there will inevitably be things that are done a different way than what you’re used to. I’ve been in Christchurch, New Zealand for almost exactly a week now, and I’ve compiled this list of things first-time visitors just have to know.

Note: some of these may not hold true for all countries, as they’re based on a Canadian moving to NZ.

 

Before you go

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t do all the much research about New Zealand before I embarked on my quest for kiwis. Part of this, though, was that I knew I had a place to stay until I found my own. In case you haven’t done enough research, here are some things you should know before you get to NZ.

1. The prices of things vary wildly here from what we’re used to.

If you have the room, make sure you bring your electronics with you. This means gaming systems, games, etc. Because let me tell you – they are expensive as shit over here.

Internet isn’t too terrible, especially if you’re splitting the cost with a bunch of people, but it’s definitely recommended to get a plan, otherwise you’re paying out the ass per GB. One thing that surprised me was how cheap cars are; however, if you’re planning on getting one, you should know that gas is outrageously expensive. Think 2+ dollars per litre. So yeah, keep that in mind. A bike or bus pass is looking pretty attractive now, isn’t it? For the record, a bus pass costs a mere ten dollars, although you need an address to get one. Bikes are about the same. Also, on the topic of an address…

2. Rent is charged by the week here.

This isn’t really a problem, once you do the calculation to figure out what you’re paying per month. It may be a little more stressful, as you have to come up with a sum of money every week, but what I’d recommend is just setting aside a chunk – I did the next three weeks – worth of cash to ensure you have it. There’s also a wide variety of rent options, so when you’re searching, make sure you remember it’s a weekly fee and not monthly. I’ve seen rents from $115 p/w right up to about $500 p/w. More than likely, you – like me – will get a little room in a house, which is really all you need – a place to drop your stuff and sleep at night.

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Another good thing about this is you can find non-fixed term rooms, with a minimum of four weeks, and you only need to give two days’ notice of departure. This is good if you’re traveling around and don’t want to stay in an area for a long time.

3. Don’t call the Kiwis Aussies, for your own sake.

Once you’re here, you’ll quickly realize New Zealand is a lot like Canada, except the weather is typically better. The comparison also stands that Australia is a lot like the United States – and Kiwis hate being mistaken for Aussies. Whereas we, as Canadians, will only take offense on the inside and politely explain to the person calling us ‘Muricans that we are, in fact, from Canada, Kiwis spit out whatever drink they have in their mouth at the time, stare at you incredulously, and shout “WHAT?” (sounds more like ‘WOTE’ coming from them) before glaring daggers at you for about ten minutes. Yes, it’s okay to tease each other about how you pronounce words – they say “ear” and “air” the same, isn’t that cute? – as long as you don’t mind being told to fuck off multiple times per day (in an endearing way, of course), but call them Aussies, or even say they sound similar to their neighbours, and you’re in for a world of hurt.

Once you’re there

Now that you know a few things to keep in mind upon arrival, here are the things you should learn quickly if you want to a) survive, and b) enjoy New Zealand without making enemies.

4. LOOK BOTH WAYS OR YOU WILL DIE.

Yes, for those unaware, Kiwis drive on the wrong side of the street, meaning the left. While regular street traffic looks relatively normal, I still get thrown off when a bus goes to turn right, stops in the intersection, and then goes to the far side. The most important note is to look to the right first. I mean, we all know to look both ways (right?) but my first instinct was always to glance left first, then take my first step into the road as I looked right. Do that here, you’re liable to become road kill. It also makes it much easier to catch the correct bus, as they will stop on the left side of the road, so make sure you figure that out. I haven’t driven here yet, but note that the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, as opposed to the left. So, good luck with that!

5. Different currency.

This is to be expected, but here’s a quick rundown of New Zealand currency: they have a ten-, twenty-, and fifty-cent, as well as a one- and two-dollar coin. That’s right; all their prices are rounded to the closest zero, which makes buying things easy. Also, tax is included in all the prices, so you don’t have to guess at what your total price will be.

The bills are the same denominations, and actually look fairly similar to our Canadian money; the coins vary, but the ten-cent one looks like a large penny, the twenty-cent one looks like a large nickel, the fifty-cent one like a quarter, and the two-dollar one looks exactly like a loonie. The only real different one is their one-dollar coin, which kind of looks like a token you’d use at the Palasad. And on the topic of money…

6. With few exceptions, don’t tip.

Yes, it’s shocking, especially for us Canadians, but there’s no need for tipping. It’s not impolite – in fact, sometimes people will get offended if you try to tip. I don’t know exactly why this is, but it sure makes figuring out prices easier. While I am assured most people will only be shocked and very appreciative, not offended, fight your Canadian self and save the money for something else. Like…

7. How to buy alcohol

…beer. Here, like many places that aren’t Canada, you can buy beer and some other alcoholic drinks in the super markets. However, something to note: you must have your passport with you to do so. Yes, some places will accept a driver’s license, but most won’t. Why, you ask? Well, do you have any idea what a New Zealand driver’s license looks like? Well, the Kiwis don’t know what an Ontario driver’s license is supposed to look like either, so it could easily be faked. The best way around that is to request your passport. This will be needed not only to buy alcohol, but to order alcoholic drinks at a restaurant.

8. Weather changes abruptly.

You think Canada’s weather is finicky? In the space of me writing this sentence, the weather outside went from cloudy and rainy, to sunny, back to overcast, and now seems to have settled on partially cloudy. It isn’t unreasonable to expect sun, clouds, and rain, on a simple walk to the grocery store. Also, I haven’t experienced these yet, but apparently there can be cyclones and earthquakes at the drop of the hat (don’t worry, you’ll hear about my first experience, I’m sure). I’ve found the best way to deal with this is the Canadian way – layer, layer, layer. Oh, and always have an umbrella.

9. Pay attention on the bus.

Okay, this one may be specific to London, Ontario – I haven’t tested that many transit systems. However, the LTC, while falling under fire all the time for being crap, does at least announce the stops. Not so here. This makes it especially difficult for a newcomer, as you have to really pay attention and watch street signs, particularly if you’re going to a new place for the first time. Another different thing is that, even if you’re standing at the bus stop, buses will not stop unless you flag down the driver, so make sure you do that. One perk of NZ transit? They have little cash registers, and will give change if you’re paying by cash. And last on the list, but certainly not least…

10. They do coffee weird, you guys.

First and foremost, there is no Tim Hortons in New Zealand. Yes, I know, there there. You can still make coffee at home! However, the way to do so is a bit strange…I’ve yet to see a coffee brewer. Instead, they have this.

Plunger

It’s a coffee plunger. Basically, you boil water in a kettle, and then let it cool a bit. Poor your coffee into the plunger, then fill it with the water. Stir it, and then let it sit for however long you want. When you’re satisfied, you push the plunger down – I like to do this three times – to separate the coffee goodness from the grounds. It’s actually delicious. Different, but delicious.

Follow me on Twitter!

@CamMParkes

Love,
CP

Categories: Blog, Holiday, List, New Zealand, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

When in Christchurch..

Well, I am officially a New Zealand resident!

Okay that may be somewhat misleading. It wouldn’t even be amiss to go as far as to say it’s an outright lie. But all I’m trying to say, you guys, is that I officially have a place to stay. I’ll get to that, but first I’m gonna prattle on about some stuff I’ve been doing in my first few days in the land of Kiwis.

My days have been kind of strange, as my sleeping patterns have adapted to Kylie’s, somewhat. This means bed by 10 or 10:30, and when she gets up at 6:30 to get ready for school, I feel relatively rested. Even though I force myself to go back to sleep, I’m up by 9:30 – I’ve officially become a morning person, and I don’t like it. There are perks of a sort though: I can jump in and grab a shower before the flatmates, usually.

That’s another thing I’ve had to adapt to a bit – living (however tentatively) with other people. I haven’t had roommates since second year, and I’d kind of forgotten what it was like to share common areas, jockey for a position in line for the bathroom, and wear clothes when walking around. On the plus side, they’re all pretty nice people, and offer me conversation while Kylie is off doing whatever it is she does during the days.

My mornings are taken up by showering, writing, and sometimes watching Pokémon, while throwing back several cups of coffee. If you recall, the other day I wrote a post in which I said I was in a small coffee shop. That was a big success, finding it, as Kylie didn’t even know about it. On some of the other, rainy days, I’ve been staying in her flat and trying to learn how to play her ukulele.

Now, for those who don’t know, Kylie is a trained musician, and picks instruments up and learns them in about fifteen minutes. I’m fairly sure she borrowed this uke, mastered all there is to know about it in an hour or two, then forgot about it. I, on the other hand, have quite the difficult time at it. It doesn’t help that it has less strings than the guitar, which I can at least make noise with – oh, and also, it’s tiny.

I downloaded a ukulele tuner and attempted to make the strings sound right, and I even looked up a bunch of uke chords. I’m still embarrassed by the sounds that come out of that thing when I attempt to play it, but hey, it passes the time. Also, on a funny note, I actually played Kylie’s flute before I saw her play it. It really takes me back to my elementary school days, when I played the flute for a few months before merciless teasing caused me to shift to the vibraphone (I don’t know what it is, either). After a few attempts, I was able to produce a noise on the flute, and even play a simple song. Afterwards, I attempted to play the flute’s midget cousin, the piccolo, also Kylie’s, but couldn’t make much more than a high pitched screech. At this point, I became a bit lightheaded, and thus retired as a flautist and…piccoloist…forever.

On Sunday, I browsed probably a thousand apartments online. Most of these – actually, pretty much all – were rooms in a house. I must have sent out a dozen enquiries and texts, and got a grand total of one response. This was a text asking if I was here for an entire year. When I responded that I was not, I apparently failed the test, as I never received another text. On Monday, I texted another place that looked pretty good, and within five minutes, the lady had messaged me back with details. It seemed decent – not too expensive, fairly close – so I agreed to stop by for a showing at 4 p.m. This gave Kylie time to get home and ready, as she wanted to come too.

The room was pretty good (pictures to come later) and the other residents seemed nice enough, so after conferring with Kylie, I paid the lady and became a real man.

I’ve yet to move any stuff in, but I’ll be doing that tomorrow. This is good, because having an address is critical to some of the other stuff I’ll be doing this week – getting an IRD number (necessary to work here), getting a bank account (for the inevitable dozens of dollars I’ll make from sheep-shearing or whatever), acquiring a bus pass, and for getting my guitar shipped to me.

Otherwise, Kylie and I have been sticking to our traditions – we saw a movie the other night (Captain America: Winter Soldier) and today we had sushi.

Other than that, I’m still getting into the routine of things, and trying to figure out what to do with all this spare time I find myself with. Tomorrow, I also begin writing the next “Hunger Games”/”Divergent”/”Harry Potter” etc. thriller. Maybe.

Follow along with the journey!

@CamMParkes

Love,

CP

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Ten things to do on a long layover

Hey all, kia ora! That’s Maori – the indigenous folk here in New Zealand – for… hello, I think? As you can tell, I’m learning this language ultra quickly. It’s my first day on my own, as Kylie is at school doing whatever it is teachers do, so I decided to explore my new city. I found a little coffee place on campus approximately three minutes from the residence and I am now there living my dream of sitting in a coffee shop pretentiously typing away on a laptop.

Since my journey here was the first time I’ve had to make connecting flights, I discovered a bunch of things to do when you’re faced with a long layover. As promised in my last post, here are some things you can do to pass the time when waiting in the airport.

1.  The obvious stuff

Picture this, but in an airport.

Obviously there are a ton of NORMAL things you can do to pass time, but they’re good, time-tested methods so I will include them. If you read my last post, you know I arrived at Pearson well before I needed to, so I had some time to kill. I bought a book – Divergent – and read that for a good two or three hours. Yes, this isn’t technically a layover, but it falls under the category of airport waiting, so it’s legit. This is also a good time to use the stuff you’ve strategically placed in your carry-on – a Gameboy, puzzle book, deck of cards, etc. Just make sure you prepare ahead of time.

2. Document the experience

Toronto Airport

What better way to fight the boredom of layovers than writing about how boring your layover is? In your retelling of the tale, a simple child crying can become a motive for murder, and a trip to the bathroom can be three full chapters of planning and executing the journey – and it is a journey, since you have to take all your shit with you, or risk asking someone to watch it. If you’re hip, you’ll also want to keep your legions of social media followers up to date through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. I find the easiest way to do this is to link all your accounts together, so when you post one thing, it immediately goes to all of them. Sure, the majority of your friends will now have to witness your picture of your departure gate upwards of a dozen times, but it’s worth it to  ensure your image is available to that one person you only have on Twitter.

3. People-watch

This is the classic thing to do in any situation you find yourself waiting around with nothing else to do. At least, it is for me. People are interesting, weird, and sometimes downright hilarious, and the best time to catch them in that state is to watch when they assume no one is watching. For some reason, the airport is one of those places, although you’re in a public area with tons of people passing by. Listening to peoples’ conversations, watching harried parents chasing after their infant who, despite being on a child-leash, has managed to escape and evade all attempts at recapture, or even watching people take pictures of the silliest things – like their departure gate HAHAHA – and laughing – all of these are great ways to pass the time. Especially if the people have varied accents. I swear I spent my entire six-hour layover in Auckland listening to Kiwis talk about the most mundane things, entranced by the way they contorted the English language before spitting out words.

 

4. People-find

Cam and Nicole

This is one that solely depends on where you are and who you know. However, if the stars align or whatever, layovers are perfect opportunities to catch up with people you may not otherwise see. My friend and fellow Front Office member at the Gazette Nicole moved to Vancouver after our stint at the paper to do school or something. That meant I hadn’t seen her in about a year but, lo and behold, I had a five-hour layover in Vancouver! Crazy, right? It’s almost like a movie premise. A movie called The Layover. Is that a thing yet? If not, I shall write it someday. Anyways, this time-waster is dependent on your friend/family member/lover etc. In my case, I was lucky that Nicole could make it to the airport with not too much difficulty. I met her in a public part of the airport and we enjoyed a nice lunch and catch up. The only downside to this is you have to go through security again, but if you give yourself enough time that’s no issue.

 

5. Use all the free internets

A lot of airports offer Wi-Fi, I think; I’m not really basing that on anything, though. I didn’t need to use it in Toronto or Vancouver, as I still had my phone’s mobile data. Auckland offered 30 minutes (!) of free Wi-Fi, and even though I didn’t really have more than five minutes worth of stuff to do –email Mom, post an Instagram of my flight, etc. – I made sure to use as much of the 30 minutes as I possibly could. Since it was a five-hour wait, 30 minutes didn’t fill up much. So next, I attempted to practice the next entry…

6. Sleeping while sitting up and pretending you’re not sleeping

Sleeping while sitting up is a skill many people underestimate. There are several parts to it to ensure you don’t groggily open your eyes to a bunch of people pointing and giggling at the drool accumulating on your chin. I like to lean slightly back in the chair – this prevents the dreaded head-onto-chest slump, and contains drool at the same time – and cross my arms. Now, without sunglasses – and as some of you may know, I’m not a fan of them – it’s pretty hard to mask the fact that your eyes are closed. Perhaps a baseball cap pulled low, but it’s not that much of a concern in my book. Close your eyes and put on a frown; that, coupled with the crossed arms, will make you look like you’re just resting your eyes, and you’re pissed off about it. Alternative: do this and only pretend to sleep, and then eavesdrop listen to the conversations around you.

7. Make new friends

I did this, although kind of unwittingly. Also, I was more the victim of this, as everyone knows I hate making new friends. In this case, I was befriended by two old people in Toronto, and a nice lady in Vancouver. The old people apparently had just finished up a cruise and were returning to Vancouver. I actually initiated the process, as the woman was looking for an electrical outlet, and I, having strategically sat near one, pointed it out to her. Despite being clearly engaged in my book, the pleasant couple kept chatting to me. They asked what the weather was like outside, and I unknowingly opened myself to mockery by saying “oh it’s pretty nice, probably seven or eight degrees.” They scoffed at this, clearly saying “nice for YOU maybe.” This saddened me, until I remember I was young and en route to New Zealand. Score for me! They kept talking about other things, like their cruise, and Vancouver, but, despite the pleasant, well-meaning nature of their conversation, I decided I didn’t have to put up with that shit and took off on the pretense of going to the bathroom. Which leads me to my next point…

8. Go to the bathroom a lot

 

 

Going to the bathroom in airports is easier said than done. You can’t leave your luggage unattended because you’re likely to come back to find the area evacuated, and security swarming all over as the explosives unit detonates your carry-on. Or, well, that’s what the movies have led me to believe. I also wouldn’t want to leave it under the watchful eye of some do-gooder, as they probably aren’t paying attention, and if someone does steal your shit, what are you gonna do? Sue them? Unlikely. All this means that bathroom treks are quite the endeavour. I made sure to visit the facilities at least once in every airport, especially Vancouver – can you imagine having to take a dump on a plane? The bathrooms are tiny, and you just know someone’s going to be waiting when you come out. I dished out the knowing, smirking look to a lady that was in the bathroom way too long, and I would never want to be the focus of that. Anyways, to avoid this outcome, I would blunder into the bathroom with my laptop bag over one shoulder and my duffle over the other, crash through the stall, and drop my bags on the floor. I would do this even if I was only going number one, you guys. One thing to note – when you’re going to the bathroom, with your pants around your ankles behind a locked door, you want to make sure you have a good hold on your bags. There’s not much you can do if you’re mid-wipe and some enterprising thief decides to reach under the door and grab your laptop bag containing tens of dollars worth of electronics. I like to keep it simple, and loop the straps around my foot.

9. Act super foreign

 

 

This obviously only works if you’re in a country that isn’t your own, but it’s quite fun to do. I got to try this out in the Auckland airport, and admittedly have employed it several times since arriving in Christchurch. I went to a little café, and made my first NZ purchase. Even though I’ve been in possession of NZ money for a while, I made a big show of taking it out and examining it to make sure it was the right amount. When I got my change back, I looked at the coins with wonder, before apologetically smiling at the cashier and explaining that I was “still learning the money.” I’ve done this at least a dozen times since.  I’ve also employed variations, with the fall back being something along the lines of “I’m new here!” This not only is hilarious but, in New Zealand at least, makes everyone delightfully demand you say specific words. Like “about” for some reason, which is apparently uproariously hilarious. Friggen Kiwis. And finally:

 

10. Visit every gift shop in the airport

Once you’ve completed everything on this list (estimate time to complete: one hour), you’ll have nothing better to do than visit all the gift shops. While many of them carry mostly the same things, there will just enough variance that you have to go to each one, lest you miss some great souvenir. If you feel bad about this, justify it to yourself – oh, I’m about to leave Canada? Better spend all my Canadian money before I do! Or, it’s my first time in a New Zealand gift store! I should test out this new, strange money! You’ve probably promised a thousand people back home you’d get them something, like a knick-knack, or a postcard, or something equally as frivolous, so when better to get that out of the way then the airport? They’ll never know that the bottle-opener with the kiwi on it didn’t come from the heart of downtown Christchurch, so save yourself some time.

Next post: my first couple days in CHCH, and the results of an apartment viewing I have in about two hours. Follow along with my adventure by following me on Twitter!

@CamMParkes

Love,

CP

Categories: Blog, List, New Zealand, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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