The South Island: first impressions

New Zealand just seems packed with national parks, and we decided to start our adventures through the South Island at one of the most famous: Abel Tasman National Park. Although New Zealand suffered a pretty severe drought this summer, when we were there there had just been a week or so of non-stop rain. On the steep roads leading up to the park, there were about 4 or 5 places where the left lane (our lane) was just, you know, missing. It seems that these parts of the road had fallen off the mountain. But, as you can tell, we lived! Hurray! New Zealand roads are just so much more hardcore than Canadian roads: yet again, I am ever so glad that I don’t drive.

While we were at Abel Tasman, we did one day of the “great walk” around the coast. We taught two German trampers and an Israeli traveller how to build a campfire. Apparently campfires are not a necessity everywhere.

Since this post is lacking on the photo front, I am just going to add lots of food pictures. Like these ones!

Half the homemade dough waiting to be made into perogies

Half the homemade dough waiting to be made into perogies

Yum!!

Yum!!

On our way down the east coast, we stopped at Ohau for our first encounter with fur seals! It’s hard to keep in mind that they are wild and potentially dangerous when they look at you over their shoulders with those big watery eyes. They are “take-me-home” adorable.

Andrew's birthday perogies all lines up in rows. Happy happy perogies

Andrew’s birthday perogies all lines up in rows. Happy happy perogies

I know you get the point. Perogies. But really, when you can't get something you love in another country it's nice to be able to make it yourself

I know you get the point. Perogies.

Continuing down the coast, we passed through Christchurch. Now, don’t judge too harshly (I’d been travelling for weeks, and I was a bit dull of mind), but I had a total mind blank as we were entering the city. I noticed a fallen building. Then another. “Wow,” I said, “there must have been a bad fire or something around here.” Andrew did not correct me immediately (he gave me too much credit and thought I was joking). Ten minutes later, after even more fallen buildings and strangely no burn marks on the buildings, it dawned on me: the earthquake. You would swear, walking through the city, that the earthquake was a few months ago. The whole of the downtown was in ruins. For those who don’t remember, the earthquake was in February 2011, two years before we were there. We even went back last weekend, and not much has changed. It’s hard to see any progress being made, and it’s very easy to understand the frustration of people living there.

We went out on Banks peninsula, an ancient volcano. It was beautiful up on the volcano mouth looking down at the harbour. Since you can look out over the whole peninsula from the top, it is very easy to imagine it as it once was, before the volcano mouth gave way to the ocean.

We skipped far too many places on the way south to Dunedin simply because the start of school was coming up fast, but luckily we’ve been able to go back to those places since then.

Think Atlas. I think I pulled it off.

Think Atlas. I think I pulled it off.

One of the last places we visited before Dunedin was the Moeraki boulders. By some quirk of nature, there are perfectly round boulders (concretions) that form in this area with much softer rock around them. As the tide washes away the surrounding rock, the boulders are left on the beach. The perfect roundness of the boulders makes them look unnatural, but I guess nature is surprising, isn’t it?

He looks peaceful now, but you should have seen him when the tide came in!

He looks peaceful now, but you should have seen him when the tide came in!

Dunedin, my home of three months so far, is surprisingly similar to home. It is a small university town on the water. There are many shops and restaurants (mostly all on one main street) that mostly close by 8pm on weekdays. There is an active bar scene among the students, and sunny days are filled with students lounging on the grass around campus. It sounds more like Kingston every minute doesn’t it? But despite the similarities, there are some cultural differences. Kiwis take everything at a slower pace. Not much of anything is a really big deal. If I had to choose a word to describe the culture or people, it would probably be relaxed. That aspect is very different from the “mad rush, super competitive, never-sit-still, high achieving, a million possible activities, jump-on-the-subway-before-the-doors-close” feeling of Toronto. Now that description of Toronto may sound hectic, and it is, but to be honest I sometimes miss the rush. Ask me again in October, and I will be missing the slow pace of Otago University! It’s always a struggle to appreciate where you are for what it is.

Infusing milk with fresh herbs so I can make bechamel sauce (this later became harvest/root vegetable lasagne)

Infusing milk with fresh herbs so I can make bechamel sauce (this later became harvest/root vegetable lasagne)

Also of note, now that I have so much extra time, I cook lots (see pictures throughout). It seems that I bake more cakes than anything (note: usually healthy versions), but I also make lots of home comfort foods like perogies (you can’t buy them here), chili, curry, lasagne, homemade macaroni and cheese, and pumpkin pie. The foods here seem to have many more chemical additives than at home, so homemade is probably healthier. It is also pretty hard to find vegetarian food here, so cooking is just easier.

Homemade chili in the works! It turned out very spicy and delicious!

Homemade chili in the works! It turned out very spicy and delicious!

Since we’ve been here, almost every weekend has taken us out of town, and those stories are coming, but I have also just enjoyed being a student and the day-to-day stuff. When the competitive element of university is taken away, it feels like you have more time and energy to just learn.

Check in soon for more stories from the south. We don’t have very many posts left to cover everything!

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