Trip to Wellington

Saturday morning Denise, Ellie and I got up at the unearthly time of 5am and left for Wellington (capital of New Zealand) at six. It was freezing cold in the car, and the weather was pretty nasty all the way to the tip of the North Island, so we were pretty happy to get to Denise's family.
The welcome was warm, the weather not so much, so I was glad to spend a couple of hours in the big Te Papa museum, which has (among other things) a very interesting Maori exhibition that made a really good impression on me. (By now I think I've gotten some idea at least about the problems and issues surrounding the Pakeha-Maori relations today…)

After that I met up with Denise and her two sisters, and we went up Mt. Victoria to have a look over the bay and towards the South Island. Then we went to look for the places where they shot parts of Lord of the Rings, walking through a forest that really looked just like Middle Earth… I'm not sure we found the exact right spot, because for one thing the Location Guide is kept deliberately (and annoyingly) vague, and for the other a lot of the pine trees were bare, changing the whole look of the forest. But it was fun to imagine, and we did find a spot that looked about right! (I wanted to share the picture with you, but am having problems uploading the pic – sorry!) I also bought some merchandise (stamps and a Merry and Pippin pen box), which made me a happy fangirl that day… LOL

On Sunday (an absolutely beautiful day) Denise dropped me off at the train station and I went to explore Wellington some more, walking along the seafront and through some of the major shopping streets and up a mountain with the Cable Car. It seems like a really lovely city and I didn't have enough time by far – so I'll just have to come back, won't I? πŸ™‚
The drive back was much more fun, too, now that the sun was shining and I could admire the beauty of the landscape properly. I don't know, I really love it here, even if I only go on short trips – there's just something about this country… I'm seriously considering trying to do the job practice (also required for my major) here if I can find something acceptable.

Hope everyone is doing fine and not too busy! *hugs*

Weekend road trip

So it's Monday, and I was supposed to do an interview for my study this morning. But it just seems to be jinxed, because after I had been sick on Friday, today the tape recorder didn't work… Oh well, time to catch up on email and journaling… πŸ™‚

Despite not feeling well we left for Rotorua (the North Island's main tourist haunt) Friday evening, spending the night in a cabin by the lake, “enjoying” the sulphuric air. On Saturday Denise and Ross dropped me off at Whakarewarewa, the oldest thermal reserve with geysirs and hot mud pools, a Maori carving school and a Maori village for tourists. Despite all of this it was very interesting and I enjoyed myself a lot.

Then we headed to Matamata (where they filmed Hobbiton for the Lord of the Rings movies), only to find out that the tours to the field cost 50$ per person. That was just a bit much, so we decided to skip it, much to my regret. But we'll go to Wellington another weekend, and there I'll make up for my failing as a fan by going to all the places around there! πŸ™‚
Instead we went to the coast to a beautiful beach (New Zealand isn't famous for its natural beauty for nothing), before heading over to spend the night with Denise's grandparents.

On Sunday we went to the North Island's other big tourist attraction, the Waitomo caves. That was really awesome – first we went to the Aranui caves, which were very impressive with their huge stalagtites and stalagmites (new words for little Ellie *g*), and then to the horribly touristy glowworm caves. But wow, were they awesome – the glowing worms on the cave's ceiling looked like stars and made you forget about the many people and bad guides (ours should have paid a fine for every time he said “folks” *g*)…

We weren't allowed to the pictures of the glowworm caves, because that disturbs the animals, but I did take a lot of pictures at Aranui, which I'll hopefully be able to share with you, together with the pictures from Rotorua and everywhere else. Ross said he'd try and upload them to this computer here, so maybe I can even share them with you before October. We'll see, I guess…

Okay, Denise and Ellie are back, so I need to get going. My stomach's growling, too, so back to family life! πŸ™‚

Hope everyone reading this is doing fine – drop me a line to let me know! *hugs*

(Oh, and Michi – you can add Gosford Park, Riding in Cars with Boys, and Bend It Like Backham to our movie list. Most movies are horribly expensive, but these were on sale at Blockbusters. Oh, and you'll get The Two Towers in the mail any day now – amazon shipped it!)

New Plymouth

I arrived at my final destination last Friday and am now staying with my friends Denise and Ross, and their little duaghter Ellie. I met them four years ago in California, and they're the best hosts I could hope for!

New Zealand is great and I'm looking forward to learning all kinds of interesting stuff about the Maori and the country. We've been to Mt. Taranaki and around the countryside a bit, and are planning a couple of weekend trips to Rotorua, Wellington, Matamata (“Hobbiton”) and the Waitomo caves. Also I've sent my driving license off to be translated, so maybe I'll be driving round New Plymouth myself soon in Denise's old car… Let's hope I never forget to drive on the wrong side of the road! πŸ™‚

Only drawback here is that it's pretty cold, specially considering that I came from almost 40 degress celsius. Actually, my fingers are frozen stiff, so I'll keep this short… *hugs*


A guy in my room gave me the rest of his internet time before he left, so I thought I'd let you know that I've arrived in NZ in one piece.

Tomorrow I'll go to my friends' home in New Plymouth and get started on my field work – but today has been touristy sightseeing. I did a walk through the city, climbed the hightest hill, did a harbour cruise, and hung out at a bookstore (reading not buying for a change *g*). All in all Auckland is a nice city with friendly people (and loads of tourists and immigrants) – but I can't wait for the rest of the country! (A local told me that no Kiwi actually likes living in Auckland – I wonder if that's true.)

It's six pm and I'm very very tired, but at least I've made it through the day – could be worse if you consider that my bodyclock has been turned completely upside down… I wanted to go see Pirates of the Caribbean tonight, but it seems not to be running here yet. So I'll probably end up going to Starbucks for a Chai tea and then turning in obscenely early. πŸ™‚

Almost there…

I am currently in Sidney, my last stop before Auckland – finally the end is in sight!

This is a free internet terminal, so I can't take it up for too long, and I need to get my boarding pass for Auckland anyway – but let me just tell you one thing: NEVER EVER have an eight hour lay-over over night! Because, as bad as such a long and tedious flight is, the worst was by far the time I was forced to hang around Dubai Airport. I did manage to catch a couple of hours of restless sleep, but I felt like shit when it was finally time to board. And really – is it necessary to take 36 hours for a 25 hours flight (which is what I'll have behind me in about six hours)?

But I did meet a couple of nice people on the plane from Dubai to Sidney – a girl from Germany and an Australia-born teacher from Abu Dabi (Arab Emirates). Sitting next to each other for hours and hours and hours brings people close – and Anja (the German) and I are hoping to meet up when I get to Sidney again in a month. We will see – now I'm off to get my boarding pass and sit around and wait for a couple of hours…

I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep – let's hope the jetlag won't be too much of a killer!

Sending all of you hugs from down under!

Almost gone…

Thought before Michi and I head to the train station for the airport I'd quickly share my itinerary… The next two days don't look like fun at all. Have I ever mentioned that I don't really like flying? And airports aren't that interesting either.

Anyway, here's the thing – always using local time ( just to make it more difficult to figure out how long I'll actually be in the air *g*):
Monday, Aug 11:
3.45pm dep Zurich
11.50pm arr Dubai
Tuesday, Aug 12:
8.15am dep Dubai (yep, 8 hours… yay!)
7.35pm arr Singapore (stop-over)
8.45pm dep Singapore
Wednesday, Aug 13:
6.05am arr Sidney
9.30am dep Sidney
2.30pm arr Auckland
Friday, Aug 15:
12.30pm bus dep Auckland
6.45pm bus arr New Plymouth

Wednesday, Sept 10:
1pm dep Auckland
2.30 arr Sidney

Tuesday, Oct 7:
8.20pm dep Sidney
Wednesday, Oct 8:
2.15am arr Singapore (stop-over)
3.25am dep Singapore
6.25am arr Dubai
8.40am dep Dubai
1.20pm arr Zurich

This really makes me realize how far away I go… It's hardly possible to go further! I'm very glad I decided not to take the bus right the next day, that way I can chill a bit and maybe see something of the city…

I'll try and let you know when I've arrived in Auckland! *hugs*

NZ/Australia update

Thought it was time to let you know what's happening at the moment…

First of all – you can now follow this on my personal domain, chocolate dream, where I've created a much nicer looking mirror of this travel log.

Now to my big trip of this year. My plans to go to New Zealand for the required field trip exercise for my major Cultural Anthropology have been shaping up nicely. Those interested in the study stuff – I've created a study journal, though mainly for my own benefits.

I'll be leaving on August 11, arriving in Auckland on Aug 13. I'll stay in NZ's biggest city for two nights, and then catch a bus southwards, to New Plymouth. My friend Denise, who I've met almost four years ago in California, has been helping me a lot, and I'm lucky enough to be able to stay with her and her family for the month I'll be in New Zealand. This means that I'll be based in New Plymouth, from where I'll do my study about Maori knowledge and hopefully see a bit of the country, too.

I'll stay in NZ until September 10, when I'll head over to Sidney for a month of traveling up the East coast, until I head back to Switzerland on October 7. I hope to be able to meet up with Adam and Willa, who I met in Washington, DC, last fall, but mainly I want to see bit of Australia and catch a bit of sun – after all, it's winter down there…

Hello from Switzerland!

I finally managed to get scanned some of the pictures I took in America – plus a couple from the recent skiing trip with my family.

It's taken me ages, I'm sorry – I've been not really well all semester, but now I slowly get back to normal. I'm also planning my next big trip – this summer to New Zealand and Australia!

Okay, so the New Zealand trip is not just for pleasure – for my university major, Cultural Anthropology, I need to do 'field work', meaning I have to go and study another culture. Since I know an awfully nice Kiwi girl, who has the best connections, and always wanted to go visit her and her family anyway, I decided to learn about the Maori.

After that, since I'm down there anyway, I'll go over to Australia and visit Willa, who I met in DC last fall. We want to go traveling together for a bit – and I do hope that it all works out!

Anyway here are the pics:

Boston's skyline, from Charlestown on the other side of the harbour, where that old ship lies. I love this city – it's one of the most beautiful in the US, in my opinion.

This was my favorite spot – a bench at the Charles River.

This is Jenny, from Ohio. We met at the hostel and went exploring together.

After Boston I went to Cape Cod, where I stayed in Provincetown – town of the rainbow flag… πŸ˜‰

The weather was beautiful, so I spent a lot of time on the beach.

I did a short detour to Canada and visited beautiful Montreal. This is the view from Mont Royal – hard to believe that the day before it was storming, isn't it?

I went to Pittsburgh mainly to visit my two online friends Rhonda and Missy – but I really liked it there. This is the Point, where two rivers with terribly complicated names (the Monongahela and the Allegheny, thanks to Susie !) flow together into the Ohio (I think).

These are me and my friends, in front of a club – we had a really good time together!

The next stop was Washington D.C. – a lot of American history and politics to be seen there…

I did all my sightseeing (here Arlington Cemetery) there together with two Australians (Luke and Adam) and a kangoroo named Diesel. *g*

I'd been looking forward to a visit in the Air and Space museum of the Smithonian Institute – but these handsome coast guards were an unexpected bonus! πŸ˜‰

To New York City I traveled with another Aussie, Willa – and the first thing we did was the Staten Island ferry, which gives you a phenomenal view over Manhattan's skyline and the Statue of Liberty. And all for free! πŸ˜‰

I met a lot of people at the hostel there – and Adam (the one with the kangoroo *g*) and Luke were there, too. It was fun, believe me! LOL

The mandatory visit to the Empire State Building – Cam (Zimbabwe), Adam, me, and Willa, enjoying the sunset.

On the day Sibylle came over from Switzerland Willa and I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge – another opportunity to see the skyline…

Sibylle and I were rained on on Wallstreet…

Of course we also spent time in NYC's green lung, the famous Central Park. Very beautiful – but believe me, after 10 days, I had enough of the city!

We stayed with Sibylle's former host parents in North Carolina for a bit, then we traveled down to Florida, where we discovered beautiful Clearwater Beach.

We saw gorgeous sunsets like this every day – simply breathtaking! Not something one gets used to…

We did a canoe trip in the Everglades. The hostel there kicks ass – it's the best I've ever stayed in, mostly thanks to the staff. We had a great day there and would have loved to stay longer.

Graham sent me this pic: Tim and Miranda from Holland, Graham, me, and Sibylle – and you don't even see that we were eaten alive by moskitos… *g*

Our last stop was Miami Beach, but we also spent a night in Key West, the Southern most point of the US, really close to Cuba. I don't have any pictures scanned from there, because unfortunately the scanner decided to stop working, so the pic from our last sunset in the US is the last…

Two weeks ago I went skiing with my family – we went to Pontresina in GraubΓΌnden, one of the most beautiful parts of the Swiss alps. The skiing was fun and the mountains were gorgeous…

The view from our hotel room – complete with Swiss flag. πŸ˜‰

The view over the Engadin valley from Muotas Muragl (a word from the local language, an ancient tongue related to Latin) – to our feet the posh St. Moritz.

My parents didn't ski but went for walks, and one day my brother Michael and I went with them, into the valley of Rosegg. Breathtaking – but exhausting… *g*

Okay, that's it for the moment – next week Sibylle and I'll go to Sharm El Sheik in Egypt for a week of sun and beach. Can't wait to escape the cold!

Take care, everyone!