Thursday, March 29, 2007

Picton Poi

I always thought that poi was a Hawaiian pudding — made from some sort of root — that you ate with two fingers.


Tonight we are sleeping in the little hamlet of Picton (Google Map) at the Juggler’s Rest backpacker’s hostel. This place, by the way, is far-and-away our favorite hostel to date.

Anyway, we have just spent thirty pleasant minutes on the spacious porch enjoying Nikki’s fire-show, which we have learned is also called poi. It turns out that poi is a form of juggling, or twirling. Poi is the Mauri word for ball, and people who do poi twirl balls from the end of strings or chains.

To make this ball-twirling more interesting, some folks light the balls on fire, as we saw this evening! Have a look at Nikki in action!

Steepest Hill in the World

Welcome to Dunedin (say DUHN-NEE-DIN), New Zealand. Dunedin has a scottish feel to it, and is nestled amongs some seriously steep hills. It’s great to go “city-hiking” here because you can get a full workout in only 150m!

One notable bit of Dunedin is Baldwin Street (Google map), which is supposedly the steepest hill in the world. If you look for the circular area in the lower-right corner of the satellite map, you’ll be staring at the top of the hill, where they’ve erected a bench for conquerers to rest upon, and put a drinking fountain right next to it. Nice touch, Dunedin city council!

For some reason, being on the steepest hill in the world makes everyone do silly things and go all goofy, as prooved below:

Baldwin Street Angular Contrast Study

The Great Arch of Baldwin Street

The hill is so steep, that, as a workman was driving his truck up the hill, his shovel fell right off the back! The next photo shows you the steepness of the hill, and the kindness of japanese tourists, who are waving the shovel for the man to retrieve:

The Return of the Shovel

The World’s Southern-most Venti Mocha Frappuccino

It seems that we tourists are forever preoccupied with the Biggest, Longest, Tallest, Highest and generally Most Extreme that a place has to offer. Well then, welcome to Invercargill (Google Map), a bustling metropolis on the southern end of New Zealand’s South Island that did not disappoint our Guinness-book-of-world-records quest.

It may not be the most difficult-to-pronounce name in all of creation (well almost), and it may not be the city with the most sheep in all of New Zealand. But Invercargill, Ladies & Gentlemen happens to be the proud home to:

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, that’s one more extreme checked off our list, baby!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rush Hour in the Catlins

I suppose every traveller to New Zealand has some sort of experience like this. Nevertheless, we’ll force you to chew up your bandwidth and download a picture of our version of the story!

Let's just say that we ran into quite a slowdown while driving the side roads in the Catlins (Google Map), way down at the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island.


Or: mooooove over!, as it were! And by the way, that’s my forehead in the rear-view mirror…

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


One thing about New Zealand, there sure is a lot of sheep! While we were down in the Catlins, we caught a pretty glimpse of a few of the 40,000,000 furry critters, just as the sun was going down:

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rainbows on Milford Sound

The southwest corner of New Zealand’s south island is Fjord Country. We were up at the crack of dawn for the long drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound (Google Map: Te Anau to Milford Sound)

The weather changes every five seconds in Milford Sound, from overcast, to raining, to sunny, to pouring-down rain, etc. There’s so much water in the air, that you can’t help but see a few rainbows. As we arrived in the parking lot, things were looking good:

Once out on the boat, the captain took us right against the fjord walls to catch some spray right from the waterfalls as they fell hundreds of meters into the sound. According to Mauri legend, if a women bathes her face in the spray of this particular waterfall, she will look years younger. See/judge for yourself!

To see just what our crazy captain was up to, you can see another boat cruising under a waterfall, just as we did.

Our boat was considerably smaller, and we recommend that visitors to Milford Sound book the smaller boat. It’s a cheaper deal, the boat is more maneuverable, and it just feels so much more intimate than the big boat, with its hundreds of tourists.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Kayaking the Abel Tasman

The Abel Tasman National Park (Google map) in New Zealand's South Island is a great place to hike, camp, jet-boat, swim, and kayak.

Yes, we did a bunch of hiking and some swimming in the beautiful, blue ocean.

Guess what else we did?

Friday, March 2, 2007

Google-mapping New Zealand’s Catlins

As we rounded the southern bend of New Zealand’s lower island, we couldn’t help snickering at the road signs to the thriving metropolis of Gore (population = 13,279), and thinking of our beloved Democrat Haters (and Lovers) back home. Big hugs to all, by the way.

As we made jokes ’round the table that night about how the internet must have been invented in NewZealand, a Kiwi chimed in to let us know that the plot was even thicker than we had imagined: check this out!

Yes, the last time we tried this route, George Dubbya and his chads stood in the way, but the inconvenient truth is that road from Clinton to Gore is and was only 41.4 kilometers!