New Zealand: 3/5 – 3/11

(New Zealand) Dunedin >>> Warrington >>> Pukaki >>> Mount Cook National Park

3/5- Ultimate Frisbee, Unlimited Beer, and NZ ER 😦
3/6- Internet Time and Injectable Donuts!
3/7- Big Delicious Brunch, Cadbury World, and Albatrosses on the Otago Peninsula!
3/8- Knocking Items off Our To-Do List
3/9- Frisbee Golf and Pizza – The best parts about traveling!
3/10- Moeraki Boulders and Traveling to Twizel
3/11- Mount Cook Village Museum and Relaxing in the Mountains


3/5:
Ultimate Frisbee, Unlimited Beer, and NZ ER 😦
+ In the morning we visited the I-site right in the middle of the city in the Octagon! After getting the info we needed, we walked around the area and explored the little shops and stores. Talked with a bike shop and made a reservation for Corey to get a bike rental and do the Otago rail trail the next day.
+ Used internet and booked upcoming events and activities for the area. The New Zealand version of Groupon is called BookMe and we have been using it a ton to save money! Liz (ahem.. COREY!) is super addicted to it. It’s embarrassing.
+ Corey had found the local college teams Ultimate Frisbee group on Facebook and they were having a pickup game today at the park. So we went over there and Corey played for a couple of hours with them. Some people were really good but they were still impressed with Corey’s skills and invited him to play in their upcoming tournament that weekend. Corey appreciated the invite but unfortunately we wouldn’t be in the Dunedin area the next weekend.
+ At one point, Corey twisted his knee and ankle and sat out for about 20 minutes but then they felt better so he went back in and kept playing for another 45 minutes or so and it felt fine.
+ After frisbee, we went on the Speights brewery tour. The tour itself was pretty interesting but the best part was we got unlimited beer at the end! (within a 30 minute time span). They had 6 different taps and we could pour ourselves whatever we wanted. Sweet As!
+ We went to Velvet burger for dinner but after ordering and waiting for food, Corey’s knee was hurting worse and worse from when he’d twisted it in Ultimate Frisbee. He couldn’t even sit or stand still without it throbbing painfully. We eventually decided to get the food to go and Liz would bring around the van so Corey didn’t have to walk back.
+ By the time she got the van to the restaurant, his knee was hurting even worse no matter what position we put his leg in. So he then laid down in the back while Liz hurriedly drove to the ER at about 9:25 pm. Looks like we were going to use our travel insurance!
+ The people were friendly enough but it did take a few hours to get looked at by the doctors. Other people who arrived after us did go in before us and get treated faster for no apparent reason. Luckily we had the food we’d gotten to go to satisfy our hunger.
+ After Corey was examined, the doctor said it was too swollen to know if he’d torn his ACL or MCL but the X-Ray didn’t show any broken bones which was good. Left the ER at 1:15am with a big knee brace, crutches, and prescription for anti-inflammatory. The best part was that it was completely free to get treated! It was covered under the NZ ACC. This is a fund set up to treat accidents. Anything from a small ankle twist to something large like a helicopter rescue! We were very grateful we had access to this while we were here in NZ.
+ To cheer us up we got a frozen coke from McDonald’s and watched a few episodes of Community before bed.
+ Drove back to Dunedin Market Reserve to sleep in town again tonight.

3/6:
Internet Time and Injectable Donuts!
+ We slept in a good long while to let Corey’s knee rest and then we went to a nearby Wendy’s. The 1st one since home!
+ Skyped and chatted with family/friends back home. Used internet to catch up on boring stuff like paying credit cards, email, etc
+ Later in the afternoon we moved to a cafe right on the “Octagon” in the center of town. Liz got a coffee and then split a dessert with Corey. It was a homemade donut that came with a food grade syringe to inject it with your choice of flavor of filling. We chose pistachio-rosewater flavor because it was something different. It was so delicious!!!
+ Enjoyed our time at the cafe catching up on more internet stuff like preparing to file taxes etc.
+ After we finally left the cafe we grabbed a quick dinner at subway and then walked through the rain back to the car. Corey was getting better at the crutches and hobbling around. Could probably beat Liz in a race if he wanted.
+ Before we called it a night we made a quick trip to Kmart for the essentials- sunglasses and chocolate! lol
+ Camped in town again but at a different Self-Contained parking lot.

3/7:
Big Delicious Brunch, Cadbury World, and Albatrosses on the Otago Peninsula!
+ We woke up excited to go eat a nice big brunch at a restaurant we’d heard was really good called The Eatery. Corey got the Big Breakfast and Liz ordered the pancake stacks. Yum!
+ Next we went to the Cadbury World Chocolate Factory to go on their tour. It was interesting to see all the different products they make and they gave us a whole bag with a bunch of them to try. We also saw hundreds of pounds of liquid chocolate being dumped out of a huge water-tower-like container right in front of us. Some people got sprayed by the chocolate. Lucky…
+ The best part of the tour was getting little cups and spoons and getting to eat all the delectable liquid chocolate (and toppings) that we wanted! Corey had like 4 cups before the tour group had to leave the room. Liz had to be asked to stop drinking directly from the chocolate spouts.
+ When we’d quadrupled our recommended sugar intake for the day, we drove out of town to the Otago peninsula. The drive was beautiful and hugs the coastline for almost the entire way, giving us great views over the bay and city.
+ Our 3rd BookMe tour of the day was a wildlife cruise out of the Otago Bay and into the Pacific. We saw tons of Albatross! They were flying all around! They were masters at gliding just above the surface of the water! They were so impressive! Eventually Liz gave up trying to get a good photo and just took the time to admire these huge birds. Overall we saw about 4 different species of Albatross, including the biggest species- The Royal Albatross!
+ We also saw one small blue penguin, lots of sleeping seals, lots of shags (NZ name for cormorants), and even Hectors dolphins swimming up close near the boat! Even a baby!!! It was a great tour and we were glad we did it.
+ When we were back ashore, we drove up the hill to the Royal Albatross observatory. It had some nice exhibits about the wildlife found on the Otago peninsula. Liz especially liked the exhibit explaining the first documentation of the albatross breeding colony here. It was really interesting to see the work that Dr. Richdale did with the original breeding pair that started the colony. Just as a hobby during the weekends and evenings he kept such extensive notes and measurements of the birds. There were some great photos on display of him and his wife weighing this giant albatross chick and the notes they kept of the descendants. One of the birds was documented when Dr. Richdale first started and then she went on to raise her last chick at the age of 62! So interesting!
+ Then we hopped back in the car and continued exploring the Otago peninsula. We even drove over to the Southeastern side to Allan’s beach. There Corey was even able to hobble through the sand with his crutches out over the dunes to the deserted beach. We were the only ones there beside sea lions! As we were walking along the bottom of the rocky cliffs and exploring the little coves, we came across a huge hidden sea lion. (We only heard his grunt before we almost walked into it!) We also managed to find one penguin nestled in the rocks doing his best to stay warm! We finished our driving tour of the peninsula by driving up on top of the cliff tops on the way back and watching sunset.
+ Back in Dunedin, we got dinner to go from a place called “Asian Restaurant”. The portions were huge and had tons of veggies, unlike other takeaway asian food that is mostly cabbage. Liz loved the delicious veggies!
+ After we were settled at our campsite in Dunedin we watched the movie “The World’s Fastest Indian” which was about a guy from Invercargill who built the fastest motorcycle in the world. It was surprisingly good!

3/8:
Knocking Items off Our To-Do List
+ Ate brunch at a Burger King and used their WiFi to book upcoming activities and catch up on more boring Internet stuff. There’s always more!
+ Got a free shower from the nice owners of a windsurfing rental place right on the harbor here.
+ Decided we were indeed out of almost every shred of clean clothing so today would be laundry day!
+ While Liz got the laundry going at the laundromat, Corey went driving around to find a place to refill our gas bottle for the burner. Today we were really marking things off that to do list! While it wasn’t the most fun thing to do, it was all essential stuff when you are traveling long-term.
+ Went back to that Eatery restaurant where we had had brunch. At night, the same space has a different owner and name. We got some pizza at Biggies and it was probably the best pizza we’d had in quite a while!
+ Slept in Dunedin again, back at the first parking area.

3/9:
Frisbee Golf and Pizza – The best parts about traveling!
+ Refilled the gas cannister for only $3NZD! Now we could start using our double burner again!
+ Found a cheap barber so Corey got his haircut. This marked the 6th or 7th time since we’d gone on the road and everywhere he has gotten it cut had been in a different country!
+ Grocery shopping at Pak ‘N’ Save. This is the cheapest grocery store in NZ and set up kind of like Sam’s Club back home so you always leave with more than you intended to buy when you went in.
+ There was a frisbee golf course at a nearby park just north of town that we went and played. It was pretty cool and the weather was really nice. We wished Florida weather was this cool and dry! Corey had to throw different ways so he didn’t hurt his recovering knee.
+ We got some more pizza tonight but this time it was from a different place. Their pizza flavors/options were more exotic like Mexican and Moroccan but their crust as worse so it wasn’t as good as last night. The restaurant had funny pictures in it and a big American Flag for seemingly no reason. We asked the workers and nobody (including the owner) was from the U.S. and no one knew why it was so prominently displayed. Weird.
+ Slept at Warrington Reserve which was about an hour north of Dunedin. We walked out to the beach just after dark and we were shocked at how wet and humid it became the moment you entered the grassy dunes. Way colder than just a few meters away at our van!

3/10:
Moeraki Boulders and Traveling to Twizel
+ Enjoyed breakfast with the sound of the waves just over the dune. We walked out on the beach in the morning to look for seals but didn’t see any.
+ Drove north to the Moeraki Boulders. We walked along the beach and admired the ancient round rocks that were scattered all along the shore. We could see even more out in the water that are fully visible during low tide. What interesting geological features!
+ Got ice cream at a random dairy. They are so generous here with their scoop sizes! Skyped with James and Sarah back home as we finished our ice cream.
+ Drove on to the Mt. Cook area which was a 3 hour drive northwest going mostly uphill the whole time.
+ Played Frisbee golf in Twizel. It was a weird course with very few chain pole holes and instead listed different objects and natural features to aim for!
+ After witnessing a spectacular pink sunset while playing the course, we drove with the fading light to our campsite for the night- Lake Pukaki Reserve.
+ After we arrived and made a quick pasta dinner we wanted to do some stargazing because the Mount Cook area is a registered Dark Sky Reserve. But no luck tonight. Unfortunately the entire sky was covered with a blanket of clouds.
+ Decided to hop into the van and watch a movie instead and hope for better weather tomorrow.

3/11:
Mount Cook Village Museum and Relaxing in the Mountains
+ Woke up to rain and even more cloud cover than last night. Womp womp. We moved slowly since we knew we probably would not be hiking today unless the weather cleared. This Lake Pukaki where we camped is known for having amazing blue colors and spectacular views of Mt. Cook and the surrounding mountains. Unfortunately none of those peaks were visible today and the sky was too gray for the water to light up.
+ Drove 30 min north along Lake Pukaki to the DOC center in the Mount Cook Village. The DOC center was very interesting showcasing tons of information about the climbers (dating back to 1800s!), wildlife, and changing geology of the peaks themselves. There was even a bunch of books with pictures and info on all the climbers who had died while climbing Mount Cook.
+ After talking to the DOC staff, they confirmed today would not be the best day for hiking, especially if our schedule is flexible.
+ Decided to head to our campsite already (only 3:30pm). Similar to Milford Sound area, there are no choices for free camping up here at Mount Cook, only 40 minutes back south where we camped last night or paying for a DOC site.
+ Tonight (and this afternoon) we would be staying at our second paid campsite, White Horse Hill DOC Campground. Although we had to pay $26 for the night, the campsite at least came with flushing toilets and a large shelter with running water. We were happy to have the extra room to sit in and stay warm (warmish actually- the shelter is merely a large room with tables inside. No heating or power or anything. And it had open windows up top)
+ It was cold up here! Much colder than the lake just 45 minutes south! We used the shelter to update this blog and download pictures off the camera.
+ Later we cooked some Mexican fajitas and they were delicious! It was really nice to have the extra counter space to cook on and a big sink to wash all the dishes too!

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