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New Zealand in a Flash

Nom, Nom, Nom New Zealand Style

As our time in New Zealand comes to an end, it seems only fitting to look back on some drool-worthy moments we experienced in kiwi country.

Yum #1: Fergburger

This place is infamous. Ask anyone for a food recommendation in Queenstown, and you’ll hear the resounding response “Fergburger.” Serving up dishes such as the “Cockadoodle Oink” and “The Codfather,” it is a packed house any day of the week at all hours of the night. Kim and I had the luxury of visiting this popular joint twice while in Queenstown. Round one we tried the Bombay Chicken sandwich topped with mango chutney and smothered in aioli sauce, and round two was the Cockadoodle Oink sandwich sporting bacon and avocado. Huge portions, great fries, crowd favorite.

Yum #2: Kaffe Eis

Best. Gelato. Ever. Seriously, Italy should be worried. Kim and I managed to conquer the following flavors during our time in Wellington: golden kiwifruit, forest fruit yogurt, bon bon, caramel, chai, pannacotta, mixed berry, passionfruit, caffe latte, chai (take two), coconut, and chocolate. Whether it’s in a cup or a cone, the only word to describe these decadent treats: heavenly. Next time I see a shooting star, I’m seriously wishing for a Kaffe Eis opening in Chicago.

Yum #3: Cookie Time

Warm cookies in a variety of flavors. Insanely good. Gives Mrs. Fields a run for her money. Stop by during cookie “happy hour” and get two for the price of one!

Yum #4: Golden kiwi fruit

Everyone knows the kiwi fruit from back home–furry skin, green on the inside, tart taste. Well, the golden kiwi fruit is like the awesome cousin of the green little guy. Smooth outside, golden inside, and deliciously sweet.

Yum #5: L&P

This Kiwi classic is a soda with loads of fresh taste. The L&P stands for “Lemon & Paeroa,” and the drink began back in the early 1900s when local blokes found an underground spring in Paeroa, New Zealand. The taste could be compared to a mix of ginger ale and lemonade. Sorry friends, but this baby can only be purchased in New Zealand.

Overall, it’s been quite the treat sinking our teeth into the sweet, salty, and savory dishes of New Zealand. Now we’re off to see what culinary delights Australia has to offer.

Q&A #1

Up Up & Away

How Sweet It Is

As a child, I always dreamed of being one of the golden ticket winners in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, so you can imagine my excitement when I found out we were visiting a real life chocolate factory in Dunedin, New Zealand. Labeling myself as a chocoholic would be an understatement. A more accurate title would be something along the lines of “self-proclaimed chocolate connoisseur.” My qualifications? Gobbling down an obnoxious amount of sweets for twenty-one years. So obviously, I was pumped. Kim and I ventured out to find the Cadbury Chocolate Factory. When we saw it, it was like one of the moments in movies when the choir of angels sings “Hallelujah”, and there is golden light surrounding the prized object. The purple banners hanging from the building were waving triumphantly, luring chocolate lovers passing by to its entrance.

When Kim and I entered the building we checked in for our tour and took a lap through a mini maze showcasing the history of chocolate. It started with chocolate’s humble beginnings as a mere cocoa bean and continued on to the spectacle it has become today. When the clock struck three, our tour guide Pat appeared. Pat was a jolly lady rocking purple overalls, pockets overflowing with an assortment of candies. She equipped us with hairnets (yet another flattering piece of clothing) to wear throughout the factory. She also gave us a purple bag of numerous Cadbury confections (including one of my Easter favs: crème eggs). At different points of the tour Pat would ask chocolate trivia questions and the winner would receive (what else?) chocolate. In the Easter egg wing, we saw workers handling delicate chocolate eggs in preparation for next Easter holiday. At the end of this wing stood a replica of the world’s largest chocolate Easter bunny…basically a dentist’s worst nightmare. Pat said the oversized figure still holds its placein the Guinness Book of World Records. Perhaps the most impressive and “Willy Wonka”ish moment of the tour was the voice-activated chocolate waterfall. As we screamed “we want chocolate” gallons of melted chocolate cascaded into the vat below.

The sweetest part of the day? The goodie bags. Cadbury sent us home with heaps of chocolaty treats to enjoy and offered more options in the outlet store. So the moral of the story is: follow your sweetest dreams. Just beware of cavities.

Ice Age: Glacier Hiking 101

When did I think I would hike a glacier? When hell froze over. Appropriate, right? Okay, don’t feel bad if you didn’t realize glaciers were still in existence. There are actually only a handful of locations around the world to climb one, so today, Kim and I hiked the icy paradise in Franz Josef, New Zealand. Before letting us hellions loose on the ice, the guides provided us with some ultra stylish equipment. From head to toe this included: hat, rain jacket, gloves, over trousers, wool socks, hiking boots, crampons, and fanny pack (aka bum bag).

To reach the glacier itself we took a shuttle bus, hiked a steep inclining path through a rainforest area, walked across a flat glacier valley covered in rocks, and finally, conquered a winding mountain path to reach the terminal face of the glacier. It’s strange to be in such an environment because one minute you’re walking on rocks and the next minute you feel like you’re in Antarctica. Surprisingly, the time spent actually getting up to the glacier was probably the most strenuous part of the day. Another surprise was how warm it was on our way up. Many hikers (including myself) shed a few layers and hiked the mountain in just a t-shirt. (Don’t worry, Mom. I put my coat back on when we reached the ice.) The path we took included several sets of chiseled ice stairs and a path that resembled an ice maze. Blue ice caves, glistening ice crystals, and sparkling waterfalls made the scene more picturesque than a postcard.

The secret to walking on the glacier without tumbling down the slick sheets of ice was our crampons. These little guys are metal shoe spikes (resembling a bear trap) that attach to your hiking boots for traction on the ice. By putting your weight on the shoes with each step the cramp ons were able to dig into the ice for a stable walking surface. We felt quite like little wilderness trekkers while walking around with these on. Our buddies at REI would be proud.

So after trekking, hiking, and stomping on ice all day, we saw something incredible. It truly was like a scene straight from the movie Ice Age as the glacier sparkled in the sunlight. It was nearly perfect. The only thing missing? That lovable crazed squirrel.

Cave Crazy: Black Water Rafting

Caution: black water rafting is not for the faint of heart. I know what you’re probably thinking…black water rafting? Isn’t it called white water rafting? Well, not if you’re in a cave 300 meters below the ground. Black water rafting (also known as cave tubing) is a popular activity at Cave World in Waitomo, New Zealand. Naturally, Kim and I decided to give it a go, despite the estimated 10 degree Celsius temperature of the cave water. Our guide leaders hooked us up with a wet suit, jacket, helmet, and gumboots for the trek and loaded us up into a truck to take us to Waitomo Cave.

When we neared the cave entrance, we picked up inflatable inner tubes and felt the air around us getting colder as we descended. We started the journey by walking through the caves to admire the glowworms’ dazzling galaxy. The scene looked like a dark sky filled with tiny green lanterns glowing brilliantly. Not as cute when you find out the “beautiful glow” comes from glowworm poop. Fun fact: glowworms can only be found in Australia and New Zealand. When we waded deeper into the water we got situated in our tubes. Our whole group was linked together by putting our legs on the tube of the person in front of us to connect together.

Now, we thought this journey would be comparable to a lazy river ride or wave pool, letting the current carry us gently through the caves. This was definitely not the case. Once we came up to the first waterfall, these thoughts were quickly dismissed. Our guide instructed us to hold our breaths, close our mouths, close our eyes, and hope for the best. Then we jumped backwards off the ledge with our inner tubes under us. This was one of the most terrifying parts of the experience because we thought we were done with jumping off of ledges yesterday. Next, we had to individually swim through a dark passageway barely big enough to fit our inner tubes through. The second unexpected moment was the hydro cave slide. I’ll admit, it’s a bit frightening speeding down a slide into a black abyss. Our next feat was to lead the pack of cave crazies on a trail lined with ropes to hang on to. This path led us to the end of the cave, and about 300 steps later, we emerged back into the real world feeling accomplished, yet physically exhausted. When we returned to the site, we were treated with hot showers and hot chocolates, which were much needed after the frigid two hours spent in the cave. So if extreme adventures are your fav, go ahead and brave the cave!

3, 2, 1…BUNGY!

Those were the last words we heard before we plummeted full speed from a 47 meter platform towards the lake beneath us. We jumped at Taupo Bungy to get our adrenaline fix…for the day.

Coley’s Jump: From a distant glance, the jump off point didn’t look so intimidating, but when I got harnessed up and ready to jump…I looked down. I even contemplated turning back, but the person who jumped before me was a ten-year-old boy, so I would have felt pretty lame doing so. I would have never guessed that I would be bungy jumping, considering I close my eyes on rollercoaster rides at Six Flags. But hey, when’s the next time I’ll be in Taupo at bungy jump central? After being strapped in, clicked in, and locked in tight, I made my way to the platform in what could be described as a penguin waddle. Not because I was scared (maybe a little) but because the ankle straps restricted the range of motion for walking. I lined up on the edge, gave a careless wave to the camera, and dove off the platform. The free fall feeling was the scariest part of the jump, but once I felt tension in the bungy, all was good. The view was incredible and the feeling was exhilarating.

Kim’s Jump: Being the adrenaline junkie that I am, bungy jumping was one of the activities that I was most excited to cross off my bucket list this summer. Since I practically grew up riding roller coasters at Cedar Point and went skydiving in Australia two years ago, I thought this would be no big deal. I’d say the most frightening part of the entire experience was the anticipation of standing on the platform waiting. Coley decided she wanted to jump first so I had the amusement of watching my best friend jump off the edge minutes before my turn. Coley was gone, and I was next. I carefully watched the jumpmasters check the bungy cord (twice) and made my way to the edge. This was it…the moment I had been anxiously awaiting for years. I smiled at the camera, bent my knees, and soared. I didn’t want to bungy jump in complete silence, so I started to yell with excitement before my feet even left the edge. However, the speed of the freefall left me speechless, and I couldn’t even get a noise out until I was swinging back and forth between the cliffs. I was surprised that the tug of the bungy cord didn’t hurt, as I hardly even felt it. All I can remember after that was a lot of flying and spinning. I was actually quite disoriented by the time it was all over. I will admit, the freefall of bungy jumping was much more thrilling and frightening than skydiving. Despite the fact that I was much closer to the ground, I didn’t have a professional on my back this time. Ultimately, it was a complete rush and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Check back soon for video footage from this adrenaline pumping event.

The Zorbing Experience

Zorbing: (also known as globe-riding, sphereing, or orbing) is the act of rolling down a hill in a large, inflatable plastic ball for recreation or sport. 

About 15 years ago, this experience was invented in New Zealand when two crazy Kiwis decided it was a good idea to roll down a hill inside the newly developed zorb globe. Obviously, this was an extreme sport that Coley and I knew we must try during our time in Rotorua. Despite the fact that it’s currently the middle of winter here in New Zealand, we threw on our swim suits and opted for the hydro ride. This means that that we had no harness and both of us were in the zorb globe at the same time with nothing but about 3 gallons of water. We literally had to dive into a small hole in the ball and waited until we were released down the hill. I think we can both agree that this was one of the craziest and most fun experiences we’ve had in our lives. The best way to describe the zorb ride is somewhat of a a cross between a roller coaster and a waterside. Imagine us being socks in a washing machine.  From inside, we couldn’t see anything as we rolled down the hill, slipping, spinning, and sliding everywhere at about 30 miles per hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our ride, I ran into the office and enthusiastically told the manager how incredibly awesome I thought that experience was. To which he replied, that he’d let us go again…for FREE! We did the hydro ride again but this experience was quite different because Coley and I went in the globe with an English bloke that we just met (we didn’t even know his name until after the ride). We challenged ourselves to stand up but with the weight of three people in the ball, we were rolling at extreme speeds and immediately fell down. We spent the rest of the way down the track slipping, sliding, and spinning even more than the first time. More people = more insanity.

It was wet. It was wild. It was completely unlike any other adventure.