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Since we have changed our internet provider it has become amazingly difficult to make blog posts. Our new plan limits our megabyte usage to 500mb/month. When you check your email, it is roughly 2mb. Try and count how many times you check your email a month.
I bet it is more than you realize. Anyway, we usually do not have extra megabytes to upload pictures and stories for you all to read. This month is no different. However, our camera has died so, there is a limited selection of old pictures that I can post to try and illustrate what is going on now.
Things we will miss about Samoa. First is our dog. Mamma dog. She is outside our house every morning, and every evening when I get home from work. When we go for walks, so does she. She follows us around so much that everyone thinks she is our dog from America.
Sometimes we walk over to Sinalei, which is a super fancy beach resort. They have a very strict no children allowed under 12 policy. So, it is a pretty quiet well-kept place. Mamma dog is even allowed into the resort. She’ll come sit under the table while we have some food or just drinks.
The hotel staff see her from far away and come running over to chase her out. As they get closer the see which dog it is, ask another co-worker about it, and decide it is ok. Since we have already seen them coming over, they have to come all the way and ask if we need anything. They don’t get too close though as they are scared that they will get bitten.
She has never bitten a palagi. I do not think I can say the same for Samoan people. Mamma dog also likes to come swimming with us. If we are just going down to the swimming hole, she takes a dip too. If we go full our snorkeling she is right there in the water with us. We will miss mamma dog.
We have discussed bringing her home with us, but have reached the conclusion that while her life would be much better in many ways living with us, she would lose her freedom. In Samoa she rules a full square mile. There is no such thing as a collar, and she can chase pigs, birds, and cows to her hearts content. We cannot offer any of that back home.
We will miss family transportation. You never know how you are going to get from A to B. Sometimes it is the family van. It is build to sit 12 normal sized people. Somehow we always manage to get closer to 20 people in, and they are NOT small. I like it best when the van doesn’t show up. This means it is pick-up truck time. Sun, rain, night, day… it doesn’t matter. We will have the same 20 people smashed into the bed of a pick-up truck. Don’t think about an F-350, think about a little V6 ½ ton. Being in the truck gives me a healthy dose of schadenfreude. Samoan people like it warm to hot all the time. Being in the truck in the early morning can be a bit chilly to say the least. This is my favorite time of the day. I sit all the way in the back, where it is the windiest. I wear only my shorts and tank-top and enjoy the chill. Everyone else is wrapped up in sweatshirts, tarps, jackets, and anything else they can find. I just tell them it is “palagi power”.
The vehicles are used until they break. This goes for all consumable parts as well. Yesterday, we had a tire literally explode. It was a sound I will not forget. Once we got it off and I could take a good look at it I was amazed. It had ripped a perfectly straight line from the outer rim all the way to the inner rim, and 4 other rips around the tire. The steel bands were showing around the entire tire. I have never seen a tire that worn down. I will miss ridiculous things like this.
We will miss fruit and vegetables. Everything grows here, year round, and grows to gigantic proportions. Also, things that grow are cheap. We bought a massive basket of papayas for $15 tala. There were 15 – 20 papayas in the basket. Incase your wondering $15 tala is about $6.50 USD. We never really have to go shopping. There is an endless amount of food growing all around our house. Fresh mint tea is a constant. There are fruits of all varieties. However, we will miss Misiluki bananas the most. They are the small lady finger bananas. They are the common ones eaten here, and are much sweeter than the typical bananas in the states, which are not sweet at all in comparison. Of course soursop, rombutan, star fruit, and nonu will be missed as well. I do not think it is possible to get nonu in the states… oh well.
We spent New Years Eve in Queenstown. Queenstown had a huge drunken mosh-pit style party going on. There was an advertised fireworks show at the stroke of midnight. … Less than impressive.
They had a few nice ones, but there were long breaks in between firings. after 5 minutes it was done. Oh well. We headed in shortly after that because we were catching an early morning bus to Christchurch. The bus ride to
Christchurch was an all day event. I seem to remember our driver driving like a lunatic. Otherwise, we passed through picturesque landscape after picturesque landscape. We saw
the bluest water I have ever seen in my life. It was bluer than the sky. (Is bluer a word?) The bus made a few pit stops. We got an awesome salad at some gas station, and an ice cream from a little shop. They were nice. By
the end of the day, we had made it to Christchurch, and the bus even dropped us off almost directly across the street from our hostel.
We only spent 1 night in Christchurch and all
I can say is
EARTHQUAKE! Now, for those of you who keep up on your world news, you know that Christchurch got slammed early last year. There was destruction all over the city. Part of it was quarantined,
which made it feel like there was some terrible disease brewing inside. Anyway, that is only a small part of why I say earthquake. I was almost physically shaken out of bed from one of the earthquakes that struck while we were there. I checked the USGS.gov site later that week, and found out that there were a total of 16 earthquakes which effected Christchurch in the few hours that we spent in there. Conclusion. Definitely an
intense place to live. Before we left Christchurch, we walked around through the city and went to a museum there. They were exhibiting “The World of Wearable Art”. It was one of the coolest museum exhibitions I have ever seen. They also had a permanent exhibition about old style new Zealand. I was about to call it their colonial period, but I don’t think that is the correct terminology.
We found a drive-away company which needed a vehicle relocated up north in Blenheim. So, we signed up and drove away. It was nice to drive a bit, but overall it was a few $ more expensive than taking the bus. We took the east coast road north the entire way. It was a great day for driving as the weather was not very nice. It was a chilly day with a constant drizzle. We picked up a hitch-hiker. He
was a soaking mess. All he had was a backpack and a skateboard. After a few minutes of getting into the van, he passed out. We took him all the way to where we were going, which
happened to be the same as him. He said he was meeting his girlfriend and was not expecting to get to see her that day. He had figured it would take longer to hitch-hike the distance. When he called his girlfriend, she seemed less
than impressed that he was there, and refused to meet him. We parted ways at this point, and I assume he spent the entire evening skateboarding around trying to hitch-hike the 6
hour journey south to where he came from. We had a nice place to stay in Blenheim with our own private shower!
The next morning we got up early and set out to do winery tours by bicycle. We only went to the wineries that gave free samples…
except for the one we went to for lunch. Strangely, there were dead birds all over the place. Perhaps they were using some intense pesticides that were killing the birds as well. We hit
the road pretty hard and made an out of the way detour to go to a candy factory. They had a massive glass wall which you could look through to see the candy being hand made. The best part was that they were giving out samples as you watched, AND the candy was being made right in front of you… not 400 miles away like in the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour. The end of our bicycle tour landed us at a brewery. This was perhaps one of the nicer stops along the way. I got a beer platter, which came with 9 different kinds of beer. Unfortunately, it was the end of our winery tour so, I barely tasted a difference. We were in the last group of people to return the bicycles on time. The owners were surprised by how many miles we had covered. They were not impressed with the number of bottles of wine we bought though, which was zero. Afterward, we went to a nice Indian restaurant, and then made our way up north to wait for the 2am ferry to Wellington!
Day two we made our way back to the southern lake. We came to the conclusion that horses are a better mode of transportation that motorized transport. There were several SUVs driving around the trails… needless to say they all got stuck.
We had a good laugh and rode on by. A little bit later we saw an idiot on a dirt-bike try to cross the stream. His engine stalled and there he was in the middle of 3 foot deep water with a steaming bike. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
He must have been a special kinda stupid. Anyway, the guide and I rode back without any problems. Karen however broke the steering wheel on her horse. Really somewhere along the way her horse
started to dislike her, so he walked Karen through every low branch possible. She was less than happy by the end of the day.
Next we took the horse trailer and relocated to a different site. This
was a simple out and back. The guide said 2 hours out, and then we can decide if we want to go further once we get to the hut. In keeping with her less than special attitude she went before us and took
her kids along. We were happy at first since we wouldn’t have to deal with her kids for this leg of the trip. Off we went, and all I can say is SHEEP!!!!. They were everywhere. They came in many
varieties, caged, fenced, free, wild, alive, and dead. Who knew a few farms would have such diversity through 1 type of animal. After sheep, the 2nd most notable thing was of course the natural beauty. There was
no such thing as a gently rolling hill. Everything was extreme and sudden. Streams came cascading down unimaginably steep hills that somehow sheep had climbed. Perhaps they are like people
and cats. They are happy to go up, but coming down is a different story.
Because the owner/guide told us it was only 2 hours to get there we passed the first possible lunch stop/hut. 3 hours
into the trip we were starting to get hungry. Around this point the novice guide that was left with us told us that she had never been here before and had no idea where the actual destination hut was. We were
simply following the river/stream so it wasn’t a big deal, until we started coming to y-intersections in the track. We hit more dead ends and washed out sections than I care to remember. In the
end it took us 4hours 30 minutes to get to the destination. Upon arrival the owner still maintained that it only took her 2 hours the last time she came up there. She also added to that, that she was riding her fastest horse and it was unladen with food and such. Thankfully, the ride was very beautiful, and the weather was cooperating. Unfortunately, once we got to the hut the owner and her novice guide went and took a nap and left us to babysit her kids. Ok enough, you get the point. Don’t waste your time with this tour company.
Day 4 we rode back to the horse trailer.
It was HOT. Not Samoa hot, but it was New Zealand hot. The rain held out just until we got to the truck which was nice. In the end they dropped us off in Queenstown. Saying goodbye was the best part about that company.
In the last post I already wrote about day 1. Here I will simply post the pictures from first day. I simply stood in one place and took pictures while slowly spinning. The screen was not working on my camera so some of the pictures are almost identical. For now you get to see them all. The hut is where we slept at the end of the day.
After our hike along the Milford track. We were ready to take a shower and sleep in a proper bed. We spent the first night in Te Anau, and then caught an early morning bus to Queenstown. While we spent several days there we took very few pictures. The city was very touristy and not to our liking. Unfortunately we were stuck there through Christmas.
We took a walk through their botanical garden which was nice, but is encircled by a disk golf course. The park had a nice pond full of ducks and various birds.
All around the park were signs saying “don’t feed the birds” and everywhere you looked there were people pretending to not be feeding the birds. The lake was nice, and the views were also nice, but I think we were a bit too tired to really enjoy it.
After Queenstown we headed down to the Mavora Lakes area where we started our 4 day horseback riding journey. This was a ton of fun. There were a few mishaps, and the owner didn’t seem to really be intune with what was going on, and brought her young kids along. Needsless to say, we were less than impressed with her. But the horses (for the most part) were fun, and the scenery was perfect.
Day 1 we started at the upper half of the south Mavora Lake, and rode south from there. The road was also open to 4 wheel drive vehicles, so occasionally we had to make room for them. This only happened within the first few hours though. We made a lunch stop at a small hut. Our guide made lunch, and we enjoyed the indoor safety from the sand-flies, as we call them at home black-flies. From there the road got pretty steep, and we could see out across the valley which was split in 2 by the end of a mountain. There were herds of cows and sheep grazing below, and a small slip from your horse meant certain death. An hour or so in we have to ford a river/stream. Our guide’s horse had never been on this trail before and was not happy about water… or being ridden in general. Karen’s horse was just a follower, end of discussion. Fortunately, Dave’s horse was happy to lead, with Dave at the front they pushed through the streams/rivers.
We haven’t posted new pictures of our garden in quite a while, so I ran out quickly this morning a snapped a few shots. I hope you enjoy.