Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Random Act of Kindness

Our second day in Napier, we decided to do a wine tour - which i had been wanting to do before even leaving Canada. I was sooo excited! We had a blast visiting 5 wineries that day and getting tipsy off all the samples. hehe

It just so happened that as we mentioned that there was a lack of rooms in the city that night, our host of the tour offered for us to stay at her house for the night! Of course i jumped on the opportunity and we accepted. We picked up the rest of our belongings at the apple orchard first, and I quickly picked a bag of apples with a plan in mind....

Upon arrival at their house, I whipped up an apple crumble (which btw, they had never eaten or heard of before). Then, we enjoyed a BBQ outside on the river in front of their house and a late night paddle in their boat.
I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable evenings we've had since we've started this adventure. This couple took us in like we were close friends and everything! It goes to show that there is still good in this crazy world :)

Friday, February 16, 2007

New Zealand!

Our time in New Zealand began in Mount Moungonouie (sp?).

This is a cute beach community where many surfing and kayaking competitions are held. It is full of little cafes, shops, and even a "mountain" in the middle of town. Darwin and I hiked to the top to see the beautiful view one sunny afternoon, and spent lots of time on the beach.

Its almost 3 weeks now since we left home. It feels like so much longer for some reason. We are currently in Napier, a beautiful beach city at the bottom of the north island. We are making our way to Nelson where there should be plenty of work to keep out wallets full. Its amazing how much money a trip costs - more than a person ever anticipates. For example - even staying at hostels can be expensive. Tonite its costing us $100 for a single room just because there is a huge art deco festival going on and every hotel/hostel in the area is booked. Last monday when we stayed here, it was just $45!!! crazy eh?!

This past week has been interesting. We landed ourselves a job in an apple orchard on Tuesday, so off we went to do some pickin! Well...lets just say its the worst job ive ever had. Its hard and doesnt pay much of anything. Its the first pick of the season so the apples arent very good. We pick the apples into a bucket that is strapped onto the front of our bodies...which gets increasingly heavier as it gets full....and makes it hard to maneuver in and around the trees, plus we have to go up and down the ladder with this darn thing attached. OY! As my mom would say - its one of those "character builders"....and Darwin just laughs at me since ive never had to "rough" it before, lol. Our accomodations consist of a little camper trailer thingy for the 2 of us...and then a communal kitchen/bathroom in an other trailor thing...which is disgusting a dirty and i dont want to touch anything- I even wear my sandals in the shower! But, we are only there a week - enough to make a bit of money and save on the accomodation and food costs that we'd normally had.
The upside is that we get to eat as many apples as we want :) yippee!
Our first day picking, darwin ate 10 apples and was so sick that night and next morning - poor guy, too much fiber!

Today we came back into Napier for the weekend and did a bit of shopping, dining before watching an airplane show over the ocean. It was sooo neat! Fighter planes from the 1930's doing tricks in the air.

Here we have arrived in Nelson, which is on the north tip of the South Island.
Shortly after arriving, we met the nicest woman one evening at a restaurant bar, who offer
ed for us to stay at her place unti we could find an appartment. We jumped on the offer, not exactly sure what kind of accomodation this would be... Hazel's house offered all kinds of wonderful things including an amazing kitchen, fruit trees, a hot tub, ocean views, and our own private en suite bathroom. We were so greatful!

Fresh persimmons on the trees outside our bedroom... Mmmm! One day Hazel and I picked these buckets of plums, nashis, and lemons - and then made really yummy juice!

I taught Darwin to make nori rolls..yumm; and I enjoyed time in the hot tub drinking champagne with Aunty Hazel.

BBQs were also enjoyed at our new "home away from hom". Notice the "pass through" window from the kitchen to the deck. Im SO getting one of those!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Adventures in Fiji

Ah, Fiji - the land of beaches, tropical fruit, and sunshine!

Wow! Fiji is the most beautiful country! With mountains, white sand and coral beaches, lush greenery, and tropical fruit trees...OH and the people are really the nicest I've ever met. A foreigner is always greeted with a smile and the saying "Bula" which means "hello", but i think it has multiple meanings because its used so much.

Our first day we arrived at 6am, and it was a scorcher already. The sun and humidity hit us like a ton of bricks, after the cold of Sioux Lookout. No time for sleep after travelling 30 hours though! We jumped on the tour bus and started our journey along the oceanside. That day we visited beautiful Natadola Beach (where im pictured here - ummmm really, how white am I ?!?!)where we swam, and enjoyed a typical Fijian BBQ (i enjoyed an abundance of papaya, lettuce, and banana).

We also visited the market where we purchased the freshest of fruits - pinapple, papaya, cucumbers, bananas, and dates. Mmmmm!

Here, the vendor is cutting a pineapple for us to eat! It was soo delicious, let me tell you!

By late afternoon we reached our first resort : Mango Bay. A beautiful place with safari style tent accomodation with en suite outdoor bathrooms. Heaven! A nice beach, pool, daily activities, wonderful food, many coconut trees, and more here!

That night I asked for a fresh young coconut and to my surprise one of the staff actually scaled up the tree with his own hands and bare feet to pull down 7 coconuts from about 40 feet! Unbelievable! Such strength! Then he set me up with a hole in the top and a straw to enjoy the sweet water. yumm! He said that the locals just drink the water from the coconuts when they are out in the bush - they dont worry about water because the fresh stuff is hard to get in Fiji. Its all bottled and expensive.
...and they dropped to the ground!

Hehe, getting my coconut ready!

I also enjoyed the meat of that coconut...and the next day darwin and i found a green coconut that had just fallen from the tree, so with his knife we managed to get it open. I enjoyed it to the fullest!

Ive never eaten so many young coconuts in my life!!! I really was in heaven!

...and the papayas! OMG - absolutely to LIVE for!

We stayed at Mango Bay for 3 full days and enjoyed soaking up the sun, relaxation, a bit of kayaking, and fruit eating!

When it was time to leave that resort we were quite shocked to find out that we had to pay for the extra nights, after the understanding that we had already paid for ALL our accomodation in the Hotel Hula Loop Pass (bus and hotel). It turns out that we were only covered for 4 nights!
Fortunately the owner (American) cut us a deal!

In the next 3 days, our destinations included visiting a village and seeing how the locals live. This was kind of sad because Fiji is such a poor country that most people live in little shacks that are thrown together with whatever materials can be found. We also got to partake in a traditional "sevusevu" ceremony in a village way up in the rainforest. It was a blistering hot day as we sat and drank kava - a root grown in Fiji that is dried, powdered and then mixed with water to make a special drink. If a person wants to enter a village, they must present the chief with kava - this makes the person part of the group, so to speak, and they are always welcome after that. Anyway, this "drink" (which the locals LOVE), looks like muddy swamp water and doesnt taste much better. Its pretty hard to get down. Darwin actually sat and drank 15 cups that day with the other men!!!! Oh, and kava also makes you drowsy, acting like a drug. He was one tired guy afterwards!

These are the houses that most people in Fiji live in - this was in the traditional village that we got to tour. Makes me so greatful for the home and everything else I have in my life.

Another activity was taking a trip down the river in long boats which are long, narrow wooden boats, powered by motor. Way up into the rainforest in these, we then got into big black tubes and drifted back down the river. It was soooo fun!!!!

Mmmm, bananas growing in the rainforest!

Sandboarding was another activity. Yup, like snowboarding, but down sand dunes! I was too scared, so I just hiked to the top for the view and snapshots, but Darwin boarded down and was the first one in the group to do so! It was a hoot!

Natural mud pools was another fun thing we did - at the foot of the Sabeto Mountains. I had to throw my bikini out after that! :( becuase it was so caked with mud and no washing machine to be found.

A visit to a Fijian Elementary school was a wonderful experience too. The children are soo friendly and outgoing - not to mention adorable. Here, it was so humid that my camera lens fogged right up!

This was one of the other resorts we stayed at. The ocean was as warm as bathwater!

Unfortunately, this beautiful piece of land is being turned into a "hollywood" style place in the next few years- SAD!

We did so much that now I can't even remember everything, but the Feejee Experience tour was really nice. When that was finished, we had 3 days on our hands, so we decided to head over to one of the small islands on a cruise boat. We stayed here for 2 nights, but it wasnt all it was cracked up to be. Running water only a few hours during the day since it had to be brought in by boat...and lets just say the accomodation was the shittiest ive ever stayed in!!!!! Bunk beds with a pillow, thats it. No blankets, although it wasn't like we really needed any since it was so darn hot. We had thrown out the beach towel already since it had become so rank from our first days in Fiji - ewww. Actually, nothing got a chance to properly dry out due to the humidity. The sun, snorkelling, and food was really amazing here though. The most beautiful fish ive ever seen! It was incredible.

Ummm....hunny, can you please pick me ANOTHER coconut?? :)

Nothin like some morning yoga on the beach, ahhh, paradise!