eat fresh

that got your attention didn't it? a large cookie hovering near the word "fresh."  try not to feel too guilty about it. it's exactly the same way i felt the first time i decided to take a deep dive into NZ culture, walked into a subway, and discovered cookie pies.

i once said "if i could bottle the smell of subway and keep it in my room i would." that pretty much has nothing to do with cookie pies or even their regular cookies, but it has a lot to do with my feelings towards subway in general, and i sort of feel like i should preface this post by expressing my undying love for this food chain. i. love. subway. there, i said it.

one of the reasons i love subway (there are many) are the cookies.  they're supposedly baked fresh, though i've never seen or smelled this in action and they're generally found lying on top of each other on plastic shelves near the cashier.  what's even better than subway cookies though, are subway cookie pies - a seemingly exclusive product to NZ, or at least one i haven't been fortunate enough to come across in the US.

simply put, cookie pies are pretty much 2-3 different types of subway cookies that are baked together into one giant softer cookie.  i'm pretty sure this product happened by accident one day, and someone probably got fired before they realized this was a genius invention.  sure enough, the product has stuck around, and for a mere $2.60 NZD, you can turn your whole world around.

i'm taking a liberty in assuming that most people reading this blog have tried subway cookies and can understand how compelling a cookie pie is without too much detail. if you haven't, get out there and get yourself one.  then re-read this post and tell me it's "boring" compared to the ones about sleeping bag bungees and cayoning...

update: photos of real live cookie pies.  yes, that means i went out and got one shortly after writing this post...

beneath the soft lighting of the plastic display case

the soft center of a chocolate chip/double chocolate/m&m cookie pie



my favorite thing about hamilton is that every kiwi i know calls it "the tron." i'm not even really sure why.  it must have something to do with the city ending in "ton," but with the additional "r" in there for flair.  that or everyone thinks of it as a giant space ship.  either way, fun name.

hamilton is the fourth largest city in NZ - and i know that because i was putting together demographic breakdown slides today for a presentation at work.  not to get into the numbers too much, but the size of other large cities in NZ compared to the largest city (auckland) really surprises me.  in this case, hamilton has a population of about 140,000 people, which isn't very big at all when you consider that auckland has about 1.2 million.  it's taking a lot for me not to go into depth on this since i just got home from work, but i'll quit while i'm ahead.

though it is one of the largest cities in NZ, being perfectly honest there isn't all that much to do there.  there is a cute strip of bars and restaurants in town, and you can definitely find a little bit of shopping, but beyond that it's not the most happening city.  which is actually pretty nice when you're winding down from the adrenaline pumping activities in rotorua.

admittedly, i actually went to hamilton for the first time a few months ago, but didn't mention it on the blog. hopefully you can get over this though, and i can make up for it now with these photos of the highlight of hamilton - the botanical gardens.

italian garden.

indian garden.

japanese garden.

the american garden, which was the ugliest one. typical.

the kitchen garden.

to-mah-tos. i'm learning to fit in here.

looking back on the blog, i'm realizing i've been to more gardens in NZ than i've ever been to in my entire life. which is really strange, but at least i'll have a good portfolio of photos to select my computer desktop background from.


throw out your old rules, these are the road rules

when i broke the news to my friends and family that i was moving to NZ, i got a lot of "wow, that's really far," and "why not australia?" and about a million "more sheep than people" jokes.  all equally hilarious of course.  i answered all the w's (who, what, where, when, why) and even a few h's (how - obviously), and found myself eventually with a well-practiced routine monologue.  

until one of my friend's shocked me with her response to my move.  "isn't that where they got in those giant hamster balls and rolled down hills on road rules?" right. because that's probably a pretty common point of reference for NZ.  it was so ridiculous, i had to make a promise to find out more about these life-size hamster balls and set myself up for a ride.

there's really not much else of a description i need to give for a zorb other than a "life-size hamster ball."  even wikipedia points out the similarities between a hamster ball and a zorb - as well as the seemingly deliberate timing of the zorb origin. and since human sized rodent toys have obvious appeal to a girl like me, i walked away with an awesome experience.  unfortunately i wasn't able to stand up and run the whole time like i was picturing in my head (something along the lines of this: http://youtu.be/mI7vz9Bd664), but falling down turned out to be just as much fun. 

the zorb track.

my own personal hamster wheel. dreams really can come true.

trying to look cool. 

can you feel the excitement?!?!?!!? 

zorbing down the hill - probably felt more exciting/steep than it looks. 

what movie did i learn the "pop your leg if you're in love" trick from again?

truth be told, technically this wasn't the "zorb" ball.  it was an off brand - the ogo ball.  the woman in the tourism center swindled me into a sort of two for one deal, but i'm convinced the ride i took in the "knock off" plastic ball was probably pretty similar to a ride in a zorb branded plastic ball.


i wanna swoop babay

for the first time in awhile, i actually traveled somewhere with another human being.  you were probably starting to wonder whether the whole "i like traveling on my own" thing was similar to most girls saying "i don't need a boyfriend."

i actually have a distant cousin who lives in NZ named fabienne or fabi.  she's a relative through my mom's side of the family and lives in hamilton, which is only about an hour and a half drive from rotorua.  luckily, i was able to flex my persuasive email writing skills and convinced her to come along with me so i had a partner in crime. or tourism?

anyway, when we arrived, we headed straight to the tourist information center to make sure we booked the activity i promised i would do in NZ (yes, i'm still going to be vague about that one) and anything else that we were interested in.  originally, fabi planned on being my personal photographer just watching, but when we were looking into activities she found something called "the swoop" that was of interest.

we decided to go ahead and do it. why not? you only live once! now's as good a time as any. all's fair in love and war.  ok, that last one didn't make sense, but i needed to make sure you knew i was going on a cliche-a-thon.

simply put, "the swoop" means two crazy looking kiwi guys wrap you and a friend in a sleeping bag type contraption, then they hoist you up 40 some odd meters in the air (as high up as the rotorua bungee jump) and tell you to pull a cord which effectively releases the sleeping bag from the cord and you go "swooping" through the air.  sounds less scary than it is, especially when you're afraid of heights. and you're the one pulling the cord...

understand now why it was so compelling? yeah, me neither.

mildly suffering from the last condition.

fabi and i in our "sleeping bags."

the initial fall - apparently i need to work on my scared face.

all hair.

if you couldn't feel enough fear in our faces from those last two photos, that's not all - the photo package that we bought also came with a video. totally wish there was music to drown out the nervous conversation topics and my lame cousin it joke, but i've embarrassed myself before, i'll do it again...



i guess i've been in sort of an adventurous mood lately.  maybe it's just the weather getting me out and about, but i'd rather give the credit to some sort of bravado i've developed in the past few months.  either way, this weekend i made yet another trip - this time to see rotorua.

rotorua is one of the larger cities for tourism in NZ, located smack dab in the middle of the north island. it's definitely not as beautiful or as large as queenstown, but it's the north island's answer to adventure tourism, and i had made a promise to a friend to do something while i'm in NZ that i knew i could do here (we'll save that for later - have to keep you hooked somehow).

the thing i actually heard more often about rotorua than all the touristy activities it had to offer, however, was the smell.  and no, not in a "fresh air" or "wonderful mountain breezes" kind of way. more like "watch out, that city smells like eggs."

maybe i caught the city on a good day, but i was pretty disappointed that there was no cartoonish green smoke twirling through the air.  i only really smelled the sulfuric breeze twice while walking through the gardens, and it wasn't all that strong. nonetheless, the city seems to have earned itself a smelly kid reputation, and i had to go (always rooting for the under dog).

just a couple of bikes.

having this strange desire to make "ooga booga" the caption, but i won't. 

me in like 10 years.

the museum.

the government gardens.


canyoning in qtown

you didn't think i was going to mention queenstown as "the adventure capital of the world" over and over again and then leave without any adventure, did you?  my last day in queenstown, i decided to take action.

this may be slightly disappointing to those of you who were hoping for a "birthday bungee" remix video.  while it probably would have been awesome to do the nevis 134 meter bungee (which is 3 times the length of the bungee i did for reference), i kind of felt over it. if i had a counter of how many times i mentioned that i was afraid of heights, the numbers would be higher than the number of total views on this blog.  that being said, doing the auckland harbour bridge bungee felt like enough of an "overcoming my fears" experience, and i was sort of in the mood to enjoy doing something rather than torture myself just for the sake of saying "i did it!"

so, i went into happy adventures, or some shop similarly named, and booked a canyoning trip.  it was a quick five minute drive from the city to the beginning of the trek.  we arrived, suited up, went to the restroom (as we were strongly advised not to pee in our wetsuits due to a lingering urine odor that was promised to remain with us all day if we did), and headed down into the canyon.  our guide asked at the beginning whether anyone was afraid of heights, but i decided i was more afraid of admitting my fears and after talking to one of the girls on the trip had decided that i wouldn't be more afraid than anyone else.

wrong.  the trip through the canyon involved ziplining over the river, abseiling down from very high cliffs, and even included a few high jumps from waterfalls. granted these jumps were 8 meters at the highest point, but jumping from 8 meters from a slippery waterfall into a very small cove where only a small area isn't covered in rock was pretty nerve racking.

it was an awesome day though, and i certainly got my queenstown adrenaline rush going. my legs are actually still kind of sore. ok, maybe not, but they were for a few days.

the group receiving our safety instructions.

how to abseil: "please keep your feet at a 90 degree angle"

so, the water was a liiiiiittle bit cold.


maybe i should have mentioned my fear of heights?

but across the canyon i went.

starfish jump that i was forced into doing. totally freaked out.

the group making our way through the canyon.

jumping off a cliff into the next pool.

ziplining to the middle of a pool and then free falling down into the water.




falling picture.


cookie time

it was hard to come back from milford sound and not run straight to my safety net of fergburger (wait, have i mentioned fergburger in EVERY queenstown post so far? whoops.)  instead, i chose to spread the love and indulge in another treat i've been wanting to try - cookie time.

it would be insane to think that i haven't had cookie time before as it's a pretty popular NZ cookie company (think pepperidge farm), and in fact i have had cookie time before.  the difference was that the only cookie time i had experienced was of the packaged variety found in a convenience store, not the hot fresh straight from the source kind.  this i had to try.

i walked in thinking i would likely just get a freshly baked cookie, but was immediately distracted by a sign toting "$6 cookie and ice cream sandwiches" (advertising works, people).  i scooped one up, and sat outside to enjoy my treat.  hangover. cured.

outside of the shop.

cookie "muncher" - cookie monster's second cousin?

ice cream cookie sandwich - two freshly baked cookies with cookies and cream ice cream in the middle. YUM!


milford sound

the day after the pub crawl, i somehow managed to wake up in time to catch a 7:15 am bus that i had booked earlier in the week to take me to milford sound for the day.  i was not feeling pleasant to say the least, but i picked myself up purely based on the premise that it was a long bus ride (about 4 hours each way) and i would be able to sleep most of the way. and i had already paid for the tour and an indian food lunch that came with my tour.  it's like i'm a lunch order psychic.

this actually wasn't my bus, but i thought it was so that kind of counts right?

everyone loves a good "sheep in NZ" pic.

as i mentioned, the ride was fairly long and we made several stops on the way to see many of the different landmarks in the fiordland national park that we drove through to get to our destination.  lucky for me, one of our stops was to a fresh mountain spring, where we were encouraged to drink water fresh from the mountain.  i'm convinced that this river was to hang overs what the fountain of youth is to staying younger, as i'm pretty sure the fact that i survived this day and stayed awake the entire tour can only be explained by sheer miracle.

in a mystical, magical, field in the fiordland national park.

the mirror lakes.

river where we stopped to drink fresh mountain water. that may or may not have saved my life.

the chasm.

looking down from the bridge at the chasm.

we arrived at port to board our cruise through milford sound at about 1, and literally all i could think about was my boxed indian lunch. too bad the chicken included in the meal hadn't been plucked properly and the curry had no spice in it.  i ate like 2 bites of rice (again where i'm convinced the miracle water came into play with my survival), and headed out to the deck to get some fresh air.

it's honestly probably best to leave most of the story telling in this post to the photos.  given my state of mind at the time, it's probably a more accurate portrayal of what i was experiencing anyway.

milford sound.

boat for the lunch cruise.

wild seals. or sea lions. what's the difference, again?

the sound: part deux.

tlc, eat your heart out.

up close and personal with the fall.

the largest free-flowing mountain waterfall.

potential new facebook photo? i certainly think so.