- Feb 2 - Gemma, Mariana and I fly down to Christchurch to meet up with Scott, Rhona and Jordan. The latter three already have a car so the first three (including me) have two days to rent/buy a car.
- Feb 3 - It's common knowledge that the best way to start a car search is beer. Our interracial posse* obliges this wisdom with a moderate bar crawl through quaint and cozy Christchurch, quickly followed by a fiscally responsible walk to the nearest liquor store.
- Feb 4 - We meet, fall in love with, and buy Auntie Ruby. The roadtrip begins! On to Lake Tekapo, where we sleep outside for the first time and the novelty of such an experience has us excited and feeling adventuresome.
- Feb 5 - The novelty wears off as I realize we will have to put up and disassemble the tent every morning and night. We head to Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand and the ideal training ground for mountain climbers gearing up for Everest. Irrelevant to our rag tag bunch, but a nice vista nonetheless. We camp by a river and I discover how much the sound of running water makes me want to pee in the most inconvenient hour of the night. I also discover I would rather stay awake all night thinking, "Shit I need to pee but it's so warm in this sleeping bag" than to get out and pee.
- Feb 6 - We wake and sleep with the coming and going of the sun. We are very in tune with nature. We clean ourselves in the river, and Rhona sets up a small but chic beauty salon (basically she holds us by the ankles so we don't drift away in the current). We head to Omaru, where we hope to see little blue penguins and fail dramatically. So we head to the city of Dunedin. Heavily settled by the Scottish in the 1800s, the city is named after and modeled after the capital city of Scotland (Dunedin is the Scottish Gaelic translation of Edinburgh). It is more difficult, we learn, to find free camping in the middle of cities than it is in the country. So we do what any respectable roadtrippers would do -- we park illegally in the Dunedin Yacht Club parking lot and pray we don't get kicked out as we earnestly begin to get drunk. Mariana playfully challenges Jordan to swim across a channel, and I make everyone uncomfortable by saying, "No Jordan, don't do it. You're drunk. You will die."
- Feb 7 - Nobody dies. But in the morning we are close to killing people. A triathlon is afoot, and that means our parking lot is full to capacity at 6 in the morning. These people are sadomasochists. Masochists because they destroy and punish their bodies; sadists because they wake us up at 6 in the morning. We mobilize, and after a hearty breakfast of instant noodles, we head to Baldwin Street, which is reputed to be the world's steepest street. We take a few funny pictures and head to an internet cafe where I chat with my beloved German. We decide to sneak the 6 of us into a motel room. I am the idiot that gets us caught. It's like how the Feds got Capone for tax evasion -- I got caught taking my laundry off the wash line. Pretty dumb for me to do laundry in this place, but I was running out of undies. Shoot me.
- Shit I don't know if I'm getting the dates right.
- Feb 8 - Curio Bay. We camp without paying, using our cars to block the tent from management's view. After a well-deserved nap, I walk down to the beach and find Mariana and Jordan taking pictures. I almost step on a sea lion, which is what they were photographing so intently. Jordan points to dolphins in the water, and to a man who is just chilling next to them. My eyes get wide and I suggest we go in, too. The water is freezing, but it's worth it...the dolphins come within three feet of us. Then the three of us go for some icecream when Jordan realizes his passport is missing. Total bummer! Couldn't happen to a nicer person. Jordan is my favorite American on the whole trip, and my official black friend*.
- Feb 9 - It's been way too long since we had a bender, so we designate this day as bender day. We set up camp by Te Anau, the largest lake on the South Island. We bypass sign after sign with variations of "No Camping, " "Camping Prohibited," and "Absolutely No Overnight Stays." We drink wine and port mixed with Sprite. We get proper bent. We settle in for a nice sleep, and an hour later get kicked out by a local officer, who threatens us with a $450 fine and confiscation of all camping effects. We hate ourselves.
- Feb 10 - We drive to Milford Sound, which is one of the world's top travel destinations. It is a fjord, and, if I didn't plagiarize Wikipedia, I wouldn't know a fjord is a long narrow inlet with steep sides, created in a valley carved by glacial activity. I would think it was a Ford manufactured in Sweden. And then I would be really confused...and ANGRY!!! Anyway, the boys find a secret path to glacial caves and pools where the water is so clear and delicious. (Yes, I drank it. Ask my brother, I tend to drink water from nature and regret it later.) They jump off a small cliff into the freezing glacial water, and I go in like a true lady -- bitching and moaning the whole way. Once in, and once I get over the feeling that I am swallowing my own heart, I taunt Gemma, Mariana and Rhona to get in. I say, and regret saying later, "Come on ladies, get in! It's a once in a lifetime opportunity!!" (I regret saying it later because "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity" comes back to haunt me whenever I am not in the mood to do some life-threatening activity. Which happens quite often when you're backpacking without health insurance.) The ladies get in and our posse takes a group photo of a lifetime.
- Feb 11 - We're in Queenstown, which is the adventure/adrenaline capital of New Zealand. Where people go bungy jumping on their lunch break. Where men scream like little girls and women grow hairs on their chest. Where it is not embarrassing to say, "Hey, I just played a mean game of frisbee golf." When we arrive, Scott, Jordan and I are starving so we head to world famous Ferg Burger, where they serve burgers the size of your head. We don't know the area, so we head in the general direction of town. Jordan says, "Wouldn't it be funny if Ferg Burger was just like, right in front of us?" And I laugh, see a flash of red and scream "IT IS!! IT'S RIGHT THERE!" The boys politely remind me of my volume control issues while rubbing their ears and we walk at a brisker pace toward MEAT. A few minutes later, we have the juicy flame-grilled monster-burgers in our hands. And WHAT a letdown. We decide to drink our disappointment away. Rhona joins us, Mariana and Gemma decide to stay back at camp. We have a kick ass night starting at Winnie's with live music and ending with Scott playing Jordan's wingman. Ten million assholes ask to take pictures with Jordan because they think he looks exactly like Bob Marley. Meanwhile, Rhona and I entertain bartenders and get free cocktails.
- Feb 12 - A repeat of last night, except this time with Gemma and Mariana. Scott, Rhona and Jordan prefer to stay in, nurse their hangovers. I prefer to delay my hangover. We start at Winnie's again, where 2-for-1 Happy Hour has us quadruple fisting. A few drinks and the girls are flirt-masters, immediately getting 2 questionably European boys to buy them a couple games of pool while juggling a couple of hirsute Australians. I text Jordan, "You left me alone with lunatics." He joins the fun. We all end the night memorably, but I don't remember much. Rhona had given us 3 sleeping pills out of the goodness of her heart, knowing we would have to sleep in the car that night. We take them and conk the fuck out.
- Feb 13 - The Valentine's bouquet I ordered is delivered to Patrick in cold, snowy Germany. I am warm and happy all day, despite a major hangover and fuzzy aftereffects of the sleeping pill. I can't even watch tv without throwing up when I take Nyquil, what makes me think I can handle a sleeping pill? The 6 of us spend the day as zombies in Queenstown. Later we drop off Jordan at the airport. He goes back to Auckland to get a new passport.
- Feb 14 - Valentine's Day. Sigh. Missing Patrick. We meet up with Rachel (our friend from Oaklands) who is now running a beautiful hostel in Wanaka. Wanaka is Diet Queenstown, a smaller version of the same thrill-seeking idea. We shower, do laundry, cook in a KITCHEN, poop comfortably -- sigh -- civilization can be paradise.
- Feb 15 - Scott, Rhona and Mariana go skydiving over Lake Wanaka. I take tons of pictures as their official Asian friend. Later we camp in a place infested with sandflies. Sandflies are hellish mozzies the size of gnats. They hurt you when they bite. Bastards deserve to die in battery acid.
- Feb 16 - We wake up at 5:30am to catch the sunrise over Lake Matheson. It is breathtaking but we are exhausted. We decide to skip over perhaps the biggest and most beautiful natural attraction in New Zealand, the Franz Josef Glacier.
- Feb 17 - Hamner Springs is a resort town built around natural hot pools. We go there to relax and splash about for a bit, but mostly to shower.
- Feb 18 - In Kaikoura we get delicious fish & chips, and Scott and Rhona get a flat tire. Boo. Here they split with us and go back north, as they have already been to Nelson and that's where Auntie Ruby's girls are going. We have a sad goodbye with them, but we know we will see them back in Auckland.
- Feb 19 - Gemma, Mariana and I do a bad thing. We camp in a Christian campground and leave without paying. We're criminals. We drive all day as penance. Then we take a 3-hour tour, a 3-hour tour. Okay, a 3-hour ferry from Picton to Wellington and sleep in the car on top of Mt. Victoria.
- Feb 20 - We shower in the public pool, and the girls are appalled at all the naked flesh in the locker room. Meanwhile, I'm used to it. Koreans go to public baths from a very young age -- I've probably seen every woman at my church naked. Big ass, old ass, bony ass, saggy boobs, one boob bigger than the other, just one boob, no biggie. After the carnal parade, we have brunch in Wellington, New Zealand's self-proclaimed cultural capital. I order eggs but wish I had ordered a savory muffin. I still think about this on March 29, 2010.
- Feb 21 - Mariana's birthday! We drive to the Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand's most spectacular one-day tramp. The walk goes over volcanic Tongariro, and takes about 8 hours if you're taking it EASY!! Poor Gemma wears the shittiest shoes, and nobody wears enough sunscreen. As we're ascending the mount, we pass by three rugged-looking butch women (our foils, we: flimsy tank tops and shorts, they: cargo pants with lots of zippers and huge backpacks) who basically tell us we will either die of thirst because we are not carrying enough water or exposure because we are not wearing the right clothes. We go ahead anyway. And at the end of it all, we are rewarded with the knowledge that we are tougher than those rugged-looking butches. And we are alive. Thank God. We go to Burger King to celebrate being alive on Mariana's birthday.
- Feb 22 - We camp in Taupo, by chance in the same place Patrick and I did. I pee in New Zealand's biggest lake. Then Gemma and I witness an old lady fall, and for some reason, we don't get up to help her. Mariana chastises us as we spout excuses. (My excuse was that she fell SOOOOOOOO SLOOOOOOOWLY that I thought she would be able to stop it. But she didn't. And so it took me a couple seconds to actually register that she fell. I know, it's bogus, but it's like, once you pass the threshold of time to help, you feel awkward going to help. You know what I mean? AND, usually when I fall, which happens a lot, I don't want anyone to help me because it just adds to the embarrassment. You can see I still feel bad about this on March 29, 2010.)
- Feb 23 - We stop in Napier, which besides being in the heart of the wine region of New Zealand, is known for its art deco designs. Girlie, I know, but fuck you, I'm allowed. We indulge in our girliness by getting ice cream and doing a wee bit of shopping. Then I book tickets back home on March 11 and to Munich to see Patrick on March 25!!! (I am writing this in Patrick's wintergarden right now!! I still can't believe I'm here...but that's for another post).
- Feb 24 - We camp in the East Cape, which is the easternmost part of New Zealand. It is the first large land mass to have New Year's! We try to wake up for the sunrise but without Rhona it is just impossible.
- Feb 25 - We drive to Tauranga, another city on the coast with another famous mountain on its coastline. Many things happen here. First, we fall in love with the city. It's got a great vibe and a pumping nightlife. Second, we get pulled over THREE TIMES, and each time we almost shit ourselves because we're moving from places we thought we could spend the night and therefore started drinking but kept getting moved for one reason or another.
- Feb 26 - From Tauranga we drive to the Coromandel peninsula, which is known for its stunning beaches. We camp in the parking lot of Cathedral Cove (another place that has a sign saying "Camping PROHIBITED") but this time we decide not to put up the tent so we can look up at the starry night sky. Gemma and I take protection -- her a screwdriver and me a knife -- just in case someone up and decides to rape us. (Someone did rape us, and it was Nature.) An hour after we finally fall asleep, it starts raining hardcore and we move everything to the car where we fall asleep, wet and cold.
- Feb 27 - We spend the day frolicking on the beach at Cathedral Cove and decide to head back to Auckland. On the way we discover a crack in the windshield. Something to worry about since we will only have about 12 days to sell Auntie Ruby before Mariana and I have to leave. And Oaklands is full so I send a panicked text to my angel Sam. She graciously lets us stay at her place.
I'm overwhelmed. So much has happened and I had so little access to the internet. Here comes a month of happenings in bite-sized bullet points.