Sunday, March 31, 2013

Crumbled Christchurch

After we finished our awesome Abel Tasman adventure, we had some decision making to do. We had planned to head south along the west coast, but due to heavy rains in the previous week, a bridge washed out, causing drivers to take a 6 hour detour. There are not many roads on the South Island, mainly because the Southern Alps mountain range runs down the center of the island. Instead of taking that detour, we decided to venture to Christchurch, as I really wanted to see the city. We were flying out of Christchurch to get back to Melbourne in about 10 days, but we did not know how much time we would have to see the city towards the end of our trip, so this seemed like the perfect chance to head east.

The altered route took us through picturesque Nelson Lakes National Park, and along the way we started to see several road washouts, one where half of the road just fell into a river!
Maruia Falls
Sheep have rights to the road in NZ!
That night we camped at a free DOC site in Lewis Pass called Deer Valley Scenic Reserve. For a free campsite, it was very nice. We woke up early to hit the road towards Christchurch. We stopped to cook breakfast at Bottle Lake State Park, just outside the city. As we started to get closer to the CBD, we were shocked at the destruction we were seeing. There were abandoned homes, road closures, parts of the road or curb that were still damaged, and ultimately we ended up learning that the CBD was still cordoned off to people. This was pretty surprising, considering that the most recent earthquake took place nearly 2 years prior to our visit. Being there was a very eye-opening experience, and I really felt for the people who used to call Christchurch home. There are reasons why rebuilding has taken so long to get started, mainly because people disagree over how the new CBD should be developed, but also because of the fear of aftershocks. However, work is definitely ongoing, and I think that 5 or 10 years from now, Christchurch is going to be a fantastic place to visit.
A common sighting in Christchurch's CBD.
Lots of buildings look like they have not been touched since the 'quake.
A space that was once a church now serves as a memorial to 185 victims of the February 2011 earthquake.
Christchurch Cathedral
A creative temporary shopping area made out of shipping containers.
Just a few steps from the chaos lies some tranquility!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Abel Tasman National Park

Whew! I am really slacking lately with getting these NZ posts up, but I'm hoping to focus on doing that over the next few days since I am officially on a short break from school. I am sure I have mentioned this before, but in Australia school is year-round, with 3 short breaks (about 2 weeks each) and one longer summer break of about 6 weeks. Term 1 ended on Thursday, so school will start again on April 15th for me, though I do have a professional development trip for work during that time and I will still be teaching at the uni as well. In other recent news, Erik and I just returned from a short (but awesome!) trip to Western Australia, so I hope to be able to share some photos and details from that trip soon. In addition, Max went back to the States to interview for a job in Colorado, did some skiing in the mountains, and then decided to come back to live with us for a little bit longer, so we are back to a household of 3!

When I left off with the NZ posts, we had just spent our first night on the South Island in the funky town of Nelson. I was highly anticipating the next part of our trip to Abel Tasman National Park for some sea kayaking. This is part of the trip that I handed off to Erik for planning purposes and he did not disappoint!! Abel Tasman is very popular in the summer for both kayaking and hiking (it boasts some of New Zealand's best and most consistent weather), and since this part of the trip was not planned until just a few days before our arrival, many of the campsites were already booked out. That did not phase Erik, as he simply looked at the map and calculated how far he thought we could kayak each day and found campsites that would suit us. Meanwhile, I was freaking out and telling him that maybe we should do a guided tour. Thank goodness he convinced me otherwise, because exploring Abel Tasman on our own was definitely the way to go.

The map above is similar to the one that was given to us before we began our sea kayaking adventure. We started in Marahau and paddled up to Observation Beach, where we camped the first night. We actually went all the way to Anchorage Bay on the first day, because I wanted to hike part of the Abel Tasman Coastal track. Many of the campsites are boat-in only, so they can only be reached via the water. Some of the sites are hike-in as well, but there are not any sites that people can drive to, which tends to make the campsites less crowded and much more peaceful!
We accidentally camped in the day-use area, so we had the entire beach to ourselves!
Anchorage Bay
Cleopatra's Pool. You can actually slide down the rocks where the water is coming down!
Sunset views from the tent...

On the second day, we kayaked up to Bark Bay, where we camped and also hiked a bit of the walking track. We saw our first penguins and seals while kayaking on that day! Abel Tasman has some of the most drastic tides in the world, and we have evidence of that in the pictures below.
Absolutely gorgeous beach (and hubby!) at Bark Bay, just a few steps from our tent!
We were kayaking through these waters in the afternoon...
...but by dusk all of the water was gone, leaving the boats dried up!
On our last morning, we actually kayaked north first, because we wanted to kayak around Tonga Island to see the seals (we learned later in our trip that they are technically sea lions because they have ears). We did have the chance to see a few seals the previous day around Pinnacle Island, but that was nothing compared to what we would experience at Tonga. The number of seals on Tonga was much greater, and they seemed to be more active as well. Seals were hopping off of the rocks and swimming right in front of, or in one case, right next to our kayak! I've left the sound on the video so that you can see how surprised we were (well, how surprised I was!), when one seal swam next to our kayak.

Seals on Tonga Island from Ashley Hanson on Vimeo.

We then started our journey back to where we started, enjoying a slight tailwind and taking in all of the beautiful sights of Abel Tasman.
Not a bad spot for lunch, huh?!

Our trusty kayak, the "Sea Bear"!
This guy let me have lots of breaks from paddling!

Overall we had a terrific visit to Abel Tasman National Park. I had spent very little time in a kayak before this trip, so I was a bit worried about how my chronically injured shoulders would hold up, but once I got warmed up they were generally fine. It helped tremendously that Erik is a good paddler and has experience kayaking! 

One of the awesome things about kayak camping is that you can bring TONS of stuff compared to what you can carry on your back with walk-in camping. I think the "Sea Bear" holds over 300 liters, whereas my pack is a 55 liter pack and Erik's is a bit smaller than that. Generally when we are backpacking we bring simple food and only bring what we actually need because we are carrying it on our backs. In contrast, you could actually fit a cooler in the kayak, so we saw groups of people with gourmet meals and endless bottles of wine. Next time we have the chance to kayak into our campsites, I will certainly be more prepared from that standpoint! :)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Life Lately

I have been focused on blogging about our adventures in New Zealand, so it has been a while since I have written about life in general. I thought a few pictures taken from my phone over the past month or so might help to tell some of those stories.
When sister-in-law Carlie was in town we spent some time hanging out on the Yarra River!
Then mother-in-law Jill arrived and we headed down to the Great Ocean Road for more exploring.
Siblings and the 12 Apostles
After our short road trip, Carlie, Jill, and I headed to Cairns to dive the Great Barrier Reef and explore Far North Queensland. Blog post coming on that trip once the NZ trip is wrapped up!
We watched the Australian Open at a casino in Cairns. Jill, Carlie, and Max went to a day of matches during the previous week, and they even splurged for tickets inside Rod Laver Arena!
Chinese New Year means all kinds of cool fruits come out of the woodwork. In addition, summer in Melbourne means you can try about 10 different varieties of mangoes! This market is within walking distance to our house.
Mangoes galore!
Massive jackfruit!
Vibrant dragon fruit!
With Max in town for a short time, we have been trying to take advantage of his surfing knowledge in order to help us with our skills, or lack thereof.
Max and Erik head into the surf at "secret" spot our friends told us about.
A beautiful Sunday for surfing in Torquay
During the summer we often leave the outside doors to our bedroom open (they do not have screens as bugs are not a big problem here), and I came upstairs to go to bed one night to this sight:
It looks scarier than it is...but I still made Erik put it outside!
At the end of February, we hosted a little "end of summer" party, where we introduced our foreign friends to the fabulous "Orange Crush". Specifically, we made Creamsicle Crushes, thanks to many of our visitors who have imported whipped cream vodka from the States for us (I have been unable to find it here!).
Umbrellas make drinks more "fun", right?!

With summer winding down, we have been trying to visit our "local" beach often to take advantage of the nice weather. Last weekend there were lots of jellyfish, and though they might look intimidating, they were easy to navigate around in the water.

Last week the full moon was still up when I went to work at around 7am and the sky was gorgeous. I wish I had our real camera at the time to get a good shot of the moon, but the phone picture will have to do. This was taken right outside where I park my bike at work.
It would have been cool to have a window seat on that plane in the distance!
The "work" part of my life is new too, as I have been hired at the school/sports academy near our house for 3 days of work. So far (we are in week 6 of the school year), it has been a challenging adjustment but I love being able to have consistent work and I am enjoying each day. I am working as a rehabilitation coordinator, helping kids return to sport after injury by prescribing rehab exercises, essentially the closest thing I could be doing to athletic training in Australia, which makes me happy! I am also teaching at the university again 1 day per week this semester. My professional life is very fulfilling at the moment which is a huge difference compared to this time last year!

As far as additional travel goes, the in-laws, Erik, and I just returned from a long weekend on Fraser Island, where the mode of transport is 4WD along the beach. More about that later, of course! We had a great weekend despite lots of rain in the area (Queensland has been getting hammered with rain over the last month). Erik and I also have a trip to Perth coming up in a few weeks, along with a trip to Australia's capital for me, where I will be touring the Australian Institute of Sport (essentially the equivalent to the US Olympic Training Center) and also taking an Olympic Weight Lifting Course, both as a part of professional development for my new job.

Back in Melbourne, the in-laws have a few more days with us and Max just over a week. Autumn arrived on March 1st but the weather is showing no signs of cooling off with temps in the 30's (mid 80's F), and we are hoping those summer-like temperatures last well through March and perhaps into April. I know I've mentioned this as an excuse before, but due to the gorgeous weather it is taking me forever to get those NZ blog posts is simply too nice to be sitting at a computer! :)