Monday, December 27, 2010

The Three Questions for 2010

Today, I had the pleasure of briefly chatting, electronically of course, with one of my dear friends, Aly.  Since it was recently Scott's birthday, she passed along her "3 birthday questions" that I decided would be a great way to end 2010 on our blog.  Both of us answered the questions without looking at the other's answers.  We also answered them pretty hastily.

The questions Aly poses to her friends every year for their birthday are:  what are 3 things in the past year you are proud of, 3 things you learned, and 3 things you're looking forward to in the next year?  The answers to these questions are really the essence of living. I wish I could hear the answers from all my friends and family --  get prepared.

3 things in the past year you are proud of:
  1. Pulling off our move from Australia to New Zealand with hardly any issues, including getting rid of all our "stuff"
  2. Finding some great secret adventure spots in NZ -- off the beaten track
  3. Making it through a NZ winter, living in a van
3 things you learned:
  1. They don't call it the "roaring forties" for nothing -- NZ weather pretty much sucks ass
  2. All about how diesel engines work -- thanks to the failures of our campervan after we bought it.  Luckily, all of the issues were fixed and it's running like a charm (I know I just jinxed us).
  3. Virgin Blue Airlines lets you travel with 2 pieces of "sporting goods" that can weigh up to 50 lbs each, FOR FREE!
3 things you're looking forward to in the next year:
  1. Heading back to the USA for a visit with family/friends
  2. Buying a new home (van) and customizing it from scratch
  3. Getting better at kiteboarding
  4. For the record, I have way more things to say in this category than any of the others
3 things in the past year you are proud of:
  1. Blogging
  2. Writing and recording more songs
  3. Catching and filleting my first trout
3 things you learned:
  1. Way too much about diesel injection systems 
  2. The UK should be thankful that the Holocaust overshadows their brutal colonial history
  3. New Zealand isn't nearly as clean and green as they want tourists to believe
3 things you're looking forward to in the next year:
  1. Outfitting a new van
  2. Cheap good beer, wine, and liquor
  3. Getting better in the waves, both surfing and kiting 
Happy New Year to all our family and friends.  Wishing you a year full of proud moments, learning opportunities, and great expectations.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Guacaganoush or Babagamole?

by Scott

One of the fun things about our necessarily frugal lifestyle is that it encourages us to get creative with our food. When we are near civilization, we cruise the supermarkets for deals. Often, we end up with perishable items that must be consumed within a day or two. For example, today, we needed to eat avocados and eggplant. Heather sauted the eggplant with onions, salt, pepper, vinegar, and oil, then mixed it with avocado to make a Mid-East Mexican dip we called guacaganoush or babagamole. It was fantastic.

Other times, when we are far from civilization, we have to make do with the items in the cupboard. I've come up with a couple good salad dressings. One was a raspberry sesame vinaigrette made with raspberry preserves, malt vinegar, olive oil, and sesame seeds from the bottom of an empty bread bag. The other one was simply a mixture of the juice from a can of beets and olive oil. Unfortunately, I didn't have any seedy dregs for that one.

If you try any of these recipes and don't like them, go outside and exercise for 3 or 4 hours and try again. That usually works for us.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sick in Southland

Just as we decided to head into The Catlins region of the South Island, Scott developed an unusual sickness characterized by intense abdominal/back pain and extreme fatigue.  The Catlins is a remote area in the southeast where you are lucky to find cellphone service or radio, much less medical services.  I learned what it feels like to travel alone because during the 5 worst days of his illness, he could barely sit up (much less walk).  Walking alone on a beautiful beach or through the forest just isn't the same when your partner isn't there. We kept thinking he might be getting better because he would feel slightly relieved every morning. On the 5th night of his sickness, he woke up at midnight writhing in pain.  Luckily we had arrived to the city of Invercargill earlier that day, so we were only 20 miles from the nearest ER.

The pain slowly subsided while Scott laid on the narrow ER table between 2 - 8 am. The ER team couldn't find anything wrong with him after a quick physical exam in addition to a general blood test, urinalysis, and stool analysis.  He still has generalized pain in his abdomen, so when we get to the next population center, we will find a GP and request some more specific tests for ulcers.

How apropos that this all occurred as he approached his 40th birthday, which happens to be today!  That $600 New Zealand insurance policy will definitely pay off.  In the meantime, because a possible ulcer is in the cards, no beer for the birthday boy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sea Creature Encounters in NZ

Over the past few weeks, we've spent time mostly along the southeastern coast of the South Island.  Scott found a used surfboard, and we are in full-on summer mode.  Too bad the weather isn't necessarily in summer mode.  Is that what happens when the next land mass to the south is Antarctica?  For every one day of 75 - 80 degrees, we get 5 days of 60 degrees.  There is some fantastic scenery, and lots of sea lions, seals, and dolphins, so we are happy to explore despite the dreary weather.

The most exciting and memorable thing in the past few weeks has been our surf session with a pod of the rare and endangered Hector's Dolphins.  They are the smallest dolphin in the world and can only be found off the coast of NZ.  They were very playful and quite curious as they zipped around us and under us with amazing speed.  As long as we were out there, they never strayed far from us.  Many times, they popped out of the water within inches of us while never letting us touch them.  Priceless.
Snuggling in the sand

The southeastern coast is home to the NZ sea lion.  We've learned that the NZ fur seal that we started to see on the northeast coast favors rocky shorelines, while the sea lion favors sand.  It's been really exciting walking along the beaches to find sea lions resting.  A good way to spot a sea lion on the beach is to look for flying sand, as they sweep it over themselves to keep cool. One day, we were relaxing in the van, overlooking Blackhead beach near Dunedin, watching a couple of surfers.  Next thing we know, it looks like there are 3 surfers.  One of the guys had another "surfer" almost right on top of him.  We watched a sea lion (the other surfer) chase the guy out of the water and UP THE BEACH.  The guy was running through knee deep water with all his might, while the sea lion was riding the shore break to get to him.  Sea lions are amazingly quick out of the water.  It turns out the guy escaped unscathed.  I laughed for days.

We spent a few days at the Taieri river mouth where Scott caught one small trout while fishing.  The toughest fight came from a cockle that wouldn't let go of his hook.  Who knew cockles chased lures?

Fiesty cockle

We watched some locals collect pipis at the mouth of the Taieri river and decided to give it a try.  Pipis are like small clams and in fact, taste exactly like the baby clams that we've bought at the grocery store.  We couldn't get them to clean out their system (ahem, poop bag) so they were full of sand.  The cleaning process was ridiculously tedious. A bucket of pipis resulted to about a cup of meat.  Never again.  This story sounds very familiar to our experience with the fresh shrimp we bought in Australia, and the blue crab given to us by a friendly Aussie.

Bucket full of pipis
It is the start of peak tourist season, and we are starting to feel the effects.  We were the first ones to arrive, around 3pm, to a seemingly epic camping spot overlooking the ocean.  Since the camping spot is published in the tourist literature and is only $6, I had a sneaking suspicion that it would turn into a madhouse come 8-9 pm.  Unfortunately, I was right - reason #1001 to freedom camp?

Awesome campsite before anyone else arrived

In the morning I took a walk along the beach, over the rock walls, and surprised a little fur seal trying to get some shuteye on his private bed of kelp amongst the rocks.

Flippers tucked up

Link to November Pictures
Link to December Pictures