Sunday, June 1, 2008

After 2 1/2 weeks of driving, and 2,500 miles later, my tour of the south island of New Zealand is complete. These pictures and words can do nothing in way of describing this land, it transcends any description and can only be appreciated by actually seeing it, but this is a good start.
Along the way I:
slept in the back of my car most nights and was caught in a blizzard and was almost snowed in crossing a mountain that already had several feet of snow on the ground as I drove through, battled hypothermia in a sleeping bag at night, learned that 4 days is about as long as you want to go without a shower, learned that where this is a will there is a way when it comes to finding showers, toilets, and other common amenities not found in a Subaru stationwagon, battled malnutrition as I ate nothing but ramen noodles, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and indian curry when I found it, saw more waterfalls than I can count, saw the most spectacular mountain ranges in the world covered in snow, watched a pod of 30 dolphins jumping out of the water to greet our boat in Milford Sound and swam with us for several minutes, defied every single warning sign I found about any danger and rolled boulders off unstable rock cliffs, skipped rocks across frozen glacier filled lakes, hiked mountain ranges to see the most spectacular views imaginable, stood dangerously close to a partially collapsing glacier as tall as a skyscraper, drove so much my body would go numb while taking in the unbelievable surroundings, chased herds of sheep on private property, shared roads with herds of cattle migrating through the countryside, grew tired of seeing sheep on the hills, learned that the sun goes down around 5pm here and when you are by yourself sleeping in a car in the middle of nowhere on a beach, that you eventually become ok with silence and being alone with your thoughts-otherwise you quickly would lose your sanity.

And throughout the entire trip I continually tried to find a word to describe what I was seeing, and I finally had an appropriate time to use this word...majestic. to be in a valley surrounded by cliffs that rise straight up out of the ocean that scale a mile high, and to see innumerable waterfalls falling from heights of a 50 story building, the wind so cold that you lose the ability to talk from your face being so cold and the water being crystal is such a surreal moment that majestic was the only thing I could possible do justice describing with.

All in all, a good road trip....

A frozen tree...winter is cold when you are close to Antartica..

My new favourite food, indian curry and Naan breaad....mmmm


one of the families that took me in at Queenstown, they let me use their lakehouse and fed me for several days

notice me in the pic below, the small blue spec in the bottom right. that is a big wall of ice
and of course no road trip would be complete for Jeff Stafford without a good in depth convo with a random crazy man on the street about how he regularly talks to aliens when they land "just over that hill there"
he literally came up to me, and after offering to take my picture, after talking to him for a good 2 seconds he asked if I believed in aliens. well, since I already hand my camera in hand, I figured this story wouldnt capture the full weight of the moment, so here is the actual cognito footage..enjoy. (and by the way, he definitely says "my cousin married a girl, she's quarter alien")

Saturday, May 17, 2008

So I have been staying with Richard and Jacqui this week in Christchurch, and they have been nice enough to offer a car for me to borrow, so in the morning I will departing on a two week tour around the south island of New Zealand. Christchurch is on the upper east coast of the south island, and tomorrow I will drive to the west coast to begin my venture, and on Wednesday I should be in Franz Josef where Fox glacier is located, so yea, not everyday you can just go climb a glacier..unless you are in New Zealand..and I just happen to be. From there I will see Wanaka and Queenstown before arriving at Milford Sound, supposedly one of the most beautiful and scenic places in the country, so that should be pretty awesome. I will make a few other stops that you have never heard of and I cannot pronounce, so we'll skip that and hopefully arrive back here un-frostbitten in a couple weeks. So, off to my next adventure, hopefully will have some pretty amazing pics when I return!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I flew down to Christchurch on Tuesday, which is on the top of the south island of New Zealand, and am staying with Richard, who is from Dallas, and his wife just outside of town. The scenic pics and the video above are from his front porch, quite a stunning view to wake up to every morning. Weather wise, the days are absolutely perfect, roughly 60 degrees, but once the sun goes down, wow does the temperature drop rapidly. Even inside the house if you are not next to a heater you can see your breath, and the fact that no houses in NZ really have central heating equates to quite a climate shift from Aussie, but overall I am loving the cool weather. I am hopefully going to road trip around the south island for a week or two, and planning to leave on monday, and will see some of the most incredible views in the world, Richard has shown me a lot of pics of where I will be going, and it seems too good to be true that I am really here. But I am.
Other than that, I have been looking for a job and have a few good leads, so hopefully once I get back I can get to work, I am really ready for a little normality in my life, the whole nomadic traveler's life is really starting to wear on me, so the idea of working and settling for a season is a good one. Also have been to a couple events with his church here, and it has been so refreshing to be around solid Christians again, have really missed church and other believers in my life, so that has been great.

We'll see where I am in a few days..

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Oh, and totally forgot...Yesterday as I was going through customs at the Melbourne airport, I was randomly selected to be tested for explosives, basically they pat you down and waive the magic stick over all your stuff. They people were really nice and joking with me as they were intimately patting me down, and then it happened. Again, keep in mind I am being check for EXPLOSIVES, and the lady's smile quickly disappeared as she turned to me and said very worried-looking, "Sir, what is buzzing in your bag?!" The guy puts his hand on his gun as I reach into my bag to find that my electric razor had conveniently started up as the bag was just sitting on the table..of course this would happen to me..

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Well I made it into New Zealand yesterday evening, and got here just in time to see an incredible sunset to usher me into a new country. And as soon as I arrived at the hostel, my adventure began, as only fitting for Jeff Stafford in a new country all alone. So I met my hostel mates, 3 guys from the UK, and after a good 3 minutes we became old friends and decided to head down to the pub for a beer, around 7:06pm. We walked in and noticed the entire pub was full of guy and girls dressed up as doctors, nurses, and random camo outfits, and after being in the pub for about 3 minutes as well, and my total time in Auckland bordering half an hour, I went up to the table and sat down with these people and struck up a conversation, and turns out they were all local people from Auckland having a going away party for Charlie, and they were doing a "pub crawl", traveling around to different pubs. Roughly 7:10pm at this point. Around 7:11 I was invited to join them, so at 7:17 I commenced out of the pub and followed them to their private bus and found out as we left that I was going to a different city, and ended up travelling for 1.5 hours with 30 strangers on a charter bus to a town called Hamilton where we went to a few clubs and continued the Crawl. I ended up getting home finally around 4:00am after all our stops, and couldn't help but laugh every couple minutes all night long as I looked around and took in the fact that I am on a different continent with total strangers on a bus going to a different city, and somehow it was not the slightest bit awkward, and just fit. They were a great group of people, and they absolutely loved the fact that I was just some random dude from Texas on their bus celebrating Charlie's goodbye party and the fact that I don't know Charlie. Solid gold.

I am just hanging around Auckland today and will go to my orientation tomorrow, then probably head out to Christchurch on the south island in the next couple days, so stay tuned, we'll see what comes my way next....

Monday, May 5, 2008

After an adventure filled 3 months, my run here in Australia has come to an end, and it is a bittersweet time. I have come to love this place, and I must say I will miss dearly my substitutionary Aussie family and the friends I've made here, but the prospect of a new chapter of this trip and a new adventure on the horizon has got me quite excited. I wasn't scheduled to leave for another month, but alas after 3 months of travel and not working a single day (come on, that's pretty impressive), the money is starting to run low and with such a short time left on my work visa, finding a job has proven next to impossible, so I must depart. I am flying into Auckland at 5:00pm on Saturday, where I will spend a few days, then most likely head to Christchurch and interview with a Ski Resort just outside of town, as well as meet up with a fellow Texan I've been in contact with who is now living there, and hopefully find work on the slopes for the winter season.
And yes, I am arriving on the cusp of the middle of winter on the Southern Alps, so I anticipate some warm summer photos being taunted at me in the upcoming months in retaliation for my previous beach photos sent over to Tx when they were getting their snow...nonetheless I will be in winter in New Zealand...I still come out on top I think?

That's about all I know for now, but I will update from the next country I end up in as soon as possible.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ok, sorry for the long delay on the blogging, just now getting back to civilization with internet access. So last Monday I set out on what ended up being a 7 day camping adventure deep in the heart of the Australian bush, and what an event it was. I met tons of great people along the way from all over the world; I met people from England, Turkey, Germany, The Netherlands, India, and a few local Aussies as well. I traveled to the Twelve Apostles , The huge rocks in the water pictured above somewhere, with a group of these travelers on Tuesday, and then set out on my own to continue camping. The next night I chased down a small herd of 6ft kangaroos through the wilderness, but Wednesday was the unforgettable day. As I was setting up camp about 15miles in the forest all by myself, I look down to see a 4ft Tiger snake slither next to my shoe, and so in keeping with my values, I grab the camera and long stick and let the adventure begin. Turns out the Tiger snake is one of the worlds deadliest ( no surprise for me), but what I didn't know was that it is one of the only snakes in the world that will aggressively attack and chase you instead of trying to get away.

So, as I am poking it with my very long stick, it stands up about 8 inches off the ground, flattens its neck like a cobra, and starts coming at me, so I put the camera on the ground and you can see what I was seeing as I was running for cover like a small school girl.

I also found out later on that night as I was paranoid-ly shining my flashlight on the ground every few seconds that the ground was also covered with scorpions...I left first thing the next morning in quite a hurry. But not before coming across Bull Ants that are almost an inch long.

At the next campsite I came upon a heavenly creature, a big koala just sitting in the road, and after deciding against putting him in the backseat and taking him, I feel we shared quite a beautiful moment, although he was probably just a little high off all the eucalyptus, still it was special.

The trip will definitely be a highlight of my time spent here in Oz, as well as the shower I had after going a week without one.