Flanders in NZ 8 – “Into the Hole”

After meeting a deadline on Friday, I hopped in the car with Keith & coworkers and headed to the land of Speights Ale, Cadbury chocolate, and the next All Blacks vs England rugby game (aka Dunedin). When you talk to any Kiwi about Dunedin they’ll tell you “Dunedin is a hole!” (the fact that the accent makes “hole” sound like “ho” makes this even more amusing). This statement becomes fact as you drive down into the city which is, quite literally, a topographic hole.

*Quick Break* to remind myself of a great dinner pit stop –> On our way down from Christchurch we stopped in Timaru for dinner. After slowly rolling around main street for a bit we came across a restaurant wedged on a side street, yet filled with people. Obviously we ate here — Saikou — for tapas and whiskey. We are doing quite a good job about winging it with food options, this place was fabulous! We wish we had one of these in Christchurch.

Around 11:30pm we finally got to Barnett Lodge. I took on the task of finding housing for the weekend and it was challenging. When the All Blacks play in Dunedin the city books up MONTHS in advance. When I called around to every hostel, motel, & hotel in town over a month ago I got a lot of laughs when requesting a booking for this weekend. Luckily, Barnett Lodge showed up on airbnb that week and the owners were more than accommodating when I mentioned we’d like to squeeze 9 people into their house. It was a bonus that this place was an eclectic and fascinating place to stay–an old Tudor mansion that had been in the family for generations. We saw a lot of photos and heard a lot of stories from the owners. Plus we got breakfast set up for us each morning!

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Barnett Lodge B&B, going clockwise starting with top left–outside view, fireside in the living room, colored photograph of the owner before her big high school dance, view out of the dining room during breakfast.

Saturday morning I really wanted to get out and see Dunedin. Keith, a few coworkers, and I hopped in the car and headed first to Tunnel Beach. We had to make a fairly steep descent to the beach but it was worth it. There was an actual tunnel that was dug out in the 1800s so some girls could get to the beach below. The tunnel still exists today and of course we walked through it to get to the beach! I’ll let the photos do the talking now…

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Descent to Tunnel Beach

Flanders Hike Photo of the Week…

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Christmas Card Option…##

A couple coworkers literally ran down the path and got out to the lookout point first. Which just allowed for a great photo opp.

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One big rock!

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Keith emerges from the tunnel

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Can you spot Keith?

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Beautiful morning at the beach!

After tunnel beach we drove around the big peninsula to the east of Dunedin. At the suggestion of the owners we drove out on the high road, stopped in Portobello for lunch, and then returned back on the low road. If we ever go back, I’ll be sure to check out the penguin and albatross sanctuary at the end of the peninsula.

Then it was GAME TIME!!! We walked to the center of town, grabbed a drink, then took a shuttle to the nearby stadium.

You thought that beginning-of-game chant in Remember the Titans was cool? Then you will love the haka! The haka is a war chant of the Maori people (New Zealand natives). It’s a cultural tradition and opposing teams have to stand a certain distance away and watch. It was a rather big deal during the World Cup (yes, soccer isn’t the only sport with a world cup) a few years ago when France literally “crossed a line” while the haka was being performed. They eventually had to pay a fine. To conclude, I was pretty excited to see the haka live!! Keith and I literally ran to our seats after we grabbed our beer and the last meat pie in the stadium to watch. Unfortunately we were on the wrong side of the field, but here is my video anyways to give you a small glimpse into how epic this was–

8 - Game Collage

We were way too happy to get the LAST meat pie at the beer stand

The game was incredible. Very exciting and close the entire time! The All Blacks, of course, remained victorious. We all went back into town and celebrated in the Octagon–the central part of the city.

Sunday morning was spent cleaning up and watching some World Cup (football!) games before checking out. My car made a few tourist pit stops. First was Baldwin Street — the steepest street in the world. It’s located in the suburbs and follows an average slope of 1:5. Not going to lie, it is actually a little frightening to walk up it! Keith got caught on the non-stairs side and had a suspenseful time crossing over due to the wet & slightly slippery conditions.

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(Keith may have been terrified in this photo)

10 - Steepest Street

Some perspective for you!

Then it was off to the Moeraki boulders! The boulders are a huge tourist trap in New Zealand; however, quite interesting! On a beautiful large beach there is a small area with several completely spherical rocks. We looked up the facts (obviously! – engineering problems) and discovered these rocks are called “septarian concretions.” This basically means they are hard formed sedimentary rock formed in voids within the earth. These rocks were eventually exposed due to the ocean eating away at the shore. What we still can’t answer though–why are they in this ONE spot along the whole beach? hmm…

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Moeraki Boulders

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Running Man

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Money Shot

We got some great photos on the rocks…but don’t be fooled, climbing on these rocks with the tide rolling in is a complicated process!14 - Moreki Boulders

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I’ll just wait here while the water recedes….

The last stop of our weekend trip was lunch at The Last Post in Oamaru. This may have been the best fish & chips I’ve had in my life, so I definitely wanted to log this place on the blog. A great little find for being a random pub stop. This gem used to be the old post office, but the community wanted a big greek-esque structure, so they abandoned this building and moved into a new giant building beside it. Good thing, because a pub moved in and makes some great food.

Luckily, winter has been fairly tame thus far which will help us with planning more outdoor activities over the next few months! This Friday we’re headed to the annual Lyttleton Festival of Lights, then most likely finding another local hike on Saturday or Sunday. Until then…

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New Zealand 15 – Still the Youngest in the Office

I will officially be back in the States for a short stint in 10 days. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’d like to eat/drink once I get home. What I’ve broken it down to is have a proper Margarita (limes are not good in NZ), make some guacamole (see previous comment, I may have a lime addiction?), and eat Velveeta mac & cheese (I think NZ puts a ban on extremely processed cheese). I’ll also be finding the nearest Dunkin Donuts for a large iced coffee. It’s come to the point where I’ve mapped out Dulles airport and found Dunkins in gates A & D; however, the tricky piece is that I’m sure they will both be closed by 11pm when I arrive. Luckily I have 3 trips “home” to Massachusetts planned out during the 3 weeks I’m back in the states which will, I’m sure, involve lots of Dunkin Donuts pit stops.

Onto the weekend –

The entire weekend was filled with the great celebration of Half-Christmas (& my birthday, but a bit more of that at the end). If you didn’t catch an explanation previously–

One of my coworkers decided that Autumn & Winter in the states come with tons of goodness–football, Thanksgiving, Christmas, vacations, etc. In New Zealand winter comes with nothing. Therefore, we decided to throw a Half-Christmas extravaganza. (Little did we know that this is actually a thing in New Zealand, several northern hemisphere imports have felt the same way for a while. Therefore, it wasn’t too hard to find Christmas decor and wrapping paper in June…)

Friday night we gathered in the apartment to cook pies. Considering my pie baking is lacking, I took on the task to create decorations. Utilizing some old graph paper, I managed to make some nicely engineered snow flakes. Continuing with the movie night tradition, we appropriately watched Christmas Vacation. The night was still young, so somehow we ended up watching Goodfellas afterwards. We justified this with the fact that one scene in the movie takes place during Christmas… Nothing like a mob movie to get you into the holiday spirit.

Our colleague hosted mid-Christmas in his “off-campus” apartment (he’s one of the few that are not a part of the company’s hotel take-over); therefore, I headed over a bit early to decorate my Christmas corner–

It does the job

First order of business that night was the cookie decorating competition. I never expected everyone to get so intense about it but there were quite a lot of great cookie outcomes! I went for simple elegance which managed to get me third place. Considering the senior vice president (cheated?) and entered 5 different cookies to take home 1st and 2nd place I’m pretty sure I should have won. I’m not bitter or anything 😉

1) Decorations, 2) Tools, 3) Finished Products, 4) Third place finish (still convinced I should have been #1…)

Then came Secret Santa. I have to say, this was the best secret Santa I’ve ever been a part of. You’d assume a bunch of coworkers would just buy a token $30 bottle of wine for each other, but not with this crowd. Each person got a really individualized gift and managed to guess their gift giver fairly easily. This concluded that we spend far too much time with each other and therefore know way too much about each other.

1) Scarf clips for the engineer who brought 5 different scarves to NZ, 2) guide-book for the newbie with camping gear, 3) beer brewing materials for the beer aficionado, 4) Nando’s sauces for the woman obsessed with Nando’s chicken, 5) a white board for the VP who constantly explains everything through expo markers, 6) guide-book for newbie #2 along with his favorite drink of choice.

Then came time for food, fun, & rugby…

Pigs in a Blanket (UK Version) The U.S. residents quickly coined these “Pigs in a Pig”

Half-Christmas Dinner

No Half-Christmas dinner is complete without watching the All Blacks do the Haka

Group Shot

Sunday was my birthday. I turned 25, which basically made everyone else in the office cringe every time I answered the “How old are you?” question. Needless to say, I was very careful to not make any “I feel so old now” statements. Being the youngest in the NZ office, I tend to be aware of not mentioning my age too much–statements such as “Oh you graduated college that year? I was in kindergarten then” don’t always go over well.

The day concluded with a pretty intense rugby match before a BBQ dinner. The game was supposed to be one-touch rugby (think backyard touch-football), but considering the wetness of the grass, touch sometimes turned into shove and involved a lot of sliding through mud. This just made for a good photo-of-the-day to send Keith. Yes, I send him photos-of-the-day (no I don’t just take photos of my muddy-jeans for my blog). That could turn into a long cheesy newlywed paragraph so I’ll stop there.

Dove head first into 25 – there just happened to be a lot of mud in the way

I managed to write this whole post without mentioning any work updates. Let’s just leave it at – I finished inspecting my last church (could you have guessed Christchurch has a lot of churches?…), finished some report writing, and came to the conclusion that the next 10 days are going to be a lot of work. So on that note, I’m posting this and doing some quick report reading before bed.

Cheers, and Happy Half-Christmas!