New Zealand, Day 4: Franz Josef Glacier, Lake Matheson, Lake Wanaka

This post is Day #4 of a series of blog posts documenting my road trip to New Zealand from 12/23 – 1/2. For deets on the actual trip itself, click here.

When I first heard that I’d be spending Christmas at a glacier, I was expecting something in a similar vein to crazy cold blocks of ice reminiscent of Antarctica. Franz Josef Glacier, though, feels less icy and more … rocky. That is, less of what you’d expect of a glacier:

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To be fair, I visited during the summer, but, come on, this is one area where rockslides are the most dangerous threat (they really do mean it when they say: ROCKS FALL, EVERYONE DIES). It still doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s stunning as hell.

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This might have been the 4th eggs benedict that I had in New Zealand? Whatever, man. Like I’d pass up eggs benedict with salmon, like this one from 88 Asian Fusion Restaurant.

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After our brunch, we drove to the Fox Glacier area, where we spent the afternoon walking the length of Lake Matheson, which is famed for its perfect mirror-like reflections.

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Verdict: noooot quite “perfect”, thanks to the wind and its endless ripples, but gorgeous nevertheless.

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That night, we were expected to get to our lodge at Lake Wanaka, except for one thing: Haast Pass closes at 6pm. With only 90 minutes to drive through Mt. Aspiring National Park, we were majorly pressed for time. As in — we’d probably be bumming it in Mt. Cook if we didn’t get past the construction on Haast by the late afternoon.

AKA: we were screwed.

So you can probably imagine: lots of SHIT SHIT SHITs as we put the pedal to the metal. There was no time to stop and smell the roses, but even though the outside of my car window looked like a fast-forwarded replay of a National Geographic special, the point is, the outside of my car window still looked like a National Geographic special.

Sheep! Mountains! Deer!

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And we made it! By the time we got to Lake Wanaka, I think I became dead-set on one day retiring and buying a nice summer house here. Look at that water. Either that, or I was so happy to not be pulling a Nascar on the hairpin turns of a bunch of mountains anymore. Either way, arriving at Wanaka was everything I needed and more.

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Unlike the cityscapes of Christchurch and Auckland or the deep-in-the-woods feel of Franz Josef, Wanaka felt decidedly more suburban: lots of quiet neighborhoods overlooking the lake. And with that, I spent that night searching up fun (read: CRAZY) things to do for the next day in Queenstown, only the extreme sports capital of the world.

New Zealand, Day 3: Castle Rock, Arthur’s Pass, Punakaiki

This post is Day #3 of a series of blog posts documenting my road trip to New Zealand from 12/23 – 1/2. For deets on the actual trip itself, click here.

Welp, this is the point where my trip photos get less city-like and more nature-y. Think of the things you think of when you think of New Zealand (lots of green, lots of hills, lots of sheep, lots of scenery reminiscent of Lord of the Rings) and you might have a vague idea of the rest of my trip. Of course, this doesn’t do New Zealand justice, but if you’re here for food pics, they’ll be fewer and farther between as I write out these posts. I could have taken photos of all the BBQ Doritos and pita chips and gross carbo-loaded junk food that I ate in the backseat of the car, but literally nobody wants that. Anyway! Christmas morning was spent on the road as we drove from Christchurch to Franz Josef Glacier, cutting a nice cross-section of the South Island.

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So — remember what I said about how much I dislike road trips? Well, fuck what I said, because my entire Christmas day was filled with landscapes of farms, mountains (the Southern Alps), hills, cliffs, and rivers that just seeing them in person was as great a Christmas gift as any. Mother Nature has a way of simultaneously reminding us just how small and how lucky we are to be surrounded by such natural beauty.

The first leg of the drive was all farmland. Look, let me preface this and tell you that I lived in the Midwest for over a decade. Believe me when I say that I know my farmland. You couldn’t get out of Indianapolis without driving through endless miles of cornfield-laden homogeny, and I’m pretty sure this is the reason why I automatically fall asleep whenever I’m in a car. New Zealand farmland, however, is like the idyllic version of farmland that people romanticize, except it actually exists in real life and not in the vivid imaginations of frenzied cityfolk who dream of a peaceful life on an organic farm in Napa Valley. Midwestern farmland does not have the shadow of the Southern Alps looming over you, where cows graze about, doing their thang. Nor do sheep randomly frolic on hills.

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Actually, funny story. As we were driving along the countryside, we noticed this hill with a herd of sheep being sheepish, and we thought, what better way to depict #newzealandlyfe than to have an Instagrammed photo of sheep in a hilly green backdrop, right? RIGHT? My excitement, unfortunately, got the better of me, because as soon as we stopped to take photos, I ran out of the car, half ecstatic about sheep and half ecstatic about getting fresh air, that I abandoned all pretense and charged towards the hills by running across the street yelling “J2LK3J,FSDLFKAWE AHHHHHH SHEEEEEEEP“.

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Needless to say, this freaked out all the sheep, and they all ran away yelling baaaaaa in unison. Yes, this is them running away from me. I guess if I were a sheep, the presence of a crazy American tourist running like a spastic rhinoceros towards me would make me want to run for the hills too.

Anyway, after that, I was feeling pretty sheepish about how maniacal I looked out there.

Haha, sheepish.

Next on the agenda was Castle Rock, a rock outcrop on the Banks Peninsula that looks a little something like this:

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…and has killer views like this:

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…or maybe this:

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…or what about this:

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Okay, okay, you get the idea. Lots of rocks, but splayed out in a way that could resemble Mother Nature’s stab at modern art.

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LOOK AT DEM MOUNTAINS

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Afterwards, we drove to Arthur’s Pass, alongside the Bealey River. A stunner of a park if I’ve ever seen one:

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This is, like, the type of image you’d see on an ad for herbal cough drops. Get on it, Ricola.

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After Googling “purple flowers in new zealand” and “purple weeds” and other variants, I think I’ve found the name(s) of these purple flower thingies that keep cropping up in my Arthur’s Pass photos. Lupine! (Which reminds me of Remus Lupin of Harry Potter fame, heh.) And apparently, the locals here hate the everloving hell out of these flowers, because they’re an invasive species that just won’t go away. So basically, dandelions but prettier.

I think that’s a recurring theme with New Zealand: _____ but prettier. Dandelions — but prettier! Rocks on a hill — but prettier! Farmland — but prettier! Cow pastures — but prettier! Public restrooms — but prettier! (Actually, this is so true. NZ port-a-potties and public restrooms are among the cleanest I’ve ever experienced. And trust me — as somebody with a notoriously tiny bladder, I’ve encountered toilets that I won’t even talk about here because (1) gross and (2) they were so traumatic that I’ve already erased them from my memories so it’s not like I would remember — hah.) Every mundane you can think of — but so much prettier that you can just stop trying. Just, stop.

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Soooo — this is the turning point of the road trip where we ran out of our Good Weather quota for the day, as you can tell by the foggy skies in the previous photos. Even better, because we were headed for the West Coast to visit Punakaiki, home of the pancake rocks and blowholes.

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Yep. In the span of two hours, we went from what looked like Switzerland to a place that looks like freaking Hawaii.

Punakaiki is known for its rock formations, lovingly dubbed the “pancake rocks”, due to the thin layers of rock that resemble …. pancakes. It has since become my mission to make myself a stack of pancake that resembles Punakaiki, for the record.

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The rain made it difficult to get a clear shot, but this was already a vast improvement from the last time I went to a bunch of cliffs in the rain (ugh, Cliffs of Moher, I’m lookin’ at you), so I’ll take what I can get.

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The other part of Punakaiki is the blowhole, where water gathers in a contained area, only to erupt at any given second. A bit like a geyser, minus the egg fart smell and muggy heat, and a bit like a volcano, minus the impending danger that we’re all stepping on the second coming of Krakatoa.

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And with that, we all got back in the car and headed towards the long drive from Punakaiki to Franz Josef Glacier, where we’d celebrate the holidays in style with a big ol’ Christmas dinner at the lodge.

New York, Again.

So, last week, I:

  • turned 25 (the fact that I’m even 25 is atrocious. Seriously, where my quarter-life crisis at!)
  • survived a polar vortex
  • saw my favorite band play my favorite song which also happens to be on my favorite album (answers: Neutral Milk Hotel, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea)
  • visited my favorite city, New York, and was reminded yet again why this city remains my fave.

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I miss museums a lot — or I guess, the easy accessibility of art museums. Meanwhile, over in SF, we won’t even have a MoMA again until 2016. :(

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The Samsung Galaxy Studio Pop-Up in Soho might just be the only place on earth that allows you to design T-shirts, takes ridiculous selfies of you jumping around in photobooths, serves you Sprinkles cupcakes and Illy coffee, redeem points for prizes, drool over all the Samsung swag — for free. Get on that, New Yorkers.

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And because no trip to NY would be complete without the presence of good food:

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Char Siu Mayo Don at Totto Ramen

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Totto Paitan Ramen at (where else?) Totto Ramen

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Duck confit at Balthazar

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Duck shepherd’s pie at Balthazar

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Roasted baby beet salad at Balthazar

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Macaroni au gratin at Balthazar

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Pacman shrimp dumplings at RedFarm

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Crispy skin smoked chicken at RedFarm

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Biscuit sandwich at Maysville


Cookies at Schmackary’s


A set of Ladurée macarons to celebrate the birthdaytimes