super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Portuguese food in Nelson

Ever since I visited the top of the Sydney Tower a few years ago and the first voice I heard was one of a lady telling her elderly mother “olha ali! olha ali!” as she pointed at the view, I’ve become more and more convinced that it is true what people say about Portuguese people being just about everywhere. When I approached Senhor Jorge last Saturday morning at his stall at the Nelson markets, it was only around 10AM and I was already his second Portuguese customer of that day.

I had no idea I’d go all the way down to Nelson (at the top of the South Island) to find some Portuguese deliciousness but that was exactly what I found. My stomach is not normally ready for something as heavy as beef and mustard in a bun quite so early in the day but the excitement of seeing and smelling the food got the better of me and a few minutes later, after having a bit of a chat with Senhor Jorge, as he prepared the food, I was digging into this.

Senhor Jorge’s Fernando’s business is not just a market stall and he sells his own homemade chouriços and other stuff online as well (I have a feeling I’ll be placing an order very, very soon). He let me have a slice of chouriço and asked me if it tasted like home. And it sure did. He also told me he’s working on some ideas for what other Portuguese traditional stuff he can start selling in New Zealand and there was a mention of pasteis de nata (real deal ones, not the fake portuguese custard tarts you find in other places) so I’m sure as hell going to keep checking his website for new stuff.

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Kiwi letterboxes

You’ve probably heard all about New Zealand’s many fences (the jandal fence, the bra fence, the toothbrush fence, even the bicycle fence), but there are plenty of other excuses for “emergency” stops on the side of the roads around here. These are some of the examples of the quirky letterboxes I’ve came across during roadtrips around New Zealand. Using microwaves as letterboxes, for example, seems to be pretty common, as soon as you leave a big city,  but I can’t help smiling every time we drive past one.


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Leitch’s Track, Whareorino Forest, New Zealand

It was about time we hit the bush again for some good hikes, after a way too long break caused by a mixture of New Zealand winter, busy times and a certain dislike of freezing temperatures.

On Friday, a group of nine people left Auckland and drove for three hours down to the Whareorino Forest for what was my first overnight hiking experience. In fact, there was more than just one “first” that night: first time hiking in the bush at night, first time sleeping in a hut, first time using a longdrop toilet… too much info? Okay then.

We set out into the bush when it was already dark and could only see as far as our head torches would let us (which really wasn’t more than a couple of meters in front of us). The hike into the hut took us about 3.5 hours and turned out to be 10.5km and not the 8.5km that the DOC sign at the start told us it was. The terrain was fairly easy but it was made slightly harder by the fact that we were hiking in the dark and carrying heavy backpacks.

Needless to say, we didn’t stop to take any photos. Those 3.5 hours were spent adjusting our eyes to darkness, fighting big patches of slippery mud (and losing most of those fights) and trying not to slide down the skinny parts of the track with huge drops on the side. We did see lots of glowworms, though, so if you need a reason to hike at night, there’s one right there.

We arrived at Leitch’s Hut just after midnight and, after a quick snack and a few laughs (that must have woken up the other two occupants of the hut – oops!), got into our sleeping bags. It wasn’t exactly the five-star accommodation I had been in just a couple of nights before in Singapore but I was so exhausted I slept like a rock.

I woke up the next morning feeling much better than I’d expected, with no sore muscles and loads of energy. I was pretty excited about not needing my head torch anymore and being able to finally look at all the waterfalls we could only hear the night before.

After quickly eating breakfast (a nut bar and an up&go liquid breakfast), I put on a clean top and a clean pair of socks (that turned into wet socks about 0.2 seconds after I put my hiking boots on) and we set on our way. My pants were still damp and dirty from the night before so I was glad I’d made the last-minute decision to wear my full-length running skins underneath.

Before leaving the hut, we signed the Intentions Book where we’re meant to inform DOC of our names and details of our tramp, in case we get lost or injured.

The path was still very wet and slippery but at least we could now see everything ahead of us.

The weather wasn’t as clear as I hoped it would be but the few rain drops we got on our way out were a very welcome way to cool down. For a lot of the way, what was ahead of us was actually giant patches of slippery ankle-deep mud. I discovered hiking is a lot more fun once you stop caring about how much water and mud gets into your shoes.

And yes, our ears hadn’t been lying to us. All those times hearing water right next to us as we hiked further into the darkness meant that we were walking past pretty waterfalls.

About 20km later (lesson learnt: don’t believe all DOC signs), we were heading out of the track and back in the car to drive another three hours back to Auckland and back to our happy places where not all shoes and socks are damp and cold and cell phones have reception. I’m still unsure whether my pants need to be washed or incinerated but at least I now know I can hike at night without dying of a heart attack anytime something moves or there is any noise coming from the bush and I can sleep in the most basic of huts because, after all that effort, my body is no longer equipped to tell the difference between my sleeping bag and a five-star hotel bed.

If you want more specific information about this track, New Zealand Tramper has the accurate details.


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Formerly the Blackball Hilton

For some strange reason, I’m going back to the subject of off-the-beaten-track old style pubs. Don’t worry, I think this is the only other one I know. Also, don’t ask why, just embrace it as the useless piece of trivia that it is. Maybe you can use it as a conversation topic for when things get awkward around strangers? No? Okay, no.

Browsing through my photos of the South Island, I came across a couple of shots of the Blackball Hilton, located in the tiny town of Blackball on the West Coast (just inland from Greymouth), which is home to only about 330 people.

This Victorian style inn was built in 1910 and, in 1992, at age 82, when it was already old enough to be respected and left alone, the lawyers of the Hilton family (yes, that Hilton family) somehow heard of this place in the middle of nowhere, in the quietest little town on the quietest island. They slapped the owners with a lawsuit to get them to stop using the word Hilton and, in response, the name was changed and, since then, the inn has been known as “Formerly the Blackball Hilton”.


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Here we go again…

Photo taken during my last trip up to the "winterless north", where I'm running the next half marathon. Pretty!

All signed up and paid for. The next half-marathon happens next month in Kerikeri and, if I survive, it should be one to remember (hopefully for good reasons).

Unless there is some sort of disturbance in the natural order of the universe, this half-marathon should be pretty much the opposite of the previous one, at least as far as the weather conditions are concerned. Kerikeri is located in what is often referred to as “the winterless north” and the run is in November and not in the middle of winter in one of the coldest areas of the island, like the Taupo half-marathon in August.

That said, and not wanting to be a negative nancy, the icy winds and cold temperatures in Taupo are part of what prevented me from giving in and walking last time. Hopefully, the heat won’t force me to walk. Oh god, just being a whiner aren’t I? Just ignore me, please.

The full name of this next run is actually Fullers GreatSights Kerikeri Half Marathon. Great Sights. See? Focusing on the positive. That’s better.

The goal will be to improve on the time from my first half marathon, a pretty slow but not all that tragic 2:15:47. I’m pretty confident about it because it looks like it is mainly downhill and if there is one thing I know for sure is that downhill equals good. But that’s something to worry about on the day. For now, the goal will be to get off my bum and get out there to run.

Training starts… Now.

(Okay, tomorrow.)


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crouch, touch, pause, engage!

Thanks to the Rugby World Cup, I’ve opened another chapter of my kiwi education, one that, up until now, I was more than happy to keep closed: rugby. It was pretty much unavoidable.

I was visiting Portugal when the RWC started and so missed all the excitement of the first few days but felt strangely connected to it. When I woke up in Lisbon, just as the opening ceremony was ending in New Zealand, I rushed online to check out all the videos of that NZ evening (PT morning). I saw the fireworks display and the Maori chants and 45,503 haka flashmobs and that even got me missing NZ a little bit.

So when I returned, about three weeks ago, I got straight into the action and watched rugby games to stay awake and get through jet lag. And, little by little, I  started understanding the game. Sort of.

Last weekend, I got a triple dose of rugby and added another level of confusion to the whole thing by watching a rugby league game (the NRL final) in between two rugby union games (RWC ones). See, I didn’t even know there was more than what type of rugby up until fairly recently. That was my second time watching a rugby league game, after attempting to follow one with C.’s dad a few months ago and have him count how many questions I asked about it (lets just say there were quite a few).

We’re down to the quarter finals of the RWC now and, if part of me wants it all to go back to normal (no “lets not go into town today because there’s a game on and it’ll be chaotic”), another part of me is wearing a metaphoric all blacks jersey and all excited about the upcoming matches.

I even know how much you score for a try, a conversion or a penalty. I know what a scrum is and I shout “forward pass! that was a forward pass!” before the ref even has time to blow the whistle. As much as I wish New Zealand would embrace soccer, I’ll go ahead and admit that being in a rugby nation isn’t *too* bad, now that I know what the heck they’re throwing themselves on top of each other for.


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a photo tour of new plymouth, new zealand

New Plymouth is definitely my favourite town in the North Island. Mt Taranaki dominates the landscape no matter where you are in town and it is always a beautiful sight. Because of its similarity to Mt Fuji, Mt Taranaki (also called Mt Egmont) is where the film Last Samurai was shot.

It feels like a sleepy little town, far away from the noise of the big cities, but there is actually quite a lot of action going on in New Plymouth, pretty much all year round.

It is well worth a day stop on a tour of the North Island. Or maybe even a couple of days if you really want to make the most out of all the sights – I could spend a good few hours just inside Pukekura Park, for example.

While you’re in the Taranaki region, a visit to the Three Sisters is mandatory.

and if you stop there at the end of the afternoon, you might very well be rewarded with this:

If you are planning a New Zealand road trip, or even just a road trip around the North Island, this town should definitely be one of the pit stops.


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A mini-guide to Rotorua

The champagne pool

Rotorua is mostly known for its boiling mud and sulphur smell (to which, by the way, you get used to quite quickly). A short 2 1/2 hour drive away from Auckland, it is the number one day trip to do if you are a tourist in New Zealand and don’t have much time to see anything else on the North Island (either because you’re headed straight to the South Island, like many do, or because you don’t have that much time in the country at all). Also known as the geothermal capital of New Zealand, Rotorua has the advantage of being jam-packed with things to see and do. There are buses running from Auckland to Rotorua or you can also choose to fly there from Auckland.

Lady Knox Geyser

A visit to Wai-o-Tapu is well worth the time and money. You’ll get geothermal activity in all its glory, with boiling mud, amazing coloured lakes and a series of hot pools like the world-famous Champagne pool (top photo). It is also where you’ll be able to watch the Lady Knox Geyser erupt daily. Staff at Wai-o-Tapu creates the eruption by dropping some sort of soap into the geyser but that is just to assure that it erupts when they want. Otherwise, it erupts on its own anyway, it’s just harder to create a touristic show around it.

One of the lakes at Wai-o-Tapu

Te Puia is one of the several places in Rotorua where you can go for a “Maori cultural experience”. You’ll be taken into a traditional Maori Marae (meeting house) and will attend a traditional Maori ceremony. Te Puia has, however, many more attractions. It’s got its own geysers as well, which was an added bonus since we visited just a couple of hours after getting all “geysered out” at Wai-o-Tapu.

Maori performance at Te Puia

It’s also got a reconstitution of a traditional Maori village and a carving school full of amazing traditional carvings made by the apprentices. But the coolest thing about Te Puia was, without a doubt, the kiwi house. It was such a surprise because we didn’t realise it was part of it all so it was extra exciting to finally see a kiwi (even if it wasn’t in the wild, where they are oh so very rare to spot!).

Maori village at Te Puia

Once you’re done with boiling mud and geysers, you should try Zorbing. I know, I know… why would you want to roll down a big hill inside a giant inflatable ball? Well, why wouldn’t you? It’s awesome! I suggest you pack your swimwear and choose the zorb ball with water for extra fun (if you choose the one without water, you will be tied inside the zorb rather than just roll around inside it). It’s a short activity – probably won’t last you more than 45 minutes from signing the document saying it’s your fault if you die inside the zorb to rolling down the hill and putting your clothes back on and heading out. It’s worth it, though! There are now apparently a few other places in the world where you can zorb but this is the original one and Rotorua is where it was invented.

Zorbing

And if the zorbing is a little too much adventure for your taste or you feel like you need a rest, the Polynesian Spa is the place to go next. It’s not terribly expensive and you can even enjoy some really pretty views while you’re soaking in the hot pools. It’s apparently ranked in the top 10 spas in the world, accoridng to Conde Nast Traveler.

A view from the hot pools at the Polynesian Spa

Once you’re done with all these activities, do go for a wander around town because there is a lot of pretty stuff to see without having to be charged an entrance fee – and yes, that includes free boiling mud as well, of course.

Rotorua Museum

For more information on the four attractions mentioned, visit the following links:

Park in Rotorua