Sunday, March 24, 2013

Kiwi Ramblings

And now, some more random New Zealand observations/ stories, done in the lazy, bullet-point manner and sprinkled with some pictures that may or may not have anything to do with the words, since I don't have a real theme for this post and life hasn't changed all that much since last night (holy unprecedented blog posting frequency, Batman).
  •  Today, I explored the Golden Bay area, and did a few shortish hikes. Before starting one of those hikes this afternoon, I was accosted by an elderly couple who seemed concerned that I was daring to proceed.  "You need to be quite fit to complete this track," warned the man, looking at me skeptically (OK, I know I've been taking it pretty easy with the training lately, but do I really look that out of shape?).  "And you need sturdier footwear," he continued, looking pointedly at my neon pink Newtons.  (Yes I threw my hiking boots out in Auckland in the interest of being able to close my suitcase, but these should suffice.)   "There's a very frightening cable bridge, as well," chimed in his wife.  (Am I coming across as a huge scaredy cat?).  And when I made indications that I was going to go ahead and give it a go, they just shook their heads.  But I completed that hike just fine, thank you very much, and did so in less than an hour, with picture stops.   I just walked away from that conversation with my ego a tiny (lot) bit bruised. 
I still don't know what slips are and I was informed that my footwear was insufficiently sturdy, but I did have the required mindset to proceed.  Phew.
  • That hike did have a pretty intimidating cable bridge which would certainly freak out any person even remotely afraid of heights, but I'm not afraid of anything except triathlons.  And pennies being dropped off of skyscrapers and landing on me.  And baseballs or softballs hitting my head.  Oh, and bird attacks.  But that's it, really. 
I guess I was fit enough to get across the cable bridge
You can see right through the bottom and down 15 meters or so
  • To add to the list of things that I'm guessing everyone else but me knows: it is common for vineyards to fire large air guns at random intervals in order to scare off birds.  This is information that I may have appreciated before my recent early morning bike ride, when I was fairly certain I was being fired upon as I rode through a rural area.  I didn't have a heart rate monitor, but I wish I did, as I suspect the data would have been pretty entertaining. 
Wainui Falls
  • There is a species of bird here whose call sounds exactly like R2D2.  
Golden Bay
  •  I am going to be a complete menace to society when I return to the States, or at least a menace to anyone sharing a road, pool, or bike path with me, as I've really gotten amazingly good at keeping left.  It feels natural to drive on the left hand side of the road, and I've noticed even when I'm hiking totally solo, with no one around, I stay left on the trail.  I am considering grounding myself from driving for at least 48 hours after I arrive home and am still exhausted from travel.  I think that'll be best for everyone.
  • I've been working on my Kiwi accent for almost three months, and all I've been able to master is the word "no."  Kiwi's say it more like "noy," but a little softer, and I think I've got it down.  I also have a few phrases that I've managed to pick up by accident.  For example, I do find myself telling people that I'm on "holiday" [vacation] without even thinking about it.  And the other day I asked some one if it was "meant to rain?" which is Kiwi for "supposed to rain."  I'm practically assimilated, now. 

  •  Speaking of accents, I wasn't aware that I had one until I got here.  I've had multiple Kiwis guess that I was from Chicago after hearing me speak.  That bewilders and concerns me.
  • Because New Zealand is triathlon-obsessed, they have excellent TV coverage of big events.  The other evening, I stumbled upon the broadcast of Ironman New Zealand.  I debated moving on-- I was still being a little pout-y, it was a rough day for me and I wasn't sure I wanted to re-live it.  Then I realized that was dumb, because it wasn't a rough "day," it was a rough two hours, and I had almost nine hours that were awesome and that I  totally would want to re-live.  Plus, being in New Zealand has made me fairly familiar with all the Kiwi pros, and I wanted to see how the big Bevan-Cameron-Terenzo showdown played out, having only witnessed bits and pieces while I was on the course.  So I watched.  Good thing, too, because lo and behold, I got almost 6 whole seconds of footage!  I was running, and actually looking pretty decent.  I guess I'm pretty much famous in these parts, now. 

  • I'm on again/ off again gluten-free, and the time I've been in New Zealand has been mostly off again.  Which is a shame, because this country is so remarkably healthy.  I think I've seen gluten free options offered in every restaurant I've been in except McDonald's (or Macca's, as it is called in these parts).  Kiwis are also crazy about organic, and today I had a fruit juice that was not only organic, it was also biodynamic.  I didn't even know that was a thing, but it is.
Very entrepreneurial
  • Most of the roads here, aside from in the bigger cities, are two-lane, country roads.  Given the regularity with which I am passed on those roads, I think it is safe to say that I am the slowest driver in New Zealand.  
Not the birds that sound like R2D2 (I don't think) but they look vaguely penguin-like
  • They don't seem to get worked up about a whole lot of things here in New Zealand, but they are apparently really, really concerned about Didymo  (remember Didymo Dave in Taupo who made us dip our wetsuits before getting in the water?).  I still haven't quite figured out what exactly Didymo is, but I'm gathering that it's really, really bad, along the lines of national emergency bad. 
The dangers of the mysterious Didymo
  • Also a national emergency that I've heard quite a lot about-- there was a massive shortage of marmite, and the stores were all wiped out.  Marmite finally started to be re-stocked this week.  It was on the front page of the newspaper.

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