Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wedding in wine country

Congratulations to our friends Andy and Liang, who got married this weekend in Hawkes Bay.

Hawkes Bay is one of NZ's best wine regions, and the couple decided to have the ceremony at the beautiful Te Awa vineyard.

It was a fairly small ceremony of 50 or so guests, but several of them are friends we hang out with all the time.

On Sunday we headed over to a much smaller vineyard attached to a luxury B&B called the Cardoness Lodge for a barbecue before heading home. These wineries not only make some good wine, but they keep some beautiful gardens.

The weather and the scenery could not be more perfect. Thank you, Andy and Liang, for inviting us to share in your special day.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Milford Track: waterfalls and mountain passes

I think waterfalls are ruined for me forever. Take a trip down to Fiordland National Park and you'll see what I mean. The first time you see one when you're driving in -- before you've even really started your trip -- it's amazing.

The next 15 are equally inspiring.

And when you tramp for four days and see hundreds more, it almost starts wearing off. You start feeling guilty for not taking photos of each one. By the end, even some pretty awesome falls are only mildly impressive. Be prepared if you're planning a trip here. This is what New Zealand does to you.

To be fair, I'm talking about the Milford Track, a four-day tramp that Jake and I took on last weekend. It's said to be one of NZ's most beautiful walks, and I can see why. We traveled through forest, valleys, the edge of some cliffs and up over a mountain pass.

Our weather was perfect, but this water was cold! And it only rained at night, which was perfect for fueling all the waterfalls.

The food we brought left something to be desired. Jake and I don't have much experience with planning meals for multi-day hikes where you have to carry it all in yourself. This tasty treat of canned spaghetti on bread is a Kiwi tradition. We may have skimped on food but we didn't forget the wine (in plastic bottles to reduce weight).

This is such a popular track that we booked our trip back in July. They limit the trip to 40 people starting per day. Trampers stay in huts like this one that feature simple bunkrooms and kitchens with sinks and gas burners. And best of all -- flush toilets.

The low central flat spot in the image above is McKinnon Pass. On day 3, our journey took us 500 meters up to the top, then 1,000 meters back down. Luckily, we'd consumed enough of our wine supply to lighten our loads a bit.

This monument is very near the top of the pass. I was huffing and puffing at this point -- I really felt as though I'd climbed a mountain. A great feeling.

The Milford Track was amazing. Our memories of the sandflies, sore muscles and tired feet are already fading, and our memories of beautiful scenery, triumphant climbing and friendly people are here to stay.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sevens weekend 2010

In case you're unfamiliar with the Sevens, in particular the Wellington Sevens, here's a brief description. Two days, 16 teams, a boatload of matches because each one only lasts 20 minutes, seven guys on each team. This town dresses up in costume and parties for 48 hours. It's a blast.

Day 1
This year Jake and I went with our friends Archie and Maggie along with Archie's sister and cousin. The four of them are from Virginia, so the guys dressed up as Virginia Beach life guards, and the girls were tourists. I think Erin and Courtney are doing the tourist thing pretty well actually.

On our walk to the stadium, we came across a couple vans like this sitting at a red light -- it's the US team! We wished them luck, and they actually did fairly well.

This is the US team warming up on the sidelines as the day began.

The Sevens involves packing 16 teams and a lot of 20-minute games into two days. So the games start around 1 pm each day. We got there pretty early on Friday and the stadium was still fairly empty.

But it didn't take long for the stadium to get packed and crazy.

Not sure who this guy was but we were happy to see someone waving our flag.

We saw a streaker run out across the field and get so close to the teams that they had to stop the play. The crowd's cheers turned to boos when he was tackled by security.

For modesty, I've only included a photo of him after he was covered by security.

We were surrounded by some interesting characters. I think my favourites were these "nerds" (below) who were impressed to learn that our group is from "vagina beach." So impressed that they yelled the name over and over for 30 minutes.

Day 2
Jake and the guys decided to check out the second and final day of the Sevens. (One day was plenty for me.) After a bit of planning and preparation, they were transformed into hillbillies.

Doesn't look like it took much effort. I'd say they're naturals, eh? From left, this is Greg and Ed above, and Andy, Mike and Jas below.

No sporting event is complete without some barbecue, so they grilled out at Ed's place before heading to the game.

I'll let Jake fill you in on the details after that. All I know is what the photos tell me. The next 75 shots on the camera were of rugby, the guys cheering in the stands, and a few strange blurry photos. Looks like a great time! Here are some highlights.

Congratulations to Fiji, who came out on top at the 2010 Sevens.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Sevens are here

It's that time again. Time to dress up in costume and drink as much as you possibly can. That's right -- the Sevens are here. I went to check out the street parade today, and the rugby kicks off tomorrow.

So a few of us from work, including Lisa (above), snuck out to watch the parade at lunchtime. We had a chance to see all the teams go by in their various vehicles.

It was quite an international event, with teams from Argentina, South Africa, Fiji, Samoa, Niue (I have to admit I know absolutely nothing about Niue), Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Canada, Tonga and more.

The groups from some of the island nations were more enthusiastic and musical than others. What I love about the group from Fiji (above) is the little boy wearing an All Blacks t-shirt. Maybe not the right place to wear another team's apparel, but what are you gonna do? He's too cute.

And of course England was well-represented.

And finally I was excited to see the US team roll by. I even came prepared with a little American flag to wave at my fellow countrymen.

Not sure they even noticed me, but I was happy to cheer for them. Good luck tomorrow guys!

And then came our very own New Zealand players. We're excited to take part in the Sevens again this year -- we definitely had way too much fun last time.

Thanks to Lisa for taking most of these photos.