Posted by: Ted | December 3, 2007

Penguins, Pizza and Drunken Jenga

Dunedin, New Zealand November 6-9, 2007

New Zealand’s most authentic University town lies seaside on the lower eastern coast of the South island and enjoys an eclectic mix of University dives, high-end urban restaurant bars and beautiful architecture amid rolling green hills and blue waters. The lure to drive this far south was a chance to get close and personal with penguins, sea lions and seals. Little did we know that this University town would cast a spell on us and send us on one drinking bender after the next until we would emerge ready for detox and rehab. Fasten your seatbelts and hold on to your bottle openers; the crazy-train is about to depart.

Checking in to the Elm Lodge hostel we immediately hit it off with Alex at the front desk and his girlfriend Norma. Within a couple of hours we were in the hot tub slamming Monteith’s beers and talking about dinner plans. Alex, Norma and their friend Leutz take us to a hidden jewel of a sushi restaurant that would be impossible to find without knowing about it. No sign out front, just Japanese flyers and menus inside. Many rolls, beers, Sake’s and hours later, we’re feeling no pain and ready to move on… after one more shot on the house, that is. Out on the streets it is chaos because this is Melbourne Cup Day. Imagine a national holiday crossing The Kentucky Derby with New Years and Halloween and you get the idea. Staggering back from a drunk-fest at the races, the men are in suits while the ladies sport obnoxious hats and tight dresses revealing more flesh than they might normally. We slide into a swanky lounge bar specializing in $5 tall pulls of Monteith’s! Last thing I remember here, my table is laughing at me because I am at another table with a bunch of Londoner’s and I’m air drumming with one of the guys to Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”. We are now the best of friends so we have to do a shot of Jagermeister… because THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS DO, right? P.S.- I hate Jagermeister. I return to our table and everyone is raising shots of… yeah you guessed it. They hand me a Jager shot and we toast to who the heck knows what.

I don’t remember anything after air drumming but everyone else filled in the gaps for the blog. Returning to the Elm Lodge it’s back into the hot tub at about 2am where we are inviting every other guest to join us. Ironically we chose this hostel because it is quiet, yet we’re waking everyone up in the joint. Luckily we have the staff (Alex and Nora) with us in the hot tub in case someone wants to complain. Next day we find empty beer bottles, Jaegermeister and Bailey’s bottles littered around the hot tub and I understand why my head has a freight train running through it. I spend the day nursing a hangover and finally succumb to drinking a couple of beers which I learned in school is the best cure. Lucky I did as Heather has booked us into the Elm Wildlife Tour. The first part of the day, you visit the Royal Albatross Colony..the only mainland albatross colony on earth. These birds circumnavigate the world before landing here. Their wing span can reach up to 9ft!

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The second part of this amazing tour grants access to private stretches of beach where fur seals, seals and yellow-eyed penguins roam wild. Did you know that don’t have to go to Antarctica to see penguins in the wild (We hope Tim O. back home finds this funny)? Look at the second picture closely. How’s that for timing?

 

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It’s an amazing opportunity to get within a few feet of these wild animals after sunset and we got some amazing video and photos despite the limited light available at dusk.

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Heather did a photo shoot of a sea lion on the beach. Here are the sea lions favorite photos from the session.

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And here’s the photo Heather took when the session was over. That sea lion must have been exhausted!

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As we left the area, we stopped to see the most beautiful sunset.

sunset.jpg

Next day we make preparations with the hostel owners to cook wood fired pizzas in the pot-bellied stove. They decide this is a terrific group activity and pitch in for ingredients so we can share what we learned from Steve “The Butcher of Bulgaria” weeks before in Greymouth. Making pizza is a drinking activity so by mid afternoon the drinks are flowing, the ingredients are being chopped, sliced and prepped and Heather has the kitchen full of ‘students’ learning to make the dough.

pizza.jpg

Meanwhile, Alex and Leutz have introduced me to a new game they invented last week called “Drunken Jenga” and we make preparations. To prepare, we write funny actions on little stickers such as “drink a beer upside down” or “mime an Elizabethan skit using at least 7 props” and place each sticker on the Jenga blocks.

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Four hours, nineteen pizzas and too many cocktails later, we’re playing. Playing Drunken Jenga is just like the normal game except you have to follow the directions on the block you remove or be eliminated.

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By 2am we were still playing and still cooking Pizza since the group continued to grow all evening.

Eventually the topic turns to pizza and we explain the story of how we met a cool guy from Australia who could cook really well and describe the original scene in Greymouth. Before long, the staff is shocked to learn that Steve had stayed with them weeks before! They launch into a long story of him digging a hole in the backyard and roasting a whole baby pig for about twelve hours. We show them a picture of Steve and confirm, it’s the same guy! Even funnier, we remember Steve showing us a picture of the roasting pig in Greymouth and recanting the story of how he showed Kiwis how to roast a pig in the ground. Everything seems to come full circle eventually when you are perpetually traveling. Next morning the staff were very patient with us since there was no way we could drag ourselves out of the room for by the 10am checkout time. Next stop: The Betty Ford clinic with Lindsay Lohan as a roommate.

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