3.25.13 - 4.18.13
So, keeping a blog up-to-date when you’re traveling is hard. I knew that it would be. You ask yourself if you should rest/sleep, be social and talk to people or write. You never really consider not going out to do something over writing. But I enjoy updating people and documenting my visit for others and myself. So that explains that.
This post is a summary of sorts – things we’ve done and seen and what it’s like in New Zealand’s south island.
First of all, everything is beautiful. It really does look like Frodo is hiding somewhere in the mountains. There are breathtaking landscapes and every drive is an adventure of its own. There’s a lookout at every turn because the views are just incredible, and I’m convinced I came up with a money-making idea when I proposed to David photography lessons from moving vehicles. Many times it looks like you’re looking at a green screen or maybe an oil canvas painting of a place far away. I was convinced I could push over the painting that was the mountains in Queenstown and the glacial lake at Hooker Valley.
It’s also cold, but I use “cold’ loosely considering it’s not really. When we first arrived it was similar to Georgia’s late autumn with a warm sun and a cold (not cool) breeze. Then sometime between putting on my shorts in Te Anau and opening my door in Queenstown, it turned to Georgia’s mid-winter. I don’t mind winter. But I desperately missed my black puffy jacket that I opted not to bring due to size (and the fact I would have only used it in NZ) and my cute boots that go much better with a pair of skinny jeans than do Chacos or Merrells.
All the kiwis says “yeah.” And not the “yeah,” you just read in your head that sounded like an American yeah. It’s a kiwi “yeah” that sounds quite nasally (btw, kiwi’s add “quite” to phrases quite a lot), and sounds like a sped up version of “yee” + “ah” = yeah. When you say something everyone says, “Oh! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah” and sometimes they even continue with the yeahs while you talk. David and I both have picked this up for ourselves.
Now for a ramble:
The moon is upside here; people drive on the left side of the road and the right side of the car; a shopping cart (or if you’re in the “south” south, a buggy) is a trundler; houses do not have insulation nor do they have central heating and air (also why I tended to always be cold); they use a lot of British spellings that include superfluous U's like “colour” and “flavor” and a strange S every now and then like in “organise.”
There’s lots of 90s music everywhere; almost every small town has a Lion’s Club and a Rotary Club; deer farming is common, and I realized this after I stopped and looked at all the deer who didn’t run away in their (actually too short) fence; dairy farming is taking over sheep farming, and having said this sheep and cows are everywhere! The sheep to people ratio is 7:1 and most of the cows look like they belong in a Chick-fil-A commercial all white and black and perfect.
Gas is called “petrol” and it’s super expensive at around $7+ USD per gallon (it took us a while to work out the math from liter to gallon and then the exchange rate); having something “to-go” is called “takeaway;” there are no free refills anywhere including McDonalds (yes, we ate at McDonalds – strange because we don’t eat it at home – stranger that it was actually really good – and strangest that the restaurant was clean and the people were nice --- we found out later that NZ is very strict as to what goes into any of their fast food meat products); everywhere has tons of locally owned cafes and those are what people go to for lunch – not restaurants; there is British tea everywhere and it’s amazing; coffee culture is picking up as well but the tea tradition was brought over by the British; fish and chip shops (also brought over by the British) are on every street corner and are owned by Asian families who offer fish and chips (aka fries, we did not know this), burgers and chips, and a slew of Chinese food.
Now that the ramble is out of the way:
David and I had a fantastic time. We jumped out of a cable car for a 8 second free fall at the world’s third largest bungy jump (Nevis); we swam with dusky dolphins and saw a blue whale (the largest mammal/thing that has ever existed! They grow up to 27meters/88.5ft long!); we saw an albatross (10ft wingspans!); we stayed at Hogwarts (hostel with the name in Dunedin – yes, I have pictures); took a cruise through Milford Sound; was accosted by a Kea; got face to face with a Kiwi; fed eels; hiked a glacier (Fox Glacier); and took some “sort of” restricted paths along a glacial pond at Mt. Cook and the Pancake Rocks in Punakaki.
We did a good bit of hiking or as kiwi’s call it: “tramping.” We tramped Hooker Valley (named for the botanist but yes saying, “We tramped Hooker Valley” doesn’t sound nice); some of the coastal track at Abel Tasman; a short tramp to Humboldt Falls; Fox Glacier (previously mentioned); and lastly, the St. Arnaud Ridge Trek. And that tramp was a bitch.
It’s 12.4km/7.7miles and 3 hours of straight up and 3 hours of straight down for a whopping short 6 hour day hike. I thought about my sister Crystal, her husband Drew, and her friend Nevena who all hiked the Appalachian Trail. And then I thought, “Why?” Then I thought, “How??” No amount of explanation will actually be able to explain to me why and how you hike for 6 months at a time. But perhaps, I can understand all the walking if the company (David, obviously) is wonderful, the conversation is intelligent, the exercise is invigorating (well, only up until a certain point on this tramp anyway) and the view is amazing. This tramp leads you to the top of a ridge to a point called The Parachute Rocks. You walk up to look over Lake Rotoiti and Mt. Robert, over the entire town and even over into other towns. The clouds cast angelic lighting on some places and rain over others. It's actually, quite majestic.
There's much more to say. But much less time. Now, we find ourselves in an airport about to start country hopping: Bali, Thailand, Egypt and Israel - all in three weeks. Our New Zealand adventure has come to an end after 3.5 weeks. It’s sad – but it’s happy. I never thought I would be able to get back to New Zealand, but I did – and with my best friend. I would say, I’m a wee bit blessed.