28.2.09

A little bit of this and a little bit of that . . .

Marc and I are back in Queenstown for the third . . . or the fourth time. We arrived last night just in time to see some NZ "snowbirds" give us a show. As we are creatures of habit, we ate our fourth Ferg Burger as well last night. Today, Marc is FINALLY mountain biking at Coronet Peak. While he has enjoyed it, it has affirmed his love of Canadian mountain biking.
His butt doesn't usually get this dirty in Canada!

A little bit of this. A few pictures of late:

Our pillows that we sleep on. Hopefully we do suwive it.

A few more pictures of the Christchurch Botanical Gardens
Waving to Julie and Lowell in Auckland's general direction
Campervan Art

I felt a bit weird taking this picture, as I had to zoom in unknowingly on children walking home from school but if you look closely you can see that they are wearing flourescent yellow vests. We arrived into Te Anau (the access town for Milford Sound) just as school was letting out and we were greeted with children boarding the school bus with yellow vests, as well as walking home. And we thought Canada was extra safety conscious!

And a little bit of that.

We have not yet written about Puzzling World. We stopped at this perplexing, puzzling place in Wanaka on our way to Christchurch to fly to Sydney. It is a museum of holograms, as well as a 'balance room.' It is one of the funnest museums we have ever been to and we especially enjoyed the balance room as well as the perspective room.

Going to the bathroom with the ancient Romans, quite the experience!

We have been working out a lot on this trip and thus are able to lift a heavy tower!


OUCH!



How would you feel having many Nelson Mandelas and Beethoven's watch your every move as you walk around a room? Very musical and free, I presume. ;)

Marc has really grown a lot on this trip!
In the balance room, the floor is slanted but the walls and doors are put in upright so it looks like you should be straight but aren't! It's very confusing to your brain! Everyone was walking around like they were drunk . . . and laughing like they were too!

Now we are off to Doubtful Sound for a two day kayak trip! We hope the weather cooperates!

24.2.09

my new favourite place

to report on the last week with any kind of detail and still do justice to our experience today on milford sound in one post would be impossible (or at least uncomfortably long), so i will attempt to sum up quickly.

we landed in christchurch and had 2 gloriously sunny days (after a cloudy sydney).
the first night we camped in an overflow parking lot at the botanical gardens and in the morning we drove the 200m to the regular parking lot (opens at 7:00), but the city was repairing the pavement, so we were rerouted down a tiny road which led... right into the park, so that is where we stayed, making coffee and eating our breakfast with green parkland and gardens all around us.

the next day we went south again and stayed on lake pukake. i put some pictures of this campsite up last post, but i will do so again (in a different light) b/c it was so beautiful and free.
when we drove up to the lake we recognized our own MEC tarn 3 tent given to us for our wedding (thanks josh, hav, ty and aaron, it's still going strong). we later struck up a conversation with our fellow canadians and ended up bringing our chairs over to their site for the night. the evening light was perfect for pictures, with a 2 minute burst of bright pink diffuse light right before dark that looked amazing.

not that the mountain scenes or emerald water needed much help. when darkness fell the brightest starscape i have ever seen was revealed. apparently this area is destined to be the first UNESCO heritage site in the sky, as they want to protect one of the clearest parts of the atmosphere from any light pollution. and yes dad, we did see the southern cross, although it was tough to make out in the midst of magellan's cloud.

after pukake the weather turned bad. all of new zealand was engulfed a storm, and although the south island avoided any major flooding, we were stuck with 4 days of solid rain. we were going south to cross over to stewart island, but the coast was so windy and rainy that we decided to check out the catlin coast for one day instead and then head back inland.

it was beautiful but miserable (weatherwise) we did find a great little sheltered campsite right across from a beautiful walking trail through the forest to a beach. rainforests are the best place to walk when its raining.

from the catlins we crossed the base of the south island to sleep in te anau before setting out to kayak in milford sound. the day before our kayak we drove into fiordland national park and did an amazing hike to marian lake.

the trail was wide and easy up until this breathtaking whitewater walkway, after which it turned technical. (i love this picture)

despite passing many people on the trail, we had the alpine lake to ourselves.


that night we camped at a lake about an hour's drive from milford sound.

in the am we rose bright and early and made the beautiful drive through the alpine passes to milford. the morning mists burned away to reveal a bold blue sky, the first we had seen in almost a week! the perfect weather, majestic fjiordial peaks and calm deep blue water combined to make this kayak trip our favourite experience so far in new zealand, and one of the high points of my life. in fact, the first thing we did when we got off the sound (fjord) was to book a 2 day kayak trip on milford's big brother, doubtful sound.

we spent a little over 4 hours on the water, with a half hour break for lunch. pictures will never do justice to the experience. the impact comes from sitting in a little kayak and being totally surrounded by almost sheer cliffs rising 1600m out of the water. the sunshine helped as well, although apparently when it is raining a myriad of waterfalls spring off of every cliff surface. that would be nice too. lets pray for 1.5 days of sunshine and .5 days of rain when we kayak on doubtful sound (march 3 &4 for those who want to mark it on their prayer calenders... also remember to remind God that new zealand is one day ahead of canada).

joking aside, this trip was a very spiritual experience. bobbing in a chasm carved out of the ancient rock by a river of ice flowing slowly over hundreds of thousands of years gives you a sense of real power and an inkling of eternity.

our guide offered us a chance to hop out of our kayaks in the middle of the fjord and go for a swim. only i took him up on it. it wasnt even too cold, although again the beautiful sunshine probably helped.

on the drive back from milford we stopped at almost every opportunity to hike, and there were a lot. the road to milford winds up above the treeline and then punches right through a mountain to descend to the fjord on the other side. the ancient glaciers that formed this landscape still have a presence in the higher altitudes and around every corner there was a new valley, with glacier topped cliffs and soaring peaks.

until yesterday i had enjoyed the southern alps but thought that canada does it better. then we came to fiordland. perhaps canada still has this kind of topography, as this is what i imagine baffin island to look like (comments jarrid?) but it is not this accessible.

i am writing this blog post in our current campsite by the river in a place called deer flats. it is another idyllic spot. the nearest site to ours is 100m away and it was not occupied last night... in fact i think we were the only people in this whole campground. this morning a very funny kiwi lady and her australian friend came to the neighbouring spot to do their laundry in the river, but we dont mind. as long as they keep it down.

unfortunately this campground is not free. the price we pay for clean toilets, a picnic table, a rope swing and 1/4 acre campsites is the equivalent of $6.50 canadian. that department of conservation is always trying to rip us off!

you can just see gus in the bottom right under the tree.

after a leisurely breakfast, typing this post and writing a few postcards, it was time for a swim.


today we plan to make our slow way back to queenstown so i can finally get to biking on the local ski hill. weather has thus far frustrated my various attempts tomorrow is looking good. luckily i know that we will have more time in fiordland (my new favourite place, right up there with lamu and goreme) as we have our kayak trip booked here in a week. i love fjords.

17.2.09

glaciers to queenstown (aka -even longer than julie's posts)

we are back in new zealand and have made it all the way back down to queenstown... problem is, we havent even put up pictures of last time we were in queenstown, so we have some catching up to do.
the last 3 days have been spent in christchurch and working our way down the south island. we once again had a sweet (free) camp spot on lake pukake, this time with incredibly clear views of mt. cook (sorry lowell, it was truly magnificent). but we will get to that soon (hopefully). first a whirlwind catchup from franz josef on to queenstown.


franz josef glacier was incredible. the walk to the foot (or as close as you are allowed without guides) is wonderfully scenic as you pick your way along a wide dry riverbed with the glacier looming in front of you. i think we will have to go back there and do some ice walking.





fox glacier was an hour's drive further down the coast. these 2 glaciers are some of the fastest moving in the world and they reach down to 300m above sea level.

check out that glacier carved cliff. we ate lunch here, and though i was itching for an illicit hike to the foot of fox glacier, we had ground to cover so off we went to wanaka (plus 2 men were recently crushed by falling ice, so kylie would not have been well disposed to a more proximal perusal).

in wanaka we got our first flat tire. actually we aquired the flat while speeding along a windy road overlooking lake wanaka, but luckily it held on until we could park on the beach in wanaka proper.

luckily we had a spare, and i was experienced with toyota's awkward spare tire storage system in the early 90s.


we phoned ahead to book a spot in a holiday park in queenstown, as we knew it would be busy, but they told us just to head over. we phoned again after changing the tire to inform them that we would arrive 5 minutes after closing. we were told (rather sharply) "if you dont arrive before 9, you dont get in the park!" so we arrived at the holiday park at 9:05 and just slept in their parking lot for free. we also may or may not have used their bathrooms and showers.

julie and lowell only had 4 days off and a lot of activities on their itinerary, so we were always on the move. on the first morning, we rolled into the parking lot at the gondola bright and early and proceeded to make coffee and have our breakfast while watching all the NZ liftee -equivalents make their way up the hill to work. we were among the first to ascend the gondola, having slightly hurried in order to have a clear luge track.




and clear it was... perfect for trying to block lowell as he came hurtling by me after a corner, or pass or bump kylie or julie in a flagrantly dangerous manner.

shareen has already expressed her appreciation for the conversational qualities of this shot... i for one think they should be paying attention to the road.


after using all the potential energy stored in our continually re-elevated status, we were exhausted and really appreciated the protein and general tastiness of the famous fergburger.

after luging we signed up for an afternoon of river surfing. this was a highlight for me. it is just like white water rafting, only you go through class 4 rapids on a boogie board. seriously fun.


we also floated through the pillars of the kings from lord of the rings (the fellowship of the ring). that was pretty sweet, as the entrance to the gorge certainly underlined the transition the fellowship and particularly the hobbits were undergoing just before their first battle with the uruk-hai. powerful stuff. it is certainly made to look a lot bigger in the movie, although it helped to go though it on a board rather than in a canoe.


video

the river surfing really took it out of us. in addition to attempting to stay on your board through the rapids, pull out a few barrel rolls and whirlpool spins and floating down the centre of the river, there was also a lot of rock avoiding, eddy avoiding or eddy catching and general current fighting necessary to navigate the river. and even the invisible currents were powerful.




the last rapid, "chinese dogleg" had a stack of standing waves that were 2 to 3 meters from trough to peak. they don't look too scary in this picture from way back, but imagine coming up to them with your head just poking out of the water!

i am a big fan of hottubs and saunas and thermal experience in general (within reason) and thus was predisposed to accept the 10% off coupon we got for the onsen hotpools just outside queenstown.


a perfect end to an amazing day. the attention to detail at onsen was incredible, from the prompt complimentary shuttle service to the cedar walls and minimal stylish brass button controls. even the shower heads were exquisite. to add cold water you just had to press a button and it came squirting from the ceiling.


the next morning was the centerpoint of our trip, at least in a cost analysis. we boarded the bus out to nevis canyon to do the highest bungy jump in new zealand. 134m over distant rock and a small non reassuring river.


it was fantastic! 7 seconds of free fall and then an incredible ride, although it was way too short. lowell, julie and i all jumped. kylie wisely and graciously opted out, mostly for financial reasons. lowell was first and smoothly leapt out, making faces at us when he bounced back.

i was next and was surprised to find that i wasnt even nervous or scared... just excited. i was both nervous AND scared before trying bungy jumping in edmonton, but this time i knew what to expect i guess, and i was more excited than anything else. the rocky canyon was a wonderful setting in which to hurl yourself at the distant earth.


i was particularly impressed with julie's performance. she displayed no outward signs of anxiety up in the cablecar, even though she was last. when her turn came, she joked with the workers who hooked her up, waved to us, walked to the edge of the platform overlooking A LOT of empty space and after a quick countdown executed a textbook swandive into nothingness. no theatrics, no handwaving, none of the OMG OMG that gets regular play in these situations. all business. all the time. that's julie.


after returning from the canyon to queenstown, we had some lunch and then took julie and lowell to the airport. we had one more night in queenstown in which we slowed down our pace, went for a walk, picked up some dinner and watched a movie with gus. the next morning we set out for puzzling world in wanaka, which is going to need a post of its own... i had completely forgotten about it. shoot, maybe we will never catch up with this blog.