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.
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.