Helping You Helped Me

A friend is going to New Zealand! How cool is that? In the wake of the earthquake I see her volunteering more than sightseeing, but that will still be a rewarding trip.

I got to reread all those blog posts – and I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since that incredible trip. It was really fun to sit, reread, and remember.

So, thanks, friend. I wrote all that so I would remember, but what makes you have the time to sit around reading about yourself? I’m glad I did and was able to enjoy my trip all over again. Although seeing the cathedral that I saw in Christchurch ruined from the quake was so sad, most of the memories are crazy happy ones. Made my day.

🙂

The Last Day

San Fran was freezing when we got in. We showered up, and hey, in true hard core fashion, took the BART from the airport back into town and went to a bar with the Ryans. It was as though the month hadn’t hardly passed at all. We told them about the trip, and got to the bar just in time to see the Pats game. The bar we went to must have been owned by a Boston transplant, it was like being back home.

The bar also might be the coolest, as it was Sunday. You order a Bloody Mary, and they hand you a little vodka in a big glass. Huh? The bartender pointed me to the end of the bar. It was a MAKE YOUR OWN BLOODY MARY station. Yes!!

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All the good stuff: olives, celery, tomato juice, Tabasco, horseradish, celery salt, pepper, etc. etc. etc. Best idea. Ever.

And the Pats won, just barely, and we had some food and some good times. It was a fantastic end to a wonderful trip. We were ready to get back to Austin.

Call It A Trip

There was this drive, we had to make it back from the Mt. to get on a plane back to Auckland to get home. At about 6am, we left the silliness that is the little town at the bottom of Mt. Cook.

Did I tell you NZ has 4 million people? 40 million sheep? 80 million possums? The entire ride back to Christchurch was the earliest we’d been in the car, and we were dodging road kill left and right. We had never been out that late driving, so we never hit anything – but man, they are everywhere. Don’t worry, there aren’t any pictures of that…

We spent the afternoon in the airport. No one ever checked ID, which was very strange. But we managed to convince them that we were really leaving NZ the next day so that we could avoid the US$200 that they were trying to make us pay for having so much luggage on a city to city flight. The rain and bad weather delayed most of the flights around NZ that day, and even canceled a few. Ours was just a little late.

We made it back to Auckland and holed ourselves up in our hotel for a little bit. We had some pizza and went through all our things preparing it for our long journey home, charging the video game player, finding the mp3 headphones, etc. Our flight out was late the next day, so we had breakfast, walked around the city again a little, and hung out in the hotel bar reading and playing on the internet to kill time. The shuttle got us there at about 4, and from there we were headed home!

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The flight back wasn’t that bad this time around, I was in pjs and tired enough to get some rest. The food unfortunately wasn’t as good, nor were they as quick to pour the wine. But we made it in one piece. We got to San Fran again and stayed the night at a hotel by the airport.

I See You, Mt.Cook!

I woke up without an alarm because there was this thing, I’m pretty sure it was sunlight that got me all excited. I ran to the back patio, and yes, in the distance, there was the top of a giant mountain. That’s why he booked three days. It was worth it. Basically. I mean, well, it took that long to see anything.

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The first hike we took was called Kea Point (no, no keas) and it showed us the tops of the peaks surrounding the area and the water everything ran in to. About an hour. Then we went to Hooker Valley, to make it to the base of the mountain and the best view. Wow. We should have skipped the first one. There were bridges. And rocks. I mean, I’ve never hiked anything like that – well, I’m not a hiker or anything, but it was nuts – it was the longest, biggest, scariest (over water and rocks and certain death) thing we had done yet. I imagine it was only just over two hours there, two hours back, but in was a tough walk. We got to the base of the mountain and there were ice caps floating in the water. It was spectacular.

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I am pretty sure that after that we slept quite a while, again, we had no watch but it was sunny for so long that the hike and the lunch I made was an all day event. I’m glad it cleared up, both of us enjoyed it and afterwards we changed up and had dinner and went to this “Old Mountaineer’s Bar” – it was 5 years old – then played pool and called it a successful day.

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Honestly, honestly: we were ready to go home. It was a LONG trip. A great, amazing, I don’t have words and I’m supposed to be blogging about it, trip – but we were toast.

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Mt. Cook Is Going To Get A Beatdown

Seriously, to wake up and still not be able to see this thing was getting to me. It’s the biggest mountain. Can we see it before we leave? I mean, I’m fine with the napping and all, but, that was a long drive. We could have been hanging out with JB.

At breakfast, guess what happened? We saw another kea! In the mountain!??! No.
On the patio. Go figure.

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I’m beginning to think people feed these things and they hang out…

We decided to take a hike anyway, since we were only going to see some lakes, and we didn’t think the clouds would mess that up. We went up the Tasman Trail to the Blue Lakes, which instead of the Hypnotiq color we expected, are more gray and dirt, ‘cuz that glacier, it’s ‘a melting, and it’s a little dirty. There was a bunch of melting snow caps, it was pretty.

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That hike threw me a bit, there was a glacier, and rocks, and it was straight up, and it started to rain, so I was a little grouchy. There was a town a little north called Twizel that was only built to build a dam, but protested to not be torn down and won, so we figured we should see it (it’s a fighter!). Pretty much a dump. But we got groceries (we’re here two more days!?!?). There was some *cough* excellent *cough* British programming on so we napped and watched that. We woke up very late. It had cleared up. We got all dressed up super warm and ran out. MK doesn’t know this, but it redeemed the stupid mountain for me. Have you ever seen the Milky Way? I didn’t cry, but there were tears in my eyes. We spent forever out there, necks craned. There was a shooting star we both saw, planets, stars, incredible. What an amazing view. It didn’t matter at that point to me if we ever saw Mt. Cook.

Thus Begins The Saga Of Mt. Cook

Our pre-planned trip ended with our return to Christchurch. And we had three (four?) whole days left in NZ to explore what MK we wanted on our own. Thus, we were brought to another rental car in the morning, which was funny because it was the same car, different color, that we had been using on the South Island. It was a 6 hour drive to Mt. Cook, where we would finish our vacation. There were some beautiful, again Hypnotiq colored, lakes we stopped at on the way, and maybe two or three towns.

If you can wrap your head around this, or find a map since I can’t, Mt. Cook is closest to the glaciers that we were at a week ago, on the other side, but there’s no way to get there from there. So you take this drive. Whatever.

Our hotel was our own little two bedroom hut, maybe the size of where we live now, crazy. Well, we get there, and if there IS a mountain, good luck finding it. The fog ruins things from time to time, if you haven’t gotten the sense of that already. So for our first night we look around. The town is: one hotel that owns a hotel and the huts, two little bar/shack/hostel things, um, and a campground. THAT’S IT.

What? We’re spending three days here? And there isn’t a grocery store or bar? Oh no.

We went to the main lobby of the hotel and played Guess Who. Remember that game? I don’t think MK did. Maybe he never played. He got mad I kept winning. Well, when you ask questions like is it someone that is winking instead of does your guy have blond hair…

Whatever. Then we tried Trivial Pursuit but realized it was the NZ edition and there were way too many cricket questions…bedtime.

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Maybe It’s Not All Scenic

Let’s just say you get on this thing called the TransScenic Railway. What would you expect it to be? That’s what I thought. There weren’t even enough clouds to hide the fact that with a name like that, they were only trying to sell tickets, and you could have driven and realized that there wasn’t that much to see. From the city of Greymouth where we checked our bags again and headed back to Christchurch – as you remember we didn’t stay there but I liked it anyway – it was a 5 hour ride. With the promise of seeing something. Not so much. I did see a dead cow, which you might be thinking is creepy for me to tell you, but MK and I had been trying to figure out why if there were all those sheep and cows on all those hills why we hadn’t see any falling or at the bottom already. The cow I saw was in some water, but anyway…

After trying to get some pictures from the viewing deck of the train of nothingness, MK came back in sneezing more that anyone, ever, and sat down sleepy style for a bit. The hayfever finally got him, bad. I listened to my music in a vegetative state.

All my life, I’ve wanted to go somewhere and have someone holding up a sign with my name on it. So much so that the last time my mom came to see me I did that for her. Well, there was a guy waiting at the terminal with a sign for us. MK wouldn’t take a picture, he thought that was creepy. Boo. But, then the radio announced as we were on the way to our hotel that none other than

TENACIOUS D (That’s right, Jack Black)

was performing that night in Christchurch, yes, that’s where we were, stay with me.

So of course, at our hotel, I find the only young young guy, and say “The D? Tonight? Where dey at?” To which he replies “Meyybe dey sold out, but check it. Town Hall. Dunno what time.”

So we had a glass of wine at the hotel – they brought us the ice this time – then went to the bar they had next door. MK does stocks, if you don’t know, and here’s the bar:

The Stock Exchange.

I want to open this bar here: (Don’t steal my idea that is really their idea) as you buy drinks, their stock rise, as does their price. And vice versa. Awesome. We chatted it up a bit with the couple in there. Then we decide to give The D a go. We use the map from the young guy, and walk, and it starts raining, so we make it slowly. We walk in, and they just shut down.

We beg and plead and plead and beg, and what do you know, we are the last two people they let in the show. Anywhere else, any other time, that wouldn’t have been such a huge deal, but we felt so American, at an American gig, cheering for the Americans. It was a blast. The concert was a great time, and the rain didn’t even bother us as we made it back to our hotel that night.

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Time For Glaciers

Kicking and screaming didn’t get me any more time in Queenstown, so we had to leave. We drove through the Southern Alps, stopping only at my insistence in Wanaka to see Puzzle World, which can only be explained by pictures. As you see, the outside was buildings and silly photo ops. We didn’t pay the $US25pp to get in, if you can believe it, to see the tricky stuff inside…It basically taught me that you can open up pretty much anything in a touristy town and somebody will pay to go to it. Pretty. Much. Anything.

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We made our way through Mount Aspiring National Forest, and I realized that while I thought that I had had a pretty out-doorsy trip, it was headed to a whole new level. We stopped and climbed down the “Gates of Haast”, a crazy waterfall that was deafening and incredible. Here is where something interesting happened. We never found out why, but from here on down the south island, the water took this turquoise hue. It looked like Hypnotiq. (Mom, that’s the stuff I left in the freezer.)

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You would think with this amazing water feature named as the gates to your town, you’d live in a cool town, so MK and I were planning the whole time on eating lunch there. Wrong. We were very, very wrong. It was the smallest town on our trip, and we drove through some small places. There were maybe 10 houses and a walk up place where we got a sandwich. Boo. They should change the name of the “Gates of Haast”, to, I don’t know, “Gates of Don’t Stop in the Next Town” or something.

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We saw some huge huge deer, I think they were moose, who knows. It was funny to see them all fenced up, I’ve actually never seen that here, although I’m sure they must be somewhere. When deer were introduced in NZ they ate too much wild stuff, so they are all under control for us to eat now. There are a lot of things that were introduced in NZ that haven’t done too well, or have really messed things up, especially for the poor kiwis.

We went out to the Fox Glacier first. We hiked all the way up to it but then MK got scared because there was a rope. Pfft. Then we drove to the Franz Josef Glacier, maybe an hour away. We saw a kea.

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Let me explain this a little: a kea is a very rare mountain bird. It is a giant African Parrot. It is something we had been looking for on all our hikes and walks and excursions. Guess where we saw it? In a tree? In the woods? Building a nest? Hiding in some underbrush?

Nope.

In the parking lot. On a car.

I guess you have to take what you can get.

This time I got MK to jump over the ‘only for expert climbers’ rope and we got up close and personal with the glacier. It was definitely a moment to remember. They had signs posted as to where the glacier had been years and years ago, it was remarkable to see the changes that have occurred.

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We went back to the town we were staying at by Fox Glacier, and had a big dinner and some drinks. It was a great day, despite it being mostly outside and active…

Best Day Ever

Milford Sound didn’t have me excited when I heard we had to take a 4 hour bus ride. Then the bus showed up. Not bad. Then we got on our way, it was beautiful. The bus had a glass roof so that you could see the full extent of the views. The driver gave a commentary that was very informational. We drove through Fjordland National Park, and learned a lot about the plants, animals, the waterfalls, the glaciers, and the lake. Lake Wakatipu is referred to as the ‘breathing lake’ , every 10 seconds it ebbs and flows 10cm due to atmospheric pressure – cool, right? We got to out boat and were given a great picnic lunch as we went out Milford Sound to the Abel Tasman Sea. It was spectacular. The mountains rise from 10 Empire State buildings under water to 5 above. The pictures are frustrating, as there’s no perfect way to get the impression of the extensive perspective.

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If you open any pictures, open these!!

We saw bottle nosed dolphins, some seals, and so many waterfalls. Ferry Fall has a rainbow that you can see in the picture, and another waterfall the boat went right up to and MK got right out underneath.

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The clouds began to set in a little, and we turned back. The Abel Tasman Sea is the 2nd most dangerous in the world, with record setting swells. It was amazing. We learned that Captain Cook actually missed the Sound the first time he came around the coast, and it’s only called a sound to fit in with the rest of the names even though it’s not a sound, it’s a fjord, formed from a glacier.

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So, then. We were supposed to get back on that bus for a 4 hour return trip…but my husband loves me.

He hates planes, and really hates small ones. But he knew how much I would have loved to take the optional (for a fee) flight back to Queensland. I might have mentioned it.

These pictures cannot do the scenery justice. There were ice caps melting and lakes in the mountains, and vineyards closer to the city, everything. There is no doubt that even that day I knew this was the most amazing part of my trip, no matter what came next. it was breathtaking, truly why they call NZ God’s Country. They say if he could pick a place to live, this would be it. I’m not speaking for anyone, but I wouldn’t blame Him!

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Maybe One Boat Too Many

The day started with a cup of coffee all too early as we waited for our shuttle to get us. We headed to the Dart River. We got to go on a Shotover Boat. I can’t help you with a technical explanation, but somehow this thing has it’s engine and propeller inside it, and it goes REALLY fast, on about 6 inches of water. We did 360s and got all wet and got to see the views and drive all around like it was going out of style. The driver was expertly making you think you were about to fly into rock walls left and right. It was so much fun. And I only screamed once, or twice.

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MK decided to book a second boat excursion with the half of the day we had left after this. This was a similar boat, just a little slower. We drove over an hour to get to Glenorchy, where the boat went up a higher part of the Dart River. As we drove, we entered some weather. Here’s the amazing part: they fed us, then gave us our money back and put us back on the bus if we wanted, with a FULL REFUND. We were back before too late and not out any money. I was pretty impressed, as I assumed they were going to hose us, or even worse, make us go out in the rain to see the non existent views.

We took a little nap, wandered out to the hotel bar, and had a meal and some drinks. It was great. The weather cleared out, and our room had a patio with a waterfall view. It ended up being a great day, despite our second trip not making it out.

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