we have been driving like mad the past four days from the southermost part of the south island to the northernmost point of the north island. it's been a busy few days, lots of miles, but we've finally arrived in beach country. yahoo!
let me catch you up: as of our last post, we were headed to the fiordlands to do a kayak trip through a fiord. it ended up being a wonderful experience. to take our trip to doubtful sound (really a fiord, not a sound) we stayed in lake manapouri, a town surviving only to take tourists and kayakers into doubtful sound. to get to the fiord, we took a boat across lake manapouri, then a bus across the mountain to the sound. it was raining buckets, but by the time we got to the fiord, we were anxious to get in the water and start paddling. we toured for three or four hours in the rain, checking out the coastline of the fiord and the huge lush forests that border the water. it was a very surreal experience to be in the middle of nowhere, paddling a little tiny boat in black water, all the while getting soaked by the warm rain. at one point our guide showed us how to 'raft up', which is required if the waves get too high. upon hearing this, i think my face must have had a look of terror on it, because our guide asked, 'are you ok?'
it was a calm day for the most part, with only a few waves coming from the other tour boats that traveled through the sound. toward the end of the day, the sun finally came out and we were able to see the tops of all the mtns around us, and the huge waterfalls that carried the day's rain over rocky cliffs. it was magical.
the next day we drove to lake wanaka, via queenstown. queenstown is a lot like dillon or breckenridge, colorado, very touristy but fun. we later found out its official sister city is aspen. we weren't too far off. we stuck around in queenstown long enough to buy a bottle of wine and cheese for lunch from a cool ex-pat whose sister lives in salem, ore. following our picnic by the lake, we headed to lake wanaka just up the road. we had the chance to stop at a few vineyards of the otago region along the way. at one of the vineyards (whose name i'm forgetting), we enjoyed the most delicious pinot noir i've had in years. it was so lucious and fruity, with bits of earthiness and tannin. amazing. it would rival any of the 98 pinots from the willamette region. the owner who was our tasting room manager was pleased to hear this, as she is familiar with oregon's reputation for pinots. we've got a bottle to bring back with us....we hope it will survive the next two weeks, as it's too tempting to drink every night!
lake wanaka was a smaller version of queenstown, very lovely, but much less crowded. we stayed just outside town at a little campground in glendhu bay. it was stunning views of the lake, the glacial peaks of mt. aspiring, and the stars.
following our stay at glendhu bay, we began our long haul up the west coast of the south island to the ferry to the north. we didn't anticipate making the journey so quickly, but found few places along the way we wanted to stop. our only pitstop between wanaka and the ferry was at the fox glacier, a huge bit of ice that we could hike to from the road. it was sad to see how much the glacier had shrunk over the past 100 years -- i'd say more than a km. and they say global warming isn't at work....
we caught the ferry in picton to wellington, and on saturday got tickets to a cricket match in wellington. what a trip cricket is! anyone who says baseball is slow should stay away from cricket. the game began at 2PM, and by the time we left at 5:30, the game was not quite half over. the end score was 280-something to 250-something. crazy, but a lot of fun. unexpectedly, the crowd at the cricket match was extremely raucous and wild, more so than an american football game. we saw a group of shieks, some guys dressed in all pink tight shirts and lycra shorts, a man with a tutu and halo, and scads and scads of other weird but fun characters. i'm so glad we went, but i'm glad we didn't stay the whole day.
speaking of characters, let me take this moment to mention that the 80's fashion trends are back in full force in NZ. i have seen many a chap wearing those canvas slip on shoes that are black and white checkerboard patterns. you know the ones i'm talking about. lots of headbands, wristbands, slouchy boots and bubble skirts with leggings underneath too. i feel completely inadequate. perhaps i will knit up a pair of legwarmers to wear, just to fit in.
we've driven across the entire length of the north island now and are today in whangarei for a quick stop. we are headed to the beaches just outside town for some sun and relaxation for a few days before driving back to auckland and waiheke island for the last bit of our trip. aside from a ton of mosquito and sandfly bites (which i'm sure carry bird flu or the dunge fever) we're in good health, good spirits and are getting tanner (more tan?) by the day. along the way, i've also forgotten how to type, and this entry is taking me quite some time to compose. i think that's a good sign. what a relief to be away from the computer for so many days on end. i've also just realized my birthday is in a few days....i never thought i'd forget my own birthday, but i don't mind not knowing what day it is!
cheers to you all -- we're off to the beach!