Monthly Archives: January 2011

Tramping around Mount Cook

When we arrived in the village of Mount Cook, I was pleased that Stacy had arranged for me to stay in a house nearby. I was living with some of her workmates for a couple days which was more or less like living alone as they seemed to work all the time. Two guys though…lets just say I felt a lot of satisfaction from cleaning up their place for them. It was one of those very dramatic before and afters.

Luckily the weather which had been iffy, cleared up quite nicely just in time for a hike. Stacy and I lagged behind all the while Billy was yelling at us to come on. It wasn’t the nicest and I began to get quite agitated. I knew that if I hurried up much more that I would surely hurt myself. I tried to tune out his drill sargent like barking but mostly felt sorry for Stacy, who he was picking on every time she took a few seconds break. I didn’t dare stop as I didn’t want to be a target for his insults.

When we reached Sealy Lakes I decided to let the two go on up to Mueller Hut while I took a break. I soaked up the stunning view and congratulated myself on a job well done. After a while, it started to rain a bit so I began making my way down. At first I was a bit too exuberant hopping from boulder to boulder. I realized after a few minutes that I was tearing up my quadriceps something fierce. At this point, it was too late. I spent the next hour carefully navigating my way down with a pair of trembling legs which were not the least bit stable.

I made it down to the bottom then walked the extra hour on mostly flat ground past the Hermitage to the visitor center. I took a eco-break then sat down to watch a 15 minute informational film about Mount Cook, partially for the movie but mostly to try to get my legs to stop shaking. I was a hurtin’ unit! By the time I got to my flat, I was absolutely spent. I laid down for about an hour then Susie came over to ask if I would like to eat with them. I was grateful to enjoy a yummy homemade dinner she had whipped up then went to the nearby YHA to do some internet. Someone had borrowed Lord of the Ring from the front desk and that was playing in the background as I tapped away on my netbook. The hostel was packed with families and I was quite surprised with the general demographic. There were lots of older couples (60-80 year olds!) traveling together. It was actually really cool to see. Overall, the feeling wasn’t very much a social place though and most people really kept to themselves. This was not the type of place you come to meet people or make friends.

Grateful for endurance.

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Strange Seals on the South Island

The next morning, I woke up feeling a whole lot better and ready to conquer the South Island. After a small breakfast provided by the hostel of scones and cereal, we packed up and headed out. I grabbed a coffee at a local shop and checked my emails. I had some business to take care of back home and worked on Skype.

The day was bright and sunny which was perfect for taking to the coastal road. The air was warm and I remembered the tiny seaside town of Picton just as it was the last time I was here. I like the small town energy here but the transient nature of a ferry/port town keeps things always in flux. It is unique. I would have liked to stay a bit longer but as usual, we were in a hurry. There was a moment where I questioned whether I should continue on with Billy because I was getting some really strange vibes. I went against my better judgement and got back into the car. I guess I was putting more weight on finishing what I had started than listening to my instincts. Bad idea.

Passing Blenheim, I noticed heaps of vineyards, wineries and even olive farms. One after another after another, this is quite the wine region. We got to Kaikoura and found a point on the peninsula where a cheeky seal was posing for photos. I was amused when the big brown mass of fur started huffalumping towards the people. There was no fear at all and the cute whiskery face looked as us with nonchalance, as if he owned the place. Indeed, he did. I got close enough for a photo when he stopped to rest on a wooden footbridge but not without a little bit of a warning bark. As comical and adorable as he was, it was a reminder that he is still a wild animal.

We stopped for a moment in Christchurch before continuing on to Billy’s brothers place. They lived just outside of the city in a suburb and have pigs, sheep, cows and chickens. And kids. The have four of those too. They were all very delightful and roped me into jumping on the trampoline, shooting a sticky target gun and playing Go Fish. It was fun to have so much children attention and I was entertained by the questions they had about all things Canadian. My mood got lighter being around those kids and I started feeling a little less down on myself.

After a scrumptious home cooked dinner, I settled into bed FINALLY getting some decent rest. After a leisurely breakfast with the fam, B and his bro went into Christchurch to pay their Grandpa a visit. They dropped me off in the center where I didn’t waste anytime at all. I explored the Arts Center, the Canterbury Musuem, and wandered all around the downtown streets. It was a lovely summer day and even though it was a holiday, most things were open.

We were able to stop by the Cookie Time factory which just so happened to be on the way home. I was thrilled to be able to get a photo with the red furry cookie monster muncher. I was a bit sad to see how touristy and impersonal the whole operation has become since the last time I was here in 2003. I picked up a big bag of broken cookies for the kids but also disappoint to taste that the quality of the cookie had also gone wayward. I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

I have been somewhat fascinated with earthquakes lately so coming to this area was quite educational for me. I got all the dirt from Cara who even pulled out a commutative book of the most recent shake up back in Sept 2010. I was in awe as Andy took me on a little tour of some of the more affected areas, still in shambles. Most of all, I was rapt by their first hand experience which they relayed to me as we nibbled cheese and crackers at the kitchen table.

Billy started getting antsy again so I knew I had better get my butt into the car so we could go again. We drove down and over towards Mount Cook, stopping for some fruit and veg at a local farm. I was happy to have had the chance to grab some fresher than fresh produce before heading into the mountains where everything is much more dear.

We got to take a small break around Lake Tekapo where I took some award winning photos. The thick earthy sagey turquiose waters were crashing waves into the rocky shores. In the background I marveled over the snow capped Mount Cook surrounded by feathery long clouds. It was a sight to behold and it made my heart so happy to have such beauty in my midst. This by far one of my favorite views in the world.

Grateful for magnificence.

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Race to the Inter IS land Ferry

After leaving Taupo, we knew had to motor in order to reach Wellington by the time we should check in for the Interisland ferry. Billy had booked the thing in advance so we could very well miss it or face paying extra fees. There were a few stops that would have been nice to make like roadside fruit (strawberries, blueberries, peaches) vendors but I just stared longingly at them as we sped by. The road was long an windey and there was a point where I must have nodded off, because shortly after I felt the car stop. B said that if his passenger is sleeping, he gets too tired to drive and has to pull over and have a nap too. So after a short rest, I offered to take the wheel once again so we wouldn’t have to speed to much. The weather was starting to get rainy and windy.

I had a feeling that it was a mistake to try and bite off the whole north island the first day but Billy had insisted we hurry as his vacation time was only 10 days. I realized later that he was just very eager to get to Mount Cook where he has a girl waiting for him. Ah the things we do for love! As he didn’t admit this to me straight away, I had no idea what the pressure to hurry hurry hurry was and I was getting rather stressed.

We did get to stop for some Manuka honey which I bought to help my throat which was still quite scratchy. Billy was also sick so I got extra for him hoping we wouldn’t just keep passing the germs around. Apparently this magical honey can heal like no body’s business and it is famous around the world for just that. It even comes in different strengths. It tastes a slight bit more earthy than typical clover honey but I figured I would get used to it for the sake of my health.

We stopped at a supermarket and picked up some foodstuffs to eat on the three hour ferry ride. Considering it would be past 930pm when we arrived in Picton, I figured it would be a better idea to feed enroute. I was happy to find a few salads and some fruits, although they were heavily overpriced and underquality compared to the streetside vendors.

B had just gotten a TomTom which he was trying out for the first time on this trip. The whole day he spent talking back to the lady who we think had an Aussie accent. I don’t know why he didn’t just mute the thing as it was correct only about 70 percent of the time. And it was annoying as heck. More annoying was the fact that he seemed to have entire conversations with the thing fighting with it back and forth. Really? Anyway, when we got to the ferry it announced that we were now entering the Inter-IS-land Ferry terminal. The comic relief almost made up for all the other blunders it jabbered on about. Almost but not quite.

We waited in the long line of hundreds of cars while the family behind us insisted on bouncing a ball around and on top of us repeatedly. They kept saying sorry but never did stop doing it. By the time we were able to board and leave the car, I was on my last legs. We found a bunch of seats near the cinema and some big picture windows then chowed down on some of our grub. I was disappointed to see that there were big metal rings that kept me from laying down over a few seats. B just sprawled out on the ground but I didn’t really want to get that close to the filthy rugs. I couldn’t help but think of all the gross bugs and germs and dirt colonizing inches from my face. No thanks. So I closed my eyes for a couple hours but didn’t get any rest.

Finally we pulled into Picton and promptly checked into a hostel. I mustered up just enough energy gulp down some tea with honey then after a swift shower, I fell into bed. I shoved my ear plugs in and prayed for some good dreams. I realized that I haven’t had a proper sleep in more than 96 hours. And it didn’t come yet. Turns out Billy snores and apparently so did the German lady who was also bunked in the room. :-/ Lucky me.

Grateful for fortitude.

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Rentry to New Zealand – North Island

The flight went well although I didn’t get any sleep. Everyone else seemed to though and there was really no fuss made over New Years Eve. It was probably all for the best. I watched a bunch of movies and got myself through the last two hours with the knowing that I would be able to sleep in the car. Billy who I met from a travelers website was going to pick me up and we were going to roadtrip down to the South Island. I was quite a mess when I got off the plane and was really just looking forward to closing my eyes when I was informed that I would have to drive. Apparently my new friend had a bit too much party and was not in a place to drive so I would have to. I just smiled and sucked it up.

Sure, I hadn’t had a good sleep for about three days. Nevermind that I had just been sitting cramped in an airplane for 14 hours. So what that my throat was killing me from the residual cold from last week. Not to mention I would have to drive on the wrong side of the car and on the wrong side of the street. No problem, I thought in my pretty little head. It’s SUMMER! I can do anything, I psyched myself up as I got behind the wheel pulling into the 6am rising sun. Drunkeness trumps exhaustion any day so I bit the bullet and squeezed out a few more hours of alert consciousness.

When I felt I really couldn’t go any longer in good conscience, we pulled into a little town to get some coffee. It was just 830 and the shops were barely opening but we managed to find a place that served us some hard core sugary fatty carbs and a strong cuppa. I don’t know if it was the comparison to the awful plane coffee or the sleep deprevation but that was very likely one of the best cups of joe I have had in years.

After replenishing our energy stores, we wandered about the town for a few minutes stopping long enough to get a photo with the statue of Golum/Smeagol. This was the tiny village where you book your tours to “the shire.” I was pleased as punch to feel the atmosphere of the epic tale which showcased the beloved Hobbiton.

Next we sped off to Lake Taupo where I was able to reunite with Keren, Bryan and Bevan who took such good care of me last time I passed through  these lands. It was as if not a day had gone by, as it always seems to go with the best of friends. The hugs were warm and the conversation light as we sipped coffee and  caught up. It was so sweet to see Bevans wife and kids who he had acquired since the last time we had met. After a very short stop I bid them all adieu with the promise of a longer future visit when I come back up this way.

Grateful for growing families.

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