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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Queenstown

On the bike path from Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley
Every time I visit Queenstown, I am shocked by the number of tourists. Especially American tourists. Talk, talk, talk you Americans, always "let me say this" or "I think that". Somewhere around Queenstown I discovered that everyone on the South Island (except for the few New Zealand born people who live there) thinks we're Kiwi. I stopped bothering to add "originally Los Angeles" when asked where we were from. Even with Nicole, Jancie, and I wearing Gap sweatshirts (sorry Zooey), we apparently pass for locals. To get away from the crowds, we stayed in much quieter Arrowtown.
View from King George Bathhouse
View from King George Bathhouse if you crane your neck a little
Also every time I visit Queenstown, I am reminded of why there are so many tourists. Forgetting about all the dangerous things to do, sitting lakeside with a cup of coffee and a scone makes the entire trip worth it.

The next two days are a blur of driving; trying to get to Picton for a 1PM Friday ferry (and a Purim party in Wellington that night). After arriving to Picton in plenty of time, we got to sit in the car for an extra 3 hours while they made some sort of repair to the boat...or possibly to the boat that was blocking the dock for our boat. Sitting in a car that is not moving for 3 hours is only slightly better than sitting in a moving car for 3 hours.

Franz Josef Glacier. I'm thinking there might be something to this global warming thing.


Goodbye Picton
South by South (sort of)

Jancie's favourite thing about the Moeraki Boulders? 
Getting her hands muddy, of course.
The thing about driving in New Zealand is that getting anywhere takes much longer than one might think it should. Queenstown to Milford Sound for example: It's only 50 km by crow, but close to 300 km by car. And although the speed limit is 100 km/hr through most of the trip, the road is so windy at times that all of your passengers will get sick if you actually drove that fast. 



After we left Christchurch, the vastness of the South Island become readily apparent, and we began to feel rushed (and confined to the car). If you're driving around with children (and you don't want to drug them), planning frequent stops is not a bad idea. The Moeraki Boulders, somewhere between Oamaru and Dunedin are definitely worth the time.

Probably the greatest invention ever. Part trampoline, 
part bouncy castle. Lasko Girls: You will never again bounce 
on one of these before getting into my car.

I was more than ready to call it a day long before we got to Dunedin, and were I planning the roadtrip again, I would probably cut out Dunedin entirely--not because it isn't worth seeing; but we had already been there, and it's a really long way from anywhere (except Invercargill, which we had to drop from the itinerary en route due to time constraints). From Dunedin, we made an overnight stop in Te Anau, which for some reason I was expecting to be a dot on the map with a few places to stay for the sane people that don't want to turn their Milford Sound experience into a 12 hour day by driving to/from Queenstown. Te Anau is a surprisingly nice town. Nicole preferred the supermarket to our own (except for the prices); there are three Italian restaurants (including one owned/operated by real Italians), and a beautiful lake. All very touristy, but so much nicer than Turangi

Milford Sound in the rain--yes, those are all waterfalls
Milford Sound in the wind. 
Notice the waterfall on the right is vaporizing halfway down.

The boat companies say Milford Sound is better in the rain. I am guessing they just want to make sure people show up on the 200 days a year that it does rain. The 12,000 extra waterfalls were indeed fantastic, but the visibility was so poor, I feel the need to return someday when the forecast is better.





Saturday, March 07, 2015

Road Trip (Part I)

We used to take these expensive tandeming vacations to far off and exotic places, most recently (if you can call 2009 recent) to New Zealand. Since we are now on a Kiwi budget, we tend to do our cycling closer to home, and wait for tandems to come to us. This time around, we decided it would be a good opportunity to see a little bit more of the South Island.

Waikawa Bay boat sheds
A rare moment of sisterly solidarity on the Queen Charlotte Sound
After an early, early wakeup, a cross country drive, and an uneventful ferry through the Cook Strait, we found ourselves at Waikawa Bay. The next day, we bicycled 65 km from Picton to Marlborough wine country.



I seem to not have any photos, at least on the Pentax. In our prime, I did not mind carrying four pounds of camera on the bicycle. Although it probably matters less now that we are towing a hundred pounds of girls, the camera still seemed like too much work.

The following day found us on a cruise/very short hike around the Queen Charlotte Sound, and lunch at the historic Furneaux Lodge. The beauty of the Marlborough Sounds is impossible to believe. I had wanted to do a much longer walk on the Queen Charlotte Track, but tramping with little girls is even harder than bicycling with them.
Ohau seal colony --a giant seal bathtub









Shipping containers propping up buildings
As the tandem tour headed North, we drove in the opposite direction to Kaikoura, home to just about every type of whale imaginable. Unfortunately, Zooey is too young to get on the one whale watching boat, so we had to settle for alternate sea life. During seal season, there's a short walk up a stream to a waterfall to see baby seals playing in a waterfall. There were no seals in early March; the waterfall is pretty, but I won't bore you with a photo since we saw so many more waterfalls over the next few days.

In 2009, we started to drive to Akaroa. The road was very, very windy, so we turned around and went back to Christchurch. Though I had regretted not going for years, I was happy that we spent a little extra time in Christchurch before the city was destroyed. Four years after the earthquake, very little has been rebuilt. Lonely Planet called Christchurch the city to visit in 2013. They were way, way early. While some of the rebuild is interesting, most of it is just dirt lots.


What most of the Christchurch CBD looks like today
If you ever find yourself in Christchurch around dinner time, I highly recommend St. Germain. We ate there on our first trip to New Zealand, and it was one of the better meals we had ever had. In a new, post-earthquake location (a mile, or so from the old location), I can't say I was as impressed this time, but it was still very, very good. Try the chef's surprise (5 or 8 courses that the chef feels like making). I wish I could still say that I've never eaten snails. 




On the descent into Akaroa
The view from somewhere near our low cost accommodation
Back to Akaroa; it is hard to imagine a place more stunning. I had to stop the car at least once to take pictures on the way in. I see this entry is now turning into mostly pictures, so it must be time to stop writing.
Standing on a not too dangerous cliff above the lighthouse