Monday, March 9, 2009

New Zealand Trip Part III

2/20 Friday Day 9 – Cold But Not Thirsty. With an open day to start exploring Queenstown and nothing but rain our options were a little limited. We rode up the huge gondola where I might have gone bungee jumping if not for the river boarding. We also went to a place called the Minus 5 Bar. Basically you pay NZ$30 to stand in a room of ice and drink one alcoholic or two non-alcoholic drinks. Awesome?

2/21 Saturday Day 10 – Turning a Corner. Here is where we start getting into my favorite part of the trip. We took a ride on one of the last coal fired steamboats about the lake near queenstown then hit the road for the west coast, which if you are planing a trip to New Zealand I would say is where you want to be. We were tempted to stop every few miles by a waterfall or some footpath over a bridge into fern gulley. It was pretty magical. We ate dinner in Haast. A place with three options on the menu, taxadermy on the walls and a string of music videos on starting with Twisted Sister "We're Not Gonna Take It." We spent the night in the Campervan (the only night with all four of us) in the town near the base of Fox Glacier.

2/22 Sunday Day 11 – Glacial Tramping and 10,000 Waterfalls. This was my favorite day of the trip. I booked an excursion with a group that does glacier tours and spent 4 hours on the ice. One of the more surreal experiences of my life. It was pouring rain. The Franz Josef glacier (just up the road from Fox) is one the fastest moving in the world at about a meter a day and it's pushing right down into the middle of a rain forest, so in addition to the ice time, I spent about 2 hours tramping the the forest, fording streams created by all the rain. Also thanks to the rain, the glacier has been wiped clean of slush so it was clear and smooth, and the there were hundreds of waterfalls where on a typical day there are only a few.

After I got back we took the campervan of to Greymouth, apparently the known as "The Gateway to the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand." More amazing waterfalls on the way. Once we got there we went out the ocean where miles of quivering foam had washed up.We staked out a room at a campground where Adam was summarily dumped by his New Zealand girlfriend via text message. We went out to drown our sorrows at the only place open, McDonalds.

2/23 Monday Day 12 – Pancake Rocked. We continued out journey back to Wellington stopping off at the famous, beautiful and apparently mysterious pancake rocks. We continued to Nelson, one of the bigger citties on the South Island. Feed tried to get us to eat at a liquer store before he realized what it was, but that's about all Nelson had to offer by way of excitement. We rolled in to Picton in time to catch a late night ferry back to Wellington. Sensing suckers, the guys sitting near us on the boat offered to deal us into their card game, but we played Carcassonne instead.

2/24-26 Days 13-15 – Welling-town. Despite Adam's best efforts we ended up with a few days to kill in Wellington and decompress, which was nice. We hit up Weta, the place where adam works making 3D models for Peter Jackson. We saw Botanical Gardens including a tree you could literarlly sit on top of. We did zip lines in two different parks. I did quite a bit of shopping at the favorable exchange rates. And we ended it all with our flight home, landing 2 hours after we left.

Knocking back a cold one at the Minus 5 Bar.

Waterfalls at the base of the Glacier

We had to cross several steams like this to make it to the glacier.

A look at the Valley below.

We only made it a small way up the glaicer. If I were going back I would spring for the helecopter ride to the top.

More glacier formations.

One the beach at Greymouth, near the quivering foam.

Pancake Rocks.

Adam and Tom sitting on top of a tree in the Wellington botanical gardens.

Feed opting not to sit on top of a tree.

New Zealand Trip Part II

2/16 Monday Day 5 – Here Comes the Sun and the Opera House. After a rainy day in Wellington and some rainy days in Sydney we finally caught a window of blue sky. Adam, Tom and I took advantage and hit Bondi beach. It was a short few hours in the sand, just long enough to get sunburned and slapped into the sand by a massive wave, but it felt like the first true escape from Seattle winter.
Later that night we hit the Sydney Opera House to see a performance by Gidon Kremer and the Kemerata Baltica. It was pretty standard string orchestra set up and they played a nice mix of modern and classical. We were in a box surrounded by tourists, and I got a little sleepy, but it was nice. Later that night I caught some additional live music across from our hotel. It was a band doing among other things a cover of “Viva La Vida,” by Coldplay and “Glitter” by Fuel I think. Not quite the same caliber, but still enjoyable.

2/17 Tuesday Day 6 – Here we Go Again. With the half day we had before leaving for Sydney we decided to try to our luck with the Sydney Tower. Once we were inside we found the ride up the big elevator also comes with a ticket to a 3D motion ride. After the Wellington experience we were a little hesitant, but fortunately this time there was no associated aches or pains. After a quick flight across the ocean.We ended the evening watching rugby in a casino in Christchurch.

2/18 Wednesday Day 7 – Off to see the Queen. We burned half in the day in Christchurch picking up the Campervan, the rugged road warrior that would accompany us throughout the rest of the trip (for better or worse.) We also made pilgrimages to two holy places before leaving town: 1. the Anglican Church established by the original utopians around the turn of the century (Tom, Adam and Feed waited in the car), and 2. The top rated photo shop in New Zealand. We left Christchurch around 3 p.m. and spent the rest of the day driving to Queenstown through the Utahesque terrain dotted with sheep and the occasional, “impractically blue” lake. In Queenstown we elected to bifurcate so Tom and Feed could sleep in a hotel and Adam and I would sleep in the Campervan parked outside the hotel.

2/19 Thursday Day 8 – Mistakes and Misteaks. At 8:30 a.m. the next morning a knock came at the campervan door. “Ad, I think there’s trouble.” I could tell by the sound of the knock. Let’s just say we had to park a little further away from the city for the rest of our time in Queenstown.
Since Thursday looked to be the one nice day of weather in Queenstown, the adventure sports capital of New Zealand, I opted to go Jetboating and Riverboarding, which turned out to be a huge mistake for a few reasons. 1. After more time there it was obvious a flight to Milford Sound, which doesn’t happen in the rain, should have been the priority, and 2. I strained my neck riverboarding and wasn’t able to go bungee jumping the next day. 3. While I was Riverboarding Tom, Ad and Feed found a place to go lawn bowling with a bunch of old dudes. Dinner was also a rough go at this place we were all excited about called the Beefeater.

Day at the Beach con Ukelele.

Passing through Hyde Park on the way to the Opera House.

I'm not sure where we are in this one.

Feed raising his hand on the Sydney Tower when they asked if anyone was uneasy.

Impractical Blue.