Thursday, December 30, 2010

Let's get started on the South Island

Kia Ora everyone and Happy New Year! Less than 12 hours from now, for us, 2010 will come to an end, which is a real bummer because it's been a pretty great year. Most of you still have another whole day and then some. Lucky ducks.

We knew from the beginning of this journey that we'd only be here for six months and soon we'll be heading back home. In fact three weeks from tomorrow we're outta here. I haven't let myself think much about it, honestly. I love it here and wouldn't mind staying for a while, but as they say it is what it is and so to finish up with a big grand finale, we just spent two weeks in the South Island. What a ride, man!

Everyone raves about this so called South Island, even Kiwis, so what's the deal? Where is it? What's there? I had no idea until we moved here and now I'm going to give you all some travel ideas throughout the next several posts as we tour half of the South Island and see just about every cool thing you can find in the world in one half of a very small country in the South Pacific.

To begin, let's take a look at a map or two. As you can see the South Island is quite a bit larger than the North Island, but only 1/4 (1 million) of NZ's total population (4 million) live there. It is home to glistening green rainforests, ginormous glaciers, 2000-foot deep sounds, braided rivers, endless plains, wild beaches, ancient and bizarre rock formations, whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, all sorts of unique endangered species, and the Southern Alps.

People come from all over the world to skydive, bungy jump, ski, mountain bike, hike for days at a time, fish, surf, and then there's the whole range of extreme sports that involve boards and parachutes and other motion sickness inducing elements. I don't normally pay much attention to that stuff as I'm too old and too much of a chicken for such nonsense, but it's all here if that's your thing.

For a solid month I planned this trip. (As a side note, thank you to Shawn for being my cycling and kayaking consultant!) We stayed at 8 different Farmstays and Homestays and a couple of little inns over the course of 14 days. Started in Queenstown and then moved on through Te Anau, Manapouri, Doubtful Sound, Clyde, Alexandra, Auripo, Chatto Creek, Wanaka, Haast, Fox Glacier, Hokitika, Greymouth, Punakaiki, Murchison, Nelson, and finally Upper Moutere and the incomparable Abel Tasman national park.

We drove 2000km, cycled 20 miles over old railroad bridges through 30mph winds, spent 24 hours on a fishing boat in the middle of nowhere, walked for miles and miles, took a helicopter up to a glacier, and kayaked till our (my) arms were numb. We met the nicest people and dogs you can imagine. We opened windows and closed our eyes and stopped to walk around on the sides of the winding narrow roads and none of us threw up, which was a minor miracle. Here I present days one and two of this totally excellent and most memorable trip to the South Island of New Zealand.

On the 16th of December, we left the big city lights of Auckland and flew into the small city party atmosphere of Queenstown. This was one of our first sights and no, I swear I didn't take this from a Hugh Grant movie.

Queenstown is a fun and adorable little town snuggled into the lakes and mountains of the Southern Alps. The vibe is young but still just fine for a family.

Another gondola and luge experience, even steeper this time. Yay. This is just one of the bungy locations, too. Queenstown is where bungy jumping started with the A.J Hackett Co. We'll get to more of that later.

Our accommodations were just outside of town a wee bit and we had a few hours to enjoy a lovely dinner in a little old gold mining town (lots of those in this area) called Arrowtown.

For you beer drinkers, they have just started selling this in the States. I cannot wait to see if I can find it at home. So yum!! Steinlager Pure.

Loved this little barn where we stayed. I'm always delighted to find an old building with peeling paint, weathered wood, and random metal things lying around. Fun shooting.


I guess gorgeous views go without saying in this part of the world.

Phew!! Long one. Sorry, mates. Had to give you the area overview, but from here on out I'll keep the posts briefer. Is that a word? Next up, south to Te Anau and the trek to Doubtful Sound.

Ten hours left now. Sigh... xoxo to you all! K.

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