Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Land of the Kiwi

Sheep!  That’s what I think of now when I think of New Zealand.  There are 4 million people living in New Zealand and there are 45 million sheep!  Talk about being outnumbered.  They were everywhere!  We spent the last week of our three week organized tour on the south island of New Zealand.  I have eaten more kiwi fruits this week (6) than I have in my whole life (1).  The Kiwis (the people) are so friendly and have a gorgeous country to call home.  It’s too bad that clouds and rain were present much of our time here.  We just missed a 4.0 aftershock in Christchurch by a few hours.  Darn!  I had kind of hoped to be in a mild earthquake or experience an aftershock.  
One of the things that I really enjoyed about Australia was that we flew everywhere, but in New Zealand we ended up taking the train or driving everywhere on a coach.  The day that we spent 13 hours on the coach to and from Milford Sound almost did me in.  Thank goodness we had a movie to watch for the last two hours to keep me occupied, although that may have contributed to the motion sickness.  But for what it’s worth, The World’s Fastest Indian is pretty good for getting you through a rough patch.
 When we arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand we went to the Jacob’s residence to experience a little bit of what life in New Zealand was really like.  They cooked a traditional Kiwi dinner for us - lamb and vegetables and pavlova for dessert.  Our tour manager, Mark, had told us the day before to be polite when we went to dinner.  “Eat all your vegetables.  Eat your dinner,” he had told us.  So when I didn’t take any cauliflower and Mrs. Jacob said, “Oh, you don’t like cauliflower?” all I could hear ringing through my head was Mark saying “Eat all your vegetables!” and I was horrified that I had been caught.
The next night in Queenstown we took a gondola up to the top of a mountain to the Skyline restaurant.  There were a handful of us that were not super comfortable with the whole gondola thing and spent the time with either our eyes closed, or averting our eyes by reading our little sightseeing brochure over and over again.  But once we got to the top the views were absolutely spectacular!  We were seated in the restaurant right by the window looking out on the town below which was surrounded by a fjord and the mountains.  A paraglider flew right by our window and we watched him twist and turn and glide all over the town.  The views were breathtaking!   
After dinner we went to a Haka show which was put on by the native Maori people.  I got pulled up on stage to use the poi, which is a ball on a string that they use in their ceremonies.  A number of men from our group went on stage after to demonstrate a Maori trying to intimidate other tribes.  They weren’t too successful in being intimidating, but it was entertaining!
Also in Queenstown we went on a 4WD Lord of the Rings safari ride that took us up into the highest of the mountains and down into the creeks.  There was very little Lord of the Rings stuff and lots of amazing sights.  We took this on the windiest and coldest day of our trip, and we were the only brave souls out of 32 to get out of our truck and take pictures.  There were beautiful rainbows forming over the town.  Our driver was “Crazy Fran” and we had the bumpiest, most fun ride.  She had us laughing from the time we boarded until she dropped us off back at our hotel.  A man we were traveling with almost tumbled out of the back of the truck not once, but twice because Crazy Fran kept taking off before checking if the doors were closed!  We splashed through the rocky creek, drove up and over rocks, took sharp turns and an overall wild ride.  We also got the chance to go gold mining in the creek and I found GOLD!  See below?!?!  Haha!

 I was getting somewhat tired of boat rides since we had taken a number of them since our trip began, so I wasn’t looking forward to another on the T.S.S. Earnslaw, but am I glad I went!  We went across a fjord that was 1,200 feet deep to a beautiful farm that was set on the water front completely isolated and surrounded by stunning mountains.  We ate a fabulous dinner in the farmhouse, took a walk through the manicured gardens and over to the farm itself.  The farmer had his dog herd the sheep and he demonstrated what the dog could make them do.  He had a very dry sense of humor but put on an entertaining show which included shearing a sheep which was really neat to see.  This amazing complex had a price tag of $4 million.  Just another reason why it would be nice to have won the lottery!  To have a vacation home in New Zealand on the water set amongst the mountains would be pretty wonderful!

 In Christchurch we went to the Antarctic Center which is where planes fly out of every day directly to Antarctica.  It’s only a 5 ½ hour plane ride!  Maybe that’ll be my next trip!  I rode in a hagglund which is the vehicle they use in Antarctica to get around.  This one however was more of a thrill ride and made me wish I had gone to the bathroom BEFORE the ride when we all of a sudden dropped at a steep angle and that happened again and again!  We also got to experience an Antarctic storm when the winds picked up and the temperature dropped drastically.  That was about all there was to do there, but it was fun nonetheless.

 I have now adopted the New Zealand way of saying “glacier” and now pronounce it glay-cee-er.  It sounds much more sophisticated!  :)
Goodbye to all my new friends from the Collette Vacations trip!  It was such a blast!  :)

No comments:

Post a Comment