New Zealand Update
So, Sally and I are on day two of our New Zealand trip. So far it's been pretty crazy.
After arriving in Auckland fairly early in the morning, Sally and I walked along the long blue and white line in the cold and the dark that took us from the International to the Domestic terminal. We had a few hours to kill before our flight to Christchurch, so we ate... and it was amazing. We ate at a little cafe in the airport and Sally had to stop me from ordering and eating everything I saw that made me salivate (which was everything involving cheese).
We arrived safely (if not bumpily) into Christchurch early in the afternoon and proceeded with trying to rent a 2 person camper van. Every place we called was out of vans for the time we needed. We were getting desperate. I thought this was the off season. Finally one place we called said they did have one left, but it was not in fact an automatic. If we wanted an automatic camper van, we were going to have to pay for the four person one. This freaked me out. Sally had said awhile ago that she was not comfortable driving on the other side of the road and that I would be doing most if not all of our driving in New Zealand. Driving a massive 4 person camper van did not sound like an easy task to me while trying to get familiar with the driving... neither did driving a 2 person manual. Without any other options, we finally switched to renting a regular old car and decided to hostel our way across the South Island.
First on the list of things to see included the only hike/great walk open this time of year (remember, it's winter in this country). We headed north to the Abel-Tasman trail. The estimated driving time had stated this would take only 4 or 5 hours. We soon found out that was with driving around 100kph (60mph). Well, for those of you that have never found yourself living without a car for extended periods of time in a country where 40mph is considered speeding recklessly, 60mph is just not feesible, especially when one is driving on the other side of the road trying to turn into a lane that you instinctively know to be oncoming traffic. I was so uncomfortable the first full day. Sally started to experience car sickness at one point and I told her I was not comfortable with exiting, so she needed to keep it in. (I wasn't this mean, it was a joke really). Add to the fact that we stopped every 20 minutes or so to take a picture of the landscape or pull over for someone who actually felt comfortable driving the speed limit... well it took longer than planned. So much so that around dusk I started getting uncomfortable driving again and wanted to stop at the next town. This next town was Blenheim and it was very far from our original projected town.
We found a cute little hostel in Blenheim and payed for the double instead of the dorms. Our first night out of Samoa after hours of plane and car travel time, we decided to spoil ourselves. We cooked up a nice dinner of Cambell's canned soup (hearty veggie) which tasted like gourmet I might add and headed off to our electric blanket beds. It was so nice I actually slept past 7am for a change.
Today we woke up and headed north as quick as we could. We were going to hike that trail. We had originally planned on camping on the hike. However, I had planned on using blankets and bedding from the camper van which we at this point do not have. I have nothing to sleep out in the elements in winter with now. So, we opted to stay in another hostel near the entrance to the National Park. The drive was long and really gorgeous. We are on the north tip of the south island now and could see the North Island off the water. It was really pretty. The Southern Alps of the West Coast were starting to make an appearance and it made for another long drive of photo stops and Sally breathers.
We arrived in the town of Motueka in the early afternoon which is the last real town before the park's entrance. We paid for our hostel room and headed to the hike. It was really pretty. As Sally keeps reminding me, it's known as one of The "Great" Hikes of New Zealand (Abel-Tasman), but mostly we did it because it was open. It followed the north coast through pine trees and yellow sand made entirely of quartz, blue-green bays and hidden coves. It was beautiful. We saw a ton of birds, one was bright blue, The Pukeko. We saw an Australasian Gannet, and I think a kiwi bird at one point. I took a TON of pictures (which I will post later). The hike seemed very similar to a few that I have taken along Hwy 1 in California (tho a lot colder). It has been cold, but bearable. At one point last night Sally laughed at me. We were going over our next day and I was so close to the heater I think I was attached to it. Those who know me however know that this is a common occurance.
Yeah, so we finished the hike and ended up back in town before dark. I am getting used to the driving and am going full speed now, tho I still think that 110 is WAY to fast. Sally might try driving in a few days since the roads are winding and the car sickness is getting to her. We have only followed the wrong road once (sally admittingly says she has a poor sense of direction), and she has only had to remind me 3 times to drive on the left side. As for the cold I said above it isn't that bad yet and as long as I have gloves on I am ok.
Tonight we ate pizza at a little bistro. It was amazing. There was this really fat cat there. We weren't sure if it was fat or we just weren't used to seeing healthy looking cats. The restaurant has some Samoan siapo on the walls and a really unusual painting I may just post later.
Tomorrow we are heading south. We will be staying in Greymouth tomorrow, but not for anything amazing, it's a stopping point on our way to Fox Glacier. And then continuing on down to Queenstown and Milford Sound. Milford Sound is one of the few places I have always wanted to visit my whole life, so that should be fun. Then a few more stops and back to Christchurch.
I will try and keep this posted since so far it's been a blast of a trip. Sally and I have learned to accept the unexpected and always pull over for faster cars as well as stop and take pictures when the landscape leaves us breathless. When else will we be here again? Sally is a fun travel partner and I hope being in close quarters for the next two weeks doesn't change that opinion. :)
So, for now I am cold and loving it. New Zealand is just as fun and beautiful as I had hoped. Until next time...