Just like Chocolate

Trip Start Mar 23, 2007
Trip End Sep 15, 2008

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Friday, July 25, 2008

It's real time...

We are just off the slopes! It is July and for you that means shorts, sandals, and long days of sunshine. In New Zealand it feels like it's getting on Christmas! We are back at our hostel in the cozy common room. Ben threw in a movie and the fire is stoked keeping us warm! We don't crave lemonades, fruit salads, or ice cream. Instead we are thinking about soup, hot chocolate, and an extra down comforter for our bed at night.

New Zealand is a small country, but rich in beauty. We landed in Christchurch on the 18th and spent a few days there...after that we picked up our lime green mini-van called the Jucy and have hit the open road. We've been to Mt. Cook (highest peak in Australia/New Zealand - though not very high at only about 10,000 feet.) We however did not climb it. Bummer! Something about being too dangerous in the winter. Those of you climbers or mountain junkies may know that Sir Edmund Hilary used this mountain to train for his assault of Everest. Apparently it does the trick then. It is a stunning area. We stayed the night in a hostel that was just like an old time wood lodge. We woke up to snow and huge flakes coming down in this winter wonderland!!! What a treat.

We left from there and headed through Queenstown (very fun ski town). Some call it a city - but COME ON! Seriously. New Zealand has a total population of only about 4 million so their "cities" are village-like. According to all the locals in the know - Queenstown is not the place to be to REALLY ski New Zealand. So we heeded the locals advice andpressed on further to the southwest to Fjordland National Park. We stayed the night in Te Anau and drove the next day to Milford sound. Wow! And then another Wow!

The Fjordland National Park is a place to be, to go. It's absolutely an inspirational place and crazy-beautiful. You know how when you eat a piece of really fine chocolate that just melts in your mouth you just want to sit and savor the flavor long after the chocolate has melted??? Well Fjordland N.P. is just like that. We camped in the park that night next to a stream with the mountains in the distance. it was a bit nippy indeed, especially when the mist came rolling on in. But we fired up the car a few times and watched a movie and were snug all night. We got up and took a hike the next day on the Routeburn track to Key Summit. The low hanging clouds threatened all morning with some nasty form of rain or snow but by the time we arrived near the top the clouds parted and we inhaled an air so clean and thick with a mossy-pine scent our lungs nearly burst. The view is why we have eyes, I am sure of it! Some people say that this park was carved by the hand of God himself. I would not doubt that.

We left the park with pink cheeks and drove on to Wanaka. Which is where we are now. Wanaka is fantastic. This is where we would live in N.Z. if we could. A fantastic and unspoiled ski town. We skied today at Treble Cone. The viz was a bummer but we had a blast. On a clear day with some fresh powder - this place would be insane!

New Zealand is beautiful but it is also sparce, a bit lonely in a way, and feels maybe like it could have been middle earth. A good choice for filming Lord of the Rings as we drive by many of the areas featured in the trilogy. Right now the country is still one big farm; there is little to no industry. It's an "old" place.

Oddly we have noticed they don't like trees. At least that is what one is lead to believe. There is an enormous amount of clear cutting and it appears that every chance they get, the kiwis get out those hacksaws and take down the forest! Make room for the sheep, down with the trees! We have an ongoing joke about it as we drive along.

The winter feels good. Exhilarating. With the very short days, the desire to hang out by the fire in a little house in the hills with a piping hot stew listening to Frodo regale the tales of the glory days.
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