New personal mantra....(LEFT!!!!)
Trip Start Feb 17, 2008
8Trip End May 08, 2008
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Due to the beautiful weather outside and my still, slight frustration over the losing cards just dealt to me from the dreaded computer gods, this blurb will be a bit more straightforward and to the point, though lacking none of the critical events and information.
First, another enormous thank you to Chris and Pam who have so generously lent us the use of their house and vehicle (more on this and the connection to the title of this entry later...). They have made much of what we are experiencing possible. Becky (Pam's daughter) and Gary along with their two kids Keegan (12) and Bailey (8) have also been a big help in showing us around town, giving us local tips on where to go, what to see, etc... They moved from the states to New Zealand about 11 years ago and are both teachers over here. We had them over for a wonderful dinner a week ago. The only issue I came across was trying to properly roast a chicken. I can do my temperature conversions to Celsius concerning outside temps just fine, but was not certain of them when the numbers were in the hundreds, as they were on the oven. Eventually, I just cranked up the heat until it felt about right when I stuck my hand in...everything turned out just fine.
We took a great hike along a local trail just a few minutes drive down the road called Lucy's Gully. I was really amazed when first entering the trail, as there was a large grove of California Redwood trees. Someone had apparently taken the time to transplant these trees all the way over here, and it was quite a trip...it felt like I was standing in the middle of Armstrong Woods back in Northern CA.
Moving on, Karla and I decided to wander down to the southern island to see what it had to offer. We were originally going to fly down, but after making sure we were completely covered concerning insurance, driving down seemed ideal. Not only would we see a thousand times more via car, we would become even more proficient in our backwards auto skills. Driving on the other side of the car, on the other side of the road, on the other side of the world has actually become quite comfortable, thanks to the new mantra mentioned in the title (left, left, stay to the left). It is much more draining when your brain is constantly telling your eyes that what you're doing this all wrong. At this point, I'm just worried about driving on the right side when I get back to the states...
We've traveled a bit down the east coast of the southern island which has beautiful coastal cliffs, vast kelp beds, and seals aplenty. It's very much like the central and northern CA coast. There is a wonderful backdrop of vineyards around this part of the country, and wine production is steadily on the increase here. After quite a bit of sampling, it has been determined that New Zealand actually puts out some great whites, mainly sauvignon's, pinot gris', and a couple of chardonnay's. There are also a handful of decent pinot noirs' but not much more in the way of reds due to the cooler and sometimes harsh climate.
Heading inland in order to reach the main destination of the national parks situated along the southwestern part of the island, we have encountered vast expanses of grazing land for sheep, cows, and even deer. Venison consumption is quite large here, and they have resorted to deer farming which looks a bit odd when you first see one. I can't even begin to tell you about the millions of sheep I have seen over the last few days, definitely more than I've seen over my lifespan...it's unreal. I can begin to tell you that I am very fortunate to have the company of my wife Karla...heaven forbid I might fall into the desperation of lust, often overcoming the lonely sheep farmers of rural New Zealand (which is, of course, never discussed). Just kidding everyone....I myself am more of a goat man...
We are now in Queenstown which is a touristy resort town (imagine the offspring of Aspen and Lake Tahoe), but very central to many great activities, including the hiking along the west coast mountains we will be doing over the next few days. The streets are lined with about four types of businesses...lodging, restaurants, outdoor stores, and booking agencies. One great thing I can say about Queenstown is that they support all types of vacationers, and cater just as much to the backpackers/budget travelers as they do the wealthy.
There are hikes in this part of the country which many consider to be the best in the world, so we are hoping for some great weather and looking forward to wonderful scenery. Pray that there is good weather for us...this part of the island averages 250 inches of rain a year.
More pictures are coming soon, they are quite a pain to upload.
Hope everyone is happy and doing well,
All our love,
Jesse and Karla