It's hard to take in all the beauty we've been exposed to...I'm not sure what to do with it all...I wish some how it could soak into my skin or maybe if I yell really loud so that at least my voice reaches the mountains and the lakes so something
can indulge in all of it at once. Friday, December 7, 2007 - 10:58 p.m.
We have arrived in Kaikora and it is by (my) definition, a piece of heaven. On the train ride in we were surrounded my mountains and oceans and at the oceans edge were seals...lots and lots of seals basking in the sun for our viewing pleasure. The train conductor came over the speaker and comment now and again on where we were and as we approached Kaikora (known for it's seals and whale watching) he says, "I get asked often if you can see whales from the train and I reply, that's obvious - of course you can't it's to far away - we can't even see the southern tip of South America." ha...ha...ha....this train conductor was on fire though, funny guy.
We took a shuttle to the place we're staying at
and I had to restrain myself from letting my jaw drop straight to the floor. It's a locally owned place by two brothers who in only recent years turned it into quite the destination to stay at. Outside they have a deer farm (which sounds funny to us as we've had to look into reducing our massive deer population and here they're breeding them) and you can't see anything but mountains. Mountains, deer, and mountains...absolutely beautiful. We walked into the room and Jack Johnson was playing on the provided iPod and speakers, that was when i just melted...I wanted to melt into the walls and stay here forever. There's a heated towel rack...can you believe that...a heated
towel rack! I haven't had luxury like that since my mum bathed me and afterward would wrap me in a towel and stick me in the heated electric blanket on her bed...you can imagine my disappointment becoming to big for Mum to bathe and carry me to a heated bed after my bath.
We had two hours to kill before dinner, which we were having downstairs with the other guests. 7 o'clock drinks and 7:30 dinner. I walked down in my jeans,
Photo by Alex
This sink was in the restroom at a place we stopped at for lunch on our way to Queenstown. I just stood there looking at this shelf like...what am I supposed to do with that? It's an automatic faucet and the "shelf" is bent just enough that the water doesn't go off the edge and falls back into the tray under it.
hoodie, and crocks (we were told we did not have to dress up for dinner) to the more dressy casual woman from Whales in her early 60's, her husband and an early 30's couple, all sipping wine, much nicer attire then Alex and I chit chatting. I immediately felt out of place and wondered why we were joining a group for dinner when groups - even my own family - make me feel awkward. It was good though...it was really good. Ceicel is an employee here and serving up wine (I've been cheating with the no alcohol rule) and breaking the ice. He, as it turns out, is from California and the early 30s couple is also from the States - her living in California and him living in Troy, Michigan while they work on their schooling in the medical field. The couple from Whales was excellent pre-dinner conversation. The six of us sat down to a three course meal and by the end of the meal it was as if we we all good friends. I wanted to take them home with me, exchange information and meet up in Whales and California, even Troy Michigan, just to do it
again sometime. We talked politics, sports, and a lot of medical related topics because as it turned out, the woman from Whales (if you can believe this, we hit it off really well, chatted the whole night, and never introduced ourselves) worked in the medical field and her husband was a dentist. Dinner wrapped up around 10 and it was the last we saw of the young couple. Tuesday, December 11, 2007 - 10:20 p.m.
The next day we went kayaking with the seals. What that really meant is that we kayaked in the bay and the seals were on nearby rocks snoozing or occasionally looking up to see what was going on. I managed to sunburn only my hands. They were serious kayaks - the body skirt, a steering paddle Alex operated with a foot peddle - we were prepared with a jacket, sunscreen on our face, a hat, and sunnies (as we call our sun glasses around here). What I didn't have protected were my hands that I would hold out in the sun to warm up from the water splashing on them - by the time we got back I had a
cute tan line where my jacket ended and the burn began.
After the kayaking we went to the local winery for a tour and tasting. This place was different from any one I've seen before. It's very new so they're still waiting for a good crop (it's a long process) and in the mean time, making wine with what they have and importing from other local crops what they don't have. This winery in the mountains has a cellar built under ground that has a sphere metal wall and a rock floor. Since they aren't producing a lot of wine that means their cellar is mostly empty and they aren't making much money. In the mean time they're renting out the cellar for weddings - we saw pictures of weddings in the vineyard and the party in the cellar - it's dimly lit with a wooden dance floor - candles and Christmas lights for ambiance. I dug it. They do it for really cheap to...you cand rent out the entire vineyard for only $500 and the only catch is you have to buy their wine.
We headed home for our second group meal - this time it was
In Minus 5
Photo by Alex
a larger group - 12 I think - and it was a fun challenge to keep up with the 5 different conversations going on around you. There was a guy from Scotland, moved to England, and now living in the States with his wife that was saying how American's are funny in that if you ask them what they are they never reply, "I'm an American"
. It's always, "I'm Irish, German, French, ...."
I find that to be so true, I myself, when filing out my customs form it wants to know what nationality I am - I always pause to think about it before writing down, American
We wrapped up another wonderful meal - Venison steak (I would never have guessed we were eating deer...I've never been exposed to such a juicy, tender, piece of venison.) - and hit the hay for the night. We had to check out by 11 a.m. and didn't have to be at the train station until 3 so we walked the beach, sat at the park (that had a walkway lined with arches made of whale bone) and ate to much food. After killing all sorts of time we made it back
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Photo by Alex
Me taking in the view on the bus (hah)
to the train station only to find out there was a trucking accident that resulted in the truck landing on the train tracks that took a couple of hours to clean up and we wouldn't be leaving until 6:15. Sweet. There was a nice hike I really wanted to take while we were there, but getting around was ridiculous. A shuttle from the hotel to town was $35 (x4) and $16 to the winery...the coastal seal hike wasn't in walking distance...I'm not sure why we weren't booked with a car for this portion of the trip.
The train had a observation deck that you could actually be outside and take in the scenery. The pitch black tunnels that go through the mountains was a bit freaky out there. There was to much farm animal air out there and we had to go back to our seats. Alex and I are horribly allergic to New Zealand...he sneezes anywhere from 9 to 23 times in a row, our eyes itch like mad - mine start to swell and feel like they have particles stuck to them, and this rash on my arms is spreading to my neck.
Christchurch made me
furious. Our travel agent booked us at the hotel airport - only - we aren't taking any flights yet. We were a half hour drive away from town with the only food options being airport or hotel restaurants and NOTHING to do around us. We took the bus into town on day two for lunch, shopping and hair cuts. Alex got a crew cut and I got about four inches cut off so it's right below my shoulders. We feel a lot better.
The next morning (today), we were up at out the door at 6:30 a.m. for a train ride to Queenstown. Almost 12 hours later we arrived at our destination, surrounded by mountains a good portion of the trip. Not only is Queenstown and surrounding area the most beautiful land to date - our allergies are better here with less farm land and more mountains. One of the stops we made was to a store that sells fresh and dried fruit (like, every kind you can think of), nuts, candy, and ice cream that they blend the fruit(s) of your choice in while you wait. I had a strawberry kiwi and it was fabulous. MmmmMMmmm...I'll have to
try to recreate it at home - it was that good.
Now that we're settled in our new home for the next three days, we went out to explore town and stopped at the coolest bar in Queensland - literally. The bar is called Minus 5
, but it was actually minus 8 degrees Celsius . You go into a large freezer that the walls, bar, benches, sculpture, and even the glasses are made of ice. It's sponsored by Absolute vodka so their name was carved into the ice along the front of the bar and the better majority of the alcohol was every flavor Absolute makes. When you're finished with your drink, you smash your cup in a bin (and eat parts of it before if you like). The maximum amount of people they can have is 28 and you can only stay in there for a half hour (you wouldn't want to stay any longer anyway).
Tomorrow? Rafting? Jet boat? We'll see.... Wednesday, December 12, 2007 - 4:40 p.m.
Another day spent in bed...I love it. Pizza in bed. Movies in bed. Naps in bed. Now writing in bed. We're going to head
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Photo by Alex
Beach in Kaikora by our hotel
to town soon for dinner and to get some fresh air...the excitement is tomorrow. We signed up for a whole day adventure called the Shotover Canyon Combo. Shotover being one of the main roads and river here, we start the day with a 109 meter (aprox. x3 - about 327 feet) Canyon Swing at 8:30 in the morning. Next we head to the Shotover Jetboat which is a boat with two engines operating similarly to a jet aircraft cruising down the river at high speeds dodging rocks, and after that we hop on a helicopter (never been on one before) to fly deep into Skippers Canyon ending the day with whitewater rafting (level 3-5) down Shotover River. So I'd say the lazy day was in order to prepare for tomorrows excitement - and hey - why not?
The Shotover jet brochure has a quote from a Dr. George Adamson, Boston, "What's up with these guys? They drive like crazy madmen dodging rocks then casually stop and tell us about the gold history of the river as if it's just another day at the office..."
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