Tuesday, November 26, 2013

End New Zealand

(I missed the 4 year anniversary of this blog! Oh noes! But wait, its been 4 years! Let's hope I'll be able to keep up for another 4 years!)

11/16/13 Christchurch

We're back in the same hotel we stayed in last week when we came down to Christchurch. The C130 that was parked outside is gone, probably to the Antarctica base for a delivery. Of course, with that gone, I have nothing to do but to sit at the bar and put my thoughts to paper.

Our first stop of the day was Mt. Cook. By that I mean gazing at it from afar, in all its cloud covered glory. We hiked up to some random scenic lookout in some random park, about an hour all told. It wasn't the most impressive scene of the day, but the hike was enjoyable.

Our second stop was much more visually appealing. The Church of the Good Shepard at Lake Tekapo is a small stone chapel perched on a small(and I mean small) rise on the edge of a turquoise blue lake. Said lake had a rocky shoreline, but scattered around the lake are huge swaths of flowering lupines. Probably the most beautiful landscape I've ever seen(that I remember, anyhow). I could have spent the entire day just sitting there gazing at that lake, but unfortunate time constraints dictated that some inadequate photos were just going to have to do. A greater sigh hath never been sighed.

Our final stop before hitting out hotel was actually a gift shop/restaurant. Here, I gave into temptation and bought myself an alpaca fur rug. It cost me every damn dollar I had on me, and then some, but I had to have it. It was a third the price of a similar rug I had seen a few days ago, in the same snow leopard style pattern. At that price point, I was happy to spend a good percentage of my income on such a luxury. Now my problem is deciding whether to put in on my hammock, my bed, my sofa, my bedroom floor, or my study floor. That and hoping said rug will get through customs ok. Yes, I know; first world issues.

I've a red envelop in front of me, which I'm supposed to fill with money for the tour guide. $120USD or the equivalent in NZ Dollars. Both of which I spent getting my rug. Luckily, I've still got some Euro. I think he'll be fine with that, so long as I get the conversion right.

Tonight is my last night in New Zealand. We have a three plane journey back to Taipei tomorrow.

New Zealand is really an incredible country. Safe, clean, no dangerous beasts, nor pests. No enemies to speak of. Really, the only flaw is the dearth of beautiful women, especially when compared to Europe. Of course, with or without the women, I'll be happy to come back again, for whatever reason.

So long as that reason isn't Zombie-free Sanctuary.

11/15/13 Omarama

Lots of driving this fine day. On our way back north now. We spent most of the morning in Te Anau, going on a brief walk of the lake front, visiting several native bird exhibits. I got to see a live takahe, a blue/green chicken type creature. Kinda cute, but very vulnerable, very delicious looking, and probably not all that smart. Which is probably why they're endangered. Still, it's good to know people take their conservation seriously in NZ, even if they don't bother to lock the cage for their endangered species.

Following our walk, we watched a 30 minute film, Shadowlands, produced by a few people on the Lord of the Rings crew during their spare time, using footage shot entirely in the Fjordlands National Park. I liked the soundtrack more than the movie, but that doesn't mean that the movie was no good, only that the soundtrack was awesome. The visuals were pretty cool, but not really something I thought worthy of the soundtrack.

Some food, some road, and a bunch of Tom Clancy novels later, I was standing in the same river/stream Peter Jackson shot the water horses scene in Fellowship of the Ring. While I didn't quite recognize it, the stream was extremely pretty in its own right, especially with the SHIT TONS of flowers blooming around the place(foxgloves or lupines, I don't remember which is which). Really, I mean SHIT TONS of flowers in purple and pink mostly, but a few white ones scattered here an- my ex just called, she got into an accident. Must be her third one this year? She seems fine, if complaining less than expected.

Anyhow, after flowers, we stopped at a bridge with people bungee jumping off it for a quick gander. I wasn't much interested in jumping myself, as I've already done it before, but I amused myself watching other people jump.

We made it to our hotel some hours later, having a pre-dinner walk in the local countryside, which was much more interesting than I thought it would be. Anna, a tour mate(who lives pretty close to where I do in Los Angeles) found a (dead, I'm pretty sure) bird egg. I accidentally broke it. Yes, I'm a terrible human being. I know. My ex will tell you all about it. Or not. She doesn't like talking about our relationship, even now.

Anyways, I spent the rest of the night uploading photos.

11/14/13 Te Anau

Long day today. We woke up really goddamn early to catch a boat. Actually, we spent most of the day on boats. Our first boat brought us from Lake Manapouri to Manapouri Power Station, a hydroelectric power station that's mostly underground, which spins its turbines using the height difference between the lake and nearby Doubtful sound. Quite ingenious, really. It never occurred to me that hydroelectric power could be produced so. Doubtful Sound was actually our next stop after a short bus ride from the power station to another dock, where we got on another, larger, boat. We had lunch on board the second boat, which took us on a two hour tour of the sound.

I took lots of pictures, conversing here and there with tour members and our boat provided guide, a cute thing from mainland China here on a work study program. She reminds me a lot of Kristine, who is currently living half the world away in DC(sooo far). They're both tiny(or at least seem so) and excitable. Cute-as-a-button cute. We exchanged Facebook info, but as she is a mainlander, and behind the Great Firewall, I doubt it'll be of any use.

Returning to the dock, we retraced our earlier path, taking a bus back to he power station. En-route, while on an long uphill part of the journey, our bus' engine got hot enough that it set off the emergency fire extinguisher system in the engine compartment, causing a cascade of foam to pour out the back of the bus. It was somewhat startling, but wasn't really an issue. We took a third boat back to the dock we originally left from this morning, where we met our bus and made our way into the town of Te Anau.

After dinner, we walked over to another dock, where we boarded a fourth boat, which took us to the glow worm caves on the other side of the lake Te Anau was built along. The glow worms were the same species that we saw a few days earlier, but in much greater numbers, and in the pitch darkness of the caves, they looked like constellations on the ceilings. I actually picked out a jellyfish constellation.

After our fifth and final boat ride back to Te Anau, we checked into our hotel, and I retired for the night as the bar had already closed.

11/13/13 Queenstown

We had an odd start to the day. Puzzling world is basically a small theme park(emphasis on small) with a man-sized labyrinth as it's main(and really, only) attraction. The labyrinth contains 2km worth of twists and turns and dead ends. Of course, I made it through the thing with the wall touch trick, taking me about 40 minutes. It was surprisingly amusing.

Drove a bit to the 45th parallel, which was basically a slab of rock stating that we were standing on the 45th parallel. Took a commemorative photo before driving on to Queenstown. First stop in town was the Queenstown Gardens. Watched some people do green bowling. Didn't really understand it after 15 minutes, but they seemed be enjoying themselves.

Dinner was in the heights above the town, in a restaurant reachable only by cable gondola. I've been riding a lot of those recently.

Getting into the hotel relatively early, I found the bar(upstairs in its own little nook) and spent the rest of my evening there. Some tour mates showed up eventually, and we conversed some before heading to bed.

Probably the least eventful day of the tour. That I recall, in any case.

11/12/13 Lake Wanaka

First stop of the say was a reflection lake, of all things. It was about a 20 minute hike from the parking lot. Besides it being reflective, the view wasn't especially amazing. Maybe I've already been spoiled by New Zealand's many spectacular views... After our brisk morning walk, we got back on the bus and made our way to the base of Fox Glacier, where we dismounted and had ourselves another hike up to a vantage point to view the glacier. Again, not too spectacular, especially after yesterday's helicopter tour. We did get to see the odd hole formation under the glacier, which was interesting.

We followed our morning hikes with lunch, which was itself followed by another short hike, 5 minutes, through the woods where we marveled over the crystal clear streams. This was especially amazing to me, as I've never seen a forest stream 2-3 foot deep yet be as clear as glass. Beauttiful.

More driving in the afternoon to a scenic lookout for pictures of Lake Wanaka, then to a nearby airfield, where I proceeded to shell out lots of money for the privilege of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, surviving only because of some string attacked to a nylon bed sheet.

Skydiving is an interesting experience to say the least. I will recommend anyone going up there to where gloves, after I damn near froze off my fingers during the free fall. I didn't really think much about the “dangers” of skydiving, nor was I at all nervous. When the time comes, you just...get in position, and let the wind take you. The process is as follows:

You wiggle into a jumpsuit(I wonder if this is where the term “jumpsuit” comes from?), and are fitted with a cap and goggles/eyeshield. Then you meet your tandem jumper, and climb into the aircraft. Our particular aircraft was a converted recreational prop plane, painted bright orange. It takes about 10 minutes for the plane to climb to 12,000 ft, making a big spiraling pattern upwards. I'm told that any higher than 13,000 feet and you'll need oxygen, but that's an additional cost that I was unwilling to pay for. At some point, the door opens, the green light comes on, and you go flying out into the blue. Freefall is cold, and I don't quite like it. As I mentioned above, my gloveless fingers damn near froze off.

It only takes a minute or two to float our way down once the chute opens, but while I was up there...man. The snow capped mountains in the distance, the glistening lakes and rivers, and the crisp green fields...I don't know if I could pick a better place to go skydiving than over NZ. It's not a life changing experience to be sure, but it's one well worth doing anyway.

Dinner was underwhelming, but had a long walk along Lake Wanaka after. Very peaceful and contemplative. I aksed myself what I was doing with my life, but realized I was content with it. It's hard to be discontent while on vacation.

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