Wednesday, February 3, 2010

ROAD TRIP! part two

Days 3 - 6

We spent every night in a different place: Te Anau to Queenstown to Fox Glacier to Hokitika..

My favorite camp ground was near Fox Glacier. We were on a driftwood covered beach, and looking back could see Mount Tasman and Mount Cook, the highest point in Australasia,.

In the early morning, we visited the glacier. And the the moment that we walked up, a river that flows under the glacier broke through the ice and we watched as a river appeared and giant chunks of ice came rushing down.

Afterward, we had breakfast and lattes while gazing at Mount Cook at the Lake Matheson cafe, which was posh but a welcome comfort after days of trail mix and camping.

When we walked around Lake Matheson later, Robin went to dip her feet into the lake, but just as her toes grazed the water, I spotted this hungry guy, waiting for a nibble. He was a big one, probably about 30-50 years old! Eels live to be 70 years old.

Another highlight of the trip was Hokitika, where there was a driftwood art competition on the beach. We got to see some of the artists at work. There was a side contest for the kids of building penguin houses.

We also did the first part of the Kepler track, one of New Zealand's great walks. It was a long day of hiking. First, uphill uphill uphill to this point..

Then down, down, down to the lakeside forest which was full of interesting mushrooms.

Driving around New Zealand is quite a treat. We saw so many things, and had so many memorable stops along the way. I'm really lucky to have taken this road trip with the Standleys!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Oh what fun it is to ROAD TRIP! (PaRt One)

Last week, Robin, Aron, her dad and I traversed the southern half of the South Island. It was the quintessential New Zealand camping road trip. We drove for a few amazing hours each day, jumping out of the car every fifteen minutes to take pictures and every hour or so to take a hike, see a waterfall or a glacier, or watch sea lions jump around on the beach...

Day 1... We started in Oamaru and headed down along the East coast. On our first day, we stopped at the beach several times, to collect shells, ride a see saw, play on giant round boulders (the Moeraki boulders which resembled bald giants buried up to their eye brows), and to poke at huge pieces of giant kelp.

We also spent a few hours in Dunedin, a college town, where we saw the art gallery and received Cadbury Crunchie bars for doing the "Art Hunt"!

We ended up at Kaka Point, at the beginning of the highway that stretches along the South Coast of NZ, the Southern Scenic Route in the Catlins. We camped at a holiday park. It had a kitchen and showers and everything, to ease us into camping after the few days at our comfy hostel in Oamaru. We did a little lawn bowling in the evening with the neighbor campers. A very cultured evening of camping. The Kaka Point Nuggets, the local lawn bowling team, all over the age of 70, were having a few after presumably a long day of lawn bowling, and were kind enough to let us use their balls and lawn... In the photo below are Robin and her dad, and Becky, the stuffed dog that came traveling with us (belongs to Robin's little cousin)

Day 2... We woke up at Kaka point and drove a little ways down to Nugget Point (now do you see the inspiration for the lawn bowling team name?) where we walked out to a lighthouse.

We were hoping to see sea lions, and we saw hundreds.. including a couple on the beach before we even got to the point.

There were also millions of sea birds, including Royal Spoonbills (can you see their spoony bills? they're really cool.)..

In this shot of Nugget Point, there are hundreds of sea birds and sea lions... It's kind of like a Magic Eye...

then we drove some more until we reached Lost Gypsy Gallery, a painted green bus that has made its last stop.

The owner, Blair Somerville, is a genius at handmade fun. The whole bus is filled with automatronic toys of recycled materials to make a homemade museum of fun and play. There's tons of handles to turn, switches to flip, and buttons to push with varying results: skeletons riding bicycles or snail shells gurgling water in bubbly symphonies.. turn on the sound for this video!

Blair hangs out in his workshop attached to the bus...

As we drove on, we stopped at waterfalls (and did yoga on the rocks by the falls)

and a petrified forest that was 180 million years old (we were more entranced with the kelp, which also took better pictures)

and ended up camping in a field in a small, no-name town (this time no bathrooms or kitchen...) Each moment was worth its own blog entry, but there are still many days to catch up on!