Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Whale of a Day: Part I

After a day of rest in Christchurch, we were off to find the great humpback. Unfortunately when we arrived, the winds were high, and had kicked up the surf, so the trip was re-scheduled for the next day.

A pic of Alexi (a bit fatigued after all the travel) demonstrating how to properly pass out in your monster tent.

Whale watching on hold, we set out to explore the area. Our first stop was a roadside grill by the beach which served crayfish fritters. Mmmm. Alexi ate a whole fritter by himself. I was bit shocked when I actually saw one of these 'crayfish' (in my minds eye these are small dark mini-lobster things). This was no crayfish, they were actually the largest rock lobsters I had ever seen. Just down the road was a seal colony hang-out, here is one of the beasts sunning itself after chasing off some tourists.

Afterwards, a stop-off to watch a sheep-shearing. This particular breed, gets sheared twice a year. And for the pro's the shearing record is close to 30 seconds.

The Demo: how to shear your sheep. I think it is one of those things that looks easier than it really is..
The finished product

The Horns: not a hit with Alexi
Farm Dogs, now we're talking. A few wet licks and pets and all was better.

Sunset after our first full day in NZ

A Whale of a Day: Part II

We got lucky the next morning, and were off to hunt the great humpback. We happened upon a group of 2 or 3, and were able to watch them surface and then dive back into the deep.

Off to Able Tasman. Only after a quick stop at one of the local vineyards.

A short walk on the beach to stretch our legs in Nelson. Note: people in NZ are definitely a tougher breed, although it is sunny in this picture, the water was frigid...

'A Bit' Lost...

Well, sort of. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep, stress over trying not to drive on the wrong side of the road, a bad case of the grungries (being grumpy b/c you are hungry), poor night vision, or a poor understanding of local lingo and road signage.

We were close to the turn off..per the map and the locals. Just up the road 'a bit'. Well after several 'bits' we were in the middle of nowhere, or so it seemed. Going up an endless pass through the rainforest and then down again. No signs, no other cars..hmmm.. gas tank getting 'a bit' low.

Finally a sign. WHERE? Confirmation: completely off track. Stomach sinking, 10 pm, gas more than 'a bit' low. After a few attempts at finding some human life, we spied a light, which thankfully was the start of a small town, and luckily a place to stay and some friendly locals.

We were just short of Golden Bay (on the opposite side of Abel Tasmen of where we had planned to be). But actually, it ended up being a delightful "find" (work used very loosely here). Re-grouping over breakfast, we watched the local Xmas parade, chatted with locals, and went to visit some of the local sites.

A view of the local area:

Split Rock

Our first visit to the rain forest:

Our first swinging bridge, leading to our first (of billions) of waterfalls.

Abel Tasmen Park

Luckily we found our way back to where we needed to be w/out too many more adventures. The next day, we went about exploring the park. The great thing about this particular park is the boat taxi's that will drop you off and pick you up anywhere along the park.

Alexi really got into the tractors that would pull the boats into/out of the water.

First, a stop off at split-apple rock. Sure, I guess I can buy that...

Next, a stop off to watch the seals play...

Then the drop-off, and a gorgeous day to explore. A few of views from the day...

A pic of the next day, a bit closer to where we were staying. Shortly after this, I lost the camera while changing a diaper. Had a small heart-attack, but luckily found it again on the way back. The first of many misplaced and otherwise lost items, including my sun glasses, chris's reading glasses and chris's wallet. Early onset dementia or toddleritis? I'll leave it to you to decide.

Cave Day!

What two-year old could really say no to a trip to the cave, which of course, also involved a bus ride, a train ride, and a bit of a hike. Ok, so maybe it was an overly ambitious plan for a two-year old. But, hey, he's a tough guy, right?

Of course, the highlight was the headlight, which was jerry-rigged to Alexi's head.

Sport'n the Cav'n Look

"All Aboard"

Across the Bridge, Up the hill....

Finally, the Cave

Some of the Better Cave Features

All went well, until the lights went out so everyone could see the glow worm's. Alexi didn't think that was so cool. 300 versions of "Ole McDonald, Twinkle and various other songs I don't really know that well, were sung, until we had braved the hike out of the cave, the hike back to train, and the train ride back to the bus, which thankfully brought us back to the car full of food, juice boxes and... and some much needed ZZZ's.

Long Way Home

We took the long way back to Christchurch, to drop off Mom and Bill, and pick up daddy. Down the northern west coast to Greymouth. It was Xmas Eve, although hard to convince yourself of this, given the balmy summer weather. The only tell-tale sign: not a thing was open. We did have some luck in Greymouth, found a pub, and found out people party pretty hard on Xmas eve, which made driving that much more exciting.

The bar next door had some live entertainment, including an Irish guy and his Mandolin, joined by some guy and his shovel (yep, that's right).

Well, Alexi, being the outgoing type (and no one carding him at the door), started dancing to the music, and earned himself his own private serenade. Couldn't get him to help play the shovel, maybe next time.

Below, a few pics of the "pancake rocks", sedimentary rocks made deep in the ocean that had been pushed to the surface, backdrop: the amazing west coast of NZ.

On our way back to Christchurch (XMas day) over the amazing Arthur's Pass, we had our first chance to meet a Kea. A first, you might think the poor thing had gotten separated from a family, deserted in the high country. But, after meeting upwards of 6 more of these critters, it turns out they like living in the mountains, and tend to frequent places where snacks may be forthcoming. This one turned out not to be too street smart, or maybe he just liked a good game of dodge-car.

Monday, January 25, 2010

back from NZ

Sure good to rejoin up with the family. A long, rather uncomfortable flight from the US down to NZ brought me back to my family who has just spent 2 weeks touring the northern part of the south island.

Since Christy's mom and Grandpa Bill were still with us one of the good family things to do was to go to the zoo. Alexi was thrilled to feed the giraffe and kept referring to him as Melmen, a reference to a character in the cartoon movie Madagascar.

also staring was Alex the Lion:
Although not a lemer, this organitan was as noisy and boisterous as character King Julius

In the petting zoo compound alexi was somewhat unnerved by the agressiveness of calves for getting the milk.

Even more exciting and potentially dangerous was a funky looking pig.
This porcine critter was good at catching food in its mouth. But he was quite aggressive at it, nearly biting fingers off in the process.

After such a exciting day at the zoo, it was time for the boys to chill out and catch some sun in the backyard of the motel in Christchurch.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Once Grandma and Grandpa were dropped off at the airport, it was time to head inland to the mountains. On our way to Glenorchy, where some of the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed, I enticed Christy to pose for a stunning backdrop.
We had made arrangements to do the Rotburn Track. The plan was to spend three nights on the trail, two of which would be in huts, and the middle night camping.

The land truely is enchanted. Everywhere you look down the trail emerald green and moss covered trees.
Cerulean blue streams.......luscious grassy meadows....

...and proud mountains domineer the skyline.
On the smooth trail sections Alexi was a self-motivated delight. Only occasionally pausing for snuggles by clear water streams.

But the second day was hump day, with rough trail up to the pass. Christy Became Alexi's sherpa, answering to his beckon call. "lookie, Mamma. Lake"

Once at the top, it was time for a much needed break from lugging the Mr wiggles. The difficult terrain was quite tiring for Christy, for when she was carrying the bug, her load was probably a near equivalent of mine (approx 60 lbs). Add to that the wiggling and lunging; it can get quite tiring.

Thankfully, much of the trail was buff enough for Alexi to tramp it himself. And what the tramper he was, frequently zooming off down the trail, and then calling back with a waving of his hand, "Common Momma. Come Daddy. Lets go"

The last night we were luckily to be in a solid hut. That night one of the most vicious downpoors I have ever experienced; 9 cm of rain in about an 8 hr period; serious torrent magnified by lightning and thunder. Yet the morning awoke to a beautiful site of clearing mist swirling above the shimmering lake, only a dozen paces from the cabin's front porch.