Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Whale Watching

Liz and I took a speedy little boat powered by some psyched Maori's out to view Sperm whales migrating. The coast of Kaikora is very special in that it drops down to far depths right off the coast. The wildlife you can see on this particular stretch of coastline is pretty rare.
Sperm whales, as we learned, hang out on the surface until it's time to hunt. At which time they float just under the waters surface then come up for one last blow before diving straight down as far as they need to. Because they are such careful and prepared divers, they make easy targets for whalers and are listed as vulnerable.


video

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Travels with Mum


The day Kyle's mom Liz flew into Christchurch there were gail force winds ripping through town. Flights were canceled going to or from Wellington (which is at the southern tip of the North Island) but she made it despite. She stepped off the plane ready to explore and take advantage of every day she had with us in this beautiful place. Ava immediately took her to her favorite animal park, Willowbank, to show off the kiwi birds, eels, and baby ducks.

I was up in Castle Hill climbing with another escapee mum...

Snake Eyes

Quantum Mechanics

... but I met up with them and we headed to a quaint little cottage called Sign of the Kiwi at the top of Summit Road and had proper tea and scones.


Sign of the Kiwi


The next day, we ventured to the Banks Peninsula for a beautiful lunch in the French city of Akaroa. It was a sort of pre-road trip for our big west coast road trip.


The next day, we piled into the New Jersey Devil (aka Greg's car) and were on the road again.
It felt great to embrace the freedom to adventure once more and head away from stability and comfort, strangely. We hadn't road tripped in almost a month and a half so it all felt new again.
In Christchurch, it was raining, snowing, and hailing all at the same time but the moment we got out of town it was sunny and the snow covered mountains glowed in the distance. We were headed to Mt. Cook first, then to Milford Sound and back up the coastal road. I put my iPod on shuffle and it seemed to echo the soul rebel vibe in the car playing more Bob Marley than I knew I had. Nothing says alpine road trip like Bob Marley.

Day One: Christchurch to Lake Tekapo then to Mt. Cook


The pace was set for our trip when we arrived at Lake Tekapo, we rolled in, ate an amazing sushi meal (best sushi in NZ cause they raise the fish just meters from the restaurant), and then walked down to the lake and nearly got blown away by the fierce winds that still lingured.






Suspension Bridge Walk in Aoraki/ Mt. Cook National Park




Day two: Twizel to Queenstown

On our way to Te Anau and Millford sound we made a stop in Queenstown which I had no idea was a ski town. We rolled in and I thought I was in Steam Boat Springs but it was prettier! Kyle and I got to have our first date in ages and Kyle and Liz went on a high speed jet boat ride through a tight tight canyon. They said that at times they were only inches from the canyon walls while the driver threw 360 degree loops at high speed!


Day Three: Queenstown to Te Anau


Eucalyptus Tree in Lake Te Anau

Day four we made reservations for a cruise down Milford Sound which was supposed to also drop us off at the underwater observatory but somebody wanted a day off...
Milford was overcast and overwhelming. The drive lead us through some amazing terrain. We stopped for a hike to see The Chasm, which in the midst of the alpine jungle was as green as a rainforest in spring.


The Chasm





Milford Sound



Day Five: Te Anau to Invercargill (latitude 46S) to Dunedin

Day Five was a big driving day. We took the "scenic highway" around the coast to Invercargill thinking that it would be scenic and coastal but all it was was long and arduous given that we didn't realize it was the hikers scenic highway. But we stopped in a great cafe established in 1893 in Riverton which broke the driveup nicely.

The rad metal sculpture of a bike and there was an even bigger man statue looking into the sunny horizon in front of it but we couldn't fit both in the picture! They were huge and in the middle of no-where-sheep layden- merino country. Just when I thought I was going to start getting sedan fever we saw a penguin colony sign.



We parked the car and I ran into the fray hoping to finally get to see a penguin which I had been hoping for all trip. I arrived at a concrete bunker perched on a bushy hill above the ocean just in time to see a yellow eyed penguin pop up out of the ocean and waddle itself to rocky safety. It was great. And it made the trip for me.

Then we drove down the coast a bit to "Kaka Point and the Nuggets (which sounds like a Kiwi rock band) and ran down the mile trail to see a rainbow arching across the ocean as the sun went down, seals playing in the pools below. What a way to complete that leg of our journey! The day that started out dull, finished with a BANG.


Kaka Point and The Nuggets

We stopped in Dunedin hoping to meet up with our friend Bill Hatcher but somehow through every means of communication on both sides, we failed to connect. We stayed in this run down holiday park and Ava and Granny Liz snuggled and we all slept like babies, take that back, over traveled adults.



Dunedin


St Kilda Beach

Carrie photo...my view finder broke three months ago, but I like the pictures I make haphazzardly!


I finally dress Ava like a girl with a skirt and tights and she felt so comfortable in them that she rolled in the sand and made "snowman".

While in Dunedin we visited the Larnarch Castle which was medieval and Baroque at the same time. And then we traversed a high ridge to visit the Otago Universities Marine Studies Center. Ava is obsessed with sea life. So we hung out in the coolest, albeit tiny of aquarium centers. One of the grad students who was from Florida was there to answer any questions and Ava got to play with crabs and star fish, limpetts and urchins, and they even had an octopus. We got Ava an application for early admission.

That night we stayed in the ultra plush holiday park in Moeraki and had a decadent dinner at Fleur's, one of the best restaurants in New Zealand. Right on te water they serve up some succulant seafood dishes with a French flair. The bacon wrapped Blue Cod and the sticky date pudding with poached pears and homemade ice cream are still haunting my dreams.


Fleur's Restaurant


Day six: Moeraki to Christchurch

Carrie photo



Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Bouders are a wonder of nature. They are perfectly sphericle and look like they were dropped from space. No one knows the nature or how these boulders came to rest on this beautiful southern beach. It was a treat to play on them as the sun rose above the sea at low tide.