Sunday, March 18, 2012

How we got from Christchurch to Dunedin

I was so excited to share our Milford Sound experience, I skipped the previous day. So we left Pete's Farmstay mid morning and headed out of town in our Jucy rental car. We swapped vehicles because, Jucy Rental had a great deal on moving a car from Christchurch to Queenstown which we were doing anyway. Our new car was about the size of a Mini Cooper and only a few years old. The downside, was it was a manual transmission vehicle. So now that I was just getting the hang of driving on the wrong side of the road, I had to add the complexity of shifting to the mix. Out of town we drove. The drive was very pleasant, and roads were in good condition. After hours of driving, and seeing thousands upon thousands of sheep, we stopped in a small town on the coast called Oamaru. We were just looking for a bite to eat, when Kim saw a "Cheese Factory" sign. Ooo! I said, and pulled over. Whitestone Cheese was the name of the place and they had cheese samples and an observation deck for their production line. We purchased a picnic pack cheese platter that had an aged cheddar and a beautiful blue cheese. It even came with crackers and a plastic knife.
We munched on the way to the Moeraki Boulders. They are these spherical shaped rocks that litter the beach in this one stretch of coast.
As we pulled into Dunedin we were both surprised at how amazingly hilly it was. Steep hills just like Seattle or San Francisco. More on that later...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Milford Sound Cruise

"Puget Sound on Steroids!" is how one a couple from San Diego described the Milford Sound here in the Fjordlands of New Zealand. I would have to agree, but even that statement doesn't give it enough credit. It was spectacular. By the way, I am skipping our day in Dunedin and beautiful drive for time/mb sake. Turns out we are limited in internet use at most locations, hence few pictures as well. We woke up early in Te Anau and drove some of the most beautiful miles I have ever seen in my life up to Milford Sound. It is only about 70 miles, but it took us a little over 2 hours without any stops (we made those on the way back). Huge mountians, deep valleys, big rocks, tight turns, crazy steep tunnel, one lane sections with bridges, and all driving stick shift on the opposite side of the rode. It was awesome!!!
When we were driving back in the afternoon we stopped and took more pictures. Below is one of the views we had from the road. There were so many it is hard to choose which ones to share.
When we got out on the boat, the sights just kept getting better. The sun was shining and there were only a few clouds in the sky.
The mountains rose straight out of Milford Sound and up to a mile in the air. The sheer rock cliffs were amazing! The only wildlife we saw were some seals playing on the rocks and local birds. But everything was beautiful.
After driving out of the valley, we headed to Queenstown, (a post for another day).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What are the Boys Doing?

Al and Caroline have been taking care of the boys while we are on our trip. Here are a few pictures they have sent to keep us from missing them too much.
They went to the Flight Museum and had a blast.
Above they are at the Children's Museum in Seattle

New Zealand - Day 2

Our second day in New Zealand we went on our Lord of the Rings - Edoras Tour. It was an all day event. In the morning we met 8 others who all joined us in a large 4x4 vehicle. As we drove through the countryside, our guide, Steve, told us about farming in NZ and the areas we were driving through. It was an hour and a half drive up to the "High Country" where the filming of the people of Rohan in LOTR. We stopped for tea at a little town that reminded me (Micah) of some of the tiny towns in ND. Then we continued our climb into the mountains. Our next stop was a small lake town called Lake Clearwater (this town sprung up illegally back in the early 1900s and has no running water, electricity or infrastructure. After the last few miles on a dirt rode, we came to the valley of "Mt Sunday" where they built the "Golden Hall" of the Rohan people.
The valley was so huge, that the 200 meter high hill was dwarfed by the surrounding mountains. The last trek half way up the mountain was serious 4 wheeling. There were deep holes, creeks to drive through and steep inclines. Then we stopped and hiked the last couple hundred feet to the top. It was so windy (60kmph), but beautiful. The sky was clear and blue and the mountains surrounded us on all sides. From the top, you could see different areas where filming happened, and it truly was as if we were in Middle Earth. After pictures with props, and all the wind we could stand, we climbed back down and headed to Mt Potts Lodge on the edge of the valley. There we were served a huge lunch and visited with the wonderful people we shared the journey with. There was a honeymoon couple from Dubai, two siblings from North of Seattle who were visiting a third sibling living in Wellington, a young couple from Denmark, and a single lady from Scotland. It was so much fun getting to know each of them. Our afternoon was spend driving back to Christchurch, and Kim and I were able to squeeze in a walk through the Botanical Gardens before dark.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

So we are celebrating our 10 year anniversary in New Zealand. Yes, we know it won't actually be 10 years until December. But, March worked out best for our plans. So our first day was really long from Sunday morning to Tuesday at noon flying. Seattle, LAX, Auckland, and finally Christchurch. The great thing was that flying standby, we caught every single flight we were hoping for. It really was amazing. After picking up our rental car, we drove out to our B&B which is called "Pete's Farmstay" It is 30 min out of town and on a cute farm with sheep, alpacas, and cows. After getting situated and freshened up, we drove to the small village and shared a lunch at a bakery cafe. Then we came back to the Farm and Pete showed us how he takes care of the animals, and gave us a sheep wrangling/sheering demonstration. That was so cool. Then we drove into Christchurch and familiarized ourselves with the town. Dinner was at a great Pizza place called Spagalimis. We shared a lamb pizza. Wow! It was amazing. After driving home we were exhausted and went straight to bed. Tomorrow is our Edoras Lord of the Rings tour. We are so excited.