March 17, 2004

Hello from New Zealand!

So much to report since my last post.

I have booked a ticket home on April 16th, so all of you in and around Boulder, I'm looking foward to seeing you soon!

I arrived in Aukland on the 1st of March and spent a couple of days orienting, booking a rental car, airline tickets to Christchurch, etc... Not much to report about Aukland, except a lovely Greek meal and quite severe culture shock! The latter being mostly to do with prices and my trying desperately to translate Hello, Thank You, Yes, No, etc into... English... yikes ;) My brain would try desperately to translate and then realize none was necessary... made me feel sort of dizzy.

Christchurch is a nice town. I esp. enjoyed the Botanical gardens. But didn't feel drawn to spend tons of time. I picked up my rental station wagon (equiped with bed, bedding, stove, pots, plates, table, tent....) and headed out to Akaroa which is about 100k east and south of Christchurc. It is a little town on the edge of a lake that formed when the ocean broke through the walls of a double volcano... Akaroa held my first NZ Experience! Swiming with the Hector's Dolphins! We suited up and headed out toward the ocean. We found a bunch of dolphins and jumped in... OH MY GOD!!!! It was sooooooo cold... For the first 5 minutes I couldn't figure out how someone had gotten me to pay money for something so painfull! However, after about 5 minutes the numbness (just kidding) settled in and I had a wonderfull 40 minutes swimming, diving, singing (apparently it attracts the dolphins) with the dolphins... It was really lovely!

Rather than stay in Akaroa, I decided to head south and see if I could find a camp ground... By 8:30, I stoped at a cafe to ask for directions to a camp-ground and found out that there wasn't one for a long way... and I was almost out of petrol... and no petrol stations were open... Some locals invited me to stay at their house... how cool! I felt a bit too much like a charity case and also really wanted to spend my first night in the car on my own... So I headed out of town in the direction I wanted to be traveling in the morning and pulled off on a small road by a river, and just camped about 2k down the road... Was lovely, woke up to the sound of water, birds chirping, and a lovely pink sky!

I headed down to the Otago Peninsula (just east of Dunedin). Checked into a realy great backpacker (McFarmers) and then headed out to search for Penguins. We saw a few, but they were far away... The next day I went to my second NZ Experience :) there is a Penguine sanctuary on the peninsula, so I went and had a tour... Very cool! I saw the yellow eyed penguins... they were shedding so landlocked for a month... The tiny blue penguines were out at sea when I was there so I didn't get to see them... I hope to catch them somewhere else along the way.

From Dunedin, I took the Southern Scenic Route through the Catlins region... Wow! Spent my first night camping by an estuary, then ended up spending a few days setting up a computer to do network traffic shaping at the local internet cafe... I know I'm a geek, but it was fun! :) Incidentally, the weather was not very nice all of these days, so it worked out well :)

From Owaka, I headed into the Catlins proper. I spent several days meandering through small villages, beaches, waterfalls, walking tracks, caves, petrified forrest... What a stunning area and sooooo few people! I have read that NZ has just under 4 million people and 80 million sheap... It definately feels that way! I especially enjoyed walking along deserted beaches looking for Paua (sp?) shells and lovely stones, and walking in the forests (which apparently cover 30% of NZ)... The forests here smell so wonderfull compared with the ones in Colorado. I'm sure it has to do with the moisture in the air here, but it seems like there are new wonderfull smells every few feet... wow! The land here feels very old and also very pristine! Well the land that hasn't been turned into grazing land... but even that feels very wild.

From the Catlins, I headed through Invercargil to Manapori where I booked onto an overnight cruise of Doubtfull Sound with the fantastic Deep Cove Charters. Chris runs a small (max 6 passengers this is compared to the other option which carries 70 passengers) yacht that is fantastic! The weather was very overcast and drizzly and somehow it just made the whole experience even more cozy and magical! We went fishing, Chris put on SCUBA gear and came up after 10 minutes with about 8 HUGE crayfish! We had crayfish for lunch and some blue cod that we caught for dinner! There were two other guests on the boat... it was super fantastic! I woke up to the Sound of Silence! Everything was sooo still.... Thanks so much Chris!!!

Yesterday I drove up to Milford Sound very slowly and then back down to Te Anau for a rather boring glow worm cave tour. The drive up to Milford was really great, as were some hikes along the way. The scenery is a bit like the Morain(sp?) park in the Rocky Mountain National Park. The mountains and vallys are very clearly created by glaciers. I schedule a day off today to send email, walk around the lake, read, plan the next few days, etc.... Feels very luxurious! Tomorrow, I'm heading up to Queenstown/Wanaka...

That covers most of the large things that I've done so far, but doesn't feel like it comes close to describing what an amazing country this is. In some ways it is very much like England. The size, the way that fields and roads are "planned"... Villages... Pubs... Meat pies... And yet there are so few people... And there seemes to be a much wider diversity of flora... and quite different fauna :) It is very green and clean. The beaches are wonderfull... there are loads of birds... oh and you can get fush and chups everywhere... and they are gooooood! :) The people here are quite friendly and the services although sparse are mostly very good value (not necessarily cheap)! It's a bit strange being in such a developed country and having to plan where to get cash and petrol because there are 100k gaps in services... this is mostly charming rather than annoying!

Very much Love!

-- Bindu

Posted by binduwavell at March 17, 2004 05:58 PM
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