South Island Splendor

Hello all,
It is Thursday, Dec 27, 2007 at 3:50 p.m.  We are on the North Island in a 5,000 acre country manor which doubles as a sheep station (Wharekauhau--we still cannot get the Maori pronunciation down).  But, I wanted to give you the South Island update. 

In our last installment, I gave you a preview of the South Island of New Zealand; I recall (in my after-massage stupor right now) that I may have described it as indescribable.  Several days later, that is still the case... but, OK... I'll try to come up with some words.  The South Island of New Zealand is one minute after another of absolute eye candy.  Beginning with our ride through Christchurch (a lovely English-style city with the most beautifully delicate rose gardens in colors we had ever seen and the Avon... a stream of a river with punting), we knew that New Zealand was something special and altogether different from anything we'd seen in Australia.  You say you're going to Australia and New Zealand on holiday, but (at least for us), you neglect to realize how absolutely distinct they are in every single respect (except for both countries using English as their primary language).  Anyway, Christchurch was lovely even though we were there for fewer than 24 hours.  Then, we picked up the TransAlpine train to Greymouth (on the Tasman Sea side)--a 4 hour ride through the Southern Alps that was just splendid.  Then we picked up our rental care where the true fun began.

On a friend's tip, we had arranged for GPS/Tour guide equipment (separate unit--for those planning a trip here, it's called Kruse and has become indispensable). John (the narrator) has been our guide...which was reassuring because driving the "proper way" on the left has been challenging!  Our first stop was to wind through the Alps toward the Fox Glacier.  Magnificent.  We hiked up to the glacier last Saturday morning and it was glorious. 

That afternoon, we hiked around Lake Matthison (which they say is a must not miss because if the sun is right, you can catch the reflections of Mt Cook and Mt. Tasman. The sun wasn't right but it didn't matter.  It was great. We went back to the lake for breakfast the next day and caught a wonderful glimpse of both mountain tops.

The following morning we left for Queenstown...a ride full of more beautiful scenery (mind you, we didn't even include Milford Sound in our trip which is supposed to be the most breathtaking scenery on the South Island; I can't imagine).  Arriving at Queenstown, we settled in for two days of activities.  On Day 1, Andrew & Wendy took the jet-boating route at the Dart River.  The jet boats (big tourist attraction but we enjoyed them) sped through the River (only 6" deep at points) with daredevil twists and turns.  Because there had been a lot of rain the night before, there were waterfalls galore.  Beautiful.  On Day 2, we took a 4WD Lord of the Rings safari.  My not being a fan was irrelevant because the scenery is so breathtaking you feel like you are on a Universal Studios set.  Divine. While we were off adventuring, Emily & Wayne checked out the bird preserve and the botanic garden.  We also made sure to get in some retail therapy and great eating in Queenstown (though I must say we haven't suffered for eating anywhere so far).  On Christmas Day, we got in our requisite Asian lunch (though it was Thai, not the traditional Chinese); no movies playing... but we enjoyed the day and prepared for our voyage to the North Island on Wednesday.

A word about the eating in New Zealand: We have been doing it nonstop (in between scenery).  The lamb is as good as they say if not better (although the sheep and lambs everywhere made it difficult to eat lamb the first time; we got over it).  The fish is great.  We are still looking for Pavlova (the meringue/fruit dessert which is claimed by both Australia and NZ).  ANNE V:  I am enjoying your skinny flat whites (capuccino's without the foam).  We found the most amazing chocolate shop in Queenstown and visited at least 6 times in our 3 days there.  The wines, needless to say, are wonderful.  In short, no complaints...except that I should have packed more elastic pants.

We'll check in again toward the end of the North Island part of the trip (New Year's Day, unless we provide a preview before then).  In the meantime, be safe, be well, and happy new year's.

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