Friday, June 10, 2011

Leaving with Sadness But Not Regrets

 Today is our last full day in New Zealand and we fly out tomorrow from Christchurch on our way to Sydney, Australia.  Looking forward to flying Air New Zealand again as their safety video features Richard Simmons in an outrageous send up of the usual safety spiel.  He looks older and like he's been around the block a little, which I suppose he has.  But nonetheless the video gets your attention...

Mirror Lake, on the way to Milford Sound.
Over the past few days we've traveled to the place where most first-time New Zealand visitors end up--Milford Sound.  It's in the fjord country on the SW coast of New Zealand and is indeed gorgeous.  That area is also covered with rain forest, and so--duh--it gets a lot of rain.  That's why the weather looks a little lousy.  Oh well.  Highlight was the dolphin pod that played alongside the boat and twice we saw one breach and jump--it looked like Joy incarnate.  What a treat.  We also saw some seals lounging about.

Lovely scene from Milford Sound
The day involved a bus ride of 4 hours' duration from Queenstown to Milford Sound, then a cruise for 2 hours, and then the ride home.  Quite a day out, and well worth not driving ourselves.

After our short sojourn in Fiordlands we headed south to the area known as the Catlins--this is gently rolling farmland and spectacular coastland in the SE corner of New Zealand.
Sobering to think we were closer to the South Pole than to the Equator ...  still the Flat Whites were terrific!
This was taken near the southernmost point on the South Island.

It isn't well developed at all, and we had trouble finding lodging and restaurants--but it was really worth the trip.  Very isolated but with gentle scenery that was absolutely lovely.
Coastal scenery in the Catlins near a place called
Jack's Blowhole, named for a Maori chief.
A blowhole is a place where the sea enters through
a long cave and reverberates a good deal inland in
spectacular fashion.  This blowhole was 200 m
from the coastline,  

This area is off the beaten track for first-time visitors and we were so happy to have found it.
Taken on our way back to Owaka in the Catlins after an
unsuccessful attempt to see yellow-eyed penguins
coming in for the night.  We were much more successful
in finding a wonderful sunset.

One spectacular thing we sighted was a huge sea lion lounging at the beach at Cannibal Bay.  This was named "Cannibal" because a 19th Century geologist found human bones on the beach there.    Anyway the sea lion was very cool, especially how he flopped back into the water.  Clumsy on land, incredibly graceful in the water.

One bit of wildlife we didn't see here were penguins.  There are 2 varieties who nest in NZ on this coast but we just didn't hit it right.  That's a good reason to return one day, God willing.

Big old sea lion standing guard on the beach at Cannibal Bay.
The indentation in the beach where he spent the night
was pretty icky looking when we found him in the morning...

Today we finished in Christchurch, where the most recent large earthquake happened this past February.  We walked downtown and there is still a very large area cordoned off because it is still unsafe and also because clearing and rebuilding are still happening there.  It was sad and melancholy and deserted, and these perceptions were only enforced by the rain we had today.  Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island, and it's a shame to see it crippled.  May it rise again like a phoenix!

Barry and I are wondering if we may feel a tremor here before we leave in the morning.  Just a few days ago they experienced a major aftershock that sent fear into a lot of guts.  Apparently people have frayed nerves and short tempers due to living with the stress of the potentiality of another big one.  Kids are regressing in their development ... and the forecast for more shaking in the future is strong.  Do keep them all in your prayers.  Our motel tonight is just outside downtown, and it did not sustain damage in the last big quake.

Last but not least, a shout out for Waitiri Creek Pinot Gris 2009 ...  an absolutely smooth and delicious white ... hope we can find it in the States.

Over and out from M.
Looking through the fencing that separates the reconstruction area from the rest of downtown
in Christchurch.  We are looking at the Cathedral in the distance, whose tower toppled during the quake.  Luckily no one was killed by the cathedral tower collapse.  All 20 people got out safely.

1 comment:

  1. Save trip! Hug to you both and thank you so much for sharing!