Big Question Marks

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

We're Baaaack

We're back in sweltering Brisbane after a delightful week and a bit in New Zealand. For one thing, it sure is strange to holiday in a cold country only to come back to a hot place... the complete opposite of what we'd usually do! But though the South Island was a little chilly, it was kind of nice to put on some layers, don toques and gloves, and - dare I say it?- stomp around in the snow! Well, the snow thrill wore off in about 20 seconds or so, but it sure did make for lovely photos.

Anyway! We had a fantastic time -- NZ far surpassed our expectations for being a great place to travel. We lucked out with pretty amazing weather (lots of sunshine and blue skies), had great travel companions, and a strong Aussie dollar on our side. The Kiwis we met were really nice, endearingly rugby-mad, but sadly few and far between. The South Island felt more than anything... kind of empty. On almost any road in the parts we travelled to, you could count the cars you passed on your fingers, and when we did meet people running hostels or shops or tour companies, more than half the time they were from another country. It was a little weird... it seems that most New Zealanders must either live on the North Island, or in Australia. Where we went, it also even felt devoid of wildlife, which could have been due to climate, time of day, introduced species wiping out the native fauna, or maybe something else (we kept seeing signs about poison being used in national parks to wipe out various pest species...).

So it was just us and the sheep for most of the trip. We drove our Toyota Camry up and down mountains, hiked a few great trails around Mount Cook, Lake Tasman, Mt Aspiring National Park, and up Franz Josef Glacier - an unbelievable day for more than a few reasons! We got into a few adventures, trying our luck at paragliding in Queenstown, and scoring a free helicopter ride off the glacier when the mountain next to us started collapsing into the valley below. We had some great local food - cheeses, wine, lamb, and ketchup out of a can (for dipping grilled cheese sandwiches, silly!). We got caught up in the Rugby World Cup frenzy, we saw some rare penguins, and took a boat cruise through the fjords of Milford Sound, our boat chaperoned by adorable seals who swam alongside us. And besides all of that, it was so nice to get out into the fresh air and reunite with old friends. We're definitely already dreaming of a return someday to check out the North Island, and perhaps to embark on one of NZ's many Great Walks, where we can get gloriously lost in a national park for a few days at a time!

But that's our trip in a nutshell.... more detail to come! And if you've got the urge to look at a million or so mountain photos, don't forget to check our Flickr page. xx A&D