We survived the North Island of New Zealand and decided to conquer the South Island too. We have been having a great time, less daredevil antics, but more exploring and sightseeing. We landed in Picton, NZ after our 3 1/2 hour ferry ride (with lambs on board), and stocked up on supplies and a new cooler for our South Island Adventure. We headed up to the Northern point of the Southern Island past the Nelson wineries and the many many millions of sheep and cows. We saw some amazing coastlines and climbed some steep mountains to the reach the Golden Bay beaches. It was worth it! We camped in a climbers camp site called Hang Dogs, quite cramped, but really cheap! Then travel for a long time on dirt roads to find a glorious beach. We spent the day sunbathing and swimming in the the crystal clear blue waters (chillingly refreshing). We made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and headed out for another long ride to the middle of the island
. We camped out in a beautiful spot at Lake Rotoroa, but we were not alone. When we got out of our car we met with about 10 million sand flies, and the strange and loud humming of the forest around us. We thought it was a bees nest, but the entire forest surrounding us was humming....crazy! They finally went away after dusk and we enjoyed a huge nights sky filled with the brightest stars, you can't see the big dipper from the southern hemisphere but you can still see Orion's belt. We awoke to the fabulous little sand flies, and the locals explanation was "awe ya just get used to them" imagine in a Kiwi accent. We hi-tailed it out there to the east coast and the beautiful Kaikura. We Drove into the small rocky coast town and we were greeted by snow caped mountains and a great vibe in the town. We opted out of the Dolphin and Whale watching to eat at a fabulous little cafe cafe. We had a hot stone seafood meal, where they bring you a hot stone (go figure) and the freshest local catches...it was yummy! After our delicious meal we climbed to the top of a hill to take in the wonderful views, and as always there was a cow field on the top of the hill(they really do seem to have the best views). Conor made friends with one of the local cows, but they were really big close up and it was a little freaky with only a cliff as our get away :) We found a seal out on the rock point, and then we headed south for more adventures. We drove along beautiful coasts and green mountains and stayed in a crowded fisher mans camping spot, but again really cheap ($4)
. Great sunset along the rocky coast and ended the night watching an Alfred Hitchcock TV show I had downloaded onto the Ipod. We headed speedily past Christchurch and out to the great beach town of Dunedin. Our first stretch of road that did not include any complete switchback turns, nice straight roads....ahhhhhhh. We ended the evening with a sunset on the beach and yummy lamb chops for dinner, self made at the holiday park kitchen :)The next morning we had hoped for a sunny beach day, but the Maori weather gods frowned on us. It was cloudy and chilly so we headed up to the Lurchas (?) Castle for the views. Then we got back on the car for the long trek to Invergargill. It was really nice along the way with tons of stops at Kaka Point, Nugget Point, Surat Bay, Jacks Blowhole, and lots more. We stopped to admire the views at Nugget Point light house, the most southern in the world. And then headed to Surat's Bay where there was a few up close and personal New Zealand Fur Seal experiences. We tramped through the high grass and came out to find an entire beach filled with gigantic seals. The signs said to stay back, but with the high tide coming in we had no choice but to walk right next to them. A few didn't mind, but when we got to the male with his women they started grunting and moving around. We scooted by quickly, but Conor kept looking back thinking they were coming after us. They probably weigh 700lbs! One dozed as we walked by only a foot and a half, but thankfully did not stir. We managed to survive and we stayed at a little motor lodge in Invergargill. They home of rowdy teenagers (it says so in the guidebook). The next morning we started out for the Milford sound and a great change in scenery. It went from vast rolling green hills to sharp points and even snow capped peaks (and it's summer now). As we drove in you could see the path the glaciers had made, and we picked a spot to camp along the river. Of course we encountered our favorite little friends..the sand flies..and made a fire to keep them back
. Conor got a little pyro with his fire, but it was nice when the temp dropped later that night. We woke up to a chilly rainy day, but that did not stop our quest for the Milford Sound. On the drive in we spotted waterfall after waterfall and then the road opened up to the Milford Sound. It was pretty cloudy and rainy, but everyone said it was great so we had to give it a go! It was really cool, and worth the money. We cruised the sound (looking out the window for the first half) watching the waterfalls fall and the mountains rise into the clouds. We had a bonus of a living aquarium in the sound about 9 meters down, and not caged. The sound creates a bizarre environment that is like no where else. The top 8 meters is fresh water from the rain and the waterfalls and all the rest below is salt water from the ocean. This creates a dark calm layer similar to the deep ocean, so animals, plants, and fish that are normally seen 900 feet down can be see 15 feet in the Milford sound! Like Black Coral (only 2% of the world has seen it in it's natural environment). The clouds finally parted and the mountains revealed the tops and more waterfalls. This was the land - o - waterfalls! We get back in the car and headed toward Queenstown, the land of extreme everything! We rolled into a booked town and grabbed the first thing we could find...a camper-van. Although it had a broken window, bugs, and it was chilly I thought it was cute! We cruised around Queenstown the next day and managed to nothing too extreme, but we did do some extreme wildlife watching and Maori dancing
. We saw Kiwis (funny birds) and the Tartuna (reptile with 3rd eye on top of head) and we were both picked to join in a Maori Dance (see videos). And crazily enough Conor ran into his Friend Sara Slater from middle school by the Falcon in the wildlife park in Queenstown in New Zealand.....small world! So after the extreme day (hahahaha) we drove to Wanaka and camped along a beautiful lake with snow capped Mt Aspiring in the background. The next day we drove to the Fox Glacier about 5hrs through windy small roads, and booked our Glacier Hike for the next morning. We camped by the beach(only 10 min from glacier) and awoke to a beautiful clear day with mountain and glacier looming in the background. We packed up and headed to the guiding company, got suited up and took off for our trek. We hiked up through the temperate rain forest to the glaciers edge and strapped crampons to our borrowed boots and took to the ice. We tramped over crevasses, deep under ice rivers, boulders, rocks from the ocean floor, and climbed through ice tunnels. It was really fun and educational as well as beautiful! We got back on the road and headed to the pancake rocks and blowholes further north, and then started up the Alpine pass to Christchurch. We camped that night at Aurthur Pass and mistakenly right by an in use train track. But we woke up pretty refreshed and headed to where we are right now, Christchurch. It is a cute town and a good jumping off point for our next leg...Australia. We leave tomorrow afternoon to the land down under for crocks, spiders, cool beaches, and lots of mates and good ayes
. We are supper excited! Thank you all for all of your entries in the travelogue and e-mails to us, it is great to hear from all of you! It helps to cure the home sickness. I am sorry we have not gotten back to each one of you yet, but we should have a little more down time in Thailand (and beach time:). I must say though my favorite e-mail has to be the one from Juls and Greg telling us they are having a girl!! I am so excited to have a new partner in crime for shopping and a love of shoes, and that the the Coop Man is now walking! Congrats Juls and Greg, send me video!! We miss you guys and love you all!
Talk to you soon...Love,
Molly and Conor
Ga Day Mate!