April 16, 2008

South Island In A Nutshell

Our trip to the South Island has been so much fun. I'll have to post photos later but I wanted to write about what we've done so far before I forget anything.

We flew into Christchurch a week ago Tuesday, stored our luggage at the airport and walked to the Antarctic Center. We'd been looking forward to visiting this place since we got our New Zealand guide book and it didn't let us down. We experienced an antarctic storm, watched little blue penguins getting fed and best of all rode in a Hagglund (an awesome 4-WD amphibious vehicle like the ones they drive on the South Pole).

On day two we hopped onto a bus heading south to stay in Oamaru, where our friend Marcia's mom had agreed to let us stay with her. As soon as we got off the bus Marcia's mom took us to the blue penguin colony to watch the wild penguins come in from their long day at sea. Next day we saw some giant boulders on the beach that looked like dinosaur eggs then hopped another bus to Dunedin where we stayed with Marcia's brother and his family.

Dunedin was first settled by Scotts (Dunedin is Gaelic for Edinburgh) and has lots of beautiful buildings. We went to the museum where I was very excited to find a small exhibit about Kiribati, the country that flies my favorite flag. It was so nice to stay with a big family (they had four kids). Jerry really enjoyed their oldest boy and I had a great time with everyone.

After two nights in Dunedin we rode an historic train through some beautiful scenery, then rode a bus through even more beautiful scenery to Queenstown, a lakeside city in the Southern Alps in the heart of Lord of the Rings country. Queenstown is full of twenty-something backpackers so Jerry and I are a bit out of place here--especially at the hostel where we've rented a room--but we've stayed here longer than expected.

I won't go into a day by day, but since coming to Queenstown we've gone jetboating (twice); played mini-golf at what Jerry says is the best miniature golf course in the entire world (also twice); spent a night on a boat miles away from civilization on Doubtful Sound (where Jerry made friends with another 12-year-old boy and I made friends with a really nice couple from California); gone canoing on the Dart River past mountains dotted with glaciers and into a rocky chasm with the blues water I've ever seen; ridden a gondola to the top of a mountain; gone luging (four times); been to a bird park and watched kiwis feeding; panned for gold in the most productive gold mining river in the world; spent three evenings online in internet cafes; and watched "Men in Black 2" in the hostel lounge. Phew. I'm tired just writing all that. But it's been great and we've really been enjoying each other's company.

Tomorrow we fly back to Christchurch where we'll stay at the same hostel we spent our first night in. Jerry is really looking forward to staying there again because they get Cartoon Network in the lounge. Saturday Warren will arrive, we'll spend one night in a little town called Akaroa, then we'll all fly back to Auckland where Jerry and I will spend our last week in New Zealand trying to spend as much time as possible with all the friends we've made here. As much as we've missed home even Jerry is feeling a bit sad about leaving NZ.

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