Milford Sound? check
part of Hollyford Track? check
part of Routeburn Track? check
kayaking on Doubtful Sound? um, check on the weather tomorrow first....
ability to check Gmail on hostel computer? not check, repeat, not check
Milford Sound? check
Tom and I will be departing in a few minutes for the wilds of the Catlins Coast. It's the southern part of the South Island, and we'll be camping tonight, then hiking (excuse me, tramping) the Catlins Top Track for 2 days. After that we'll drive the Southern Scenic Route, stopping to camp at the Clifden Caves, before finally arriving in Te Anau, where we'll hopefully have Internet access once again.
But before we leave, we're headed to the chocolate factory!!!
The Asylum has been an amazing place to stay. Tom said it's the sort of place where he might keep extending his stay if we didn't already have plans. I can see what he means. Today is a gorgeous day when we might have gone surfing, or maybe taken a sea kayak or some snorkel gear and caught our own dinner. Instead, all I'll be catching is a Crunchie T-shirt at Cadbury World.
pleased with dinner
Happy Boxing Day to all my readers! Yesterday we celebrated Christmas in style. Tom spent the morning surfing with a bunch of Chinese people who were staying at The Asylum with us, while I poked around the grounds and tried to get into as many abandoned buildings as possible. In the afternoon, we went to the beach at Moeraki with a German couple (yes, the ones I was talking LOUD and slooooow with), where we spotted sea lions lounging on the grass and frolicking in the surf. As we were hiking up the hill back to the car, I looked through the fence and saw a yellow-eyed penguin with its chick standing not 2 feet away from us! So, we can check off most of the rare species on the South Island - yellow-eyed penguins, Hector's dolphins, Hooker's sea lions and many, many seals.
When we got back to The Asylum, the party was just getting started. Frank, the owner, fired up the old blacksmith's forge (left over from the days when the administrators thought it best for the crazy folk to work hard instead of take medications) in one of the outbuildings. A bunch of lovely German girls had spent the day making salads and preparing bowle - a potent fruit punch. We cooked up a heap of sausages, steaks and kebabs over the fire and sat around a collection of old couches eating, drinking and talking. Later we tried to come up with games that the whole group could play. With 10 Chinese, 6 Germans, 2 Americans and 1 Kiwi, we couldn't play anything that required lots of talking. Someone had bought a box of crackers, so we joined hands in a big circle to pull the crackers, then donned our party hats and ceremonially burned the bad jokes.
Best. Christmas. Ever.
Not me, I'm still feeling hot. But you know that stereotype? You know, the one how Americans deal with any foreigner by talking LOUDER and sloooooower? Well, at dinner tonight, that's what I felt like. Factoid for those that don't know me that well - my mother was deaf until a few years ago. (No, she didn't die. She got a cochlear implant.) Therefore, my natural instinct when I think people don't understand me is to talk LOUDER and slooooower. Well, I also try to throw in some sign language too. And thus I fulfilled the ugly American stereotype while dining with a lovely German couple tonight.
All of this, of course, is my way of saying that both Tom and I are safe and sound. The Banks Peninsula Track was simply amazing. We have picked up a rental car and are now ensconced in our Christmas digs. The Asylum is a former insane asylum outside of Dunedin that now serves as our hostel for the next few nights. It's still somewhat authentic, and I'm sure Tom will revive a few lines from his star turn as "Chief" in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest at some point during our stay. They have free Internet access (yay!) but it's dial-up (boo!). I may have lost my wallet and iPod while we were getting the car. I'm trying to not get upset and just view this as an opportunity to get a new iPod. It's not a very good consolation, though, as it will cost me more money.
Merry Christmas! Or belated holiday greetings! Or have a happy pre-season! This dateline stuff confuses me, but it's 9 p.m. Christmas Eve, and I'm surrounded by happy Germans and pleasantly sloshed. I may go out and chase the horses around the grounds soon, or I may just watch a bad movie and go to sleep.
Tom and I arrived in Auckland, and then in Chiristchurch, on Tuesday, Dec. 18. We have settled into the Chester Street Backapackers, which is lovely and quiet - two of my main considerations in a hostel. We're treating ourselves to a private room for the next few days.
So far Christchurch is lovely. Today is a little overcast, but the sun keeps poking through. We've been enjoying wandering around the city and had great fun at the supermarket. What is it about foreign grocery stores that is so enticing? I want to try one of each of their candybars, and don't get me started on the cookies, sodas and cheeses. After a picnic lunch at Cathedral Square, we stopped by the library so that I could get a little Internet access. It's cheaper here than at our hostel, but don't expect any personal e-mails or frequent posts when we have to pay for the Web.
After this, we're off to explore the botanical gardens and visit one of the art museums before heading back to the hostel for dinner. Fun fact - the celebrity gossip magazines here still gossip mostly about American celebrities. There's a good supply of the magazines at the hostel, so I intend to read up!
We may change our plans slightly and spend some extra time in Akaroa after we finish the Banks Peninsula Track instead of coming back to Christchurch for another night. The town looks interesting, and I fear that we may just spend our time in Christchurch trying to eat at every restaurant I see! Sadly, we've already spotted at least two Starbucks. The McDonald's doesn't dishearten me quite as much, simply because I want to eat all the weird, non-American things on the menu, like the Kiwi pavlova for dessert.
Is it wrong to buy a duffle bag when we get to Auckland for the sole purpose of bringing home lots of funny food?
I'm snowed in at a hotel next to the Providence Airport. Looks like I'll have a later flight to LA, so no trip top the Fabric District for me - apologies to those who wanted me to bring them home goodies. Instead I'll be grabbing my rental car and heading straight up to SLO.
On the bright side, I can see a store called "Ninja World" from my hotel window. If only it were open, I could get Tom a T shirt!
Life in the far north is not always all it's cracked up to be. I can't see Russia from here, but that's probably because of the ice fog.
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