Friday, August 30, 2002

So, let’s see… Saturday we headed out pretty early to have one last breakfast at our favorite waterfront café Karve. We had done a pretty good job of being packed up the day before. We still had a couple of hours of tossing food out and cleaning up for the realtor to give us the all clear. Pete was nice enough to drive out to the airport with us although we also had to go in a Shuttle as we had so many people and bags. Quantas said we had 125 kg of checked bags (and thank goodness they didn’t check our carryons!). They allow 25 per person and she gave Quincy (who didn’t have a seat, just paid taxes) 10 kg – then they charged us $10 per kg over. So $150 later… Of course you can’t pay at the check-in counter like any normal airline… We also had to cart off 2 bags to the “fragile” area (although they came off the plane onto the carousel like any other bags) which was at the far end (thank you Pete). And Phyllis had to go pay for a Visa into Australia despite having verified with Quantas previously via phone that there was nothing she would need to do. My ticket was under Webster and passport is under Thompson – I hadn’t noticed the discrepancy. They did but it didn’t matter too much. They couldn’t locate the kids’ frequent flyer numbers and we were supposed to have physical cards (do I even have one?). The woman was very nice but… They also had no record of all the rigmarole that I had gone through to get Aidan’s carseat approved to take on for his seat but they did approve it no problem for a change (at the special paying counter). So by the time we paid them our extra $ then headed next door to pay a bank for our special NZ departure tax of $22 each (and why this isn’t added to your ticket I’ll never understand) and cleared customs etc… we were ALMOST the last people to load on the plane. We made it. Too bad we forgot the stroller at the other end… Quantas lets you gate check them, but won’t give them back until baggage claim – and you have to go to the oversized area (excuse me?) to pick it up. When I returned the following day I must have seen at least 2 dozen strollers in their lost baggage area – so I didn’t feel quite so lame about having left it. We left at around 4 p.m., had a 3 hour flight, gained 2 hours, and still ended up taking our taxi ride to the hotel in the dark – despite being further north than Auckland, Sidney must be much further east in the time zone as it gets dark earlier here and light much earlier in the morning.

We got the rate of $200 Australian ($108 US) for our hotel apartment per night for a 2 bedroom place but it is only serviced weekly. Therefore we have to dump our own trash at the end of the hall etc. The rooms are quite small but nicely appointed and we have our combo clothes washer/dryer and 2 bathrooms and a full kitchen. All countertops have granite or marble and there are a lot of expensive architectural details like reveals at ceiling (that I am probably the only one in our party to notice let alone appreciate) and we have velvet trimmed chenille bedspread etc. Too bad there isn’t anywhere to store our clothes or suitcases! We do have a closet in each room but I think Phyllis said theirs doesn’t even have a top shelf in it. Just about the only service in the hotel is breakfast for $9.50 AU which P, D & A have taken advantage of a few mornings. I tend to head out with Quincy in the stroller and have him take his morning nap away from his brother as I check out the neighborhood and grab some toast or croissant or something along the way. I like walking along the quiet city streets in the morning. By 10 or so they are bustling.

We are situated smack dab in the middle of Chinatown. So we have had some good Asian food – I think 3 evenings I have either done take-away or eaten at a restaurant a few doors down. Across the street is Starbucks, there are 2 or 3 banks a building or 2 away, there is a church on our block, and a major bus stop (our building fronts on a major road and backs on Chinatown). The Central Railstation is about 3 blocks away as I discovered the first morning as I headed back to the airport to pick up our stroller. Turns out I had to take a bus as they were working on the tracks or something that day – but it was essentially a free trip for that. On our corner we have a curious fountain – it is a dead tree trunk that the artist found somewhere and partially painted gold and ran a dripping waterline up and out it then “planted” it in the sidewalk (with a drain). There is some Feng Shui (sp?) significance and it is rather interesting and a decent landmark. Catty corner to that is a very large mall that hosts a huge market Thurs – Sun and has 3 levels of shops, restaurants and movie theatres above. We are a couple blocks to the start of Darling Harbor development around the waterfront. And a monorail stop. Aidan likes all the forms of transportation available to us here.

Day #1 we hopped on an Explorer bus to get an orientation to the city. We rode the whole loop straight thru (1 hr 45+). I had squeezed into a seat with both kids and the stroller. I felt bad as the window was too high for Aidan and he had to kneel to see out. He got tired and a bit bored and hungry as it was well past lunchtime before we finished. Fortunately Phyllis had a snack bar and water she let him have. We then checked out the Powerhouse – a museum quite close to our hotel as it turns out (although I didn’t realize it at the time). I walked with Quincy from the railstation stop where we had gotten off the bus and bought a week transit pass and had a snack. I ended up on roads that didn’t really let you get there so it was a much longer journey than it should have been. I was quite disappointed in the museum. I think it would have been fun by myself – an eclectic collection focusing on Australia I think, but there was sadly little hands on (as promised) or child oriented. Brisbane’s tech museum was not nearly as attractively put together, but much more fun. Then I hopped on the monorail with the kids and rode the loop back to the same stop (which is closest our hotel) and then grabbed some Taiwanese take-away to share with the kids. I think Phyllis and Dave headed down to Opera building and had dinner along the waterfront there. Quincy has been getting treated to a lot of different foods lately! He has enjoyed the innards of dumplings, Chinese noodles, macaroni & cheese, this morning I came in to find a chocolate croissant in his hand (he had very sweet breath!). He has also been taking chunks out of mandarin orange peels (which I remove from him as soon as I realize he has them) and has had a couple mandarin sections. Sometime during our South Island trip he developed reasonable pincher grip ability. We didn’t practice any at the time, but he couldn’t really get small food into mouth before we went, and was pretty good at it when he got home. Bottled babyfood is OK but only in conjunction with something else he finds more interesting.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Tonight is Sunday. I am in Sydney with Aidan & Quincy tucked up in my queen bed. Phyllis & Dave are somewhere out roaming the town. Pete is in Auckland either in bed or slogging away at the office trying to finish up so he can join us. I won't write much now but to say that we do all plan to fly back to SF on 9/1 and join the Eggerths & crew 9/2 for the usual celebrations. You should see how much baggage we have with us! Quantas made us pay $150 NZ in overweight fees! I do NOT like Quantas. Pete will then have to head into the office and jump right into his next project for The Gap. We will be remaining in SF for a while... I have Aidan signed up for Acrosports, preschool, and one of his old babysitters. Later~!

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Timaru impressed us in the morning with its huge park nestled up against Caroline Bay. There was even a glass elevator to take us from the parking area down to the park. Aidan and I walked across the dunes to the beach – tide was out so it was a very deep beach. Aidan had to pick up the requisite shells and sticks for our walk back. We headed out of town north to Christchurch around noon. I have to say that this stretch of drive was the most unimpressive that I think we have seen in NZ – that includes the north island. It was also interesting approaching CC via route 1 instead of from the airport. Not nearly as nice a first impression! Much more strip centers and the kind of usual city grungy outskirts stuff. We also had had lunch at a place called the Saddlery or some such. It could have been an any small MidAmerican town sort of caferteria style eatery although at the time it did hit the spot. We had a reservation to stay at the Heritage Hotel CC (I had liked my stay in the Auckland one). Our suite was in the Old Government Bldg in what had obviously been a beautiful stately room. They had added a mezzanine for 2 small bedrooms and the 2nd bathroom – they hashed up the remodel a bit unfortunately. We had a nice stay anyway.

After arriving latish afternoon Friday in CC, I went for a quick (and very cold) walk in the Cathedral Squ (right outside our hotel) where we watched some girls performing music and saw some people moving very large chess pieces around. Phyllis and Dave headed off for dinner at DuxLux and a session peering thru the College telescope at the Southern Hemisphere skies. I had Thai take out with the kids who were actually quite well behaved for me back in the room. Q did a good job sitting in the high chair for once. Pete unfortunately was on a delayed flight and didn’t reach us til after 10.
Saturday the clan headed off to the Botanical Gardens after some muffins and caffeine I brought in from the Starbucks across the plaza. A very nice lunch in the Botanic Gardens Café – I continued to be amazed at the high quality and low prices of restaurants in attraction type venues. We all enjoyed poking around in the gardens. Aidan can identify ferns by the way. And daisies (the kind in the grass). Aidan found a fountain that he could “activate” by pulling a lever. It was very hard to pull him away from the fountain… Pete and I headed off alone for an early dinner. Nice place – Azure I think it was named. On restaurant row. Back in time to put the kids down. Nanma & Pop had fed Aidan microwaved mac n’ cheese and had soup themselves if I correctly remember. They had refrigerated soups in plastic bags here that have been very good in all flavors we have tried to date.

Sunday came. I was very aware that our adventure was drawing to a close – including our NZ adventure as a whole. Only one more weekend to go back in Auckland. Phyllis decided to enjoy services at the Cathedral followed by some reflective time in the gardens. Dave was kind enough to join me at the Art Centre open air market for some gift shopping while Pete and Aidan checked out the museum (Dave & Phyllis had spent a little time there the afternoon before). We all had a good time I think. Dave is a good shopping companion! We enjoyed listening to a youngish guy who was selling old (circa 1900) bottles he found in old trash heaps. He was incredibly knowledgeable and clearly loved what he collected. I fell for a couple as they will look great with the old glass pieces I have that used to be used on electrical poles. We also lingered over some art. We missed the cheese van – we were looking forward to some more blue cheese. Oh well. We joined Pete & Aidan for lunch at the museum café. Quincy had his first exposure to being set free in one of the playpens you find so many places here. He was very much enjoying exploring it.

Quincy took this opportunity of his 8th month birthday to start standing up (pulling himself up) and even to take a step or 2 holding onto things. When packing I had left the refrigerator door open – I turned around to see him beelining right for it and then hauling himself up to check out the contents (fortunately few).

In the afternoon we decided to hop into the van and take a scenic drive to Lyttleton Harbor across from the Banks Peninsula. We found a very attractive and very long beach along the way that we enjoyed for ½ hour or so. Long enough for Aidan to collect more sticks and shells… It was a very beautiful drive and well worth doing. The harbor is only 12 km straight (going thru a tunnel) from CC. We did maybe 40 km the way we circled around instead. We stopped off at a couple of lookouts to enjoy the view. Too bad on the way back the view of CC was quite hazy and we didn’t get the amazing vista with the Southern Alps as you sometimes have. We could sort of see the snow capped mountains but I certainly didn’t bother taking a picture. It was a nice way back into town thru attractive suburbs on the downslope until we reached the plain again. We stopped back in the Squ and met up with Phyllis and Pete and I ran in to ogle at the Cathedral at last. Then off to catch our flight back to Auckland.

I have spent much of these past 2 weeks here in Auckland feeling a bit sad about our upcoming departure. We are beautifully situated in a very nice suburb in a nice house with lovely water vistas. I have met some very welcoming people. I love my café lifestyle (and cheap food thanks to US $). I like Aidan’s swimming at the Y and Jumping Beans classes. And in general how EASY life is here. This week I got my teeth cleaned, made (and broke) appt for Q to have vaccines (I got flu shot instead), had haircut. And didn’t have to wait more than 48 hours for any of those. At home a Dr appt with the kids Dr is usually a 10 week wait – sometimes more. My dentist can fit you in 6++ months or else only in cancellations (try getting babysitters for that). The prices for all of the above are great too. I think Dr visits here cost $50. Wow. I have really loved seeing the water in many sorts of moods – it is full moon again and seeing the sandbars cropping up at this time of month at low tide. The water is sometimes a luminescent green, other times brilliant turquoise, other times a subdued deep blue. Sometimes combinations of them all as clouds scud across. I have also enjoyed watching the storms head across the water – something I remember seeing as a kid at the lake in FL we used to go to. There is still a lot of the country – esp this north island – that we didn’t get to visit. I have a lot of mental pictures saved up and off course many many photographs to take home as reminders of our time here. All in all I have had a pretty darned good time. (No small part thanks to having grandparents to help out). Aidan will go through serious withdrawal I am sure when the grandparents go home.

I dropped Phyllis & Dave off at the rail station bright and early on a very wet Thursday morning and then dropped Pete off for breakfast with his Australian boss. The kids were great at café Dunk for breakfast with me. I have yet to see Quincy more mellow at a meal. We hooked up with Liza & kids in the p.m. to see Model World. Cool models but somehow disappointing – I think I expected more and somehow thought there would be stuff for Aidan to play with, not just look at. Did see an amazing rainbow over all of downtown as I came off the bridge headed away from downtown into the rain and sun. Pete of course had to work late now that everyone was gone. Actually I guess he had to have dinner or drinks with the boss. Boss had requested that he consider heading to Hong Kong and Korea for 14 weeks starting almost immediately. You can imagine how this threw us a bit. Off went the emails to anyone who might ever have been there. Well that was over a week ago and we still don’t know if we are heading home to SF to stay for a while or to HK. Everyday is a different story and we live an emotional rollercoaster. Pete & I are fed up and he plans to tell them tomorrow – SF please – you took too long making up your minds. But who knows what tomorrow will bring. We have also spent this week in a yoyo of can we get to Whitsunday Islands (Great Barrier Reef) – or make a stopover in Fiji or Hawaii… Finally deciding, no, head to Sydney alone for 8 days and take day trips in area. Pete was also told to leave project early and thus could come with us. Too bad project has headed south and now he will be working this weekend and at least of part of next week – so we will see him ??? in Sydney. We are also trying to figure out how to get out of the house (pay off utilities, get cleaned, get shuttle, etc) and do we need to have dentist, Dr appts etc (changes daily depending on whether or not we think we are heading to SF for 1 week or many months). And do I cancel preschool and YMCA membership etc. Pete gave notice to our landlord at one point in time. And now Quincy caught a cold from one of the kids we went to model world with. I knew her kids were sick but figured it was OK. Too bad I didn’t realize / see til after fact that her boy was taking Quincy’s rice cakes, mouthing them, and then Liza was giving them back to Quincy. Ick. So I have had little sleep the past couple nights. I can’t have a change in venue without being a bit tired going into it though! Again, thank goodness for Phyllis & Dave to help out. Pete has worked very late every night except tonight. Errands are so much faster without 2 kids along. By the way – P & D spent their 4 days and last weekend in Wellington and think very highly of it. Our little family went for a great walk on Saturday (after breakfast at Dunk again as I liked it so much the 1st time). Over across bridge there is a suburb called Takapuna. It has the reputed best urban swimming beach. Rangitoto Island seemed to really shelter the beaches or something and there wasn’t much wave action. The walk leads you over volcanic rocks and past tidepools (although we were there fairly close to high tide) and past expensive homes to another beach along. I think it was supposed to take 1 hour each way – and we started at essentially the end of Takapuna beach (cutting off 15 min according to our book). It took us more like 1 ½ hours to do the part we did. We didn’t walk the whole way home along the beach but cut inland to find a café for late afternoon lunch/dinner. Aidan is a trooper and walked the whole way. Pete is a trooper and carried Quincy the whole way…

Quincy continues to impress us daily with his new abilities. He is getting good at lowering himself down now in addition to getting up. He can transition from holding onto sofa to holding onto the coffee table behind him. He can take small steps and head along a bit. He prefers to walk normally – front wards instead of sideways along things – holding onto the object on one side and your hand on the other allow him to do this. He is such a happy little camper too. Really a delight. The other morning he was in with Dave & Aidan. I was trying to talk on the phone or do dishes or something. I heard him come somewhat near as he crawled along and played with something. Then it got a bit quiet… Dave had assumed he was under our very large coffee table. Wrong. He wasn’t down the stairs as I hadn’t heard any crying. He wasn’t up the stairs (he likes going up the stairs). Then I heard some knocking… He had crawled out of the family room, down the hall, around the corner, into his brother’s room and behind and door and was playing with one of Aidan’s cars. It was clearly deliberate (Aidan’s toys are always SOOO much better than his – and funny enough, if he shows any interest in his own toys then Aidan swoops in and relieves him of them as somehow they must be fun for AIDAN to play with) and I have seen him try to do the same maneuver again. Babyproofing will definitely take a different level with Quincy than with Aidan. Quincy is very attracted to electrical cords too. One of the good things about Aidan moving later (crawling and standing both started at 9 months) was that he also had more sense. He recognized an edge to a stair or landing as being a good place to stop and not fall over. Quincy does the much more typical behavior of heading right over…

Well, enough for now. We are enjoying probably our best Auckland weather ever this week. Mostly balmy & sunny. Lunch at seaside cafes yesterday and today. Where will we be next month? I don’t know…

Saturday, August 10, 2002

Queenstown day 2. After a leisurely start – Nanma & Pop had breakfast in hotel restaurant at 10 – we got in our van and headed back “downtown” to catch our 3rd boating day of the trip. I was going to say 3rd boat but we had 3 boats on our Doubtful Sound day alone! This time it was an old steamer – burns 1 ton of coal an hour – very attractive boat (except for the black smoke trail it leaves behind) with wood and brass etc. The Earnslaw I think it was called. What was especially nifty is that they left the center open down to the engine (?) room and you could even walk thru on kind of a horizontal ladder thing for a closer view – and watch the guys shoveling in the coal and tending the machines. Pop held Aidan up so he could look over the rails – they must have spent at least 45 minutes watching. I looked out the window (and opened the windows) and said hi to the birds perched on the escape boats at the sides for a free ride. Quincy liked them too. I don’t really know how long the ride was – an hour maybe? Maybe less. Across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm Station. A beautiful absolutely clear day – no wind on the ground either. At the farm a somewhat unassuming and rather amusing gentleman met our ship for the farm tour. He showed us some Highland Cattle (shaggy brown with horns) and some deer. We fed them if we chose with cow or deer or sheep pellets (really all the same thing). Aidan chased some ducks and picked up yet more sticks (his latest is “what can I hold in this hand?” – he can’t bare to not have a stick or stone in hand – and prefers that we also hold some of his offerings). Then into the house for some tea and finger foods. Quite tasty actually. I liked the thick toast topped with cheese and onions. After a bit of puttering time the “show” began. He called down his Strong Eye dog (looked like a Border Collie to me) and sent her up the hill to bring down some sheep. It was a mixed bag and we got to touch them and he told us some of the differences between breeds. Apparently Merino are only sheared once a year. That was the main breed on this farm as they had high dry land which Merino like. The Romany gets sheared 2x a year and its wool mainly goes to carpet manufacturing. Some other breeds are better for eating, some are decent for both wool and meat. And so forth. It was interesting. He then had the dog put on a show and bring down some other sheep from further up and direct them around a bit. Always fun to see. Next came the shearing demonstration. This guy was quite a bit older than the guy in Rotorua and certainly no where near as burly – but he made it look positively easy (almost). Then a quick time watching some spinning while in the gift shop and back to the ship. On the return trip the pianist played tunes to sing to – and had song books to hand out. So we returned to the likes of I’ve Been Working on The Railroad, Waltzing Matilda, Daisy Daisy and many others. We all agreed that it had been a good idea to take another boat ride after all. Wandered around Queenstown a bit then back to Winnie Bagoes for more of that yummy apricot chicken pizza.

We set off at around 10 for Dunedin. A drive of about 5 hours. We had plans to do a couple hours in the a.m. Stop for lunch and a playground and then finish up in the p.m. and hope both boys would nap then. A successful plan! I haven’t a clue what our stop was called – a tiny little town but they did have 2 “tearooms” and a park with picnic tables and playground. Quincy enjoyed standing and “driving” an old tractor or machine that was there in the playground as much or more than Aidan. You should have seen the grin on his face. Quincy is SOOO eager to stand. He is still mister wobbly legs, but he is happiest when standing. He can support himself pretty well – he likes coffee tables where he can prop himself on his forearms and still use his hands to play with Aidan’s toys. He is also using Pete & myself if we are sitting on the ground as props – he crawls over and then pulls himself to standing. I digress… We had mince and cheese (hamburger meat and cheese) pies for lunch among other things. Ubiquitous around here. Quincy enjoyed the filling. He is eating quite a variety of things these days. I give him celery sticks to chew on – thinking that he couldn’t get through them. Well he can’t, quite – he does get the ends down to just the strings so he has a little fan. Anyway, the drive was much more attractive than any of us anticipated. We passed by some lakes and a dam. There was interesting fog / low clouds drifting in and out of some valleys. We saw more snow peaks near the beginning of our journey and came close to snow line (although on rolling hills more than mountain peaks) after lunch in a wonderful shale outcropping area. We enjoyed the usual sheep and deer in the pastures. We went through fruit tree country. All in all very scenic. We headed into Dunedin just as the sun was going down. It surprised us with its’ size – it was a real city (although guide book says just a bit over 100,000 population), we had gotten used to small towns.

It seemed to be our coldest place yet! The wind was up and I am sure it must have been in the high 30s. Brrrr. We had a funny little motel and a room that hadn’t been updated in several decades – swirly brown carpet, avocado green things in bathroom etc. The kids and I were upstairs where we had 3 twins and a double to ourselves. No heat but electric pads on the beds… worked out fine though. We bundled up and walked down the street a few blocks back toward city center and had dinner at a Cambodian place – although I think it was just general Asian really – a lot of satays etc. Quite good and fast and we shared round our foods. Pop liked it so well he went back the next night. Dunedin is a big student town – the university was almost next door to us although we didn’t realize it for a while as we kept heading out the “front” instead of the back next to our unit. It looked like it had some very attractive buildings. There are also quite a few Victorian type residential buildings that reminded me a bit of SF. Thanks to the students there seemed to be quite a variety of restaurants – good and inexpensive – to choose from. The next day I spied an Italian bakery – Il Panifico I think it was. Scrumptious. We didn’t do too much wandering on foot as it was still cold the next day. Instead we headed off for Otago Penisula.

A small and very attractive peninsula just outside of Dunedin sporting a variety of wildlife – Albatross in nesting season (not quite yet), Yellow Eyed Penguins, Hooker Sea Lions, Fur Seals, Hectors Dolphins. Our goal was to see penguins. And New Zealand’s only castle Larnach (?). The road hugs the twisty coastline – and I mean hugs – you have a couple feet before you would fall in. We were impressed with the bus stops. Each little nondescript hut had been painted inside and out with murals – one would be astrology based, another would have a boat in the sea, another sea creatures, another lots of flowers, another Wallace and Grommet. Fun. After 45 minutes of stomache churning roads we decided to try to make for the castle. It was just as windy only now the road headed up steep pasture sided roads. We had some amazing vistas along the peninsula and coast. The castle was perched on the ridge at the top with views over the water in both directions from the upper floors. Aidan and I toured the inside – very nice – rather like a grand mansion. Apparently the castle had been left for ruin until 1967 when chanced upon by some ambitious fixer-uppers. They raised their 2 kids there and still own it although I don’t think they live in the castle proper anymore. They did a great restoration job. Seeing how Pete and I had trouble just stripping a bit of wallpaper and doing new baseboards and crown molding in one room – it wouldn’t have been a project we would have undertaken! The Dave and Quincy joined us for a very nice lunch in the ballroom next door. For $5 US I got a whole Hawaiian pizza for Aidan (he kindly shared with Pop). I had a Ploughman’s lunch (cheese, cold cuts, pickles, breads) for the same cost. I have expected the restaurants attached to “attractions” to be poor in quality and or expensive – but so far have found the opposite to be true. We have had some of our better or more interesting lunches at exceedingly reasonable prices at these places. Dave almost ordered the special of the day Hagis Pie – until I told him what Hagis was… ick. The guy who worked there said he had never had it – the smell alone was enough to turn his stomach. Dunedin has strong Scottish ties hence the Hagis. Phyllis took a “wee” nap in the car and recovered from the drive then joined us and had scones and cheesecake.

After fortification we headed off to drive to Penguin Place, about 40 minutes away further up the peninsula. We had been told the penguins appear around 4 p.m. so our tour was scheduled for 3.45. We pulled in just in time – followed by a big tour bus we had passed a couple of km before. The penguins have a colony on a private farm. The farmer in 1985 decided to set aside the land in trust and to have it run in a conservation manner – tag the penguins and also provide more / better habitat and set up blinds for people to come and view them to help pay for it. I am sure it is a nice money maker for the farmer at this point. There was a good turn out when we were there on a weekday in the middle of winter, and they said they have tours all day during the breeding season months when one of the penguins has to hang around and sit on an egg all day or tend to baby. They had 4 or so medium sized old buses that we loaded onto with our respective tour guides and off we went over the farm fields down a dirt track. Our guide was a woman who lives on an adjacent farm. In addition to us Websters there were 2 others in our group. Other groups consisted of whole tour buses worth of people so we felt very fortunate. Apparently these penguins spend their days in the balmy waters off Dunedin eating and come in to spend the night at their roosts with their spouse. The penguins find the water a bit warm and after they get out are quite pink under their wings and on their feet. They stand at times and spread their wings to cool off in the breeze. Guess a lot of their relatives like the water at 60 degree latitude and we were closer to 45 degree. They also like to roost under trees or bushes. There weren’t a lot of those around as I think they had been cleared in the past for farming. The society had built little triangle huts for them to claim. They also added a pond or two and had a whole bunch of very small trees planted (and protected from munching mouths). There was a series of blinds built – dug down a bit in the sand so that your eye level is only 3 feet or so about ground. Above ground there was slatted wood structure with sort of military netting on it. We did see a penguin wander by at only 6 feet away or so. I am betting they could see and hear us at times but they certainly didn’t pay any attention to us. The blinds worked well and we could follow an individual’s progress along if we wanted as they waddled over dunes and along tracks. It was a great experience to get so close and see them in their mostly natural habitat. We certainly saw natural behaviors. Our guide could identify penguins by their home location. One of the 1st penguins we saw was either Emma or Ed. She told us a story about old Ed… He is a father 14 times and grandfather 8 times. He was 1st married to Ann (I forget most of the actual names – or maybe I have changed them to protect the innocent…). After 6 years or so she didn’t come home one day. So time to get remarried. The next one too met with a fate unknown. Then came Veronica. Guess he didn’t really like her too well as he was off having an affair with Julie from another roost. Then he came home one day and beat up Veronica then moved in with Julie! I don’t remember if she kicked out her husband or if he did it… So then one day SHE didn’t come home… So now he is married to Emma. He married her at age 2 – and he an old man of 12! Who knew penguins could have such soap opera lives?! We got to see one couple cooing and billing or necking – I don’t know what it was called, but apparently not behavior often seen by us tourists. Also a penguin go in for a plunge in the pond. And a lot of penguin callings. Very cool. A very good day.

The next morning we had a tour of Cadbury’s chocolate factory to look forward to. I got Aidan all primed with his breakfast at the Italian bakery – banana and cream cheese panini (grilled sandwich) that they topped with shaved chocolate and served on maple syrup with a side of yogurt. It looked pretty good. Phyllis & Dave helped Aidan finish the plate (they had boring old scrambled eggs in fresh baked croissants). We parked by the old and very fancy railroad station (and had a quick walk thru) and off to Cadbury’s. A good time! Plenty of free samples although of their weird stuff mostly with marshmallow fillings etc. We had to wear hair protectors – even Quincy! He wasn’t so keen on the idea but did manage to keep it on. We mostly saw the stages of manufacturing where they are boxing and packaging things although we did see some DVD of the molten chocolate stage etc. I forget how many thousand Crunchie bars per hour… And tens of thousand of tons of chocolate they use. They have 3 or 4 silos filled with chocolate crumble waiting to be made into the chocolate they use. At the end you go in one and they open the flood gates above and this very loud gusher of chocolate comes whooshing down – over a foot in width and molten – cool. Quincy was a bit startled by the noise. He was also not able to take his morning nap thanks to the tour. He did great though. Aidan still doesn’t realize he didn’t get back most of those free samples he got… There was a huge warehouse as you might expect. And they are in the midst of making Easter candy – we saw the Crème Eggs and Hollow Eggs being wrapped. From June to January they make easter candy on one floor (out of 4). I don’t know why they stop in January. Ditto for Xmas candy although its months are obviously different. Then we hopped in our car and made it as far as the Botanical Garden on a bit of a hill above town. Nice. We had seen blooming Rhododendrons and Azaleas in town and hoped we would see them there too – they weren’t quite in bloom yet. Then it was time to head out of town.

Another very pretty driving day. We hooked up with the coast at times. We stopped for a late lunch at Moeriki Beach. They have these very large spheres on the beach. They are sort of like naturally formed concrete as far as I can tell – they formed under water then ended up embedded in the ground which one day became cliffs and eroded around them leaving balls on the sand… Too bad at high tide the water laps at the cliffs thus you can’t access them. We enjoyed seeing them from the restaurant and the beach access stairs. The nice ladies at the restaurant brought over a whole box of toys for Quincy to play with. Toys don’t really compete well against the lure of silverware and glasses of water to drink, but we tried. We did a quick drive through Oamaru. Dave and I were very taken with the town. The old section is all local limestone buildings. Very attractive. We also drove out to the point where penguins (little blues) come ashore – apparently they come in ½ hour after dark though. We didn’t wait around. We did check out the huge crashing waves on the breakfront though. Then onward to Timaru for the night. Our halfway point to Christchurch. We enjoyed seeing snow capped mountains again off to our left as we drove. The Southern Alps.

Friday, August 09, 2002

Motel rants and raves :
So far we have been staying in motels. I believe I mentioned that in NZ lexicon that means some sort of kitchen and often separate bedroom(s). So far so good. The usually very friendly hosts greet you with your little pint of milk (trim or regular?). We have deduced that these pints are for your morning tea. Then we are off to see what kind of accommodations we have stumbled upon this time. We have stayed at almost all 4 star places but that has varied wildly in amenities and ambiance. Te Anau’s Explorer Motor Lodge gets my vote for most spacious and well appointed. But back to my rants/raves… The first thing we do – after checking out what kind of lame heater apparatus they have this time and turning it on – is go around and close the windows! The Kiwis must have something about fresh bracing air. So far I think almost all places have either had windows open several inches or else have the windows on the second latch position of their latches – I am not explaining it well and it is a nifty feature except in winter weather i.m.o. Quite a few of the heaters have been the radiating type – ie you have to wait a couple hours before there is any appreciable heat difference in your room! However, electric blankets – or pads really as they are under you – have been standard and heated towel racks at about 50% of the places. All places but one have had a microwave in addition to a frig and stovetop. All have had cheese graters… Our Dunedin place didn’t even bother with shampoo – a first. A few have had spa baths. A couple places had showers that just had a curtain around them and a drain in the floor. Last night in Timaru our motel had the queen bed in the main downstairs room and then 3 twin beds upstairs – a first that there was no separate sitting area in a “2 bedroom” unit. It is also standard that one room have a queen (or double) and the other have twins – makes sense for a couple and their kids but not as great for us. Places have also varied widely in the amount of space available at a table for people to eat – everything to 2 persons to 6. No where has been particularly set up for easy internet connections but guess that isn’t too surprising. All in all I don’t think my expectations were met at a single place! Exceeded in some ways in a few places perhaps, but never what I expected from reading their descriptions in the motel book or from talking to people. Guess you need to ask A LOT of questions on the phone to really understand what will be provided. Of course the costs have varied widely too as you might expect – but I think some places have been double (and more) the cost of others. Oh yeah – I also noticed that on the (wet) west coast that every bathroom light was tied in with a fan (ie turn light on and fan goes on). On the (dry) east coast there are no fans at all in the bathroom.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Our weather didn’t hold – as predicted. We had a drizzly drive over to Milford Sound. We didn’t take advantage of the various trecks available from the road although we did stop off at one look-out for a while and at Chasm something – very near the sound – very attractive falls / rushing water that had carved holes in the rocks. Shortly after we arrived a whole flock of Asians arrived in about 5 different buses. We had a head start – but a toddler. Aidan was soon having his hair caressed and cheeks touched. There is something about my kids and Asians… A girl even took Quincy out of Pete’s arms – that lasted about 10 seconds until Quincy started balling at the top of his lungs. Aidan rather enjoys the attention and acts a bit shy and smiley. The same girl walked backwards a lot of the way so she could look at Aidan! In the parking lot we got to see 3 Kea birds – Alpine parrots (the only ones anywhere I believe living in snow country). They are quite large and were at the edge of the parking lot fighting over apples one of the driver was tossing them. Before we had gotten to Chasm we had seen several large handwritten signs saying “STOCK”. We speculated about them. Then we ran into – stock. Sheep to the left, sheep to the right, sheep ahead and behind. Dave wanted to see sheep – I think he can now say NZ has sheep! They were being moved to another pasture I assume and were being followed by a man in a truck (pulling one sheep behind laying down in a trailer) and a barking dog running after them. Other than us, the sheep and a bus coming up behind, it was just a lot of wild landscape. The last 7 km or so before you see Milford are in avalanche country and no vehicle stopping is allowed. Very steep slopes up to snow covered peaks. Hardly any growth established on the slopes. Various waterfalls all along. Then you drive straight into one of the mountains – and through in a 1.2 km long tunnel. Out on the otherside you see Milford Sound below and just have to go down a few hairpins turns and you are there. The rain had actually ceased falling by this point and we had pretty decent visibility to the tops of the mountains. We were with the same tour operator. This time on their boat that takes overnight tours in the summer. Very nice boat and perhaps less people than the previous day on a larger boat. We had signed on for a 2 ½ hour nature cruise. The nice thing about this tour is that it was much slower paced so you could stand out on deck quite comfortably. At Doubtful Sound we were mostly trecking along at a fast clip and it was breathtaking to stand out in most places. At Milford we got right up to the edge of the cliffs at places and came to a halt. They spent a while out in the Tasman Sea – very rocky motion from the waves – the fjords on the other hand are almost like glass in many places. Milford is the most northerly fjord, the steepest inside, and one of the smaller ones. Because of the steepness you could really appreciate the tree avalanches in all their states of regeneration – you saw a lot of places that had had avalanches. We had another picnic lunch while hearing some of the same commentary but also learning new things like that waterfall over there is 2 times the Empire State Bldg, 2 ½ times Eiffel Tour, 3 times Naigra Falls (in height) etc. Waterfalls are a dime a dozen. And you do start to have sensory over load of the ooh and aah scenery variety. We have seen a lot of very pretty snow clad peak scenes with farmland in front and often a river or body of water running through. Right at the end of the tour as we were heading back to the dock we got to see several seals creating and feasting on a “meatball” of millions (?) of tiny fish. Very cool. Several birds had joined in the fray too. Then an ice cream for the road and back to the motel. Aidan got to play on the trampoline a bit – he has gotten very fond of them and much more intrepid about his jumping since our arrival.
We were sad to be leaving Te Anau (I finally learned how to pronounce the name – after we left – tea a now. No inflections on any syllables). It was a small but attractive town on the lake and we had nice lodgings and easy walks everywhere and fun day trips.

Back to Queenstown. The drive back was actually much more attractive than we had expected. Surprise surprise. Quite a few deer farms in with the sheep farms. We had to drop Pete off to fly back to work so that he can finance my travels J We then decided to head out to our accommodations. I had booked us at a place called Nuggets Point a bit out of town toward the ski area. Up a bit into a steep sided valley/pass/whatever it is called. It is a resort and has restaurant, pool, etc – not just a motel like we had been staying at. Our room had more storage than we have at home in SF! It also was set up great for large families – nice queen bed in room with one wall all glass overlooking Shotover River below adjacent to bathroom and then kids room with 4 bunk beds then the laundry. There was another bathroom off the living /kitchen area (with same view in living room to water and mountain). Too bad we weren’t a large family with ma and pa and 4 kids! It actually worked fine. Aidan chose to occupy Quincy’s crib they had set up, I put Quincy in one lower bunk and I took the other. We went down to dinner the first night. They had set up 3 tables in the lounge area (fireplace, books, games, bar). We were the only occupants (thankfully). It was a slow dinner but very delicious. Dave tried venison for the first time and I tried rack of lamb. Yum! Aidan had what looked to me to be the best (most American) hamburger of our trip. They do weird things to burgers here – beets, eggs, you name it on top.

Next entry – boat ride #3 and onward to Dunedin.

Friday, August 02, 2002

I forgot to mention that at the Glacier look out that we walked to we had a little scare. Aidan has been enjoying getting up on walls, fences, benches, whatever and counting rapidly and a bit nonsensically and at some random number jumping into Daddy’s waiting arms. Well, he was up on the guardrail planning to jump. I got a bit too close to him, he backed up, oops!!! He was over the rail! Good thing that it wasn’t too high a fall in that place and onto grass or something instead of boulders. So we were able to reach down and retrieve him easily. We were lucky! He was a bit shaken but got back up and had his jump. What a bad game!

Our hotel was out a little bit on the way to Lake Matheson. There was an adjacent restaurant a few meters down the road we had a nice dinner at. Aidan unfortunately had a snit over wanting to choice where we sat and it took a while for him to be in a decent mood. I tend to let him chose where we sit at cafes but it doesn’t work for a whole crowd of people! I made good use of the spa tub – unfortunately in the morning I had a tub but then no hot water for a shower! Oops. Thankfully Nanma & Pop let me use their shower next door. We headed off to Lake Matheson. Unfortunately we seemed to have lost our great sunny weather. There is a trail around the edge of the lake in the rainforest with areas opening out to the vistas of snow covered mountains and Fox Glacier. It drizzled on us and the lake wasn’t crystal clear so we didn’t have the “view of views” picture of the mountains reflected in the lake that you see on the postcards and the highest/back mountains were a bit obscured, but we all really enjoyed the walk (1 ½ hours) and rate it highly. After a quick bite at the café at the trail head we drove a couple of km back to the Glacier. The sun popped out just as we were leaving to light up the top of the snow caps. I liked this glacier better – it wasn’t as grungy looking with gravel on it on the lower sides. All along the coast we have been a bit in awe of the river beds. They are absolutely huge. A little stream will meander through a stony (grey rounded usually) bed perhaps a couple of hundred feet wide. And we’ll see big logs strewn here and there. The force of occasional water outflows must be awesome. Apparently even the road at the glacier is rearranged sometimes by the water.

On down the coast we stopped off for another longish walk – to Monroe Beach. We were supposed to perhaps see rare penguins (Tamaki or Fjordland Crested) there – it is mating season. It was about 45 minutes to the beach. After the fact I learned that the penguins would probably be off to the side in the bushes or on the rocks. We of course stood in the middle of the sand… The sandflies were awful as noted in the books (we hadn’t really believed them). They were actually OK if you kept moving. Anyway, the walk was mostly just through rainforest – no views til the beach itself (which was very attractive). Nanma stayed in the car with sleeping Aidan – smart move! We proceeded onward to reach Haast right at sundown/twilight. Quite a miserable little motel I picked out for us at that location! Not that there seemed to be much better options. We ate at Smithy’s Tavern. Quite an experience. Not a vegetable in sight. I understood why the next day when I stopped at their “supermarket”. About 8 tomatoes, 2 red peppers, a pint or so of sweet potatoes pretty much constituted fresh food items. No apples or bananas. My burger was actually OK complete with beets on top. Pop wasn’t so convinced his steak sandwich (in buttered toasted white bread) needed beets on top. We did put away quite a few French fries (chips).

In the morning it looked a bit grey out. We backtracked a bit to Ship Creek beach where there was a ½ hour walk over the dunes – they kindly put up wooden boardwalk for us (the tracks here have been beautifully maintained) and then on to some lookouts over the ocean and a lake and some forest. A really great walk. We also just hung out and stretched our legs along the beach a bit. Nice. Back in the car we headed off for Haast Pass. To our surprise just a few km along the road the sun broke out – I suspect it was out there all day. It was out at the beach too but a km or so then inland was grey. We had a very nice drive through Mount Aspiring National Park and stopped at a few waterfalls along the way to ooh and aah. Had a nice picnic with views toward Mount Hooker and others with snow. Pete jinxed us by declaring “aah, no bugs”. So of course they soon came calling.

140some km along we made Wanaka town. We had a nice woodsy lodgy motel and all of us were rather impressed with the little town on the lake. The lake view was a bit clouded up – it appeared as though there was a fair bit of smoke from a fire down the lake a bit as we drove in. We are wondering what it was all about. Pete was pushing for us to remain there an extra night as the old bird in the hand… Had great dinner at Relishes Café. I had lamb starter in Dukkah spices over some fried noodles with sort of caramelized onions. Really good. Then duck compote on mushroom risotto with kumara sauce. Again excellent. I have also been enjoying very fine wine and last night tried a local Pinot Noir. Yum.

In the morning I kept the wee ones occupied while the rest of the gang had a nice breakfast in the motel restaurant. We then headed to lakeside (I detoured for savory muffin and mocha). Watched some fish fighting their way upstream. Aidan enjoyed splashing a stick in the lake and then playing in playground. We then headed to Puzzling World. What a great place to spend a rainy day. There is a lot of it you can do for free (we did) – tables set up with all sorts of puzzles – get the ring off the stick, tangoes (?), move pieces here and there kind etc. Too bad it was a glorious sunny day! We killed probably a couple of hours.

Mid-afternoon we decided to head to Queenstown via the high pass way – up about 1100 m. It used to be gravel but now is paved. We got to see lots of sheep (Pop got to NZ looking for them). Some even crossed road in front of us. Too bad we drove over big rock along the way… oops, started leaking gas pretty fast. At about 30 mph you could see a definite line behind us… A pretty drive though through mountains and Aidan finally got to get out and crunch in a little snow – a desire for weeks. This is where Pete smelled the gas… Fortunately our rental company About New Zealand had a Queenstown branch and we had a cell phone and they told us to stop off at the Mobile in town. The guys there had us patched up in under an hour and we toodled around town down by the lake and had pizza at Winnie Bagoe. Apricot, smoked chicken and cream cheese pizza no less – very yummy! Nice restaurant too with a couple of fires, lots of wood, casual. We all weren’t so impressed with Queenstown as we drove in – much bigger than Wanaka. But it seems quite attractive down near the lake – which is perhaps a tad prettier than Lake Wanaka. So we’ll enjoy going back in a few days to check it out some more. Everyone here we have talked to has oohed and aahed over Queenstown. Even President Clinton had an hour of sunlight left for our drive to Te Anau – our home for the next 3 nights. That was supposed to be the scenic part of the drive – along the lake. It was very attractive.

Te Anua I can’t comment on yet – seems about size of Wanaka or a bit smaller. Our accommodations get great marks though. The Explorer Lodge. A spacious 2 bedroom with spa tub and full kitchen and a dining room table to seat 6. Even tastefully decorated and nice china.

It is now Friday evening. Phyllis and Dave are out at dinner while we put the boys down and wait our turn. Aidan had microwaved frozen mac’n’cheese for dinner with some added veggies and cherios (sausage). I decided to let Quincy try a piece of pasta – he had finished all he’d eat of mush. Boy did he gobble it up! And then as soon as you would put his spoon down to the dish he would open up his mouth wide and wait impatiently. He is coming along really well with eating more solid food. He also takes bites right off a whole banana. I noticed his 6th tooth (upper left) yesterday. He uses all those teeth to take big chunks out of whatever you give him so we have to be careful that we don’t mind that he eat what we give him…

Te Anua is beautifully situated on Lake Te Anua surrounded by snow capped peaks. Even prettier than Wanaka or Queestown in some ways as it is a bit smaller lake / the mountains seem closer. We didn’t have a lot of time to appreciate the town though (I ran to the supermarket and grabbed a couple things from a bakery) as we had to leave at around 9 for the Doubtful Sound cruise. The weather was glorious here although it clouded in quite a bit as we got closer to the coast, we did see glimpses of sun all day. The drive to Manapouri Lake was very scenic – mountains in background with sheep or deer in the foreground. We loaded onto our first boat around 9.45. There were supposedly 36 of us and the boat holds 150 (and I got the feeling that in high summer season it does). The first boat ride was about 45 minutes long to the other side of the lake where the DoC (Department of Conservation – they do a great job) Visitor Centre and the Power Plant were. After a quick look around we boarded the bus. The only reason there is a road to the fjord (which is what Doubtful Sound really is – carved/created by glacier) is thanks to the Power Plant. They buried the plant and then pipe the water out 10 km to the Sound – and I believe that all manufacturing stuff was imported from the Sound, hence the road. Anyway, as this is all National Park, there is essentially nothing there except a Hostel on the other end for school kids. The bus goes over Wilmot Pass (I think) and has good views of the rainforest and surrounding peaks and quite a few waterfalls despite the lack of recent rain (snow melt I assume). The driver did a very nice job of commentary all day – on the boats too. We then boarded our Doubtful Sound boat for a 3 hour cruise around the Sound and into a couple of the ones branching off it. Our first view of the Sound from the bus was great – it was laced with low clouds and very pretty. The boat is set up with long comfortable benches to seat 3 across on either side of a table. Perfect especially as there were relatively few people so we could spread out if we wanted. They slowed down and stopped the boat at various points to tell us things. They have tree avalanches there – there is really no top soil – just lichens then moss then interweaving roots. Some of the trees grow out at right angles to the vertical cliffs. Come a heavy rain or snow – poof – off a tree goes and since it is so interwoven with it’s neighbors, they go to. You can see large swathes carved out of the vegetation on the cliffs just starting to regenerate. Fascinating. Unfortunately we didn’t hook up with the dolphins or any penguins. We did head out of the sound into the Tasman Sea (next stop Australia!) and saw a colony of seals hanging about on the rocks. It got to be a much rockier ride out there. There were areas of the Sound that were glass smooth. And when the motor was turned off – awesome. Then back on the bus. This time we let off Phyllis, Quincy and another lady and baby and the bus headed down the road to the Power Plant. 2 km along and about 70 stories down there we were. We walked thru the cave/tunnel into the generator (?) room where they had some good information displays as well as the view to the generators of course. The plant was built in the late 60s – and thanks to public outcry there was no raising of the Lake we had come over on and the Plant was buried. Really minimal environmental impact. The driver pointed out along the way the 30 year growth versus old growth. It still had a ways to go but at least it was all green! I was surprised to read that the Plant was essentially built to power an Aluminum Smelting plant. Hmm. I was also interested to read that as early as 1904 the Lake was recognized as a potential energy source. Then back across the Lake and home to our lovely motel for the last of the daylight.

Tomorrow Milford Sound. I am afraid our weather luck may be running out.