The Left is Right Down Here Tour!
Posted: February 3, 2013 by lgarstad in Uncategorized
January 31, 2013
Another SDG Adventure has begun!
The good news…we’ve arrived safely after a grueling 30 hour, 5 leg trip. The bad news…we’re spending our first night in Christchurch in jail. MOM! SEND BAIL MONEY! It’s hard to say exactly who is at fault, but there was something akin to the Inquisition at New Zealand immigration. Was it the dirt in the treads of Marv’s tire treads? Judy’s contraband carrots? Jamie’s dusty hiking boots? We’ll never know for sure, but we’ve ended up at the Jailhouse Accommodations, a prison turned hostel when it was decommissioned in 1999. Tables made from the former cell doors and cozy rooms c/w barred windows add to the ambiance of this unique hostel. Lyle’s not sure he’s happy about single beds, the cuddle factor is questionable!
Travel to this beautiful place was uneventful, luggage followed miraculously. No sharing toothbrushes! No renting gently used bike shorts!
Seatmates were a delight, save for the gun-toting Californian that Carol struck up a conversation with. However, his unique perspectives were tempered by a Fijian police officer that Carol chatted with for the 10 ½ hr light from Los Angeles to Fiji, and now she has an invitation to a 3 day Hindu wedding this August in Fiji.
The Kiwis are super friendly, and the weather is second to none. We have a couple of days to acclimatize and we’ll continue to blog as the adventure allows.
We hope you’ll follow along as wind our way through Middle Earth and find all of its “precious” treasures!
Marv, George, Judy, Jamie, Carol & Lyle
747 we spent 14 hours flying on!
Says it all!
Didn’t your mother tell you to never wear horizontal stripes!
First Day KiwiLand!
Posted: February 3, 2013 by lgarstad in Uncategorized
After a good night’s sleep we woke up this morning in Jail. Jet lag, was happily not an issue for anyone so we got an early start and spent the morning walking to and through the downtown area to check out the rebuilding process following the earthquakes in 2011. There are cranes and men working hard and the rubble is now in a small and shrinking area. The Old Cathedral remains closed with an uncertain future. We enjoyed brunch in a coffee shop, there are a great many coffee shops that help knit the social fabric of this country. It is also interesting to see many small shops everywhere we go, the bIg box stores are not part of this culture. The people go to the butcher shops, small hardware stores, fish shops, and the like. There are very few fast food outlets and it is obvious that the people here have a much healthier lifestyle than our own. There is no slow food movement required because that is just the normal way of things. There are many cyclists on the road and an active lifestyle seems to be the norm not the exception. Reminds me of Canada in the 70’s without the bad clothes and hair.
The afternoon was set to get our cell phones (2) sorted out, pickup our bikes from the rental outfit, and come up with a solution to our trailer problem. The company we rented our Van and trailer from gave us a trailer that would barely hold our luggage and we needed room for our 8 bikes as well. After frantic phone calls and driving around to other rental companies we sourced a trailer that allows us to store the luggage etc in the bottom, AND it has 8 bikes racks on the top of the trailer…Brilliant! The fact that we got it done about 5:15 Friday afternoon with shopkeepers wanting to head home for the weekend…more Brilliant!! Then we were off to Fiona and Kim’s house for a BBQ. Fiona is Nikky’s sister (Our group met Kiwi’s Mike and Nikky in a Trattoria (bar) in Italy during our 2008 cycling trip in Tuscany. They are the primary reason we are here as during our visit they invited us to come cycle New Zealand and they would show us around) and when Fiona heard we were coming to Christchurch she invited us to a welcome to New Zealand “Barbie” at her house. We were welcomed by Fiona, her teenage sons Hugo and Alex, her Brit friends Tony & Karen (a chef and Gastronomme), and John a very keen cyclist who was a key source of information and advice for Marvin. Fiona’s husband Kim joined us midway through the evening after returning from a business trip in Wellington. We feasted on Burgers, Steak, and Lamb with fresh salad and veg, finished off with Pavlova for dessert( amazingly, a first for Carol) a great meal. Kim & Fiona own a vineyard and there were many bottles of their 2011 Pinot Gris and Reisling emptied throughout the evening. Great conversation and storytelling had us comparing life in our two countries. Alex (16) told of his experience during the 2011 earthquake and being the first to come home, only to find his house destroyed. Amazing hosts, new friends and an awesome evening.
Your scribe, Lyle
Fiona & Kim, Karen & Tony
Marvin’s Perspective on Life (as told by Lyle)
Posted: February 6, 2013 by lgarstad in Uncategorized
Friday Feb 2nd
Our good friend Marvin has had a challenging start to the trip. He ended up getting in to Christchurch a day behind schedule due to flying on standby and getting stuck overnight in Auckland. He finally checked into the BBH (Back Packers Hostel) in Christchurch and relaxed for the evening on Wednesday. Thursday, the day we arrived he jumped on “The Hoss”, his bike and rode out to Brighton Beach for a look see and then rode across town to the bike rental place to confirm our bike rentals and then rode to the rental outfit to pick up the Van and trailer he had rented for our 3 weeks on the south island. 4 hours or so on the bike without sunscreen= pretty severe sunburn for Marvin on his arms and neck, he currently is blistering and soon will be shedding like a snake. Thing is, this is not the first time. He does this on a regular basis.
He met us at the airport and away we went to the hostel with he & I talking about how small the trailer was and what we were going to do about it. That morning at the hostel Marv had to move rooms and as it turns out he left quite a bit of stuff behind in his old room. First there was a near cardiac arrest as at our check-in Marv needed some BBH membership cards that he had for each of us to get the preferred rate. Off he goes to his room to get the cards only to come running back white as a ghost saying he has lost his satchel with all of our documentation, itinerary, routing etc. for the whole trip. Literally dozens if not hundreds of hours of his work and it was gone. He tore his luggage apart looking for the satchel and then came back to fess up to the clerk that he could not find the cards. In telling his story he mentioned the missing Satchel and the clerk said one had been turned in earlier that day. Hallelujah!!! He was saved. I am sure it took an hour for his heart to calm down. Turns out at the same time he also lost the dress shoes he needs to fly on standby as well as his hiking boots, though he did not become aware of this until a couple of days out of Christchurch. (He called back to the hostel and they found them in the lost and found and agreed to keep them off eBay until we come back to Christchurch at the end of our south island visit.)
Friday morning started behind schedule as the time needed on Thursday to deal with changing trailers etc. meant we had to do our grocery shopping Friday morning before we hit the road to north to Anakiwa. The plan was to drive north to Picton and then ride the Queen Charlotte drive (20km), reputedly one of the nicest rides on the island, from Picton to our hostel in Anakiwa as a warm up ride. Away we go and then about 50km out of town a dashboard light saying “A/T Oil Temp” comes on. We pulled over and checked the engine and all looked fine the transmission fluid was full. We called the rental company and the lady on the line said not to worry it was not important and we could keep going. Away we go and 20km later Judy notices one of the bikes was loose on the trailer. We pull over to fix it and while the guys are tightening it down the girls, still in the van, hear a ratcheting noise. When we go to jump in the van to hit the road we notice a river of engine coolant flowing under the van. Major problem! More phone calls and demands for a new van to the rental agency and their emergency road service people finally result in a “new” 1998 van being delivered about 4 hours later. Off we go again and drive north. It soon becomes apparent that even though the speed limit is 100km per hour, due to road conditions (twisty turny) and traffic, the best average speed we will manage in this country is about 70km per hour. Marv has done a ton of work planning the schedule for our rides, transfers etc, with an expected 100KMH travel time. (As the lady on my Garmin GPS Says, “Recalculating”! Bottom line is that due to breakdown and travel time we did not reach Picton until about sunset (9pm) and missed the opportunity to do the day’s ride. Some of the group was grateful for this as driving the route showed that it was a serious climb for about 10 km and would have been a very challenging (to say the least) warm up ride.
In summary, Marvin’s first 3 days on New Zealand were very interesting and suggested that he will be busy keeping this train on the tracks as we tour along.
(Writer’s note), I was hoping that Marv would write this blog entry. As his “My Thai Toilet” entry (See the Thai Wun On Blog) proved he has an amazing way with words and is able to paint a much more humorous picture for you than I can. Please encourage him to take to the keyboard if you would like to hear from him.
With a smile on my face!
Sunscreen is your friend!
Locked, loaded and ready to roll!
A bad start to a great trip!
Not a great place to breakdown.
Enjoying a nice picnic while waiting for our new van!
Wet and more wet!
Posted: February 7, 2013 by lgarstad in Uncategorized
February 3rd & 4th
Sunday started out beautiful if a little late as we slept in due to a late arrival at the Anakiwa Backpackers hostel. We had a leisurely breakfast as Marv called the Kayaking company to push back our departure time from 8:30 to 10:30. Hanna showed up to collect us and take us down the road to their shop to get outfitted in skirts, lifejackets, and hats for our grand adventure. We signed the standard consent forms and loaded up to return to the beach right outside our hostel for orientation on our kayaks and away we went. We had a great six hours of paddling up the Queen Charlotte sound with our guide Russell. He and Hannah are Brits working for the summer here as Adventure guides and they were great fun. Russell was very knowledgeable on the flora, fauna, and critters and continually kept us going with stories and anecdotes. We were able to paddle right up to 3 different Fur Seals, those things have huge teeth, basking on the rocks, we saw 3 different types of cormorants, and numerous other seabirds like herons and gulls. It was hot and wonderful on the water. We stopped for a shore lunch and a swim before we made our way back to the hostel about 5pm. I then jumped into the water with my snorkel and explored around the jetty near the hostel. I pulled up Starfish as big a dinner plate to show Marv & Jamie as well as Sea Cucumbers, clams, black mussels and some huge “green lipped mussels”. This region is famous for these mussels and they are quite delicious. After we cleaned up we went into a town called Havelock to the “Mussel Pot”. This spot was recommended by Hannah and Russell for dinner as a lower priced restaurant with good food. Good it was, but being lower priced is subjective. Bottom line is it is very expensive here in NZ. We ordered a $15.50 plate of Calamari for an appetizer and the amount on the plate would have fit in one hand, about 2 pieces per person. George had a $18.50 Chicken Burger and Marv had Fish & Chips for $22.00. Good thing we did’nt go to the higher priced spot recommended by the Hostel owner. Oh Well, you can’t take it with you!
We woke Monday to rain and diligently got ready for the first ride of the trip. As we rode away from the hostel the clouds were low, the rain was coming down, but it was warm. Even though we were completely and totally soaking wet we did not get cold. The terrain was similar to Italy with steady uphills and downhills as we wound our way through the sounds towards Nelson. A good steady pace enabled us to reach our primary destination, the “ Pelorus Bridge” ahead of schedule however the rain meant our ride was over as an optional 40km extension (shortcut) over the pass to Nelson was deemed too dangerous. 39 km for day one was good enough given the nasty weather. We happened to meet up with a fellow cyclist during the ride. Johnny is a 35 year old Brit 3 months into a 5 month cycling tour through Southeast Asia and New Zealand. He rode the last 15km of the ride with us, was equally soaked, and we offered to haul him and his bike to Nelson which he gratefully accepted. He is a great guy with interesting stories of his travels. The guys decided to treat the girls to a nice dinner in at the Hostel and cooked up Bruschetta, Sautéed Chicken legs, Roast potatoes, Squash, followed up by Marv’s special dessert (Ice Cream). Time was taken to dry everything out and get ready for tomorrow.
Faithfully Transcribed by Lyle
Jamie getting wet!
A Friendly Fur seal!
Sun deck at the Anakima BBH. Awesome!
The end of our first ride!
Pelorus swinging bridge!
Our Brit Friend Johnny!
Green Lipped mussels, delicious, right George?
How Sweet it is!
Posted: February 7, 2013 by lgarstad in Uncategorized
The rain continued Monday night while we slept. Things were very wet when we woke up. We prepared a standard breakfast, Fruit, yogurt, cereal, coffee for the addicted, made up the sandwiches, fruit and veggies for our picnic lunch. It is much more convenient and nourishing to pack a lunch than hope to find a restaurant on the road when we are hungry, not to mention a heck of a lot cheaper. That brings me to the topic of groceries. It is amazing how expensive groceries are in this country. Ground beef is $16.00 per Kg, Avocados were $2.49 each and those were grown in NZ, eggs are as much as $6.60 per dozen of you want free range. Overall I am sure the prices are at least 30% to 50% more than at home…Craziness!
Anyway we were ready to go and hit the road, driving that is. We drove to St Arnaud against a stiff headwind and then jumped on the bikes. The rain was finished and the sun came out and we had a swweeeeettt 32km downhill pedaling most of the way but at speeds of 30-35 KMH followed by a difficult 12km uphill against the wind and a crazy steep 3km uphill (I had to walk almost ½ of it)on gravel before a beautiful graveled downhill along a power line through four river(creek) fords before we again hit the pavement. In total we had a wonderful 73km day in the saddle before we reached the lovely town of Murchison and spied the Lazy Cow BBH, a welcome sight . Then the bad news hit, Marv shared that we had a 2 hour (166km) transfer to Hanmer Springs where we were staying that night. There was talk of mutiny as we were all tired and not interested in 2 more hours on the road. Marv was lucky that while not one person wanted to do the transfer, out of respect for him we all kept our mouths shut, climbed in the van and headed out. (As a side note, the reason for the crazy schedule was that Marv had to switch our planned ride/transfer because the heavy rains had made a shortcut over the mountain to Hanmer Springs unsafe to drive without a 4 wheel drive vehicle.) We finally pulled into the “Jack n the Green” hostel about 8pm, checked in and went looking for a meal. As it was so late when we finally hit the hay we again decided on a late start and were at the Thermal Hot springs at 10am the next morning for a pleasant soak. 2 hours of relaxation later (with Marvin continuing his sunburn habit as he burnt his back while swimming) we packed up and started our 2 hour, 166km drive back to Murchison (yes a complete backtrack from the day before) so we could finally check into the Lazy Cow BBH. About 50km out of Murchison we dumped off the bikes and started our ride for the day. It was an overall pleasant if undulating ride in the sun as we rode into town. The terrain is beautiful, have I mentioned how much it reminds me of British Columbia? Another late check-in followed by a late dinner disallowed any evening socializing. We really have to get our schedule straightened out!
On a further side note I must say that overall the hostels have been a great experience. While a couple of them have been very large and too darn busy, most have been small, quaint, and very full of character. It is a special treat when one of gets an en suite bathroom.
Godspokingly yours, Lyle
PS. You will be glad to hear that others with wore writing talent than I will be contributing to the blog. I believe Jamie will be posting Thursdays entry. Wooo Hoo
Judy, the pied piper of Lake Rotoroa!
A Kiwi Lawnmower!
Hanmer Hot Springs!
Maruia River Falls! Created by the 1929 Murchison 7.8 Earthquake
Cruisin into Murchison!
PRUNES AND PRIVACY
Posted: February 10, 2013 by lgarstad in Uncategorized
February 7, 2013
A vacation is not always entirely about a destination. The most meaningful parts can come in little snippets of experiences, knowledge and lessons acquired along the way. Mostly lessons about oneself mixed in with experienced gained from the location you have the pleasure of meeting for the first time.
Some lessons are merely refreshers of something you knew and enjoyed in a simpler time. New Zealand reminds me of that. This is a culture that has not been swallowed up by the prepackaged promise of a faster and happier life. Kiwis seem to still be able to find the pleasures of life easily as I was reminded on a water break as we set out from Nelson Lakes on route to Hamner Springs. Small family campers reminiscent of those of my youth are the norm here. These units lacked complexity and are often personally customized by the family they house as they enjoy their summer holiday together. As I stopped for water I met Marshall. He was a young bloke enjoying a camping trip with his family on the last few days before he set out to grade 4. We chatted with Marshall’s dad for awhile. He gave us the low down on the upcoming kilometers ahead. As we chatted, Marshall easily offered me some of his sausage sandwich. I told him I was from Canada. He told me I sounded exactly like a teacher he had long ago in grade 3. Her name was Sarah. Did I know Sarah from Canada he asked?
Prior to meeting Marshall however I was previously reacquainted with simplicity in Christ church when I enjoyed my first meal with Marv, Judy, George, Carol and Lyle. A few avocado and tomato slices on a piece of whole grain toast never tasted so good in the sun in the company of friends. A wonderful experience does not have to be complicated.
After travelling for a few days the fact that some of the things we take for granted, when they come to a screeching halt, can cause havoc. An easy North American solution would be to reach for a pill for the promise of overnight relief. My mother’s practical preaching’s offered the simple solution – prunes. After purchasing some in bulk I had forgotten how delicious they were and within days all of nature’s ebbs and flows were restored. A simple solution to a very restrictive problem.
Lessons about me are learned from something unexpected. Distress started to percolate by the time we got to Murchison. I was beginning to realize that the hostelling experience was becoming overwhelming. My privacy was being compromised nightly. I am shy and I have discovered at this point that I cannot socialize for 24 hours. This is something I did not plan for. To most probably, this wouldn’t be an issue. To me it was becoming a real problem. I gently tried to explain this to the group, worried very much about hurting the feelings of others. I told them I needed time to be alone and that perhaps privacy is more important to some than others. I discovered that friends will accept, respect and accommodate your differences no matter how odd they may seem.
So by the time we finish up in Murchison I have enjoyed 3 nights to myself. I’m happier and better able to enjoy this fantastic opportunity. My travelling companions have supported me in getting my needs met. Nothing personal really means nothing personal. It is a great relief.
Our second day in Murchison found several of us apprehensive about the day’s activity we were about to partake in – white water rafting. To my surprise not only do I reluctantly commit to go but all the rest do also. This 4 hour trek along the Buller River is led along by Tim. His knowledge of the ever changing river and the elements that compose and surround it are presented in interesting vignettes whilst controlling a raft full of 6 Canadians. Tim tells us tales and facts about gold miners, pink quartz, farming, livestock, and earthquakes. Low and behold we float by the fault line of the Murchison earthquake of 1926. I can say floating over a fault line is a first for me. Tim is not a Maori person but is proud to speak their stories and knowledge. He says he would be described by the Maori as one who knows the land. I agree. He makes me want to know more about these people. He takes my fear of the white water away. Love of all water returns. Safe to say that fun and excitement were had by all. The biggest thrill for me being the go ahead by Tim to jump in the river and freely float in the Buller
Tonight the hosts of the Lazy Cow Hostel are preparing a gourmet meal so perfect that Marv dons a dinner jacket atop his formal t-shirt. He has the lamb which he thought he had ingested days before for the first time in his life. He was very relieved at Fiona’s when the lamb tasted like the pork – turn out, it was pork. He never chose the pork at all. The meal at the Lazy Cow is perfection. Many of the items come from the host’s garden.
We leave our mark on Murchison as Carol and Judy design a logo for the concrete pizza oven under construction at the Lazy Cow. This logo will be tiled later by the hostel host’s daughter. As our time in Murchison comes to an end I can say that I learned as much about this part of New Zealand as I did about myself.
To recap a few things I picked up or reacquainted myself with:
– Prunes are good for your poopie pipes
– Good friends will ask you few questions about your quirks but will assist and support you in doing what you need to be comfortable
– If you push past your fear you may just enjoy yourself while free floating down a river over a fault line
Avocado and tomato in the sun!
White Water Rafting on the Buller River
Facing Our Fears
Pleased With My Privacy
On the road to Murchison
Where the Left is Right
Posted: February 12, 2013 by lgarstad in Uncategorized
February 8 &9, 2012
Wow, Ms. Simmons, you are a hard act to follow! I lead a much more, shallow existence-not too many deep personal insights from me, but then again I am on vacation. First of all, greetings to my favourite Grade 2 class at Caledonia Park School who have been faithfully following my journey. Wow, your painting of the continents was magnificent. Ms. Grace is teaching you so much about the big world that we live in. It was cool to see the views from the space station. Things look much different from here.
When we left Murchison, Jamie was eager to take her turn driving and in her honor I re-wrote a song for the occasion (sing to the tune of Carrie Underwood’s-Jesus Take the Wheel.) Here goes…for you Jamie…
Let me take the wheel
Take it in my hand
Think that it’s my turn to drive
I’ll stay on the left
I won’t try to turn around
Still I can do this on my own
Let me take the wheel.
In the absence of a full time support driver we have all agreed to take our ‘turn’ behind the wheel, a little unnerving for us Canadian drivers to drive a van, towing a bike trailer, on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. We are mostly travelling on very narrow, 2 lane highways that include one way bridges where you frequently must ‘give way’ to oncoming traffic. (Still haven’t figured out how it was decided who should have the right of way.) So, Jamie “took the wheel” for the first 30 kms out of Murchison, at which point we traded out drivers, myself, then George, alternating for the rest of the day until we ended the ride in Westport. Jamie joined Marv, Carol and Lyle, who toughed out the ride into Westport and completed a Century ride (100 kms) for the day. The town of Westport (pop. 5000) was a very busy place as they were preparing to host a large marathon run the following day. Thankfully we were not planning to stay overnight, everything was full. Our short transfer took us to the seaside town of Punakaiki, on the coast of the Tasman Sea. We were able to join other travelers on the beach to watch the sunset (all 4 minutes of it). That is how quickly the sun drops below the horizon of the sea.
Unfortunately for Lyle his long biking day resulted in severe muscle tension in his back making it very uncomfortable for him to sit, bike or even walk. Needless to say he was game to ‘ take the wheel’ the next morning. Our morning transfer led us to the famous Punakaiki Blow Holes and Pancake Rocks where the limestone rocks have formed into what looks like stacks of pancakes. When a good tide is running the water surges into caverns below the rocks and squirts out in geyser-like blowholes.
From there it was on to Greymouth, the largest town on the west coast of NZ with a population of just over 10,000. Lyle took the opportunity to look for a chiropractor or a massage therapist, but to no avail. We soldiered on, stopping for gas at a small gas station where Marv thought it would be nice to ask about the weather forecast. The young girl behind the counter was quick to report that “if you can’t see the mountains it is raining and if you can it’s not”. Those ever helpful Kiwis, eh?
Marv even tried to bribe them by sharing our Hawkins cheezies, or maybe he was exploring the possibility of starting an import/export business, since they are only available in Canada. Not a bad idea.
Our day ended in the delightful town of Franz Josef, a resort town adjacent to the Franz Josef glacier (reminiscent of Banff). I think Marv has big plans to try and talk us into a helicopter ride to the glacier tomorrow, but we’ll see about that!
Van and trailer ready to go
One way bridge
Blowhole at Punakaiki
Carol and Marv exploring the pancake rocks
The “Sweet As” Tour…Renamed!
Posted: February 16, 2013 by lgarstad in Uncategorized
February 12 & 13 2012
(We skipped the 10th & 11th as Marv wanted to do the post for those days however he has been unable to make the time to get it done. Therefore we had decided to move on and hope he will get his post done at a later date.)
“Sweet As” is a phrase that is turned quite often down here. The Kiwi’s will say that as an answer to a question, an exclamation, or for no reason at all. To them it means good, great, awesome, I’m happy, Etc. We as a group have decided that this best represents our tour of New Zealand so we have taken the phrase as the name of our tour.
Shane, the host at the Franz Joseph “Chateau Franz” Hostel must have said “Sweet As” at least 15 times per hour, he was a very happy, and very busy guy. His hostel housed up to 140 people per day and on our second day on Franz Joseph he had only one helper to turn around all the beds, change linens, clean bathrooms, answer the phone, answer questions from guests and check out and check in guests. He ran for the whole 12 hour shift he worked. I hope he gets a piece of the profits. This leads me into a quick side note about our hostel experience, it is quite varied. Some of the hostels are awesome, small quaint places with friendly hosts, some are terrible as they are filthy, broken down and too big. The best thing about them (besides the cheap price) is the opportunity to meet other travelers and swap stories. Carol & I have decided that it is fine in the hostels if we can have a private room, however the dorm room option is not for us. Thankfully, through proactive work we have mostly had private rooms with a few nights of dorms shared with others in our tour.
The 12th had our group travelling from Haast to Wanaka. First off we drove for an hour or so until we reached the top of the Haast past, and then Marv suggested that we take a quick hike to the lookout. Off we go for a little hike, A MONSTER PUKING HIKE more like. I am not sure what the elevation increase was in feet but it was 30 minutes of switchbacks with at least a 15% grade. It was a great warmup for climbing on the bikes and riding down the Pass towards Wanaka. The ride was a series of moderate ups and downs as we cruised to and through the Hawea Lake valley. From a scenic point of view this is my favorite ride so far, absolutely gorgeous. The rich hued blue water is contrasted by the sloped green pasture up the hills to the mountain peaks. While not as high or dramatic as our rocky mountains the overall image is fantastic. I will include a picture below however, sadly a picture does not do it justice. The 82km ride ended up at the Mountain View BBH in Haast, a very small town, one store and two restaurants ( the restaurants share the trade as one is open through lunch and the other for the afternoon and evening). The next day we were off on a 69km ride to Wanaka with the first 30km uphill. Jamie toughed it out for 10km and then joined us in the Van, exhausted. Stubborn Marv kept going (25km total) and we cheered him on as he creaked into Cardrona a quaint little mining cum Ski hill stop on the highway. Marvs instructions for us were that the summit of the pass would be 5 km past Cardrona so as he kept riding we drove to the summit and then jumped out to ride down to Queenstown. NEVER LISTEN TO MARV!!! Carol & I made it 5km before we gave up, the reality was that the real climb did not start until 5km past Cardrona and then there was a very serious 7km climb that only George completed and even he had to walk his bike a few times as the wind was blowing him backwards. We all waited at the top and had a picnic lunch inside the Van as it was so cold and windy, eventually Marv finished the ride to the top and he commented that he was sure that he could have walked the last 2km faster than he pedaled, again due to the wind. Now the payback for the hard work. An 11km downhill into the Frankton Valley on the way to Queenstown was steep, fast and full of hairpin turns, I loved it! That left a 20km into the headwind cruise into Queenstown to end the hardest day of cycling so far. All bow to Marvin, he rode the full 69km that day and proved to us that he is in fact, not human!
Jamie coughing up a lung after the Haast Pass hike!
- Trick riding during lunch break.
View of Lake Hawea. Awesome!!!
Quaint Cardrona Hotel!
Lunch at the Summit!
Look who joined us in Queenstown! Sandy, put down the knife!
Sports Balls, Maori Calls and Heart-Stopping Falls
Posted: February 23, 2013 by lgarstad in Uncategorized
Time to explore Queenstown! Off we went to check out the sights and find a coffee (which has turned into an expensive and delicious hobby). Wandered along the waterfront and made friends with a giant kiwi. Pretty sure this isn’t to scale, but kiwis are nocturnal and we have yet to see a live one, so who knows?
A beautiful kiwi bird on the wharf.
Sandy and Murray had checked out the park and found the Queenstown Bowling Club, so naturally we decided to have a go. Not a soul to be found on the greens or in the clubhouse, but there was a closet of a room where we were able to self-register, get shoes and grab some balls.
How can this game for old people be so tough? It’s a cross between bocce ball, curling and five pin bowling. And yet I could not seem to hit the jack or keep the ball inbounds. I will blame it on my lawn bowling shoes, which were too big for me! Yeah, that’s it!
That Marv, ever the romantic at heart, booked a romantic evening for the group. Yes, Valentine’s Day is best shared with those you love. Off we tramped to the gondola dressed in our best and conquered the hill in our cozy gondola pods and were treated to the most amazing view of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. We opted out of the luge and opportunity to mountain bike down the hill and headed for the Maori cultural show where we were entertained by strong Maori warriors and maidens, singing, playing guitar and showing off their fighting skills. Then came the call for audience participation and Sandy and I jumped at the chance to learn some dance skills. Have you ever seen a dance with poi balls? Not as easy as it looks, I can assure you! There was some concern over knocking the person beside in the head with our oversized marshmallows, but disaster was avoided and Sandy and I may work on a routine and take this show on the road!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Look out, Sandy! I’m gonna bust a move!
Next up were our guys to be instructed in the fine art of scaring young children and warring enemies by doing the Haka. Eyes bulging, tongues sticking out, it was like a parenting nightmare gone wrong. Not only were the boys encouraged to make faces, they also shouted their intimidating Maori call, slapped their thighs and stomped their feet in the hope of frightening unwelcome visitors and avoiding war. Had I unexpectedly come across this sight, I most certainly would have turned tail and run. Although Marv, dressed in blazer and bow tie, was most debonair in his presentation. Nicely done, Marv! Please ask any of the guys for a demonstration when we get home, as they seem happy to show it off at a moment’s notice!
There’s always the question of “How are we going to top that?” on these trips, and following up lawn bowling was no easy task. But the discussion was had and the decision was made to fling ourselves off the world’s highest cliff jump from a perfectly good platform jutting out over a 109 meter deep canyon the next day.
One by one we made our way to the edge in our very snug and cozy harnesses. Our jumpmaster, Rob, had a way of making me feel comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. Here I was, putting my life in his hands and he’s kibitzing with his coworker about who was supposed to have hooked my carabineer to the rope from which I was about to dangle from. We are not amused. Following my nervous laughter (why can I never cry at a moment like this?), I was pushed down a slide and sent on a big, scary 60 meter free fall ( can’t remember much about that, too busy letting out a warrior cry) and then swinging 200 meters over the Shotover River. Wheeee! Jaime followed, also being pushed off the slide (I guess she figured if I survived it, it might work for her, too). More screaming, eyes closed and whooping at the bottom. Fearless Judy walked right off the edge without a peep. Murray and Marv, doing a little sideways hop off the platform in the Pin Drop, hands behind their backs and looking the canyon and death straight in the eye and laughing at it. Lyle, dangling over the canyon while doing the Haka (boy, did he get a look from the jumpmaster!) and plummeting downwards. We had so much fun than no one opted for a second go. Great fun, seriously, and they even provide clean underwear, should you require it.
Careful, the first step’s a doozy!
No day in Queenstown would be complete without a stop at Fergburger’s for one of their world famous burgers. They sell about 2500 a day, so they are doing something right. They are also open 21 hours a day, so there’s always an opportunity to indulge. We’ll be raving for weeks!
Love at the Fergburger!
What better way to finish off the day that with a beer and taking in a rugby game? We got to see a pre-season game between the Dunedin Highlanders and the Auckland Blues and had a cracking good time. Thankfully, there was no bone cracking in this game, although the Highlander fans were disappointed by a loss. We also supported a Kiwi ice hockey team making plans to head to a tournament in Canada next year. Who knew ice hockey was popular here?
A couple of busy and adrenaline packed days in a fun city!
FJORDS AND FRENCH TOAST
Posted: February 28, 2013 by lgarstad in Uncategorized
Be careful of your behavior while travelling. You just never know who will meet . . .
After an early start in Queenstown we grabbed a $10 breakfast at a wonderful pub where the service was feisty and the food fantastic. Ten bucks is a good deal for a breakfast in New Zealand – Even Marv had enough to eat. A tip was warranted in a country where you don’t tip – I think the price of food and the included 15% tax might already look after the tip? Food ain’t cheap in this country.
As I quickly walked to the ferry terminal for our early departure to Walter Peak Station, I glanced through the window of a bar just in passing. There I saw a familiar back of a head. I took a chance and banged on the outside of the window. The man turned around and low and behold it was my friend, Mike McMullen, from Leduc. Mike was in New Zealand fishing. He had been on other bike trips with Marv and me. I knew he was there but never ever thought I would see him even though I must say I looked for him at every stream and river we came across. The planets aligned, I took a chance, and there was my friend. Mike walked me to the wharf and it was a thrill to see him and Marv reconnect in Queenstown.
The ESS Earnslaw was a coal fired ferry that carried everything from sheep to people for the past 150 years to Walter Peak Station. Walter Peak Station was a huge livestock operation and we were able to watch a sheep shearing demonstration (which we coincidentally missed). Also there was a dog herding demo, deer with big horns, alpacas, and puppies. The funniest thing however was free. Have you ever heard a bus load of Chinese people calling sheep? Priceless. I’m sure they are saying the same thing about the round eyes as they write there blog tonight.
Marv and George had driven the van around from Queenstown to Walter Peak Station (3.5 hours) the night before so it would be there to meet us on the other side. George kept Marv awake by feeding him by hand, melted Eatmores and Hawkins cheezies from his never ending supply. Apparently they had to pass over many dusty roads as the van was engulfed with dirt upon our arrival.
Gas stations are not abundant in rural New Zealand and this was as rural as you could get. We were worried we would not have enough gas to get to the next town. Marvin finessed his way to a gas connection. We were introduced to Regena. She worked on a tremendous livestock station nearby and said we could buy gas from her. When we entered Saint Nicholas Station we drove up to the owner’s house. We should have known there might be some difficulties when Marvin asked her if this was Starbucks and she didn’t crack a smile. After we got the gas and paid Regena, the owner approached and scolded us and Regena in a very awkward conversation. We gave Regena a bottle of maple syrup for her generosity. Pancakes will likely never look the same to her – sorry Regena – yikes.
After a long drive over many km’s on a gravel road we stopped at Mooeva Lakes. My good friend in Leduc had warned me about the leeches in New Zealand. She asked me if I had ever seen that special scene in the movie Stand By Me. I told everyone they were swimming at their own risk as I would not risk the leeches nor would I perform any leech removal operations. Just like in a movie we happened upon a boy scout leader who assured me there were no such things in New Zealand and the lake was safe. The swimmers were into the lake without any prompting for a very refreshing pause.
Marv choose to ride from Marvora Lakes to the hostel. He had no takers for bike travel companions as the road was gravel and we feared the potential of hills – this gang doesn’t mind going down the hill but coming up them is a different story. This allowed us to bet for or against Marv in his absence as to when he would arrive in Te Anue. He would never be the wiser. Winner got to choose their bed at the hostel that evening. Carol took the cake.
We were greeted in Te Anau by our hostel hosts Bob and Maxine. This was a 5 star hostel – I know one when I see one by now. No pee on the floor –hot dog! Bob graciously welded Marv’s broken bike. Let me tell ya – this weld will hold.
The next day we awoke to French toast prepared by the Murray. We packed up and headed to Milfred Sound. We sailed on the Sinbad (appropriately named for the ‘Church People’). We were greeted by Captain Dennis and essentially had the ship to ourselves. The Captain had a fondness for the ladies and let them all take a turn at the helm. The men were not offered the same privilege. We had gorgeous weather – the scenery was spectacular and the passengers were entertained by a beautiful rendition of The Love Boat sung over the PA by Marv and myself. Captain Denis allowed Marv to ring the ship bell. This meant that Marv had to buy the entire ships passengers a beer – He somehow escaped that?
One final thing about the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand before I go. The country may not have leeches and pesky mosquitoes as in Canada, but neither pale in comparison to the carnivorous Sand Fly. These shysters are sneaky and leave a welt the size of a New Zealand $2 coin. It was mentioned several times in passing, that only the females bite – yada yada.
We returned to Te Anue via the Hollyford Valley. Along the drive there is a tunnel. According to Marv, if you You Tube it, you will see a number of creative alternatives as to how to travel through it. Because of logistics we unable to ride through the tunnel – This was really the only time I saw a sad Marv on the entire trip. He had his heart set on biking through the tunnel. We returned to Te Anue and had a wonderful Chinese dinner, got groceries for the next day’s jaunt.
Murray’s New Appendage
Sweet Pea grabbing some love.
Judy and George at Milfred Sound
Our wonderful hostel hosts, Bob and Maxine
Rail Trails and Curling Tales
Posted: March 5, 2013 by lgarstad in Uncategorized
Kia Ora Friends,
Seems we are having a difficult time keeping up with the blogging. From time to time we get distracted by everything else we need to do, or just with vacationing! After leaving Te Anau we drove to our next starting point, somewhere along the Otago Rail Trail. Along the way we picked up a young hitch-hiking couple, English boy and German girl. It was rather cozy in the van but we had fun visiting with them along the way to Alexandra, even stopping at Cromwell to take a group photo in front of their large fruit statues. We off loaded the bikes at Omakau and started down the rail trail. Jamie drove, paralleling our trail on some pretty dusty country roads. It was a warm, sunny afternoon and a couple of us traded off biking until we ended the day in Ranfurly at the Old Post Office hostel. Shortly after our last exchange Marv discovered he had a flat tire so he limped along the rest of the way pumping it up from time to time to make it to the hostel. He had a challenging time trying to patch his tube, finding out that most of the tubes of glue that were in our patch kits were dry.
Group photo with our new friends at Cromwell
Official beginning of the Otaga Rail Trail
Lyle cruising on the downhill (?) of the Otaga Rail Trail
Our hostel host spoke to us about something we might consider doing in nearby Naseby. What is so exciting in Naseby you might ask? Well, Naseby is the home to the only full time curling club in the Southern Hemisphere! No self respecting curler (and their friends) would miss the opportunity to see and play at this rink. So bright and early the next morning we took the short drive, donned the complimentary touques, gloves, sliders and grippers (wearing our biking gear of course) grabbed brooms and proceeded to play a lady vs. gent 2 end game. (Are you wondering if we kept score? Of course!) It was a blast, but since I usually curl with about four more layers of clothing, two ends were enough! The club manager took us for a tour of the ice plant and the upstairs lounge. It is just like any other club anywhere we’ve been. They average about 100 people a day that stop by to play a few ends or a casual game. The Greer’s were also quite tickled to see their name as a league team displayed above the scoreboard!
Jamie gets some on-ice instruction at the beginning of the game
The Greer’s immortalized in NZ curling
Does this look like winning form???
February 19th was to be our last cycle day, starting at the top of Dansy’s Pass and travelling over some gravel, some pavement and a section of the Alps to Ocean trail that ends in Oamaru. It was quite a warm day (41C) and a rather long ride (82km) that ended with a late supper in Oamaru before a one hour transfer to Timaru. Unfortunately we did not take the time to try and see the penguins in Oamaru and to date have not seen any.
The ‘Sweet As…” ladies ready to role down the Dansy’s Pass
Sandra with a great view of the pass before her.
Judy’s chin boo-boo after a crash on an uneven bridge.
The next day was scheduled as a long transfer day to catch the ferry that would take us to the North Island. We roused early, trying to get into Christchurch to drop off the bikes and trailer and collect the rest of Marv’s gear that somehow got left at the Jailhouse. We made good time, even managing a stop in Kaikoura to catch another look at the fur seals. Our ferry ride was smooth and uneventful but by the time we taxied to our hostel in Wellington we were ready to call it a night.
The next day was a ‘free day’ in town and we all took the opportunity to see Wellington on our own. From cable car rides, to museum visits, strolling down the boardwalk, browsing the shops, salsa dance lessons, catching a movie, and eating as much gelato as possible….we all experienced a busy and exciting Wellington.
Great view of Wellington from the top of the cable car route.
“Mount Doom” Anyone?
Posted: March 6, 2013 by lgarstad in Uncategorized
Friday was another transfer day but this one was a little different. We were up early and caught a cab (van) to the Wellington Train Station. We were travelling on the Northern Explorer (kind of like the Rocky Mountaineer from Edmonton to Jasper) from Wellington to National Parks Station. The train was very nice and when you looked down into the toilet you couldn’t even see the train tracks (Italy and Thailand). The trip was uneventful other than the amazing scenery and Carol’s and Sandy’s snoring.
On the train in Wellington
About 6 hours after leaving we pull into The National Parks Station, marshal our luggage, call the hostel to come pick us up, yes this hostel had a complimentary shuttle, and while we are loading our stuff into the shuttle van who happens to drive up but our old friends (and saviours) from Orvieto Italy, Mike and Nicky Andrews. For those of you who don’t know, Mike & Nicky are Kiwis who we met on a particularly challenging day in Italy (2008)and they quickly put all 17 of us under their wing by inviting us over to their small 2 bedroom rental flat and feeding us an awesome home cooked meal of Chicken, Roast spuds and veggies. This was just what we needed as another meal of pasta was too much too stomach. Anyway they are amazing people and as we ate and drank wine and visited with them in Italy we bonded and they made the mistake of inviting our group to come cycle New Zealand, their homeland. It took us 4 years to put it together but we made it and it is safe to say our New Zealand trip would not have happened with their encouragement.
National Parks Station
Our own Train!
Mike was kind enough to drive our north Island rental van down from Auckland while Nicky got to drive her sexy Maxda MX5 convertible. This was a big favour as it was a long 5 hour drive. Carol quickly slipped into the sports car for the ride to the hostel and boy did those two ladies look good going down the road.
“Sweet As” ride
We all loved the hostel, a small one that seemed much more like a motel, a welcome change. The young couple (Zeus and Andrea) that owned and ran it had a super cute little 2 year old named Cody that the ladies fell in love with. We decided to do a BBQ with all the fixins as all were tired of restaurant meals at this point, a great idea until we hit the only grocery store in town and it was tiny with almost no selection. In the end we cobbled together a delicious meal of Bruscetta, Chicken Thighs, Mikes special stewed veggie salsa, sautéed carrots, and baked potatoes topped off with Marv’s Ice Cream surprise. Nicky has worked most of the last few years in the wine business and she brought some amazing NZ wines for us to enjoy. I especially grew to love the Pinot Gris. Definitely have to make a kit or two of that in the futureJ
Zeus & Cody
Mike opening a gift of Canadiana from the group
Good food, good wine and amazing friends
We were here to hike one of the top ten hikes in the world (according to Marvin), the Tongiriro Crossing. We were told it was a 6 to 7 hour hike so we decided to beat the heat and start early. We were on the road by 7am and starting the hike by 7:30. It was a pleasant start however about 1.5 hours in the steady climb turned into a steep climb and even a Billy goat climb for a while. The terrain varied from level ground to stairs, boardwalks, rocks and boulders and even very slippery Scree. We reached 1900 meters at the top of the summit and the group agreed it was a much tougher hike that we had planned on.
Fresh & ready to go
On the trail
Marv looking for a pinkle pauser spot!
That being said we skipped a side trip up Mount Ngauruhoe (also known as “Mount Doom” as it starred as such in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) which was an insane additional 3 hours of climbing some of which was on hands and knees, so it could have been worse.
At the summit looking at the Emerald Lakes
Surveying his domain!
Some of us skipped back down to the base in good time while a few others limped home with an assortment of bad knees & backs, blisters, sore feet etc. When we got back to the hostel around 3 pm there was much story swapping while drinking delicious ice cold beer to celebrate our success. We had a lot of fun visiting, reminiscing about Italy, telling stories and getting to know Mike and Nicky much better. It was an awesome two days.
Amazing Kiwi Friends, Sulphur Springs and Glow Worms
Posted: March 6, 2013 by lgarstad in Uncategorized
Yet another transfer day as we drove from National Parks to Lake Taupo. The difference is we had built in tour guides in Mike and Nicky. Murray jumped at the chance to join Nicky in the MX5 (affectionately known as Dafy) and he had a huge grin on his face most of the day as they cruised around the countryside. Mike rode in the van with the rest of us and acted as navigator and commentator. Mike is part Maori and his family has a large integrated farm on the west side of Lake Taupo. They have cattle, sheep, deer, a large dairy operation, as well as an interest in a greenhouse, worm farm and a Geo Thermal power station. It was very interesting to have him explain his family history as we drove through the farmlands near Mokai where he grew up. We were blessed to be taken to his mother’s home for a visit. Lila is a wonderful lady who welcomed all of us with big hugs; even Jamie who is hug averse gave her a big squeeze. Lila busied herself making us coffee, tea, and putting out cheese, crackers and various snacks. She was a sweet and wonderful hostess and we all loved her. Mike took us to see and then welcomed us to the family Marae in Mokai, a privilege indeed.
Lila, back row-right hand side
As we pulled into Taupo we found ourselves at the High School where we met Louise (LOU LOU), Mikes sister in law. She is an administrator there and when she heard we were coming to New Zealand she emailed Marv to offer to put us up in the school “Marae”. A Marae is a Maori meeting house, a sacred place and it was an honor to be able to stay there. The Marae is a big open room and the walls are covered with totem like carvings of ancestors and important people from the tribe. Some were quite scary and Jamie was a little nervous about sleeping in there. No shoes, food, or drink are allowed inside the Marae and the sleeping arrangements were communal with thin foam mats for a bed. This is how the Maori sleep in the Marae when they have a big meeting, funeral etc. We were able to use the school showers in the morning however we had to be up and out of the buildings by 8:15am as the students were due to begin their classes and the Marae is used by the students every day.
Our home in Taupo
Tia, the Marae at the High School in Taupo where we slept
We had first met Louise and her husband Rick during our Italian dinner at Mike & Nicky’s flat. Rick unfortunately passed away last year and Louise has decided on an adventure and is moving to Scotland later in March. She was very kind in that she took Monday and Tuesday off from work and offered to act as our tour guide in the Taupo area. She also had us over to her condo a few times while we were there and was a wonderful hostess. She is a great lady!
Louise, with a friend at Agro Venture Park
Monday morning had us spit up into two groups. Very high on Carols bucket list was a visit to “Hobbiton” and George, Judy, Marvin and Louise joined us. Located on the Anderson farm in Matamata, Hobbiton is the where the hobbits lived in the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as the Hobbit movie. It is a real place (as the pictures will attest) and it very very cute. Peter Jackson scouted it by helicopter when first planning the filming and chose it because of a massive pine tree (the “Party Tree” in the movies) that was growing there. We walked all around the set, checked out the hobbit gardens, Bag End, and various other interesting tidbits. We finished up with a pint and a snack at the Green Dragon Inn. Most evenings after a busy day we sat around as a group had a drink and visited. One thing we would do is share what our favorite part of the day was. My favorite thing that day was the huge smile that Carol wore during the Hobbiton tour; she was a happy, happy girl.
Off to see the Hobbits
Which way to go?
Beware the giants!
Welcome to our Hobbit Hole!
The Tree above Bag End is fake and cost the movie 1 Million dollars to build.
The rest of the group was taken by Mike & Nicky around Taupo looking for water to jump into. If you know Murray and Sandy, you know just about any little puddle will do. They got a special treat that morning though as Mike took the group to a natural hot pool on the family farm. The afternoon we all met up in Rotarua, about an hour from Taupo, at the Agro ventures park. Most of us wanted to ride the “Sweeb” a human powered (pedaling) monorail system. There were two Sweebs so we had ourselves a little race. Carol started off by beating Mike by 3 one hundredths of a second, much to his chagrin and Nickys delight. Murray and Sandy faced off in a friendly match with Murray winning. Lastly I took on Marv. We rocketed out of the starting gate & I blew a shift(went from 2nd to 1st instead of 2nd to 3rd) so he got way ahead on the first lap, I got my stride on the 2nd lap and gained on him through the third lap even though I thought I was going to have a coronary, however it was not to be, he beat me by a solid 3 seconds and if I remember correctly posted the fastest time ever for a polish female. Good for himJ Larry, our illustrious recumbent rider would have loved it.
Marv preparing to Shweeb!
We want to ride our Bicycle, we want to ride our bike…
Watch me and learn, grasshopper!
The evening had us booked into a Maori “Hangi”, sort of like a Luau. Chicken, Lamb, Beef, Potatoes and other veggies all roasted in an underground pit. There was a Maori cultural show that had dancing, singing, Haka, and some story telling. It was very well done and quite informative. The dinner was put on by the Mitai family and they did a great job, a good evening was had by all. Louise had the quote of the day, when I asked what she thought of the Hangi she said it was well done and that all she had ever been to in the past was a “real one”.
Supper is ready at the Hangi!
Maori warriors in thier “Waka” canoe
Tuesday started early again and we packed up our van and went to a thermal geyser national park near Rotorua. The whole Taupo area and especially Rotorua is a big volcano waiting to erupt. In fact 26000 years ago lake Taupo which is the largest lake in the New Zealand was created by a massive volcanic eruption(explosion) that is said to have been more than 50 time bigger than Mt St Helens. We walked about the place and saw lots of thermal vents etc, however due to the largest drought in 20+ years the thermal activity was way less than normal. Then back to Taupo where Carol & I went shopping and the rest did a trek to Haka falls and along the way Murray and Sandy again found some natural hot springs to soak in.
Haka Falls hot pool
Geyser near Rotorua
We bid a farewell to Louise and hit the road for Waitomo Caves hostel (2hr drive) where we spent the night before our under ground Glow Worm cave tours the next morning. The Waitomo Caves distric has about 500 known limestone caves of which about 300 have been fully mapped out. The Greers, Marv & I chose the 5hr adventure tour option that started with a 27m rappel down into a Glow Worm cave (this one was about 8km long) followed by some scrambling upstream, floating downstream, and hiking back upstream including going through some very small holes and crevasses. Along the way we would turn out our headlamps and be treated to the glow of what had to be many thousands of glow worms. In fact if you let your eyes get used to the cave for 15 minutes or so we were told you could read a newspaper just from the light of the Glow Worms. To end the tour we were tied of to a belay line and we had to rockclimb back out of the cave. This, the last activity of our trip was by far my favorite. The others in our group decided to take it easy and did a 3hr blackwater float where they walked into and out of the cave and floated on inner tubes while looking at the Glow Worms. They all said it was just right for them. We would up the day by driving to Auckland to again meet up with Mike & Nicky.
Dressed to kill at Waitomo
Marv Rapeling into the cave.
Cave Diver Lyle
The Definition of “Great Hosts”
Posted: March 11, 2013 by lgarstad in Uncategorized
Feb 27th-March 1st
Our time in New Zealand was coming to an end. We left Waitomo Wednesday afternoon to make our way to Auckland. We had booked into the City Garden Hostel for the last two nights however while in Taupo Mike & Nicky very generously offered to put our group up at their home in Auckland (Déjà vu anyone?)
We made our way to Auckland and over this massive bridge to their place in a beautiful beachfront neighborhood in the northern part of the city. They met us on the front porch with open arms, cold beer, and an amazing welcome meal. These two can really cook and we enjoyed wings and sushi to start followed by roast Lamb, BBQ chicken, veggies and a wonderful salad. We had a four hour meal paired with more of New Zealand great wines that ended with some dancing around the kitchen. A highlight for me was getting to see George try, AND ENJOY, Sashimi. For those who don’t know him he has a very conservative palate (which has proven to be a challenge as we have traveled to exotic countries with even more exotic types of food. (It can very difficult to find a cheeseburger or chicken fingers in Thailand). To watch George eat raw fish, and go back for more was awesome & I expect him to be much braver next time I ask him to join me in trying something new for dinner.
Mike Cutting Sashimi
George eating Sashimi!!!
We bunked down and let me tell you these were by far the best hostel beds we have slept in so far. The view was incredible, bathrooms were clean, the showers were hot, there was ice in the freezer and the laundry machines and the WiFi were free. We love this Hostel!
Thursday morning started slow for a few of our party, in no small part due to amount of wine consumed, though we hit our stride with Nicky leading us on a brisk walking tour of her neighborhood down to and along the beach front for a few kilometers. We ended up at her favorite local spot, Paper Moon, for lunch and made our way back for a leisurely afternoon before heading downtown to have a special farewell to New Zealand Dinner at the Sky Tower. Along the way Mike spotted the sail from New Zealand’s Americas Cup sailing vessel sitting in the harbour near the Sky Tower. We stopped to watch the crew lift the boat out of the water and remove the sail so they could store it away. Nicky happens to know one the crew from the boat and she called him on her cell and he came over to talk with us and answer a bunch of our questions…very cool. The sail is not fabric but carbon fiber, titanium, and plastic and is much more like a wing from an airliner than a sail. It was 130 foot high and has allowed the boat to reach 40 knots or 75km/hr. That is a little faster than the Hobie Cat I sailed in Mexico.
Getting advice from a local fisher-woman on the pier
Man about town!
Boat that flies!
We had dinner at the top of the Sky Tower and were able to enjoy the 360 degree view of Auckland and the harbour as the sun set. Louise was able to make our invitation to join us for the dinner and 3 Kiwis and 8 Canadians all had a great farewell. The buffet menu was mostly seafood (very good in my opinion) though I do believe that was the first buffet that Marvin has ever left hungry from. He and George would have done much better at McDonald’s. Back home after that to have a final visit with Mike and Nicky as they both had to leave early for work Friday and we were to be off to the Airport for our 2pm flight to Nadi, Fiji. We finally made it to a winery as we stopped at the Villa Maria winery on the way to the Airport. Wine tastings just prior to a flight are definitely recommended.
Auckland Sky Tower!
View from the Sky Tower
At Villa Maria.
Farewell to New Zealand!
Our friends Mike & Nicky are two very special people. Their kind, generous and fun loving nature makes it easy to love them. Like most Kiwis they love life and are quick to laugh, unlike most people they have been willing to open their home and themselves to a large group of Canadians, twice, and put up with all our eccentricities and foibles. Good on ya, Mates!
Mike & Nicky Andrews!
Thank you so much for everything you have done for us, without your invitation we would most likely not have had the privilege of exploring and enjoying your wonderful country. Please do take us up on our offer to return the blessings.
SDG Adventure Group
Marvin, George, Judy, Sandy, Murray, Lyle, Carol & Lovey (Jamie)!
Nipple Warmers and the Metric System
Posted: March 11, 2013 by lgarstad in Uncategorized
Blog Editors note! Our Illustrious leader was way too busy trying to keep the bus/bike on the road for our trip to have time to allow his creative juices to flow and write for the blog. The amount of work he put in to plan and organize this trip (he did it all by himself) was huge, and for that we all thank him from the bottom of our hearts. He is a mensch! Please grab a cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy his lack of sleep/coma induced ramblings. Hopefully they entertain you as much as he entertained us over the past 30 days.
Musings by Samuel S. Oh’Night you’re travelling companion( I know you’ll get this one Carol)
Wow! Just got back into town late last night only to discover I forgot where I parked my truck and when I did find the dog gone thing the battery was dead. The adventure seems to continue even when you think it’s over.
I left Fiji late yesterday and I arrived almost the same time on the same day, you gotta love that international date line thing, but the actual over 24 hours of transit getting back is not something I relish. I do often ketchup or mustard it though? (sorry, lack of sleep) I have had some time to ponder the last 30 days during my recent travel legs home sitting next to a wonderful, short but full figured Indian Lady in the spacious confines of Pacific Airlines seating, I believe it is called “The special Hanoi Hilton seating” similar to the rooms of the hotel of the same name during the hay days of the Vietnam era. I’m not entirely sure but because of the close proximity to my seating partner, you couldn’t help but snuggle, I think I may have inadvertently become a very close relative according to some Indian custom I was unaware of. I also can’t explain why I have recently acquired a strange appetite for Buttered or Tandoori chicken, that and the fact that I now believe I am engaged to this ladies third daughter has my mind a spinning but I am also strangely looking forward to meeting my future Indian dumpling.
Getting back to the story, I thought I might throw in my two cents worth as I did promise Lyle I would contribute to the blog. Although this will be ex post facto (I had to look it up too) I’ll see what I can remember and share some of what really actually (that ones for Dad, Mike) happened as the stories often change over the course of time. Since I can’t remember what I had for breakfast some days, some of the facts over the last thirty days might become a little blurred and I will apologise in advance for any inaccuracies.
As I glance back at many of the blog posts I am reminded by my brother and our cousin the value and enjoyment they received from the updates of Team New Zealand 2013 and how it was a great way to follow along on our little adventure. It got me to thinking that I may have dropped the ball in regard to contributing as everyone else took the time to record some insights into their personal reflections and my obvious lack of follow through with Lee Lee (AKA for Lyle, ask him to tell you the story).
I did manage to make some cryptic notes for the days I was responsible for but never managed to get them typed for a variety of reasons, none of which probably hold much water. So let me take you back, way back, way way back almost 30 days to a land down under. Scratch that, I mean way back to a land next to a land down under called Aotearoa and is pronounced Ah Tee Ah Row Ah and is Maori for “the land of the long white cloud” or also known as New Zealand. Ok, for a moment there I thought you may have forgotten where all this stuff happened but now that we’re both on the same page here it goes.
In recollecting some events you often want to block out the less desirable stuff that happens but often they seem to be the best stories. So let me begin by recalling my better understanding of what a “Hole in the Ozone” means. Yes I was reminded by the group as they arrived that it was mentioned several times in our many pre-briefing meetings the importance of sun screen in this part of the world but I figured I had a great base, looking like a pale fish from the “Great White North” and figured what could really happen in about three or four hours of a semi-overcast day. Well let me confirm to all reading, the Ozone Hole apparently is not some propaganda made up by the sun screen manufactures, you do in fact burn much faster and can achieve a wonderful fire engine glow after only a few hours of exposure in this part of the world. A theory I was able to examine and confirm on a more personal level achieving the ooh so sought after scalded look. I barbequed my arms and hands and managed to burn two horns into my forehead as the sun found its way through the vents in my bike helmet, a subtle reminder that sunscreen good, sunburn bad. Let the molting begin and really what would an adventure holiday be without another round of second degree burns to prevent any kind of sound sleep for the next foreseeable few days? On the plus side, it was mentioned that the yellow travel shirt I break out for these events was wonderfully accentuated by my glowing red arms and pronounced horned forehead. Okay, that was day 1.
Here’s your sign!
The next thing I remember was the gang arriving at the airport and our immediate “go to jail” card being drawn. We stayed the first couple of days in Christchurch at an old prison converted to a hostel in the last few years. I had a few mishaps as I was transferred to another cell forgetting some personal items in the transition. The lost articles were recovered and as inmate #8675309 I found the innovative coed showers very progressive and prisonee. I found it very interesting that soap on the rope was issued to all incarcerated, probably to avoid any unforeseen incidence, and then I woke up (sunburn related).
Go directly to Jail!
Marvs Jailhouse Room
Moving on to leaving Christchurch and the wonderful transportation respite we all had on a New Zealand highway for 4 hours in the scorching sun. The van was moved into the shade as best we could just before it died and then we all enjoyed many hours in the lovely New Zealand country side waiting for the replacement vehicle as I passed the time talking to the nearby cows wondering where I lost my stuff in the jail and urinating on as many bushes as I could find but this time armed with sunscreen. Just a quick side note that I’d like to pass on is that electrical fencing is not to be experimented or toyed with and it is has become apparent and evident to me that water and electricity DO NOT mix, nuff said. As I slowly sauntered back to the van contemplating my chat with the cows (no, they didn’t talk back) and new found respect for electricity, I remember the conversation of constipation being discussed by the van crew. Now, usually it takes a few more days to get that intimate in the group setting but we were setting some speed records in the being open department and less so in the moving down the road department. With the van being broken we all had a chance to visit a little longer and get to know each other a little better. All I know is that in the days to follow it was quoted about prunes that “I coulda’ had two, but no… I had to have ten” became our group mantra as we all lightened up in the days to come in more ways than one, nuff said.
Lookin for a Ride!
Next, I seem to remember our first cycling day as it was in the rain toward Nelson. Now ironically, Nelson, New Zealand has the most sun days per year statistically in all of the country and it so happened that it was the one day in our 30 days of travel that it rained the whole day in a country suffering the longest dry summer in over 30 years, go figure? During our ride we encountered another cyclist from Scotland by the name of Johnny, or was it Scotty from Johnnyland? No, it was Johnny from Scotland who was cycling self-contained (all the stuff he needs packed on the bike) who had just come from cycling south east Asia (Thailand, Laos and Vietnam) and it was the first time he’d seen rain in over three months. Imagine his luck? He was just beginning his New Zealand ride, as were we, and it was great to have him join our little bike troupe for the day. He did seem to get a bit annoyed at me when I continued to ask him to say “Dylithium crystals” and I think that at my 7th request he would no longer say “I’m giving the engines all they’ve got captain” but it was fun while it lasted. He did manage to share a story from his childhood in between my continual requests for his impersonations from Star Trek (that one’s for you Larry) that went like this.
Eager to ride in the rain??
It would seem that Johnny had a new teacher in his youth that was trying to make use of her psychology courses from Uni (A little New Zealand 4 yah). She started her class by saying, “Everyone who thinks they’re stupid, stand up!” After a few seconds, Little Johnny stood up. The teacher said, Do you think you’re stupid, Johnny?” Johnny replied, “no ma’am, but I hate to see you standing there all by yourself!”
I know you’re probably thinking what I thought. Is this guy the real Johnny? I’d like to think it was. Safe travels my Scotties little softy (a Charmin aphorism).
My next recollection brings me to my second confirmation that the ozone hole is for real. I went for a dip in the Hanmer Springs hot pool with about 20 different pools of varying degrees to pick from. I particularly enjoyed the 36.6 pool over the 38.8 pool but then by an act of nature accidentally adjusted the temperature to 37 degrees Celsius (or 96.6 degrees Fahrenheit) all I’m sayin is thank goodness for chlorine and it was an accident. Nuff said.
Soaking the boys!
The pools were covered above by grand tarps and umbrellas to protect swimmers from the sun, but noooooooooo, I had to enjoy the sunshine and crispified (New Zealand dermatological term) my shoulders and upper back just so that I could keep my record intact of burning myself every few days. I was just beginning to start sleeping as the swelling in my hands and the blisters on my arms were beginning to subside as well as that constant stinging feeling when I discovered that one apparently needs ones back to sleep on at night and I was continually reminded of that fact for the next several days. Did I mention the hole in the Ozone layer down here? Remember, sunscreen good, sunburn bad!
Let`s see? I’ve covered the Ozone thing, let the molting begin, losing stuff, Johnny and the Dylithium crystal thing, the miraculous pool warming a few degrees. What else? Oh yah! Constipation and prune connection. So far New Zealand has definitely set a new standard in adventure.
Which brings me now to Franz Joseph, famous for the glacier of the same name and named after the Austrian Emperor and also adjacent to Fox Glacier named after a small furry four legged creature that has been known to hunt chickens? I think this is one of the days I am responsible to record something for.
While Lee Lee was getting worked over by a big boned Swedish Fraulein named Helga. Named after her Olympic power lifting Grandmother and frankly anyone who has “Got hands, will massage” on their signage illuminated by a glowing red light has got to be a professional. A few days back Lyle had an incident on a terrible mattress back in the beach town of Punakaiki as Carol was apparently on top. This particular bunk bed with the extremely poor mattresses left poor Lyle with boulders in his lower back and a slight wince or smirk in his smile, obviously due to the evident pain I would imagine(wink, wink, nudge, nudge). While Lyle was getting his back fixed Jamie and I went on a whirly bird ride up to the glacier (Franz Joseph) and did a 3 hour glacial ice hike. It was very cool! (Did you catch that? It took me a whole afternoon to work that in)
They went thataway!
Now this Heli-hike that we were on had me ponder something that has been on all our minds since we got here. It would seem that Kiwi’s have a saying that goes “sweet as” and it has been defined as awesome goodness and we were all wondering, okay maybe just I was wondering, where this derived from. Now let’s be clear it is not “sweet as …” implying some kind of verbiage to fill in the blank. It is simply “sweet as” and that’s it. Now upon hearing this saying without the advantage of print for clarification one could understandably make the mistake of hearing something a little different. This hypothesis has led me to the following possibility as to the origins of this saying and was inspired on this particular heli-hiking day.
As Jamie and I got off the helicopter and down off the make shift Heli-pad allowing the next copter to bring in the next six hikers and remove the other six people standing by after completing their glacier hike. It was as I was re-applying my sunscreen for the 5th time today, faithfully wearing my mirrored sun glasses to avoid premature glaucoma and after a very close examination of the glacier that I happened to glance at the next six young lady hikers in their hiking apparel of wind breaker, ice protecting jacket right down to their hiking boots and then up a little bit to their “Daisy Duke” shorts (you might want to Google that one). You might know where I’m going with this and I’ll try not to be so obviously obtuse but as I was enjoying nature it dawned on me that there could be some connection between “sweet as” and the possibility of the term evolving from “sweet as’ is”(you might want to sound this one out as spelling may vary). As I was admiring the glacier and the hikers on it, not objectifying but simply admiring, and internally thanking the inventor of mirrored sun glasses it was apparent to me that the term “sweet as” could conceivably be a shortened version of what I was currently witnessing. That would be the nature part I was talking about a second ago. Forgive me for being crude but it could be successfully argued that what many witnessed that day, and I just happened across in a passing glance as I was examining my hiking boots and solving a calculus equation in my head that I was definitely witnessing some very nicely fitted shorts. Now since this is a family show I can’t just blatantly come out and say that I saw some “sweet as’is” on the glacier that day, so I won’t, but I’m just sayin’ that short shorts may have been a contributor to the derivation of “sweet as”. I could be wrong on that definition but I am dead accurate when I say that there was a collective sigh of sadness among all the men enjoying nature that day on the glacier when the 6 young ladies took off from the Heli-pad. “Sweet as”, awesomely good, well it does seem an appropriate definition come to think of it. Nuff said.
I better leave this one alone and focus on a less controversial topic and discuss my utter fascination with the Possum Nipple warmers I came across the other day. You can’t make this stuff up people, it’s the fact Jack. Let me just backup a second and clarify something that may be helpful with this sensitive area (that one was a freebie). Nipple warmers and the Metric system have a connection that I will attempt to explain. I had to give this one a little more thought than the “sweet as” definition above. Yes, New Zealand is also on the metric system of measurement for distances on the highways which include meters and kilometers but they also have a less known, but equally impressive system of measuring distances. It hasn’t quite caught on yet but it incorporates our fury little friend the Possum and I like to call it the Possummetric system (trademarked Marvism). Now the Possum was originally introduced to eliminate other varmints but as they discovered that the land dwelling indigenous birds were easier prey and they had no natural enemies in New Zealand they flourished and have since caused almost irreparable damage to this fragile eco system with both flora and fauna. These little fellas are so plentiful in New Zealand that in addition to signs indicating kilometers to a destination the country highway system has carefully placed at least one possum every kilometer of this fine country. The beauty of this system has each kilometer marked with a uniquely positioned possum all with a look of utter surprise in their eyes (when the head is attached) as well as being as flat as a pancake to make them easy to travel over. It just so happens that they are all playing possum to boot, coincidence? I think not. I have also noticed a less precise system of measurement incorporating rabbits every other half kilometer and also the cute and equally thin hedgehog designating fewer road distance indicators and let’s also throw in the less popular gopher. Let’s say that we’ve seen a lot of wildlife in this country but more in the form of a diorama and less of the living breathing variety. You know I believe New Zealand Tourism may be toying with a new advertising slogan, “Come and Visit New Zealand a Taxidermists Dream”, but they have not officially adopted it. One other particular marker of note was a sheep that had its legs kindly draped over on each side of a railing and facing the traffic so that he could happily greet all oncoming traffic with that blank stare. I’m not sure but the sheep was an obvious indicator of a longer distance as we only witnessed one. Incidentally, because of all the sheep in New Zealand I was able to find out where virgin wool comes from, apparently it comes from the sheep that run the fastest. And I did not know that!
Yes and that is why the Nipple warmers are related to the Metric system. Lots of dead Possums equals lots of kilometer markers, equals lots of pelts, equals what to do with those pelts, equals and yes you guessed it, extra nipple warmers for everybody! I haven’t quite discovered the novelty as my left one keeps falling off, similar to George’s left ear plug not be able to stay in, but let me tell you that I’ve found that they are a sure fire conversation starter in the hostel dormitories. Okay, if you just remember where virgin wool comes from that may be enough and you can forget about the nipple warmers, but don’t tell me that these warm fussy dual delights haven’t piqued your interest. Let me just say that I’m going to sleep well tonight as this is one area I haven’t burned, yet, and they are admittedly, surprisingly warm (the right one is for sure).
So let’s synopsize the last few days: In jail, got burned, broke down, hot pooled, got burned again, lost some stuff, got constipated, started the molt from the first burn, we eventually did ride our bikes and rode a century ride (100 possummeters or AKA 100 Km day), got unconstipated, saw some “sweet as”, started the second molt and oh yah, I dropped my toothbrush in the toilet. It has definitely been a full week and I can’t wait for the next one. Just a little clarification on the tooth brush incident, as I was simply taking care of some oral hygiene issues one morning and was in the usual rush the tooth brush slipped out of my hand and onto the top of the sink, bounced off the wall, deflected off the adjacent toilet tank lid and then did a perfect “triple sow cow” in the half pike position straight into the bowl for a perfect 10 entry, all the while with my arms flailing and mouth frothing trying to catch the blasted thing before it did a perfect plop right into the toilet bowl. Here I was my stunned eyes wide open, my mouth full of toothpaste and a perfectly good toothbrush resting in what appeared to be very clean water. Now I know what you’re thinking, did he or didn’t he?(to be continued)
You know I think I forgot to mention one other activity we did on our glacier heli-hike day on Franz Joseph. As we were waiting for the next helicopter to extricate us from the glacier, our small band of hikers spontaneously broke into song to pass the time. It was one of the finest renditions of “Don’t worry be Happy” I can ever remember being a part of and it seemed an appropriate end to an interesting day. I believe it was Jamie who started us off and it was our new Chinese friends in the group that finished the chorus off with a sheep call, out of respect for New Zealand sheep, that brought a tear to everyone’s eye, especially Jamie’s. It was a fitting end to another adventure.
Then we just went out for an interesting dinner where Rommie, our fine server, who had just returned from a secret military exercise that removes all short term memory. We enjoyed an almost 2 hours dinner foreplay time with no appies before our food finally arrived and not exactly as ordered. The restaurant was a bit embarrassed by the delay and mix-ups that they gracious cleaned out the dessert showcase and offered us some lovely expired sweets just before midnight. It was speculated that Rommie’s dad just might own the restaurant and might explain why the young lad may not have found his niche quite yet. I asked young Rommie if he was not really interested in being a waiter and he promptly replied, “Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?” a rhetorical question that seemed to sum up the evening perfectly. It was a long, late dinner and good because we were all so famished and it just seems to make for another simple anecdote. Good luck my young friend as you may want to consider organ donation as a short term employment opportunity, for the restaurant-ith is not your forte-ith. I think that about sums up the day I was responsible to record something for and as I said, not all my memories of these events may be entirely accurate but I’m sure you get the gist.
Let me see if I can start to “bring this plane in for a landing”? I know you want it to end but I am in a self-induced sleeping coma on overdrive here after 30 hours of travel and at 6 in the morning local time trying to regurgitate a few short stories before collapse and I can’t seem to stop myself. Don’t worry, it will be over soon.
Coming back from New Zealand reminds me of a story I once heard about relating to the US Space program. It would seem some time back a young US Commander was re-entering the atmosphere after a mission in space and due to some complications lost consciousness during re-entry and crash landed in New Zealand. Unbeknownst to him he did not know that he was in a New Zealand hospital. As he groggily came to he asked the young nurse by his bedside, “Did you bring me here to die?” she looked softly into his eyes and replied, “No sir, we brought you here yesterday”.
It might make more sense and be easier to understand if you try saying “Today” in an Aussie or New Zealand accent (therefore “To die”). You get it now? I know, hilarious eh. It really is time for bed.
What other few things could I share before Jamie and I start singing the Lawrence Welk goodbye theme song we all memorized back in the day, I know I’m dating myself.
Let me just say that I was very diligent in sun screen application after my first two incidences and the ladies also continued to remind me, but low and behold I soon discovered once again the power of the dreaded ozone hole and the power of the sun. I was just cycling along minding my own business on a stretch of road that was our only point to point cycling day option, from Wanaka to Queenstown on the old Cardrona Road, and soon discovered a whole new respect for monster puking hills, or in this case, only one big monster puking hill. I did take the time to get off my bike and re-apply my sunscreen because I promised all the mom’s on the trip I would behave and put it on. It was a challenging day as the summit never seemed to come but I just continued to persevere like in the old days as I would just slowly tromp up a hill one pedal at a time only to find my brother Michael doing push-ups or chin-ups waiting for his older brother to make it up the hill. Ah, the memories. It’s funny how little things change, I still climb hills the same way and I always look for Mike doing his push-ups at the top. Mike was not here this day but an amazing welcome from the crew awaited me at the summit to the pass of the highest paved road in New Zealand. They had lunch ready for me as we took some pictures of the amazing valley into Queenstown, New Zealand and watched as the planes approached the airport actually flying below our observation point. It’s not very often you get the perspective of looking down on a plane as it comes in for a final landing, at least for me. I did manage to complete the ride with my compadres Lyle and George into Queenstown as we enjoyed an amazing hair pinned downhill after the summit and then the mission to reconnect with the support ladies cruising around in the very busy Queenstown downtown to find our accommodations for the next three days. The ladies did awesome navigating through heavy traffic pulling trailers with bikes negotiating left side driving and the ever popular traffic circles that are the intersection of choice in this country. It was only after we got settled at the hostel that I noticed I couldn’t sit very well. It would seem that as I cycled the whole day in the beautiful New Zealand sunshine that my shorts where low enough and my shirt was high enough in the back to create a very nicely shaped half-moon burn just above what happens to be my actual full moon. Coincidence? I think not.
Celebrating the Summit!
I kindly asked Lyle to have a look as it was a stinging pretty bad and he asked if I was trying to moon him. It would seem Lyle and I are almost on the same level with Larry and Murray (a story for another day, but let’s just say they are very close friends now). Under closer examination, just above my blessed assurance, I had tattooed another burn that was shaped like an umbrella and it was easy to visualize cause the pole was in the perfect place of my crack a lacken you know what. I had branded myself for a third, second degree burn and was comfortably able to moon the group under the guise of a medical examination among friends. Good things do come in small packages. This was another untimely and unfortunate incident as I also like to sleep like Dolly Parton and with this new affliction nights were proving to be a difficult thing. Sad thing is, I had almost completed the molt of the first two burns when I had the good fortune of coming across a shower somewhere in New Zealand these last few days that had a showerhead that could also be utilized to strip chrome off of bumpers. My exfoliation was almost complete but now with the words of “Oops! Here I go again” ringing in my ears, the process begins anew.
The bike part of our trip was coming to an end as we moved toward Picton the ferry port on the North part of the South Island (confused? Don’t be, it makes sense when you think about it) to make our way to the North Island for a week of exploration. We all said goodbye to “Piglet” our affectionately named van as it got us around the Island but not without that expected and persistent squeal of belts as we climbed and challenged the meandering mountainous coastal roads of New Zealand. Now ready to enjoy, maybe enjoy is not the right word, grab the ferry for our almost 4 hour sojourn across the Cook Strait to our next destination of Wellington, the ferry port on the South part of the North Island (confused? Don’t be, it makes sense when you think about it) which also happens to be the Capital of this fine country and has nothing to do with the beef. Yes I was a bit deflated by that so I had the beef Mongolian instead.
I think it’s time to start bring this “ship into port” or should I say ferry? I believe I was trying to do that a couple of pages back so I’ll try again.
Let me just try to finish as the lack of REM sleep is starting to catch up to me now. Can I just say that “I love you guys”? Wow, it would seem sleep deprivation has similar side effects to copious amounts of alcohol but rest assured that the sentiment is genuine. We’ve spent over a month hanging with each other, sleeping with each other, Jamie also likes the top. Cause bunk beds are all over this country and outnumber gas stations by the thousands. We’ve all laughed together, I hope there was lots of laughter? Cried together, I hope they were happy tears? Got plugged together, got unplugged together remembering the team mantra “I coulda had two but no…. I had to have ten”. We’ve celebrated the Anniversaries of Judy and George celebrating their 40th this year, Murray and Sandy their 30th, Lyle and Carol their 25th, the recent marriage of our New Zealand friends Mike and Nicky, a few birthdays of note as Jamie and Sandy will be celebrating a hallmark birthday this year and we celebrated Carols birthday at least once every week this trip. I can still hear the TSS Earnslaw cruise ship passengers singing happy birthday in Mandarin to Carolina and calling sheep once we made shore. I’ve discovered that Jamie loves to watch Chinese movies after midnight (shee, shee, shee), she loves to pillow talk, spontaneously starts to dance on chairs in foreign restaurants and is apparently a very sound sleeper(WWNN). We’ve learned that I can’t seem to make it 3 or 4 days without a sunburn and I hate to admit it but I am now sporting a very new red style V-neck sweater but without the sweater. Always remember, sunscreen good, sunburn bad. But all in all my memories are all favorable.
I seem to have this belief that when a person comes back from one of these vacations I always tend to remember the good things experienced as the bad are a waste of time and find that this holds truer for me as time passes on. I’m hoping you might share that sentiment and that the challenges faced this last month have strengthened your resolve and bolstered your character because you’ve come through it and survived. I thank you Team NZD 2013 for making the journey with me, thanks for letting me ride all the bike legs, and a special thanks to Judy and George who always seem to be behind supporting these crazy adventures and never let the dream die, To Lyle and Carol who always seem to be the first to buy those airline tickets and get the ball rolling, to Murray and Sandy who always are one of the core couples that always participate and contribute in more than just the physical but supportive in their Spiritual zeal, to Jamie who always let me be on the bottom (bunk) and was the first to call me last spring and say “I’m in”. Your friendship and support is something I will always treasure as are the many traveling experiences we’ve shared whether it’s somewhere out our back door or somewhere around the world.
So let me put a “lid on this pot” and just say thank you all again. May your Adventure continue as we settle back into life back home and Judy, let me just say I’m looking at a poster you gave me a few years back and you noted to me that this could be our next theme as it says, “Having a margarita at the swim up bar is nice. It’s just not something you’re likely to remember having done when your 80”. Amen sister!
As this New Zealand 2013 tour comes to a close from an idea birthed out of an invitation from two kind Kiwi travelers to 17 strange cyclists from Canada meeting in a small Italian village pub 4 years ago, it still blows my mind that it actually came to fruition. Just goes to show you, you’ll never know what adventure you’ll meet if you just believe.
We love this trip!!
Thanks for the ride Team New Zealand 2013, and thanks Lyle for the toothbrush, it was a blast.
Soli Deo Gloria
Blog editors note! Thank you all for following our journey and all the comments. You all kept us inspired to write. Till the next trip.