Thursday, January 24, 2013

Onto the South Island

Well, since my last post had quite a whole lot of words and was lacking in pictures, here's a post with lots o' pictures.

But before I go there, I have to say....thanks so much to so many of you for the commments, notes, emails, texts, etc. about my last post and the race in Auckland. I am lucky to have so much support from near and far, and it really is appreciated. I'm all the way on the other side of the world, but still feel so close to so many people at home, and that's a really, really nice feeling.

I'm down in the South Island of New Zealand, what I believe most people will agree is the more beautiful (or at least more mountainous) part of the country. And really, it is absolutely stunning. It reminds me a lot of Colorado, but possibly even more beautiful.
On the road between Queenstown and Te Anau
I flew from Auckland to Queenstown on Tuesday. I'm taking about a week-and-a-half down here, driving from place to place, generally staying a day or two in each town. This is the lovely car that is carrying me and my bike (I really should name that bike at some point) all around:

Cute, huh? It's got about 252,000 kilometers on it. I don't actually know what that means but it sounds like a lot of kilometers, but it runs perfectly fine and was uber cheap. Driving this little machine's brought some new and exciting challenges, though. I was just starting to get comfortable with the whole left-side driving thing, but then the ante was upped. This car is a stick shift, and the gear shift is on the left side. So I'm not only driving a stick shift, I'm doing it left handed. While also trying to remember to yield on right-hand turns and all that jazz. Additionally, the windshield wipers and turn signals are on opposite sides of what I'm used to. I guess this is not standardized in New Zealand as Adam's car, which I've been driving, is not this way. So every time (and I mean every time) I try to use the turn signal, I turn on the windshield wipers instead.

But fortunately, I've got this helpful reminder:

I drove from Queenstown down to Te Anau, a charming little town situated on Lake Te Anau, the second largest lake in New Zealand (behind Lake Taupo, the lake I'll be swimming in for Ironman NZ). Te Anau is a good homebase for visits to Milford Sound, which is not a "sound" but actually a "fjord", but who's really keeping track?

Tuesday evening I did some wandering and a nice bike ride that was pretty much the most enjoyable ride I've had in....well, possibly ever. Nice, flat-ish roads with minimal traffic, breathtaking views, fresh air, perfect temperature, easy effort, and I wanted to just ride and ride and ride forever.

All those little white dots are sheep
But I had to stop eventually, because the next morning it was up and early for a 5:45AM pickup to get to Milford Sound. Lots of people visit Milford Sound on cruise ships, but I generally prefer to see sites in ways that: 1) allow me to actually expend some physical effort; and 2) don't involve massive throngs of camera-wielding tourists (yes, I am aware that I am also a tourist, but you know what I mean). So I decided to see Milford Sound by kayak instead, and found Rosco's Kayak Tours online. Good choice....they were great, and added in transport to and from Milford, saving me another 4+ hours of driving for the day.

On the road to Milford
I do have to say that I was a little nervous about kayaking. See, I've got a history. This story's a little embarrassing but a great source of laughs among my family members, so I've got to tell it. A few years back, my family did a cruise in the Bahamas, and my sister and I went sea kayaking. The water was rough, and we were given one of those milk jug scooper things to scoop water out of the kayak as waves broke over us. This process (getting the water out of the kayak) is called, as I now know (and everyone else in the world probably knows), is called "bailing." But, I did not know that at the time.

So we shared a kayak, and the sea was rough, and the kayak was quickly filling up with water. My sister, a more experienced kayaker, yelled to me, "we need to bail!" I couldn't hear her, and asked her to repeat herself. "Bail! Bail!" she shouted.

So I jumped out of the boat.

I heard "bail," and my mind went in a weird direction....I thought she was telling me to "bail out." Like....get out of the situation. Save myself. I pictured the boat going down like the Titanic, and I needed to get out before the capsize. So I bailed out, evacuated, ran away from the disaster, when really, all I was supposed to be doing was scooping water out. My sister looked at me incredulously, as I stood in three and half feet of water (yeah, it was clearly a major boat sinkage situation that we were in, good thing I saved myself from such impending peril.) "What are you DOING?" she asked (with maybe an explicitive thrown in). "You told me to bail!" "As in, get the water out of the damn boat, not jump out, altogether."

So that's my kayaking history.

But I had nothing to worry about. I shared a kayak with Nicole, our trip leader. We were a good team. I had the strongs (she did, too) and she had the ability to navigate a kayak, and we flew through that sound, kept having to stop and wait for the others. It got really choppy and Nicole wanted to "surf" some of the waves, which basically entailed paddling really, really hard and letting a wave catch us, so I agreed, and then found myself pretty well entrenched in a nice little interval workout with Nicole yelling out, "go, go, go, go, go, faster, faster, go." I didn't have the heart to tell her that I was still trying to recover from my race, so I went with it even though it hurt. A lot.

Perspectives are weird in the Sound.  That waterfall is apparently 3 times as tall as Niagara Falls
Unfortunately, we got a rainy day, but Milford Sound was still spectacular.

That evening, a bunch of us from the kayak trip met at a bar that had about the most intense and difficult pub trivia game going on. I ended up on a team that was quite the hodge-podge of people from all over the world: me, two native Kiwis, an Irishman, a girl from Wales, two guys from Florida. Long story short, we dominated that pub trivia game and it was a major victory, indeed.

Today, after another ride from Te Anau during which I encountered about a thousand sheep, I made my way to Queenstown, where I am now. Queenstown is a bigger city than Te Anau, which is not to say it's a big city, but bigger. It's the adventure sports hub of New Zealand. Today I did some exploring, some hiking, some luging (kinda lame), some swimming. I'm still thinking about bungee jumping. I'm not so sure. We'll see. Pip mentioned something about hearing about "detached retinas" from bungee jumping and....well, I want to keep my retinas attached. So I've got that to think through.

They actually "baa'd" at me as I rode by
An hour long uphill hike on still quite tired legs was worth it for this view of Queenstown

I throw this picture in only because I took it at 9:15 P.M.  It stays light past 10:00

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1 comment:

  1. Beautiful!!! I'm so glad you are enjoying the trip so much :)