february 1 2005 : gulf harbor marina, whangaparaoa, new zealand
It’s hard to believe we are into February already. We have been here at Gulf Harbor, on the hard, since October 29th! But the end is in sight now. The new blue bottom paint is on, the trampoline is fixed, as well as a couple of other things that needed new rivets to keep them together for another couple of years hopefully, the mainsail is back on track and loaded into the repaired sailbag, lifelines are on, a new screecher halyard has been run, and on and on. And we still have an entire room full of stuff that is sitting in bags or boxes just waiting to be put back together again. I’d say we are looking at one more week before we go back in the water.
The main thing we are waiting for now is the completion of the painting. Originally when we had an estimate done for the painting of the boat we found out that boat painting is done on a square meter basis. Obviously the outside of the hulls needed to be painted, as well as the back transom which was in terrible shape, but after seeing the estimate we realized that we could shave nearly $10,000 NZ, roughly half of the total estimate, by leaving the underside of the boat from the trampolines on back. This is an area of the boat you really never see anyway.
The painters thought they would be able to blend the new paint into the old gelcoat well enough that it wouldn’t look to obvious. Unfortunately it was pretty obvious. Now the painters have come up with a solution though. They can paint that area in a nonskid finish using left over paint for only about $2500 NZ. This won’t have the super high gloss finish but the color will match up. And everyone seems excited that it will have the added benefit of safety for us in case the boat flips over. Now we will be able to stand on it without slipping when it is upside down. Okay, sounds good.
february 3 2005 : gulf harbor marina
We just got one of those emails that make us really happy that we started this website. A guy who lives in Auckland and follows the website read that we had been buzzed by one of New Zealand’s Orion aircraft the day before we sailed into New Zealand. It turns out Tim knows the guys who fly those planes and gave them a call. They checked their files and found a couple pictures they took of us sailing that day. Cool our first pictures of Bum under sail. And the boat looks pretty good. Of course, you can see that neither one of us is outside at the time, and in fact the door was even closed. Remember, we were freezing! Anyway, thanks to Tim and to the guys flying the plane, very cool.
february 6 2005 : gulf harbor marina
Boat work continues. She is really starting to come together now. The painting on the underside is done and looks great. The stripes, boat name, and hailing port stickers are all on and look really good too. The guy who installed them owns the company and when he gave us the final price asked us, “Is this too cheap?” We didn’t bother to tell him that we wouldn’t have even been able to buy the stickers back in the U.S. for the total cost he charged us including install.
And at long last, we have gotten our screecher halyard splice done. It cost about $20 NZ to have it done. I think a book on how to splice, plus the tools needed, would have cost me around $100, but whatever. The boat gets hauled on Tuesday night, but instead of going right in the water we are just going to hang in the slings overnight so we can get the bottom painted where the boat is currently resting. Then first thing Wednesday morning we will be in the water. Hopefully by Friday we will be on our way to the South Island. We’ve only got about six weeks left before we start looking at crossing the Tasman to Sydney. It’s going to come up quick.
february 8 2005 : gulf harbor marina
And on and on and on. Nothing but work on the boat for the past few days. And it looks like she is finally ready to go back in. We are actually hanging up in the boat lift slings right now before being dropped in first thing in the morning. I think the whole boat yard is excited to see us on our way. Everybody has been dropping by the last few days and telling us how great the boat looks and how good it’s going to feel to be back in the water. We’re excited.
So yesterday morning the wind finally died down and we were able to work on getting the sails back up and furled nicely. The screecher went back up without a problem since we have done that one a dozen times. The jib was a different story however. We hooked up the jib halyard and pulled the sail up to the top of the furler. Not without some minor problems along the way though. It’s hard to explain, but essentially we just couldn’t figure out how to hook the jib halyard up at the bottom to pull the sail tight. But we solved that problem eventually and were ready to roll up the sail. The wind was starting to pick up a little bit at this point so we were trying to hurry. We got all the lines straightened out and started rolling. The furling drum turned once and stopped. No matter how hard I pulled that thing was stuck. I couldn’t see any reason the line should be stuck and Ali was starting to get worried about the wind since it was now filling out the sail quite nicely. So I made an executive decision to call in reinforcements in the form of the riggers.
Ali ran across the boat yard and within about two minutes Phil, who already is quite sure that we are complete idiots, came riding around the corner on his bike. He came aboard and looked around really quick and told me to pull the line. It jammed, his eyes slowly went to the top of the pole, then back down to the bottom of the pole, and I could see that the idiot factor I had calculated wasn’t even close. Turns out there is another drum that needs to be at the top of the mast in order for the sail to be able to roll around and around. That drum was still sitting at the bottom of the pole, probably wondering why it wasn’t at the top. So down came the sail again, we clipped it onto the drum and ran it back up the furler, and wouldn’t you know it, that sail rolled right up. I just laughed, while Phil shook his head and told us to drop off $15 later on. Oh well, $15 to learn how to work a furler, seems like a pretty cheap lesson to me.
Of course, I left one part out of that story. At one point we were hauling up the jib halyard and cranking it tight with the winch, when suddenly CRACKKKK! I looked down at my hand which had been cranking the winch handle and found that the winch was now at a 45 degree angle. Yep, it pulled right out of the deck fitting. Another fine piece of craftsmanship. And wouldn’t you know it, it was on the port side of the boat. The same side that has caused us endless problems. So just when we think things are almost done on the boat, another project presents itself. I just keep telling myself that it’s better it happened now than in the middle of the Tasman Sea. But that doesn’t help much.
Later on in the day we moved on to a simple project in order to feel like we were getting something accomplished. Putting the cockpit table back in should have been simple. The bolts are threaded on both sides, so we slip the table on over the bolts and tighten the nuts in the cockpit and underneath the boat. So I was holding the nut under the boat while Ali was tightening the other one, when CRACKKKK! again. This time the bolt broke in half. We were each now holding half a bolt and a nut. From the looks of the bolt it was homemade because it was welded in the middle where it broke apart. And yes, this is on the port side. Whoever was in charge of that hull took so many shortcuts it is unbelievable. So we spent the next two hours figuring out a replacement for that little fiasco.
Today I was painting our rusty barbeque propane tank. I had this cool spray paint that leaves things feeling rubbery. Well it turns out the paint was nearly the same gray color as the fabric on the boat, and since I was having so much fun with it I asked Ali if I could spray the man overboard pole too. More commonly referred to as the flag pole on our boat. The MOB pole was painted dark red, which didn’t match at all, although I’m guessing there may have been a safety issue involved there. Now it is this sweet looking gray that really ties in nicely with our color scheme. A classy choice indeed.
Well I’m going to bed. Hopefully this will be the last time I spend the night sleeping in a boat that is hanging by two straps ten feet above a parking lot.
february 10 2005 : south island road trip, new zealand
Well it appears we have reached the end of the line with Charter Cats. We received an email from them today. Here is an excerpt.
“Based on your proposed plans to post and continue to post slander about our products on your website or any other website we advise that we reserve our rights to take legal action without prejudice against you for unfounded and untrue statements that cannot be proved and will sue you for any lose of business or damages as a result of your actions.”
By the way, he said lose, not loss. Maybe he should have had his lawyer proofread his ridiculous statement before sending it. Not sure if he thought we were a couple of ten-year-old kids that he could scare into keeping quiet or what.
I looked up the definition of slander, just to make sure that it didn’t mean “printing the truth about a product that you own on a personal website.” Luckily for us it means oral communication of false statements injurious to a person’s reputation. So since we haven’t used oral communication, and we haven’t printed any false statements, we’ve decided to go ahead and print a collection of all the emails we have exchanged regarding the problems with Bum over the last few months. As you’ll see by reading them, this is the reason that Charter Cats has threatened legal action. Blistering and Delamination Correspondence
On a different note, we are finally back in the water. Bum is floating again, and a bit higher than she used to when her keels were full of water. All the work we had done was well worth it and she is finally a boat that we can be proud of again. All the thru-hulls are nice and dry too which will be a nice change of pace. Only found one leaky seal and that was on a 90 degree fitting that goes on a seacock valve so that will be easy to tighten up. Spent the entire day yesterday just washing the boat and putting it back together. We finally got out all the seat cushions, the bimini, and the new window shades. The new window shades look great, and are a huge improvement over the old white ones which were covered with rust stains.
We also spent a fair amount of time feeding the local ducks which are so tame that they will just eat out of your hand. That was nice and everything, but at three o’clock this morning I woke up to some strange noise that sounded like a little woodpecker tapping on the boat. I thought it was just a line rubbing the boat weird, so I went outside to fix it. When I walked out I spooked a couple of ducks that were sitting on the back step. I didn’t think much of it and went about straightening out the lines.
I was back in bed for about a minute when I heard a thump thump noise and then the tapping started. I realized it was the ducks. So I snuck outside and found them standing on the step tapping the floor with their bills like they were eating. I scared them off and put a bucket on each step figuring that would keep them off the step. Back to bed and about two minutes later, thump, and tap tap. This time I found the duck balancing on the little rail thing that goes along the edge of the step. So I grabbed a towel and put it across the step. Finally, back to sleep.
Anyway, with the boat back in the water and everything looking good we decided it was time to take off for the South Island. So we left this afternoon and cruised south. We made it to New Plymouth, which is farther south than we had made it on previous trips. Mt. Taranaki is nearby and looks pretty cool. We will probably slow down a little bit over the next couple of days as we make our way down to Wellington, the capital, where we will load ourselves and the car onto the ferry to the South Island.
february 11 2005 : south island road trip
We spent a lot of time on the road today. The weather was pretty crappy all day, with rain off and on and a ton of wind. Which all kind of sucked since we were driving along a stretch of highway called the Surf Highway. But because of the weather, the surfboard stayed strapped firmly to the roof of the car. I know, what a poser. So we drove on past all the beaches and headed for a town called Wanganui, which is about halfway between last nights stop and Wellington. We got into town around two and didn’t really have anything to do after we found a room, so we decided to take the Whanganui River Road drive.
The Lonely Planet said it was a nice scenic drive that would take about four hours. From looking at the map I thought there was no way it could take that long. So we headed out along the river, which was a very nice drive, even if it was very similar to a lot of other drives we have taken around the North Island. About a third of the way through, we were making good time and I was thinking that I was right about how long it would take, when suddenly the blacktop disappeared and it became a gravel road. And not just any gravel road, this one was a winding, twisting road that was never wider than 1 1/2 cars. Maybe in 1988 the Volvo would have been up for this kind of road, but these days she likes to take it easy, so we slowed down, way down. It got a little tedious after a while, but after another hour or so we got some blacktop back.
We did have some fun though when we came around a corner to find a couple hundred sheep walking up the road towards us. As soon as they saw us they stopped and turned around and became very confused. That’s when we saw the dogs and the truck behind them prodding them along. We pulled over to one side and before long they didn’t have any choice but to make a break for it. I don’t know what it is about sheep, but they just crack us up. They are so petrified of everything. I have never seen another animal that is so timid.
Once they finally realized they had to squeeze by us or risk getting barked at by the dog they were jumping all over each other to run by the car as fast as possible. Once they were by, the farmer pulled up alongside of us and said, “That’s how you do it.” And drove off. He probably found it pretty amusing to see a couple of tourists two hours down a crappy road in an old Volvo with one holding a camera and the other a video camera. So that was pretty cool, kind of like the pictures in all the travel guides.
Tonight it dawned on us that we might have to make reservations for the ferry to haul us over to the South Island, so we called up and found out that Monday, the day we wanted to go, is all booked up and the only times left on Tuesday were 1:30 a.m. or 8 a.m. So we booked our crossing for 8 on the 15th. Glad we’re not sailing it, Cook Straight is supposed to get pretty nasty.
february 13 2005 : south island road trip
Yesterday we drove a little bit farther south, to Palmerston North. The wind was incredible all day. You had to walk at an angle or risk getting blown over. But other than that we had a pretty nice time there. We took a little side trip and drove north of the city up through the Manawatu Gorge. It was another beautiful scenic drive, but the fun came when we decided to try and find the road up to the Taraua Wind Farm.
It’s a big farm with giant wind turbines cranking out the juice for the city. After a bit of searching we eventually found yet another gravel road barely a car width wide and winding back and forth all the way up the hills. At the top there was a gate that you could let yourself through and there were some amazing views and watching the turbines cranking around in 50 knot winds was pretty cool too. Even the puddles had white caps on them. Despite the fact that I had promised myself that I would take it easy on our car I just had to see how far the road would go. And it went on about 5 more miles along the top of the hills underneath the turbines which was really cool because there was absolutely nobody else up there. Then that night we just walked around the town a bit. Palmerston North is home to the second largest University in New Zealand and it played the part of the typical college town.
Today we finally made it down to Wellington, capital of New Zealand. And once again spent the better part of the day just wandering around the town. Turns out this weekend was the Busker festival. Buskers are street performers, mainly doing the juggling and magic acts sort of thing. Ali got pulled out of the crowd for one performance and helped the guy pull a string of balloons through his nose and out of his mouth. Now that’s good entertainment.
february 17 2005 : south island road trip
We took in some more of the city by taking the cable car up the hill to get another great view. The cable car has been running since 1902, but since then they have gotten rid of the rest of them and this one now runs primarily for the tourists. We also went to Te Papa, the Museum of NZ. I had read about the museum and how proud New Zealanders were of it, and found that they have good reason to be. We spent hours walking around checking it out and still never even got to the top two floors. I thought the stories of how the Pakeha (a white or European person) settled New Zealand and the way the Maori people were treated were really interesting. I think it runs some pretty close parallels to how the Native Americans were treated in the U.S.
We woke up early the next day to catch the ferry over to Picton on the South Island. I already mentioned the ferry but not how much it cost. It was $320 NZ for the two of us and the car. Pretty spendy I thought, but I’m sure it was our own fault for not booking earlier. We’ll find out when we book our return trip. It had been pretty windy the past couple of days and it showed as soon as we got going. The minute we got out of the harbor and into open water things started rocking. The ferry seriously felt like it was getting airborne. I would have thought it was normal, but you could tell from the nervous chuckles of the staff that it was a little more gnarly than they were used to.
About five minutes into the pounding, people started getting sick all over the place. The staff were running around with plastic gloves on and piles of barf bags. And behind them would come another crew member with cups of ice cubes for the sick. Eventually the boat got going down wind and things smoothed out. I was hoping for a little more scenic trip, but for the majority of the time it was like being on a two hour flight in an airplane.
As soon as we got into Queen Charlotte Sound things changed though. The views were beautiful, and despite the wind there was barely a ripple on the water. We got into Picton and were really surprised at how well run the ferry was. We drove off the boat within five minutes of tying up to the dock and were on our way.
After a quick stop in Picton we drove south to Kaikoura. It’s a great little town, especially if you haven’t just sailed to New Zealand. I say that because Kaikoura sits on a strange place on the continental shelf which basically makes it an incredible place for marine life. So there are tons of whale watching tours, dolphin tours, and NZ fur seal tours. All stuff that we have seen pretty regularly this year. But the town is in a beautiful setting and feels a lot like a typical Colorado ski town, with a main street full of shops and bars, and the mountains in the background. One twist here of course is the beach.
On our drive down to Kaikoura we stopped along the road and watched the NZ fur seals. I’m not sure what the difference is between these guys and the sea lions in the Galapagos, but they looked pretty much the same and we were pretty excited just to get to sit and watch them play in the surf.
The next day we drove down to Christchurch. The weather was horrible pretty much the entire day. We stopped at one point and I hopped on the surfboard and paddled out to try and catch a wave only to find that I still have a long way to go before I am up and catching waves. Ali stayed out of the rain and sat in the car while I was out messing around. After that we were driving down the road and saw a sign that just said, Old Pub. That sounded like a promising way to kill a rainy afternoon. What we found was a great old place called The Old Leithfield which served up a mean pint and had a free pool table. What more could you need on a rainy afternoon?
We spent the morning walking around Christchurch in the rain looking at all the old buildings and finding Ali a good coffee. Then this afternoon decided to try and get away from the rain by driving down to Akaroa which is about an hour and a half away out on the Bands Peninsula. I know trying to drive away from the weather in New Zealand doesn’t typically work very well but today it did the trick. The skies cleared up for a few hours and we got to see some more beautiful scenery.
The first 30 miles of the trip I was thinking that we were wasting our time because the ground was pretty flat and there just wasn’t much to see. But suddenly the hills popped up and we had a pretty cool drive the rest of the way into Akaroa, which was a typically quaint little harbor town with plenty of little artsy shops and restaurants. We found another print that we liked, bringing the New Zealand total up to three. We are going to need one big condo to hang all of these things when we get home, or one with no windows.
We drove back to Christchurch and called it a day.
february 19 2005 : south island road trip
Yesterday morning we hopped on the Tranz Alpine Railway for our day trip across the Southern Alps. The weather was perfect. There isn’t a whole lot that can be said about a day on a train. I’d never been on a train before, so I guess I can chalk that one up. The trip was exactly what was promised, a beautiful, peaceful trip across the island. There was plenty of great scenery and it was nice to just sit back in my seat and get to enjoy it for the day instead of having to be constantly paying attention while driving in the mountains.
We got back into Christchurch and drove to Lyttleton, which is just a small town about 20 minutes outside of the city. For some reason, rooms have been really hard to come by since we’ve gotten to the South Island. The hotel owners even seemed a little surprised by it since there is really nothing special going on right now. So for the third night in a row in Christchurch, we stayed in a different place.
Today we woke up to perfect weather once again. So we drove over the hill to a beach community called Taylor’s Mistake. We hung out on the beach for a couple of hours and despite the fact that there was virtually no swell I did manage to surf and catch a few small waves. At least it gave my confidence a boost.
After that we continued our drive south. The area we are in now is called the Canterbury Plains and it basically feels like you are driving through Iowa, but with the Alps on the horizon. So to try and spice up the drive a little bit we got off the highway and tried following some little side roads along the rivers instead. All this really did though was make us feel like we were driving through Iowa, but on dirt roads. Oh well, we’ll make it to the mountains soon enough.
february 21 2005 : south island road trip
Okay, it’s been a couple days of pretty much solid driving with a whole bunch of quick side trips to see the “sights.” We stopped off in Oamaru to see some penguins but found out that they only show up at the penguin reserve a little after dusk. So we drove around the town and checked out the farmers market. There is a section of the old town that is all gothic looking limestone buildings from the 1800’s. We found a great second hand bookshop there and hung out there for a while. New Zealand must have a law that states that there must be at least three second hand bookshops in every town, because you can’t turn around without stepping into one. I’m not sure where all the books start out their lives though.
Next stop was to see the Moeraki boulders. A bunch of big round boulders that look like old turtle shells lying along the beach. Nothing really extraordinary about them, but they look pretty cool and this seems to be the only spot where they are at.
We eventually got down to Dunedin to spend the night. The place we were staying wasn’t on our maps and we spent a lot of time driving around town. It’s a nice town, with a big university and a ton of big old beautiful buildings dating from the mid 1800’s, around the time that gold was being found nearby and starting a rush there.
We took a drive up to what was billed as Dunedin’s most famous building, a castle that in today’s dollars would have cost $25 million to build. So we drove up and up into the hills, and down a road where we were met by a security guard. We told him we just wanted to drive through for a look at the castle, not actually pay the $18 each for a tour. He looked at us like we were nuts and told us no. I couldn’t believe that the city’s most famous building would cost $36 just to get a picture of. It’s not going to be famous for long at those prices.
We turned around and drove out. We then followed the road out to the end of the peninsula where there was an albatross colony and a sea lion colony. We were able to walk down to the waters edge to see the sea lion’s, of which there were three. Not all that impressive. And decided against paying to see an albatross in a tourist environment when I figure more than likely we will see them out at sea one of these days.
This morning we drove over to Baldwin Street, the World’s Steepest Street according to Guinness. After a strenuous three minute walk we conquered the world record holder. It was actually kind of fun, and it is damn steep. There is no way our car would have made it up.
We followed the Southern Scenic Route Road today to Invercargill. We made a few stops along the way, including Nugget Point. It’s yet another beautiful spot located quite a ways down a dirt road, but well worth it for the views. From way up the hillside you could hear the sea lion’s yelping at each other along the rocks while the waves pounded in.
february 23 2005 : south island road trip
The last couple of days we drove to probably the most scenic area we have been to yet. Unfortunately the weather has decided to stop cooperating with us. Yesterday we drove from Invercargill, at the very bottom of the South Island up to Te Anau which is in the Fiordland National Park area. The drive was pretty uneventful most of the day.
We did make a stop for a surf in Colac Bay. The waves were the most perfect I have seen anywhere in New Zealand but holy cow was the water cold. I lasted about half an hour in the water before stumbling out unable to feel my feet. Despite freezing, I was pretty stoked about a couple of good waves I was able to catch and ride all the way in. Ali was busy playing with all the dogs running around the beach and said she didn’t see any of my rides. Apparently the dogs are still much more entertaining to watch than my surfing.
Later on we got to Lake Manapouri which is the second deepest lake in New Zealand at about 1400 feet, making it interesting enough to me to have a swim in. When I jumped in and came up yelling, “Jesus Christ!!! It’s…hot,” Ali didn’t believe it and chose not to join me.
Today we drove up to Milford Sound which is deep inside the Fiordland National Park. I’m not sure how to describe the Fiordland area other than to say it is solid mountains shooting straight up out of the edge of the ocean all the way inland about 50 miles. Because there are so many mountains and so much water it is almost impossible to run roads in. So the road to Milford Sound is pretty much the only one there, making it one very busy tourist road. The busloads of tourists stretched to the horizon. But there were still a lot of nice places to stop along the way.
We made a couple of quick hikes to see different waterfalls, of which there must be a million in this area. On one hike we were getting a little bored and decided to race back to the bottom. The trail kept zigzagging back and forth, and of course I had the lead. Then I heard crashing through the trees and bushes behind me and when I came around the next corner I found Ali laying in the path in front of me. She was holding her ankle and saying she really hurt it. Of course, she can be sneaky and competitive, so at first I wasn’t sure whether to believer her or not. Turns out she was telling the truth and had twisted her ankle while taking her kamikaze shortcut. She was fine after a minute, but the race was cancelled for the day.
The weather remained pretty crappy all day which was disappointing because we could just tell that if it was clear the views would have been incredible from every point along the day’s drive. As it was, it was still pretty nice.
february 25 2005 : south island road trip
Queenstown, extreme sports capital of the world. This is our kind of town. Again, I have no way to compare it other than to say how much it reminds me of a Colorado ski town. You’ve got the main street with dozens of restaurants, bars, and t-shirt shops with the backdrop of the mountains that slope right to the edge of town, and here you even get the bonus freshwater lake thrown in. Yesterday we just hung out in town and set up our adventures for the next couple of days.
Today was bungy jump day. AJ Hackett is the inventor of the bungy and has a few different jumps around Queenstown. But we had our sights set on the Nevis Highwire, which is 440 feet high, the highest in New Zealand. The jump pod is suspended by wires halfway out across a canyon and you are brought out to the pod five people at a time in a little gondola type thing. It’s a pretty amazing setup in an incredible setting.
My name was called, they strapped me in, and before I knew what was happening, I was standing out at the edge of the pod and counting down from 5. The jump was awesome, you actually fall for a full 8 seconds before bottoming out. I loved the jump.
Then about an hour went by while Ali waited her turn, giving her plenty of time to think about it and get more and more nervous. But as always, she was a trooper, and when her turn came she took no time at all stepping out to the edge of the pod. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…okay, here we go. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…it’s only gonna get harder the longer you wait. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…seriously, you can do it. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…then, suddenly, “Aaaahhhhh!!!!!” She did it!
As always, at the end of it, she came up saying, “I hated it.” But by the time we got to the bar back in town she was saying, “I’m glad we did that, I just don’t want to do it again.” That’s my girl.
[vimeo height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://vimeo.com/58809984[/vimeo]
february 27 2005 : south island road trip
Yesterday we went jetboating. It’s sort of a Queenstown institution, you can’t leave without jetboating. We decided instead of doing the trip right in Queenstown we would make the drive up to Glenorchy, about an hour north, and go on the Dart River instead. The drive up to Glenorchy was really scenic and in fact it is where a lot of the scenes from Lord of the Rings was shot. The Kiwis are extremely proud of The Lord of the Ring movies. Almost to the point of it just being annoying. Everywhere, and I do mean everywhere you go they are selling fake Lord rings, Lord stamps, Lord keychains, Lord postcards, and on and on.
So on our jetboating tour yesterday we took a bus up to the boats but not before first stopping to have some mountain ranges pointed out to us as being in the movies. My advice to anybody visiting New Zealand is to watch all three Lord movies at least twice before visiting, because you will be expected at some point to engage in a heated discussion and will need to know all of the characters first and last names.
Anyway, eventually we made it to the boats and got going up the river. The boats are pretty cool and only need 2 inches of water under them once they are up on a plane. So you go flying right over these areas that look like they are almost dry rocks but actually have just enough water flowing over them. The ride was pretty fun, the scenery was, as always, beautiful and occasionally the boat would do something exciting like a full speed 360 or cruising by an overhanging ledge by inches. The ride was over an hour long too, which was good value, since the rides right in Queenstown are only about 20 minutes.
After three nights in Queenstown it was time to get moving again. We made a long drive north today to the Fox Glacier. The majority of the drive today was through the mountains. One thing that struck us as weird today was the fact that they have all these incredible lakes in this area, with crystal clear water, and full of trout, yet there is virtually nobody out on them. I saw a couple of boat launch areas and they each had like one trailer at them. Just strikes me as strange I guess.
We made it to Fox Glacier late this afternoon and made a quick trip down the road to actually see the glacier. The glacier is kind of a big deal because, according to Lonely Planet, nowhere else in the world at this latitude have glaciers advanced so close to the sea. It’s not much to look at really, but the valley that the glacier runs along is pretty impressive and you can see where huge boulders were dropped right in the middle of the valley, probably carried by the ice from way up at the top of the mountain.
february 28 2005 : south island road trip
After a couple of hours walking around the Franz Josef Glacier this morning we decided that ice flows really aren’t all that exciting. I’m sure for many of the busloads of Asians, or those visiting from a South Pacific island they are quite entertaining. But if you’ve grown up in the snow you won’t be overawed by the sight. So moving on we were heading for Greymouth today, which was basically halfway between the glaciers and our destination of the Buller Gorge, where we will be white-water rafting in a couple of days. Greymouth is back on the coast, so I was hoping to get a surf in today. I should mention that the low last night was 44 degrees and today’s high is supposed to be 62. Not exactly tropical surfing weather, so maybe I wasn’t too disappointed not to find any decent waves along the drive.
We pulled into Greymouth and found that it looked just like a Pennsylvania mining town whose mine closed thirty years ago. Not a single drop of fresh paint has found its way onto a house since then and the abandoned cars are stacking up like cordwood. We had pulled into Greymouth on our train trip from Christchurch a week or so ago, and at that time we thought the town looked kind of nice. This was just an illusion though, since obviously the two square blocks around the train station are clean and full of new café for the sole purpose of servicing the daily train passengers who get only about 45 minutes to walk around town. Therefore we didn’t make it beyond the two blocks on that trip. Should have given this one a miss.
The weather leads me to my next thought. Ali and I have really enjoyed the South Island, but have decided that if we were ever to visit here again we would do it during the winter season. The reason for this is that it is currently summer here, and yet we have been freezing every single night, and during the days we’ve been more comfortable in jeans and sweatshirts than shorts and t-shirts. So really, what is the point of visiting in summer? At least in the winter you could go snowboarding at a whole bunch of different ski resorts. And since you need a thick wetsuit to do anything in the water during the summer, it wouldn’t matter much if it was winter and the water was a few degrees colder. Not to mention how great the views of the mountains would be with a bunch of snow piled up on top of them. Yep, next time we will take off during our summer in the States and go skiing in New Zealand instead.