The strategy for our Southern Hemisphere visit was to start in the southern most areas and move north since we are traveling in fall and the cold moves in quickly here. When we saw the US Antarctic Program base at the Christchurch airport (just 2415 miles north of the base in Antarctica itself) we knew we’d started in the right place. We quickly headed out to visit Akaroa where the sea comes in to form a bay in a former volcano. I had hoped to kayak but the wind was too strong so we hiked along the shoreline.
On the way from Christchurch to Akaroa we found a tiny settlement of silos made into guesthouses. A friend of ours has lived in a container and had told Dave about silo homes so we had to inspect. Kinda cool in an agricultural country that must have plenty of extra silos but the no windows thing would not work for me!
New Zealand’s spectacular scenery is all about colors. So many different blues, greens, yellows and reds in the hills, waterways, trees and mountains. Akaroa set the tone for New Zealand scenery. We stuffed our bags and surfboard into our crappy Rent-a-Wreck car (215,000 kilometers, bald tires, a mildew smell in the trunk and wet floors when it rained) and headed south to Dunedin (do-knee-din) for surf and surfboard repair items. Dave had bought a new 6’2″ epoxy Firewire board in San Diego at one of his favorite surf shops, the very cool Bird’s Surf Shed.
Before testing it out in New Zealand surf, he had to fill the large dent. Dunedin is a south coast college town with good waves but it was stormy and cold with rough seas. At least Dave found a surf shop and was able to repair his board. It was so stormy though that the “5 minutes only in direct sunlight” needed for the epoxy fill to dry was not fully available for awhile once he got the repair kit!
As we headed West to the Southern Alps and Lake Wanaka we took a fall hike along the Clutha river outside of Alexandra. Again thwarted by the weather, we had planned to bike nearby former railways made into bike trails but it was rainy and very cold. But we ended up having a lovely walk through the fall colors.
We have found that New Zealanders have an excellent infrastructure. They have very good roads–even though few of them are full four lane highways. They have loads of great hiking tracks and biking trails, all well marked and carefully maintained. Public restrooms are plentiful, which is very useful for the many tourists who come to visit.
I love that the New Zealanders have nicknamed themselves “Kiwi’s” even though we haven’t seen one tree yet and there are probably more sheep here than people. Seriously. But I can understand not calling yourselves “sheep.” And the apples and pears are absolutely delicious–the juiciest and sweetest I have ever had–but somehow neither of those works as a nickname either.
As far as I can recall experiencing, NZ is the only English speaking country where people greet each other with “Hi” and say “you guys”, just like we do in the states (well, all except for the South which has the ya’ll in place of you guys). So that makes them feel very familiar to me even if I misunderstand a few slang words here or there. And they are so friendly, they make you feel right at home no matter what they say.