Meanwhile in New Zealand…

I guess it’s about time I post again. Sorry, I was on a much-needed vacation for a week. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been working so hard I though my brain was going to explode. Seriously. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t had this break. Probably would have died.

Just kidding. Break was completely superfluous and I would have fared just fine without it. Remember? I don’t actually go to school this semester.

Anyway…

Mom and Dad arrived Thursday night, and Friday morning, we were off.

Oh, and here’s a fun story. I had pinkeye for the first several days. Don’t worry though, nobody farted in my face (that I’m aware of), and it got better.

1. Stewart Island. This is the southernmost island of New Zealand, and the southernmost inhabited land in the world, save Antarctica (and possibly Patagonia). It was on this island that Mom and Dad got their first taste of the Tim Tam Slam. They thought it was too sweet. I shunned them. Also, I had a bottle of cider at dinner and decided my tolerance has gotten even lower.

Stewart Island

2. Doubtful and Milford Sounds. These are two of the fourteen sounds off the west coast, in Fiordland. There’s a problem, do you see it? Probably not, but I’ll tell you. They’re called “sounds,” but they are in FIORDland. Apparently there is a difference between a fiord (the less-cool way to spell fjord) and a sound. A fiord, according to Wikipedia, is a long, narrow inlet surrounded by high  walls and carved by glacial activity. A sound, on the other hand, is wider than a fiord and not caused by glacial activity. Anyway, the explorers who named Fiordland weren not privy to Wikipedia and therefore confused their fiords with their sounds. Never mind. At Doubtful and Milford, we saw a number of rainbows (including the elusive double rainbow) and a lot of clouds. And rain. And clouds. And rain. We got dumped on at Milford. But it was beautiful nonetheless.

Milford Sound

Here, we also learned about the fervid rivalry between Aussies and Kiwis. When the driver was explaining safety rules before we started, he said, “if you can’t understand my strong Kiwi accent, or if you are Australian, there are instructions written in your rooms.” The harassment didn’t stop there though. There’s a dessert dish called a pavlova (it’s like a kiwi or passionfruit merengue) that each nationality claims is its own and says the other ain’t doin’ it right. The chef introduced the dish to us during meal time, adding on a bit about how it is typical Kiwi cuisine, and about half the boat erupted in angered boooos. I laughed. Later, (when anchored), the driver showed us a slideshow of what we’d be seeing in the morning when we explored more of the sound/fiord. Here’s a video of what he showed us at the end. Apparently it was banned in the UK.

Also, the guy pronounced gneiss like g-neiss.

3.  We went on a brief hike between Fiordland and Queenstown. I taught the padres the fun scale: Types 1, 2, and 3. Type 1 is just fun. Type 2 is fun looking back on it. Type 3 is fun at someone else’s expense. The hike was probably Type 2.

4. Queenstown. Up until this point, the trip had been seriously low-impact. I needed to do something dangerous. I suggested the Shotover Jet and hang gliding. Mom and Dad loved the jet. It’s a shallow water boat that goes crazy through a beautiful canyon. They decided not to hang glide. Lame as. It was fun though. I wish I were a bird…

Also introduced Mom and Dad to the famous Fergburger. They wanted to eat the Ferg for lunch, but I insisted it just can’t be done. They were not disappointed. Millburn Deli should be thankful the Ferg is all the way down here. Would produce quite a rivalry.

OH HERE’S SOMETHING COOL. On the way back to town from the Shotover, we shared a bus with a member of the British pro rugby team! He was huuuuuuuge. Like, his neck was the size of my thigh. No joke. He was telling some guys he met about how he was invited to the royal wedding and how Prince (one of the princes) was piss-faced drunk. HA. Later, we got back to our hotel and realized the South African team was also staying there. COOL. AS.

Glacier. See? Blue.

5. Fox Glacier. I’d never been in a helicopter before. It’s kind of like hang gliding, I guess. At least, the takeoff it. It’s kind of cool. Loud. But anyway, the ride up to the glacier lasted about 5 minutes, and then we explored a huge glacier near where Mt. Cook is. This glacier’s ice is only 100 years old because it’s not a temperature-dependent glacier but a precipitation-dependent glacier. Unfortunately, several of the members of our group were from places where ice does not exist, so we had to take it slooooooowwwwllllyyyy. But very cool, either way! Did you know why ice turns blue? (Mother, not a word). Water droplets form around cloud condensation nuclei, or tiny particles of dust, and when the water freezes, they entrap the nuclei. These get compacted densely, and then when sun hits them, all the colors are absorbed except for blue, which is then reflected. Hence, blue ice.

Mts. Cook and Tasman. Cook is on the right, under the cloud.

6. Mt. Cook. Did you know Mt. Cook has a technical difficulty equal to that of K2, the most deadly mountain in the world? You can’t summit it unless you’re crazy. I have no death wish, so I just enjoyed its beauty from afar. But it is beautiful, I’ll give it that.

7. Greymouth. We drove to this “city” called Greymouth, an old coal mining city. While the city had not much to offer, it did have one very good restaurant. There, we ordered fish (I had salmon and the padres had grouper, or “groper,” as the Kiwis call it, awkwardly), but it came raw on a superheated rock tablet, 400 degrees C. We cooked the fish exactly how we wanted it (or at least that’s the said goal… I have little control over how my food ends up in these situations), and while very  hot, it was good. Interesting.

Pancakes

8. On our way to Christchurch, we stopped at the Pancake Rocks, a geological enigma. These rocks are formed in stratified layers that make them look like pancakes. Nobody really knows why they look that way.

9. Castle Rock. I tell you, there is nothing more tempting than going to a rock climbing playground on a beautiful day with a gazillion huge rocks to climb and then realizing you’re wearing Crocs. Climbing is very hard to do in Crocs. I’ll be back.  

10. Christchurch. It probably used to be a great city, but it’s fraught with destruction from the earthquakes now. Not much to do there. Kind of sad though. But I’ll be running a half marathon there in a few weeks, so at least it’s got that.

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