Happy New Year!! Sorry we havent posted in a while, we safely made it from NZ to Australia, only to discover we couldnt access our blog for some reason. So... Happy Happy 2009. May this year be better than the last and set the standard for years to come.
Where did we leave off... right, heading out of Nelson on Cmas day.
Santa was QUITE nice to us, as were our campsite neighbors. We had packages on the table (as there was no tree to be had) and treats from our fellow Cmas travelers. The kids were thrilled with their gifts and in shock that Santa had found them so far away from "home". We had a leisurely breakfast of pancakes & bacon and were off on our LONG LONG drive to Fox Glacier (9 hrs) (Mommies secret Santa request was that the kids would be good of the trip and they WERE! Thank you Santa!!!)
The incredible thing about NZ is that every 2 hours or so you are in a new climate or ecosystem or landscape. Its simply amazing. We took the highway down the west coast and it was the most incredible drive. One minute you are in Kansas, the next the Rockies, the next Northern MN, the next Napa Valley and finally the gorgeous west coast of California. We landed up in Fox Glacier at another simply gorgeous camp ground (heard a new work Glamping - glamor/camping and this place is definitely it). This area is what I would expect Alaska to be like. Tall mountians, clear streams and tons of old old pine trees. We played with a French family until dark (asbout 10:30pm) and then were off to gather strength for our "glacier expedition" the next day.
We awoke to rain and no reservations for the glacier expedition so we had to explore on our own. Despite the rain, it was amazing. You can walk up to 50meters from the glacier and I dare say it was Tom's favorite part of the trip. We were soaking wet by the end of it and it was only about 55 degrees...brrr but worth it (ok you guys in MN, no laughing - 5 soaking wet loud americans with 0 clean clothes in a camper van is not fun and IS mildly cold.) After lunch (and hot showers) off again... Destination? Queenstown or Wakana.
After much discussion during the 6 hr drive, the verdict? Wakana - a family verison of Queenstown (or so the book says) and home of PuzzleTown. (It also was going to save us 2 hours of driving - which at this point on mountian roads in a camper van, was a worthworthwhile consideration).
Wakana is like North MN at its best, but with mountains. The town is on a lake and their are hikers, boaters and bikers EVERYWHERE. For the ONLY time on the trip, I (Tracy) managed to convince the troups into a 1 1/2 hr hike up to the highest point in town to take a look around. Admist much complaining on the way up and full speed running on the way down, I think we successfully wore the kids out. We also spent a ton of time at PuzzleTown. Its TOO cool, sort of a cross between the corn mazes of MN, the "only spot" in WI and a museum dedicated to games. The kids loved it!!
Off to Dunedin - home of seals, penguins and albatross. After a 4hr trip that took us 6 (dont ask but it included a very real fear of running out of gas, food and potty stops) we arrived at dusk. The penguins are suppose to march up the shore at dark and retire to their nests. We should check it out, right??? After 16kms (and 45 mins)of treacturous coastal driving on a road banked by cliffs on each side, we reached just in time to find out the beach was closed for the evening. We had missed it.... another 45 mins of the same road in the dark and we found our campsite. We tried again the next day and were blessed with an available reservation to go 8 wheeling through a sheep ranch to see the seals and penguins. We were NOT disappointed. It was a pretty cool adventure for all.
Back in the camper (getting the feel for this now? :)). Off to Christchurch. Our final NZ destination - again a 5 hr trip took 7, we got lost and ended up pulling into the campsite at 20:30pm. I am SURE the other campers were less than thrilled that we were burning off kid energy in the park at that time of night, but what are you going to do???
Our final day in NZ. We ventured down to Cathedral square to go "punting" and see the sites. Christchurch is gorgeous (in a very coastal Great Britian way). We allowed a guy to "pole" us down the river in town (punting) watched Basketball Man (a street performer) and saw the gorgeous sites in town. Then, off to Anarctic World. This was BY FAR the highlight of Jimmys trips. We got to experience an Anarctic Storm (only 0 farenheit - Jimmy didnt want to leave and Billy/Kay were crying - I was thinking, oh god - we are in for it when we return to MN). There were also penguins and a ton of interactive learning stuff for adults and kids. We also got to ride in a Anartic Hasbargg (sp??) it was a virtual behind the scenes "ride" in the Anarctic. Billy was crying, I thought I might throw up and JImmy was in heaven. On the walk home, we met a guy in the airforce who splits his assignments between the Arctic and Anarctic. Pretty cool.
We bade a fond farewell to NZ the next day and headed towards Australia, Mt Gambier and Duane, Leanne, Cooper and Dominic!!