Saturday, September 23, 2006

23 - September 2006

After downing delicious pancakes, we walked across the road to Punakaiki, the limestone formations known as "Pancake Rocks." We managed to see them at high tide (by luck, but I let Mike think I'd planned the day just so), which is ideal for the many blowholes in the area. It was amazing to see them spew--and even more impressive to hear them. They sound like part roar, part exploding bomb!

We hit the road once again and passed through jade country (we visited the Jade Factory in Hokitika, where we could watch a carver in action; they even make jade golf putters!), art galleries, and fields of...wait, what's that? Goats?! But no worries--there were plenty of sheep, too. When we hit civilization (it's all relative--the town was tiny!), we visited a pharmacist (er, that's "chemist" down under), who found Mike some oral antihistamine (they don't sell that kind of Bendryl here) and a topical hive cream (the poor fella is spottier than ever and itching like mad!).

Aside from the frequent roadkill (one Kiwi did say, "if you've noticed our roads are fuzzy, it's because we aim for the possums; each one means a New Zealander has performed his civic duty"), New Zealand highways (called "motorways" here) are really more like country drives, and they couldn't be any more dreamy. The scenery is breathtaking and ever-changing, from lush rainforest to glassy lakes (at Lake Ianthe, we so wish we'd had a kayak on us!) to fog-shrouded mountains to bright blue rivers. We just can't get over the tremendous variety of plants, trees, waterways, and birds (and birdsongs) in this country.

Early this evening, we made our way to today's destination, New Zealand glacier country. We'd heard it would be storming here, but we've encountered little more than mist (we're just crossing fingers it doesn't hit tomorrow!). We're staying in the one-block township of Fox Glacier (tucked into the foothills of the Southern Alps, it's a much cozier and cuter village than the more popular, populated, and spread-out Franz Joseph Glacier), where we had dinner at the pub (the waitress was quite confused when I ordered my burger without the fried egg and bacon) and, after dark, walked over to the fern forest/glow worm grotto at the end of the street. It was magical, as if the stars had come to earth all around us!

(This was taken with a flash, as our camera couldn't capture the "star" effect these little guys actually gave off.)

And for the record, this is Mike's usual evening contribution to the blog:

(Yes, he's nodded off.)

More on how to speak Kiwi:
--Change every soft "e" sound to a soft "i" sound, as in "second" = "sicond," "left" = "lift," "egg" = "igg," and "Pepsi" = "Pipsi"
--"corner market or convenience store" = "dairy"

Today's head-scratcher:
--While they measure distance in kilometers in New Zealand, there are all sorts of names like "Four Mile Road" and "One Mile Bridge."

--There are inexpensive "backpackers" accommodations all over the place here--and most are in far more superb and interesting locations than the more expensive and popular hotels! Bed and Breakfasts are everywhere, too, and they run the gamut here from a bedroom in a modest home to a fancy inn--but it appears there's far more of the former. One day we might consider New Zealand farm stays, which would be a great way to really get to know the locals and the New Zealand lifestyle.

--Both Australians and Kiwis (as do Americans) cut food with the knife in their right hand and the fork upside down in the left--but then they don't transfer back before taking a bite, which means they eat from an upside-down, left-handed fork. It is inarguably more efficient, but we can't help but think it looks crude!

--We love listening to the local news. Today we learned of a doctor who performed two vasectomies that subsequently failed (poor folks!); as punishment, he cannot perform another vasectomy for three years.

-- I believe I read that glow worms are actually maggots (and that they glow when they are hungry)...but they look quite beautiful if you put that out of your mind!

Today's sign of the day:


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