Thursday, January 29, 2009

January 24-28: Marlborough Region

We've worked out most of the driving-on-the-left kinks by now. Thankfully Allison seems to be driving whenever we get to the ubiquitous roundabouts, which I can't figure out for the life of me. Whenever making a turn or going through an intersection we just look both ways continuously; that seems to be effective. It's hard to believe flashing a California license makes this legal.

Leaving Wellington, we drove Petunia onto the ferry, and set off for the South Island where we'll be spending the majority of our remaining time in New Zealand.  A little behind on our planning we didn't really have a plan for where we were going to stay that night and as it was getting late on the scenic road to Nelson, luckily we stumbled across this campsite.


We are continually amazed at the beauty and isolation of this place.  We've been sleeping at some of the most beautiful campsites we've ever stayed at and often have them to ourselves.

Nelson is known for its art community, but we hit it on a Sunday and everything was closed, so we missed out on that.  But the region is known for their green-lipped mussels, so we picked some up and cooked up a delicious meal at our "backpackers" (what they call hostels in NZ).  Yuan, here's a food picture for you.

The next day we started a two day kayak trip into the Marlborough Sound.  The winds were strong and the waves choppier than we expected, so it turned into a strenuous three hour paddle.  What we weren't expecting was half way accross the open-water section, a massive ferry was heading straight for us.  We paddled extra hard and clearly survived, but got a little scare out of it.  We were rewarded with a campsite in a beautiful bay that we again had all to ourselves and an amazing sunset.  The nocturnal possums were a little aggressive once the sun went down, scavenging around looking for food, but we just hunkered down in the tent and pretended they weren't there.

Our last stop in the Marlborough region was in Renwick, the largest wine-producing region in the country.  We stayed at a beautiful little place that felt more like a B&B than a hostel, playing tennis in the morning and renting bikes to go wine tasting in the afternoon.  The wines were surprisingly consistently delicious, especially the Sauvignon Blancs and the Pinot Noirs, and the region (like everywhere else in New Zealand) beautiful. Some of our favorites were Allan Scott, Huia, and Cloudy Bay. Forrest Vineyards is a good place for a picnic and to play some lawn games. Most of the days we've been here it's been a perfect 75 degrees and clear with the occaisonal afternoon clouds.


We're trying to get under the belly of this country and figure out what its problems our.  There must be something, we just haven't found it yet.  But so far it seems a little, dare we say, perfect?  Perhaps it is the low population and beautiful scenery, but everyone we've met so far is incredibly kind, taking significant time out of their day to help us with whatever it is we need help, and generally quite jolly.  And literally every drive is a scenic drive.  Even the race relations between the Maori and the European immigrants seem healthy, which given the initial bloodshed, akin to the American expansion into the Native American West in the 1800s, is surprising.  Surely there is an undercurrent.  We'll let you know if we find it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

January 21 - 23: Auckland to Wellington

After a wonderful month with family and friends, we're back on the road. The second half of our year started with us skipping the most hopeful day in our nation's recent history as we crossed the international dateline from January 19, 2009 to January 21, 2009. But we heard he did just fine without us around :)

After landing in Auckland we picked up our cute little rental car for the month (a Nissan Pulsar whom we've named "Petunia") and headed south. Driving 5 hours on the left-side of the road after a red eye probably wasn't the smartest decision, but we survived. There's something comfortably familiar about taking a road trip - listening to our music and sleeping in our own tent - through this magical country.

Our first 48 hours in New Zealand have lived up to all the hype.... The scenery is insanely beautiful (For all you Lord of the Rings junkies, yesterday we hiked under the gaze of Mordor's Mount Doom). The people are wonderfully kind (from the woman who gave us a bowlful of plums just because, to the man who said he no longer was in the camping business but we could stay on his property anyways if we wanted to). And yes, there really are as many sheep as everyone says there are. We're regrouping in Wellington today before heading to the South Island tomorrow where we'll be spending most of our month here in this little slice of paradise...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

South America Photos

Hi everyone.  I've uploaded the photos I took from this last leg of travel through South America up to my website.

I recommend looking at the pictures in slideshow mode to get the fullscreen pictures.  For those technically inclined, you can now also RSS subscribe to get updated whenever I add new photos.

Enjoy and Happy New Year.