Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Random December News

We spent nearly half of December hoping that Scott would get over his mystery illness.  I'm writing this in January, and happy to report that the illness has disappeared.  Luckily, for his 40th birthday, he started to feel well enough to enjoy the best kitesurfing session of his life at Colac Bay in the far south.

We headed west after our ER visit in the southern-most city of Invercargill.  We found plenty of amazing freedom camping spots on the southern coast.  At one of the great camping spots, Scott decided to fish in a small lagoon, right next to the ocean, where he caught his first brown trout.  He ran up the steep hill to get me from the van so that I could witness his catch.  As we were running back down to the lagoon, the conversation about whether we would kill the fish began.  Despite the fact that I eat meat, I still have issues with the idea of someone, especially us, killing something.  After a few moments of back-and-forth conversation about whether we should eat the trout, Scott reminded me of his recent track record, convincing me that this might be our one and only chance to eat fresh NZ trout tacos.  I had a sad feeling all night about the fact that we killed the fish.  Why don't I feel that way about the chicken and beef that I eat?  I think everyone should have to kill their own meat -- it would make us much more thankful for what we put in our mouths everyday.  A few days later, we found this graffiti (pictured) on the pylon of a bridge near a large reservoir.

Fish Feel

Clifden Caves
Not many tourists make the trip all the way to Invercargill.  We benefited by finding some great off-the-beaten track experiences.  One notable find, was the Clifden Caves.  This underground cave system was denoted by a sign on the highway labeled, "limestone caves".  You park along the road, cross over a private-property fence, and climb down a hole beneath grazing sheep.  We found ourselves crawling, shimmying, and climbing through some impossibly narrow, wet, and muddy spaces.  The limestone formations were very cool.  It was surreal to emerge from the caves, 2 hours later, into blazing sunshine, with the temperature 20 F degrees hotter than in the caves.

As we headed back north, we zipped through some areas that we had already visited, including the incredibly scenic area around Queenstown and Wanaka.  We even found ourselves back in Timaru, the little city that had kept us warm and dry during the big northwesterly storms in October.  During our trek northward, we also passed through Christchurch and the surrounding area.  It was fun to be in the area during the summer, since all of our prior experiences in Christchurch were during the wet and cold months.  One of the memorable times near Christchurch was at a "locals-only" free camping area that we found on Lake Ellesmere.  We met Greg, a Kiwi originally from Alaska, his adopted son, and his son's biological father. The three of them were traveling together for the holidays. Greg is a fellow engineer, kiter, kayaker, mountain biker, and all-around adventurer. We kited and kayaked with him for a few days, and we even met up with him a week later, where we learned how to play parcheesi in his recently purchased motorhome.  It's always fun to connect with like-minded people.  We spent New Years Eve at the camping area on Lake Ellesmere where we went to sleep at 10pm.  We were "treated" to a small fireworks blast around midnight, but other than that, 2010 went out with a whimper.

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