Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sliding Down Rocks at Rere Rockslide

The Rere Rockslide is a natural 180 foot rock incline with just enough water pouring over it to entice the kid in all of us to risk serious injury.

I had anticipated Rere Rockslide for a couple of weeks.  Various tourist publications suggested that this "natural wonder" could best be enjoyed with a boogie board, inner tube, or blowup mattress.  We assumed that the town near Rere Rockslide would have loads of used boogie boards in their second-hand shops. However, when we arrived during a very hot day and asked at the visitor center, they pointed us to the nearest Warehouse (NZ version of Walmart).

Since we didn't want to buy a new board, only to throw it away after a few slides, we headed to all of the second-hand shops.  No luck.  Next, we trudged around town in the 90 degree heat, on foot and in the van.  The Warehouse was sold out, and our next best option was a $30 board at a lawn and garden shop.  We couldn't bring ourselves to pay that much for a piece of foam that we would use for 30 minutes and then throw away.

As usual, Scott had a "great" idea.  We bought $4 worth of foam padding at a second-hand shop that we planned to wrap around my little surfboard.  We thought this was a good idea until we got to the rockslide and discovered how long, rocky, and bumpy it is.  We didn't want to risk breaking the surfboard, so we used a cracked boogie board from the trash can at the parking lot.  The first slide turned out pretty well (the ending is the best part):

You can watch the following two videos to see how the rest of the slides turned out:

If you can't tell from the videos, we both rode down the rockslide on our hands, knees, and toes for most of the way.  The board got stuck on one of the diagonal cracks.  You would think we would have cut our losses at this point, but we didn't.  Both of us tried again, and both of us lost the board before the end.  Our elbows and wrists were sore for days -- I thought I might have broken something. Now that 3 weeks have passed, I can look back on it and kinda laugh (while cringing).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Random January News: South Island to the North Island

How many places can you travel from the east coast to the west coast to the north coast to the south coast to the west coast and finally to the east coast again, in a vehicle, in a span of 4 weeks?  We put the van to work over the past month as we traveled from Christchurch on the east coast of the South Island in a very round-about way to the east coast of the North Island.

Scott worked up quite a thirst on our hike
In order to get to the west coast from Christchurch you must travel over one of the mountain passes.  The quickest route is over Arthur's Pass, where we enjoyed a few glorious, sunny, and warm days in the mountains.  As we hiked down from Avalanche Peak, we spotted Devil's Punchbowl Falls across the valley, and had some fun taking pictures.  Living so close to waterfalls for so long in the northwest, you'd think this would have occurred to us before. Surely other people have done it. Show us your pics!

The wild, unpopulated, and gorgeous northwest coast of the South Island was definitely a highlight.   It had been a while since we had been around native forest.  Unfortunately, many parts of New Zealand are logged for grazing or forestry business -- they don't tell you this in their "Clean, Green, 100% Pure New Zealand" tourist brochures.  We just learned that NZ has the 2nd most endangered forest ecosystem in the world (2nd to Burma).  Here's my 2 cents:  less sheep and cows -- more greenery.

We had a self-imposed deadline to get to the Wellington immigration office by the end of January.  This was to allow time to buy a plane ticket if our visa-extension application wasn't approved.  We decided to get to Wellington on a Sunday night so that we could get to the immigration office bright and early on Monday morning.  Wellington is the North Island port, the capital of NZ, and home to one of the bigger immigration offices.  We managed to pick a bad day to cross the Cook Strait, as it was stormy, windy, and rainy -- only slight sea sickness this time.  We woke up early and hurried to the immigration office only to find that it was "Wellington Day" (!!!???) and all government offices were closed.  DAMN.  Our patience was rewarded with a visa-extension approval and a sunny day on Tuesday.  It was our 3rd time in Wellington and the first time to experience anything other than rain, wind, and cold.  In fact, it was downright beautiful weather. Our visa was extended from March 30th to May 30th.  We still haven't decided exactly when we will fly back to the USA (probably sometime mid-May).

From Wellington, we traveled up the west coast of the North Island, chasing wind and waves (and sunsets) but after a couple of days we headed to the east coast where we made a stop at a place called Castlepoint.  We had never expected to go out to Castlepoint as it's a big out-and-back drive for something unknown.  We were so glad we made the drive.  Castlepoint is an unusual limestone reef/peninsula/island-like formation with epic beach driving and good surfing and hiking options.  I went overboard taking pictures of all the seals lazing on the beach and rocks.

Summer on the east coast of the North Island is kicking our butts a little bit at the moment.  I know no one in the snowy USA wants to hear about the hot and humid days/nights but honestly, it's not very comfortable -- this morning we woke up and it was 84 degrees in the van.  SO HOT AND HUMID.  I don't expect this to last for very long so we're trying to enjoy it for what it is -- good surfing and swimming weather!

The hot weather is taking it's toll on the seals too