Monday, January 30, 2012

A whole spectrum of goodness

Last day of our school holidays...I had to go to the office though and nearly fainted at the piles of work sitting on my desk - it didn't look like that when last I was there early January!  Nick was out at the church office and the boys were happy to be at home with granny and grandpa (actually granny and grandpa were also happy to be at 'home' - after the last two weeks of country-trotting).  We all met up at home for lunch, and then when Nick went back to work the rest of us went grocery shopping - the cupboards were looking decidedly bare (tomato sauce was on the list).  We found an array of interesting veggies - cauliflowers in shades of bright purple and orange, as well as yams, kumaras, courgettes and mini sweet capsicums.  What a spread for roasting!!
Mom and Dad have been most excellent at finding things to do and ways to be of use in our home, apart from the obvious pleasure of their company.  I turn my back for five minutes and the dishes are done - not only washed, but dried and packed away - the washing gets hung outside and brought back in when it's dry; clothes are quietly ironed, and the boys get to have Rummikub companions.  Caught Popsie ironing his jeans - when the camera flash fired he thought he'd tripped the electricity :)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Reflecting on holidays

Very much a day of sleeping in, going to church, meeting new friends, catching up on washing and unpacking and chilling.  It was great that Nick wasn't preaching today so could also rest after the hours and hours of driving.  We had a speaker from the Gideons' International Society who shared a very encouraging and challenging message from and about the bible - very interesting indeed to hear about the origins of the society who now go about distributing bibles in hotels, motels, hospitals and schools et al.  Grant was our preacher in the evening and again, an encouraging word from the Word about our citizenship in heaven.  After church and much chatting, we had the Phillipses around for a long-overdue catch-up after their holiday in SA.  Fabulous to laugh together over hot chips and peanut sauce, mango sauce, plum sauce and BBQ sauce (only the tomato was missing), cake, and Trevor Noah.
Ugh, look at all that clutter on the coffee table - all the boys' back-to-school stationery still needing sorting and labelling!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dunedin to Timaru (home sweet home)

'Twas the the earliest start of the whole week this morning with a great enthusiasm on the folks' part to be out of the tree house. There was a vintage book shop just around the corner which Nick wanted to see; although the sign outside said 'open', we had to wait a few minutes for the owner to get out of bed and get dressed. Vintage books seem to be very expensive.
Onward to Larnach's castle on the Otago Peninsula where the very friendly gate-keeper asked us where we're from and what we do. The answers of 'Timaru' and 'Baptist Pastor' led him to ask if perhaps we know his daughter - who turned out to be none other than Bethany Rentoul! We just couldn't believe the connection. The Castle and grounds were spectacular and the history interesting  if not rather sordid and sad. Mom started feeling faint about five minutes into the viewing so emergency scones and coffee in the Ballroom Cafe were necessary.
There was a strict ban on any indoor photography of the castle, but the Ballroom Cafe was without restriction - yay!
A climb up a seemingly-endless spiral of stairs (although Dad counted and said there were 29) in the turret brought you to a balcony overlooking the castle grounds.
Took the higher road over the ridge of the peninsula on the way to Dunedin city which afforded grand views over the bay and cit - Nick stopped a few times on the way so I didn't have to do ootw shots!
Got into town, found a parking and walked to the museum (which my iPhone map indicated was a 2-minute walk but that only applies if you can speed-walk...methinks I made a mistake somewhere as it turned into at least a 20-minute expedition). Ah well, the best way to see a city is on foot, right? The appearance of a live jazz musician in a corner of the museum was a bonus and the whispering domes were intriguing as always.
Made our way to the Octagon via Knox Church and McDonalds, peered in at St Paul's Cathedral which had all manner of plaques commemorating long-dead people...just no mention of Jesus Christ. 
Knox Church, above and below.
St Paul's Cathedral, above and below.
All glad to get into car (the third location we'd parked it because of max. 1-hour parking) but a 10 minute drive took us to Baldwin Street for more punishment. First bought a small bag of giant jaffas at the tourist shop at a giant price, then huffed and puffed to the top of the world's steepest street, as recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records.  Phew! 
Those jaffas were not for eating, but for rolling a-la the annual event in which some 30,000 jaffas are rolled down Baldwin Street.
And it had turned hot...drinks and muffins from New World were enjoyed in the car on the way to our final holiday stop, Moeraki Boulders. These huge boulders lie scattered on Koekohe Beach like long-forgotten bowling balls, ranging in size from half a metre to over two metres in diameter.
Pizza from our friendly Timaru Dominoes for tea...home at last after a fantastic week of seeing more of our amazing country. The route itself maps out as 1490 kms...that's not counting the in-between driving we did.  Well done to Nick for being the sole driver, and thanks to Andreas and Danielle for the loan of their bus!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Te Anau to Dunedin

Packed up and on the road again just after 9 am, travel coffees safely stashed. Made a quick stop at a souvenir shop in Te Anau for postcards.
Above: ootw shot of the icing-sugar sprinkling of snow freshly fallen overnight - in mid-summer!!  Below - finally, clear skies.
Got stuck in slow moving traffic.  The hold-up?  A moving house!  Not an unusual sight in NZ, but very interesting for my parents to see this interesting way of relocating.
On the way to Dunedin we decided to detour from our planned itinerary in order to head south to Invercargill, southernmost and westernmost city in NZ.  We didn't find anything particularly special there except a Subway for lunch and the most atrocious weather - strong winds and then heavy rain followed by a brief hail shower.  It didn't last long though and then there was a bit of sun again!
We continued south on Highway 1 to one of the world's southernmost settlements, Bluff, which is colloquially accepted as being NZ's most southern point (although Slope Point is actually further south) - as in the expression 'From Cape Reinga to The Bluff'. Again, other than its claim to fame and a cute little lighthouse it was really nothing special to see - in fact it was quite run down and just a little bit shabby. 
This was about all there was to see in Bluff...
So having been there and done that we turned around and started our northern return via Balclutha where we stopped to look at the interesting concrete Road Bridge (built 1935) which spans the Clutha River, the largest in NZ volume-wise.  Had barely finished looking around before the rain came bucketing down again. 
Arrived in Dunedin mid-afternoon where we'd booked a night in a bach at Broad Bay. Mom and Dad were not impressed with our booking but Nick and I thought the tree-house accommodation rather fabulous! We hadn't particularly catered anything for tea so popped out in the hopes of finding a fish and chip shop (actually in the hopes of finding any shop at all on the peninsula); drove to Portobello and stumbled across Ric's Galley which was actually voted the best chip shop from Timaru to Bluff for 2011! They were pretty good along with the delicious fish sticks but we still think our Timaru chips are better.  So cold again that we had TWO fires going.  The house was built in such an interesting way over about five split levels with every room (including the bathroom) having two doorways, so you could do a circular route through the house upstairs and downstairs.  All very confusing and very cold with a double volume high ceiling in the lounge where Nick and I slept on mattrasses in our sleeping bags.  Mom and Dad upstairs had to close their door to keep the heat out!
First glimpse of the house tucked in the trees - access through the woods via a VERY steep driveway.  But look at the view over the bay across to Dunedin city!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Milford Sound

All up early today, by holiday standards - before 7 am! Breakfast eaten, lunches made, nearly all hats found and insect repellent packed, and on the road at 8.40 for Milford Sound - acclaimed as NZ's most famous tourist attraction.  Once on our way we realized that it was going to take more time than we thought for travelling so we couldn't stop for pictures on the way, which turned out to be a huge loss as it started raining mid-morning and continued all day, in all parts of our travels.  Anyways, arrived at Milford Sound with just enough time to walk the 10 minutes to the huge terminal servicing several water and air cruise companies and their vessels - quite a bustle and the distinct feeling of being a minority European in a sea of Asian faces.  Got the parents and boys safely aboard the boat for their cruise which they thoroughly enjoyed -  the rain makes the waterfalls all the more grand and they were under cover.  Nick and I wandered around the head of Milford until rain and cold forced us back to the car (we're not the hard core-photographers we'd like to think we are) - we played Angry Birds, ate lunch and had coffee in the car until it was time to return to the terminal to retrieve the happy travellers. The rain was terribly disappointing for photos but the scenery between the sounds and Homer Tunnel  (which has an interesting history - five men with picks and wheelbarrows started excavations during the Depression) was just incredible. Stopped at Mirror Lake on the way back but only Nick and Dad went to see - nothing but wetness being reflected there today.  It continued raining all the way home and for the rest if the day at Te Anau, and turned cold enough that Nick lit a fire.
This amused me - these tourists looked like cows standing in the field :)  Below - see the rainbow?
All aboard...and off into the mist they went.
Hairpin bends, steep roads, cliffs, waterfalls, greenery, towering trees and rain made up the journey home.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Arrowtown to Te Anau

Packed and out of house by 9.30 am; drove 100m to an historic Chinese Settlement where information boards tell the sad story of early settlers prospecting for gold - apparently they were hard working and kept to themselves but swelling numbers brought resentment from NZ Europeans; a formal apology was issued by NZ government in 2002 for the discrimination and poor treatment of these Chinese men!  
The drive to Te Anau was dry and hot and the red tussock landscape not as pretty as the green pastoral scenes so typical of NZ.  In fact it was so barren that we couldn't even find a tree to shelter under for a picnic lunch, so pressed on and arrived at our next bach in Te Anau at 1 pm and had lunch there.  And it was HOT!!  We all just rested for an hour or two; late afternoon we ventured out to the Wildlife Centre to look at birds - takahe, kea, kaka and parakeet are to be found there.  The boys had a paddle in Lake Te Anau - NZ's second largest lake.
Above: an out-of-the-window (ootw) shot; can't remember where or what!  Below: my parents were amazed at the fact of a young white girl doing a task that would normally be assigned to a completely different group of people in SA :)
Above: On the shores of Lake Te Anau.  Below - kakariki (red crowned parakeet).
Our bach in Te Anau; below - a gentle sunset.