This posting is made up of emails I wrote to friends while I was in New Zealand a few years ago with the 99s, the International Association of Women Pilots. I'll come back later and include photos. Enjoy!
Paige, I bet you are up now, it's nearly 10 AM in Germany! Linwood, are you still in Brazil? so many friends in different time zones!! we have had fabulous weather since we got here - mid-high 60s I'd say. it's definitely spring, all the flowers are out and all. Look what I did yesterday!!
I've decided that New Zealand should be spelled with an X - New Xealand - because they definitely put the X in X-treme. That photo was at Thrillseekers Canyon near Hamner Springs. They have bungee jumping and all sortsa ways to kill yourself there. Right near the center was a local cemetery, I joked that it was where they buried their mistakes. (actually don't laugh, in Zermatt Switzerland there was a climber's cemetery near my hotel, everyone who fell off the Matterhorn got buried there...) I digress as usual!
This above was a jet boat - it skims the water surface and the drivers are crazy! They head straight for the rocks/trees/banks and at the last minute whip it around! He told us when he holds his hand up and makes a circle with it to hold on tight because he is going to do a 360! It's kinda like being on a motorcycle in the water, only you are high and have a death wish. Our driver was hilarious - when we all sat down he said "so is it the first time for everyone?" and we all shouted YES! he said "me too! but I've seen it done!" hahahahaha and off we went!
When we got back I said to him "so, did you enjoy your first time as much as we did?" and he said "yeah, it was great, wonder if they'll give me a job!" hahahaha
We went to Hamner Springs after, some people went in the pools, others went shopping (I have plenty of other opps to go into the hot pools on the trip, I'll do it later). On the way back (it was a full day) we stopped at a winery - Pegasus Bay. That sounds familiar, wonder if we can get it in the US? I bought their 2002 Pinot Noir which has won many awards and accolades. yummy! (yes, I know I am not supposed to be drinking but I'm on vacation so I'll deal with it) [edit - I was undergoing treatment for Lyme Disease with many different meds]
That night we went to the International Antarctic Centre. Oh my God! How cool was that! NZ is the closest point to the main bits of Antarctica (Argentina is technically closer but only to the one peninsula - Ross Peninsula I think? NZ is closest to the meat of it. There is a US Antarctic exploration center right there (took pics, will send later) and many flights leave from Christchurch/Queenstown.
They had a lot of info on Antarctica in general and a simulator!! You go into this room that is full of snow, an igloo, and whatever those big snowmobiles are called (not skidoos, the really big ones, you know what I mean) and then they turn on the "winter storm" and it gets down to sub-zero cold. (it's below freezing when you walk in, before they turn on the "storm". winds howling, etc. I stayed in for a few minutes and said "I get it, it's cold").
I still wanna go to Antarctica though! There is a 30 day Antarctic cruise they offer, sounds cool although a month may be a bit long, I'll have to ask Kavey what she thought of hers. I got a squeaky penguin which I know someone's going to fight over when I get home - I don't know who to give it to. (I can't believe how big those Emperor Penguins are! they are as big as a 6 year old child!)
Today we went to Akaroa which is also beautiful . We went on a dolphin cruise but didn't see any dolphins. We did however see a bunch of seals and cormorants and I SAW A PENGUIN!! A REAL LIVE PENGUIN. He was kinda tiny though - blue penguin - and all by himself. Everyone was leaning over the side of the boat snapping pics like crazy - kinda funny had we capsized. (not - it was a big enough boat).
The scenery is simply stunning. I mean really. rugged mountains, beautiful clouds... and the viz is GREAT. as we drove to Akaroa the guide pointed out the southern Alps - he said "those are 130 KM away - and we could see them fine. 130 KM viz! t Tat's even better than when I was in Seattle last month. The people are soooo laid back here! We're doing a bunch of other stuff and I'll fill ya in later.
Matt, show this to Mom and Dad, ok? Linda and Paige, feel free to send this around ok? William, I found the "New Zealand - Down Under no more" map! (it has NZ at the top, totally different perspective - south on top. it's so cool! I'm going to hang it somewhere.
The first person in the world to see the sunrise...
or, nearly the first.
We were in Napier, which is the second town in the world to get the sunrise (NZ is really close to the dateline - it's Wednesday afternoon here and Tues night at home...) anyway, given the fact that there were maybe 3 people on the beach with me I'm thinking that I musta been in the top 40 of the planet seeing the first glimpse of the sun on the 30th... how neat is that?
Our trip is actually coming to a close! I leave in 3 days. I took many addresses for postcards and sent them at least a week ago, you should have it if I knew your address, if not, and you want a postcard, drop me a line and I'll send one to ya. more highlights: first of all, let me say, if you come here, put Rotorua high on your list of places. It is like an adult fun park. Today we climbed up a volcano crater, peered over the edge, and walked/ran/slid all the way to the bottom on the scree (ohmygod was that fun - like wearing moon boots. seriously). I JUST got back from zorbing and I will say that is THE highlight of the trip. you get in a massive, 12 feet tall bubble, they throw in a few buckets of water with you, and then they push you down a long zig-zag hill. The experience defies description but I'll try. I decided just to lay flat and go with it - some folks try to stay on their feet and run down the hill with it but that doesn't seem like as much fun. You are sloshed all over like in a washing machine, GIGGLING madly the entire way. Sky, grass, sky, grass, sky, grass, water water everywhere, and it's so slippery you just let it throw you around. It's awesome - easily the most fun thing I've done this trip and we've done a lot!
Well, I'll cut this short and fill in the gaps later. with photos.
Oh yeah we also did a luge ride here in Rotorua - also a lot of giggling. you are on a "luge track" down a mountain but are in little scooter/bumper cars. pictures will help explain. a blast!!
I hope to see y'all soon. Let me know if you didn't get a postcard yet (with address) and I'll send one along.
And finally, some of the wines we enjoyed:
South Island - Pegasus Bay. I ended up buying their 2002 Pinot Noir, 40 NZD, and apparently it's won many awards in that part of the world. (including Australia). It is in the top 5 PN in NZ and OZ. I know NZ is more well known for Sauvignon Blancs, but, the Pinots are up and coming and I wanted to try something different.
The history behind wine making in NZ is fascinating. Do you know even 30 years ago it was a relatively dry country? They've really made up for lost time. They have not only the southernmost vineyards in the world, they have the "easternmost" if you count the International Date line as the marking point. http://www.pegasusbay.com/
North Island: I bought 3 bottles of wine from Ngatarawa ("between the ridges"). One Chardonnay from their "Silks" line, one from the Glazebrook line (I think Syrah, I have to check), and one late harvest Reisling. http://www.ngatarawa.co.nz/
We visited Matariki winery but those are more easily found in the US so I decided to hold off. The wine was excellent, one wine was called Quintology - 5 grapes. http://www.matarikiwines.co.nz/
We had lunch at Vidal winery. It was a bright beautiful day. I can recommend going to NZ in off season because the weather (at least in the North Island) is not cold (other than Wellington) and actually can be quite bright and sunny. Napier was absolutely brilliant. http://www.hawkesbaynz.com/pages/vidalestatewinery
Trinity Hill - also v. good wines. Enjoyed the tasting, but didn't buy any. I believe this is available in the US too. http://www.trinityhill.co.nz/flash.htm
We didn't make it to Sileni. That was our first choice for lunch, the kitchen was closed that day.
How can I forget Waiheke Island! We didn't actually stop at wineries but we spent some time at Vino Vino, which has a lovely patio overlooking the water...