I'll start this posting with the most recent event as it is undoubtedly the most exciting! Today, Jocelyn earned bragging rights by bungy jumping off the Kawarau Bridge just outside Queenstown, NZ! As we stood by and watched in awe as she leaped from the platform 143 feet above the river. The graceful swan dive was only slightly interrupted by her screaming. Way to go Jocelyn! (be sure to watch the video on youtube, just click the link on the right)
Waiting for her turn to jump
The final preparations
The Kawarau bridge
So, now back to the interesting, but less thrilling of our adventures.
We were very fortunate to reunite with O'vive and Orca III for two nights in Murchison where
got together for a BBQ and crossed the Buller Gorge for a hike to the waterfall. The girls rode the zip line back across the swing bridge.
BBQ in Murchison
All of us on the swing bridge across the Buller Gorge
Jocelyn & Jenny on the zip line swing
The drive along the West coast of the South island is quite remarkable. The mighty Tasman Sea roars to the right while the lush forest and steep rock faces threaten to knock you off the road. This treacherous stretch of highway is, undoubtedly, the most beautiful but the driver must be very alert as the highways often narrow to one lane. Most of the bridges are only one lane and we even crossed one that was shared with a train!
Hawkes Cragg - this one lane stretch of the highway was carved out by hand just high enough to allow a bus to clear.
Jay and Marg at the Tasman Sea
We stopped to visit the amazing Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki. This mysterious rock formation has geologists stumped. They do not know how they came to exist or why they are layered the way they are. This was a really cool stop that we all enjoyed.
Pancake Rocks - Punakaiki, NZ
Here are those beautiful girls again!
Following the Pancake Rocks, we drove on to a little town called Hokatika where we collected black sand from the Tasman Sea and visited a glow worm dell.
Town centre in Hokatika
The following morning it was an early start as we had many stops we wanted to make enroute to Lake Wanaka.
Our first stop was Franz Joseph Glacier, the largest in New Zealand! We walked the 45 minute trail/river bed to come face to face with terminal face. Ok, we were a few hundred metres away, but it was still awesome! Following is the Maori legend of the glacier.
Ka Roimata O Hine Hukatere (The Tears of Hine Hukatere) is the Maori name for Franz Joseph.
Hine Hukatere (meaning 'the avalanche girl') was an adventurous Maori woman who loved mountaineering above all other activities. Her lover, Tawe, was not as fond of climbing as his sweetheart but Hine's powers of persuasion were strong and Tawe often climbed with her in the mountains. On one such adventure Tawe slipped at the head of this valley and plunged to his death. Hine's tears were so many that they flooded the valley and were frozen by the Gods as a memorial to her grief.
A cloudy day, but you can still see the glacier in the background. Notice that we're all wearing shorts!
Feeling the icy water.
Now, just one 1 1/2 hour walk is not nearly enough for one day so we stopped at Lake Matheson to do another one hour walk before continuing our all day drive South.
Along the stretch of highway between Haast and Wanaka, there are many beautiful stops with nice short walks to incredible waterfalls and blue pools. We stopped for about half of them but we were getting very tired.
The skies cleared in the afternoon for this beautiful pic of Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. (I had to run half way back across a one way bridge to get this picture!)
Beautiful Blue Pools - these beautiful pools get their name from the lovely blue colour which is caused by light refracting through the icy water.
At last, we arrived in Wanaka tired and hungry! After a great dinner at the Speights Ale House and good sleep we were ready to go again. Our first afternoon in Wanaka we visited Puzzling World, a very interesting place filled with puzzles and illusions. Our favorite was the hall of faces. When you cover one eye and walk around the room, these concave portraits seem to follow you - eerie!
Hall of Faces - Puzzling World, Wanaka
Ames Forced Perspective Room - this technique was used in the Lord of the Rings to create large and small people.
Such a strong family!
Even the public toilets are interesting here!
When you gotta go, you gotta go!
Gotta post a toilet picture from time to time!
So this brings us back to the beginning which is actually the end. Today we took a little drive to Queenstown. This mountain/lake town is similar to Whistler and we enjoyed our walk around. Next, we made a little stop at charming Arrowtown. It was here that we mustered the courage to try white bait, a local delicacy. Current prices for white bait in town was $100 per kg! We all agree that we're glad we tried it, but we prefer kumara chips.
Cute restaurant in Albert Town
Now, along this driving trip we've encountered delays for many reasons: a wreck, road repairs and cows crossing, but today was the first time we were delayed by a house moving down the highway!
House on the highway just East of Queenstown
So, tomorrow we pack our bags and our little car once again as we begin chapter three of our South Island Road Trip with a drive to Dunedin.