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Last of New Zealand and brief stop in Melbourne

April 8, 2009

Before we get completely entrenched in all things Turkish, we need to catch up on the remainder of our stay in New Zealand and our brief but relaxing stay in Melbourne, Australia. We left off having just driven up the west coast of New Zealand, past the glaciers and pancake rocks on our way to the Abel Tasman Track. This is another of the great walks in New Zealand. It is along the coast near Nelson on the very northern part of the south island. The terrain is very different from the alpine tracks we had done thus far.

We stayed in Marahua at Old Macdonald’s Farm (see Where We Stayed) for two nights before setting out on the water taxi to the most northern stretch of the track. We were only able to get hut reservations going from the north to the south (many people track south to north). In the end this was great because there are places along the track that must be crossed within a certain number of hours of low tide, and these times were in the very early morning or afternoon. With the biggest estuary crossing on the north side of one of the huts, it was perfect timing after a day of hiking to pull in the afternoon and cross. Folks who had spent the night and were walking north had to be out of the hut by 5:30am to cross the estuary! That would be impossible with our crew of hikers.

It was on our first day of the Abel Tasman that we walked to Seperation Point and were inspired to swim with some fur seals. Please read Jack’s latest blog if you have not done so already to hear all about this adventure. It was awesome. The views along the track are beautiful, with gorgeous sand beaches and gentle walks through the coastal woods.

Our favorite hut on the track was the Wharwharangi Hut our first night. It is an old converted farm house, small and cozy, and not crowded. Compare that with our last night at the Bark’s Bay hut, which had many cramped bunks and was completely full. In between we stayed at the Awaroa Hut where we met the greatest guy, Julian, from England. He is 19 years old, will attend Oxford next year, and he was just the nicest young man ever. So great with the kids and fun to hike with. We celebrated Ainsley’s 13th birthday at Bark’s Bay and left the next morning on a water taxi back to town. As a group, we were a bit weary of tramping and with dwindling time in New Zealand we felt we should move on a bit more quickly. All in all, we loved our last days of tramping but on the whole, we preferred the mountain hiking to the coastal hiking.

We left Abel Tasman and drove to Hanmer Springs, a stop on our way back to Christchurch, to spend the day at the hot pools and kid slides (well Kelli seemed to like them a lot too) as a bit of a birthday celebration for Jack and Ainsley. We spent three more nights in Christchurch with the ever gracious Nicky and Graeme and finally made it out to Taylor’s Mistake, a beach and peninsula between Christchurch and Littleton which houses a few relics from World War II defenses. We even had time to venture to the Antarctic Center, made all the more special because of Mary Brown, our friend from the Banks Track who had deployed to and from Antarctica, as a great many people do, through the Christchurch operations center.

A short flight to Auckland for our 5 days on the north island, starting with the Coromandel Peninsula. We went to Hot Water Beach and built our own hot tub from scalding water that bubbles up from the sand, at low tide only, on a small section of a gorgeous beach on the east coast. We have been to many beaches in our lives, but to feel this super heated water coming from under the sand was very strange and fascinating. We spent one day at Cathedral Cove as well, another beautiful beach and the site of some scenes from the movie Prince Caspian, a hit with the kids. The pictures do not do it justice. This rock formation was truly awesome.

We left the Coromandel and drove to Rotorua to bear witness to yet more of the earth’s mysteries. Here we saw bubbling mud and steaming lakes, testament to New Zealand’s prime real estate on the Pacific ring of fire. While we were in Rotorua, we also attended a traditional Maori show and surprisingly good dinner cooked on the hangi.  Now Jack and Eliot love to punch their chests in an attempt to do the haka. We spent only one night and a shortened day in Auckland, enough time to purchase Jack a much-needed new pair of crocs and take in the view of Auckland from atop Mt. Eden. Off to Melbourne.

We enjoyed our stay in the lovely Brooklyn Arts Hotel in the Fitzroy neighborhood of Melbourne, a city with more cafes than you can imagine. As with most of our stays, those we have enjoyed the most include a gracious, present owner, and Maggie at Brooklyn Arts was among the most lovely we have met. She even let us borrow her car for our trip out to Healesville Sanctuary, an animal sanctuary about 60 kms outside of Melbourne. We saw everything from duck-billed platypus to koalas to dingos, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, achidnas and our personal favorite, Beatrice the black breasted buzzard (check her out at you tube – she is incredible!). Brooklyn Arts also is where we spent our Easter, complete with an easter egg hunt courtesy of the Easter Bunny, and an Easter dinner shared with Maggie on the night of our flight out.

Six days in Melbourne allowed us to relax a bit and plan our onward journey through Turkey. We spent a lot of time picnicking in some of Melbourne’s lovely parks, Kelli and Jack went to see Wicked (fabulous), John and the kids went to the very cool Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Center (you guessed it, Kelli had an afternoon to herself), and we all took in an Aussie Rules Football game, affectionately called “footie,” at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Grounds), a stadium which holds over 100,000 people. We even managed to spend a day in St.Kilda, a city beach neighborhood with tons of cafes and shops and a great pier.

We loved our time spent in New Zealand and Australia, but we were all itching a bit for something different and new. To Istanbul we went, on a 27 hour travel day leaving our hotel in Melbourne at 12:30am! 14 hours to Dubai, 3 hour layover, and 4 more hours to Istanbul to finally arrive at our modest hostel at about 7pm, perfect time to settle in and go right to sleep. No jet lag even! Next post, Istanbul.

Kinloch and beyond to the West Coast

March 28, 2009

img_4504.jpgWe returned to Kinloch Lodge (our absolute favorite hostel in New Zealand) for two nights after the Greenstone to wash clothes, have a good dinner at their restaurant, recharge a bit and so that Ainsley could use Uncle JB’s christmas gift to go canyoning. Queenstown was next for one more night, and Eliot’s opportunity to go paragliding, and then we moved on to Lake Wanaka and up the West Coast to see the pancake rocks and glaciers. As we’ve said a thousand times to other travelers we hated leaving Kinloch, the Routeburn and Greenstone tracks behind. If we had spent all of our time in New Zealand there it would have been fine. But, the pull of new natural wonders, sights and the Abel Tasman track succeeded in pulling us away.

Catching Up - Greenstone Track

March 13, 2009

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We are now in Melbourne, Australia (Monday April 7th) after a sad departure from New Zealand, a country that we all loved. Our stay here will be just short of a week before we leave for Istanbul, Turkey on the 13th. Postings have been sparse during our time in New Zealand and now that we have good access to wifi in Melbourne, we’ll catch up a bit. Rather than putting all into one big mess of a post we’ll do a number of smaller ones in chronological order and corresponding dates.

First, some foreshadowing of future events from the topic and backdating of this post.

The end of March brought two special birthdays for our family and marked the first time that Ainsley and Jack celebrated in the fall. We were at the Bark Bay hut along the Abel Tasman Track on the South Island for Ainsley’s 13th birthday, complete with two kinds of freeze dried deserts (yum?). Hard to believe that Ainsley is a teenager! She is growing up so fast on the one hand yet still retains so many great attributes from her younger years.

After a special stop at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools, we returned one last time to Nicky and Graeme’s in Christchurch where we celebrated Jack’s birthday. Eleven!! His choice for desert was Hokey Pokey ice cream, a New Zealand specialty and his new favorite. Think of hardened caramel or toffee. Add to that Jack’s love of dulce de leche from Argentina and you may detect a pattern.

From Christchurch we left for a short stay on the North Island. Everyone was really quite sad to leave. We loved the South Island a lot and no one in the family wanted to go. It was such a peaceful and beautiful place; no highways to speak of, few shopping malls, no crowds of people, mostly unspoiled vistas of beautiful mountains, valleys and coastlines. Too bad we didn’t figure out a way to stay for good!

Now, back in time to our hike on the Greenstone Track that we started on March 13th. Because the Routeburn Track is not circular and the road distance from one end to the other is more than 350km, our original plan was to hike the Routeburn, see Milford Sound, then hike back to Kinloch Lodge via the Greenstone. However, the weather took a turn for the worse, with rain, hail and even snow at fairly low altitudes, so we changed our plans a bit and played it safe.  After two nights in Milford Sound, a long journey via bus to Kinloch, and better weather in the forecast, we decided to hike the Greenstone.

The Greenstone has a reputation as much less dramatic and not quite as beautiful track as the Routeburn.  It lies mostly in a river valley with no sub alpine sections so no amazing views of the mountain ranges like the Routeburn. Even so, as you’ll see in the pictures, the valley was incredibly beautiful, the weather was perfect, the huts were lovely and the Greenstone was much less crowded than the Routeburn.  We spent four gorgeous days walking together, eating lunches with fantastic views, crossing streams, and truly enjoying one another’s company.  It was a magic time for us and became one of our favorite hikes.  I guess having had perfect weather helped.

Routeburn Track

March 6, 2009

First off, Kelli and I have been so impressed by how well the kids are hiking and how much they enjoy it. So far, we’ve spent 10 days or so on three different hikes totaling just over 120km in distance (approx. 75 miles). Three of the days were in cold rainy conditions with the other days in mostly sunny and really perfect hiking weather. Eliot has turned out to be quite a good and happy little hiker. He rarely complains, save for an occasional “I’m hungry, what do we have to eat?!” and mostly just ambles along, singing, jumping across the rocks and walking like a monkey on occasion. Ainsley and Jack both carry backpacks, complete with sleeping bags, their clothing, water and their share of the food. Ainsley hikes at quite a good clip, excellent company for Kelli who prefers to keep a fast pace. Jack is usually frustrated, feeling that the hikes are too easy (although a few days have challenged him) and plotting how to find to a more difficult route. But, at the end of a long day of hiking everyone is a bit tuckered out and happy to see the next hut and dinner.

The Routeburn Track was our first Department of Conservation (DOC) hike in New Zealand, after warming up about a week earlier with the private (and bed and shower included) Banks Peninsula Track. It is one of the nine Great Walks in New Zealand, located in Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks on the South Island. While not quite as well known as the Milford Track many people say that it is equally beautiful and better in some respects.

As we started out on the Routeburn on a nice sunny day we thought of Marybeth and her good friend Mary Margaret who hiked this track some 27 years ago. They both loved it and Marybeth spoke fondly of the hike, rain (that is a given) and natural beauty along the way. Marybeth made special mention of a particularly magical forest and that we would know when we were there. We sure did and made a special video at the bottom of this post.

The first day started off perfectly in sunny weather as we reacquired our hiking legs and pulled and jostled at all of the adjustments on our backpacks. This time we were carrying in all of our food and we didn’t want to run out. The kids are eating more these days and eat even more after a good days walk. The hike followed the Routeburn up the valley for about 3 hours until it reached an open area just below the falls. Mountains were all around us as we stopped by the clear river for a much needed lunch, soaking in the scene. The rest of the day included a modest climb up towards the falls and the Routeburn Falls Hut. Surely the 48 bunk hut, complete with amazing views of the valley, is quite different from the one on Marybeth’s hike. So too I’m sure is the guided walker’s hut complete with couches, wine and prepared meals. All supplies for them are helicoptered in, same for the building materials for the new and more deluxe hut under construction. It was a bit strange to be out in nature and hear a helicopter arrive and smell restaurant style breakfast cooking in the morning. Here are some pictures from that first day.

The forecast called for worsening conditions the next day, so we took advantage of the good weather and went on a second hike after settling into the hut. We climbed a ways up the trail that we would follow the next day and then diverged to reach a small summit overlooking the hut and the valley from a more prominent viewpoint. Just an hour and a half of walking or so, but as you will see below little Eliot was tuckered out. We enjoyed the views, the kids played on some of the little islands in ponds along the way and then we retreated to the hut to cook our pasta and get to bed.

The view upon awakening the next morning sent very mixed signals. Mist and clouds shrouded most of the valley with occasional sun popping out. The sun provided what ended up being completely false hope for a pleasant day of walking. We were really hoping because most of the six hour day would be in what they call sub-alpine territory. Above the tree line, but below the snow. This meant that we would be out of the trees and exposed to all of the weather elements of the day.

John the hut warden took special interest in us because of the kids and gave us some extra food (crackers and instant miso soup) that was left behind by previous hikers along with some plastic ponchos. Waterproof jackets go only so far, eventually getting saturated in heavy rain. No matter what, we were in for a wet and cold day.

We stopped at the one emergency shelter at the top of the Harris Saddle to warm up and eat our lunch out of the elements. No hopes of drying, just getting a bit warmer, eating and resting for a bit. After that we headed back out into the rain for the remaining four hours or so and the windiest part of the day. Kelli and Ainsley started at a pretty good clip and I played my “sweeper” role with the boys. The trail was really just one flowing stream of water and once we gave up hope of keeping our feet the least bit dry it was easier to move at a faster pace. I gave this up at one point when I fell in a bit while helping Eliot across one particularly raging section. The wind also picked up as expected, providing Ainsley and Kelli with a few scary moments along the edge of the trail as they held onto each other. Jack and I, with our packs as small sails, felt the wind a bit, but Eliot was immune as his figure provided very little for the wind to blow.

We trudged on towards the McKenzie hut as everyone grew a bit colder. Kelli and Ainsley were now completely out of view and Jack had a growing urgency to use the bathroom. The rain and exposure caused him to continue to hold things and it became more difficult for him to progress. About an hour out of the hut I took his pack and he labored on. Eliot, was tired and cold, but progressed well. At one point the sun came out briefly and we spotted a rainbow. It was a good sign. A bit later we finally viewed the hut off in the distance across the valley, at the end of another rainbow. That picked all of our spirits up a bit, although it was still quite a ways away. We finally started down in earnest on the switchbacks and we picked up the pace just a bit. Then, we entered the most beautiful forest and immediately recognized it as the one Marybeth had mentioned. Too bad that we really couldn’t enjoy it much as we just wanted to reach the hut.

Finally, Jack, Eliot and I arrived at the hut. Kelli was quite relieved as our arrival was a good hour and 15 minutes after theirs. They were beginning to grow a bit concerned, but not ready to send out a search party yet:-) We were greeted at the hut by two Australian families with two young children and new playmates for Jack and Eliot.

So, day 2 of hiking ended. The Harris Saddle and rain proved to be just about all everyone could handle. The kids really dug deep and persevered on a great challenge. They all felt quite a sense of accomplishment.

(Thanks GG for the waterproof camera that allowed us to take all of the photos in the rain.)

The final day brought more rain and much stronger winds. The two families that were headed in the opposite direction opted not go over the saddle based on our experience and the worsening weather. (A good choice in our opinions)

The hike out to The Divide was only a bit longer than four hours and while we were wet the trees afforded some level of protection from the weather. We enjoyed the beautiful forest a bit more leaving the hut and were awed by the number of waterfalls tumbling down the mountainside and the force of water at one spot in particular. We opted for the emergency flood bridge (rather than walking through it) at that one and unfortunately Kelli had a spill on the way down and badly jammed her thumb. Not broken, but painful nonetheless.

We arrived at the trail head around 1:30 PM for our 2 PM bus and reunited for a bit with Mary (a Quaker form the Adirondacks) who hiked the Banks Peninsula Track with us.

Here are the Day 3 pictures. We have since hiked the Greenstone Track and will post some of those pictures soon.

Here’s a quick video for Marybeth.

NZ – New Friends, Hiking, Farming, School and Rain

March 3, 2009

p2250101.jpgHere it is, our long overdue first posting from New Zealand. Yes everybody, we still are alive and well. Just too many days at places with generators, no internet access and on the trail.

Landing in New Zealand after three months in South East Asia and India felt quite a bit like going home. Suddenly, we were once again in familiar western surroundings with the added bonus of English being spoken, a first for us after 5 1/2 months in non-English speaking countries. It felt great for us all and was a wonderful place to find ourselves. Our first meal out was to a local fish n chips shop where we were served the most amazing massive pile of perfectly breaded and fried fish with crisp chips all on large sheets of paper. It tasted even better than it looked and Eliot exclaimed “This tastes better than ice cream,” the days of dal, naan, pad thai and thrice daily french toast behind him.

Ainsley did a huge amount of the planning for our first few weeks in NZ, so we were very prepared. We spent the first two nights in jail, literally. Well, in The Jailhouse Accommodations, a former jail that was converted to a hostel sometime after 1999, the last year it operated as a jail. This was our base for our first few days of adjusting to the time zone, a 7 1/2-hour difference from India, and exploring Christchurch in general. From there we moved onto Nikki and Graeme Adams’ house. We met them only briefly at the K’s House hostel in Hiroshima, and they graciously offered to host us when we came to New Zealand. They have two grown boys, had traveled for six months with them in Europe when they were our kids ages, and know how much it means to a travel-weary family to have a comfortable place to call home for a few days. The kids enjoyed new “old” books, Nikki’s movies, a fabulous player piano, their boy’s old lego collection, and the joys of New Zealand’s favorite, Hokey Pokey (a caramel-like homemade candy and popular ice cream flavor). Nikki, Kelli and Ainsley watched the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice into the late hours many nights. Graeme and Nikki shared their tramping experiences, recommendations, and even some gear to get us fully outfitted for the upcoming Routeburn Track. I celebrated my birthday during our second stay with them, and Kelli prepared “Gabriel’s Chicken,” an all time family favorite, and a birthday pound cake with berries and cream for “pudding.” Believe me, everyone loved having a familiar homemade meal and Kelli liked having a kitchen to work in. What wonderful hosts and nice new friends they have become for us. We are extremely appreciative of their kindness and generosity. We didn’t take a lot of pictures. Here are a few, but we’ll be back and plan to take a few more. The view of Christchurch from their deck is beautiful and we’ll capture Graeme too.

We also met Billy O’Steen and his family in nearby Sumner, a beautiful, sleepy little beach town a whopping 8 km from center Christchurch (people here say it is so far out of town how can you live there?). Ainsley and Jack went to The Sumner School for a day and later went swimming, and we all enjoyed a “Sausage Sizzle” (NZ barbecue) at Billy’s house. Billy was previously a professor at NC State where he taught Matthew Ross, one of Ainsley’s favorite teachers at Friends School, and worked with the Head Teachers of the middle school. Renee, the current Head, visited with Billy and The Sumner School a number of weeks prior to our visit and plans are underway for a joint service project of some kind between the two schools. What fun it was to go to school again and see what life is like for a young American family in New Zealand.

After Christchurch we headed east and south to the Banks Peninsula and The Purple Peak Retreat for five days with sun and surfing in mind. If not for the daily rain and biting cold, it was a perfect plan. Thankfully, even in the rain the Banks Peninsula is a stunning visual landscape. We made the most of our time though, returning to Christchurch one particularly rainy day, spending time at the Akaroa library (books in English!) and finding other means of entertainment while we waited for a break in the rain. The sun finally came near the end of our stay and we headed out to Raupo Bay with wet suits and boards in hand. Surfing always looks so easy, but rest assured that standing up on that tippy board is much harder than it looks. (Not all of us can be like Eric Poncelet after all!) Everyone but Eliot gave it a whirl with varied results. Jack got the prize for the best surfer in the family, standing up and actually surfing a number of times. He had glee in his eyes and a huge smile on his face the entire time.

Our next adventure was on the much anticipated Banks Peninsula Track. Unlike the DOC (Department of Conservation) Routeburn Track, the BP Track covers primarily privately owned farmland and is offered by a small group of farm families interested in opening up their land for limited recreational use and to diversify their income. A maximum of 16 hikers start each day and stay in lovely and unique farm houses/cottages along the way. Fresh fruits, vegetables, steak, lamb, beer, wine and yes chocolate are available to purchase at two of the cottages so packing in four days of food isn’t required. I referred to this as “hiking on training wheels” which was a great way to get our legs moving again and prepare for the more serious Routeburn Track.

The first day entailed a hike into Akaroa from Purple Peak and then a bus ride to our first night accommodations at the Onuku Farm. The farm overlooked the Akaroa harbor and included a number of stargazer huts, basically wooden lean twos with plexiglass directly above your head. Jack and I snapped one up and enjoyed the stars on an extremely clear night. We got to know a few of our fellow travelers and also learned about Adrenalin Forest, a high ropes course that we would do on our next trip to Christchurch.

The first day of real hiking began the next day with a constant climb up to the Trig GG summit. Yes, we all talked about GG at the top, but not for long as we hiked most of the day in a cold rain with a strong wind as an extra bonus. Mick, one of our new hiking friends from England, saved the day for Kelli with a cup of tea at the halfway shelter. The remainder of the hike was mostly downhill and entered a more protected, forested ravine section full or waterfalls and extraordianry plants before we arrived at Flea Bay fully soaked. The wood fire and lots of room to hang clothing, along with a good hot meal, completed the day. A great one, even in the cold rain. Everyone was happy to be outside!

Flea Bay was a magical spot! Yet another truly beautiful bay on the peninsula complete with a great tour of their penguin conservation efforts, a sea kayak ride the next morning and an opportunity to interact with the sheep shearers in action as we set off for the second full day of hiking. We saw seals and penguins on our kayak ride and then Hector Dolphins in the bay as we climbed away from Flea Bay.

The hike from Flea Bay to Stony Bay followed the contours of the coast, climbing up and down through a few other small bays along the way. It was a very, very beautiful walk complemented by a bright, clear sunny day. We saw many young seals frolicking in the tidal surges at Seal Cave and numerous other natural wonders along the way. The hiking was relatively easy, especially compared to the previous day’s climb in the rain. We were also looking forward to our arrival at Stony Bay which veteran hikers described as magical. Mick also told Ainsley and Jack about a secret feature, which turned out to be the best tree swing they’d ever seen. In addition there were two wood fired baths, old cast iron claw foot tubs retrofitted with a wood furnace beneath them. You sat on a wooden board in the water to avoid being burned by the extremely hot surface of the tub. Jack and Eliot had a great time with their tubs. There was also a whimsical shower that took advantage of a large tree trunk for one of its walls. We had a great dinner too, from the well stocked store in the pictures below.

The last full day of hiking from Stony Bay to Otanerito Bay brought more familiar, but still stunning scenery along the coast. This day was a bit more special as we spent some time hiking with our new BP Track friends. They included Jonathon (a music professor from Christchurch, but originally from England) and his grown son, Mick (the veteran hiker of the group from England and Jack’s favorite playmate), Gemma (school teacher from England enjoying a year of travel) and Mary (fellow Quaker from the Adirondack’s returning from a 5 month stint in Antarctica!). They all made the trip even more special for us and we’re certain that we won’t enjoy the same camaraderie on the Routeburn. We did run into Mary again in Queenstown which was really fun and she is two days ahead of us on the Routeburn. After our night in Otanerito, we hiked back up to Purple Peak on our final day, again inside a shaded ravine following streams and waterfalls. Stunning all.

We spent one more night at Purple Peak Retreat after the BP Track, but as it was raining and raining hard again we decided to head back to Christchurch instead of staying on the Peninsula any longer. Back we went to Nikki and Graeme’s for my birthday dinner, the conclusion of the marathon version of Pride and Prejudice and lots of piano ‘playing’. We also spent many hours at the Adrenalin Forest, which was a ‘must see’ after the kids heard the description on the first night of the BP Track. It was great fun for all, except Eliot who was limited by his height to the first 2 of 6 levels, and Kelli, who is none too thrilled by heights. Jack and Ainsley were completely in their element and continue to this day to voice a strong desire to go back. They each, along with me, completed all 6 levels comprising over 100 different aerial pathways. The last level was more than 20 meters in the air. It was not nearly as beautiful a setting as the Flight of the Gibbon zip line we did in Thailand, but it was much more independent, more challenging and as a result more fun. Only 25% of all people complete the 6 levels, and only 1/3 of those choose to tackle the Adrenalin Max Jump, which Jack, Ainsley and I all did! So, A & J were thrilled that they are among the top 8% or so of all visitors to the forest. It was really amazing and odd considering that we didn’t even have to sign any waivers or paperwork. Gear, a bit of training and we were off on our own and on the cables. New Zealand has an interesting approach to legal liability, no wonder bungy jumping started here. Well, to the pictures now, but Kelli stopped taking them after level 2, we were getting too high for her.

Our next stop was a farm stay with the Braham family about 1 1/2 hours south of Christchurch, near the town of Ashburton. We connected with Robert, Sue and their three boys through a website called Farm Helpers in New Zealand, FHINZ for short. They provide a listing of farms throughout the country who provide room and board in exchange for 4 - 5 hours of work on the farm each day. I guess you can say that we worked for our supper during our visit with them.

They have about 80 acres of land, 9 bulls, one milk cow, 2 calfs, 20+ sheep and a number of pigs. They also raise about 400 calfs each season, but March is a quieter time on the farm. My contribution was cutting and splitting wood to prepare for the winter and help installing a new structural beam in the attic of the farm house. Kelli helped feed the pigs, cooked a bit (chocolate chip cookies) and did plenty of dishes. The kids learned a lot about farming, played with their three boys ages 8, 10 and 11 and Jack and Eliot went to school one day. We all went rabbit shooting one evening, although we hit only tree stumps much to the delight of our crew. Ainsley and Jack rode the small motor bike and we all watched with amazement as Don the dog man-handled the bulls to move them from paddock to paddock. Ainsley even said a few times that she would really like to be a farmer.

In the end the best part was how Robert and Sue welcomed us to their family and farm. We really were allowed to fit right into their daily routine, experience life on a small family farm and help out along the way. Their boys were so welcoming too, eager to see us each morning and excited to play with the kids when they got home from school. Kelli attended a rural women farmer’s group meeting where she listened to a presentation by a local veterinarian and heard planning work for the agenda for the year. At the end of the week I was a bit tired, but we were all sad to leave. Our time with the Brahams will most certainly be a highlight of our two months in New Zealand. We have another farm visit tentatively planned for the North Island time permitting.  We did take one day off from working on the farm to drive to Mt. Cook.  In fact, the lead photo for this article is from a short day hike we took on the Hooker Valley Track to the base of Mt. Cook, the top of which we never saw due to rain and clouds.  Hopefully we’ll see it when we go by later in our NZ stay.  We did love seeing glaciers again, and had many thoughts of Argentina, a similar landscape.

OK, at this point it is getting late and I’m honestly running out of steam. Not sure that I did justice in describing the farm stay, but perhaps more on that later. The pictures that follow are from our drive to Queenstown from the farm, along the East Coast of the South Island. The Moeraki Boulders are naturally formed stone honeycomb boulders just lying on a beach and in a hillside. They are quite a compelling and mysterious sight to behold. We had much fun climbing, jumping and dancing around. Enjoy these last pictures for now. Off to sleep before heading into the woods on our hike tomorrow.

…..not quite!

June 23, 2008

We plan to go here, but haven’t yet arrived. Take a look at the map at the top right side of the home page to see where we are and the “Where?” page for where we intend to go.