Haven’t had any time to blog since Queenstown, so I’m going to try to do a big push to the finish. As I remember things at random, I’m going to just plop them into the blog out of order so I don’t forget.
For instance the rugby team is called The All Blacks. So seeing a sign at the airport that says, “All Blacks This Way” is a bit shocking for us visitors.
Every morning we wake up and meet for breakfast at the time and location Tess has told us the previous night. As soon as we walk into said space, we are handed our hot drink of choice which she has memorized. For Borut it’s coffee with one teaspoon of sugar. For me it’s green tea. But one time it was too hot so I asked for some milk and I about blew her brain.
“You don’t really put milk in your green tea do you?” she asked horrified.
“Sure, like a green tea latte” I told her.
“Nope, I just can’t help you. That’s wrong on every level. Milk and green tea can not mix. Here’s some cold water to cool it down,” she offered.
“No, really, I like it with milk.”
She was thoroughly mortified that I would actually drink green tea with milk, so for the rest of the trip I did it just to get a rise out of her. Then when she saw all three of my men eat their cereal dry, never with milk, she thought we were completely nutzo.
Back to Milford Sound. Did I mention how stunning our rooms were? I think I did but I must repeat it because it might be the nicest place I have ever stayed. And the over-water bungalows Steve and I stayed in on our Tahitian honeymoon were insane. We actually fed fish on the reef from our bed. Ok, so The Milford Lodge is second best because we didn’t feed any animals from bed.
Today was a 3-hour kayak on The Milford Sound. I did not want to miss out but the thought of my back in those sea kayaks again was just awful. But I hate missing out more than I hate pain, so I was going for it. We bundled up because it was cold, and I mean ARCTIC FREEZE YOUR FACE OFF COLD!!! We got down to shore and Kellen announced that his stomach still wasn’t good and he couldn’t handle the kayak. Tess told us that there was an option to go on a Milford Sound cruise for the same amount of time. So my choice was a horribly painful kayak with a miserable kid, or the two of us on a luxury cruise seeing the same sights. Hmmmm. Off to cruise we go!
There were keas in the kayak area. Kea are endangered mountain parrots, so seeing them here was amazing. These guys were not scared of humans at all and found Ernie quite tasty. They landed on him and started gnawing at wires. Hopefully not the brakes because we have a huge mountain pass to drive over later today. Seeing these keas was Kellen’s favorite part of the trip.
The Milford Sound is so amazing, no words needed. Just some pictures to blow your mind:
Marleen decided to take a helicopter ride to land on a glacier and would meet us part way down the mountain at the heli-port. Tess carefully pulled Ernie into the gravel drive when very large, scary man started yelling at us that we can’t park here and to get out now! Tess and Laura couldn’t believe it. I mean to the rest of us, it was a normal a-hole telling us what we can’t do. But here in New Zealand, there are no mean people. Except one and we found him. We called him The Gravel Monster.
Kellen was feeling all better at this point. After a delicious Laura-Meal of vegetarian chili, it was time to hit the road again for another long drive to do a hike on The Kepler Track. How long was the drive? Kellen taught himself how to recite the alphabet backwards. Ask him next time you see him, it’s incredible.
Since I may not have had the same workout sitting on the cruise all morning while the rest of the group kayaked, I needed to hit this track hard and I was ready. Tess told us all to use the bathroom at the start because there were none out on this 6+ mile track. The track was stunning, and I started at a good pace. I felt strong. But after about 20 minutes in I felt a rumble in my stomach, and not because I was hungry. It was the chili. Oh dear God. I walked faster. I bet if I do this hike as fast as I can, I can make it. So I put her in 5th gear and passed everyone. I was sweating like no tomorrow. “You go girl!” DC Laura yelled to me. Oh going wasn’t my problem. For the love of God I needed to NOT go! I’m not a religious woman, but I prayed to God, Jesus, Allah and The Flying Spaghetti Monster to just let me make it back unscathed. Oh PLEASE!! I think I made it half way around when I realized I had two choices. The first was to make like the bears do in the woods. The second was unfathomable. I am mortified absolutely mortified that I am writing it all out right now for the world to see. I would have sworn I was taking this to my grave. No picture to share here.
“Great hike!” Everyone congratulated me at the end.
“Kori, you kicked ass!” said Marleen. And now they all know why.
Here is a better picture of a weka, or “Weird Chicken Bird-Thing” as we call them.
The next day was driving back to Queenstown and stopping by The Bungee Bridge. Everyone was tired and most were snoozing when Tess woke us up to experience a New Zealand traffic jam. We have had zero traffic anywhere on these remote roads. What we saw was a sea of sheep. And then up ahead, another sea of sheep. When we got closer a man was standing there waving at us to just drive right through them!
A truck was driving towards us on the wrong side of the street with herding dogs in the back of the pick-up. They were herding these sheep by truck. Back and forth they drove yelling and hollering at the sheep who were running and bleeting like crazy. Sheep can actually jump really high and run very fast. I was hysterical. Like pee-my-pants-laughing.
I watched the last sheep in the flock breathing hard, trying to keep up. Poor girl, I get you.
Here’s the bungee bridge.
This is where DC, now COUSIN Laura parts from our group. She actually stayed on days longer than she planned because we were having so much fun together. She turned into Cousin Laura because she’s this totally playful yet brilliant cousin-type of friend who we all instantly bonded with. She totally fit in with all of the technical, sciency, nerdy discussions on Ernie that I was bored to tears with. This girl can hold her own with the geeks like no other. She’s awesome.
The plan was to hike over to a winery before another long drive. But now my legs were fried again. I had completely burned out everything from quads through calves yesterday and was back to hobbling like an old lady again.
Getting back on Ernie felt weird this time. There was a hole. Our family wasn’t complete anymore and it was sad.
Next stop: Mount Cook
The drive was long but we took breaks at random places like here:
I did feed the salmon and I had more fun than anyone else doing it!
The only thing better than feeding the salmon is eating the salmon and we were all thrilled when we noticed Laura trying to sneak a large package out of there into Kermit’s cooler.
We were headed to a place called “Braemar Station” which is a working sheep, deer and cattle farm. Other than that, we didn’t know what to expect. So when we arrived at the communal farmhouse located in the center of paradise, we were speechless. These are the pictures taken out front of our farmhouse. Mt. Cook couldn’t be more breathtaking.
The next day was Laura’s birthday and Tess decorated Ernie appropriately. Coolest party bus ever!
The choice today, and thank goodness there was one, was a brutal hike straight up Mt. Cook 3400 ft or a 9 mile undulating hike around Mt. Cook by the river. Rich and I choose the river. It was the 2200 stairs going down that would do both of us in for sure if we chose the other one! The birthday girl came with us and Tess took up The Crazies. It was a really hot day, but we had a wonderful hike with a delicious picnic lunch half way through. We had an hour to kill when we were done so we did it at a beautiful hotel with cold beers and WiFi. Ahhh!
The group eventually made it back and from the sound of things, I know I made the right choice for me. They are rock stars though for sure!
Dinner was Laura’s salmon with two beautiful green salads. For dessert, Tess made Laura a birthday cake. If you could see how meticulous and professional all of Laura’s desserts look, you would know how funny Tess’s cake looked in comparison! But trust me, it was devoured without complaints.
We went around the room taking turns sharing each of our favorite moments, places we stayed and foods we ate over the last two weeks. This is the end, tomorrow morning we leave this magnificent piece of Earth.