Monday, December 28, 2009

Roadtripping around the South Island

I can hear my mom... "If your friends told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it too?" Well apparently Jake would.

He took the plunge off the 43-meter-high Kawarau Bridge -- the world's first commercial bungy jump -- on Dec 23.

He took the opportunity to bungy while we were in Queenstown, NZ, adventure capital of the world, with our friends Jamie and Amy Stark from Chicago. Jamie also jumped off the bridge (we're talking about Jamie Stark of course, as I am not that crazy).

Here we are in front of a statue that honours the sheepdog. These dogs helped make it possible to live and prosper here in New Zealand as sheep play such a big role.

We roadtripped from Christchurch, through Lake Tekapo to Queenstown, where we stayed three days, then on to Milford Sound and Te Anau, Wanaka, Greymouth and back over to Christchurch.

We had some beautiful weather and some incredible scenery. The colour of the lakes in this area was just amazing.

We took a couple hikes and found some interesting bridges to cross.

When it came time to find our way across a creek, Jake and Mr. Stark got to work moving big rocks to build a bridge for us. While Amy and I debated the driest routes across the water, the men took on the manly job of picking up and throwing heavy rocks. A few big splashes resulted and defeated the purpose of trying to keep dry.

Finally across the creek and up the hill to the viewing platform, we had an excellent view of the Franz Joseph Glacier, and celebrated with a bit of NZ's tasty pinot noir.

No trip to the South Island is complete without a wine tour, so we paid someone to drive us around several vineyards in the Central Otago region. This area is best known for its pinot noir, and also produces some chardonnay and pinot gris. Yum.

After a few samples, we took a dignified little stroll through the vines.

Allow me to introduce you to the South Island mountain parrot. He's big, he's the centre of attention, and he wants to chew on the rubber seal on your rental car's door. He's also been known to sit there calmly while people crowd around and take his photo. What you won't notice is his buddy behind you who flew into your open car window rummaging through your snack stash. Turn around at just the right time, and you'll see that little rascal flying away with a bag full of honey roasted peanuts. New Zealand is a pretty safe place. The only crime we've experienced in our 12 months here was this daylight peanut heist.

One of the highlights of our trip had to be Milford Sound. This place is amazing. Giant steep hills covered in hundreds of waterfalls and surrounded by water. Jake and I are coming back in February to walk the four-day Milford Track, one of NZ's "great walks."

Even driving up to the Sounds was beautiful. Here's an example of how many waterfalls you'd see on the hillsides next to the road. This is Fjordland National Park, and they say it rains 200 days a year.

The weather was much nicer in Lake Tekapo. I fell in love with these flowers, which you see all over the place.

In Queenstown we rented a little two-bedroom apartment that had a fantastic view looking out over the lake. When we weren't bungy-jumping or hiking or wine touring or rafting (on the Shotover River -- no photo opps since I was hanging on for my life), we were relaxing here and enjoying the view from our deck.

It's strange to be away from our families and spend the holidays in such a warm place. But we had a great Christmas and hope you did too.


Yer Mum said...

Wow, these are the most amazing pictures with the most interesting narrative of your NZ adventure that I've seen. Glad you and your friends had such a great time. Jamie & Jake, you're lookin' good. Jake, I'm glad you got to do the bungy thing, but I'm even more glad that your feet are back on the ground (you know how mothers are.)

Vickie Cottonaro said...

The pictures are amazing. The places sound familiar since I have been reading about New Zealand. You guys are doing it right. I am so happy for you. Wish we were there!

Dave said...

I'm wanna know what you're doing to your husband that would wanna make him jump off a bridge?
Being away at Christmas would be hard...but I think it would be a lot less hard in a place as beautiful as that. Happy Holidays to you two!

Yer Mum said...

But Jamie, surely I never used that raggedy, time-worn question with you, "If your friends told you to jump off a bridge. . .?"

Joggeli said...

Absolutely Fantastic. One year ... wow! Can't wait to see what the new year will bring for you guys. Are there storks in NZ?

jamie said...

We've seen mountain parrots and lots of other birds, but we've yet to see any storks around here. :)
And my mom's right. She never used that raggedy line with us. For the record, I only used it for literary effect.