Sunday, March 29, 2015

the mystery of the moeraki boulders

These are the Moeraki Boulders.

They are on the Otago Coast of New Zealand's south island and stretch across portions of the Koekohe Beach.

These rock formations are a mind blowing 60 million years old!

While science can easily explain how erosion formed these massive boulders, I much prefer the Maori legend.

According to legend, these rocks are the remnants of a ship wreck that happened long ago.

These are the eel baskets and gourds and potatoes that were on the great canoe that ran aground.

Either way, these boulders are pretty cool and a lot of fun to crawl all over!
We stopped here on our long drive north from Dunedin to Christchurch. We ate lunch, hiked down the beach and watched the tide slowly cover and uncover these massive stones! My only regret was the time of day we visited: midday. There were a lot of people and the tide wasn't optimal. While we didn't really have much of a choice due to our driving route, I do hear this place is magical (and highly deserted) during sunrise. Now I bet that would have been something to behold!

What do you think? Erosion? A ship wreck? Or what?

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

driving milford sound: gulliver bridge

This is Bridge 2542.

It's also called Gulliver Bridge. 

It stretches over the Tutoko River at the end of State Highway 94 near the Milford Sound Lodge. 

This bridge is special for two reasons.

First, it has a footpath that runs directly parallel to it.

But even better: you can climb underneath it and live the life of a troll for a while. 

Or, if you are my husband, clamber up really massive boulders. 
Check out more posts about Milford Sound!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 meltdown on the gondola

If I have learned one thing about travelling, it's that it is often wildly unpredictable. 
The things you worry about tend to be non-issues in the end and the things you don't worry about are typically what smack you in the face.
I have learned to be flexible and open minded.
But that doesn't mean that this never happens:
Yes, that's me in the middle of a major meltdown, which my husband captured on camera. Travel has also taught me that it is a-okay to laugh at myself, so let me backtrack and tell you the story of my meltdown on Queenstown's gondola. 

Queenstown, New Zealand is right on Lake Wakatipu and and has a spectacular waterfront view of the Remarkables. A gondola scales the hillside behind the city and affords visitors with spectacular views. Naturally, we wanted to go. So we did. On our last night in town, we took the gondola up the hillside to take a walk and snap some photos. Everything was great until we got on the gondola to go back down the hillside. 

Suddenly, midway down the line, the smooth motion of the gondola stopped and we were motionless. Thirty seconds later, we jarred forward a few feet. Then, again, we inexplicably came to complete halt, and we stayed that way.


Now, I have been on so many gondolas.
I've been on the gondola in Taipei multiple times.
I've been on the gondola in Hong Kong.
I've been on the gondola at Sun Moon Lake.
I've been on quite a few gondolas.
None of them have ever randomly stopped for long periods of time.
None of them actually ever stopped-- ever-- even for a short period of time. 

So there we were, dangling in the air, a huge cliff face right underneath us, and as the minutes and eventually hour ticked by, my imagination started to run wild. The sky was darkening as it was well past 9pm. Wind buffeted our two person gondola from side to side. We noticed the small sign on the bottom of the door that read: in case of emergency, call such as such phone number. We cursed ourselves for holding steadfast to our decision not to own cell phones.

Then, about one hour after being stalled mid-ride, we noticed a man wearing a reflective vest slowly hiking down the hillside with a megaphone in his hand. Eventually, after yelling up to our friends who were stuck in the gondola behind us, the man made it to us. My stomach dropped when he explained that they were experiencing technological difficulties and could not say when we would be freed. Then, I started crying when he told us about the emergency blankets and glow sticks that we could find under our seats.

My greatest concerns?

Where was I going to go pee?
What if we had to spend the night?
I mean, just before taking the gondola up, we had eaten Mexican food for dinner! 
My husband, who I love to bits and pieces, thought the entire thing was hilarious. What can I say? I am lucky this man loves me, the crazy lady who wrapped herself up in the emergency blanket and clutched the emergency glow stick until well over 90 minutes later when the gondola finally came back to life and deposited us at the foot of the hillside.
And you know what? We didn't even get a refund.
But I did keep that emergency glow stick. 

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

driving milford sound: mirror lakes

The drive to Milford Sound was a lot of things: long, stunningly beautiful and a tad bit terrifying. Milford Sound is located on New Zealand's south island. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sometimes called the eighth wonder of the world. Personally, I think that's crap. It should be No 1.

Quite literally, Milford Sound is paradise.
Or at least my version of paradise. 

My paradise doesn't include white sand beaches, balmy weather or fruity alcoholic beverages with little umbrellas. No, my paradise requires tall mountains, rivers, green forests and solitude. My paradise is remote and rugged and quiet and away from crowds. Maybe this is because I teach middle school so my days are loud and spent surrounded by so many people who need/want my attention all the time. 

Getting to Milford Sound is no easy task. That's why this wondrous place is so vacant. State Highway 94 is the only road that connects Milford Sound to the rest of civilization. The single lane highway runs through the Southern Alps. The road twists & turns and climbs & falls. The journey is captivating. There are so many beautiful things to see that it is hard to drive for more than 10 minutes down SH94 before pulling off the road to admire something.

One of my favorite stops along the route was Mirror Lakes. Mirror Lakes is exactly what it sounds like: a lake that is also a mirror. The lake reflects beautifully the Earl Mountains. The scenic spot is about a 20 minute walk round trip. While it is at the very beginning of the journey to Milford Sound, it was still absolutely worth stopping for, that is unless you hate trees and mountains and nature, but, in that case, I think Milford Sound and New Zealand are the wrong places for you. 
Milford Sound was my favorite place in all of New Zealand (in all of the world actually), and if I ever go back, it will be to visit all of the sounds in Fiordland National Park. I will be writing a whole series on Milford Sound. It will include our camping, boating, hiking, and driving experiences, so stay tuned for more paradise!

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