interlude in eden

Posted: March 5, 2009 in Personal, Travel
Tags: , , ,

 

2009-03-08 - New Zealand 173_sm

After spending the morning in Queenstown parasailing, my own tandem guide a South American-sounding man who I would swear called himself “Weasle”, we left town immediately following lunch hoping to catch the last tour ferry in Milford Sound at 4:30. Despite the tight schedule the drive was unhurried, as driving a portable home through new and spectacular scenery will do. Not to mention that once we had entered the park, it was all I could do to pay attention to the road.

From the glacial moraine flats, mountains rose around us with the severity of an axe wound, peaks dotted even in summertime with glacial ice that towered so directly above, they were visible through the skylight of the van. The sound itself, once we made the last dash in time for the ferry, was no less spectacular, only at this level the sea filled in to half the height of the towering mountains making it look all the more unreal.

The ferry, a small boat by comparison to the normal daytime tour group beheamoths, was as far as we could tell captained by a 12-year-old, or at least someone who looked more suited to collecting movie tickets. Nonetheless it was a fantastic tour, which we spent alongside a New Yorker and a pair of guys from the Netherlands. John, being the classic New Yorker, born in Houston no less, naturally talked fast and often. Me, being me, found myself doing the same, and the pair of us spend over an hour being loudly glib and abusing the word “awesome”. Despite this rather self-important distraction we still managed to appreciate the incredibly unique scenery around us.

After returning to the dock, Mads and I hd to tear our attentons away from the scenery in order to find a place to sleep for the night. This was made no easier by the brief stop to check the campsite map, where a couple was photographing a pair of Keas, a native alpine parrot. As the wife, a small Asian lady, started to become visibly unnerved by the boldness of the two rather large birds, she retreated into the car, oblivious to the fact that one of the birds was hopping determinedly behind her, obviously not ready to give up on his entertainment. The husband, bending to look in the car, pointed past his wife who was now looking at him imploringly for comfort, to the passenger window behind her. Turning, she found the bird now staring intently at her mere inches from her face, perched on the rear view mirror, and the inside of the car became a small explosion of paniced flailing as the woman found herself unexpectedly cornered. Even as we eventually drove away, the bird, clearly having found the most amusement he’d seen all day, remained expectantly on his perch, undaunted by the husband’s attempts to shoo it away.

Eventually we settled on a campsite called Cascade Creek, set up for the night, and retreated immediately to the van after dinner from the first of many insect onslaughts to come. The following day was glorious weather, so to celebrate we made a lazy day of it, lounging in the sun and getting in the occasional short hike. In the afternoon we ran into a couple in the parking lot with car trouble and did our good deed for the day by fetching jumper cables from the amiably weird lodge keeper and Knobs Flat, and finally called it a night again after our usual meticulous search for an isolated campsite.

Deciding to finally move on from the park, we picked up the next morning from a late start and drove our way back towards Queenstown. The previous night’s dicussion had led us to decide on taking the notoriously damp west coast road after all, since bad weather was due for the whole island. We skipped as quickly as possible through Queenstown, which annoyed us immediately, then climbed on over the surrounding range to Wanaka, my favorite town in New Zealand so far. As Mads commented, it was like someone had taken the whole, ugly, busy downtown of Queenstown and replaced it with a nice lawn, leaving the rest as a nice, peaceful town. I dared a jump into the frigid lake for an invigorating swim while Mads tooled around town, then we drove up to Hawea Lake and scored a beautiful lakeside campsite to ourselves. As Mads made dinner I dared to defy the fire ban and built a small campfire, and we settled around it with our dinner, watching the sun glow golden on the mountains across the lake.

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