Friday, April 10, 2009
As I sit here and type, I have a fantastic view of the Tasman Bay with beach access at my fingertips, or maybe it's the tips of my toes. The sun is going to set in a few hours, and my beer is cold and often, like my men (man, and cold anyway)? Though I'm enjoying myself immensely, this "Good" Friday is anything but what you might think of as a good Friday.
First of all, it's the start of the Easter Holiday in New Zealand, which appears to be taken more seriously than Christmas. Strange since according to our guide book, almost 40% of the population claim no religious affiliation and 6% objected to being asked what their religion was. On Good Friday, and the following Easter Sunday, one cannot purchase alcohol of any type in the stores or bars. If you eat out, however, you can purchase an adult beverage if bought in conjunction with food. We learned that the seedier places will stretch the rules, and allow you to drink a beer while perusing the menu with the intentions of eating, then shrug their shoulders if you decide the menu is shite, and don't order food. This isn't really a problem, as Grant and I, though fond of carbonated malted drinks, do not often indulge without food anyway. But it did catch us off guard. ( Luckily we learned our lesson way back at the "bar" near Mt. Cook that didn't serve beer at all. Since that disastrous event we have strived to keep at least a case of "emergency rations" on hand, as well as a few "extra emergency" bottles of sobriety wine.) The other days this rule is in effect are from 7am to noon on ANZAC(Australia New Zealand and Canada referring to the WWI fighting forces) Day and maybe Christmas Day, though the bartender informed us that on Christmas Eve it's nearly impossible to get the parents to go home to play Santa Claus. Along with the odd drinking rules, the labor laws we mentioned before are in effect, so most businesses are closed, making for a lot of toursits wandering the streets aimlessly. Well, it's not that bad, but truly only a few restaurants and stores are open. "Alli Cat" will understand our point, anyway :)
Leading up to this fine day was somewhat of a comedy, and much of it a comedy of errors. It was mostly uneventful as far as scenery and hikes go. (Well, not really as around every turn there's more pretty scenery - we kind of think that it's a case of scenery overload - it's all so grand and persistent everyday that one kind of gets weary of being awe-inspired all day. Where are my litter-strewn dirty-snow city streets anyway?) We drove back over to the East Coast, where the rain turned into sunshine. It's almost like a line in the sand where the wet side turns into the dry side! The most-scenic mountain pass was nice, though hard to compare with the Tetons, but the Tetons are always tough competition.
The Dry Side
We finally left the Lonely Planet track and stopped in a town and camping area not even briefly mentioned. It was nice, and for US $6, Grant and I got to sleep next to a stream and had some friendly cows try to wrangle treats out of us all night.
The next day, we decided to stop by a wine region north of Christchurch. First we stopped off to get some cash at the nearest town with an ATM, and Grant's cash card was eaten by the machine! It seems his bank screwed up and left him high and dry. Luckily our parents still take good care of us, and Grant's dad was able to mail my mom a replacement card, and the good doctor is flying it out to deliver it to us in person tomorrow!
Later that day, while I was driving for the first time in NZ, we ran into our Welsh friends again! They were on a tandem bicycle probably from the WWII era that they had dug out of their hostel's yard, fixed the tyres and made roadworthy again. They invited us to stay at their hostel for the night, and there was no way we could refuse. After wine tasting, we gathered up our bottles of NZ swill and had a lovely dinner together in their caboose (the hostel's rooms were all in old train coaches!) Needless to say the next morning we were not tip-top.
While wine tasting, the owner of the winery tried to twist our arms into helping with the grape harvest. We told her we didn't have work visas, but she pulled us aside and quietly told us we could work something out under the table. We really wanted to do it, as it was probably one of our only chances to work in a vineyard, experience being illegal immigrant labor (oh so controversial in the US), and hang out with Kiwi's. In the end, in combination with our hangovers, we decided it wasn't prudent to risk our vacation and future status in NZ for a few dollars and a hard days' labor. Our friends did decide to harvest the grapes, and we look forward to hearing about their day. We think NZ affords UK residents more lenient work rules than to the US and other countries, so it wasn't as hard a decision for them. And plus, we're on vacation and work is for suckers!
Onward to Hanmer Springs, a major tourist destination for New Zealanders, where the weather continued to cooperate. We had a lovely dinner out, then a relaxing morning in the hotsprings, an afternoon of miniature golf, and hey, why not stay another night? Fantastic. I know you can play miniature golf anywhere, but it is still fun anywhere. Plus we were the only people there, so we got to drink beer while we played with out offending any mum's! We also learned that iced-coffee is even worse than we thought. It has ice-cream in it along with the milk, espresso, sugar, chocolate, and whipped cream! We couldn't taste any coffee, and we couldn't stomach all that sugar either! I honestly don't know what you would call it in the States. Un-blended espresso milkshake? Never again!
Just West of Hanmer Springs
A drive back over to the West Coast along the northern Lewis Pass returned us to the infamous rain and sandflies.
The Wet Side
Rain, Wind, Sandflies Weeeeeee
A trip up the coast was perhaps not worth our while. After a Weka bird stole Grant's steak out from under our noses, and the rain and wind further frustrated our cooking attempts, we turned in for the night with peanut butter and jelly, and hopes for a better day. The night's rain did turn to sun for the hike, and coated the mountains and foothills with snow, so the views of the mountains were probably the best so far considering we could only catch just glimpses of the Southern Alps previously. we hiked to a cool limestone arch over a river and also checked out some caves, one called the "crazy pavement" cave, which turned out to be a lot of dried mud. The information plaque informed us that though it did look like a bunch of dried mud, it was really interesting to the scientists. I suppose it takes all kinds (just kidding my scientist brother!).
Karamea drive, snow dusted mountains
Camp Robber, why you little...
Oparara Arch, this is much bigger than it looks (he said)
From the West Coast we made it halfway to Nelson and stopped in "up and coming Murchison", which was a lovely town. We stayed at a Holiday Park with a family farm connected, and it was straight out of "Charlotte's Web". They had cute pigs frolicking in the field, a flock of ducks walking under fences to visit with the sheep, pigs, and chickens. They also had a deer that was as friendly as a horse and came when you called, and three emus named Ned, Matilda, and good-old-what's-his-face (or as the pre-teen girl says, "I told you, he has a name, I just don't know what it is!!!") I thoroughly enjoyed the farm and our campsite.
We made a jaunt to the local pub for a jug, and that's where we learned all about the drinking rules for the holidays. The barmaid filled us in on what we could expect. Good thing too because had we been caught unawares, we would have been sorely disappointed. Now we're just amused and prepared!
Continuing the drive to Nelson offered superb views of the snow dusted mountains and foothills, and the weather cooperated all the way to this moment that I drink my holiday beer, and soak in the sunshine, sunglasses, coat, and all! At least we know how to make a Good Friday good!
Tasman Bay, Nelson