Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Life of luxury, or attack of the killer bees?

                                      Mom's jet-lag day

Mom made it to NZ no problem. We took it easy the first few days for Nancy's jet lag, and because the holidays made it impossible to do much of anything. We had fun playing frisbee on the beach at Rabbit Island near Nelson,

                      Why not fly all the way to NZ to play frisbee?

and were able to go wine tasting despite the weird alcohol rules. Apparently, the wine lobby convinced the NZ government to give wineries a break - I suppose for tourism and marketing purposes though it seems everyone we spoke with disagreed on the rules(though some had the explicit rules written on their sales license). One can only hope they will extend this to craft breweries in the near future. A trip into the village of Mapua ended up being the main local's Easter attraction, with a huge fair and market(you can't really have a proper fair when alcohol sales are prohibited now can you? What do the drunken cowboys do when they're not allowed to drink?). There were throngs of people, but plenty of free parking in a sheep paddock. At the waterfront, we were able to introduce Mom to our Welsh friends Sian and Rob, so now we have proof they are not just our imaginary friends! We buggered off as they were having lunch, and Mom would never be able to keep up with our debauchery. We did learn how badly Grant and I screwed up not picking grapes. The wine employers fed them lunch and dinner, all the wine they could drink, and gave them plenty of breaks. It sounded more like a party than anything, and when it was all said and done, they made $300NZD for 12 hours work over two days. That was for two, in US dollars that works out to about $12 and hour plus perks. Oh well, it will still be harvest season when we get to Hawke's bay in a few days, so we may have our chance!

With the holidays mostly wrapped up, we headed to Abel Tasman.

                          Start of Abel Tasman track

It was a glorious few sunny days, and the hikes we did were delightful. The first afternoon we walked a short ways up from the head of the track to a small beach.

The next day we took a boat ride the length of Abel Tasman National Park, then back to Bark Bay where we walked about 7 or 8 km south to Torrent Bay for our boat pick up. (Some of the walks have a great service where you can catch a water taxi to different parts of the walks, walk a section or two, and be picked up. This adds great versatility to your schedule in that you can do one short afternoon hike, or a one or two day walk and still have access to transportation so that you don't have to commit to the entire walk if your schedule doesn't fit the time required to complete it. We'll let the pictures speak for themselves, but for Grant and I, it was the flattest trail we have been on in NZ and still provided rewarding views.

           Mom's dream to walk across a swing bridge comes true!

As we had goals of making it to Kaikora down the East Coast, we decided to skip Golden Bay, and head Southeast to Picton and the Marlborough Sounds. The drive from Havelock to Picton was a pretty, winding road, but a little long. When I say winding road I mean narrow and about 35 kph average speed - we spent a lot of time in second gear and a lot of time in the pullouts letting others pass the slow tourons. We still had time to sign up for a boat cruise and walk on the Queen Charlotte Track. This four or five day tramp is awesome. Get this, they transport your pack for you from campsite to campsite, so even if you're tenting it instead of staying in a luxury lodge, all you have to carry for four days is your daypack!

Our captain was really nice. I wandered over and asked him which island we were passing, and his reply was "It's ok, women aren't very good with maps". I started laughing my arse off, and had to tell him what I do for living (professional navigator for those who don't know yet) and that turned into some pretty good conversation. Grant and I were dropped off at the start of the track, Ship Cove, where Captain Cook spent a lot of his time. (Apparently the Marlborough Sound was one of his favorite NZ areas, and he used the spot to beach his vessel and clean the bottom and do out-of-the-water maintenance and other chores such as astronomical observations and botany.)

                          Captain Cook's real cannon.  Fire in the hole!

Mom was dropped off further down the track, and our plan was to overtake her and finish the walk to Furneaux Lodge together. That is what we did, and everything was fine until about ½ hour after we met up with Mom.

                         Did someone leave their headlights on?

Right, so first off, thank god my mom is a doctor! She is allergic to bees and wasps to the point of anaphylactic shock (meaning the hives get so bad she can't breath), so carries an epipen with her, most of the time. Luckily we remembered it, because a few minutes after she switched to her sandals, a wasp flew right between her toes and stung her. It didn't take long for us to realize what had happened as Mom was swearing like a sailor, but Grant and I were useless. We did manage to get the epipen out of her backpack, but then Grant nearly passed out (he has a hard time with needles), and all I could do was read the instructions over and over again out loud. Mom finally grabbed the needle from me, dropped her drawers, and jammed the damn thing into her thigh herself! Boy is she tough. Next time I'll know what to do for sure. After her ordeal, she still had to hike an hour to our pick-up point with a throbbing foot. Luckily for us, the adrenaline made her really pick up the pace, though the boat wasn't leaving early anyway. So we all had a round at the lodge and tried to laugh off Mom's near death experience.

We were able to get another epipen from the pharmacy without a prescription, so I would highly recommend buying one while in NZ if you think you are remotely susceptible to major bee reactions and go on any hikes longer than an hour or two outside a hospital. It is easy to use. You take a cap off, and jam a dull point into your thigh, then some mechanism spits out the needle and injects the epinephrine for you. It's idiot proof (well, ahem, you know what I mean).

Kaikora was next on our list, and was definitely a highlight of our trip, and hopefully Mom's too. On the way there, we stopped at a view point with hundreds of seals. They stink! All that fish or something.

We got to stay in an ultra-luxurious waterfront hotel with a heated towel rack and spa, then we got to go on a cool boat tour to see albatross, and other seabirds. Albatross are a major part of seagoing folklore, and they are huge! We saw other seabirds too. The albatross have something like a 3 meter wingspan. It's hard to show their size in the pictures, but trust us.

They have to basically fold their wings up twice when they tuck them in. Really cool. We also got to see tons of dolphins, but no whales.

We skipped the whale tour as we are a little jaded from our profession and coming from the Puget Sound, but that was for the best as all whale tours were cancelled due to fog anyway. So we lucked out and got to see all there was to see and more choosing the bird tour instead of the dolphin or whale tour. The hike around Kaikora peninsula was really nice too, though the fog didn't allow for many views aside from the beach. Nice rocky beaches though!

                   Kaikora Peninsula walk.  We hiked down here too!

Mom's trip was coming to an end, so we drove her to Nelson the night before, took her on one more death march up to "the center of New Zealand", then packaged her up in one piece for her long ride home. Luckily, she will arrive before she left, so should be in pretty good shape. I hope you had fun mom, we sure did.

So, we're off to the North Island to play with some volcanoes. With less than four weeks to go, one in which we must sell the van, I am getting nervous I don't have enough time to see everything!



  1. yay! do you ever check email? if so, i might send a few recent pictures.



Keep it clean. Don't be mean.