OK, back again! Let's fill you in on the last three weeks: Christmas in Queenstown was great:
There is so much going on in that town: White water rafting; paraglide/sail; jetboating down the Shotover river; gondola rides up a mountain then lugeing (dry bob-sleigh) part way down; sailing the beautiful lake on an old steamship; flying in one of the many helicopters over the glaciers, awesome fjords and Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain. All this and we had to fit in Christmas as well as meet with Stef's mum and brother, Pete. Needless to say, we didn't quite manage all the activities (especially not the scary ones) and most of them are outrageously expensive. We had six days here, including a great day rafting together and another panning for gold. Floss was also delighted to receive e-letters from Mrs Cuddy and all her friends at school - thanks again!
Further south and a few days later, Dunedin for New Year. Quite apt really, as this town has strong Scottish links (Dunedin is the Gaelic name for Edinburgh) so the Cameron-Webbs flaunted their tartan pants (not really). Here, we walked up Baldwin St. the steepest street in the world. The next day, we saw our first albatross, well in fact four of them nesting on a spectacular headland. On New Year's Eve we visited the Cadbury factory for a chocolate tour, at Floss & Max's insistence, of course and then took a trip on a 100yr old train to Taieri Gorge: A spectacular journey through tunnels and over viaducts - quite precarious at times. An evening meal at a fantastic Japanese restaurant before celebrating the special day in the town centre with a live band. Enough fun for one day.
1st January 2009, we drove to Te Anau, a perfect overnight stop for visiting Milford Sound (actually a fjord - more geography). At 1pm lunchtime we raised our glasses (water) to say happy NY in UK time! The next day we set off for the sound, the 120km drive was spectacular, heavy rain which caused hundreds of dramatic waterfalls. This area was one of many in NZ used as the setting for the Lord of the Rings films. We then took a 2hr boat trip through the fjord and out into the Tasman Sea. The rain teemed, the wind howled (90 knot squalls) the sea sprayed and the kids loved it!
Back to Queenstown, we walked up a mountain (Floss made it to the top in 42mins), and did a bit more lugeing (well, Max and Pete did). We then drove on to Wanaka for a few nights in an apartment where we took a break from sightseeing and stayed 'home' playing lots of tennis, catching up with schoolwork and doing some cooking (Max's second favourite hobby after tennis). Next we drove to the Franz Josef Glacier, a huge river of ice tearing down the mountain at speeds of up to 5 metres per day (that's very quick for a glacier)!
We walked fairly close (200m) to the face of the glacier, reaching the final point by following a guided tour (the same day, two tourists were killed at the nearby Fox Glacier when they went unaccompanied past safety warning signs and stood under the ice at the terminal face - crazy) The glacier is spectacular and is currently increasing in size, making the terminal face unstable. Before leaving, Floss and Max climbed an (indoor) ice wall, using ropes, gloves and crampons and really enjoyed the experience, although Max was disappointed that he wasn't allowed to use ice picks!
En route to Nelson, we stopped overnight at Hokitika. This town is known for its Jade, a green stone found in the mountains in this part of NZ, which can be picked up out of the rivers here! Floss insisted on shopping (big surprise -not), whilst Pete and Max went onto the windswept beach and made a driftwood shelter from a huge amount of wooden debris strewn along the length of the beach. In Nelson we holed up for some more schooling as well as visiting the beaches (still nothing touches Whipsy at low tide). We then went to the small port of Picton for a couple of days (where we are now) from where we will head back to the North Island tomorrow (Friday 16 Jan) for the last couple of weeks in NZ. Back soon..!