Saturday, January 26, 2013

back to blogging

OK so I have been so busy I have not blogged for more than a week and I know I am behind on the NZ trip- not to mention all the stuff we have been doing since we got back- and here are my two big excuses-

we spent four days with Larry - here and in Miami (along with spending time with my cousin Michele) and we have looked at and bought a condo here for our upcoming winters...LOL - so I kinda sorta have an excuse... but I promise that starting on Saturday (too many plans for the remainder of the week) I will finish NZ do Sydney then catch you up to the current -

I don't have class next week and our next week's company doesn't arrive until mid day Thursday so that gives me some open time for getting this back in shape---

but back to NZ- we were in Greymouth and the next day of our adventure was to start there- and end in Wellington- so here we go....

the TB summary: 12/16: Bkfst @ Ashley Hotel. Scenic route drive across Southern Alps to Christchurch (++) with various stops including: Lake Brunner hike; Arthur’s Pass (+); Flock Hill Sheep Station tour with Richard(++); lunch at flock Hill Restaurant; International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch, featuring penguins’ feeding & 4-D Antarctica movie. Plus of course a giant latte for TB. FLY CHC – WLG. Wellington control tower located off-airport in a local neighborhood (++)! Dinner at leisure (barely) at Occidental bar. 

and so off we go on the big drive over the mountains-

we headed out to Lake Brunner and did a walk in the park there-  very much the same scenery as we have seen in the woods before but Mike is concerned that we get a last shot at it since late this Sunday afternoon we will be flying to Wellington and have only city time before the end of the trip.

Then we do the drive up into the mountains and see some spectacular  south island scenery from the bus window.

Then up through Arthur's Pass.  Our pit-stop is at the place where the train comes through the pass and it is getting ready to pull out of town. So we watch it leave-  lots of open seats (TB wishes he were on it for a ride on this beautiful day.)

note TB in the corner of the shot watching his train leave the station without him....

We head down down down out of the mountains in a valley (more shots from the bus show how beautiful it was even as we rode along at a good clip...)

We arrive about lunch time in the Flock Hill sheep station.  This is a working sheep station but has a lodge and restaurant to serve those who want to stay in an agritourism kind of place.  We get to help move sheep from one hill to another paddock (which really means we watch while the dogs do the heavy lifting and their "guy" Richard directs traffic.)  During this process we get closely acquainted with a two day old lamb whose mom couldn't move it fast enough to keep up so Kerry of our group carried the "baby" while the dogs moved the flock - and the mom kept calling out for her baby.  we walked and then took the bus to the new paddock and so did our little lamb.  They were happily reunited at the end of the short trip and scampered off into the foot hills to escape that darned barking dog!

here Murtz approaches the errant mom and baby

she isn't moving and baby stays by her side

he gets closer (he is not the barker)

now the barker comes along

the rest are waiting at the gate

they come out and take a wrong turn but are quickly righted by Murtz and Mel

Richard brings out the baby for us to take to keep the process moving- 

the rest are now headed in the right direction and on their way

Mel keeps barking so they know to keep going

Kerry gets to ferry the baby

on the bus in the front seat the baby is pretty quiet and calm

The two dogs that worked the shuttle were a leader Murtz and a barker Mel.  The way the process works is Mel barks and barks and barks and the sheep run away from her and then Murtz takes leads them to where he wants them to go.  He knows this because Richard whistles commands about right and left and forward and back and stop and go.... it is all amazing and the dogs are so incredible at their jobs.

the sheep and dogs wait for the bus to catch up!

mom and baby reunited

all head into the new paddock location

the ranch (station) is in a beautiful valley and the sheep range far and wide in the valley- these are only a few of thousands

Richard takes a moment to show how the sheep are held for shearing (you can see from above they have recently been shorn)

the dogs hang with us- here the lead guy Murtz and below the barker gal Mel

TB and Phil hang on Richard's every word- the whole thing is quite fascinating to city folk! LOL

We then go to lunch at the lodge - a very nice buffet lunch but the most memorable part was the good pavlova.  Mike has made sure we have gotten a good recipe to take home with us if we want to try making it in our spare time. My bet is I am more likely to make the "bread baskets" from Dorothy at the dairy farm but I am prepared now with both recipes!

After lunch we leave and head to Christchurch airport. There is still no touring in the city center as they are rebuilding from the devastating earth quake but the destination this afternoon before we leave is the Antarctic Center right outside the airport property.  Here we see some penguins (watch them being fed along with our 500 best friends under age six) and a 4D movie where we see the frozen continent and get squirted with water several times (the fourth dimension is apparently WET) then we go into a room which approximates a summer storm on the continent and strong winds are blown at us as the temperature drops and drops- are we having fun yet? Jan and Don get this kind of thing in South Dakota regularly, as do we Chicago city dwellers who lived through Michigan Avenue winds at 25 degrees below zero Fahrenheit... and yet - we paid for this round- LOL!


Then off to the airport and our flight to windy Wellington.  We land early evening on Sunday and find the luggage claim area in full out Middle Earth regalia. (these people are seriously over the top when it comes to LOTR and Hobbit stuff)

Our trip into downtown is very quick- the downtown is deserted.  It is hardly a hopping capital city.  We rush through the check in and gather in the lobby for a short hike to our "dinner on your own" at one of the few places open in town on Sunday nights - the Occidental Pub.  Food was decent and later we walk back through the deserted town to our hotel.

This guy was the marker for our return to the hotel - down this little alley and up a flight of stairs to the elevator to floor 4 or 5 to the lobby- the red sign in the photo is the hotel sign Travelodge Wellington.

We are in the final leg of the journey that we are all taking together- the three of us are splitting up on Wednesday morning - we take the ferry back to the south island to Picton and Marlborough wine country and TB heads back to Q-town for rafting and biking and hiking etc... the other six are headed home to the U.S. and their respective towns.  Later, the three of us will meet in Sydney for a few days before we head back to SFO and then our respective cities. 

The trip is winding down and so are our activities - with no nature walks a couple of times a day, the pace slows down but our "Eveready Bunny" Mike still keeps going and going and going- the guy is truly amazing- he never flagged - he never said a cross word- he was always upbeat and smiling... a consummate professional. Next post will be Windy Wellywood...