Saturday, January 16, 2010

Laundromats are funny..

We managed to get our car turned in and took the 3 hour journey from the North Island to the South Island in NZ, where we picked up our new car. The terrain already looks very different than the NI. Lots of very large mountains and deep valleys. The roads are still very windy but seem to be wider and less drivers out there. We drove from the ferry station to our first stop in the SI, Kaikoura. H wanted to go there especially for the whale watching. When we arrived at this B&B it was much cooler and raining. Not what we have been use to the last 7 weeks! Our host greeted us, I guess in a manner of speaking. These hosts did not seem as friendly and “hands on” as we were use to but the room was another wonderful view so not much to complain about. The breakfasts were the best food we have experienced so it was all a trade-off I suppose. We were more “on our own” in this little town to figure things out. First order of business was to drive to the Whale Watching place and try and book a tour to see the whales. No boats had gone out that day because of the rough seas and stormy weather. We were booked on “standby” for the following days on several of the times although the weather outlook didn’t look much better then either. That evening we enjoyed yet another great seafood dinner (I am, to my astonishment, starting to actually LIKE fish-new for me). We awoke the next morning to more cold and wind. We called the tour operation and the first boat tour was already cancelled. It was beginning to look like we had driven to Kaikoura for nothing because other than whale watching and some hiking, there was not much to do there. Around 9:00 A.M. we were about to go hiking and I suggested we try the waiting list for the Whale boat. We got to the place and there were big signs about strong seasick potential but that a boat was going out. No problem for us! I had some Australian seasick pills so we took our dose and when our names were called, we felt like we had won the lottery! Which we did because sometimes they do not see ANY whales, in which case they refund your money but alas we managed to see not one, but FOUR Sperm Whales. It was amazing really. These very large creatures only stay on the surface about 15 minutes before they dive down and feed for about 45 minutes. You can really only see about 25% of their size (they were as long as our boat). Spectacular sight!! Even with the very rocky boat ride, it was a highlight of our trip! On the way back we were treated with a pod of about 150 dolphins, who did acrobatics for us as we circled them in the boat. How lucky we were getting to do this tour in that little window. I think they cancelled more boats that day and the following day when we left, there was even more wind!

We did the hike that afternoon. The guilt of eating so much and knowing we have a pretty big hike to do in a week spurred us on in spite of the cold, windy weather. It was a nice 2 hour hike that followed the east coastline with mountains on one side and rocky beaches below. I am certainly not in Ironman shape anymore but I can still walk!

The next AM we were off to our current location, Abel Tasman National Park which is back up on the north coast of the SI. The drive here took about 5 hours with spectacular scenery of mountains and rivers. I did appreciate the beauty but I am getting pretty tired of being in the car, I must admit! Good thing we are in our current B&B for 3 nights. This place is totally different than any place we have been. It is deep in the woods next to the National Forest. We have a little “chalet” that is kind of like an apartment/cabin. It has good and bad things. Good thing-the beauty of the location is ridiculous, it is remote and the birds singing at night make it pretty magical. The not so great thing is we have to cook our own breakfast! See how spoiled I am getting! It is called “self catering” if you opt for the chalet with no lodge dining, which I guess we did via our travel agent many months ago. So rather than a B&B, this is a B&do-it-yourself Breakfast. Also no internet connection in the chalet. Oh well, I can make the 100 meter walk to the lodge to upload my pics. I have decided that B&Bs are made or broken in the first encounter you have with the hosts. If they do not seem enthusiastic and love what they do, it shows and the B&B experience for the guests suffer. Well that has been my experience anyways. I could never run a B&B so never should-it looks like really a lot of work and you have to be “on” all the time for your guests. Well these hosts (we only met the wife, the husband waved and ran away when we arrived) are less than enthusiastic. And want $20 to do a load of laundry when you are paying for 5 star service? Forget it-we will do our own. Which we did and have a VERY funny story along with it.

After we got settled in to our do it yourself B&B, we headed into town to do the laundry and shop for dinner. Mind you it has been awhile since we have used Laundromats-I think we did last summer once but anyway it has been since my late teens that this has been part of my routine. H & I went into the place and I put 2 loads in while H went to get change. After starting the wash I went to the nearest internet café to catch up on my emails, etc. After about 20 minutes, H offered to go put the clothes in the dryer. Sure I said, engrossed on Facebook, I am sure. When I got back to the Laundromat there was H and all our stuff was in one dryer. I asked H why and it was obvious the other BIG dryer was being used. A cute little couple was there watching that one with some stuff in it. I noticed one of the washers I had used was not opened. Hmm, I thought that was weird. I looked inside and there was one of our loads of laundry. I asked H didn’t you put these in? He said yes had put 2 loads in the dryer. Then I realized-he had put this couple’s laundry into the dryer with ours. This was something out of a Seinfeld episode I swear. I opened the dryer and asked the woman as I took out some thong underwear is this yours? She said why yes it was. I took each item out and as each piece of sexy underwear, hosiery and bras came out I handed them to her. It was hilarious! Then they offered to pay us for drying some of their stuff! I said no and we all laughed. H at this point had to leave the Laundromat he was so embarrassed and could not stop laughing. I, on the other hand was MORTIFIED that my husband had actually touched another woman’s underwear and put it in the dryer with our clothing. Also how strange this couple did not say anything about half their clothing missing before we discovered it! We left the Laundromat laughing so hard we could not stop. The funny thing is H kept thinking I have never seen Debi wear this as he pulled each one of those items out and still put it in with our stuff! (Note to self-men really do not pay attention to what underwear we wear after all)..
Such is a day in the life of world travelers!

OK so we are still laughing about this today! This morning we headed out to the ocean to do a Kayak Tour of the “Tasman Bay” I have never done this kind of sea kayaking-where you wear the skirt thingy that attaches to the kayak. H & I were in a double kayak. There were 3 other folks and the guide, who was wonderful. It is a beautiful sunny warm day here in northern SI New Zealand. We enjoyed the 2 hour kayaking observing golden sand beaches, seals, birds and fantastic forest and mountainous scenery. We were back in our chalet by 1:00. We feel compelled to do some hiking, this place is so beautiful and it would be a sin to NOT hike in it. But it is also nice just sitting here relaxing and enjoying the privacy and loveliness of this place in the woods…Like Chama in New Zealand!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Views, views and more views!

After leaving the “forest” and the big trees of the west coast, we drove back over to the east coast, a little further south through many incredibly tough, hairpin turny roads to our next destination “Hahei”. The B&B here was overlooking a beautiful beach with many little islands jutting out of the protected harbor that led out to the ocean. The nearest land to the east of this place was basically South America, so this was considered the “real east coast” of the north Island. Each of the Bed and Breakfasts has had a different flavor to them. This home was a million dollar home with amazing views. The hosts were very nice although a little more rigid than we have had in the past, breakfast times had to be arranged the night before and “happy hour” kind of an expectation. It’s all good,..We had our little glasses of juice at happy hour and enjoyed meeting another very nice German couple who we ran into again in another town the next night. Two nights here and we packed it full of boat rides around the fantastic coast, a hike up to “Cathedral Cove”- a moderately difficult hike up, along with about a thousand other tourists-not our favorite part but was good exercise and killer views at the top. I was dragging that day, had not slept well in a couple of nights and after the harrowing drive and yes I was a grump! We did have 2 VERY good dinners in this town. Lots of lamb offered and beef but I did manage to sneak in a good chicken dish here. The breakfasts in the B&Bs are pretty standard-Muesli, juice, toast, yogurt and eggs cooked in some way. Usually bacon is involved but we have managed to escape the bacon route in most places. This town “Hahei” was filled to the brim with tourists and I was a bit happy to be leaving there.

Onward to a completely different terrain and accommodations. We were near a lake in “Rototura” which again is somewhat of a tourist town and it is high season here. The draw in this place is all the geothermal lakes and sulphur springs. Our B&B here was away from the town however in a quaint Victorian home away from the hubbub, and had spectacular views of mountains in their back yard. I have pics on FB. The hosts here were delightful. They were the friendliest and nicest folks we have encountered so far. We felt sad to leave! Onward to another hike down to a lake, where on the way we encountered some amazing geothermal steam spewing from a previously erupted volcano (100 years ago). A boat ride around the lake and more fantastic natural phenomena and we were thermaled out! We also had a dinner cooked by the “Maori” people along with an authentic dance and singing-followed by a “forest walk” where we managed to finally see 2 of the endangered Kiwis we have heard so much about. It was kind of a touristy event but I enjoyed it just the same..

While there, we found a little secret restaurant overlooking Rotorua and the lake, where Reindeer were roaming in the yard and 180 degree views of the lake and mountains. Very romantic and fantastic food! OK, so now we have “run”/hiked 3 times this week. My clothes should start fitting better right? I am truly going to have sugar withdrawal when I get back home after all the chocolate desserts I have consumed in the last 6 weeks!

We passed through Lake Taupo (Taupoo they say here) for lunch the next day. It is a HUGE lake where Ironman New Zealand is held in March. The town itself is adorable and we shopped there where I bought more warm clothing in case the South Island is colder and the trek has snow or some oddity like that. We could have spent a few days in Lake Taupo-I sighed when we passed a spectacular looking HILTON there. Oh well, off we went to our next digs, which were not too shabby. Another ridiculously fantastic home, where our room is so high up, I was almost afraid of the heights looking down at the ocean. Glass windows surround our bedroom and again the views are different everywhere we have gone-here is no exception. The hosts again seemed very nice. It is customary for most of these folks to kind of give you the “low down” of the area, good places to go and eat and see. I think here we may hang out in the room a bit and rest-it is quite an experience in itself. The town “Napier” again on the eastern coast has an interesting history in that it was flattened in 1930 by an earthquake (OK this makes me a bit nervous but the host says they only get “4 or 5” small ones a year now”)..The town was rebuilt in art deco architecture so I got some good photos of the town and its unusual buildings.

Next drive was a bit less harried-I think we may be past the really tight turns and tiny lanes to drive in on the left side of the road. H & I are finally not turning on our windshield wipers every time we want to turn and so far have survived the stress of driving. I will say this part of the trip is a bit of a surprise for me (stress of driving) but other parts have been good surprises, such as the excellent food we have had most everywhere and the views-well what can I say? All that I expected and more. And we have not even gotten to the South Island yet…

We landed here in Wellington yesterday. We are in a restored 1920s style home right in the heart of the city. The host served us “tea’ when we arrived in the pouring rain yesterday afternoon. Another fantastic Kiwi, who drove us around town to give us a tour then up on “Victoria Hill” where we could see a 360 degree view of the city, the bay and straight to the South Pole almost out over the ocean. Unreal! After canapés and “drinks” served by our hosts here last night we had dinner at a buzzing restaurant in Wellington, which is about the size of ABQ. It seems folks eat pretty late here. After a really good dinner, the place was still abuzz with people as we walked back to the B&B.

I got a bit homesick the other day briefly. I miss my family-thank goodness for our new found Skype, where we can see the grandbabies! I also miss my routine mostly and having more clothing to choose from and the feeling of being “trapped” if there is not a store close by, etc..But for absolutely the most part, I am still having the time of my life on this “adventure” which seems to have gone very smoothly so far, no disappointments so far. The only bad thing is at each place there is WAY more to do than we have time for! I will be definitely giving most of the clothes away I have been wearing now for 7 weeks straight. They are getting a bit worn!

Tomorrow we turn in our present car, aboard the ferry and travel across to the South Island, about a 3 hour ride. Then we pick up a new car in Picton on the South Island and start our drive to the next B&B. The adventure continues!