Thursday, July 10, 2008

The second half

To continue... (fair warning, the fiber photos will be displayed tomorrow, so for those of you who have come for the knitting content, you may move on -- nothing to see here but travel photos)

We left Wellington on Saturday morning, and arrived in Dunedin to find Stella and her whole family waiting cheerfully for us at the airport. It just doesn't get better than that. After picking up a rental car (and chanting my mantra to myself: left turns are easy, right turns are hard), we headed back to their house to rug up for the first of our adventures: penguins.

Older Daughter really wanted to see real, live, in-the-wild penguins, and Stella and Chris (her husband) facilitated beautifully. We headed out on the Otago peninsula to visit a penguin sanctuary there (Stella has the link on her post), and arrived in the middle of some serious weather. Sleet, wind, cold, the whole number. In fact, the guide told us that it was going to be a good day to see penguins, as quite a few of them had declined to go fishing that day, because it was so cold. Stop a moment and think about that. It was too cold for the penguins to go fishing. Heh.

Given that fact, the kids did spectacularly well. We were rugged up to the hilt (a new phrase that I've adopted and will keep for my very own), including an extra layer of waterproofs provided by the penguin people, who were dead to rights in continuing to offer them after our first polite refusals. The viewing of the penguins took place from within camo-covered trenches dug all over the hillside. Between that and the olive-green raincoats, the whole thing felt a bit like something out of WWI, except with penguins instead of mortars.
At various points along the way there were blinds from which we could watch the penguins. What I found absolutely amazing about the whole thing was that, far from hanging out on ice and snow like the usual pictures of penguins, these guys had schlepped their way uphill, inland, to hang out in the grasslands under trees. It was not at all the way one usually sees penguins in zoo exhibits, which somehow made the whole thing more real for me. Older Daughter was thrilled.
The guide had said we'd be lucky to see five penguins, and we saw eleven, including one guy who surfed in on the incredibly rough waves and trucked up the path near the blind, heading inland to his home. You can't see him in this picture, but you can see just how wind-driven that water is.
We saw both kinds of penguins that live there, the smaller blue ones, and the rarer ones with a yellow chin-strap.
We even saw a pair who were shacking up illicitly (the mate of the female was in the hospital due to injury, and she'd taken up with another male; the staff were apparently quite up on penguin liaisons).

The next day, we packed up and headed to Te Anau, where we'd planned to go on a tour of the glowworm caves. Alas, a rock in the roof of the cave had developed a crack, and our tour was cancelled until they could get an engineer in to assess the risk. It was the one bummer on the whole trip, which, as I said to Stella and Chris, was, in the end, pretty good, although a disappointment for everyone. However, we made up for it by going to visit a nearby bird sanctuary, which housed a rare takahe (they'd been thought to be extinct until the 1940's), who came right up to the fence to visit with us.
Her colors were absolutely gorgeous, and it was easy to see how such a slow, colorful, flightless bird could become quickly endangered by humans and habitat destruction. (Note Older Daughter eating snow; she was, I think, almost as excited by the snow as by any other part of our South Island exploits.)

We headed off to Tekapo for the night, and the drive was absolutely stunning. Older Daughter took tons of pictures from the back seat (including a number of amusing ones of both herself and of Stella's son, with whom she was completely charmed; they had some hugely entertaining discussions in the back seat, to which I listened like a fly on the wall -- it was interesting to hear the nine and ten year old version of the "getting to know you" conversation). But none of the pictures could really capture the grandeur of the bare valley, dotted with snow, with the white mountains in the background.
I should say here that Rick and I have made gentle fun of the name of some of these mountains for years, after seeing them when we were in NZ for our honeymoon, lo these many years ago. They're called the Remarkables, and we could both just imagine the quintessential English explorer, trucking his way through the central south island, coming upon these stunning mountains looming up out of the valley, and turning to his secretary, saying, "Remarkable, old chap, what say?" and the secretary duly noting this on his map in the section formerly labelled terra incognita. But as beautiful as they were when we saw them in the summer, the mountains in the winter truly are remarkable, so I should probably stop making fun.
We saw the steam train that still runs through this part of NZ in the summers.
And the Church of the Good Shepherd, which has behind its alter, instead of a stained-glass window, a clear pane of glass looking out over a stunning view. It was more inspiring than even the most beautiful rose window. (I think that what I've caught here is the window from the outside, with a reflection of that view; who knows if anyone can see it but me.)
Right next to the church is a memorial to the NZ sheepdogs who make sheep herding possible in this rugged country.
And in all of this well-planned trip, during which I followed Chris across hill and dale (he was one of those amazing leaders who never lost me, not once), we also got to visit Touch Yarns (yes, some stash enhancement occurred), and, mecca for a spinner, Ashford (you may imagine the sun breaking through the clouds to heavenly music here).
There it is. I even saw my Ashford wheel inside (Stella kindly took this picture; do you see the fiber wall behind me? That's all roving!)(And yes, some stash enhancement occurred).
(Anne, look where your shawl went!)

Could anyone have asked for a better three days? Or better companionship? I was introduced to rugging up (which we needed; it was -4 C in Tekapo), tiki touring, and I was provided with meat pies (mmm....); the conversation was excellent, and Older Daughter found new friends. Life doesn't get better than that.

This was a long post, so tomorrow, I'll finish up with pictures of the stash (and spinning) enhancement that took place with Stella's expert facilitation. Meanwhile, sock #1 is finished, and I'll show that off, too, and give an update on my Tour de Fleece spinning. I should say here and now that, in spite of all of my best intentions regarding the Summer of Socks, and the Loopy Ewe postcard, I took not a single picture which provides any evidence at all of travelling sock knitting, or of the fact that I carried the picture of Loopy with me all the way to NZ and back. Ah, well...


KnitNana said...

*Illicit pengiun activity?* Snort!
What a fun trip...
Glad you're back safe and sound! (we missed you!)

Shirley Goodwin said...

Great that you enjoyed your NZ trip - I'm a bit further up the South Island, but am familiar with the Ashford shop! I've just bought some yummy hand-painted Touch yarn in a mix of wool and possum fur that I'm fondling and looking for a suitable pattern to use it (photo on my blog).

Rachel said...

Lovely trip! you both are so lucky and your church photo is amazing, I see the inside, I see the mountains and I see your shadow taking the photo, amazing :)

Willow said...

Sigh of contentment. I read both long posts and immensely and vicariously enjoyed your travels.

Ashford. Sigh of slight envy. I have to remember I've been amazing places, too. My eyes were popping out at the fiber wall, my mouth was forming oohs and aahs.

Did you get possum fur yarn????

Anonymous said...

The sight of the penguin on the grassy hill is mind-boggling. What a treat! Good for you for rugging up and bearing the elements for such a wonderful adventure.

Love the pic Stella took of you in the Ashford shop. Lucky you! How'd you manage to get everything home? :-)

twinsetellen said...

I'm just so glad the trip was fabulous for both of you.

You said between the camo and the trenches it felt like WWI. So what about penguin mortars? Instead of mortar shells, they deliver nice little penguins, maybe saving them the trudge up the hill. We'll have to work out the landing system so it all goes well for the little guys.

Gwen said...

A good trip! I was thinking the other day my son would be/is already fun to travel with. Only one kid though, so younger is ok.

Man, I'd love to crawl through the spy-on-penguin tunnels! So much more fun than idly watching penguins on TV, even if I don't see any. Maybe.

Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

What fun to see your pictures! I was in NZ a few years back and it was one of my favorite vacations and I thought at the time what a great family vacation.

Kelley said...

That sounds like an absolutely wonderful vacation and I'm just green with envy. (for reasons that include, you got to escape Arizona heat...and you don't even live here!)

Glad to hear everyone had a great time and can't wait to see the stash enhancement that occurred.

Alwen said...

Wow, what a cool trip! Penguins and spinning wheels -- you'd have a hard time beating that.

Bea said...

eeee...I wanna go see the penguins! Can I stow away in your luggage the next time you go? THis looks like so much fun!

Marianne said...

Yay! You're back.. and as usual, I'm late to the party! I needed a good chunk of time for these two posts.
I can certainly see why Tess was so charmed with Toby (yes, I went and read her account also :^) beautiful lad.
Wow. Love your take on the differences between 'living' and 'perhaps not' regarding native culture and I'm with you. Our government/culture/society could and should learn from what they have. Respect the design!
The friends, the penguins, the fibre stores, just absolutely an amazing trip!

the boogeyman's wife said...

those penguins sound cool, i like how the setup let you see them in their natural habitat without disturbing them. i didn't even know they lived in NZ, or went on grasslands. who knew!

Carrie K said...

Cute that they keep up on all the penguin gossip. ;) Your trip sounds just fabulous! The side trips and the conference talks. I can wait on the knititng pictures - the ones posted are so fabulous! I'd never really noticed how museums frame our native artifacts - maybe just the word artifact is telling?

Looking forward to a few more long posts like these!

Anne said...

What a cool trip, and what great hosts you had! I love the cueing of the sound effect when we've scrolled down as far as Ashford. This is a trip you and Older Daughter will remember always.

Mary Lou said...

Sounds like a perfect trip. Reading about it gives me wanderlust!

Alisha said...

I love the pengiuns...that is amazing to be so close.

And the wheel and the yarn and oh my what fun!