Have I told you yet just how beautiful this damn country is?! I know I haven't posted any photos yet, so you'll just have to take my word for it, but I think I'm in love. If this isn't the most gorgeous country I've been to so far, it's one of the top 3.
Photos: 1) Highland cattle (originally from Scotland) at Walter Peak Station, 2) My hand feeding hungry sheep, 3) The Earnslaw steam launch, 4) Kiwi statue by the waterfront in Queenstown, 5) Beach in Queenstown. I can't get over how clear and beautiful the water is here.
Well, this morning got off to a bit of a panic-stricken start. I had a flight from Auckland to Queenstown at 0720 so Uncle Ross was to drive me to the airport at 0620. I set my alarm for 0520 (I need time in the morning because I'm not a morning person) only to wake up at 0600 when I heard someone walking around upstairs. I seem to have turned off my alarm while sleeping. A few quiet, creative curses later and I was hurriedly hurling on some clothes and frantically double-checking all my vital documents. Thank goodness I'd made good use of my time last night to repack my bags! A quick goodbye to Liz who thrust a hasty breakfast at me, then Ross and I were whizzing to the airport. I got to check in by kiosk, and even put my own luggage tag on my big pack before unceremoniously dumping it in a bin on a conveyor belt and rushing off to my gate. Must have done it right because it followed me here.
When I boarded the plane, some old guy was sitting in my seat, but eventually his wife figured out he was supposed to be in the middle seat and I was able to claim my spot by the window. The weather out of Auckland was good, but there was a front passing through the South Island so lots of cloud and some turbulence on the way. After descending through the clouds in Queenstown, we came in for landing out of the mountains to meet a sunny albeit cooler day. It's about 13C down here, much less humid than the north too. I'm wearing my trusty ragged wool sweater again because it's a bit breezy too and we're right on Lake Wakatipu (wah-kah-tee-poo). It's jaw-droppingly scenic here!
After hauling my gear to the hostel, I headed back to the main part of town where I was signed up to do an excursion to a working sheep farm across the lake.
http://www.realjourneys.co.nz/Main/Farmexcursions/ I think I heard our guide say that Walter Peak is 2,000m high with the farm situated at the base by the lake. It's a vast farm, covering a LOT of acreage (numbers forgotten), and our guide/hosts were extraordinarily courteous and friendly. We got to feed various types of sheep by hand as well as some red deer (not Red Deer), watch a herd of sheep get rounded up by a dog, I held a 5-week old lamb in my arms, and we watched an unwilling ewe get sheared after a lovely break for afternoon tea. Our journey across the lake was in a 98-year old coal-fired steam launch which was fantastic. We could watch the men shovelling coal into the furnaces and it was certainly warm in the engine room! I also encountered an artisan's market outdoors down by the docks before the boat sailed so I poked around and bought an adorable little blue bowl (handmade ceramic, very nice artist man from Dunedin) with a bright, happy, sunshine yellow interior. Oh, and I've bought my first wool sweater too along with some NZ socks. Why am I shopping now when I've got to haul it with me???
Currently, I'm taking advantage of an internet cafe I found to update my blog and email while I have the chance. This may be my last post for a bit so be warned. Tomorrow morning, my newly-extended sunburn (I was in a rush this morning and completely overlooked sunscreen) and I are meeting up with the Active Earth New Zealand group to start our 11-day hiking trip to Christchurch. http://www.activeearthnewzealand.com/secret-south.html I've still yet to meet any other Canadians, but have chatted to Americans, Belgians, those of the UK persuasion, and an Aussie or two. I should have brought Dalrene with me - she managed to find all of the other Canadians when we went to Zermatt together a couple of years ago. I'll have an overnight in Christchurch (providing I survive the trek there), then back to see Ross and Liz for about another 5 days before I reluctantly head home. Can I stay here forever?