Kia Ora from Mount Cook, New Zealand! Today marks the halfway point of our trip. I’ve been telling Christopher this over and over — I feel like I’m outside of my body. I feel like the things I’ve seen and done are too beautiful and too breathtaking.
One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor
I finished my last post with hopes to complete the Tongariro Alpine Crossing during our stay there. Sadly, we did not get to do the crossing. There was too much snow and ice and if we wanted to do it, we would need to go with a guide and be fitted for snowsuits and ice picks and what not. However, we did get to do some more hiking. We hiked the Ridge Track and saw this:
That’s Mount Ngauruhoe – one of the active volcanoes at Tongariro. There is no possible way our pictures could do this view justice.
The pines were roaring on the height, The winds were moaning in the night.
We had one last awesome breakfast at the Chateau and departed for Wellington, the capitol of New Zealand. The drive was absolutely beautiful. Rolling hills, green mountains, sheep, water, sun. This country is stunning. We stayed at At Home Wellington, a boutique apartment hotel right smack dab in the middle of everything. Hayley and Dwayne, the owners, were charming and kind and helpful. I highly recommend staying there should you ever find yourself in Wellington. We then walked to the Mount Victoria lookout – the highest point in Wellington. It was a hilly, beautiful walk, but definitely more difficult than you think. It was straight up hill with really powerful wind gusts. We made it to the top, enjoyed the view, then headed down to stroll around the city and find something for dinner.
View from the top.
Hayley and Dwayne provided a list of their favorite restaurants, so we decided to go with one of their suggestions. We ate at Monsoon Poon – an Asian infusion restaurant that was colorful, spunky and fun. Chris had butter chicken and I had a ginger lemon chicken, and it was all so delicious that my mouth is watering right now as I type. We fell asleep to a windstorm and it was wonderful. The next day, we went to the Weta Cave, which is kind of like Mecca for Lord of the Rings fans. We did a tour of the workshop and saw some pretty incredible things. The designers, artists, painters, machinists, and everyone at the Weta worship are incredible people. We got to hold the same kind of mithril that protected Frodo from the troll in Moria. We also got to take some fun pictures with trolls.
That night, we went to the Four Nations Rugby League final game. There are two kinds of rugby in New Zealand: Rugby Union and Rugby League. You may be more familiar with the All Blacks, New Zealand’s Rugby Union team. The New Zealand Kiwis were playing against the Australian Kangaroos for the Four Nations title. Rugby league….is awesome. I had so much fun at this game. I’ve never watched a game of rugby before, and I really enjoyed it. The game was fast-paced and exciting. Before the game, the Kiwis performed a Haka, which is an ancestral war cry, dance, or challenge of the Maori people. After they finished, flames burst from the field and it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
[Photo from AP. Not my own.]
We left Wellington a little begrudgingly – I really loved this city. When we come back to New Zealand, I’m planning to spend more time there. We flew to Christchurch early on Sunday morning. We talked in the airport, dropped off our bags, got a donut, sat down, and then loaded a plane from the tarmac. No shoe removal, no x-ray machines. It was quite nice. Once we landed in Christchurch, we picked up our rental car and drove to the Kaikoura peninsula for the purpose of whale watching.
Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire
All right, listen up, because I’m only going to tell this story once.
During the summer, the Fernbank Museum in Atlanta had a special exhibit called Whales: Giants of the Deep. The actual exhibit was from New Zealand, and since we were planning a trip and both are fascinated by whales, we thought it would be perfect to include some actual New Zealand whale-watching in our trip.
Whale Watch Kaikoura seemed like the perfect way to see whales in New Zealand. When we arrived, we saw our tour time along with a ticker that said “extreme seasickness warning.” Christopher and I have both been on boats many times and have never suffered from seasickness, but to be safe, we each took a dose of Dramamine before our trip.
We loaded the boat and listened to the crew give safety tips and a brief overview of what we would be doing. We then took off in search of whales — going what felt like 100 miles per hour over the roughest water in the ocean. Our stomachs flipped a whole lot, but we were fine.
However, our entire row was not.
Not five minutes into the trip, every single person around us started throwing up. There was a lady to our left and a family of four to our right. All of them were violently throwing up into sick bags. We were trapped. We just held on to each other, shut our eyes and breathed into our shirts, tried to drown out the coughing and retching and splattering, and prayed for the boat to stop soon.
John Galatas, this was a “how did I get here?” moment.
Here’s some free advice:
-If you load a boat that says “extreme seasickness warning” and you know you get seasick, you are a horrible person. Don’t do it. You will ruin the experience of everyone around you.
-If you do get sick, please leave the second row of the boat. You know, the one that is clearly for people who don’t get seasick. Move to the back of the boat. Remember? The one the crew told you to go to if you feel sick.
-Also, don’t hold on to your used sick bags. If you throw up, remove the bag as quickly as possible. Don’t just fold them over and hold on to them or keep them in your lap while you throw up some more.
I wish I could say the trip got better, the people stopped throwing up, threw their sick bags away, and moved to the back of the boat, but they did not. We did see two sperm whales and some dolphins — which was fantastic, because if we didn’t, I don’t know what I would have done.
We got off the boat, walked around, got some sprite, and found some ice cream to settle our queasiness. We drove in near silence to Arthur’s Pass and went to bed still feeling ill.
The silver lining.
A Warm Welcome
We stayed at the Arthur’s Pass Alpine Motel, which was owned by a lovely couple from Christchurch. It was cold and dark when we arrived, and we quickly found heated blankets on our bed. They were wonderful. It was so hard to wake up with those warm blankets. We eventually got out of bed, had breakfast, and went hiking. We hiked to the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall and took the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track, which all total ended up being over 10 kilometers. Six hours of hiking was fantastic.
We left Arthur’s Pass and drove to Mount Cook, which is where we are currently. We’re here until Friday, so I’m going to save our Mount Cook stories for the next post. Thanks for reading!