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Monday, November 24, 2008

November in New Zealand...the rainy season.


Went to a seal's colony and watched them waddle all around the rocks.

It was so comical to watch. We saw some Weka birds on the path out there and for one hallucinatory moment thought they might be Kiwi's but alas no. The Kiwi is nocturnal so if you see one during the day, something is wrong.

Took what has been named as the best short walk in New Zealand. Now on the surface that sounds really good but in reality, there is no such thing as a short walk in New Zealand. Regardless it was very beautiful and we found a gorgeous little cove at the bottom that was all small pebbles instead of sand.

I was the first one down there in flip flops. It felt so good on my bare feet. Everyone asked how
cold it was and I said "San Francisco cold".
When I first arrived Holming took me outside to listen to this very special bird song and those same ones were singing so beautifully all along the path. Wonderful.

Visited the pancake rocks park. No one seems to know how they were formed but they are quite impressive. Many blowholes too and massive sea swells.
Now let me not fail to mention that it's been raining on and off all day but for some amazing reason it would stop raining at each site for the duration of the stop. Although I did buy an umbrella which flipped inside out within 4 seconds of leaving the store, luckily I haven't really needed it.

Arrived in Greymouth. The hostel is full of personality. We were dropped off, rounded the corner loaded with our bags to be greeted by a relaxed chap named Steve (the one I called from the pie shop) who told us all about his hostel by the river to the Tasman sea.
Just having a bit of fun, no this is not the hostel but they are sometimes this nice (on the outside).
Seems he has a big cat called fish and a big fish called...well you get the idea. Two turtles in a tank that were oodles of fun to watch. A couple ducks that aren't for eating he said very sternly. (Seems that some backpackers a while back actually caught one and started to pluck it for dinner). No bunk beds. Coal heated water that could take a few layers of skin off if you aren't careful. Sinks here are either hot water or cold water but not both. That's right, they have a faucet on each side. But the real selling point was the bathtubs (bubble bath included). I soaked for a good hour.
So it should come as no surprise that I decided to skip the $25 brewery tour since, well I don't like beer. Not to worry, I made a couple local friends as soon as I arrived and was invited to join them down the way at a pub where Vanessa sang some beautiful crooner songs and I ordered a perfect manhattan for $28. No wonder my friends wanted me to bring them heaps of booze. Saw this hotel sign on the way to the bar, and you thought Greymouth was a quiet wholesome town!

A few important points to make. I travel alone for a very specific reason, to meet and socialize with locals. I also travel for at least one month because anything less means you'll miss too much or won't have enough time to relax and really blend in. (especially if you get rained in somewhere)
Tonight reminded me of both of those very important rules. The people I met; Vanessa, A singer whose been traveling and promoting her music for a long time solo, she has a lighter Diana Krall style and voice. Lee, a bar manager who plied us with way too many weird and wonderful drinks and a huge platter of goodies to munch on. Lindsay, a mother and wife of 46 years who loves champagne as much as me and reckons her husbands loves her as much as that too. Woody, a kiwi school teacher with the light scruffy beard, wind whipped hair of dark roots and natural blond highlights at the tips and as cute as those birds but who was too shy to flirt with me (until after round 6) Lurk, Lindsey's son who wants to paint the town bridge at 2am to match the Golden Gate, because "mate that gawd awful grey bridge is dull and well we've got nothin better to do". Wazz, I'm not really sure about this one except as maybe to compare him to Curly from the three stooges.
We giggled and drank and giggled and ate and laughed and well you know...anyway, it was a fantastic night full of local humor and delights.
I actually drank a beer. *gasp* can you believe it?!?!? If not, see photo.

Notice Lurk holding up the CHEESE.
Well I finally crossed the line last night. I was one of those annoying girls in the room that won't let others sleep. I was so excited from my big evening in Greymouth that I was clicking away my story on my AlphaSmart and didn't realize the loud sighing coming from the Japanese girl with the loud tick tock clock was because of me. Whoops.
Visited Ross, a gold mining town. Then the bushman's where we learned about early New Zealand way of living by a colorful person named Pete who liked to say, when men were men and sheep were nervous.

Seems that before settlers there were no 4 legged animals, only birds on New Zealand. Settlers introduced the red deer but the population eventually became out of control so hunting was permitted but even then it was still not contained so next they decided to capture wild deer for farming stock via helicopter and a net gun that they invented right here. There was a 20 minute film. Some live possums and one very large wild but well behaved pig that would sit like a dog for a treat. They even had possum pie. Didn't try it, they were too cute to eat.

Saw a kangaroo and a couple deer in the yard outside too. Pretty cool and interesting place for sure.

Today has been a torrential downpour, in fact, this should sound familiar, it's sideways rain. So much that the roads are totally flooded! Water is gushing down then walls along the road. We've passed over a dozen bridges and many were as wide as a San Francisco city block, rivers, swollen and dangerous. It's a stern reminder that we are so small compared to nature.

The bridges are always one lane and some even have trains go over them.

Arrived in Franz Josef and this is where the glacier is but because it's pouring rain we can't even see it! No matter. I'm cozied up on the couch closest to the fire with my feet up on the table in my thermal padded socks that Jeanette gave us on Meara's 40th birthday, watching the steady downpour through the huge glass windows right in front of me. Life is good.
But wait, there's more! (Matt this should sound familiar...)We pulled up and as you might well imagine there is a lot of baggage to come off the bus so being in the front seat I decide that instead of standing around in the rain waiting for my bag to come off, I'd race over to the hostel and check in before everyone else. Smart little duck I am, albeit wet.

But wait, there's more. I got room 3. Upon entering room 3 I found (audible groan) metal bunk beds. Oh Oh, do my eyes deceive me? Is that a single metal bed without a top? Yes, yes, by golly it is. And it's mine, all mine!!! (hehehe, maniacal laugh). The room has functioning heat, extra wool blankets and even a dehumifiyer. Wow. Paradise. I've got the last bottle of bubbly chilling in the fridge and the sauna turns on at 5pm.

Flip flops are my new best friend...We are going to try and venture out. Gale force winds, apparently. Wish us luck.
We didn't get swept up but we were quite wet by the time we arrived at the pizzeria two blocks away. Two tiny blocks at that. But it was worth it. Delicious pizza, homemade crust that was more like cornmeal rather than flour. Tons of toppings and all fresh ingredients. And yes, I drank a beer with it. I think I'm turning into a Kiwi.

Air New Zealand has these great ads in the BART stations.

It's a photo of the very same person as a 'before' and 'after' image who has vacationed in New Zealand. They are very clever. For example, a man is well groomed and in a suit, next photo, his hair is a bit wild, he's sporting a backpack and beard. (In fact, woody looked just like that fella)
Anyway came back and fell asleep to the pounding rain.

Today. Disaster. We are flooded in. We all loaded up on the bus in the pouring rain, crossed an overflowing river and saw a sign ROAD CLOSED. The driver (remember friendly and helpful Mike) phoned the head office and they confirmed so we headed back to Franz Josef. Got my same room and bunk thankfully and am now back in the same spot on the couch watching a torrential downpour outside.

Looks like I'll be shopping on ebay, checking my bank account, perhaps write some postcards, check the return flight fee to push my vacation back a week, eat more pizza and buy a huge bottle of whiskey, forget the Ginger Ale.

One good thing, no shall I say another good thing about hostels is that they have book exchanges so I raided the neighboring hostel and found one of my favorite authors. It's a huge book, the size of a small bible. Should keep me busy until the sauna opens and we get drenched again in search of food....Ah well it's sometimes nice to relax and we are getting plenty of it here.

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