Sunday, March 22, 2009

NZ - the deep south

After returning to civilization we returned to Queenstown - food has never been so good, and I have to admit that the Ferg Burger was amazing :)
The next day we headed to Dunedin - the college town in NZ - looks a lot like GB, but with nicer people :) JK The local cafes are perfect to hang out in and read a book from one of the many second hand book stores. One should also stop at the local brewery who will teach you how to taste beers properly (I had no idea how much goes into drinking beer). Ben and Anna (friends we met in Peru) came to visit us and it was nice to see familiar faces again.

I also watched a great movie: Imagining Argentina - about the military regime in Argentina in the 70's - great way to learn more about their (brutal) history (no recommended for viewers under 13 :)

On the way to Invercargill (excellent place to jump off to see Steward Island) we stopped at some nice beaches and local stores to see how they work with shells.
One of the highlights of my trip was on the from Invercargill to Te Anau: A sheep farm!! I got to see the dogs at work, how the sheep are being taken care of and actually got to undress a sheep myself with very big scissors :) It was also a bit tragic, since the owner had just sold his farm and I was one of the last people to take this tour - after 58 years one could tell that this decision didn't come easily.

Te Anau was nice - again, but the real reason to come back to here was the Milford Sound cruise! Again we got lucky with the weather and enjoyed more stunning views on the way to Milford Sound and on the cruise ship, which took as all the way to the Tasman Sea.

Back in Queenstown, now for the third time :) I booked our trip to Kaikoura and two friends came to visit us again (Ben and Anna). We hiked to the top of the mountain behind Queenstown - difficult but very rewarding (the views up at 1700m are breathtaking). Once can see all the way to Mt. Cook and a large part of the southern Alps.

That night we had great food and the pleasure to be surrounded by a Rugby Team from South Africa. I didn't know how many tall and strong men existed in this world - they made me feel like Alice in Wonderland (when she eats the mushrooms that minimize her).

Christchurch was just a quick stop on the way to Kaikoura - now on a public bus and free from the 18 year old hungover Brits :) Kaikoura another highlight, is known for it's vivid marine life. Dusky dolphins, wales and furry seals hang around these waters. I had booked us on the 5:30 am excursion to go swimming with the dolphins in their natural environment. Dusky dolphins eat at night and socialize in the early hours of the day, while spending the rest of the day napping (with one part of the brain anyways).

I had heard that they come in groups of 200 to 300 ... sometimes even 1000, but it was surreal when they actually showed up in the hundreds ...and they told us to get in the water! Since it was my first time snorkeling the first 20 some dolphins passed me so fast I could barley see them. However after a little break I finally got comfortable having my head under water ... AND my first time ever to look straight into the eyes of a dolphin, actually being surrounded by him (me struggling to keep up) was one of the most amazing things that ever happened to me. We were able to get into the water three more time, simply hanging out with them was breathtaking. Since we are visiting the dolphins in their natural environment you need to provide some entertainment for them to hang out with you ... so they tell you to hum and sing, move like a dolphin and try to keep eye contact ... so my singing attempts for the first time ever were actually rewarded. At least a dozen of them were around me (while humming New Soul), one actually swam against me and one jumped right over me. It's hard to describe, but I hope that all of you get to swim with dolphins in their natural environment - it's the best thing I have ever done and great way to end my travels in New Zealand :)

All in all New Zealand was an amazing experience, especially nature on the southern island. Quit different from South America was how easy travel is and how difficult it seemed to be to meet locals ... however, its simply stunning, filled with helpful , nice people, everything is well organized and you can feel completely safe. Definitely worth a trip (and give yourself at least 3 weeks :))

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