Sunday, July 24, 2011

Drive through Central South Island (aka the Southern Alps)

It's been a while since we had the computer plugged in to do a blog, so have more updates to offer than can fit in this one post, with Warren writing again.

This first picture shows Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain, over Lake Pukaki in the foreground. It was so nice to get a clear view. The lake has the most amazing turquoise colour due to the glacier runoff, although it's quite difficult to capture it in the same photo as the distant mountains. The Southern Alps are very young mountains, full of sharp edges which are a result of the tectonic activity which is so common. The earthquakes are relatively common, which is generally a good thing as it means the pressures are being relieved instead of building up for something major (although I'm sure it's all relative).

The above photo shows the road leading up through the Lindis Pass. This lovely drive was quite enjoyable since we knew the pass was open and most of the ice was gone. The largeness of the mountains cannot be adequately captured by any one photo, and even panoramic photos don't allow a good substitute for the three dimensional mountains which we have enjoyed.

We were able to have a couple of wonderful stops along the way (on either side of the pass), and we found a couple of fantastic shops that we would love to have stayed much longer to look around. The first was in Tarras, a tiny place with only a few shops, but also home to the House of Shrek ... the world famous sheep who just recently died from old age. The second stop in Omarama was also at a shop full of fabulous items, with many wonderful Merino wool products as at the Merino shop in Tarras.

This has to be the most scenic church in the world, the Church of the Good Shepherd in Tekapo. While we were inside, enjoying the uncrowded atmosphere of a winter visit, we heard a couple discussing wedding plans with the church official inside ... can you imagine what a lovely place this would be for a wedding. It also would provide plenty of distraction from any sermon that was dull.

This is a sign which seems somewhat ironic given the beauty of the scenery through the countryside ... constantly changing and providing ample interesting views along the way. There are other signs about not driving while tired, a good reminder that it's as dangerous as driving under the influence ... but the idea of free coffee is really a quite inventive concept. This picture was taken in front of a paddock of sheep with young lambs, so we were able to get photos of a couple of them as well.

Well, that's a short overview of some highlights of our drive from Wanaka up through to Hanmer Springs. We're a bit behind on the blog posts, but will try to update the highlights before we head home soon.

Warren and Colette

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Southland Farming

Warren writing a quick update:

Before coming up to Wanaka, I took Peter and Luke down to Gore to experience a day on a Southland farm ... just like when I grew up. Despite the mild sunny weather we've had all trip, the day on the farm was a truly wet Southland day. We had to pick up some gumboots and then don wet weather gear to go out into the elements. We did lots of walking in the process of moving electric fences around for the purpose of feeding the sheep (by giving them additional swedes or grass to eat each day). Both boys got to spend a little time out on the tractor to help with feeding out hay, but had the most fun blasting around paddocks on the back of the ute. They were exhausted by the end of the day, but that is perfectly OK.

I took a ton photos of sheep and the surrounding area, but only thought I should include one more photo here.

On the Sunday, it was totally awesome for my Aunt and Uncle to host a pot-luck where several of my oldest and best friends were in attendance. It sure was a wonderful blessing to catch up with so many people in one afternoon.


Wanaka, NZ, and Snow Skiing adventure

We arrived in Wanaka on a Monday evening to a wonderfully warm and roomy rental house with a view of the mountains! Warren's parents came and joined us on this part of our journey as well! We have enjoyed walks, lunch by the clear blue lake with amazing snow capped views of the mountains and the slower pace of life.

Anna-Kate and I were able to stop for lunch at the famous Moeraki Boulders en-route to Wanaka. Although it was a long drive, it was nice to travel along the Pacific Ocean for a time, then pass through Middle Earth on the way to this little mountain gem of a town. Wanaka is surrounded by mountains, but still gets lots of sun - even in winter!! There are three ski resorts nearby, and lots of heli-skiing.

On our first day here we did lots of shopping around, and then Warren gave a talk hosted by his Engineering Institute. Our second full day in town was the opening day of the ski season (unseasonably late). We joined the crowd flocking to Cardrona, and were awed by the majestic views along the way.
The trip up was a little more exciting than we planned when one of our wheel chains broke ... not good when chains are required.

A brochure for the ski field boasts.."Cadrona Parks are EPIC!...Cardrona has the most extensive Terrain Park & Halfpipe facilities in the Southern Hemisphere, 3 Terrain Parks, a Gravity Cross and & 2 Halfpipes including a 22ft Olympic Superpipe." However, the focus for our day was to let the kids have some lessons and learn the fundamentals from people skilled at explaning these things (not Warren!). We were worried that the kids wouldn't like skiing after the wind gusts started causing white-out conditions on the ski-field (and they started closing lifts) ... but it appears they were not to be deterred!! The photo shows their instructor (in red), then the three kids in front of the old barn.

Warren spent almost 2 hours sorting out a temporary solution for our missing chains, and we ended up giving two Australians on their honeymoon a ride down the mountain. Unfortunately it was almost zero visibility by the time we left, and shortly after we started down the hill our temporary chain broke ... meaning a serious problem for braking and steering (both important parts of driving down snowy mountain roads). Fortunately our prayers were answered and we made it to the bottom. Our last wheel chain then broke ... three in one day!! We sure were tired by the end of the day. There was a brief moment on the mountain when the skies were clear and the wind died down, and during that brief moment we were able to get a photo of our family as you'll see below.

I'll update the blog when able.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Antarctic Centre

The Antarctic Centre is located in Christchurch, the gateway to Antarctica for the US and New Zealand personnel who make the long journey south. Warren and Anna-Kate were able to spend a long morning at the Antarctic Centre while I had a lovely morning tea with my friends (although they talked about the earthquakes too much for my comfort). Warren will write about their visit:

Hi, Anna-Kate and I first went to a 4D movie about Antarctica - it was so cool since it was a 3D movie with special effects (water and wind spray, the seat moved, and we had snow and bubbles too). In the entry foyer we also had some snow, and that's where this first photo is located. There were lots of displays with tons of interesting information.

In this picture you can see them feeding the penguins. These little blue penguins are so cute, and it was so much fun to watch their antics. After this we went on a Hagland Ride, which are the cool tractor type ski-doos which carry people around Antarctica ... it was awesome to go blasting up and down the course, over the crevase, and through the water like a boat.

Lastly we went into the deep freeze where the temperatures ranged from really cold to bitterly cold (-5 to -21 Celcius). Anna-Kate had a lot of fun on the various play things. We enjoyed the galleries and displays on our way out, and also had to stop off in the shop to get a couple of souveniers.

The next day the boys and I drove south to Gore, and an adventure on a sheep farm ... but you'll have to wait until we can blog again for that story.

Thanks for following the blog.
Warren, Colette, and family.

Avonhead Primary School

Avonhead Primary School is in Avonhead, the subarb where we previously lived in Christchurch. We lived here for three years, 2002-2005. During this visit, Anna-Kate stayed with her cousins Matthew (9) and Emily (7) and she went to school with them three days this week. I picked her up from school on Wednesday and she was so happy she asked if she could go to school the rest of the week! She had already made several friends and she especially enjoyed the one hour lunch break and extra time running around on the awesome playgrounds! I saw several familiar faces and was glad I got to stop and talk with one of Peter's favorite teachers. After school Anna-Kate played on the school's extensive playground before we walked to Aunty Erika's house. Anna-Kate asked about going to a playground with a merry go round and there just happens to be one in Aunty Erika's neighborhood- just a few houses down. We walked down to the playground and ran into two nice girls that played with Anna-Kate and they even shared their "fairy bread" with her. The girls names were Anna and Amy, so they named themselves "The 'A' Team". She came back so happy from playing in the fresh air with lovely friends! Anna-Kate said 'this is such a friendly environment!!" Aunty Erika had us over for dinner and she and Anna-Kate made a delicious lemon pudding - with fresh lemons straight from Aunty Erika's lemon tree! It really is nice to live/visit a city where the local community is so strong, and where everyone can walk to a park or playground. The photo below shows Anna-Kate in mufti (no uniform) while her cousins are wearing the same uniform which Peter and Luke wore during their time at Avonhead a few years ago.

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Have a blessed day,

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Christchurch Overview
One of the best parts of our recent tour of Christchurch was going to an overlook adjacent to Sign of the Takahe. Unfortunately the sun was totally in the wrong place, so we don't have any spectacular photos to share ... but it was really cool to look out over the city.

High School in New Zealand
While we've been here in Christchurch, both Peter and Luke have been going to Riccarton High School with their friends. In New Zealand the schools all have uniforms, and the boys were given the choice to wear them or not (since they're only visiting). Peter didn't really have anyone to borrow from due to his height, but Luke was keen to jump into the whole experience, and has been wearing a uniform for the week. The boys are enjoying their time so much, they want to stay and not return home to America. Luke is still in middle school in the states, but there aren't many middle or intermidate schools here in Christchurch. Luke seems to really be enjoying his time in high school.... see Luke and his friend Jared in the photo below:
The boys have said they would like to stay in school with their friends, rather than continue on with the rest of the holiday.

Anna-Kate has been going to Primary School with her cousins and I hope to get an update from her today. We only have a couple of days left here in Christchurch before we head south.

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Akaroa - Long Harbour

Akaroa - Long Harbour
On Saturday I was able to have a day away with Warren while the kids were busy with their friends for the day. It was so nice to drive past the many paddocks dotted with sheep, and to see the lovely green grass covered hills and mountains along the way. We stopped for hot tea and a muffin at the Hilltop Cafe, which is on the ancient volcanic crater rim overlooking the harbour. Once down in the quaint French settlement of Akaroa, we were able to catch a small boat cruise out the harbour to the Pacific Ocean. The two hour cruise started relatively calm, but the ocean surge from the southern ocean got quite large, making for a "washing machine" type turbulence around the rocky entrance. We were happy to see a couple of small Blue Penguins, and also a pair of very rare Hector Dolphins - although it was very difficult to get a photo with the boat bobbing around so much. The water is a beautiful blue and the sun was warm and sunny! Akaroa is a small town of just 500 with many unique shops - including a place you can purchase blue pearls! We were able to spend a little time walking around the community, and stopped by to see the Maison de la Mer, a top 10 worldwide B&B. Wish we had more time in this wee town with french settlers, and it's deffinately on my list of favorite places in New Zealand and I hope we can take the kids back for a boat ride.

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Greetings from Christchurch, New Zealand!
We arrived in the land of the long white cloud just six days ago and already our time has been filled with friendship, family, fun gatherings and an abundance of beautiful scenery. Christchurch is the second largest city in New Zealand yet has only about 400,000 residents. Wellington is on the bottom of the North Island and the capital city. Christchurch is on the East coast of the South Island and is commonly called "the garden city" and is truly beautiful in the Spring time. However, July is the middle of winter here - although so far it has been unusually mild. As you may know, Christchurch experienced a large 7.1 earthquake in September 2010, a huge 6.3 aftershock in February and another 6.3 in June. Altogether there have been nearly 13,000 earthquakes, although many are too small to feel. Yesterday was reportedly the first day since September that did not have a noticeable earthquake (which we're quite happy about). So far I have only felt one aftershock and it felt like a short, sudden shake, but it was 'only' a 3.8. Friends took us on a tour of downtown Christchurch to see the devastation firsthand, and it was very sad to see the crumbled buildings and landmarks, although many sites have already been cleared.

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Thank you and have a lovely day!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

City of Sails

After our time in Tahiti, we flew to Auckland, New Zealand. While flying south we crossed the International Date line and Peter suddenly turned 16. Auckland is known as the city of sails! There are more sail boats here per capta than most any other place. The America's Cup Yachting race was held here in 2000 & 2002, and we were able to visit the Viaduct Harbour where much of the action took place (see photo below). We stayed in a lovely hotel downtown. Warren has a couple of cousins that live in Auckland and they had us all over for a lovely dinner. We were finally in New Zealand and looking forward to heading further south. There is still trouble with volcanic ash from the Chilean eruption and so our pilot had to drop down and fly at just 18,000 ft. which gave us an amazing view of the Southern Alps. It was a lovely day and Anna-Kate and I had window seats - enjoying our view of the South Island. Warrens family were waiting for us in the airport and welcomed Warren home! Warren's sister, Carla, and her two daughters also came to welcome us.