Thursday, December 17, 2009

Not yet, please!

Act IV: Scene IX
Dec. 16-18th.
Braemar Station

As I write this I am back in Christchurch, had been dropped off at my hotel for the next two nights in the early afternoon. The REI trip is over. And I’m really bummed. I didn’t want it to end. I still have 3.5 days left here in New Zealand, but being back in this city with all these people and buildings and alone is well… lonely. I’m meeting B. for dinner tonight because she doesn’t fly home till tomorrow, so this will be my last meal here with someone to share it with.

Well, on Dec. 16th we had some time before leaving Manapouri to wander. I went down to the beach of Lake Manapouri. I also have a picture of the view from my room at 10:00pm overlooking the lake. I forget how far south we really are here. The sun is up by 5am and doesn’t set till just before 10pm. It will be strange going home and having the sun set at 5pm and up at 7am. I kind of like these long summer days here. But I suppose the trade off is really really short days during the winter months here. Anyway, we left Manapouri and drove back through Te Anua and Queenstown, where we were on our own for lunch. Most of us went to “The Ferg Burger” and split burgers. They were big but mighty tasty too. B. and I walked around Queenstown a few times and got bored. So we just sat down and people watched till it was time to meet back up with the bus. Then we drove some more, and stopped at the bridge where the first Bungee Jump took place. We watched a few people bungee, but none of us did it. We drove some more and stopped at a salmon farm where we fed the salmon what looked like rabbit poo and smelled of dog food. The salmon liked it but none of the humans wanted to try it. S. picked out some fresh salmon for dinner and then we drove some more to Braemar Station.

Dinner was salmon. I tried it, but didn’t like it. It was the only meal she made I didn’t like. Braemar Station is beautiful. It is a HUGE sheep/cow/horse/etc farm. We are staying in a house that was used by sheep shearers. So there are beds everywhere. We had some time before dinner would be ready so most of us just went wandering. I walked up to a small hill and just sat down in the grass and stared at the mountains and the water (There’s a lake there too). I watched the clouds roll over Mt. Cook (The tallest mountain in New Zealand). I think I sat there for 20 minutes. So very very peaceful. I then went and looked at the baby sheep with their moms in a paddock nearby, and had a staring contest with a lamb. The lamb won.

The next morning (Dec. 17th) was our last hike and the most challenging hike. Sealy Tarns. Only a 3-hour hike round trip but practically straight up a mountain. Only 5 of the 7 of us did the hike, plus S. and M. It was challenging going up. It is not for short people. But it was amazing at the top. We had lunch at the top and did a group picture and stuff. Great view of Mt. Cook and the surrounding glaciers and rivers. I had jelly legs all the way back down but I did just fine. Everyone made it down safely. We took a small break back at the bus and some of us went and did another small hike (not uphill) called The Hooker Valley Track which if you go to the end you get sort of close to one of the glaciers. This walk though had a crapload of tourists on it. And we didn’t have time to do the entire thing, so most of us turned around after an hour or so. I walked it back by myself, and was first back to the bus, at which point I woke M. up from his nap. Sorry. He and S. didn’t do the second hike with us. M. took us to the visitor center there at Mt. Cook and we walked around and learned all sorts of things about the mountain. Then it was an hour drive back to Braemar. Dinner was BBQ venison sausages, beef steak, and lamb chops. Yummy!

This was our last night together. So we had the “what was your favorite place/hike/meal/etc” questions and giving M. and S. their thank you cards and tips and such. We all watched the sunset and the Space Station cross the sky, and then at around 1:30am some of us got up and went to look at the stars. OH MY GOD!!! WOW! I have never in my life seen that many stars. I have never seen Orion completely, or the Milky Way at all before. Just amazing! We went out there to see the Southern Cross, but none of us could figure out where it was or if we were too early. But I didn’t care, it was still really cool.

Dec.18th. we got up and had breakfast and packed up and got back into Christchurch by 1pm. And I’m sore from the hike. I’m pretty ho-hum about the rest of my stay here. It feels like nothing can top what I have seen in the last 10 days. And it went by so fast. M. and S. were great. Just awesome guides. They were funny, informative, friendly, and just great to be around. I don’t really know what to say. My fellow REI travelers were good too. No complaints really. They were all friendly and pleasant. I didn’t strike up any lasting friendships with any of them (I think), even though B. lives in SF and C. and P. live in Pleasanton. I didn’t feel any real lasting connection. But I am so glad I did the REI trip because I never would have seen or done any of the things we saw or did otherwise. And being with the group was good. I liked not having to think about where or what I would eat, where I would sleep, where I needed to go.

I accidentally left my hiking boots on the bus. I don’t know if I’ll get them back, but if I don’t, then it’s one less thing I have to pack. It is strange. I really wanted the trip to go on. M. and S. were exhausted. They have 2 days off and then are doing the entire thing over again with a new REI group over Christmas and New Years. I thought about it, it would be cool to spend my birthday here. Not by myself but if I had chosen the next trip as opposed to the one I just did. Oh well. All I know is that I don’t want to spend this birthday watching the dumb dog again, like I did last year. Sorry sis, but I am not babysitting this year.