– Queenstown, New Zealand to Twizel, New Zealand –

Alas. Today was our last day in Queenstown. This morning we had to pack up all of our stuff to move on to our next temporary home. It’s our last full day of our trip, too, since tomorrow we fly from Christchurch back up to Auckland in the afternoon, and then we will start back home the following morning.

We did our nice run along the lake and into town again this morning, with considerably nicer weather. The nicer weather brought out more people, even early in the morning, so we had a few more people to dodge as we ran along.

So… bungy jumping. People are crazy.

After our run, we went back to our hotel, had breakfast, and showered. It’s oddly warm in that hotel, so after our run both mornings, we had to figure out how to ventilate the room. It’s harder than you might think. We had a sliding glass door and a bathroom window, but both opened out into a sort of shared hallway with windows that looked out on the streets of the town. We had to open our doors, then open the hallway windows to get any air. It was an interesting place, built almost like a dorm.

In any event, our first stop of the morning was totally unplanned. We pulled off at a bungy jumping place just outside of Queenstown on a whim. No, to all of the suddenly concerned parents reading this, we didn’t jump. Gosh, can you imagine?

Windmill arms

Actually, we just stopped for what we thought was a photographic opportunity and a bridge over a gorge. The bridge was there all right, but people were jumping off of it. You could get in free to watch, too, so that’s what we did. They had a little shop at the front, where people paid $200 each to jump off a perfectly good bridge.

Outside, behind the shop, the bridge stretch across a river gorge, and people, mostly in their very early 20s, were just willingly bungy jumping off of the bridge, bouncing around at the bottom of a long rope, then getting dragged down into a boat for the next person to go. The whole process took less than 2 minutes per person, if you aren’t including all of the instructions they were getting and gear they were being strapped into.

Clyde Dam

It was fun to watch, anyway. The funniest part is watching them frantically windmilling their arms as they go down, as if that is going to help them fly, somehow? I don’t know. It seems completely crazy to me. Mark got some cool pictures, though.

On our way out, we bought ourselves some souvenir T-shirts, since we never found the ones I wanted. We never did find a visitor center for Fjordlands National Park, despite being in it most of the day yesterday, so we couldn’t get T-shirts for it. These are a decent substitute, I guess. Mark wants one that just has the arrow we have in our rental car that says, “Keep Left.” I guess we will have to keep our eye out, but I bet those don’t exist. It would be a hilarious shirt, though.

Family photo, minus our baby

Our next stop was at a dam in Clyde. I have to say, after the Manic 5 dam this summer, it takes a lot for a dam to impress me, so this one, while cool, wasn’t anything spectacular. I’m not sure what our fascination with dams and bridges is, but we always stop for them.

It’s Thanksgiving back home today, so when we had our lunch, which we got from a grocery store in Alexandra, we took photos of it to present as our “Thanksgiving Dinner.” If you’d like a description (in addition to the photo), we had tzatziki, hummus, pretzel chips, a new kind of ginger beer, and we split a tomato and cheese sandwich, since they only had the one. For dessert, we had chocolate snowmen. Jealous?

“Thanksgiving Dinner”

Our trip today was a little weird, since the places we wanted to see where spread out. After Alexandra, we drove north a bit to St. Bathans, which is a gold mining ghost town, mostly. A few people still live there, and there’s even a tiny hotel. Many of the buildings down town are in ruins, however, so most of it is abandoned.

Back in the town’s heyday, they used hydraulic mining to wash flakes of gold out of the hills. Hydraulic mining involves spraying water at a very high pressure over the ground to get the gold to separate from the surrounding soil. It’s a bit of a strange concept. Mark tells me they used to do it in California, but had to stop because of how destructive the process is. Can you imagine the erosion from something like that?

Snowy mountains and green grass

As we’ve been getting closer to Christchurch, where they had the snow late last week, we’ve been seeing more and more flooding. All of the creeks are bulging with brown water, and lakes that are touted as “blue” on the signs are a muddy brown from the floodwaters.

In fact, when we tried to leave the St. Bathans by continuing the little loop road that would take us back to the main road, we found a sign that said the road was closed. We drove back to the little hotel in St. Bathans to ask what was going on, and the owner told us their bridge had been washed away in the flooding. I bet that’s a pain in the butt, especially out here in the middle of nowhere this town is. I wonder how long it will take for them to get it fixed.

Ruined Schoolhouse in St. Bathans

We reluctantly backtracked and then continued on down the road back to the coast. Backtracking is never fun. On the coast, we were heading to the Morekai Boulders, which were touted as a beach full of huge round boulders. It did have boulders. They were round. All of that is true.

But. But. There’s only a handful of boulders. And they clearly rolled off of the cliff above. It’s fine, but it isn’t worth the $2 they wanted us to pay to use their stairs down to the beach. Granted we went at high tide, which I’m sure made them slightly less impressive, but they look much cooler in peoples’ pictures than they do when you’re actually standing in front of them. Like the Wanaka Tree, Instagram lies.

Mine lake in St. Bathans

We finally bought an L&P at the little cafe there (Why do two dozen round boulders on a beach need a gift shop and a cafe?). An L&P is local soda that was one of the two things I meant to try while we were in New Zealand. When I got here, I discovered that Mark had actually already had both without me without even knowing it. I was reminding him about the two things I’d said we had to try, L&P and pavlova, and he realized he’d actually had both without even knowing that’s what they were. I’m a little sad, but I guess I will live. It’s not looking like I will ever find pavlova, either, so I guess he’ll be the only one that has any. Ah, well. Oh, and the L&P was fine, but a bit weird. Meh.

Morekai Boulders

From the boulders beach, we drove north along the coast to Oamaru, where there’s supposedly a penguin colony. We didn’t get lucky enough to see any penguins, but I guess we missed them. The internet tells me the best time to see them is from September to February, but it seems like you have to be there at the right time of day, too. We only stopped on a whim, so we weren’t too disappointed. We still haven’t spotted a kiwi. I’m starting to suspect that one won’t happen, either. Next time, New Zealand. Next time.

From Oamaru, we turned inland again and drove up to Omarama, where we got falafel pitas for dinner from a little food truck. It was fine, but I wish we had waited to get to our hotel, as they had much better food trucks parked right in front of it. The town was so small on the map we were afraid they wouldn’t have food for us at all, but we really missed out by eating early. Still, it was better than getting there and discovering they had nothing.

L&P, the local soda

In Twizel, which is where we stayed for the night, we booked into our hotel and then walked over to the grocery store to pick up our breakfast. The town is small, but not as small as we expected, and our hotel room is nice. If it ever gets dark tonight, they are supposed to have a beautiful view of the night sky, since it is so dark and empty here. I’m afraid it is going to be cloudy and we won’t see anything.

Tomorrow morning, we’re going to an observatory in the nearby town of Tekapo, but by then of course, the stars will be gone for the night. The days are quite long here at the moment, so it’s only dark for a little while.

Falafel Cart

Our run in this town doesn’t look like it’s going to be too great, since they don’t have any trails, and some of the roads don’t even have sidewalks. We will have to make do. By 3pm tomorrow, our journey home will be starting, which makes me a little sad. I do miss Ripley, though.

 – Trip Total :  12,109 miles

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