Thursday, 19 July 2018

The End/Beginning of the Journey. . .

The Home Trail
My Dad used to say that the reason you go on vacation is so you can appreciate home. And it's been a rather long "vacation". We've been back in Boise for almost a week now, and I can't tell you how much it feels like home. It's a loose term for us just now, given that we sold our house and most of our stuff. We're staying in an Airbnb townhouse that's an easy walk to the Greenbelt, as well as to a branch library and some local eateries. We just put a contract on a house, in this insane sellers market. Paid too much, probably. But it was right and we were ready.

I can't believe how green Boise looks, given it's July. I'm told it was a cooler-and-wetter-than usual spring and early summer. And while I was dreading heat and/or smoke, so far it's held off for us.
The Boise River ;with Bridge and Greenbelt

I am enjoying the silliest things. Driving in our own car. Walking in our local grocery stores. Eating breakfast on our first day back and running into friends: A Boise Moment. (Well, that's not silly, is it?) Standing, chilly, on our little balcony in the morning. . . 65F, even though the day before and the current day will approach 100F. What a climate!

Who are you, Ms. Yellow?
And guess what. I can't identify all of the flora here, either. I saw this yellow wildflower for the first time today. It's a full 3" across. When I hiked with C in the foothills yesterday, she commented that she had seen a plant for the first time there, too.

Unnamed not unloved, as Rae Chambers famously said.

If I sound a little maudlin, it's only because I'm feeling that way. I do love this place on earth. It's growing too quickly, and it may be unbearable in another twenty years (the lessons of Melbourne), but I just love being here right now.

John and I always tell each other "Be here now". [Related:  "What time is it? It's NOW!] It's not such an easy thing to be here now, but I think it will be easier in the next few months. I'll try not to get jaded and restless. . .to not miss Lacey so much that it overshadows everything else.

I'm closing with an image of a Cottonwood tree. Talk about unappreciated. These trees are so common here; often to the exclusion of other, less heat and drought-tolerate deciduous trees. Their wood is weak. But Holy Mackerel. Do they ever deliver on the shade on the Greenbelt. And habitat. And refuge. They are excellent at being who they are. A goal for all of us? Good Growing. . .

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Christchurch to Melbourne

Christchurch Arch of Remembrance
Our last day in Christchurch was spent having a fabulous lunch (best ever meal out, I think), and taking some last shots of the Arch of Remembrance. Fitting, I think, though it's not really our remembrance, but a memorial to the people who died in World War I.

I always love lions on public installations. They remind me of my hometown, D.C.

The Corinthian column tops were just outside the Botanical Gardens, on the Christchurch Museum building.

Lion Closeup

Finally, no horticulturist can fail to pay tribute to the tree ferns here and in Australia. The flora in general never ceases to inspire wonder.

We flew from Christchurch to Melbourne, losing 2 hours and arriving in Melbourne at about 8am. We had a hotel reservation at the Mantra Tulalmarine, which is a hotel close to the airport. A big Splurge. And lucky us, they let us check in early.

Corinthian column with a fox

We spent a last afternoon in Melbourne, shopping, have a great last lunch at a favorite called The University Cafe (greatest pizza in Melbourne, in general. . .they have crust AND topping down pat. . .), then picked up a suitcase that we had been storing at the University of Melbourne. A light room service dinner, early to bed, great night's sleep, and then up early again for the Melbourne to Los Angeles flight.

Corinthian columns with other beasts

Tree Ferns in the Native Garden       
For better or worse, our first view of LA was that of a sprawling smoggy city. Fair enough, I suppose. And now we wait for 12 hours for that last flight back to The City of Trees. Thank goodness for the United Lounge. They almost turned us away, since our current business class tickets were domestic. But I insisted we had just come from Melbourne, and needed to be here. With the proof of our boarding pass from Melbourne to LA, we were granted entry. Travel, without a lot of money, is just so hard. I'm so glad we committed to doing this all business class. It really is The Journey of a Lifetime for us.

So Long, Melbourne, So Long, Australia
Hello, LA

There and back again. . ..

The Drive to Akaroa
The drive to Akaroa 2
As though we hadn't seen enough amazing beauty already in New Zealand, the ride from Christchurch to Akaroa was absolutely stunning. It's only 26 miles of road, but even googlemaps says it takes 1 1/2 hours, and that's probably conservative. Still. What a beautiful ride. One of the first things you notice as you drive through the southeastern suburbs of Christchurch is that the outlying areas have been repaired and rebuilt. Roads are often wide boulevards, and there is no evidence of the earthquake out here. I wonder if it's because individuals homeowners were more likely to have private insurance? Anyway, the whole trip was well worth the effort.

The Drive to Akaroa 3

The town of Akaroa is small, but we found out that cruise ships stop by there in the tourist season. It's honestly hard to imagine this tiny town being overtaken by a cruise ship, so I'm glad we missed that bit.

The bay at Akaroa
The bay is also spacious and beautiful, and is a major site for penguin and seal watching, though the tours weren't running while we were there.

We did find a great hike, which was also quite challenging. We didn't actually hike to the highest peak there, but we still gained quite a bit of altitude.

And we got our first and only closeup with a sheep, though we saw thousands of them dotting the fields. Everywhere. Even on the North Island.

We returned to Christchurch to one of our best Airbnbs, which sadly, we only stayed in for one night. Picked up New Zealand chocolate, and went to bed early to get to the airport to drop the car at 4am the next morning. Ack.
Hiking above Akaroa

Tree Bark on the hike in Akaroa


Sheep closeup

Sheep in Christchurch

Greymouth to Christchurch via train. . .and. . .

World Peace Bell
So here's a funny thing. After all of the planning around renting a car in Christchurch, returning it in Greymouth, and then taking the TransAlpine train across the country back to Greymouth (a 4 hour ride), I didn't take a single picture on the train. We were pretty in-the-moment, I guess. And honestly, the ride was such a relief. All responsibility absolved, and just let someone else do the driving. This is a funny for me to say, since John did most of the driving, but when one is a front seat passenger when driving on the left on these dangerous roads, one feels like one is "helping". . .paying more attention. No knitting, thank you very much. So I'll ask you to imagine the train ride, with all of that beautiful scenery in the New Zealand Alps that you've already seen, and I'll pick up the thread when we returned to Christchurch. We only had a day before S and A had to go to the airport and wing their way home, but we used it to return to Christchurch, and especially the Botanical Gardens. We saw the World Peace Bell, which is one of "less than 25" located around the world. To learn more about it, check out
S shoots A

 Then, we just walked around, ate lunch, and had fun until we delivered our lovely visitors to the airport. John and I still had 6 days before we headed home to Boise Idaho (eventually), so we decided to take a short trip to a lake town outside of Christchurch.

Big Fun With a Tree

Beautiful Fungi

Gardens Glasshouse

S at a the Numbers sculpture downtown

A stop at a lake

John had read about Lake Mapourika, a mirror lake, on the road from Franz Josef to Greymouth, where we were dropping off our car and taking the TransAlpine train back to Christchurch. It was so worth the stop. Utterly still and clear. We all stood around, took pictures, and wandered about in silence so we could just be there for a bit. It was so still and clear. If you threw a stone in it, the ripples would propagate out until they distorted the reflected view of the mountains. Magic.
S and A by the Lake

John and I by the lake

The Lake through the shoreline vegetation

On to Fantail Falls and Franz Josef Glacier

Fantail falls and plunge pool
It was a rainy day as we left Wanaka and headed to Franz Josef Glacier. We stopped at one of many points along the way; Fantail Falls. I've told you about Fantails. . . one of the many remarkable and particularly sweet birds of New Zealand, so of course we wanted to stop by the falls. And we needed a break. This driving is really hard going through the mountain roads. I think I've mentioned that. Anyway, it was a sweet place, and we got some lovely photos. . .
The four beauties

The Lake at Wanaka

Gravel riverbed, mountains and snowcaps
After this break, it was on to Franz Josef, where we had rented a Very Rustic Airbnb from Paul. It was, what would you say? Lightly heated, and had signs and warnings all over the place from our host. Still. We weathered it just fine. Had a meal in and a meal out, lots of fine coffee, and adjusted. And, we saw the most amazing stars at this remote place. I should mention that we have seen the Milky Way so many times in this southern hemisphere. And it's always fun to see Orion, on the horizon, upside down. Really drives it home that we're in a Whole 'Nother Place here.

Glacier explained
Waterfall on the way
Rock striations
The second day there, we tramped up to as close as one can get to the glacier. It was an amazing hike, full of grand vistas, water falls, and at the end, the glacier. The glacier has receded quite a bit in recent times. Basically, it is advancing, because that is what glaciers do, but it is also receding because of global warming. It is receding more quickly than it is advancing, and there are landmarks where it used to be, say 5 decades ago. B had asked if you could touch the glacier. The answer is "no", because it's quite unstable, and the park doesn't let you get close enough to hurt yourself. We stopped for a picnic at the closest place to the glacier, and oddly, I didn't get any photos from that close. I guess I was too busy eating and talking. Surprise, right?
Franz Josef glacier in view

Large Land
Sun and River

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

On to the Town Of Queens. . .

Queenstown from above
From Tekapo, we wound our way south south-west through Twizel, Omarana, Cromwell and at last to Queenstown. I'm pretty sure that this is the most beautiful place I've ever seen. Don't get me wrong. . . it is definitely a tourist town, but well done, and with a setting that is both celebrated and respected. We had originally planned to spend only 2 nights here, and splurged on a nice Airbnb that was an easy walk to the center of town. Almost immediately, we decided to stay another night in the Queen, taking the time from Wanaka (another mountain resort town), which turned out to be a good decision.

View from the Kitchen window
Even the views from our flat were spectacular. I sort of stood with jaw agape at our kitchen window to gaze to the town, hillside, and mountains, and then from our driveway to just look and wonder. One of the things we all wondered was what it would be like to live in this beautiful place, that has such a preponderance of accommodation for visitors. Though people say there's no off-season in Queenstown, winter (when we were there) is definitely less populated than summer. The town parks are lush and well maintained, and there are walks around lakes. Walks everywhere, really.

Lakeside: part of a coastal walk

Queenstown from the top at night
 There is a gondola that you can take to the top of the closest mountain. The view all the way up is amazing, but they also had a Haka show combined with a buffet dinner. The Haka is a Maori dance, and while my understanding is that the Haka is actually a warrior dance, they also performed other dances, including a welcoming dance that would make a new guy hesitant to mess with this group. Think Hawaiian with a lot of edge and attitude. Wide eyes. Tongue stuck out. Whirling weapons. Tattoos. Lots of tattoos. So in spite of my knowing that this was a totally tourista thing to do, we did it. Another good decision. The ride up was great fun (4 to a car, so we all rode together), the view magnificent, the dance quite theatrical and instructive, and the buffet dinner astonishing good.
View from the gondola platform

The next day, S and A hit the town, while John and I decided to take the Tiki trail hike up the mountain. It was really a challenging climb, but once again, we were rewarded with some soul-filling vistas. As an aside, it seems like we had two kinds of hikes on the South Island. . .really easy ones, or really hard ones, with nothing in between. We spaced out the hard hikes so they weren't too onerous, but Man! This one tested my aging vessel!

I'll close this post with a few more images from Queenstown.
View from halfway up

View from halfway up 2

We'll remember Queenstown's vistas in our best dreams

Sunday, 8 July 2018

On to Fairlie, Hikes and Lake Tekapo

First snowcapped mountain views from the car
 Coming out of Ashburton, following the road through Fairlie (where we stayed), our real goal was Tekapo, which is home to some very highly touted hot springs. While said hot springs were disappointing (commercial, not that hot, crowded and too expensive), as usual it's the things that you don't expect that impress.

Dog Monument
And of course, it won't surprise you to know that I simply loved this statue in Tekapo that was a tribute to collie dogs. Working breeds, of course, having to do with sheep, which are extremely plentiful here in New Zealand. Dogs and sheep. My kind of place. The plaque specifies "collie dogs" without whom the settling of MacKenzie Country (translation: mega sheep country) would not have been possible. Heros, these dogs are. 

Plaque commemorating Collie Dogs
We stayed for two nights in Fairlie, which is about 30 minutes east of Lake Tekapo, and set out for an epic hike the next day. On the recommendation of a friend, we went to the Hooker Valley Track, which is full of rivers, snow capped mountains, swing bridges and waterfalls, and set out.

Mt. Cook is a beautiful mountain, and visible from all compass points throughout the central part of the South Island. John initially thought that it was the mountain in the distance portraying Mount Doom in The Fellowship movies, but turns out he was wrong. Still. It has this huge and imperious presence.  I'll leave you to the images of the day. We ended by going back to the hot springs in Tekapo, soaking, eating and drinking in a bar, and heading home. What a day!
The three beauties
The Two Beauties in Snow Fashion
Swing Bridge, John and Mt. Cook

First Swing Bridge View

River, Snow, Water, Mountains

Sunset at Fairlie

Moonlight over Fairlie

The End/Beginning of the Journey. . .

The Home Trail My Dad used to say that the reason you go on vacation is so you can appreciate home. And it's been a rather long &quo...