Posted by: mavmaiden | October 6, 2017

My Life is for the Birds

I can’t believe it’s taken a bird to make me want to blog again, but so be it.

In my old age (I’m 54 years old, and unless I live to be 108, I am officially old aged, not middle aged). It’s a reality that rears its ugly head quite often, unfortunately. Feeling like I’m 30 just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Okay, so my bird story has nothing to do with age, so I will return to my intended topic. Anyone who knows me knows that my “short stories” are novels by anyone else’s standards.
I was raking leaves this morning. While doing so, I happened to be standing about 6 inches from one of my bird feeders. All the sudden there was a massive fluttering of wings literally in my ear and a bird landed on my shoulder. Seriously. On my shoulder.
I was so shocked. I stood perfectly still of course. The bird was obviously disoriented and luckily within seconds, flew a few inches to sit on the feeder.
I recognized the little bird. It was a finch that sits on my feeder almost every morning. She stands out simply because finches typically only travel in groupings of 4-6 birds. I’ve never seen a loner finch and I’ve always wondered what this little bird’s story was.
Now, sadly, I know. The poor little bird is blind as a bat. Since I was only inches from her, I could see that where her left eye should have been was just a red welt, and her right eye was no more than a slit. I don’t know whether the bird was wounded, diseased or was born this way, but I literally stood inches away from her while she was eating. The poor thing was oblivious to my presence. By the way, I know it’s a she because of the coloring. Yes, I AM a crazy bird lady that can recognize birds by their appropriate genders.
I sat and watched her for a few minutes and it made me unbearably sad. Just the fact that she had no idea that a human was inches from her made me realize just how vulnerable she really is. Imagine, being in the wild and only seeing black. And having no friends that are willing to hang out with you and protect you.
She’s a beautiful little thing and I am so very sad that I can’t help her. To see something so fragile hurt me tremendously.  I will make sure there is ALWAYS food in my feeders…if only for her.
Being a bird lady has it drawbacks. Nature has and always will be unpredictable, and, in ways, unfair.  Just like human life, you have to play the hand you are dealt with, even if it means you are blinded to the beauty that others experience around you. My birdie got dealt a raw hand.
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Posted by: mavmaiden | May 8, 2015

A PICTURE SAYS A THOUSAND WORDS

So….I finally went through all 900+ photos I took on my trip and picked my favorite 80 to create a photo album. I created an online flickr album to share with friends and I’m creating a print version on flickr for myself. I’m an old lady– we like our photos printed….like in the olden days. 🙂 There is a short bit of info. on each photo underneath it on the left-hand side, if you’re interested. This was the most amazing experience of my entire life. I hope to retire to New Zealand someday. Likely a long shot, but I’m going to keep the dream alive at least for now. Regardless, I’ll always have my photos to transport me back this magical place.

One of my favorite quotes from LOTR: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Bilbo Baggins

https://flic.kr/s/aHskaqPqWH

And I’ll finish with a few of my favorite things about New Zealand

  • In 2 1/2 weeks of driving, I only drove on 2-lane highways. I didn’t see a stop sign or traffic light until the final day when I got to Auckland to fly out.
  • The people are some of the nicest,happiest people I’ve ever met. Southern hemisphere happiness?
  • The people also have their priorities right…focus is on personal well-being and happiness. Not keeping ahead of the Kardashians.
  • There are no big cities other than Auckland and Wellington. Both islands are, instead, dotted with one small town after another.
  • I never saw a shopping mall. And their “big” grocery stores are half the size of HEBs.
  • In every small town, on every block, there are cafes. These cafes offer wonderful coffee, all-day breakfasts, fresh paninis. salads, and quiches and homemade bread and desserts.
  • For whatever reason, the humidity is low in most areas. (Strange since NZ is 2 islands).
  • Because of the lack of cities, the night skies are brilliantly lit with stars, regardless of where you are.
  • There is no tipping in New Zealand. Their workers make livable wages.
  • If you read my blog, you know I love the water. Oceans, rivers, waterfalls, streams, lakes….everywhere.
  • Once again, if you read my blog, I love green. And, due to the water, you are surrounded by wonderful shades of green.
  • Even the tourists are a “cut above the rest.” Every single tourist I met was a world traveler and had amazing stories of their travels– and living– around the world. It makes sense since it ain’t an easy place to get to. Only seasoned travelers are normally up for this kind of fantastic adventure.
Posted by: mavmaiden | April 16, 2015

There and Back

Man, I have a serious mental and emotional block trying t write this. I just did the grueling 13-hour flight from Auckland to LA and have a few hours layover before I head home.

On the way to Aucklnd from Matamata, I took the road less traveled. It ran along the coastline and I saw perhaps a dozen cars total during the hour drive. I stopped for gas and ended up spending a half hour talking to the wonderful 60-something Kiwi lady who owned the ma and pa gas stop. She’s always wanted to travel to America. How ironic. I guess the grass next door is always going to seem greener. Although, on a side note, I’ve seen more shades of green in the past few weeks than I have in my lifetime. With drought after drought plaguing Texas, we sport more earthy colors like brown, light brown and dark brown. I have serious water envy of this beautiful Kiwi-land.

Last night I went to Hobbiton. Those that know me, know thatI’m a huge LOTR and Hobbit nerd. I love Tolkein’s writings, Peter Jackson”s tireless- and brilliant-effort to make these stories come to life and the costumes. scenery and acting. Having worked with several decent-sized film crews, I am mesmerized by the additional footage and movie blogs about the making of the movies.

Hobbiton was, in real life, exactly what you see on the screen. We had a nice bonus on our night tour– the owner of the ranch where Hobbiton is located joined our tour (apparently only the third time he’s gone on the tour since it opened years ago) and he was accompanied by several businessmen from Matamata who were involved in tourism and hospitality businesses. So, as you might suspect, it was a very impressive tour and feast.  The feast in the Green Dragon was insanely good. Each large wooden table (that seated 14 people) was piled high with Hobbit dishes, including roast chicken, lamb and sausage, stuffing, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms. green beans, salad and rolls. They refilled dishes the minute they were emptied. Dessert was much the same, and after our meal we took our second tour of the shire– only this time in darkness with lanterns. We leaned so much about the making of the movie and it truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Totally unforgettable.

There is so much more I could write– about my experiences, the people I’ve met and the beauty I’ve seen– but I simply don’t have the energy or the inspiration to do so. It’s too hard to relay the FEELINGS I’ve experienced. And how blessed I feel to have partaken in this amazing adventure. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how special this experience turned out to be.

I’m including photos of Hobbiton and my road trip yesterday afternoon. The fourth photo down is of the “party tree” in Hobbiton and the 5th photo down is inside the Green Dragon, after the feast and before our night tour. I’m holding a lantern– and the lanterns were the only lighting we had in the pitch black night while we toured the shire in the dark. It was awesome.

  

                

Posted by: mavmaiden | April 14, 2015

Unbounded Beauty

I’m going to keep this short. In all honesty, as my time in New Zealand diminishes, I have to force myself to keep this blog up. My heart is heavy with the knowledge that my adventure is soon to end. Amazing doesn’t even begin to describe the last 3 weeks. My trip truly has been a once-in-lifetime experience.

This land is so damn beautiful. I want so bad to share what I’ve seen, but no words could possibly reflect the beauty that is EVERYWHERE. Perhaps the hardest thing to overcome is complacency. After seeing so many massive mountains, gorgeous rainforests, quaint towns, unbelievable waterfalls, wide-open beaches and miles and miles of orchards and green, rolling hills, it can be easy to take your surroundings for granted. I have to keep reminding myself that this is NOT the norm back home. That this oasis of beauty will soon be only a memory.

I drove to the Wairere Falls today (about half hour from Matamata). It was a gorgeous hike. Unfortunately, I only made it to the midway point, rather than to the top of the falls. The hike to the top took 2 hours one-way (4-hour round trip) and the hike was a huge incline with hundreds of steep paths and wooden steps and bridges disbursed throughout. After one hour going upwards my lungs were ready to explode. I have a mild case of copd and exercise asthma (basically I have crappy lungs) and it never is more obvious than when I’m exerting myself with upwards climbs.

The views were stunning and the rainforest was magnificent. Within the 2-hour round trip hike, I saw 6 other human beings.

When I came back this afternoon, Kathy and John invited me into the “big house” for wine and appetizers.  They are so enjoyable to talk to. They have traveled the world and have had quite a few amazing guests stay at their b&b. I have to keep reminding myself that I love my life. I really do. 🙂

For your viewing pleasure…

  

          

Posted by: mavmaiden | April 13, 2015

Rotorua to Matamata: The last Journey of My Trip

I am in Matamata now– my last accommodation in New Zealand before I leave. Although I’ll be here for the next three nights, I am burdened by the weight of my journey soon coming to an end. I’m not ready to go back to the real world, real responsibilities, real concerns. I love this fantasy world, which I’ve been blessed to partake in. I’m spending my hours trying to sear the memories of beautiful landscapes, unbelievably friendly people, and magnificent meals, into my psyche. To say I will miss this place in no way defines the feelings of loss that await me.

I spent my last morning in Rotorua hiking. And I spent the afternoon at the Polynesian Spa. I ventured between 5 natural looking sulphur pools of varying degrees for 1 1/2 hours, then had a 75-minute Swedish massage by Taki. He was a magnificent masseuse. I could feel him working out 4 knots in neck/shoulder blade area and his touch was magic. I think I offered to have his babies at one point during the massage, but (luckily) it came out as a low, gutteral moan. I was a limp noodle after the massage and spent almost a half hour in the relaxation room, sipping a hot tea and looking out through the rectanglular room of windows onto Lake Rotorua. For dinner, I went to “Lone Star” and when the manager found out I was from Austin, I got  a free t-shirt from the restaurant! In the photo below, I look pretty ragged. I had no makeup on and had just spent a few hours in the sulphur pools and spa at Polynesian. I might look like hell, but I felt like I was in heaven.

Yesterday I drove to Matamata. Kathy and John met me with warm scones and a bottle of red. I’m staying at a cottage on their property. It’s called Chestnut Lane B&B. Martin Freeman stayed here during he filming of “The Hobbit.” It’s a beautiful property and Kathy and John are wonderful. I had the first 8 hour sleep I’ve had since I began my journey 3 weeks ago. I felt like a million bucks this morning. Kathy made me a 3-egg omelette with toast, then I headed out on a 7-hour roadtrip to see some of the surrounding areas. As always, the landscapes were extremely varied and unbelievably beautiful. It rained for the majority of the trip, but luckily, I have adjusted extremely well to the idiocyncrasies of the road. The only hard part was enjoying he beautiful scenery while trying to keep an eye open for road signs. I never use a GPS. I’m a pretty accurate GPS, myself.

I walked 2 beaches (Tauranga and Waihi) and did an hour hike at an old gold mining area (Karangahake Gorge). It’s pouring rain right now at the cottage, and I’m having cheese, bread and salad with wine for dinner while I watch “Desolation of Smaug.” Life is good. Real good.

  

          

Posted by: mavmaiden | April 11, 2015

Wai-O-What-O?

I began my day by heading to Wai-O-Taupo, which is about a 45-minute drive from the farm. Wai-O-Taupo has one of the best thermal walks, which takes about an hour and I swear you think you’ve been transported to Mars, but with streams and pools of bubbling, often iridescent-colored sulphur, covering the strange landscape. The second photo is a boiling mud pool. The third photo is NOT photoshopped. That’s the actual color of the pool. And the fourth photo is Lady Knox, the erupting geyser. The first photo is at hangi, later in the evening. I can’t figure out how to re-organiz the photos. Me and technology have a long-standing feud.

After Wai-O-Taupo, I had lunch at a nice little cafe lakeside, then headed to the Redwoods Whakarewarew Forest. In case you’re wondering, the Maori were the original settlers of South New Zealand, and most of the regions, lakes, streets, etc. are Maori words. The Redwoods were gorgeous. I did about a 2-mile hike through the forest and not only was it beautiful, but you could hear a pin drop. I actually wondered at one point if I had lost my hearing. It was a beautiful silence. I’ve been to the redwoods in California, and the biggest difference is that this forest is much more dense and it’s a sub-tropical rainforest, so the plants are very different and it’s extremely moist, with lots of streams running throughout the forest. There are massive ferns everywhere. The fifth photo is of a baby fern leaf. If this little guy had grown up, the frond could have reached up to lengths of 12-feet. These ferns are huge. The 5th-7th photos were taken during my walk.

And, finally, I ended my day by going to the Tamaki Maori Village. It’s a recreation of the lives of the original Maori. It was a 4-hour program, that included outdoor presentations, the Haka (war dance), singing and dancing by the entire tribe, and the hangi (a feast that is cooked underground, much like the Hawaiin luaus). It was an incredible experience. Everything was done so very well and along with the serious goal of trying to preserve their culture, there were many laughs and exchanged pleasantries. The singing was beautiful by the tribe. One of the funniest moments was at the end, when our bus driver, Bill, asked us all to sing “She’ll Be Coming around the Mountain When She Comes.” We obliged, and as we were singing , Bill went round and round, and round and round, and round and round, the roundabout.  You had to be there I think, but it was hilarious having this huge bus go round and round such a tight circle so many times. By the way- New Zealand is full of roundabouts. And, just like this opposite driving thing is growing on me, so are the roundabouts. I strangely actually like the things that most tourists seem to hate. 

On a final note, I’m freakin’ tired. For the last 2 nights at the farm, an obnoxious rooster has started crowing at 3:30 am, and he continues until about 7 am, which needless to say, means I’m wide awake after 3:30 am. each morning. I assume it’s going to happen again tonight. I hope the poor animal doesn’t have an unfortunate accident before then. (Insert evil laugh). 

              

Posted by: mavmaiden | April 10, 2015

I’ve Been to Hell and It’s Good

So I left Lanarch Castle at 6:30 am to drive about an hour to the Dunedin Airport. I flew from Dunedin to Auckland (in the North Island) and on to Rotorua via a puddle jumper. Seriously folks, this 45-minute flight was via an airplane with 14 passengers. Two single rows of seven with an aisle about as wide as a female size 4. No potties or refreshments on this baby. I was glad when we finally touched down. I picked up my car from Avis (terrible service but that’s a long story) then headed directly to Hell’s Gate. 

Doesn’t sound too enticing, does it? Hell’s Gate is actually a thermal park and spa. It’s called Hell’s Gate because of the acres and acres of bubbling sulphur and mud streams. It has the largest hot water waterfall. At 40 degrees celcius (104 Fahrenheit), this is one hot mama.

I strolled though the thermal walks for about 45 minutes then headed to my salvation– a warm mud bath about 12 feet in circumference. The mud has at least a half dozen mineral properties. They had 4 baths and I was the first one in my bath. About 5 minutes after I settled in, the Maori guy running the baths came over and said, “Miss….can these gentlemen join you?” And behind him were 4 guys in their 20s. I’ll let you guess my answer. Hell had just gotten even better. 

Two of the guys were from Scotland, one was from Southern France and one was from Wellington. They were in Rotorua for a 4-month training school to become commercial pilots.  We had a blast in the mud pool, took outdoor showers, then headed to one of the sulphur pools. Both the mud and the sulphur water felt heavenly. When we were done, our skin felt so smooth and the mud was supposed to also be mood enhancing–which was perfect because I had just begun to feel my first signs of road weariness after the two flights today. There are no photos from the mud and sulphur baths– cameras don’t do well in these environments, to say the least. 

It was one of the Scottish guy’s 24th birthday and they were headed to one of micro-breweries in town and they asked me to join them. In all honesty, I felt tremendously honored that they were willing to hang out with me since I was over twice their age, but…I was over twice their age. Too weird for me. Okay, and I also had plans to join the owners of my farm stay accommodation for dinner within the hour and that would be terribly rude to show up late since they had offerered to cook dinner for me. It was growing dark and I still had to find their place up in the hills, also!

The owners of the small farm (only 10 acres) came to Rotorua 3 1/2 years ago. They are from a small town south of London. Their daughter met a Kiwi, fell in love and got married.  They decided it would be much simpler to move to New Zealand then  

  

  

  

  

 try to handle traveling back and forth. They are both in their mid-60s. They have sheep, alpaca, 2 pigs, a couple of ram and 2 dogs (Bess and Tui). They made a fabulous 4-course dinner (vegetarian, per my request) with most of the ingredients coming from their own property and gardens. The only thing that didn’t come from their land was the copius wine we drank during and after our meal. It was a lovely afternoon and evening. I have the upper floor of their house and my wonderful balcony looks out onto Lake Rotorua. The 2nd and 3rd photos are of my view. The fourth is the hottest waterfall in the world (104 degrees F). And the fifth is part of the rainforest on the thermal walk.

Posted by: mavmaiden | April 9, 2015

Live From Dunedin: Penguins and Sea Lions!

First off, I did the 5-hour drive from Queenstown to Dunedin the day before yesterday. It was spectacular! It actually took about 7 hours because I stopped numerous times to take photos and I had lunch at a lovely little pub in Alexandria. The scenery, as usual, fluctuated every half hour or so with grandiose mountains, beautiful valleys, Mars-looking behemoths, lakes, and hundreds of orchards and wineries. They grow many fruit varieties in Central Otago, including apples, plums and cherries.

I should mention….I’m not finding driving as difficult as I thought it would be. Sure, everything is exact opposite of what I’m used to (including shifting gears with the left hand and activating blinkers with the right hand), but the mind is an amazing thing. I adjusted fairly efficiently within the first day or two of getting behind the wheel (also on the opposite side of the car). The only true aggravation I’ve had is turnng on the windshield wipers (left of the steering wheel), every time I want to use a blinker. Apparently that’s too far a stretch for my little mind. Driving on the left side of the road took a bit of getting used to, but it’s not terrible. I constantly find myself humming the lyrics “to the left, to the left” from Beyonce’s Irreplecable song and it makes me laugh every time I do. It’s entirely subconscious– I guess my brain does what it can to help my poor confused appendages. It certainly takes more concentration when driving, but as I said, it’s not as bad as I thought.

I had dinner the night before last in the Lanarch Castle (where I’m staying) with 17 other guests. The food and wine were delightful, as was the company. There were a few people in attendance from Christchurch, and I learned quite a bit about how horrible the earthquake was and how the rebuilding is coming along. They lost almost 90 percent of their buildings and infrastructure. I had heard it was bad, but had no idea just how extensive the damage was. There are apparently  numerous individuals from Ireland that have come to Christchurch to help with the rebuilding since the Irish economy is terrible right now.

One thing I’ve noticed many times since I began my trip is that there is definitely a “friendly” rivalry between Kiwis and Aussies.  It’s extremely common to hear them bashing their rivals. At dinner, there were 5 Kiwis, 4 Aussies and 3 individuals from England. Which, in case you didn’t know, both Australia and New Zealand are British territories.  Anyway, I swear it almost came to blows by the end of the evening and after several alcoholic beverages were consumed by all the guests. They definitely have issues. I guess they are much like siblings– too closely related and, in turn, too competitive.

Darn, I’m going to have to close this up very soon. I’m at the airport heading to the North island this morning. My last 8 days will be in the North Island. Tonight will be my first night at the farm I’m staying at for the next 3 days

Yesterday I did a 6-hr Elm Wildlife tour on the land and beaches owned by the Elm Nature Conservancy. They are working to increase the number of yellow-eyed penguins, blue penguins, fur seals and sea lions on that region of the South Island. We saw several yellow-eyed penguins and sea lions. We got within 20 feet of both. It was extremely windy and the climb down the hill to the beach and back up was quite difficult, but it was SO worth the effort. Simply amazing to see them in their natural habit. At one point, a penguin was walking down the path, so we had to move out of the way. Penguins ALWAYS have the right of way in their ‘hood! We were supposed to walk to a second beach to see the fur seals, but the wind had gotten so fierce that we literally couldn’t stand up straight and there was no way we’d be able to walk against the wind. We were extremely lucky to have seen do many sea lions and penguin. According to the guides, this was the biggest “showing” they’ve had in several months. Mant times, they said they’re lucky to see even 1-2 of each species. I got some great video of both.

The weird black blobs in the first photo are some of the sea lions, from a distance, before we headed dwn to them. I believe the last photo looks so strange because the wind had just begun to pick up. So not only was the sand blowing like crazy around us, I couldn’t hold my phone still.

  

    

Posted by: mavmaiden | April 7, 2015

Cross It Off the Bucket List

Okay, so yesterday was one of my biggest days Down Under. The only 2 things left on my bucket list prior to this trip were a trip to Australia & New Zealand and white water rafting.  Yesterday, I took the plunge (literally and figuratively) and rafted the Shotover River outside of Queenstown. This excursion has rapids rated 4-5 on a 5 star scale. They offer an excursion of a more placid river where the rapids rate 2-3 on the 5 star scale, but I figured since this might be the only time I do this, why not go for the gusto?

It was a 2-hour river excursion with 7 sets of rapids. And the 45-minute trip to the starting point was on Skippers Canyon Road, the 13th most dangerous road in the world. A few of the people on our van of 14 who were afraid of heights had a very difficult time on the drive down to the river. They looked quite nauseated and could not look out the window at the unbelievable straight down drops of thousands of feet, just inches from the wheels of the van. And there are no guard rails, whatsoever.

The first hour or so of the rafting went quite well- exciting, but not too terribly scary. The problem with white water rafting is that it’s quite a lot of fun until it isn’t. And when that happens, something has gone wrong, and it’s scary as shit.

Our first issue was when our raft of 6 people plus the guide got stuck sideways between rocks. I was on the right side, which was the submerged side. A really nice, young Irish guy named Brian who was 6 foot 2 inches was on top of me since he slid to our side when we went vertical. Normally, I would consider having a handsome, strapping Irish guy on top of me quite an exciting adventure in and of itself. However, in this case, Brian’s weight was forcing me almost entirely under the water. We were only stuck for about about 15 seconds, but let me tell you, those 15 seconds felt like forever.

We managed the next set of rapids with no problem. And then came the real trauma. There were 4 rafts all together (and they all keep in eyesight of one another for safety reasons). In the next set of very deep, narrow rapids, the first raft dumped over. Then we did. There were 12 people floundering in very rushing, deep rapids. Myself and one other woman got stuck on the opposite side of everyone else, and we were both in whirlpools. It was my biggest fear about rafting come true. I tried several times to swim out of the whirlpool, but it dragged me back each time. I’m not a strong swimmer and was feeling quite exhausted. Finally, a safety/rescue guy in a kayak was able to get close enough to hold out a paddle towards me and I used every ounce of strength I could to swim close enough to him to grab it. Once he had me, He “captured” the other woman and dragged us about about 30 feet down river to where it was calmer and shallower and 3 of the boats were then stationed, side by side.

In all honesty, I was trembling and so exhausted it was very hard to breathe. I had gashed my thumb quite deeply and it was bleeding and the other woman had a huge welt above her left eye. We both had to fill out paperwork when the excursion was over stating that we chose not to get medical attention.

I’m glad I did it. And I’m glad it didn’t turn out worse. Will I do it again? Likely not, unless I get in better shape and actually work out my flabby arms. I did enjoy it tremendously until, as I said, the point that I didn’t.

I got back to the lodge mid-afternoon and took a hot shower. It was 40 degrees while we were rafting and even with the wet suits on, it was freezing during the time I was in the water. I then had a lovely dinner at the Skyline Restaurant, overlooking the city. I had 2 glasses of wine with dinner. Afterwards, I went to the Minus 5 Ice Bar and had a cocktail and a shot. Hey, it was the first time in a very long time that I actually NEEDED a drink. And I felt like I deserved it. Another thing checked off the bucket list, and thankfully, it wasn’t yet my time to kick it. :)

In the photo of me in the rubber band (aka wet suit) I’m missing about half the outfit still– the wet suit jacket, the helmet and the life vest. We couldn’t take our phones beyond this point to where we got our other gear. In the fourth photo you will see a glare. That’s because I took this photo from my dinner table. Nice view for dinner!

           

Posted by: mavmaiden | April 5, 2015

Another Beautiful Day in Queenstown

I realized this morning that I’m about halfway through my trip. It feels like I’ve been traveling for at least a month. Not in a bad way- but in a very good, fulfilled way. I’ve had so many wonderful adventures and have met so many awesome people, that I simply can’t believe I’ve only been traveling for 12 days. My trip has far exceeded my expectations. And trust me, my expectations were very high! I began planning the trip a year ago, so I knew– or at least was fervently hoping– that all my research would pay off.  It certainly has…and then some. The one thing you cannot depend on is Mother Nature. No amount of planning can control the weather. But I’ve been extremely fortunate so far. Rain has been minimal during these past 12 days and the entire time I was in Sydney, the highs were in the 70s and lows in the 50s. In Queenstown, the daily high’s have been in the 60s, with lows in the 40s. I couldn’t ask for better weather.

Today, I got up late and had a wonderful brunch on the beachfront. It’s about 3-minute walk from my lodge. The first photo is the view from my table. I then walked through the Botanical Gardens right next to the harbor area and did a mile walk around the lake’s edge. After that, I went on a 2-hour excursion on the T.S.S. Earnslaw, a 103-year-old coal fired steamer. Following the excursion, I wandered around “downtown” Queenstown (about the size and feel of Fredericksburg, Texas),  and did a bit of shopping. I then had fish and chips (and a locally-brewed ale) at a restaurant on the wharf. The fish was the locally-farmed Baramundi. It was very good. I’m pooped tonight so I’m staying in for some r&r. I have to get (mentally) prepared for my big day tomorrow. I’ll be white water rafting on the Shotover River, which has rapids rated 4-5 (with 5 being the highest there is). I’ve never been white water rafting before so I’m a tad bit nervous. Okay, really I’m scared shitless. But what is life without a challenge every now and then. If you don’t see a blog from me within the next few days, at least you will know I died happy.  And since I want to be cremated, my sisters’ don’t have to worry about forking over an airline ticket to get me home. 🙂

In the second photo, those “birds” are 5 paragliders. And the little building at the top of the mountain is where I have dinner reservations for tomorrow night (assuming I’m still around). Tomorrow night is my last night in Queenstown. I will miss it so very much. But Dunedin waits, as does my room in the Lanarch Castle.

  

         

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