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Battye Family’s Travel Diary

Monday, 09 Apr 2007

Location: South Island, New Zealand

MapOur ferry cut through the mist as we crossed the Cook Strait to New Zealand’s South Island. We were rewarded with glimpses of the jagged peaks and rocky coves that are an introduction to the rugged beauty of this part of the country. Our aim was to quickly get as far south as possible. Alas, the Lemon Squeeze is gifted with neither beauty nor speed, so we resigned ourselves to ambling down the west coast, stopping to admire seal colonies sunning themselves on the rocks. A detour to sample New Zealand crayfish (rock lobster) was well worth it. We recommend it wrapped in old newspaper and eaten cold on a windy coastline.

Once we finally reached Dunedin, we made a most unfortunate choice in accommodation. Part of a chain that optimistically calls itself “Top 10 Holiday Parks,” the campground cabins were tiny closets with views of a concrete wall. Topping it off, I was having a communication breakdown with the vile woman working at the desk. After the second or third go-around, it became a little game we played. I would ask a question and, after flashing me a look of utter disdain, she would respond as if I’d suggested she gouge out her eyes with darning needles.

Dinner in New Zealand usually means cooking our own in motel kitchens and campgrounds. Despite the fact that the novelty of this is wearing rather thin, the kids are really stepping up to help in ways they didn’t at home. The boys wash the dishes, table, and counters every night and the girls are now masterful at preparing salad and vegetables. Timmy, who has discovered his inner chef, begs to be allowed to cook the main courses. Our favorite staple is John’s omelettes, which you will just have to sample to truly appreciate. With a few simple ingredients and a substandard pan, he creates culinary magic.

Ready for food cooked for someone other than ourselves, a town like Dunedin provided us with an opportunity to choose from a row of every imaginable ethnic restaurant. We were well aware that we’ve moved on from the days when we had one choice for dinner and that consisted of some form of rice. We traversed George Street several times, arguing all the while about what type of food would please everyone. We finally settled on Turkish. The restaurant was a tiny hole-in-the-wall run by an ancient woman hidden under a headscarf. Her assorted sons served us on cushions at low wooden tables and the fresh hummus, pita and falafel tasted like heaven. The owner’s proud descriptions of her homeland made every bite even better.

John and the older kids woke in the morning determined to run up the steepest street in the world. Baldwin Street teases you with a gentle incline at first and then climbs at an impossible gradient towards the sky. Emily and I enjoyed tea and crumpets in the car as we watched them struggle doggedly to the top.

Continuing on from Dunedin and out to the Otago Peninsula, we joined Monarch Wildlife Cruises for an eco-tour from Wellers Rock out into the South Pacific. Along the way, the on-board guide helped us spot an astounding array of wildlife. We saw schools of barracuda feeding while gannets and petrel reeled overhead in a feeding frenzy of their own. Dusky dolphins and seals swam together and several species of shag nested on the rocks. Oyster catchers and New Zealand sea lions dotted the shoreline and giant albatross reared their chicks on the steep hillsides. The albatross were really something to see. They looked unremarkable at first, bobbing on the water like seagulls. Once they take flight with a wingspan of up to five meters, you realize this bird is something altogether different.

The thing that really got us jumping up and down was spotting yellow-eyed penguins molting on the rocks and tiny blue penguins swimming in the water. Timmy and I have always wanted to see penguins in the wild and for years have been dreaming of a trip to Patagonia for that purpose. In our view, any place with penguins is surely enchanted. Our energy was surpassed by that of Emily, surely the most exuberant bird-watcher in our group. She screamed with excitement every time she spotted something through the huge set of binoculars dangling from her neck. She’s certainly no elitist and mustered the same enthusiasm whether it was an elephant seal or a common seagull that came into view.
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THE YELLOW-EYED PENGUIN
By Tim Battye

Yellow-eyed penguins only live in New Zealand. They are called “hoiho” (noise shouter) in Maori. These penguins live up to twenty years and grow to about two feet. They mainly feed on squid, cod and other fish. They got their name because of their bright yellow eyes and the yellow band running around their head. Their main predators are sea lions, sharks and barracuda. They are very active and can dive up to one hundred thirty meters about two hundred times a day. Yellow-eyed penguins are one of the rarest of the seventeen types of penguins and are now an endangered species because of the presence of humans.
When the Maori arrived in New Zealand, they hunted them constantly for food. When the Europeans arrived, they brought dogs, cats, possums, stoats, weasels, ferrets, pigs, and even hedgehogs. All of those animals fed upon the penguins or their eggs. To make matters worse, forest fires started by the Europeans destroyed their nests.
Yellow-eyed penguins are very social birds and breed starting in June and ending in January of the next year. The female penguin lays two eggs a year and the parents take turns incubating and raising their young.
Yellow-eyed penguins molt once a year because they are a member of the bird family. They come on land for a couple of weeks to molt. They shed all their feathers and then wait on land while the new feathers grow back. That is why we were able to see the yellow-eyed penguins because they were out of the water molting. It is usually really rare for people to see them in the wild. Hopefully there will be more and more of these penguins since people in New Zealand are doing a lot of work now to protect them.
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From Otago, we considered heading inland to mountain bike the Central Otago Rail Trail. When calling to make the transportation arrangements, I had yet another reminder that I wasn’t in America anymore. I was trying to get transportation from one town to another for family and bikes so we could do the best section of the trail. I asked about the possibility of finding a cab in what looked on the map to be a quite sizeable town. The man replied, “Well luv, since the population of that town is between 9 and 11 people, I don’t really think that’s going to happen.” Nine people? I love it!

Since the biking was not coming together as planned, we decided to travel further south to the wildly beautiful Catlins. Winding along the coast, the road passes small stands of pine and podocarp forest, large tracks of bush, and hectare after rolling hectare of sheep-dotted pastureland. The area was originally inhabited by Maori, who hunted and ate the giant moa who lived there. This flightless bird grew well over three meters tall and was both exceedingly friendly and quite edible, a sure path to extinction. By the year 1600, the moa were gone and the Maori moved on in search of other game. Legend has it, they also left because they feared “The Maeroero.” For North Americans, this wild man of the forest is roughly equivalent to Sasquatch or Big Foot. He is said to have a penchant for kidnapping and proceeds to stab his victims with his long, bony fingers. He could be there still, hidden away in the deeper bush…

Wildlife of a tamer sort is plentiful along this coastal stretch. We kept a lookout for New Zealand fur seals, Hooker’s sea lions, whales, and penguins. We particularly hoped to see Hector’s dolphins, the smallest and rarest dolphin in the world. Found nowhere else but New Zealand, they are said to be a pinkish color. Tiny pink dolphins? Jennifer and Emily squealed with delight and scanned the horizon in a desperate attempt to spot them.

We wound our way along farm roads, dirt tracks, and across one-way bridges, taking in one stunning vista after another. Although we loved our walks to waterfalls, a sample of local whitebait chowder, and looking out toward Antarctica from the southernmost point of the country; the highlight was undoubtedly Jack’s Blowhole. Near the mouth of the Catlins River, the blowhole is reachable after thirty minutes of hiking over stiles and amongst…you guessed it…sheep at pasture. Along the way, we passed incredible views of the bushland tumbling down the hillside into a spectacular bay. Despite the million dollar view, there was not a dwelling in sight. Welcome to New Zealand, and The Catlins in particular, where natural beauty surrounds you and there is almost no one there.

The blowhole itself was located over 200 yards from the sea, smack dab in the middle of a farmer’s field. We approached, expecting something small and worthy of a halfhearted, “Wow.” It was, instead, a massive chasm in the earth. Rough surf rushed into the bottom, funneled through a subterranean cavern connecting this spot with the coastline. We were astounded that noone seemed to be trying to make a buck off of this amazing place. Where were the taco stands, the tour buses, the touts selling “Blowhole or Bust” bumper stickers? We ate lunch on the grass, listening to the mighty roar of the sea.

We completely underestimated our timing and rolled into our next destination, Fiordland, with a car full of sleeping children. Our accommodation was a rustic lakeside cabin in what must be one of the nation’s quirkiest campgrounds. Run by Americans who fled California three decades ago, the place had all the charm of a gnome village. The playground featured rope swings in the trees, an underground tunnel made of metal piping, vintage British cars to play around in, and a tree fort cobbled together with old boards. It was all sharp corners and had all the kid appeal of playing in a junkyard. Our kids spent many happy hours there, acting out every sort of fantasy. They proclaimed it the best ever, far superior to anything a plastic playground from home could deliver. We intended to stay for a night or two and ended up spending a week. Everyone was ready for a base, ready to take a break from the ceaseless packing and unpacking of our previous travels.

While in Fiordland, we drove the approach road to Milford Sound, stopping along the way to visit chasms and gawk at the breathtaking views of fiords plunging between the mountains. Waterfalls were absolutely everywhere. We took a boat out into the sound, with high mountain walls rising up on either side and the sun illuminating the sheltered bay beneath Mitre Peak. In the fiord, an underwater observatory had been laboriously constructed on pontoons which rise and fall with the tide. A trip inside and far below the waterline allowed us to view the deep-sea animals that thrive in this unique glacial environment. Black coral waved in the current with snake stars coiled around their branches. Delicate red coral, tubeworms, and feather stars caught our attention with their unique displays.

On the way out of the sound, we stopped at an alpine trail so that John and the older kids could make what looked to be a quick trip up to the edge of the glacier.
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ALPINE ADVENTURE
By John

As we emerged from the Homer Tunnel, we saw patches of white to our right, well up the face of the craggy mountains. It looked as though a huge bowl of ice was suspended above the steel-colored cliffs and could fall any moment.
I wanted to walk up the riverbed to touch the snow. My adventure-loving kids were unanimous, “Let’s do it!” I was concerned for a moment about Jennifer’s ability to make it, but she has always been an unbelievable trooper and companion. It was 6:15 and sunset would be around 8:00. That didn’t give us much time.
As we hiked, we realized that like most of the trails in NZ, it was a lot longer than it looked and a lot harder. The terrain consisted of rocks, boulders, and alpine flora in a steady uphill direction. At this altitude, the views were always available. We flew. Still, I had misjudged the distance, and we hiked beyond the turnaround time. Finally, just ahead and on the other side of a rushing glacial stream, we spotted the snow.
We searched for a way to cross the stream. Clearly one slip would mean a cold plunge, a rescue, and a long, long walk down. The kids bounded ahead. Timmy was in the lead- he was rock hopping, continually probing as we walked upriver. Taking a heart-stopping leap, he cleared the stream. Chris followed easily. When I caught up to help Jennifer, Tim was already there, grabbing a hand and helping her across. I breathed a sigh of relief and in the next breath inhaled a growing sense of admiration and pride in my kids.
The snow patch turned out to be more like a giant block of ice. I figure it had recently fallen from the high cliffs above. Naturally, everyone wanted to eat some as this has (happily) been a winterless year for us. The boys quickly scrambled to the top.
On the way down it was a bit of a free for all-we could see the Lemon Squeeze as a tiny green dot in the parking lot below. Since there was no trail, people could pick their own path. Timmy went wide right, so wide in fact, he was often out of sight. I periodically called his name and he faithfully (if faintly) answered. I was grateful he never hurt himself. In the fading light and gathering mist, I don’t know how anyone could have found him. We got to the car by a little after eight, rosy-cheeked and glowing from another Kiwi adventure.
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While John and the kids took on the mountain, Emily and I entertained ourselves in the car. Helping us pass the time was a cheeky little kea, one of New Zealand’s most inquisitive birds. The kea is a large parrot who thrives in the alpine environment of the South Island. Smart and resourceful, kea will go to great lengths to amuse and feed themselves at the expense of travelers. This particular kea landed on the roof of the Lemon Squeeze. We could see him clearly through the sun roof as he attempted, in vain, to gnaw the weatherstripping from the roof and windshield to obtain entry into the car. He was persistent and kept at it for a good twenty minutes, finally moving on at the sight of a busload of snacking tourists.
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NEW ZEALAND’S KEA
By Jennifer

A kea is a green and blue bird. It has a very powerful beek. We think there is between 1000 and 5000 of them. Keas grow up to 50 sentemeters long. The kea lives in a nest near bolders in the forest. They lay two or four eggs sometime between July and Janary. The Kea’s natral food is mainly plants such as berries, roots, and some insect larva and grubs. It is not good for people to give the kea food. They need to hunt for their own bugs and plants to eat. Our food is bad for keas. Keas are very smart birds and they are fun to watch.
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The fiordland area features the Milford, Hollyford, Kepler, and Routeburn Tracks; described as some of the best hikes in the world. Most take three to five days to traverse and pass over alpine rivers, through rainforest, and into glacial valleys. We spent a delightful day hiking part of the Kepler track, enjoying forests so cool and green they seem not to be real at all. To our surprise, we found that all of the walking we’ve done was starting to pay off. The kids trekked for 8 miles without complaint. Games of hide and seek and discussions on every imaginable subject helped pass the time. In normal life, I would typically not have the time nor energy to hear, for example, every detail of Jennifer’s experience at horse camp last summer. With hours on the trail and little people with tired legs to distract, the details on how to properly curry comb Cocoa Bean the pony took on new significance.

Emily’s trail incentive took a different form. Introduced mammals like possums, stoats, and weasels are wreaking havoc on the indigenous bird population. The Department of Conservation set and baited a number of possom traps in the area and Emily amused herself for hours checking each and every trap along the way. She was particularly delighted when she found a dead possum inside, as this allowed her the chance to get up close and examine every inch of the unfortunate creature.

From the south, we drove to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand. It was a gorgeous day and we were tempted (really tempted) to take a paragliding lesson from the mountaintop. Instead we chose to take the gondola up and ride the luge to the bottom. Here, like everywhere in New Zealand, kids are allowed to access adventure at a younger age. It is as if the kids and their parents are trusted to make the right decisions without all the overprotection in place. Officially, Jennifer was old enough by two years to hurtle herself down the mountain on the luge. We felt, however, that not being able to steer or use the brakes effectively might hamper her road safety a bit. She became the co-pilot. The sight of Jennifer and Emily in their crash helmets, barreling down the hill in Tim and Chris’ laps was enough to make my heart skip a beat.

Our destination for the next few days was the smaller town of Wanaka and the home of gracious hosts Howard and Maureen Smith. The town was charming, with views of the lake and the surrounding snowcapped peaks. Our visit coincided with a New Zealand A&P show, a bit like a country fair. We watched the winners parade in the center ring, led by the area’s finest cows, llamas, sheep, and angus bulls. The afternoon was a pleasant blur of sheepdog trials, horse jumping competitions, and bagpipers. The highlight, in a strange sort of way, was the dog race. Dozens of Jack Russell Terriers flew out of the gate, chasing a ball of fur pulled by horse and rider down the field. One viscious little fellow grabbed it with his teeth and held on as he was pulled in a great sweeping arc across the finish line.

While in Wanaka, we hiked into the Rob Roy Valley. In order to reach the start of the track we had to ford several small streams, a feat the Lemon Squeeze was not particularly designed for. The track itself followed a rushing river into the valley and passed dozens of waterfalls. Three hours later, we’d reached the halfway point marked by a great blue mass of glacial ice. We lunched at this spot, fighting off a fearless kea who was determined to peck open our backpacks. It took us the rest of the day to make it back out of the valley. Although we thought they’d be exhausted, the kids celebrated by rolling down the great grassy hills at the end of the trail. John and I looked on with the tired smiles of those who are blissfully spent.

We ended the day with a visit to an outdoor art exhibit in Wanaka which showed stunning (and disturbing) aerial images of our planet accompanied by environmental messages. It wasn’t long into the exhibition before we were tempted to adopt a Canadian accent. It was easy to see that America is both the world’s biggest consumer and the world’s biggest polluter. I will just tell you this: I will never look at a plastic bag the same way again. Since each bag we throw away takes 500 years to decompose, our family has decided it is high time for the use of cloth grocery bags. It was great to see how the photos affected the kids and to see them cry out in indignation each time they read a message that shocked them. “Mom, do you see the size of the ozone hole over Antarctica?!”

Traveling through rain up New Zealand’s west coast, we decided it was time for a family adventure. The town of Murchison was our destination as it sits on the famous Buller River. Murchison has its own newspaper, printed on white 8x11 sheets with a staple at the corner. The thing that really caught our eye in this charming gazette was that the meat market was offering a March discount on homekill. Slightly unsettled, we asked around about what, exactly, this might mean. Apparently if you slaughter your sheep/cow/boar at home, you can bring the carcass to Murchison Meats and they will wrap it up into tidy little dinner-sized portions for you and your family. Not having anything on hand that we’d killed recently, we headed for the river instead. The Buller provided us the opportunity to do something that was a first for all of us: river rafting.
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THE RAFT OF A LIFETIME
By Chris Battye

“AHHHHHHHHH!” we scream as we careen between large rocks through a foaming white river. “Forward!” comes the cry from the back of the raft. We desperately paddle forward while still trying to stay seated. Oh no! We lost Tim! To make matters worse we are coming up on the Kaiwaka Falls, a ten-foot drop into another set of rapids! Desperately, I tie a rope to my waist, and secure the other end with an expert sailor’s knot. I dive into the frothing water where Tim’s head went under last. I waste precious seconds clearing the spray that lodges itself in my eyes. I spot Tim desperately trying to hold on to a rock and I quickly swim towards him. Alas, I am too late! The raft tumbles over the waterfall and I, tied to the boat, fall after. Tim grabs my utility belt as we are swept by the current. I stretch out my hands desperately and latch onto a large root hanging over the falls. So there I am, hanging by a root with 10 feet between me and the water, and my brother hanging onto my belt. Finally, uttering a quick prayer, I tumble into the abyss. Flying in midair, I calmly hit several buttons on my specially designed suit. Small rockets pop out of the belt and ignite to help hold me up and then a large and lethal looking gun ejects from my suit into my hand. With a well-aimed shot, I cut the rope holding the raft and me together. Next, I secure a small bag to Tim’s back as well as my own. I flick a switch on the bags, and both of our packs spew flame to send us flying over the river.
Suddenly, I see large circular UFOs flying through the skies spewing green death ray bolts. I toss Tim a pistol like my own and fly into the air pumping red lasers into the ships. Tim and I shoot down hundreds of the blasted things, but more keep coming. I look for the mother ship and spy it sucking up oblivious heifers with a tractor beam about a mile off. I jet towards it. A few well-placed shots melt most of the lasers, but more ships are spewing from the mother ship’s belly. Grimly, I crank my blaster to a higher setting (at this level it could vaporize a mountain gorilla) and aim for the mother ship’s main control deck. One shot and BOOOOM, the entire ship goes down in flames. Instantly, all the other ships fall lifeless to the ground amidst disoriented cows.
Several hours later, I am being awarded various prestigious medals and the Secretary General of the United Nations rises to give me a thank you speech for saving the world. “Chris,” he says, and my chest swells with the gracious words I know will follow, “Chris, It’s time to get up!” I pop one eye open to see why on earth the Secretary General would say such a thing. Strangely, I am now lying down and the expensive Italian suit I wore to the ceremonies is replaced with a set of plaid PJs. I groan, finally understanding. “Just a dream,” I murmur wistfully, “just a dream…”
Well, enough bemoaning fate, Today was our big white-water rafting day. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain outside. The heavens had opened up their flood gates, and millions of gallons of water were being dumped on a little town which had done nothing wrong…Oops, apparently I wasn’t through bemoaning fate.
A quick drive from our motel brought us to the rafting HQ, situated next to a downtown café. Tim, the owner of the business, greeted us. He had agreed to watch Emily while we had the raft ride. Rusty, our guide, had dreadlocks and a beard. He handed each of us a wet suit in roughly our respective sizes. I was the first suited up, and watched with amusement as Tim struggled to reverse his inside-out suit. The next few layers were polypropylene for warmth in the frigid water. Timmy finally came out and declared that his wet suit was too small. By the time I got on my next two layers (rain jacket and life vest), Timmy had managed to get into his new suit only to discover that it was inside out. The only two things left to put on were a helmet and water shoes. Timmy came out again and this time his wet suit was on backwards. Once we were all suited up properly (a minor miracle), we said goodbye to Emily, and headed out.
At the river, Rusty gave us instructions about what to do in the event of a problem. “If the raft tips, you should just hold onto the outside. If you are stuck underneath it, there are holes in the raft to provide air. If you fall out of the raft, you should float with your feet facing downstream so that they don’t get caught in a root and drown you and try to make it back to the raft.” He taught us the instructions he would give (“forward paddle,” “backward paddle,” “left forward, right back,” and “right forward, left back.”) Tim and I took the front positions on the boat with everyone else behind us. Rusty steered the boat and gave commands from the back. I noticed he used a special wooden paddle as a rudder when he wanted to turn somewhere. With our instruction complete, we launched into our first rapids.
No amount of instruction prepared us for the wild adrenaline rush of paddling down a rapid. Just riding down would have been interesting, but actually paddling was even better. I felt like a rugged pioneer, exploring uncharted territory and risking life and limb on the frothing river. It became a pattern as we went on: a rapid, then some hard paddling, then a rest, and then another rapid.
As we reached a class two rapid, I decided it would be interesting to fall in. While I was paddling down, I made myself loose on the side of the raft so it would be easier for the water to unseat me. Sure enough, I found myself hurled into the water. The cold was a shock and it took me a second to readjust to my new position. I had fallen out about halfway through the rapids, so I got the fun experience of riding the strong current without a raft. Pulling me into the boat, Rusty taught us the way to lift someone out of the rapids. With this technique, I could lift Dad out of the water, albeit with some effort.
We paddled a little ways down the river and then reached a pillar of rocks. Rusty told us we could stop and jump and showed us the three levels. The first was merely a short hop into the water to “get us started.” The second level was about five feet above that. The final level required scrambling up a steep rock wall to a small ledge about 20 feet from the water. Looking down from that height was very unnerving, but not nearly as dangerous as having to climb back down. Jennifer and Mom did the first two levels. Tim, Dad, and I did all three.
The next hour passed uneventfully (if you consider raging rapids uneventful,) until Rusty offered the post of raft captain up for grabs. Jennifer accepted the role and she did a good job of keeping us out of harms way. When Timmy took the captainship, he had the unfortunate experience of getting trapped in an eddy in his first five minutes. After several desperate paddle-strokes, we made it out. Timmy buckled down and made his captainship count, keeping us out of danger for the rest of his turn. Next I eagerly took the heavy paddle that signified control of the boat. We were coming to a dangerous rapid with sharp rocks and protruding branches and I knew I had to keep us on the safest path possible. However, when we hit a slower and less lethal rapid, I yelled out, “Right forward, Left Back!” My crew obeyed, but instead of simply correcting our direction, we were turning in complete circles. So there we were, corkscrewing down a raging rapid, when that mutinous crewmember Rusty shoved me out of the boat. He had relieved me of the command paddle as I fell, so I drifted down the rapids until Rusty saw fit to “rescue” me. The rest of the crew had not seen what happened, so they assumed that the captain had abandoned ship and Rusty had to rescue him. As we came to our last rapids before the end of the trip, I attempted a counter-mutiny upon Rusty. This led to me being hurled into the water and again requiring “rescue.”
Tim, Jennifer, and I decided to voluntarily jump into the water and float down the rapids. Jennifer immediately panicked, going headfirst down stream. I adjusted her to the proper way (dead man’s float, legs pointing downstream) and then pushed her closer to the raft. We made it aboard just before our stopping place where I tried a more devious mutiny on Rusty. This particular idea landed me upside down over the raft with Rusty dunking me repeatedly into the water. We finally made it to land and heaved the equipment onto the waiting van.
When we got back to the office, we were greeted by Tim and his cheerful sidekick, Emily. After one of the best warm showers ever, we scrubbed our wet suits. Apparently there is a water-fungus called Didymo, which is a self-reproducing plant that can spread in a river if one tiny piece of the stuff gets in it. It affects oxygen levels, killing many native fish and is called “rock snot” due to its ugly nature. It is a major problem, so we had to wash everything, just in case. The day ended with a scrumptious barbeque prepared by the owner of the rafting company. After our meal, we regretfully said farewell to Tim the owner and Rusty the captain (mutinous though he may be) and headed off for whatever our next fun adventure would be.

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We reached the top of the south island and were struck by the bright sunlight playing on the fruit orchards all along the coastline. We decided to take advantage of the fine weather and walk a section of the famous Abel Tasman coastal track. A boat transported us to our drop off point, and a few hours later, picked us up farther down the coastline. The sea was rougher than expected and the boat more tightly packed. We ended up being relegated to a small section off the stern which seemed continuously swamped with cold seawater. Just when it seemed it couldn’t get any more uncomfortable, the windshield broke, showering glass on the passengers. The unflappable kiwis take it all in stride and the captain simply announced that if anyone had glass embedded in them to please look for his wife Josie on shore as she would be there with a first aid kit. This whole manner of handling things seemed refreshingly simple and civilized. We landed at the picturesque Little Kaiteriteri Beach and stayed there for the next few days, making ample use of their playgrounds and running paths.

Our final night on the South Island was spent at a farm campground near Picton. When I checked in, the woman who ran the place handed me a basket of warm banana muffins. I stared at her in disbelief. “These are for us?” I said. “Well, yes, I thought with having the kids and traveling and all, you might be a little hungry,” she replied with a smile. I could have wept with gratitude at that little reminder of coziness, hospitality and home.

The kids were up first thing in the morning, begging to feed the animals. John and I chose to start our day with a hike up the bush path. Fantails followed us as we walked, snacking on the bugs we stirred up with our boots. At the end of the track was the most exquisite waterfall, hemmed in by verdant canyon walls and looking like the Garden of Eden. The scene motivated us for more trekking and we decided to sample a bit of the Queen Charlotte Track as a family. The trail winds for miles along the coast, past small beaches and bays until it ends at the tip of the peninsula. Ready to cool off, we stopped to strip down for an impromptu little swim in the sea. We stayed on the track as long as possible, leaving just in time to catch the ferry back to Wellington. As the boat left port and we watched the retreating coastline, Emily summed up our sentiments, “Bye Bye South Island! I love you!”