My parents have been here for two weeks, romping up into the mountains, across the South Island, and down to the beaches in the Catlins. The following post is contributed by my dad, Judd Anderson. Thanks, Dad!
New Zealand is so much more than you can imagine from the Internet or anywhere else. Some of both the silly, serious, wonderful and inspiring are the following:
A Kiwi is a person (New Zealanders actually like being called one), Kiwi-bird is THE bird, which most Kiwis have not seen, even if you go to Stewart Island where you have the best chance of seeing one. More common and beautiful are the Kea which are like mountain parrots, green with bright orange armpits. They meow like kitties when they fly over. They visit you in the mountain huts, looking for camper food. Most common phrases in NZ are, “No worries” (if you say thank you to the person giving you a latte, this is what they’ll say back); “It’s all good”, which can be substituted for “no worries”; or, less common, but fun is, “She-be-right, mate,” which actually means “It will be all right, dude.” Short e sounds in words such as neck, deck, pest or Czech (someone from the Chech Republic) are pronounced nick, dick, pist and chick. So you can actually have a barbecue on your “dick” or store a kayak on your dick (so says Jacob, one of Christina and Zach’s NZ climbing buddies).
There are no big animals in NZ, so possums, rabbits and everything else small are called pists (pests) cause they have no predators. What’s great about hiking and camping is that you don’t have to worry about bears, wolves or anything else that might scare or eat you or your food. NZ doesn’t even have foxes or coyotes which could do a great job on the overabundance of rabbits and other pists. But they have something called a sandfly which is so small and bites without being felt that only later do you realize the ring of bites on your ankles is from their having had you for dinner. But if you walk they are so slow they can’t keep up. The yellow-eyed penguins are unafraid of you, especially the unfledged whom we walked up to, examined, photographed and watched star-struck for 2 hours near Moereki (barely touched on in the guidebooks) as are the sea lions and fur seals which roll on the beaches like large blubber bags, flipping warm sand onto themselves. The Hector dolphins swim around you off the Catlins (the southern most beaches) ride the waves and play by jumping in the air, right along side the human surfers. Of course the sheep are everywhere, both inside and outside of the fences, on the roads and in towns and are herded by tall manly-men in really short adidas soccer shorts like we used to wear 20 years ago. Even the flag men on the road construction crews have tenaciously held to the 4 inch inseam.
The colors of NZ are really striking. The mountain lakes and rivers (which you often cross on beautiful simple suspension cable bridges that look like Indiana Jones bridges, warn you of the number allowed on at any one time – 1 to 5 and sway and bounce as you walk across with your pack) of both the Mt. Aspiring range (we hiked and camped for 3 days there) and the Mt. Cook National Park (4 days) turn multiple shades of blue/green/slate and often look like aqua milkshakes, thick and creamy. No need for bringing your water on mountain hikes: just dip your water bottle into any stream. When you hit glaciers, eat the snow but stop to listen for avalanches which we heard and saw numerous times on our way to Mueller Hut (dedicated by Sir Edmund Hilary in 2003) in Mt. Cook Park. The sound of an avalanche is, first delayed by many seconds and, second, as loud as a sonic boom.
In two weeks of living and traveling with Christina and Zach we have eaten a breakfast out once, split a breakfast (at the Mountaineer’s Cafe at Mt. Cook), dined at Francesca’s (an elegant place where KCA dishes and preps) and Fleur’s Place in the Catlins. Otherwise, we have always eaten together out of our campervans, up in the mountains, on beaches and have never eaten so well. Food is always better at a campsite, especially when you pick your own mussels from your beach walk (Cathedral Caves Beach), or from an unattended roadside vegetable stand where you find new potatoes, that, when cooked, taste creamy even without any butter.
For all of NZ’s incredible God-given beauty (we still have Fiordland to pry open in the next week), wonderful people (or should I say NO people…hardly anyone lives here) it has been the traveling, tramping, hiking, trekking, exploring and “hanging” with Christina and Zach that have filled us with incomparable joy.