One to Grow On

December 19, 2009

Over the Hills

Filed under: Uncategorized — midway2go @ 5:57 pm

We got off the boat not sure where we were going. I had planned to drive up to Milford Sound, in part to see it but mostly to camp along the way. I’d heard such amazing things about the drive, but with rain forecasted for days in the Fjordlands and the cold and two kids grumpy about being in the car, I decided against any long drives, no matter how beautiful.

We headed straght into the sun, into the mountains to Queenstown, where we watched people jump off a bridge 43 meters above a white water river at the original commercial bungee site. We got to see lots of jumpers but also someone who refused to jump and had to hop back onto the main bridge, her legs tied together in a massive bulky knot. Apparently that’s pretty rare. The whole bumgy-extreme sport scene is baffling to me. I guess I take enough chances that an adreneline rush seems like a bad thing to me. We spent a long time debating whether we would or would not jump. I decided I would do it, but wouldn’t want to. Nora wouldn’t do it, but Rory was pretty fired up to try it. I was thrilled to learn that the youngest jumper ever was ten and weighed almost 20 pounds more than Rory. I was spared being the mean parent twice in two days. More than anything the signs around the Bungy Center cracked me up. Favorites were the family package (2 adults and up to 2 kids), the bunging restroom lady, and a sign I couldn’t get a great photo of in the bathroom assuring users in many languages that it was perfectly acceptable to put toilet paper into the toilet and to flush it, that, in fact, the system was designed to handle the paper, and that the sanitary bin was only for sanitary products, not toilet paper. I remember so clearly coming back to the US after living in Ecuador and all my reverse culture shock came to a head one day when I sat crying on a toilet because I had no idea what to do with the paper. Ah, happy memories…

We camped in Wanaka at a totally unremarkable campground (except that it was cold). The town was beautiful and totally set up to delight and amuse its visitors, with a charming town clustered by a bright blue lake at the foot of the snow-covered southern Alps (did I mention it’s adjacent to a national park, too?) However, after a great hour on a super lake-side playground all I wanted was to make tracks, but kept having to come back to town for one thing after another- grocery store, gas, another go at a thrift shop for more blankets (it was a really cold night). We were headed to the Wild and Wonderful West Coast, and I wanted to be prepared. What I forgot to prepare was my way out of town, and I literally drove around for 50 minutes trying to get on the right road. See, it’s harder when there’s only one…

Louisa and Sean had recommended another DOC campground on the West Coast, on the coast at the foot of Fox Glacier. They were right. It was a stunning location. A row of trees and dunes separated the campground from the beach, and to the east Mount Cook dominated the sky. At 3755 meters it’s the tallest mountain in “Australasia,” a word I confess I don’t understand. It implies to me “Australia and Asia,” but that can’t be right since the HImalayas are in Asia. It must mean, “Australia and New Zealand.” Clearly I’m missing something. Anyway, the scenery was amazing, but the wind… We got there at dusk, which is the windiest time of day here (is that true everywhere? I’m going to pay more attention from now on). The wind on the beach almost went beyond wind. Nora could have blown away, but the sunset kept luring me out there. Every time I looked up the light was just a little different, and I’d run over to take yet another picture. I ended up with a slew of photos, and I can’t bring myself to delete any of them. Even though I know that they’re just cheesy sunset shots, they’re my cheesy sunset shots. I love them.

The next day Rory experienced another embittering blow. I won’t name names, but not all members of our party met the minimum age of 7 to join a guided tour going out onto Fox Glacier. I drug them very much against their wills, Rory because he wanted to be going with the group onto the ice and Nora because she didn’t want to go to see cold, windy ice at all, kicking and screaming to see the glacier. From the parking lot it’s a 2 minute walk to get a look at the glacier, then another 30-40 minutes to get pretty close to the beginning o the glacier, which technically is the end of the glacier and calle the terminal. They were pretty down about the walk, too, until we started out and found it was a terrible walk over piles of rock (technically called the moraine, or the debris-mostly rocks- pushed by the ice and then left behind when the glacier recedes) and the results of ravalanches and rockfalls. We had to cross creeks and jump over gaps. Well, the enthusiasm grew, and then they didn’t want to get in the car. The terminal (what I would casually and incorrectly call the face of the glacier) was treacherous. A huge cave showed ice of every shade of blue, and huge peaks jutted up where whole sections of ice had broken away. Leading up to the terminal we could see ice chunks that looked like bean bags sitting in the river, too big yet to float. I was thrilled that we weren’t going out on the ice for the rest of the day made myself unpopular with the kids by telling them I’d become a big believer in age limits. And I have.

Back at the campsite the sun was out. We found a sheltered spot on the beach and played for most of the afternoon. I even took off three of my four layers and soaked up some of the warmth of the black sand. When we headed back to to camp Rory and Nora played on two driftwood tree stumps for hours while I made dinner and cleaned up. One of the stumps was maybe 7 feet tall and hollow, and they loved it.

 My dream of getting up to date is, alas, unfulfilled, but I’m within 5 days!  Wa-hoo.  Stay tuned…



  1. Chrislyn is up to date. Thank you. I say. I can only imagine the beautiful sunsets and the rocks to jump and the tree stumps to climb. I sure hope your group of 3 has enough memory cards to save all the photos. I was quite certain Rory would want to go on the long walk and he would endure with energy left for the next adventure. I wonder what the children would write on the blog if they could? I am so happy that Chrislyn makes the time to enchant our visions while Rory and Nora play. Wishing you a week of joy in the miracles of our earth as we experience this blessed week. Love, Grandma Barbara

    Comment by Grandma Barbara — December 20, 2009 @ 7:37 pm

  2. Jeez, would you stop posting blog entries already? I’m trying to get some work done here!

    Comment by Jill — December 21, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

  3. Fascinating about the penguins and their habitat. Amazing they would have caves to dwell in. Is the krill you show the same as you showed in Japan? Keep it coming. Good Job!

    Comment by Randy King — December 22, 2009 @ 10:12 am

  4. OK, now I have Googled Milford Sound. What a beautiful story the Wiki site tells and shows about Milford Sound. Now I have to go to Christchurch and Doubtful Sound as well, via cyber space. It is surely a beautiful trip you have planned. I wish Chrislyn, Nora, Rory and Brandon a blessed Christmas. Love, Grandma Barbara

    Comment by Grandma Barbara — December 24, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

  5. Hi! It’s me, Emily, from Kansas. I was just wondering, my friend Taylor just found out that she’s allergic to wheat, dairy, and gluten. Do you have any recipes that she could make? Thanks.

    Ed (or Emily. Whatever.)

    Comment by Emily Dennard — December 31, 2009 @ 4:03 pm

  6. Hi C!
    Yes, thank goodness for age limits! Man, that Rory is adventurous. He and Nora are VERY lucky to have a globe trotting adventure mama such as yourself.
    Keep it up!

    Comment by Shelly — December 31, 2009 @ 7:13 pm

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