Monday was the day I had been most looking forward to: the day of our Milford Sound tour. There are a number of fjords on the southwestern coast of the South Island and Milford Sound is the most famous. We opted to do a bus tour rather than making the 10 hour round trip drive ourselves, and it was totally worth it. Our driver was incredibly knowledgeable and no one had to stay diligently focused on the road. It was a really rainy day, which turned out to be a good thing because of the (literally) thousands of temporary waterfalls that are formed only when it rains. The closer we got to the sound, the more spectacular the scenery. Once there, we hopped onto a boat, enjoyed the surprisingly tasty buffet lunch, and took turns walking outside to look around. The boat tour included the captain driving the nose of the boat under a waterfall, giving people a chance to take a short shower. At this point I was already soaking wet from the rain so I went with it, as did Michael and Ron, and it was certainly an invigorating experience.
Tuesday was Ron and Joan’s last day in New Zealand. We had nothing planned for that day so we drove about 20 minutes to Arrow Town, a very cute historic mining town. On Wednesday all four of us went to the airport. Ron and Joan took a flight to Auckland, and Michael and I to Christchurch. We spent the rest of that day exploring the city and it was a weird experience. I had been in Christchurch in January 2011, shortly after a big earthquake. That earthquake did some obvious damage but the city was bustling and people were positive about a quick recovery. Sadly, an even bigger earthquake hit downtown Christchurch in February 2011. I knew that this second earthquake had been devastating (destroying buildings and killing 185 people), but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw there. Though the city is dotted with numerous art installations and the Christchurch Botanic Gardens is as beautiful as ever, but the city has changed. In many places it looked as though the earthquake could have happened yesterday, with buildings still half standing or obviously damaged and vacant. The city felt different too: it was so quiet it almost felt like it had been deserted.
On Thursday we drove to another earthquake devastated area, Kaikoura. This is a small town that thrives on tourism about two hours north of Christchurch. We went whale watching there and saw two sperm whales and a royal albatross. On Friday we flew to Dunedin. We only had a day there so we had to make the most of it! We visited two breweries, walked up the steepest street in the world, explored the town, and drove up the Otago Peninsula for some penguin watching. Saturday we flew to Napier via Wellington to visit my uncle Terry and aunt Christine. That day we finally got to relax and slow down a little bit! Sunday all of us went to one of the many vineyards in the area for lunch and live music on the lawn.
About the picture: This was taken in Milford Sound. For a sense of scale, see if you can find the boat on the horizon (it probably had at least fifty people on board).