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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Northern South Island...familiar but DIFFERENT!

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck and I have been almost all the way around the south island of New Zealand.  Right now we are at the top of the island.  We are amazed at how familiar this part of the island looks to us.

We moved to Ecuador from Washington state.  We lived in the eastern side of Washington.

The terrain and the crops reminded us so much of the Yakima Valley.

This valley is much narrower than the Yakima valley

but it is amazing how similar they are.  Like the Yakima Valley, they grow apples here.

They grow them differently in NZ than in Washington.

Here is a familiar sight to us.  Apple boxes waiting to be filled with the harvested apples.

All around were vineyards and wineries.  This is very common near where we lived.

We really hooted when we saw the hops growing.  It is harvesting time down here.

It appeared to us that Yakima Valley Washington and the north part of the South Island of New Zealand are exactly alike, except for one thing....

Nude bicycling.....

We have never seen this in the Yakima valley.

What a hoot!!

We thought they were bringing awareness to sharing the road with cyclists.  We found out the purpose of the annual ride in the local newspaper.  Here's the link.

I really hate to see the Yakima Valley being behind the times and letting their southern counterpart, New Zealand get ahead of them.

Maybe it will be up to our old scooter club friends to get the trend going in our neck of the woods.

Friday, March 29, 2013

FOTO FRIDAY - 3/29/13

Dear Family and Friends,

This week's photo was taken inside the GUM department store, located next to Red Square in Moscow, Russia.

Catherine II commissioned the construction of the building around 1815 for a shopping market.  It was converted to office space by Joseph Stalin in 1928.

It was reopened as a department store in 1953.

This photo was taken on our 1999 visit to Russia.

This is a photo of how beautiful GUM is on the outside. 


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Driving in New Zealand

Dear Family and Friends,

I have to hand it to Chuck.  He has done an excellent job of driving here.  New Zealand is like so many other countries that were under British rule.  They drive on the opposite side of the road than we are used to.  The steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car.

After the first couple of hours Chuck had it all down.  Unfortunately for him, I have been on pins and needles the last six weeks.  It always seems to me that we are driving on the wrong side of the road.  Many times I have sucked wind and then realized that we are where we should be.  Thank God, Chuck is very calm about all of this.

There are so many foreigners who rent cars and drive here, that the rental car had a sign on the rear view mirror reminding you to keep to the left of the road.  They even have arrows painted in the road every once in awhile to remind which side you should be driving on.

There are many one way bridges here.  I was able to deal with them alright because you come to a complete stop and look before proceeding.  But the bridge pictured below was just too much over the top.

A one lane bridge that is shared with the train.  What a stomach churner!

One of the delights in driving here is when you are lucky enough to be at the right place and right time to see sheep being herded across the highway.

It took us a minute to stop and for me to get out of the car, focus and take a picture.  I guess you could say I caught the "tail end" of the action.

Renting a car and driving here has been perfect for us.  We wouldn't have done it any other way.  We have been able to take the roads we wanted and stop at places that are not on the tourist route.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hokitika, New Zealand

Dear Family and Friends,

One of the west coast towns we visited was Hokitika.  Chuck had two main places he wanted to check out.

Yep, you are seeing it correct.  He wanted to go to the Sock Museum and the Possom Market.

The sock museum had a lot of antique sock knitting machines.   They had more socks for sale in one place than I have ever seen before.  Let's face it, when you spend six weeks in one little country you have time to get off the beaten track.  

The other place he wanted to visit was the possum shop.  Possums are not native to NZ.  They are an introduced pest. 

They actually make things out of possum hide and fur.  Gloves, socks, coats out of the hides and the fur is used along with wool to make sweaters warmer.  

I still have not warmed to the idea of having possum anywhere near me, but Chuck is walking around with possum fur shoe liners.  He swears they are very comfortable.  Just wait until I share with my southern relatives all the things possums are good for besides roadkill.

 The town is small but quite lovely.  Here is a view of the main street with the clock tower in the distance.

As luck would have it we were there on Thursday and a huge annual festival was kicking off the very next day.  The Wildfoods Festival.  We were considering staying until we saw what they meant by "wildfoods."

We decided it was time to head on up the road.  


Sunday, March 24, 2013

A little segway from New Zealand

Dear Family and Friends,

Today I am diverting from posting a blog about our New Zealand trip.  Today is a very special day, it is Matt's birthday.

Matt is our son and he is one of the kindest, most fun loving folks we know.

Here is a picture of Matt and me.  It was made last summer at Albertsons, where Matt works.

Matt would be extremely excited to have birthday wishes from all over the U.S.

If you want to help make today a super cool one for him, send him a birthday greeting.  His email is:

Matt, you are very special.  Hope this day is over the top for you.


Friday, March 22, 2013

FOTO FRIDAY - 3/22/13

Dear Family and Friends,

This week's photo is titled "Where's Chuck?"  He is in this orchid picture taken in Singapore in 2005.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Glacier Experience

Dear Family and Friends,

One of the highlights we were looking forward to on this trip to New Zealand was taking a helicopter ride to one of the glaciers.  Our friends, Larry and Karen, shared with us what a unique experience this was for them.

When we got to Fox Glacier it was very overcast.  It was not a good day for such an adventure because the clouds were thick and low.

We forged on to the Franz Josef Glacier.  Again it was low clouds very overcast.  We decided to stay the night in the town and see what tomorrow might bring in the way of weather.

That evening, on the way to dinner, we stopped at a tour agent for seeing the glacier by air. I asked him for straight talk, not just tourist propaganda.   He admitted to us that it would not be near as nice as the pictures they had displayed on the wall.  The pictures depicted beautiful white snow and blue green glaciers.

He explained that this has been an extremely dry year.  Without moisture to drop fresh snow on the mountain tops, they become dirty from the dust in the wind.  He said it had been five weeks since they had had fresh snow up there.

We thanked him for his candid information.

The next morning the clouds were starting to lift.  We went and viewed the glacier from the ground.

It was quite impressive even if it was a little dirty.

Here is a close up.  You can see a little of the beautiful blue color of the glacial ice.

The water that came from the glacier was crystal clear.  It was a blue green in color.  You can see to the bottom of this lake.  The rocks are beneath the water.

Now a word about the weather.  New Zealand is having a real bad year.  Chuck found this chart in a local newspaper and I photographed it to share with you.

The New Zealand on the left is how the weather is normally regarding rainfall.

The New Zealand in the middle is how the rainfall was last year.  It was a dry year.

The New Zealand on the right is this year.  The north island is in drought conditions and the south island is not much better. 

It is a bad time for the people and animals here.

We have been doing all that we can think of to help conserve the water....short showers, half flushes of the toilet, reusing towels when we stay more than one night in a hotel.  We pray that things will get better soon.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Grocery Shoping in New Zealand

Dear Family and Friends,

One thing we like to do when we travel is to check out the grocery stores.  It is fun to see what the local folks are buying and eating.

Good ol' acid drops.  A favorite of kids. Actually they taste pretty good.  A hard candy made with citric acid.

We found this interesting.  Coffee w/milk in a tube.  Just add boiling water.  We didn't buy it because it didn't appeal to us.

I am including this picture because I am wondering if you can look at the label on these cans and tell me who the parent company is?

The answer is Heinz.

Here is a drink I bought and tasted.  It is Ginger Beer.  Non alcoholic and somewhat like root beer.  It is made in Australia.  I found it to be too sweet.  However, the alcoholic version is not too bad.


We have had a fun time trying the local dishes here.  One favorite is Blue Cod.  It is a light fish that is served lightly battered and fried with fries.  Another favorite is lamb.  We have had lamb in about every form possible.  We even have had lamb burgers, which by the way are delicious.  We only got fooled one time when we ordered lamb but received mutton.

One other thing, we have found that you do not need a corkscrew in New Zealand.  All their wines have screw on caps.

Some New Zealand tidbits I thought you might like to know about.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pukeko - Swamp Hen

Dear Family and Friends,

I showed you a picture of a stuffed toy bird awhile back.  I named it the Red Footed Bluebie.

Since we have been in New Zealand we have seen many versions of Pukeko, this bird's real name.

He seems to be very popular.  He is unique to New Zealand and we are told that he can easily be seen by the side of the road.  We have looked and looked and have yet to see him.

Here is a link so that you can see what we are looking for.  click here

Hopefully we will spot him before we leave.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Steam Boat Ride

Dear Family and Friends,

Another thing we did in Queenstown was to ride the steamboat across the huge lake.

We went late in the day and once again we had the boat practically to ourselves.

Here is Chuck down below.

We were able to see the guy shoveling coal in the furnace.

A view from the deck looking at the front of the boat.

We went to the other side of the lake to pick up passengers who had visited a working farm.

On the way back we had a boat full of passengers. One of them offered to picture us together.

It seems like we have been visiting the past quite a bit lately.

Here is a link to some more information about the steam boat.


Friday, March 15, 2013

FOTO FRIDAY - 3/15/13

Dear Family and Friends,

This week's photo is of Chuck and his stoned friend.  This statue from Easter Island is located in Vina Del Mar, outside of Santiago, Chile.  This photo was taken in 2006.

You know, I think there is a resemblance.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gondola Ride

Dear Family and Friends,

One of the things we did in Queenstown was to ride the gondola up the mountain for a wonderful view of the city.

The view from the top was fantastic!

Here is Chuck.

And here I am on the gondola, while we were going down.

One of us is photogenic.  I'll take the camera back now please.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Census Time in NZ

Dear Family and Friends,

The other night when we checked into our motel we were given census forms to fill out and return.
We had not realized it, but it was census day and NZ wanted to count everyone in NZ on that day!

We filled out the forms.  We figured we were the only Ecuador resident respondents that they were going to receive this year.

Here they are.

We returned them to the motel clerk.  He was more than happy to snap a photo of us with our completed census forms.


P.S.  Happy Birthday Mary Anne. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Steam Locomotive

Dear Family and Friends,

We had a great time the other day taking our first ride on a train powered by a steam locomotive.  This is not something that was preplanned, it was a spontaneous thing that made it all the more fun.

We were on our way to Queenstown when we saw a small railroad station.  I said I wanted to photograph it so Chuck pulled over.

Little did I know that we would be back at this station in a little over an hour.

We came to a small town and saw a sign for the railroad station.  We followed it and guess what?  There was a wonderful old steam locomotive - steaming away waiting to load.

We bought tickets and hoped aboard.

 The cars on the train were quite old and still had a lot of the original equipment.  Here is Chuck pointing to a gas powered light fixture. Also notice the tin ceiling.

The woodwork was in great condition.

Here is the inside of our car.  We had it to ourselves. The seats had been reupholstered.

Here is Chuck enjoying riding on the back of the train.

When we arrived at the train station I pictured earlier, we got off the train while the engineer got the locomotive engine at the other end of the train for our return trip.

The also added water to the engine by putting buckets of water in on top.

I was able to take a picture of the inside of the engine. 

And here is our engineer.

The best part about our return trip was seeing people at the railroad crossing waiting to see the train and give a big wave.

When we set out that morning our only plan was to drive to Queenstown.  What a fun addition to our day.