Sunday, December 30, 2007

Baaaaaaaad joke

The view from our room in Franz Josef

It is 9:30 at night. It is still light. I am sitting on the back deck of our motel looking out at the mountains surrounding the Franz Josef Glacier. There are exotic birds singing and I can hear the roar of a glacial stream nearby. The crazy thing is, that this alpine setting is filled with rainforest flora like giant ferns. It is so incongruous. It is unique.

We left Christchurch around 10 and were at Arthur Pass by noon. The drive on the eastern side was arid and for the most part barren of trees.

The eastern side view

But as soon as we started to descend the western slope there were palms and ferns everywhere and a solid mass of forest. We have spent the day on the finest roads the south island has to offer. They are two lane. The bridges are for the most part one lane and you never know until you get to it whether your direction is expected to yield (“give way” is the term they use) or has the right of way. And, of course, all of this is done on the left side of the road driving a standard shift. It has been a challenging day.

When we got to Hakitawa I turned in and left Hunter sleeping in the passenger seat while I walked out to view the Pacific. Huge tree trunks and other fabulous driftwood littered the beach. The West Coast is decidedly funky and laid back.

The Tasman Sea

The geological story of these mountains is very interesting. While at lunch we browsed through a book at the inn about how these mountains were formed. A few interesting facts: Before it eroded, this chain of mountains shot up 20 kilometers into the sky … that is into the stratosphere. All this erosion has left a deposit of sand and silt in the ocean that does much to form off shore New Zealand. And like the San Andreas Fault in California, there is a fault line that slices along the west coast of New Zealand and has moved north over the years.

Tonight at dinner I tasted New Zealand lamb for the first time while in country. They were lamb shanks that had been braised in beer. At one point during the meal Hunter looked over at my plate and said. “Your shanks look really good. Nice and meaty.” I shot back “Be careful, here in New Zealand a comment like that is considered foreplay. “ A waiter who was walking by added … “Yes and never forget that in New Zealand baaa means no.”

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