Fresh from the garden, June 27

20130627-230805.jpg .85 ounces of sugar snap peas

20130627-230827.jpg 1.5 pounds of kale (All of it isn’t pictured; the rest went into a big salad.)

And in case you haven’t heard, Matt and I got back from New Zealand on Tuesday afternoon. I keep trying to find the time to get some work done in the garden, but it’s hard when there are pop up thunderstorms forecasted for every day in the foreseeable future. The plants certainly don’t mind though (especially the weeds), and I can’t wait to take photos for the July garden snapshot. Just to give you a hint: one of the squash plants that was a foot tall the day in between our trips has now reached the top of the 7-foot arched trellis!

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New Zealand, days 8-11

Well, we ended up staying in Queenstown another night instead of driving to Omarama. But we still got to go to some hot tubs! There was a little place just outside of town and we got to sit in the hot tubs while it was snowing outside. There was a wall of windows that opened onto a great view of the snowy mountains.

On Friday we left early for Franz Josef, one of the most well-known glaciers in New Zealand. And the weather was actually nice! So nice, in fact, that we stopped along the way and took a little trail to this waterfall.

20130623-220934.jpgWe also stopped at a scenic overview and saw the Tasman Sea for the first time.

20130623-221050.jpg After we got to Franz Josef and dropped off our luggage at the hotel, we went to the glacier right away while there was still daylight. The hike to the glacier was ridiculously windy, but at least it wasn’t raining!

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20130623-221553.jpg As it turned out, there were hot pools in Franz Josef, so several of us went to make use of those after supper. Not much in these little towns is open after about 5:00 or 6:00, but the hot pools stayed open until 9:00.

Our destination on Saturday was Hokitika. We actually drove past it a little way to go see the famous pancake rocks.

20130623-222703.jpg There were also blowholes where water shoots up though the rock formations, but the sea was too calm that day to have any effect.

20130623-222844.jpg Back in Hokitika, Matt and I got some good photos at Sunset Point.

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20130623-223123.jpg We ate dinner at a little restaurant where I got a very good phyllo “parcel” filled with roasted vegetables.

20130623-223956.jpg Today we spent most of our time driving back to Christchurch. We were invited to dinner by a local family whose daughter is goes to UT Martin. They really went all out to feed us! For an appetizer we had all kinds of chips, dips, cheese, and crackers. Next they served a tomato pumpkin soup with bread. The main course was salad, roasted lamb (and some other meats, too) roasted vegetables, peas and carrots. And for dessert there was New Zealand’s famous pavlova (a sort of meringue mountain), brandy snaps, meringues, and ice cream. I think everybody had a great time.

Tomorrow afternoon we fly back to Auckland and then have another overnight flight to LA. We’ll actually be spending the night in LA to avoid the alternative of an 11 hour layover followed by a red-eye flight, so we’ll have all afternoon to explore there if we want to. See you then!

New Zealand, days 6-7

Yesterday we left Te Anau and drove the scenic highway to Queenstown. The highway followed Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables almost the whole way. We were able to stop to take some photos, and it actually wasn’t raining!

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20130619-190620.jpgWe stopped for lunch and shopping in Arrowtown. Our bus driver recommended a pie shop which turned out to be a great choice. I got vegetable and Matt got steak, bacon, and cheese.

20130619-190722.jpgOur apartments are about 20 minutes from Arrowtown, on the outskirts of Queenstown. This is the view from our balcony(!).

20130619-190830.jpgMost of the attractions were closed by the time we got settled in (and then walked 20 minutes into town), so we just wandered around and did some shopping. I got a warm merino scarf.

This morning Matt and were picked up from the hotel for our Lord of the Rings Tour! There are several companies that do them and we picked a small local one based on the hotel’s recommendation. They weren’t kidding about it being personalized – we were the only people on the tour today! Our tour guide was great and really knowledgable about the area. It rained the whole time, which is why the photos look a little misty. Our first stop was the location of Wizard’s Vale.

20130619-190929.jpgAfter that we stopped at little beach by the tiny town of Glenorchy. Just over the ridge behind us was where they filmed scenes with the Rohirrim (horse riders). Apparently they sent out a call inviting anyone who could ride to come audition. The majority of the Rohirrim ended up being women dressed as men, because they were the better riders.

20130619-191049.jpgOn the other side of Glenorchy were the Dead Marshes. With the lovely weather we’re having, they looked just like they did in the movie. Minus the creepy bodies, of course. The mountains in the background were darkened for the film to look like Mordor.

20130619-191159.jpgA little further down the road we entered Mount Aspiring National Park. This spot is where they filmed the Fellowship being captured by the elves in Lothlorien. If you’ve seen the movie you might remember that little golden leaves are constantly falling in Lothlorien. To achieve this effect they vacuumed up hundreds of leaves from the forest and had the local schoolchildren paint them gold. (Peter Jackson made a very large donation to the school, too.)

20130619-191402.jpgAnd over here was the site of the battle at Amon Hen.

20130619-191535.jpgOn the other side of the forest we drove through an area where several scenes from Wolverine were shot. We didn’t stop for any photos there, though. After a while we came to the sheep farm that has been used for many scenes in multiple movies. It’s located in Paradise, New Zealand. It’s easy to see how it got its name. And apparently the farmer doesn’t have to do too much farming any more.

20130619-191738.jpgThis is the field where the battle scene from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was filmed. And that hill in the background is where they built Beorn’s house for the upcoming second film in The Hobbit trilogy.

20130619-191846.jpgHere’s a close up of the hill. See that little conical tree on the right? It’s fake.

20130619-191932.jpgTurning to the right we could see the location for Isengard. The tower was added using CG, of course.

20130620-112116.jpgAnd behind us was the edge of Fangorn Forest, where the ents marched out to destroy Isengard. Most of the film locations have no relation to each other in the real world, but these two did.

20130620-112203.jpgOur last stop on the way back was a campground where they filmed Frodo and Sam looking over a cliff to see the Easterling army and their Oliphants.

20130620-112351.jpgThis little ledge is the one Sam and Frodo peeked over.

20130620-112451.jpgOver all it was a great tour, and even a pretty good way to spend a rainy morning. For future reference (and if anyone’s interested) the name of the company is Pure Glenorchy. Highly recommended!

Since we were the only ones on the tour, our guide was able to drop us off at our next destination in Queenstown – the underwater observatory. Having spent most of our Queenstown money on the tour, we were looking for cheap things to do the rest of the day, and $5 to go under Lake Wakatipu sounded pretty reasonable. In the observatory we could see salmon, trout, long-fin eels, and the occasional duck swimming by.

The other thing we decided to do was to take the gondola up and get a good view of Queenstown from above. There was also a luge to ride (sort of like the alpine slide in Gatlinburg, but with no sides). On the way we saw some sheep and three goats nibbling on the mountainside. However, by the time we got to the top it was snowing and there was no view of Queenstown at all. We also had to forgo the luge because of the snow. But a least we got some nice hot chocolate at the top while we debated what to do with the rest of our day. We ended up getting a couple of pies to have for dinner later from a really amazing looking bakery. The guy that sold them to us was American and had a friend that went to UT Martin. Small world. Then we went back to a great discovery we’d made yesterday – Cookie Time! It’s a New Zealand brand of cookies, and they have stores where you can also get hot cookies and milk. And so I did.

20130620-112545.jpgWe’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out whether we’re staying here an extra night or not. Our next stop is Omarama, and the only thing going for it is the hot tubs, so we’d much rather be stuck here. Guess we’ll see in the morning…

(Also, it doesn’t look like my Flickr photos will finish uploading today. We have very limited free internet, when we get for free at all.)