Sunday, June 22, 2008

Strange and Beautiful Are the Stars Tonight

Sometimes it takes a song written by a Canadian band to highlight New Zealand's special features.

Strange: Sauntering into the communal kitchen at the campground in Westport to find two men butchering a wild hog they had just shot. Even stranger, they mistook my shocked and horrified deer-in-headlights staring for acute interest, and gave me a big piece of said pig. Me, the recently-turned-for-a-reason vegetarian. Stranger still, watching these men wipe the blood off the kitchen floor with the communal tea towels. (Yet another reason to bring your own.)

Beautiful: Waking up to a frosty morning, snuggled in a warm bed, watching the icy frost turn into a champagne dew as the sun hits the grassy hills, orchards and vineyards of the Nelson area.

Strange: Hissing, steaming thermal vents and bubbling, boiling mud pits in Rotorura. The constant stench of sulphur makes me wonder why anybody would choose to live here, though the abundance of thermal soaking pools does help.

Beautiful: Cruising through the Sound on the ferry from Picton in the South Island to Wellington in the North Island (according to BG, since I didn't look through the window even once -- thanks a lot, motion sickness!)

Strange: Cows drool a lot, a fact which is even more apparent when within 3 feet of their faces. Also, they should carry handkerchiefs for their constantly runny noses.

Beautiful: Crystal-clear lakes surrounded by towering snow-capped mountains in Wanaka, Queenstown, and... all over.

Strange: Zorbing (rolling down a grassy hill strapped into a human-sized plastic hamster ball.) p.s. We didn't do this.

Beautiful: The rugged West Coast highway which follows closely along the crashing ocean path... too bad about the sandflies.

Strange: Being given Elf ears to wear in geeked-out Lord of the Rings photo-ops.

Beautiful: Standing in the same place where Frodo (Elijah Wood) shrieked, "Get off the road!"

Strange, strange, strange: Everything is backwards: driving on the left, maneuvering roundabouts, walking on the left, hot and cold taps reversed, stove controls, the constellations, and how the heck do you order a coffee when the options are long black, short black, and flat white?

Less than a week left in New Zealand and we are so in denial about moving on. We've got this car camping thing down to an almost-exact science, though I still can't read a map to save my life. Next stop: Australia!

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