I have been a little delinquent in blogging so here goes....
Tuesday - Wednesday, June 14- 15
Waneka, New Zealand
Queenstown was a big hit as we wandered the city center streets for a few hours in the morning, took a gondola ride in the afternoon and souvenir shopped. Queenstown is a beautiful ski resort city located next to a large lake and nestled at the base of the Remarkable Mountains. This was the most populated area that we have been in. There are only four million people in all of New Zealand and only one million are on the bigger south island. We loaded up the bus and headed for our next stop.
We drove an hour and half to the small village of Waneka. The kids were excited as we arrived because there was a rugby practice going on next to our lodge. They all grabbed their cameras and rushed down to the field to try their luck at low light action photography.
The lodge had a great community space but the rooms were quite small. There was one heater in the entire lodge located in the living room; three toilets and two showers. This was our most interesting accommodation yet. Sleeping bags were used here to ensure a warm, comfy rest. The kids were good sports as they crammed into their tiny rooms. We went out to eat for Indian food, which many students had never experienced.
Wednesday we ventured off to Puzzling World, an amusement venue dedicated to optical illusions. Everyone had a great time as they played in the different illusion areas. The afternoon was a hike to a scenic overview. Carson was injured as they played a game before the hike ever started and she and Gemina had to come back. Carson had to go to the doctor and was diagnosed with a mild concussion. It is sad and the group feels the gap when someone is not up to par.
Thursday - Saturday, June 16 - 18
Franz Josef, New Zealand
We arrived here after a long day on the bus. We had stopped for lunch at the half way point. There was one convenience store with a small eating area. I had two fried eggs on toast….you learn to eat the oddest things when you visit another country. We had several scenic overview stops which broke up the long ride. The favorite stop was on the Tazmania Sea. We lingered on the beach for an hour. We were greeted by annoying sandflies, which are like mosquitos. They bit the heck out of my hands, (the only area not really covered on my body). The bites are little red splots and itch like crazy.
Our lodge accommodation is nice here. We have the big community room which is perfect for holding our group meetings. Every night ends with a pow wow meeting. This is a time when the entire group forms a circle and we talk about the day. Each meeting a different student ask a question and we go around the circle to answer. For example Brianna's question at the last pow wow was, "What is the most inspirational or meaningful sight that you have scene on this trip?" The answers were very touching. Makenna's favorite place was at the top of the gondola in Queenstown where we ate lunch. She chose this place because many years ago her parents had eaten there on the honeymoon. I have really enjoyed the pow wows and what each one has to share.
So we really shifted gears on Friday and got up very early to go to town to get geared up for our glacier hike. We were outfitted with special hiking boots, crampons, over pants, a raincoat, mittens and hats. This took about an hour. It reminded me of going snow skiing and all the hoopla that goes into getting ski equipment. Once we were outfitted we got on the bus and drove a short distance through the rain forest to the rock base of the glacier. There are only three glaciers in the world that are located next to a rain forest and two of them are in this area. The other is in Argentina.
Once at base we were joined with several other people. We split into three groups: those who wanted to go at a fast pace, slow pace and in between. I immediately migrated to the slow pace along with Brittany, Kelsey, Lindsey and Makenna. We had two other couples and a chubby Indian family of four in our group. The momma Indian lady was really slow and it made me look like an alpine hiker. However, after about an hour on the trail the Indian family announced they could not go any further and wanted to go back. Our guide Rob, told us to sit on the rocks for 5 - 10 minutes as he escorted them down. He was back quickly and we continued our hike up the Terminal Face. This was a steep rocky incline and all I could watch were my feet shuffling up the mountain. We finally reached the ice of the glacier. We put our crampons on and had instructions on walking on ice. The glacier hike was beautiful. The guides had carved out a path and we walked safely among the crevasses. We stopped and had our lunch on the glacier, took some group photos and then started our way back. All in all we were gone from about 9:30 - 2. We were exhausted.
Back at the lodge we found out that we were going to the spa hot pools. Everyone was excited as we all had aching spots on our bodies. We lounge in this gorgeous spa pool for a couple of hours. It was Gemina's 25th birthday and she was happy to spend it in the spa. We dried off and headed out to dinner. We are in another small town and the restaurant choices are very slim so we went back to the same restaurant as last night. The prices of food are extremely high. A burger cost about $21 NZ dollars which is about $17 US. The good news is the portions are big and many times the kids share entrees.
After dinner we all met in the community room. The kids wanted to listen to some of their music and dance around. They seemed to really enjoy that.
So my blog is up to date. I have been so busy that I really have not had much time to write. But today ee are having a slow, easy morning and everyone is enjoying some free time.