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New Zealand – Queenstown

As we drove to Queenstown, I had low expectations. Everything I’d read described the city as a place with any adventure for sale, which smacked of cheesy tours and amusement park rides.

Elaine and Sarah in Queensland

It has that, but in a setting of such honest, beautiful scenery, such that you fall in love anyhow. (It doesn’t hurt that they have a killer chocolate shop con churros y wifimighty tasty burgers, and the nicest hostel I’ve been to.) While posted in every shop window, the “adventures” weren’t blared in neon, nor pushed by money-grubbing touts. It was all quite civilized, and consequently…inviting.

Elaine really wanted to do some sort of adventuring. Sarah didn’t. I was feeling ornery and noncommittal about joining Elaine, but then I had breakfast. Breakfast (food) somehow has this magical effect of making the world (and the Shotover Canyon Swing) seem so much more full of promise.

I happily found some methyl alcohol to fuel my stove for our upcoming hike, and some fun Tim Tam flavors to haul home. (Sidenote: I like Oreos, but Tim Tams >>> Oreos)

Also, I did mention the burgers? Let’s see some burger.

New Zealand – Milford day 1

From Queenstown, it was off to our hike!

The hike starts and ends from different spots, so we had it all planned out. We’d drive to the end, have a morning kayak, and then take a bus over in the afternoon to start the hike.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), we discovered that to start the hike, we would actually have to catch a once-a-day ferry leaving in the early afternoon, for which we would have to catch a bus early in the morning, which would mean missing our kayak trip. The hike is extremely well organized and documented, so we were the only fools who had managed to  reserve the hike without simultaneously reserving the lake ferry (why don’t they just sell them as a package? who knows.)

We spent the night at the lovely lodge, light painting silly things, and then we were off!

N is a hard letter to write backwards. Also Z.

The first day was an extremely easy warmup. Sunny afternoon, flat ground, short distance (5km). The ranger spent a long time telling us about nature. We went on an evening stroll during which we learned about manuka honey and how the local swampland cleaned things up. As dusk set in, we set out to find glowworms. Since glowworms don’t like flashlights, we walked around in near darkness, getting brushed by twigs and shadows, which triggered certain scared women to hold my hand.

Swampland near Clinton Hut

Also of note: My alcohol stove worked! Although it turns out that the NZ hiking infrastructure is so good, they had actual gas lines in each of the huts we stayed at. Related, these “huts” were much more impressive than I had expected. I was thinking pit toilets and semi drafty wooden structures. Instead, I encountered solid buildings with some heating, running water (and toilets) and bunk beds with mattresses. Crazy.

 

Thar be stars

 

Peru – Lima

Lima was the base for the Naj-Audrey invasion of Peru.
We were there briefly before heading to Macchu Picchu, and again upon coming back.

It was a gray city, overcast, with endless films of dust and damp salt air.
Food was tasty (grenadillas, sandwiches, jugos, and ceviche), and neighborhoods were lively.

The people added some color – in clothing, threats of robber taxis, and friendliness.

We were in the Miraflores district, where most expats live.  It’s nicer and more expensive, and has a giant American mall.

The mall, while sterile, overlooks a great ocean view.