We caught up with the younger Johns', who were toddlers when Will last saw them, and are now your typical Kiwi underachievers. A medalist in the New Zealand under-19 single sculls, a budding actress and fasion designer, and a 12-year-old star of school sport, academics and disco (sorry Anna).
You would be hard-pressed to find a more kind and loving family anywhere. The greatest testament to the charm of the Johns' is that, after only one evening with them, Dana "I want six boys" Rousmaniere leaned over to her husband and whispered with a big smile, "I think I want to have girls now."
Kaikoura, NZ — Sunning With Sea Lions
to come back for Christmas, we left the Johns' farm and continued down
the South Island along the rocky East coast. We pulled over on the side
of the road in Kaikoura to soak up some of the scenery, and to our great
surprise found some company: a family of HUGE furry sea lions soaking
up the sun. We stretched ourselves out on the hot rocks next to them,
thinking: "We could be at work right now, but instead we're catching
some rays with some big fat sea lions." Later that day, we hiked a picnic up to the Kaikoura bluffs
and watched the foamy white/aqua waves of the Pacific crashing against
the rocky coastline far below. Dana thinks it was the best day of her
life (after our wedding day, of course!).
Promising to come back for Christmas, we left the Johns' farm and continued down the South Island along the rocky East coast. We pulled over on the side of the road in Kaikoura to soak up some of the scenery, and to our great surprise found some company: a family of HUGE furry sea lions soaking up the sun. We stretched ourselves out on the hot rocks next to them, thinking: "We could be at work right now, but instead we're catching some rays with some big fat sea lions." Later that day, we hiked a picnic up to the Kaikoura bluffs and watched the foamy white/aqua waves of the Pacific crashing against the rocky coastline far below. Dana thinks it was the best day of her life (after our wedding day, of course!).
We stopped in Christchurch, NZ to visit Will's friend Lucy Gould. Twelve years ago, Will and Lucy sailed together on the 100 meter square rigged ship "The Spirit of New Zealand," where Lucy played a big role in helping Will "shape up or ship out." Lucy took us on a tour of Christchurch and all its old-English architecture, made that much better by the fact that she's a professional architect. (She recently appeared as the resident architectural expert on a television show called "The Miter 10 Dream House" — similar to The Learning Channel's "Trading Spaces.") Lucy took us to see an especially moving (and a bit surreal) memorial sculpture to September 11th. Dedicated this past October during the World Firefighter Games in Christchurch, the memorial is made from World Trade Center girders that now stand in a towering, twisted, mangled, burned, and rusted steel sculpture set in a peaceful brook in a quiet corner of the town. It speaks volumes that almost everyone we meet, from all countries around the world, can recall exactly where they were on 9-11.
When we arrived Lucy was in her last two months of intensive training for the South Island Coast-To-Coast Race, a grueling 2-day international kayak/bike/run that traverses the mountain passes from the West to East Coast of the South Island. She trained twice a day and still managed to show us every nook and cranny of Christchurch.
AND the results are In! 56th overall (out of 700+) and 3rd in class (women's two-day individual)!!! Kudos (and many thanks) to the remarkable Lucy!
Queenstown is the most beautiful place we've ever seen: An ice-blue glacial lake surrounded by green hills and the craggy peaks of "The Remarkables" skewering the clouds. Rivers feed the lake from the hills and the outlying vineyards (Queenstown is in Central Otago, another successful wine region), as well as the surrounding gold mining towns, long since panned out. The new gold rush in Queenstown is tourism,and anything goes: trekking; kayaking; vineyard tours; gold panning; heli-hikes; jet boating; sailing; skiing; mountain lugeing; hang gliding; paragliding; sky diving; and, of course, bungee jumping from all manner of bridge, cable car and outcrop.
We stayed with two of the people best qualified to guide us to the best of Queenstown. An old friend of Will's, Graeme Buxton, runs Queenstown Heli-Hikes, and his flatmate, David Kennedy, is the CEO of Destination Queenstown, which is Queenstown's tourism board.
We arrived at Graeme and David's to stay for just a couple of days, which soon extended to a week. Luckily, one of Destination Queenstown's major mandates is to increase the average stay of tourists in Queenstown to greater than the current 2.2 days (tourists are kindly referred to as "2.2's" by the locals). So we did our bit for the local tourism scene by becoming "5.5's." Graeme introduced us to all Queenstown had to offer, including our daily morning swims in the ice cold waters of Wakatipu outside their backdoor. On our most memorable day, Will joined Graeme to guide some Brazilian Honeymooners on his Heli-Hike; An amazing 3 hour hike up the mountain across the lake to a ledge just below Cecil peak, where you take in the most unforgettable view before a helicopter picks you up for a hair-raising ride over the mountains. Meanwhile, Dana went Sky Diving!
were in town for the premier of "The Lord of the Rings - The Two
Towers." Since much of the movie was filmed in Queenstown, you can't
be there and not see the Lord of the Rings, right? Wrong... as David
explained to us, he couldn't bring himself to see the movies because he'd
just sit there the whole time thinking: "That's not Middle Earth....
that's the view out my backdoor." And it was.
The West Coast
The last leg of our road trip was meant to be the most rugged and beautiful in New Zealand. Unfortunately, The West Coast of the South Island is also the wettest place in New Zealand. We could barely see our hands in front of our faces as we inched the toaster blindly past the rainforests, glaciers and pancake rocks in the rain. Looks like we'll need to make another trip back to N.Z. :-)
We returned to Bleinheim on the tail end of our South Island trip, where the Johns' graciously let us join them and their family for Christmas dinner. It was our first summer Christmas. While our friends and family back home were digging themselves out of snow drifts, we spent the day playing tennis, swimming, barbecuing, opening Christmas crackers, and cherry-picking. We were green with envy to hear of New England's snowiest Christmas in thirteen years, but consoled ourselves with the fact that we'd had our own version of a White Christmas morning, driving through a misty white mountain top dotted in flowering red Pahutakawa trees (New Zealand's Christmas Tree). It was the closest thing to a Family Christmas back home, and the perfect end to our wonderful trip in the South Island.