Ok, it's bee a while since the last post, seeing as the only place in the South Island we could easily get online got flat before we got the chance. Excuses excuses. So here's a quick run-through.
Despite being home to less than a third as many people as Auckland, Wellington is rightfully New Zealand's capital city. Pinned between the sea and the mountains, the city is concentrated into a very small space, houses built on steep hillsides as though squeezed up and out by the energy of the city centre. It is easily the most vibrant and culturally stuffed city we have visited, and is also surprisingly beautiful - buildings from any time in the last hundred years coexist with startling grace.
It was time to sponge off my family for a change, and Auntie Julia and Uncle Kevin were very generous, lending us a spare room for a week or so, and it was great to catch up with the cousins again after so long.
We spent a week in Kaikoura - camping on a virtually empty beach, walking in the day and burning driftwood by night. The top of mount Fyffe, and the ridge approaching it were so windy we thought we might just float away if we stood up straight. On Penny's birthday we went fishing off a small wharf and I caught a barracouta, or barracuda, or a WOLF WITH FINS, I don't know. It was bigger than my leg, and thankfully, got away just before I got it on the wharf. I have no idea what I would have done with it. Much less stressful seafood was had at the local crayfish hut, Nin's Bin, which does the best seafood in the world, in the best location.
We found work in Waipara, north of Christchurch in an unbelievably scenic vineyard, and stayed at the coolest little campsite - Waipara Sleepers, which is full of old railway carriages converted to cabins. There was a family of cats living under the TV carriage, and Penny spent almost all her time covered in kittens.
I suppose we were pretty lucky to be out of Christchurch for the quake - we had been in the city centre only 2 days earlier, celebrating my birthday. As it was, we certainly felt the shake in the vineyard, rocking the smoko cabin from side to side as we giggled like we were on a fairground ride. We felt pretty bad about that when we found out the extent of the damage in Christchurch.
Most recently we spent a week in the mountain village and walker's paradise of Arthur's Pass, and we left about half a pint of blood each still buzzing about inside about a million sandflies. Despite the bloodsuckers, there are some amazing walks in Arthur's pass, and we've tried to capture the views on camera. The second big walk, Mount Aicken was amazing, in that we saw, literally, no-one - from the moment we hit the trail in the morning until we left the trail in the evening. From the magical beech forest of the lower slopes, to the cliffs and scree of the later ascent, to the enourmous jagged ridge of the summits with views in every direction and egg sandwiches, this was a perfect walk.