My last post ended with the finish of our vacation. That was about one month ago, and since then our boys have started school, our Dunedin summer finally arrived (mid-January), and now we are noticing leaves beginning to fall from the trees. That can’t mean Autumn is near, I hope. We are beginning to get into a routine, though, with school and work, and I thought it would be nice to give you a taste of that routine.
The boys don’t have to think very hard about what to wear to school. They smiled for the camera, but for the record they are not fans of wearing uniforms. They have lots of company, from what they tell me no one at school likes to wear uniforms. On some days, it’s a ‘mufty’ day, and they can wear regular clothes…but those days are few and far between. Each morning, the boys walk down the hill from our house and catch the bus to school (their first experiences taking a bus to and from school). Both boys have signed up for sports; Ryan is playing futsol (like soccer) and track; Matt is playing volleyball and softball. The teachers are exceptionally nice, the boys tell me, and school, overall is much less rigorous than it is in the US. There is much, much less homework. The high school begins at level 9 and goes to level 13. Matt is in the first year of high school, in level 9, and Ryan tested the waters of level 11, but didn’t feels all that stimulated by his courses, and this week moved up to level 12. He’s taking physics, chemistry, biology, history, math and English, and I don’t think we’ll hear much more about how the courses here are so easy…..
On the weekends where I’m on call, we stay mostly local, but on the weekends when I’m off work, we travel. On one of our first free weekends we went South to the Catlins National park and did some great hikes (shorts one) with great waterfall views.
The boys enjoyed the forests, and we spotted several brown trout in the river below (but alas, hadn’t brought our fly rods).
These are two different falls (McCellen and Purakanui) we enjoyed that day. That day we also stopped for lunch at an eclectic little restaurant (run by an ex-pat Californian), called the Whistling Frog Cafe.
Later on that day we went to Curio Bay, which is just a a few km from the Southernmost point of the South Island. It is a beautiful bay, famous for it’s soft breaks for surfing and its resident pod of Hector’s dolphins. We enjoyed both of those; Matt and I body surfed, which was awesome, and as you can see, some of the dolphins even caught the same waves as Matt.
It was truly one of the great experiences of a lifetime. As the sun began to set, we moved just across the bay to where the rare Yellow Eyed Penguins return to their nests at dusk.
We watched about 5 or six of the penguins come in from the open ocean, and then meander their way to the nests another 100 yards up from the shore. Apparently they often have to cool off for up to an hour in the cool air after leaving the water, since they work so hard while out in the ocean to catch fish for their little ones at the nest. I have gone swimming many times in the oceans around the Southland; never once have I felt the need to ‘cool off’ after getting our of the water.
Curio Bay is about a three hour drive from our house, and after the sun set, and we headed home. We drove for almost two straight hours before we saw another car. That’s an example how, even in the peak of summer, there just aren’t many people here.
Last weekend was another of the ‘free’ weekends, so we decided to see Doubtful Sound. There are two ‘Sounds’ that tourists visit, Milford and Doubtful, with Milford being the much more popular one (you can drive to it, whereas the trek to Doubtful is much more difficult). We had arranged to spend the night on a 62 foot boat, ‘The Southern Secret’, with 8 other people. After I finished work on Friday, we drove out to Te Anau, about a 3 hour drive West. From there, the next morning, we took a boat across the lake (a 45 minute ride across a very big lake), to a waiting van, and then took another 45 minute ride in the van over a small mountain into the end of Doubtful Sound, called Deep Cove. There, we boarded the Southern Secret about noon, and began our tour of the massive Doubtful Sound (so called, because when Captain Cook visited it, he was doubtful he could sail out of it, because it was so large and he didn’t think there would be enough wind). The beauty we of the Sound is difficult to describe and equally challenging to capture with pictures.
Our first day on the sound was met with mist, fog, and rain. It was spooky.
We stopped at several places during our journey out to where the Sound begins (the Pacific) and really enjoyed the kayaking, evening though it was raining. This is, after all, one of the wettest places in Nz, but the rain added to the majesty, since there were hundreds of waterfalls along the cliffs, which we fueled by the rainfall. It was stunning.
Later that day, we all got to fish, and that was a blast! We caught all sort of fish, and I even caught a 4 1/2 foot grey shark. We ate many of the fish later that night (sashimi)…and speaking of the food, get a load of our lunch, the day we arrived on the boat…
They called them creys here, but it’s lobster to us…all you can eat!
Yes, even Debra went fishing and even Debra caught fish. And, did you see her smiling while fishing in the rain? Nothing short of amazing- she’s the full Kiwi now. Just last night she said he felt to urge to go shear some sheep.
It was an amazing trip, and we were very, very sad to leave the boat. We would go there again in a heartbeat.
Last week, during the middle of the week, the sea vessel, ‘Steve Irwin’ came into Dunedin for repairs, so Deb and the boys checked it out…
They were pretty stoked.
Ok, I guess this doesn’t make it seem like normal everyday life is much different than our vacation….but it is. The boys do have homework (I have seen them do it); they do dress up in their uniforms each morning, and the hospital does beckon each morning as well. Still, at the end of the day, we have our beautiful house, beautiful sunsets, a kayak, and the outdoor fireplace. And we finally found real marshmallows! So, just a couple of nights ago, we stayed up late (too late) and roasted marshmallows (too many marshmallows), but it was all worth it.
And that’s what our life has been like, for the last month…