It’s a good thing that down jackets pack light and tight because both Paul and I brought ours in our carry-on bags. When we landed in Auckland to find ourselves standing at an empty baggage carousel void of any of the four suitcases that we’d checked in Denver, we were very grateful that we at least had those jackets for some warmth, plus our rain jackets and good, warm shoes. It was nice to breeze through customs and board the flight to Queenstown with only carry-on bags, but at the same time we were both quietly running through the inventory in those bags to see what we had to get by with, for, well for we didn’t know how long. The customer service guy said he was able to pull up our bags in the computer with the claim tickets we’d given him, but he could not tell us when to expect them. He did say, “aw, they will probably arrive tomorrow.” Probably and actually are sometimes so distant in meaning.
The flight into Queenstown was breathtakingly beautiful, very similar to the video clip I shared in the last post. Snow-capped peaks stretched far onto the horizon, and we got a fantastic aerial view of Fox and Franz Josef glaciers along the west side of the country. As we descended the peaks disappeared into the clouds for a few moments only to reappear as the backdrop to a gorgeous lake. Stunning.
Arriving on the shortest day of the year is one thing. Getting to experience record low temperatures the first night was an added adventure. The temperature dipped to -8 degrees Celsius which is comparable to 17 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Peter, one of our wonderful kiwi friends, the entire South Island froze except for two coastal areas, and it was the coldest temperature recorded here since 1903. The Gardiner’s have welcomed us into their lovely accommodations, and we were extremely grateful to snuggle under a cozy electric blanket to snooze away the frigid night. The following night was not quite as cold and our little cottage warmed a bit better. Paul quickly adjusted to his 3am – 11am work schedule and I quickly adjusted to getting up whenever I feel like it. Our first two days were sunny and beautiful though a bit chilly. Both of us were really glad we could get out and explore a bit around lake TeAnau in the brisk air. Again, thankful we at least had our down jackets. It is very quiet here. Not only is it a small town but it’s a small tourist town in the off-season so only a handful of the businesses are open and besides the locals there is only the occasional car heading up the Milford highway. We joined Peter and Lucy (his puppy) on their walk on our first day, ventured down to the lake shore on the edge of town the second day and then the third day made our way down to the shore from our cottage. Lake TeAnau is enormous, one of the largest in the country–apparently second only to Lake Taupo on the North Island.
On our fourth day the Gardiner’s were taking us to a mid-winter Christmas dinner in town to one of the local restaurants, The Olive Tree. Typically closed for dinner, they opened for a few nights for this special occasion. On our past visits this has been a favorite for dinner and a delicious NZ dessert, pavlova. We had to borrow clothes for the evening since we hadn’t received our luggage yet, again, thanks to our friends. The dinner was lovely, as to be expected. Plus, we had the pleasure of meeting another lovely kiwi couple.
For three days we called to check on the status of the four suitcases that we’d packed so long ago we weren’t even sure of all their contents anymore. Travel for us had gone so smoothly the entire way to New Zealand we could not imagine where and how our luggage had gotten hung up. To top it off, the traffic control radar went down the following day, grounding flights in and out of NZ . Just before we left for dinner in our borrowed clothes, our suitcases arrived. To our relief all four of them were accounted for. We didn’t have time before dinner to assure the contents arrived in tact, but once we got back to our cottage we were able to sort through them elated to have choices for attire the following day and relieved to find everything arrived safely.
As far as we can see on the extended forecast it shows rain clouds here in TeAnau, and for the last couple of days that has held true. However, there have been breaks in the clouds and the sun illuminates some utterly brilliant rainbows. One may tire of the chilly wind and rain but not the scenery here.
The next step to get ourselves “sorted,” as the kiwi’s would say, is to get a vehicle. On our first drive into town with Peter he took us by the unofficial used car lot–a handful of “for sale by owner” cars parked along the highway. There was a Toyota Camry that caught our eye. We met the owner and took it for a drive and tomorrow it will be ours provided we can get the banking and insurance pieces sorted. Once we have the keys, they will open the doors to more freedom.