Thursday, July 23, 2015

Rainbow Moon

I have a hard time keeping my head from tilting back to look at Big Things That Are Far Away, and this weakness has been explored repeatedly in this space. Part of our settling-in period in NZ included recalibrating ourselves to the new and unusual patterns of the sun, moon, and stars, which might sound silly, so hey, maybe it is.

Anyhow, shadows move the wrong way here, and the moon goes C-O-D instead of D-O-C and Orion is still visible although upside down. Or maybe he's just...excited... We've had a few moonrises that have been enhanced by atmospheric conditions that would be highly unusual in Reno, and this has made for good sky-shows for us.

Rainbow gradient magnificence

Overly aesthetic peekaboo

I've not done a good job of being prepared for these things; it seems to involve saying "oh god DAMN" and clattering half a glass of wine down and careening down the sides of the hallway looking for the correct camera gear.

Thanks, moon!


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Wye Creek

A whopping 15-minute drive from the house brings us to a trailhead at Wye Creek, which drains out of the Remarkables, Queenstown's oh-so-recognizable mountain range. I've got plans for a Big Day on foot that involves both the Remarks and Wye Creek, but that'll have to wait for a different season.

Some time ago, Murphy and I go exploring up Wye Creek. It's steep as shit, and for whatever reason, we don't go up above treeline. However, we do make it to a pretty sweet waterfall.


The steep track also features water coming from seemingly every direction, of course creating slippery death potential around every corner, but that's simply to be expected 'round these here parts. Watch your step, kids!

Spot the spring

The hike is sweet and I'm keen to go explore more (and also have the Big Day), but the most interesting story from the excursion comes from when we return to the car. Murphy spots an exhausted honeybee on the car, so exhausted that he can barely move, much less fly. We obviously feel horrible for the little fella, and we find a piece of candy in the car (an Air New Zealand lolly, to be exact), which we mix with water to make some liquid sugar.


We deliver some sweet salvation to the bee, and I also happen to have the macro lens with me, which is always convenient. Once he's feeling a little better, we transfer him down to the ground and continue the sugar feast.


Confident that he's appropriately revived, or at least enough to make it home, we call it good and head home for some sustenance ourselves. Safe travels, little fella!


Monday, July 20, 2015

Daily Slog

The TSS Earnslaw chugs back and forth between Queenstown and Walter Peak a few times a day. She looks so small and the lake looks so big, but it's not that long of a journey.

Her Majesty


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Daily Dose

I've got so much stuff to share with you seven regulars, and as such, I've taken some measures to remove some of the customary obstacles to keeping the lights on here.

When Murphy and I got to NZ last year, our experiences were a mix of old and new. Reconnecting with old friends, meeting new people. Revisiting old haunts, discovering new food/drink/etc. And of course, burdened on a daily basis with shitty views of these same old mountains and this same old lake, albeit seen in a different light. You see, the perspectives we get on our surroundings change greatly with location and seasons, so our views all seemed pretty new.

We spent the first couple of weeks (when we were actually in the house) staring out of our living room like asylum patients, transfixed every time we saw something new and exciting. I think we only occasionally licked the windows.

I recall this as being the first rainbow we saw over the lake.


Of course, it now seems like there's a stupid rainbow over the stupid lake and in front of the stupid mountains every couple of days. Rough.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015


The aforementioned trip to Christchurch to pick up our new whip results in a whopping hour or so of free time to have a wander around.

Murphy hasn't seen the city since the earthquakes, and I'm keen to see the progress that's been made in the roughly two years since I last passed through.

Well, most of that hour is taken up by grabbing a nice coffee, so we're left with a little bit of walking from here to there and back over thataway, and on these little walks, we discover a few of the giraffes.

Yes, the giraffes are a symbol for Christchurch Stands Tall, and there were tons of them scattered around. I suppose you could have made a damn good day out of ticking as many off the list as possible, of course interspersed with rounds of coffee, food, and beer. Sadly, all 99 of the giraffes are no longer installed, but there are still a few kicking around to find!

Reflects rubble

Family portrait

Unfortunately, our day calls for getting on the road for the long drive back to Queenstown, so our exploration of the city is short-lived. Next time...


Monday, July 13, 2015

Pukaki and Aoraki

When we got to New Zealand last year, we rented an awful little car for a couple of weeks to get around, spending our evenings scouring online classifieds for something more permanent.

When we found what we wanted, we made arrangements to drop our rental off in Christchurch after collecting our new whip. This, of course, meant driving to Christchurch to make everything happen, and while the drive is 6 hours, it's absolutely stunning and consequently nothing to complain about.

These are two instantly recognizable views from Lake Pukaki towards Mount Cook (Aoraki).

Her majesty

Rocky Pukaki

I wish I could weave you a story about trekking for days through remote wilderness and coming around a corner to be graced with this view, but really all you have to do is park your car alongside the highway and walk about 10 meters to the shore.

Lake Pukaki features surreal coloring (visible from space), but it's not at its finest on a sunny day. In my ancient memory, I recall seeing a ghostly glow on the underside of the low clouds while still many kilometers away from Pukaki, and of course I don't have a photo of this, so let it suffice to say that it's a special place, whether you get a view of Cook or not.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Durham Sneak Attack

The past year, and this is no secret, has featured a LOT of travel for Murphy and me. A lot of it has been work-related, but we've managed to do some for pleasure, too. Our last excursion before coming to NZ was a very last-minute mission to sell a car, but that's not necessarily noteworthy. Considerably more fun, however, was the second to last excursion, also a last-minute mission, but this time across the US to visit Durham, NC. We were sitting around the house on a Wednesday evening, had a glance at tickets leaving Thursday morning, and they were -just- reasonable enough, so we said "eff it" and booked 'em. Seems like many of the best adventures begin with those words...

The impetus was the march of time taking its inevitable toll on dear friend Riley. The poor chap turned 30, and while neither his birthday nor his celebration were unforeseen, our attendance was a total surprise. I'm a strong believer in the element of surprise every now and then, and Riley's inching closer to the grave was an excellent opportunity to put words into action. So it was with immense satisfaction that we walked into his house, padded upstairs, and greeted him at his desk. Praise Allah he had clothes on and wasn't armed.

He constantly reminds me that meeting me was the worst thing that ever happened to him, and that his life, once promising and vibrant, is now squandered and hopeless, and while I have a hard time disagreeing with him, I do have to counter that the suffering I've induced in his life simultaneously builds character in it.

This is also the finest run-on sentence I've ever penned.

It's not nice to keep picking on Riley, especially given his advanced age and encroaching senility, so instead I'll just share a pile of photos from a dreary afternoon spent wandering around Durham with him, his dog Dexter, and Murphy, while Erin, his future widow, was at work.

Of course, the party was awesome, we got to reconnect with friends old and new, and we whisked ourselves back across the country a day later like it was our job. The trip perhaps served as a necessary break from the NZ prep we'd been doing, and perhaps it put us just far enough behind schedule with that to throw us into a total panic. I could argue that both of those things were necessary!

In all seriousness, Riley is a lovely friend, and there aren't that many people who could entice both Murphy and me across a country for a party. Chapeau, dude.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Iceland: Departure

Our final stop on the way to the airport is to wash the accumulated filth of Iceland's back roads off of our rental car.  I imagine we get some strange looks as our brown car turns black in such close proximity to Rental Car Return, but you do what you gotta do, right?

In just shy of two weeks in this jewel of a country (yes, Standard American Vacation style), we've met incredible people, seen unbelievable landscapes, run a jaw-dropping race, consumed fantastic food and drink, endured biblical weather, and generally just had a rad time.

As such, we're pretty gutted to be leaving. About all I can leave you with is a few customary photos of air travel, which continues to fascinate me:

Fair Hekla

Fair Murphy

Fair Greenland


We remain deeply in Joe's debt for his enthusiasm to show us his new stomping grounds and to introduce us to such fantastic people. I hope any of you travel bugs who haven't yet seen Iceland take ANY opportunity you have to spend some time there!

Final humorous note: during our layover in Denver on the way back to Reno, it becomes fully dark outside for the first time we've seen in 12 days. My brain detects this and instantly plunges my body into a deep deep sleep. When it's time it's time!


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Iceland: Blue Lagoon Sidestep

One of the Icelandic tourists' rites of passage is a visit to the Blue Lagoon. Murphy and I tend to avoid "must-do attractions," largely because I'm becoming more and more anti-crowd as I careen towards old age.

ANYhow, on our way to the airport, we convince Joe that we'd rather see the place from a different perspective, and he's always down for a hike, so we're in easy agreement.

We park at the base of a nearby hill and immediately dive into a little forest, where we're instantly lost in our own little world.


Hearty growth

As we climb out of the forest, we're back in familiar Icelandic terrain of rock, moss, and ground-level vegetation.

More hearty growth

We climb steeply, and we're soon granted with views in every direction of our endless and desolate-yet-rich surroundings.

Secret lair

Desolate ribbon

Finally, we're at the top of the hill, and we gaze down upon the mighty Lagoon.

Blue Lagoon left, geothermal plant right

Yep, the Blue Lagoon is the wastewater holding pond for the geothermal plant next door, but I do admit that they've done an awfully good job of making it seem special and worth ~$35 or whatever.

We make a quick stop at the facility on our way from our hike to the airport and wander around the outside for a few minutes, and while it's cool, we're glad that we didn't make a day out of it.

It's with heavy heart that we set our sights for the airport and away from this stunning little country :(


Past Detritus