Aloha from New Zealand's South Island! I am currently in Picton at the internet cafe attatched to a hostel we aren't staying at. Hopefully the internet lasts long enough for me to hammer a blog out before it crashes on me (again).
We've been having a great trip. Aukland was awesome and there was some great cuty hiking to be done, which got did. Some shopping, siteseeing, and other touristy stuff also got did. Very much the fun.
About five days ago we picked up our caravan, who I have named Captain Slow. The Captian is an excellent vehicle and a welcome addition to our adventure. Adventure sometimes equals learning to drive on the wrong side of the road, from the wrong side of the car, shifting and using turn singals with the wrong hands, and doing all this for the first time in the middle of a major city. But we aren't dead! I think I'm doing rather well, actually. Except for occasionally using the wipers to signal a turn or *splash splash*ing the windshield to let the person in front of me know they have space to come over. (Note: If you do this, your wofe who you love will laugh at you about it for the rest of the trip. "Haha, splash splash.")
Camping has been fun and with the expetion of last night we haven't had any trouble finding a campervan site. So far all of our camping, again expect last night, has been in camping parks. We expect to do some free camping down on South Island, where it might be a little more open and feasible.
We tried to Sype home on Christmas (yours, not ours). McDonalds, "Bringing America's Obesity to the World," has free Wifi, which we learned from a nice Dutch couple we camped next to for a night. "Go for the internet, not the food," he told us. Well, for whatever reason McD's wifi and Angela's Skype on her phone doesn't work together. So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all back in the states and pretend that you're talking to us on the phone saying that.
New Zealand is beautiful, as everyone knows from Lord of the Rings. That, by the way, seems to be the biggest movie in the world here. LotR stuff is everywhere. But no hobbitts yet. We will find them, those filthy nasty Hobbittses, yes we will. Thinking about hiking around Mount Doom when we get back to North Island.
We've done two museum, getting our culture on. We've taken over 600 pictures, which we are going to painstakingly go through with each and every one of you untl you feel like you were right here with us the whole trip.
Kiwis are almost clichely friendly. The worst service we've had in a restaraunt so far has been because our server was an American import from...wait for it....Texas! Ohhh, thank you for playing. But smiles, help, and wonderful accents from everyone else. I love listening to these people talk!
On our city hike through Aukland we passed the Aukland Grammer School, a massive all boys public high school. We wandered through just to get a look at it (and because when teachers visit other countries they have to see what schools look like) and accidently met up with the deputy headmaster (vice principal). The school is on Christmas holiday, like ours, but he was so proud of it he stopped what he was doing and gave us a full on tour. Amazing. My mind is blown both by the school and by Dep. Headmaster John hooking us up like that.
I'm suffering from an acute case of bike envy and bike sad and bike jealous. New Zealand's Ministry of Transportation does not believe in roads that cut through the landscape, opting instead to flow over and with the countryside. This means everything takes longer to get through but you don't care because the road is bendy and beautiful the whole time.
Angela has sampled some of the local wines (yes dad, we are keeping notes and there will be a full report) and says they are all very good. We've been going out of our way to be sure to buy almost exclusively New Zealand-grown and made food, and so far all of it is excellent. Such good stuff.
We visited Sheepworld (of course), Devonport, Rotorua, and a bunch more places too numerous to name. We pass sheep constanly grazing on the side of the road, and open field cattle too (Matt, we moo at them and think of you). I've been journaling and have pages and pages and pages filled.
Ok, I'm going to wrap this up. Merry Christmas, Happy Boxing Day, and Happy New Years to all. Think in metric for us. We aren't dead! Yay!