Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Spaceship Enterprise. Her three-week mission: to explore strange New Zealand, to seek out new wine and new wildernesses, to boldly go where no Hill-Stach has gone before.
Sorry, I couldn't help myself! I've been enjoying our little road trip in our Spaceship so much. I've never really done a road trip that has lasted more than a day or two, but both our camper van, and New Zealand's fancy-pants campgrounds have made it a wonderful and fun experience for Sarah and I.
And, driving on the left side of the road really isn't too tricky. The trickiest thing is actually the fact that the turn-indicator and windshield wiper control are also flip-flopped. So, I'm constantly turning on the wipers when I want to make a right hand turn.
But, since I started this entry with a Star Trek quote, I think I should probably also address something equally fanboyish:
New Zealand and the Lord of the Rings: Even though I enjoyed the three Lord of the Ring films, I was actually planning on ignoring their connection to New Zealand in the same way that I was planning on ignoring Bungee Jumping and Zorbing. But, now that I'm here, the Lord of the Rings connection is impossible to miss.
To give some context, New Zealand has roughly the same population and area of Colorado (for the Washingtonians, its slightly larger and has about 2 million less people than Washington state). Now, imagine if possibly the biggest film production in the history of motion pictures moved into Colorado and basically used it's scenery and citizens for about five years. So, yeah, Lord of the Rings casts a huge shadow over New Zealand. Something that we're reminded of whenever we see a map that lists a Lord of the Rings site as a point of interest, or whenever we make dinner in a kitchen under a poster advertising a "Lord of the Rings tour."
Plus, New Zealand just looks like Middle Earth. Or, rather, Middle Earth looks like New Zealand. Often, while driving along, I'll look out the window of the Enterprise and think: "That sort of looks like something from the Two Towers... well, maybe it was."
In no other place so far was this more apparent than during our hike on the Tongariro Crossing. Tongariro National Park, with its three volcanoes and lava blasted terrain was used as the principle location for Mt. Doom and Mordor in the three movies. And, while Sarah and I made our way along the windy, desolate and cloud choked 17km (roughly 10 mile) hike, we often felt like two hobbits (maybe I was actually Gollum) making our way to dump the One Ring into Mt. Doom.
But, it was also some of the most amazing, volcanic landscape I've ever seen, with stunning blue lakes emerging from nowhere, sulfuric vents belching steam into the air, and vast vistas appearing occasionally from the fog.
"It's the little differences..." - What Vincent Vega noted about Europe in Pulp Fiction also definitely holds true when traveling through New Zealand. And, Sarah and I have been learning a number of the locale differences in vocabulary.
Some of the differences we've noticed as a result of doing so much driving and camping. For example, the "hood" of a car is called its "bonnet." And a kitchen "counter" is a "bench."
And, other words we've discovered while grocery shopping. For example, "raisins" are "sultanas." And, "bell peppers" are "capsicums." And, possibly most amusing to me, sliced "roast beef" is called "silver stone."
Cooking - As you can guess from the observations above, Sarah and I have been doing a lot of grocery shopping and cooking in New Zealand. Or, rather, Sarah's been doing a lot of cooking. My duties generally fall more into the bus boy and dishwasher category. Or, maybe, wine-opener.
But, with Sarah as head chef of the Enterprise, we've been eating as well (if not better) than we ate while traveling through South America. Our dinners have consisted of everything from lamb burgers to steaks with udon-noodle pasta salads on the side.
Yes, a rough life, I know.
And, I figured I'd end this entry with one more picture of us engaging in some X-Treme Sports™ in New Zealand.