Copland Track

Alarm clocks went off early Friday morning and somehow we were able to stumble out the door.  We met our friendly Kiwi friend Paul and headed for the rainy West Coast of New Zealand.  The drive was beautiful and included a jaunt through snowy, beautiful Arthur’s Pass.  We also passed rain forests and fields full of grazing sheep.  Quite the ecological buffet.

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Snow-capped mountains

After a roughly six hour drive, we finally arrived at Copland Track with reasonably clear skies.  We all counted our blessings and headed for the hut, where we would be staying for the night.  Huts are man-made shacks placed at intervals along well-established tracks.  Most of the major “tracks” or hiking trails are equipped with these lodgings.  Fitting convenience for such an active country.

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Self-incriminating, I know

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Not all those who wander are lost…yet.

The trek was beautiful but was not without wrong turns and tough choices.  At one point, we thought that the first hut had been removed and that we would have to trek 20 km that night to get to the second hut.  We eventually found the first hut while under the threat of enveloping darkness and heavy rain.  We cooked a very basic meal over an open flame and played some cards that night.

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Not exactly encouraging weather

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New Zealand continued–Christchurch

Wednesday June 20th 2012

Today we would finally get to see our little brother Max, who was studying abroad in Christchurch, NZ.  Christchurch is, sadly, most famous for a crippling earthquake endured in June 2011 (just one year before we would make our way down).  Max was not even sure he would be able to complete his study abroad program at one point.  Luckily, he has been fine and has thoroughly enjoyed his time on the South Island.

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You learn something new everyday

One thing that is remarkable about New Zealand is the ease and economy of air travel.  Our flight was close to 70 USD and the airport security wasn’t a tad bit invasive or time-consuming.  The plane was new, stewardesses were friendly.  Definitely reinforces my earlier diatribe on the hassle of US air travel.  The US has numerous challenges that New Zealand does not face but it was still noteworthy how pleasant the experience was.  It also didn’t hurt to have these views of the Southern Alps on the way in.

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Ladies and gentlemen, The Southern Alps

After arriving in Christchurch, we headed over to the Foundry, a student pub on the University of Canterbury’s campus.  We had the unique experience of catching the end of an NBA finals game live.  This immediately brought me back to similar evenings at Mabee Dining Hall, on the campus of Trinity University.  I started to notice the announcers talk about the game and, specifically, their generous use of strong adjectives.   “Pivotal, crucial, important, momentous.”  After spending just a few days in New Zealand, this struck me as pretty comical.  There is so much going on and so much to see in the world while these sporting events are occurring.  That’s not to say that I didn’t get wrapped up in the game at all.  Similar to my earlier post on the recent Houston Rockets playoff game I went to, the idea reinforced was that sports are an entertainment outlet.  Placing more importance or weight on sports than your other entertainment outlets could turn you into a buffoon losing a shouting match with a thirteen year old.

We spent the evening walking around town until we found a seemingly ramshackle Chinese restaurant that was immensely popular with the UC students.  The building was cramped and the accommodations were modest but the atmosphere was inviting.  There were large tables of college students sharing bottles of wine and loudly chattering.  The warmth and happiness of the students was palpable.  This place reminded me of Main Street Pizza in San Antonio, Texas.  Main Street had legendary $3 personal pizzas and the famously corny free “Trini-Tea”, offered for Trinity University students.  I can remember so many nights spent there having loud, inappropriate and carefree conversations with friends.

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Main Street Pizza San Antonio, TX

More Auckland–Gourmet breakfast, Davonport, and Mt. Eden

Because we couldn’t get enough of the neighborhood, Brad and I walked back to Ponsonby for breakfast and coffee.  The weather has picked up considerably and now feels more like spring.  We had a spectacular gourmet meal, eggs benedict with salmon for myself and cream cheese filled pancakes for Brad.

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My favorite neighborhood in Auckland

That afternoon we took a ferry to Davonport, a small, scenic peninsula near Auckland.  The island was filled with unique cafes and shops.  There was a perfect hill to climb and take scenic shots of the bay.  The most relaxing afternoon I’ve had in awhile.

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Contemplating my next meal

After arriving back at the hotel, we decided to take the city bus out to Mt. Eden.  Mt. Eden was a moderate hike up a volcanic mountain that offered surreal views of the city and the massive volcanic crater at the top.  After taking it all in, we took a walk around the surrounding neighborhood.  This neighborhood was once again characterized by lively small businesses, restaurants, and bars.  A nice contrast to the “big box” stores and sprawling parking lots of Texas.  We ate dinner in the area and went back to the hotel (where we crashed at 8 and 830 pm, respectively)…Not sure if we’ll ever fully adjust to the time change.

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Mt. Eden