Travelling the West Coast to Queenstown and enduring the ever present sand flies (little black flies whose bite packs a punch — one sign calls the little buggers the “Dracula of the Rainforest”. We both have red spots that show how true this is. Last night’s pre-bed ritual was whacking all the bugs in our room with Jan’s cross word puzzle magazine. They can do serious damage in the dark.), we also experienced waterfalls, bridges, and more New Zealander colloquialisms.
Why are people drawn to falling water? Maybe, like me, you imagine yourself a tiny water droplet plunging downwards to join your buddies in the plunge pool. Falling, falling, falling. Crash! Since New Zealand has lots of rain and lots of mountains, mostly, waterfalls are common and interesting, and often spectacular.
All this runoff water must go somewhere, and the sparsely populated West Coast of the South Island has tons of one-lane bridges. The right of way on successive bridges shifts from one direction to another in some mysterious fashion, so you have to be prepared to come to a screeching halt to allow a vehicle coming towards you to cross first. The longest one-lane bridge we crossed was about 0.5 mile long. This bridge has passing bays mid-bridge so you don’t have to back up 0.25 mile if you miscalculate. The other kind of bridge common in Kiwi land are suspension bridges intended for foot (people) traffic. These are suspended from thick, sagging cables, and are great because they wobble and sway. Most say “five people maximum” and we are reluctant to test the limit. The good ones have see-through gratings underfoot that give you an over-the-gorge experience.
Kiwis say some things differently than we do. Roads are sealed (paved) and rivers may have stop banks (levees). Landslides are slips, or maybe landslips, and we see road signs saying “SLUMP”. This does not refer to posture. Two separate signs north of Wellington were advertising” sheep poo” and “horse poo”. Honest. Sheep go from lamb to hogget to mutton depending on their age. And New Zealand has millions of the hated possum, which eat lots of vegetation and kill birds if they can. This is different than the North American possum, which is really an opossum, I think. The “o” is important. The possum has real fur, a bit like a muskrat, and they make it into expensive clothing that you can wear and feel good about it. Sort of like doing your part for the environment.
We are currently in Queenstown for three days, and then two days in Te Anau, both located on the southern part of the South Island.
P.S. from Jan: Note the new header, a pic taken today as we crossed the Haast River. Also if you’re wondering what’s odd about the door in the composite pic above — the knob is in the middle : ) … and if you’re wondering what in the world that odd sculpture is all about: yesterday, we enjoyed a stroll down the Hokitika beach and discovered a host of driftwood and sand sculptures leftover from a recent beach art competition – fascinating, strange and beautiful.