One day, while we were driving, we came up over a ridge and saw the most amazing blue lake we’ve ever seen. The blue is hard to describe, but we had to stop because we just couldn’t believe it was real. The pictures don’t do it justice, and I have no idea which lake it was, but if you get the chance, go drive around New Zealand until you find an unparalleled blue. Betsy and I were also in a fight at this point, but I don’t remember what for. If you want to know, you’ll have to ask her.
Christmas breakfast was a complete bust. We tried to make pancakes with some funny ingredients, and fry them on an oven baking sheet. Gifts were small trinkets and some candy, and we had fun, even without all the toys. I’m not 100% sure, but I bet we did some gifting before we left or saved some for when we got home. it just doesn’t seem like us to not have stockings.
Our friends, the Johnsons, told us about an unexpected highlight from their trip to New Zealand, the International Antarctic Center. This center (spelled centre by the natives) is home to the offices of a number of countries’ antarctic exploration teams. They prep and depart for Antarctica from here, and so they built up a bit of a visitors’ center to help us get excited about Antarctica. When Jason Perry heard we were going to stop there, he made me commit to reading Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, a book about Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to reach the South Pole. It was a fun read, all about how they survived when their boat got first trapped, then crushed by the ice as they approached Antarctica. They didn’t reach the South Pole, but Shackleton managed some amazing feats of celestial navigation, and kept his people alive and reasonably unharmed despite taking something like 11 months to get them off Antarctica.
The Antarctic Center has some really fun activities for kids, plenty of old gear they can dress up in, a room that they cool to -40 F, and some cool sciency things that help you understand things like antarctic night and how penguins live. They had a whole penguin exhibit and a 4-D movie. The best part, however, was the Haaglund Snow Cat. It’s the vehicle that explorers use nowadays instead of sled dogs to explore Antarctica. It’s got the ability to climb super steep angles, can cross chasms of ridiculous width, can turn into a boat if it goes in water, and they let you ride it like a roller coaster.