We had a couple of days before Michelle and Brian showed up so we took the TSS Ernslaw (a ferry) across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak farm. Walter Peak is a 6,000 ft peak that is fairly pretty and back around 1900, a dude with a german sounding name started a farm here for sheep raising. At its height, it had something like 40,000 sheep. Now it’s a tourist destination, where you can watch sheep-dog demonstrations, traditional sheep sheering with those old-fashioned scissors instead of electric shears, and they feed you a nice meal and provide you with a place to wash the lanolin off your hands if you touched the fleece.
On this trip, we decided to go full-family super-hero shirts. Everybody got a half dozen matching shirts and each day, we’d decide which to be. Most days, people happily high-fived us or called out, “Superman!” or “Batman!” but poor Green Lantern got no love. When people saw all of us in Green Lantern shirts, they said things like, “Green team?”, or “are you from Ireland?” Poor Alan Scott (or Hal Jordan, if you prefer). We wore our Green Team shirts on the day we went white-water rafting. Surprisingly, the drive there from Queenstown was probably more scary than the rafting experience itself. We took some pretty narrow roads that hung over rather large drop-offs that were nevertheless, quite beautiful.
As we drove north toward Christchurch, we came around a bend and beheld an ocean that we just had to stop at. We went to New Zealand for Christmas, which makes it summer in the southern hemisphere so we expected the water to be pretty warm. What we didn’t do was the math on exactly how far south New Zealand is. It’s something like 3,200 miles south of the equator, making it about as far south as Prince Edward Island is north, so the water was plenty chill. Still, the kids had a good time and as I write this, three years later, I am smiling fondly at the fact that Reid was still young enough to not feel too embarrassed to shuck his pants when they got too wet and play around in his skivvies. Porter, at the ripe old age of nine, was apparently too mature for that.
One thing we have noticed as we’ve traveled is that a playpark is often the highlight of the trip for the kids.
As we drove around, it wasn’t uncommon to say, “Whoa! look at that!” and stop to check it out. We found ourselves frequently pausing for a hike or a view that may or may not have had an actual trail.
Hobbitses! While we were visiting, the final installment of the Hobbit came out in theatres and since much of it was filmed in New Zealand, it felt like we really needed to go. Plus, we found a nice Hobbit House hotel to stay in, and we visited the set of Hobbiton from both the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies. We were basically the best parents ever: We watched a Hobbit movie, we slept in a Hobbit house, and we went to a Hobbit village. It doesn’t get much more fantastic than that. It was actually a very enjoyable town. They had several games set up from Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday party, a really great green space with an amazing tree, and it was all quite beautiful. There was even the inn from Bree where you could get a drink and do a bit of dress-up. Apparently, the village was made as cheaply as possible for the Lord of the Rings movies, but so many tourists wanted to see it that they made it more solidly for the Hobbit movies in order to have something to show off.