Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Doubtful Sound to Queenstown

Rainy, cold but pretty

Rain = waterfalls.   No rain = no waterfalls.     It's that easy.

The three stabilizer sails were on hydraulic roller furlers....just push a button and they rolled up.

Suzi getting ready to get into her harness for her tandem paraglide trip.

It couldn't have been a more beautiful day to soar with the birds !!!

A shot off the top of the gondola down to Queenstown.

This is part of the luge track that we ran twice, way too much fun for only once down.

We did have a great trip to Doubtful Sound, thoroughly enjoying the crew and the people we met, even though the weather sucked. The food was fabulous, our foursome bunkroom turned out to be just for us, and we did have a delightful afternoon kayaking along the pristine shore of the sound. The drizzling rain brought many waterfalls, and a bit of magical mystery to our tour, but the warm sunshine would have shown us the incredible rich colors I know do exist. As we came back to Manapouri, a huge rainbow appeared over the lake, and the sunshine and clear blue skies welcomed us back. 

We gave two young friends we had met on the cruise, Ben and Brittany, a ride back to their home in Queentown, along with another wonderful girl from the US, Hannah, who was heading that way as well. Pretty fun giving rides when we can. We found another Top 10 Holiday Park to call home for these last two nights and definitely got our fill of fun time in Queenstown, the Disneyland city of New Zealand.  We spent the whole time today spending money and enjoying crazy extreme rides. The weather has been spectacular, and the energy here is high. I hiked this morning up the mountain in town, while David took the gondola up and then we rode our very first luges; what fun they are! Next, we walked into town, got a bite to eat and took a very loud jet boat from the town dock, along the shore of the lake, and up the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers, skimming in 6 inches of water and doing 360's quite often. We giggled a lot and definitely this was way beyond anything peaceful we had ever done. We ended the day with a trip up to Coronet Peak and both did a parasail. What an exhilirating chance to fly across magnificent countryside with Queenstown in the far distance. PHEW!  

We are back in our cozy ktichen/lounge near our parked van and just had a lovely visit with Hannah, wishing her well on her extended journey before she heads back home to Wisconsin. We are not sure which direction we will go tomorrow. We have been invited by a dairy farmer to come stay for a few days north of Dunedin and do some cow-punching on a nearby ranch, but we need to check on that possibility tomorrow. Our other option is to head up to Wanaka and over to the West Coast for a bit, but the weather is turning cold again tomorrow, and we are not sure we are ready for more cold weather. We are quite the wooses lately.  Yes, New Zealand is expensive, but it certainly is beautiful and thank goodness we are camping most of the time, making our own meals, and adventuring mostly on our own. We will be happy to be away from this tourist town, but we did have a wonderful time making the most of it today.  We are certainly lucky to be here.  Love to all,  Suzi and David

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Sobos on Cruising, Castles & Exotic Creatures

I know, wrong color and no tree but I still thought of Ferdinand...

This is a molting Yellow Eyed Penguin, the rarest penguin in the world.

Over-looking Nugget Point in the southern part of the south island .

We are in the town of Gore, on our way to Te Anau, close to where we pick up the ride to Doubtful Sound. Believe it or not, we are sitting in the parking lot of MacDonald's using their free WiFi. David just broke down to order a burger and we shall see how that goes. We are trying to chase the sun and hope to find more of it in TeAnau as the weather is supposed to be good for the next three days up in the Fiordland region. Today it is raining up there. David has been really having fun with his new lens. It is really pretty countryside we passby and we are having fun.

The trip through the Catlins area of the South Island was very fun, and we were so fortunate to have wonderful weather these last two days. We first landed in the little town of Kaka, found a lovely campground with warm showers and kitchen facilities, fixed an early dinner and headed out to Nugget Point to watch the Yellow-Eyed Penguins come in from a day of fishing. The viewing station is quite far away, so the pictures from that day don't really show these amazing birds very well.

Looking pretty ragged with all this "molting" going on.
Yesterday, though, after venturing off the road to the beautiful Purakaunui Waterfalls, we made our way to Curio Bay, settled into a a comfortable, rustic campsite, hiked the bluff separating Porpoise and Curio Bay, and then walked to the stairs onto the rock beach to find more of the rarest, endangered Yellow-eyed Penguins. They are moulting now, and many of them just come out from nests along the shore to stretch and drink, but some still manage to go out daily and hunt, returning at dusk. We were lucky to see both and David got some great shots. The photos give you just a taste of our continuing adventures. We woke up to rain early this morning and hit the road. Onward to the Fiordland National Park and TeAnau and it is from there we will leave for our overnight excursion onto Doubtful Sound. We hope for sunshine and shimmering waters!  Wish us luck!  Love to all,  Suzi 

This Yellow Eyed penguin isn't molting yet and looks so much happier.
Fruit stand where you took your produce and left the money in a jar. Try that one in the States !!

Our campsite near Roxburg, one of the prettiest ones.

These were race horses and the owner would run them 20 times around the track every morning.
He would tie them to his truck and take off, seemed to work OK for him.

These guys were "cleaning up" the sheep, shearing only around their tail ends.

They did this about twice a year.

These two guys were the owners and they invited us off the road to get closer for a better look.
Just like all New Zealanders, they couldn't of been more friendly.

Larnach Castle

Suzi said to give all single women a heads up on the fact that this guy, Ron, is cool and available. Just sayin'.

A albatross in flight off the Otago Penninsula.

The albatross is one of the worlds best gliders, the cruise effortlessly.

This place was as pretty inside as out. And great views to boot !!!

OOOps!  I forgot to tell you a little about the Otago Penninsula. It seems so long ago! It is Saturday, Mar 26 and that was way back last Wed!  We did have a wonderful day with our Canadian friend, Ron, who reminded us both of your bro Jon in so many ways. We both drove our Escapee Vans through unreal sheep countryside to what is known as The Larnach Castle, built in 1871. It was quite enjoyable reading the history of this Victorian style villa, and it was still fun wandering the premises taking too many pictures. After having warm cups of tea and coffee, we drove out the very end to the Royal Albatross Center just as the sun poked out for the afternoon. We did catch a view of some albatross with their magnificant wing spans and enjoyed the fresh air. We said our good-byes to Ron and headed for the Portebello Holiday Park, walked into town for a wonderful dinner at the 1908 Cafe, and left the next morning for the Catlins Conservation Reserve.  -S.

David's Treatise on Driving

It has taken me a while but I'm now feeling comfortable driving on the other side of the car and going down the "wrong" side of the road. It took awhile, but as I said, it now feels almost normal. I still turn on the windshield wipers every time I use the turn indicator as they are located on the other side of the steering wheel than what us "Yanks" are use to and the "round abouts" now seem like the great ideas they are. We should use them back in the states; they keep traffic flowing quite smoothly without the need of stop signs or worse yet stop lights. Of course you do have to be ready to jump when there is a small (and I do mean small ) gap in the traffic, and I still have to really concentrate as to where my destination is and what lane I need to be in, but thankfully there isn't that much traffic here for the most part and only in the large cities do things really get hairy. 

Another thing that takes a bit of getting used to is the one lane bridges. I guess the New Zealand Dept. of Public Works thought it would save some money if they only built the bridges wide enough for one lane. So as you approach a bridge, you have to make sure there isn't someone already on it coming toward you or that there isn't someone approaching form the other side who has the right a way. That's right, one direction of traffic (and I haven't been able to find out which way or why) has the right of way. So as you drive up to a bridge, you check to see if the stop line in the road is on your side or not before you start across. It all sounds confusing, and at first it was, but like I said I'm getting the hang of it and keep your fingers crossed for us that when panic time comes, I will react correctly. That will be the true test, and I hope I miss that day of school !!!  See ya ( I hope !!)  David

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

In Dunedin

We are in Dunedin right now with 5 min. left on the internet so this is just a short note.  We are in the rain this morning, hoping it will clear this afternoon as we travel out to the Otago Penninsula to see architecture, penguins, albatross, and beautiful beaches. We have met a great guy, Ron, from Canada, and had a wonderful dinner in the city last night after checking out the old train station there.  Enjoying time in New Zealand. We may not have internet connection after today for awhile......maybe not until we get to Queenstown, so be patient. We head to the Catlins in the south and then to Doubtful Sound for a boat trip. We will keep in contact as soon as we can.  Love you mucho. Sunshine to you.  Suzi and David

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Check Out that Van: Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test?

We had a magical, incredibly beautiful day at the Mt. Cook National Park, with warm sunshine and blue skies all day long. We took a fabulous 3-4 hr. hike up to Hooker Lake and basked in the phenomenal view of Mt. Cook. The fall colors are exquisite, and I think we are so lucky to have had that stellar day. We met a great couple from Santa Barbara who gave us more tips and off we went the next morning in the cold cloudy mist. After visiting the Edward [I think she means Edmund] Hillary Center, we had a terrific drive down the valley to warm weather, once again; we are now in gold mining and wine country and have found a lovely little campground on warm, sunny plateau overlooking the Bannockburn Arm of  Lake Dunstan. This is called the Central Otago Countryside, just south of Cromwell, and now we are deciding what to do next. We hope to rent some bikes and get some exercise here in the countryside before we head to the east coast.  We are having a great time and again, the New Zealand people are wonderful. Again,  life is sooo  good! The harvest moon was incredible last night. WOW !  Harvest season starts tomorrow for the vineyards.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Campers

We have been successfully camping in our very cool van for two days now, and are now on our way toward Mt. Cook.  We have stopped in the little town of Geraldine to catch the internet but do not have the time to download pictures yet. We will try to do that after going to the mountains, when we travel back to Dunedin on the east coast one more time, before heading to Millford Sound and Queenstown.  

We went on a short hike yesterday morning before we left, and met two lovely (the Kiwi adjective of the day) people who are from the Christchurch area. They invited us to have coffee in their little motorhome and gave us great tips for where to go on the South Island. We then made our way into Ashburton to provision and spent way too much money for lots of staple foods.  I am sure we will use it all and save in the long run. We ended up camping in the Peel Forest Park Scenic Reserve last night and went on a good hike to a pretty waterfall yesterday afternoon. The weather was cloudy yesterday but today is beautiful and the mountains should be wonderful. 

On our way out this morning, we hiked to see the Big Tree, a totara almost 3 meters across and more than a 1,000 years old. The old grove had large matai and kahikatea trees as well along the track, lots of ferns, and huge birds, called wood pigeons, but much larger than any pigeon we had ever seen.  Our van brings us all kinds of camping memories of past Sierra adventures and a clear music station blasts hits from the past. We are having fun.  Life is good; love to all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Christchurch, NZ

We have made it out of Chistchurch, which by the way is really in bad shape. Lots of roads buckled, buildings with brick faces that have fallen down and they say more than 10,000 homes damaged beyond repair. But when you ask the residents how they are taking it, they come back that they are a lot better off than the poor folks in Japan. That's the New Zealand people from what I've seen so far: always upbeat and quick with a smile. We are parked in a small motor home park right now called Rakaia River Holiday Park getting our act together in regards to our new "Home," finding places for everything and seeing how it all is going to work. I'm sure we will have to re-do it all again at some point when we figure out what we need access to and what can get buried. Our time is running out on this internet ( $2 /20 min.) so have to go. See ya later-  David & Suzi

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

North Island

Today we found our cruising New Zealand friends, Cathy and Werner, and are staying tonight at their house on Lake Okareka in Roturua. It is magically beautiful everywhere with tall fern trees that fill the valleys, green grassy hills, gorgeous houses and farms, and groups of ducks and geese thoroughly enjoying life. Yesterday we spent a lovely afternoon and night at Papamoa Beach on the east coast and walked a few miles to get some exercise. We leave very early tomorrow morning to drive back to Auckland and catch the plane for Christchurch. I will let you know that all is welll after we pick up the van and find our first campground to stay. This country and its people are wonderful.  Love to all, Suzi

Sunday, March 13, 2011

On the Road

We leave town [Aukland] tomorrow in a small car to explore a bit of the east coast of the North Island before flying down to Christchurch on Wednesday, where we will pick up our campervan and begin our South Island adventure.  We are getting a great deal on a van, and I am sure we will do fine. -S.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Our Challenging and Rewarding Trip Home

   Upon reflection, this last trip home, to be with family and friends, was definitely a profound one for me. The special celebration for David's 60th Birthday was just the beginning.  That special gift of friendship gave us great momentum as we travelled north to visit with family in the Bay Area. We thoroughly enjoyed being with the kids again at Jayme and Craig's house, along with David's sister, brother-in-law, nephew and wife, and of course, Jayme and Craig.  After a lovely few days with Lauren,Darrell, and Keli, and celebrating the birthday again with Billy, we drove to the incredible Gabilan Ranch for Thanksgiving and love. It is here that I leave a part of my heart always, and just having the privilege of being with everyone there, celebrating the life of dear Willie, gave me a strong sense of well-being. We left for Portland, Oregon, after a week of intense feeling, and visited with Casey and Liz. It was wonderful staying at his house, exploring the area of Portland, and having the chance to be of some help to Casey who was recovering from a snow-boarding accident. We spent Christmas in our house, getting ready to rent again with success. It was great to be back home again, just for a few weeks, play volleyball, and be with my wonderful friends.
     The last month and a half have humbled me. I was so fortunate to be diagnosed at home, where all the help I could get was available and I was surrounded by friends. With a good healthcare insurance, and great referrals from friends, I was led from one great doctor to another and it all happened so expediently. I was shocked by the news of breast cancer at first, but it was an amazing lesson for me. So many courageous women are affected each day by this, and it is easy to not really understand their plight. I do understand more now.  I was surrounded by so much love; angels came flying from every nook and cranny, and I was so fortunate the mammogram picked up this very tiny, slow growing, cancerous tumor soon enough to be able to have it removed by the latest, least invasive intra-operative radiation surgery technigue. The days of healing included being invited to stay with friends in castles, a bayside condo, and a Top of the World hill-top retreat.  I am over-whelmed by the love I receive from family and friends and that is what I miss most when I am traveling. I am so grateful to all of you who have been there for me, and I hope that I can someday give back to you.  What an amazing life I have been given. I am so lucky to be alive  Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.  Suzi

Why This Blog Has Been Empty

Permit me to give those who are not "in the know" a brief (& probably sardonic) explanation for our (Suzi's, David's and my) prolonged absence. Nov.-Jan. 18 S&D were too busy flitting about having fun visiting their vast collection of friends and family to be concerned with the blog. Five hours before their plane was to depart for Fiji on the 18th, Suzi got a phone call telling her that she had a bad mammogram: flight postponed. In the ensuing week she had tons of tests and consulted with numerous breast cancer doctors, followed by surgery to remove a small malignant tumor and irradiate the surrounding tissue. Tests on the tissue surrounding the tumor came back clear (YAY!), so then she spent the following month healing, getting acupuncture and consulting with lots of experts about what medications she needed to be on. Meds packed in the overweight suitcases, the intrepid travelers departed here on Mar. 6, flew to Fiji for three days where they cleaned the mold out of Sidewinder, then took off for Aukland. They are picking up their van today, then heading for the South Island. The tsunami affected neither the Sobolewskis nor Sidewinder, so as Will Shakespeare so aptly put it, "All's well that ends well." Phew. Normal blog posts should resume sometime in the near future.
-Kris Evans, blogmistress

Back on our way at last !!!!

Hi there everyone!  We have arrived in New Zealand and are getting ready for our new adventure in a beautiful and different land, once again. But before this begins, I must reflect and thank everyone for helping to make our last incredible journey at home, one to never forget nor regret.  Just wanted to let you know we are safe, healthy, thankful, and excited;  life is good.  Love to all.  Suzi