If you would have told me…..

…. just a short 5 months ago that I would be arriving in countries with not even a bloody idea as to what our plans were as soon as we walked off that plane, well– I would have called you "mad.

Not this "Jode-full-prepared-always-completely-organized-gal". No way. Now how.
But somehow along the way something gave way to reveal someone that now chooses to let life take the reign. Oh sure- don’t let me fool you into thinking I don’t still like to be in control of the ropes every now and then…. thats there to stay. (how else am I able to irritate Ray Ray each and everyday!?)

But when we took off from Brisbane, Australia towards New Zealand on Tuesday there was a definite excitement to our step as the "unknown" was spread out before us. We had not a smidgen of clue as to what we were doing when we landed in Auckland.

I should have been horrified, but somehow, I didn’t want it any other way.
We had been crossing our fingers that a car rellocation deal would work out to get us down to the S. Island for a mere $1 a day and cost of the $220.00 ferry ride. But before we left Australia we found out it wasn’t in the cards for the way down to the S. Island, but that we could swing it on the way back if everything clicked date-wise. So we decided to pull a "Greek Island trick." When we landed in Auckland we went straight to the ticket counters and geared up to get out… and fast. It was 3pm and we still had some room to work with for one way flights that night towards the S. Island. We figured why rent a car for a couple hundered+petrol ($1.70 a liter here) just to come back all this way again when we could fly to the S. Island for cheaper.

Well folks, if everything could only be this simple…. $190 American $’s and 1 hour later we were sitting on a Quantas flight to Christ Church sipping free wine looking as smug as ever with what we had just accomplished.
****Sidenote: Only glitch in the works so far had been a very tight time frame on getting to the Brisbane airport that morning as someone (not naming names people) had lost the car keys and then miraculously found them in his– ahem– shorts pocket in his bag…er, I mean THEIR pocket. Oh AND double sidenote…. the NZ customs is something to be "not messed with." I think out of ALL the countries we have so far entered and excitied, NZ has been the most strict. Talk about protecting their islands! We even had to "quarantine" our tent so they could look it over!?!

Okay– so we then landed in Christ Church about 7ish and oh BLOODY ELL’…. we are talking from Egypt to chilly winter in S. Africa change in temperature all over again…. It was frigid! After checking out a few car rentals prices from the airport ($70 per day, no thank you) we hopped on the local bus and headed towards the city center. We had one thing going for us, and that was LIGHT. No more 7:30pm sunsets friends…. my bed time has just been immediately extended!

We ended up at a hostal/motel/campsite (um, yah– it really had everything) and booked 2 nights to get ourselves sorted for the next leg of the adventure.
Woke up the next day and we were ready to rock and roll. With a stroll around the city and a meander in the market later I couldn’t help but remember the last time I was here. Yes, FINALLY one place on this journey that I had been and Ray had not. Brilliant. Just 7 years ago I had ended my study abroad by meeting up with Theresa a highschool/college friend of mine that had spent her 6 months studying in Christ Church.

(Oh girl– I wish you were her!! But I am thinking about you– and nothing has changed here… I look up at the sky from time to time and picture us falling from it! Was it REALLY that long ago?)

We spent the day negotiating an el cheapo’ rental car for 12 days and figuring out our route through the S. Island. Much like S. Africa with its adventure (and its cold) there is so much to do and just not enough money to do it…. bugga’!
And here I sit now… its Thursday the 6th and I am smack day in a massive valley in Aurthur’s Pass. As I strain to look up I can see snow on the top peak of the mountains and there is a slight, no scratch that, GIGANTIC chill to the air. We just got done hiking Devils Punch Bowl (which leads you up to a sensational waterfall where we had a picnic lunch) and Bridal Veil. As our bodies cool down from the hike the temperature seems to dip even lower. The thought of sleeping in that "not so cozy" tent of ours tonight seems a bit daunting… but we’ll huddle together. We’ve made it through colder– and wetter AND windier! Just one more adventure is all, and heck– it sure helps that it only cost $10.00 for the night… BARGAIN!
***Sidenote: The exchange rate is not too shabby here– about .75 cents to the American dollar…. Hey, every little bit counts… and with Australia literally sucking us dry with its prices and exchange rate, anything is an improvement!
So tomorrow where we stop– no one knows… Not even us. Now, if only my fingers would stop going numb from the cold….
12/8… Saturday— Well, I must admit, if it wasn’t for our full on weather whirlwind 180 we’d still be trying to thaw out…. Its right now coming upon late Saturday avy (afternoon) and already its impossible to recollect the mind chilling weather we experienced on Thursday. Thank goodness for the little "hut of relief" that they had at the campsite in Aurthur’s Pass– as Ray and I couldn’t have been more unprepared for the cold blow. We entertained ourselves for hours that night in the "magical hut"– still incredibly chilly inside, mind you– but with every ounce of clothing that I owned on and the warmth of laughter that we shared as Ray performed "modern dance moves" (don’t ask) we somehow made it through until we were forced to our igloo–er–I mean tent.

But it was all absolutely worth it as I unzipped the tent door the next morning to discover the most ultimate "hey, where are we today" view yet. Snow topped mountains jutted out into the clear blue sky with small ships of clouds at its peak. I of course being who I a, had to make sure that everyone around me could also feel and see the dramatic beauty– and you know who usually gets the shrill "oooooohs" 99.9% of the time. Needless to say, Ray has never been awoken quite like this–


Poor guy– but still– always humoring me. For that I am FOREVER grateful.
We could hardly feel that hard bite to the air that morning as we packed up our tent. Our attention was more upon the extraordinary 360 views around us then our numb fingers and toes… Oh, but that weather only lasted for so long as I swear, it only took us 30 minutes to gain 30 degrees. To the West Coast we drove with the most entrancing landscapes on would ever see…. From snow capped mountains to green lush valleys to green blue serene rivers– it was here. Right in front of us.
So it seems for the very first time on this trip we have a little extra time to play with on this leg of th journey. We hadn’t driven more then 150 KM’s when we had noticed a sign for camping– a decided to check it out.

I am not joking when I tell you that as soon as the trees parted to reveal Lake Mahinapha area we both busted out with "The hills are aliiiiive… with the sound of muuuuusic!" It was that extreme! With a beautiful lake before us and massive snow capped mountains ranges as the background it was a stunner. And of course- we stayed through the day and camped the night just to try to grasp a smidgen of its beauty. The campsite was perfect– only $6.00 each with the bare essentials (just toilets and water)but had a "fire pit" that Ray is so keen on. You should have seen us making sure we secured our "fire pit" for that night. We had even gathered wood for hours just to make sure we could make it last all night long… I have started to believe that I may just be the firewood nazi. I swear– I have never been so selfish in my life to make sure that WE HAVE MORE then enough to carry us through. Huh… I guess I will file that right along with my "obsession for ziplock folder."
It was a incredible day… hiking, playing frisbee, reading and laying in the sun (hey, maybe our tans haven’t left us just yet…) and at night we cooked everything on the fire- potatoes, onions, steak and beans… it was a feast that ended the perfect day.
We arrived in Okatika, pop. of 2, at about 11is this morning…. Just like yesterday, drove no more then 150 KM’s through amazing views and found this perfect little campground right on the sea with mountains hovering behind us. (the picture on top was taken there) A bit steeper in price with $7.50 each, but they do have a $1.00 showers, and we needed a good wash! Oh, and it has a fire pit!!! Chicken on the "grate" tonight!

We just got done "tramping" (as the Kiwis call it) up a massive hill with steps that never seemed to end… but they finally did and led us onto the most dazzling view of the lagoon and Mt. Cook, the highest MT. range in NZ. We had a picnic lunch of cheese and mustard and pickle sandwiches (again) and took in the amazing landscape. I sit now at the picnic table on our site whilst’ Ray waits impatiently for me to finish so we can play frisbee…. so off I go to continue to perfect our "frisbee throwing game."
12/10 Monday–

Sensory Overload.

Never in my life have I been so overwhelmed with everything around me- I keep telling Ray this is all too "stupid crazy pretty…" Its like squeezing a lifetime of postcard picture perfect views all into just one stretch of road… You almost want to scream "How dare you!? You have completely ruined my perception of beauty– nothing again will ever be able to meet my impossible expectations!"

And then… just when you think your eyes can’t open any wider with disbelief at what you are seeing– another bend in the road reveals something even more "stupid crazy pretty" and you’re sure that this is it- no one should be so fortunate. And sensory overload kicks in.

Take last night, for instance. There are these DOC (Dept. of Conservation) campsites all over the place. All very super basic– just a toilet or 2, some running water, a sink and a fire pit. But yet where they stand are places which people would spend beaucoup bucks to be apart of– and we’re paying $6.00 each to overlook a massive valley in which a blue green river runs through and snow capped mountains are the backdrop… AYYYE!? Picture the most amazing scenery to place a tent and then times that by 10. THEEEEN you may be even slightly close to the view I describe.
But yesterday will be one of "those days" that will forever be mind numbing as we were able to experience a bit of it all.

We started the morning off with a picnic at Lake Matheson- and then tramped around the lake to get the classic "reflection photo" of Mount Cook on the Lake.


Then we stopped at Fox Glacier to take our very first peak at the dynamic clear blue aqua icy flow of the glacier down the mountain side.

Um, holy crap was that gorgeous.

THEN…After stopping at a few "off the beaten path" waterfalls and sea views we ended our day camping in the most perfect patch of land with the most spectacular "stupid crazy pretty" sights all around us.

All in a days work, right?
So here I sit now in Wanaka- a town quite similar to Queenstown but on a much smaller scale. The quaint laid back village is situated right on Lake Wanaka and encircled with lush green mountains…. Wow, I have now run out of descriptive words to place here. Lets just say it "ain’t ugly."

We needed a proper campsite for the night to catch up a bit on life– shower, do a little laundry (though the "ode’ de bonfire" still lingers a bit on my clothing) and get some of our hundreds of photos we just took in less then 4 days in order. And hoooorayyy! There are all uploaded…. and I think Ray even put caption on most of them. I would say that these are a "must peak at" as it will help a bit to understand what I am speaking of above….Its difficult to describe. Even for dramatic ol’ me.

Its hard now to spend even an ounce of time on anything but exploring this Island… guilt starts to trickle in and you get stir crazy to see more and more. So I am going to have to stop here for now… This girl hasn’t got much time left- and I need to make the most of every precious second.
I hear that the snow keeps falling in Minnesota…which pretty must secure a white Christmas, I am so happy to hear. Somehow even with the sporatic decorations here, the Christmas spirit just isn’t even close to the intensity we would feel right now back at home. But we’re doing our best with the stocking from mum and dad hanging in our window of our back seat and the red tinsel that lines the car…. :)

Merry Christmas to all! Make sure to spread a little extra cheer for us this year….
It was good being able to use my VERY LIMITED 10 minutes to hear some of your voices at the Christmas party, girls…. Nice of you to pick up, Jen. Heee.

Hope you all had an "ugly sweater" fabulous time…. I miss you!
Oh and Jen, our flight gets in at approx. 5:30pm on January 5th on NWA312…. JUST in case anyone would like to, oh, I dunno…maybe be there for a hug, or 2…. :)
Woweeeeee Maui… I mean TAHITI….It’s coming up SO FAST my New Years GANG’…. It just doesn’t register that I am going to be able to see you so soon— is it TRUE!? Nahhh… must be all just a dream. You’ll have to pinch me a few extra times when you really ARE in front of me…
Oh… and BECKEY!! CONGATS ON YOUR BIG MOVE!!! Give my love to Izzadizzle and I can’t wait to hear all about it… I miss you like crazy!
Alright… that oughtta’ do it for this chapter of the novel. :)
Thanks again for your COMMENTS!! Especially to some of the "newby’s" out there… Wow, just when you think NO ONE is reading anymore… WHAM, you get this wonderful surge of happieness!

Its nearing your last chance to be forever remembered as a "commenter in our blog" as they are coming to an end…. We would love to hear who has been reading!!
We miss you you all and we will see you– DOUBLE GULP— so very soon….
Mum and Dad– You have no idea how much the presents are TEASING ME in the trunk…… I will call you soooooon!
I think that does it…. Aren’t you exceptionally relieved…

Alyssa and Ray

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