After leaving the sheep farm, we headed back to Queenstown to meet our bus drivers and start our road trip across the country! We rode with Haka Tours and our bus driver is named Si. He is an awesome bus driver and has lots of cool facts to share about New Zealand. The other bus driver is named Jamie and fun fact: He was in the Lord of the Rings!!! He was an Orc!! How cool is that?!?!
Now we were supposed to hike up a river and a mountain to get to a place where we could see the magnificent Franz Josef glacier, however due to the pouring rain, the hike was deemed unsafe and our trip leaders decided we could not go. I was super bummed about this, because it was one of the things I was looking most forward to on this trip. So instead we hopped on the bus to our next destination, Punakaiki, home of the pancake rocks! They really do look like stacks of pancakes, its pretty nifty! There was also blow holes that would blow foam at you, it was sooo salty. But the wind was so powerful that it was blowing us over!
But before we got to Punakaiki, we stopped at a store in Hokitika to find Pounamu, the traditional Maori name for New Zealand nephrite jade. The Arahura river, which is just north of Hikitika is considered the birthplace of poumanu. Jade is a very significant cultural symbol to the Maori people and Kiwis all across New Zealand. "There are many different legends about the origin of pounamu. One well known story tells of "Poutini who fell in love with Waitaiki - a beautiful married woman that he saw bathing in the river. Poutini was chased by the husband Tamāhua who had kidnapped his wife Waitaiki. Fearing capture but refusing to give up his love, Poutini turned Waitaiki into his essence - pounamu - and laid her in the riverbed at the junction of the Arahura River with a stream that became known as Waitaiki". Jade is traditionally given to others in the form of a pendant. The stone is carved uniquely into a variety of designs which all have different meanings, learn more about them here: http://www.mountainjade.co.nz/about-jade/learn-about-jade-in-new-zealand/ However apparently, it is bad luck to buy your own jade, so make sure you have someone special to gift it to you!
After Punakaiki we stayed the night in an awesome place called Te Nikau Retreat. They had all these cool very rustic style cabins in the middle of the rainforest! You had to treck out through the trees to get to the coastline and see the ocean!
After waking up in the rainforest, next stop wine country!!! We traveled a good long ways to get to Marlborough. We stopped at the Brancott Estate Vineyard to learn about the process of grape growing and wine making. It was a gorgeous day! The next day we went to the Marlborough Research Center to learn more about the prooblems viticulture is facing such as aquifer shortages and water allocation issues. We also learned how New Zealand tries to been as enviornmentally conservative as possible. New Zealand is very well aware of their negative impacts on the enviornment and are doing what they can to change their ways. Sounds like America needs to take a few lessons form the little country.
We stayed the night in Blenheim and we got to relax, then hit the local bar! I switched from wine and had my first New Zealand beer tonight, good ole Speight's. It is one of their more common light ales in New Zealand, you can find it on tap just about everywhere you go. Not sure of what the equivalent would be in the United States. But we had a good night and it ended with us stargazing on the trampoline at our hostel. Didn't see any shooting stars, but I did find the Southern Cross! It was a lot easier to find than I thought it would be.