wow. prepare yourselves, this is going to be a long one. Saturday morning we hopped on a bus and drove about 50 minutes to Springfield which is a little less than half way across the island (east/west wise). It's a very small town with a wonderful hostel/motel called Smylies. It's run by a dutch man who's been in NZ most of his life and his sweet Japanese wife. They've owned the place 25 years. They're wonderful, and boy can she cook! (more on that to come!) We stopped off to drop our bags and then continued up into the Southern Alps. We drove all the way to just beyond Arthurs Pass. On the way, our wonderful bus driver Gus shared all sorts of great intel about the local area. There are a couple ski fields just outside of Springfield that I can't wait to visit when it snows! (I'm scouting them out for when my ski fanatic friends come to visit, I'll know just where to take them!) One of the things he talked about was all the species that have been introduced to the country. The land is used to grow things that are not native. For example, there's actually a red wood plot not far from where we were that an American company started. Didn't catch why, but it's certainly a fun fact. One of the tree farms that spans the foot hills to the alps is the lone pine (if my memory serves me...) It's been a terrible problem according to Gus. When they planted the farm on the hillside, the wind caught the seed and scattered it all over the plains. To do our part, we cut down/ uprooted several of the pines in a nearby field. Here's a picture of the little buggers. They're much harder than you'd think to pull out of the ground. Didn't realize I was in for some manual labor!
After some mass destruction, we headed back a bit to this trailhead that overlooked a stream. There, we enjoyed a sack lunch sitting out on the hillside completely fixed to the sights around. I'm going to start sounding like a broken record, but really... it was BEAUTIFUL.
It was really hard for me to pick, but here's one of the pictures (more pictures=FAR longer to publish the post) Go check out my Facebook for more. By the way, if you can tell, the rock field at the top of the picture looks similar to the one used to film one of the battles in Narnia. The actual rock field is not far from here. COOL! After lunch, we threw the frisbee and learned how to through a rugby ball from Gus. What a blast! Then we went back to Castle Hill. This... best I can describe it is a big kids playground. It's a giant rock field which doesn't sound very interesting, but check out the pictures!! We all had SO much fun running around climbing up and down the rocks checking out the fabulous views from every direction. To give you an idea of what i'm talking about heres another picture.
At one point, we found this rock that had a peep whole in it. Once we found how to get up there, it was like a little club house. Shaded, cooled by the rocks, and with incredible views! One of the guys in my group was crazy! He somehow managed to climb these steep flat surfaced rocks like a goat. (glad his mother wasn't around) we sat up on this tall rock and played where's Thomas. He kept appearing in his bright blue shirt further and higher down the rock field. There will be a where's Thomas?! section of pictures in the Facebook album. I'll just take a minute to note that as I visit these awesome places that are so close to Christchurch, I imagine what we'll do when you all come to visit me. Castle Hill is a must for Andy See's visit.
Once we left Castle Rock, we went to meet the kayak to bike exchange of the coast to coast race. It's a running, biking, kayak race from the west coast to the Christchurch (relatively on the East coast). For the hard core folks, the run/ bike from sea level to 6500ft in the first day. It's pretty intense. The exchange was pretty cool to see. The kayakers would come off the river to their last leg, a mere 70km bike ride back to Christchurch. This is the first time I was down close to the river. The water was nearly crystal clear, and it shown beautiful shades of blue in the sun. What a treat to be around for this race. My program coordinator, Eunice's son did the race a few years ago. I don't intend to sign up.
Once we left there, we headed back to Smylies in Springfield. It's a great place to stay if you find yourself in Springfield, NZ. Soon after we arrived, Kaeko had dinner ready for us. Let me be more specific. Kaeko prepared a FEAST for us complete with lamb, chicken, meatloaf, chicken curry (best i've ever had), scalop potatoes, kumara(another type of potato that has a purple skin!! GO FROGS), pumpkin(i don't know why we don't eat that like squash in the states), a cold rice salad and regular salad. And that was just the main food. After dinner we had strawberry short cake, fruits with ice cream, and some sort of pudding in this gingerbreadish edible cupcake wrapper thing. It was the best meal i've had since I left home, and i was sure to tell her several times. Man... my mouth is watering just thinking about it, and believe me... I have NOT missed any meals today either.
Ok, i have to take an interlude before I finish telling about the weekends activities... My current roommate and new friend, Sera, convinced me to watch the first Lord of the Rings tonight. It's REALLY late now, so i'm going to stop here and finish tomorrow morning. I will also add pictures to Facebook for all of orientation so far.