Rocks from New Zealand

The iridescent marbles at the top left are magnetic hematite from Hettie’s Rock and Crystal Shop in Queenstown.

The polished green thing that looks like a miniature bookend is a piece of New Zealand greenstone (jade) that I bought at ReflectioNZ, a shop and cafe in Fox Glacier.

The ten rocks in between are rocks I picked up on the Fox Glacier trail we went on.

The rest are from the wharf area in Queenstown.

The drive to Queenstown and Queenstown

People go to Queenstown not to hang around the town itself but to explore the surrounding area. Many of the shops in town are souvenir shops, but even more of them are glorified concierge desks where you can book activities like boat tours and sightseeing flights. Oh, and skydiving. (I went skydiving!)

Below are 42 photos of the scenery on the way from Fox Glacier to Queenstown, including a stretch of road delightfully lined with purple wildflowers; an unbelievably precipitous stretch of road; gorgeous mountains by the lakes; and a genius construction traffic light.

Then there are also a few (15) photos in Queenstown itself, including photos of birds, flowers, and signs.

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The Black Cat Bookshop, Queenstown

Okay, so Queenstown has some pretty interesting things to do.

For example, you can strap on a device that uses pressurized water to propel you into the air.

“Flyboard. Fly like a superhero.”

Alternatively, you can splash around in one of the lakes in a strange submarine jet thingy that is painted to look like a shark.

“Hydro Attack. The ultimate blend of shark and machine.”

I did not sign up for either of those activities. I don’t like water.

If you ask me, the most exciting thing to do in Queenstown, New Zealand (apart from skydive) is browse among the used books at Black Cat Bookshop.

When I arrived at the shop and saw these paperbacks out front, I wasn’t sure whether I would find anything to my taste, but looking through the books on the shelves was sure to be an *interesting* experience.
I haven’t read any books by Murakami, and I don’t think I’d necessarily like them if I did, but I heartily approve of this quote: “If you only read [the] books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
In the end, I bought three books as to give as gifts plus this one for myself.
After exiting the mall I noticed this second-floor sign.
For those who might overlook the second-floor sign, there’s a sign on the sidewalk that says: “Help! Booksellers trapped inside on a beautiful day! Come buy all the books so we can escape.” Why would anyone want to escape from a room full of books, though?

The drive to Fox Glacier and Fox Glacier

I’m not a rock climber, hiker, trekker, or mountaineer, but I love mountains. The silence, the trees, the mist and clouds, the twisting, rushing rivers in valleys full of rocks… it’s all more magic than a harsh, empty, burning bright beach could ever be.

New Zealand is full of mountains, and some have snow or ice on them all year. We didn’t walk on or fly over any of the glaciers on the South Island, but I was happy we had the chance to stroll up near one of them.

There are 42 photos below.

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Kumara and Hokitika

Kumara is a town of approximately 300 people, yet it has a hotel with a remarkably good restaurant… From there we visited Hokitika, a town with about ten times the population. It had a lot of shops selling New Zealand greenstone (jade).

In honor of the holiday season, someone put some extra letters in front of the “Hokitika” sign so that it said: “Ho-Ho-Hokitika”. Among the 25 photos below, sadly, I do not have a photo of that.

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Christchurch

The visit to Christchurch was emotionally draining. I’d never seen the effects of a natural disaster up close the way I did there.

Earlier this year I was worried that Hurricane Irma would hammer my hometown (Atlanta, Georgia). It did a lot of damage elsewhere, but unlike Opal, it mostly left my parents’ city alone. Hurricane Andrew was bad, as was Katrina, but Atlanta just isn’t close enough to the coast to ever get the worst of those storms.

Probably the closest I’ve personally come to experiencing a natural disaster was at the Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where I and my 8-year-old classmates nervously rode out the deadliest of the dozens of tornadoes that struck the region while were on a field trip. That night, us kids had fun playing with our flashlights because our hotel had no power. The next day I remember seeing buildings with their walls ripped away leaving raw gaps in the architecture like the gaps in a child’s smile, but a lot less cute. What force could do that? I didn’t know it then, but twenty people had died.

When in 2011 Christchurch was struck by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake on 22 February, it left 185 people dead and thousands injured.

Shift happens.

The Quake City museum in Christchurch is an educational tourist attraction, but it’s hard to call it entertaining. I’m pretty sure going to the museum was the right thing to do, but it colored my experience for the rest of my brief stay in the city. Everywhere I looked, there was rubble, construction, graffiti, and a sense that everyone who hadn’t just up and left was making an effort to stand strong. It was a painful object lesson in the fragility of normalcy.

Below are 41 photos.

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The planes to Christchurch

We flew from a small airport in Blenheim on the South Island back to Wellington on the North Island, then got a plane from Wellington to Christchurch on the South Island. I had fun looking out the windows. Plus I saw Gandalf in the Wellington airport…

There are 54 photos below.

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Interislander Ferry & Marlborough

We took a giant ferry for about three hours from Wellington on the North Island to Picton on the South Island. We almost got stranded in Picton, but found a shuttle driver to take us to the Marlborough Vintners Hotel, a good base of operations for wine tours.

Below are 5 photos from the ferry and 16 from Marlborough wine country.

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Bottle Shock (2008)

The folks at The Marlborough Vintners Hotel, a lovely place to stay, are no fools. The people who pass through Blenheim care about one thing: wine. The shelf of DVDs at the front desk therefore includes the 2008 movie Bottle Shock, which I watched with my mother-in-law (who had seen it before). I mean, what else were we going to do with the rest of the afternoon, after the wine tour we went on?

It was a delight to see Alan Rickman play a British wine snob in this movie, a storyteller’s take on the watershed 1976 Paris Wine Tasting event that brought California wines to the attention of the world.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/bottle-shock/id301233114