Counting Sheep

Thursday, November 28, 2013

We spent the night at a local farm stay with the most hospitable Kiwis who offered us breakfast and invited us to tag along on their farm in the morning. They were tailing lambs, and I was beyond excited to see how it worked. I did not know this, but sheep have to have their tails removed when they are young because if they do not, flies and maggots are attracted to their urine and feces soaked tails which causes fatal diseases. Emily and I followed the farm workers and watched our step across the pasture to where they herded the sheep and began the tailing process. Hopefully the pictures will help explain the details more. This morning definitely could not have made me feel like I was in New Zealand any better.

After we said our goodbyes and continued on with our journey, some of our favorite sights along the road included the Benmore Dam, the Maori rock paintings and the elephant rocks where sheep roamed freely. Emily and I both noticed how the birds here seem to fly exceptionally low and have the tendency to sit in the middle of the highway when you’re driving by. One flew right in front of Dee when we were making our way to Omaru, and it was pretty traumatizing for me to accidentally hit one and see it spew off into three separate pieces through the rear view mirror. I found it pretty ironic that I killed a bird on “turkey day.”

Nobody here knows what Thanksgiving is, but I was thankful to have a beautiful day in Omaru to celebrate. Omaru is a charming little beach town on the East Coast where we found black sand beaches and breathtaking views of the ocean. The sun couldn’t have shined brighter which made everything look that much more beautiful. Emily joined me for her first Thanksgiving meal and we dined at this delicious café on the water. I had grouper, which was a turkey day first for me. It was actually the first time I treated myself to a sit down meal since I’ve been in New Zealand, so I quite enjoyed not having to constantly walk to the bar to serve myself.

We continued to drive west, and found a great little surprise on the side of the road: Mount Dobson ski area! Who would have thunk it that the Dobson’s would have their own mountain in New Zealand?! Further on down the road, we passed Lake Tekapu. The water was sheer and sparkling, but this lake was a different shade of blue than I have seen before. This water was a lighter more pure and brilliant blue that looked as majestic as that of the jeweled aquamarine.

We then found ourselves at another unexpected New Zealand wonder at the top of the Mount John Observatory. When we drove to the summit, and I finally looked out to take in the surrounding natural beauty, Emily turned to me and said “I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard you speechless before.” It was probably the truth. No words could articulate the peace and tranquility I found at the top of that mountain. The landscape was open and endless, but in a much different way than it is in the Australian Outback. Even though the mountains were less lush and green than I expected, there was a small lake to the right, sheep nearby and something in the air was crisp and refreshing. It felt as if civilization did not matter and you could be completely self sufficient with the vista breathing life into you.

Before reaching our final destination in Twizel, we passed Lake Pukaki, which was arguably much grander than Lake Tekapu. There was no village bordering the shore, so the water and snow capped mountains in the distance captured your full attention. At one point, I felt like the day gave me extreme sensory overload.

Twizel is one of those towns where you blink and you miss it, but it was nice for a quick visit. We found a clear stream on the side of the highway where we parked it and enjoyed another “Steph Special.” We drove down to the dam, which we later found out is the most happening attraction around, and enjoyed the sunset behind the mountains. We got to hang out with the locals at a bustling bar, and met the owner. He told us how much money was in Twizel to include the construction of a brand new $13 million estate and the filming of an upcoming movie. It was much more exciting Thanksgiving than I could have ever imagined, and star gazing into the clear night was the perfect way to end it.

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