Thursday, May 31, 2007

South Island Lite

Last weekend when my dad and brother were still here (they're back at home, but my mom's still here for a few days), I sent them down to Queenstown to go out to Milford Sound and see all the things that I did. A few days after, I took a long weekend and flew down after them, and we drove up to Franz Joseph Glacier (and by "we" here I mean my dad drove the whole way, and we all thanked him for the kindness of a saint and for remembering what side of the road to drive on).

And the coolest thing about Franz Joseph was how we did a helihike! When I was last there I did a half-day hike but it's not the same at all- you need to walk a good hour out to the glacier face, and the ice is rather dirty due to all the accumulated dirt on the bottom left over as the ice melts. If you do a helihike, on the other hand, they fly you up to the fastest-moving part of the glacier and you tramp around on pristine ice floes... plus there's the helicopter ride, which none of us had ever done and was, quite frankly, pretty damn sweet.
What Franz Joseph glacier looks like as you fly towards it. For comparisons, last time I was there I probably just went a few pixels up the bottom from where the ice starts.
A much closer-up view of the glacier face, which was just spectacular. Notice how nice the weather is too: last time I was here this part of the glacier would've been completely covered in cloud, as it rains an astonishing 9 meters each year at the top of the glacier (for comparison, it rains about 3 meters in southern England). The upshot of this was I was completely astonished to see the mountains upon waking up, as I hadn't seen them last time in Franz Joseph!
Patrick clinging on for dear life. The guy roped up to him had slipped, you see, and he had luckily gotten his ice pick in the ice just in time...

No really, that didn't quite happen but this is an ice field after all, so in order to counter the slippery nature of every step we were equipped with talsons (spikes) for our feet and given ice axes as well. And you use those ice axes too, partly to maintain balance, partly to hit the ice ahead of wherever you're walking to make sure it's strong enough to walk on. (Nothing really deadly, just a lot of melted water with only a thin layer of ice on top which wouldn't be fun to step in.)
Me in a little ice cave, admiring the blueness of the ice. Isn't it just an incredible color?
My mom in another ice cave. My Hungarian relatives check in here regularly, and I know my grandmother would like to see this one. (Latod milyen jol hejet allt anya, Sari mamama?)
The main part of the glacier, which is advancing at an astonishing rate (sometimes over a meter a day!). During our hike, we were interrupted more than once to watch large chunks of ice the size of cars or busses tumble down the side... to give you some scale here, the top of this floe is over a kilometer away, and all those pinnacles of ice are about twice as tall as you are, give or take.
The helicopter we rode out on. I know this will sound obvious, but the most impressive thing about them really is how they can land and take off on the spot of a dime. I mean think of an airplane taking off: yes, takeoffs and landings are very impressive, but you get up to a great speed with lots of accompanied shaking before slipping the surly bonds of Earth. A helicopter, on the other hand, just goes straight up! Neat stuff... the other cool thing was how our pilot was cool enough to do a few bank rolls wonderfully close to the mountains for us and what not, which was a great lesson in reference frames because you don't feel like you're at an angle, it's just the ground suddenly is.
The view from the chopper away from the glacier. The closer body of water to the right is a nearby lake, and if you're sharp-eyed you can spot the ocean in the distance as well (sorry, but I couldn't dictate the position of the sun obviously).
Alas, that's the end of the glacier/ helicopter pictures. Not to worry, folks, there's lots of pretty scenery to enjoy on the trip back because this is New Zealand after all!
Patrick contemplating a sign at the Queenstown airport telling him the most direct route to New York City (it's 15,027km away if you can't read that). My brother was starting an internship at a buisness firm Tuesday, and since this was Sunday in New Zealand his life for the next day consisted basically of travelling so he could reach NYC by Monday night. I thought the sign was a good touch.
Me with the stylistic backpacker look at the airport. For those of you who don't know this is what backpackers do usually, as in throw your main pack on your back, hug you smaller one to your chest, except apparently this looks mildly rediculous when I do it because I don't look much larger than the pack. I'll leave that for you to decide.

All in all, I was very, very happy to make it down to South Island one last time before going home, and it was even better to share it with my family! I think that's about it for now, as tomorrow is the last day of class and I need to get some rest before that. Goodnight everyone!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

William Blake At the Auckland Zoo

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And, when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
-William Blake, "The Tiger"

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Saturday Morning Memories

If you grew up in either the late 80s or early 90s, you probably spent Saturday mornings at 9am watching Garfield and Friends. If you did not have the esteemed luck of doing so, you probably missed out on the best Saturday morning cartoon show of all time...

I've spent a frightfully long amount of time searching out old Garfield cartoons on YouTube (there was also the US Acres part of the show, but did anyone really like that part?), and the above is my favorite. If you have any poetic experience you will figure out very easily that it's a frightfully clever set of lyrics, to the point where I personally think I wouldn't mind a job as a cartoon lyricist. I'd even be willing to leave out the physics jokes...

Anyway, I posted the clip here in hopes that you guys would enjoy reliving your childhoods just a little bit, or see what you were missing out on. Plus if you ever thought our cartoons were cooler than the ones on today Garfield and Friends is your proof... check out the other ones online if you are not yet satisfied...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Family Time

Hooray for family visits! Sorry for lack of updates, as I've been too busy paying hostess to my mom, dad, and brother who flew in Saturday. They went down to Queenstown today, though, so I've got time to study a bit before rejoining them this weekend.

So what have we been doing? Well basically, all the touristy things to do around Auckland that I've neglected doing myself up to this point (because when you live somewhere you never do the tourist stuff somehow!). So we had dinner at the top of Sky Tower one night, went to the Marine museum to look at the boats, stuff like that... alas I am missing half the pictures as my dad also has his camera, and those are not uploadable at this point. But I can make do with my half well enough, right?
This is me and Patrick on Waiheke Island, which is an island a little over a half hour ferry ride from Auckland. It's quite nice really: most of it is covered in vinyards and olive groves, so the whole thing has a Mediterranean feel. About 8,000 people live here, most of whom commute to Auckland via the ferry for work. If you are the sort of person who would want to live in a quiet little community but are worried about being bored too far from a city, this is probably the place for you.
It was too cold to check out the water on the beach, so we went along for awhile collecting sand dollars and watching this bicycle-windsurf guy. He really went fast! As long as you're careful on your turns and avoid falling you can have a pretty good time of it... mind I'm pretty sure that the falling part would really hurt on packed sand.
Auckland in the distance as we were tramping back on a trail to the ferry terminal. It looked like the Emerald City in the fading sunlight... of course, this is my family and this is one of our typical adventures, so we inadvertently took a few extra-long routes and were dangerously close to missing the ferry/ getting trapped in the countryside after the sunset. Luckily we happened to find a jogger and he pointed out a winding trail for us; we made it down to the ferry with mere minutes to spare. Ah, good times.
Patrick making a new friend with a piranha at Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World, which is the Auckland aquarium. I don't know why, but for whatever reason I seem to accumulate pictures of my brother befriending dangerous creatures; I also have a few shots of him with a stingray and a shark...
Some of the penguin colony at Kelly Tarlton's, which is of impressive size. The penguins are in a special contaminant-free area which is kept at freezing point, so in order to see them you go on a heated snowcat ride past the colony. The upside of doing it this way is you get to go within a few feet of the penguins, which is just cool...

The other amusement of the snowcat ride, by the way, is the fact that they feel the need to do something beyond just showing you penguins for some reason, so they have some other displays you need to trudge past before and after. The best one of these was when they talked about Antarctic predators, so the disembodied narrator voice says at some point "but not even a leopard seal can beat... THE ORCA WHALE!!!!" This is followed by a huge plastic orca head rising out of the water with a plastic leopard seal in its mouth, you hear tape-recorded squeals, and the orca sinks back down in a nice, mechanically disjointed fashion. We went on this ride twice because there was no other good way to watch the penguins, and it threw me and Patrick into fits of laughter both times.

Ah, family. It's good to see them! I could go on, but I have to get to class and learn some more about electromagnetism... talk to you guys later.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Departure Date Set! June 18th

The word on the front is that US Airways has finally decided to be nice and let me change my ticket, so I shall be leaving New Zealand on June 18th. For those of you who didn't know, my current ticket was set for July 8 but my last final is June 16th so I wanted to get home and visit family etc before labwork this summer... only problem with this plan is US Airways refused to change a frequent flier ticket on a forgien carrier or some such, which we hadn't been told was a factor when we got it. It basically took my dad several calls in the past week to finally talk to someone who wasn't aware of this rule, who changed the ticket, and then another long wait at the airport ticket counter while the agent discuseed the non-kosherness of this despite the long line behind my dad. (But he stuck with his guns, and fixed it. Thanks, Dad!)

So my new ticket will arrive along with my family on Saturday. This is good for a few reasons: I now have means to get back, I now have a means to visit Australia should I so desire and still be let back in, and my visa is a lot more happy for various reasons. Hooray! So for those interested in what I'll be doing from here on out here's a tenative schedule... beyond the hecticness of family coming/going...

June 1- Last Day of Classes
June 9- Geophysics Final (60% of grade)
June 11- Electromagnetism Final (70% of grade, or 100% if better than prior average)
June 16- History Final (50% of grade, or 100% if better than prior averave)
June 18-19- Homeward Bound! I'll be in Pittsburgh a few days for those who will also be there...
June 22/23- Family reunion in New Hampshire (which is convenient because then I know I've told everyone all my New Zelaand stories in one go)
July 16 or July 23 (undecided)- begin lab work for HEA Group in Cleveland, where I'll be working on my senior project. This date is undecided for a few reasons, right now the major one being I have no place to live. (So if you know of a sublet that's still open... or how to get Case Housing to answer my damn emails...)
August 27- Fall 2007 semester begins. Sometime before this date massive amounts of GRE-studying will be done.

That's about as packed as I could make things without being in two places at once... so yeah, I'm leaving in a month! Ahhhhh! Haven't seen or done everything I've wanted to, and I need to take my finals that count for the majority of the grade between now and then! If you don't see this updated much between now and then, you know why.

By the way, any opinions as to what I should do with this blog once I'm back at home? I don't really want to become really pretentious like a lot of bloggers seem to, but it's kind of nice for quick thoughts that aren't worth making it into my webzine. If you've an opinion let it be known, otherwise I'm liable to assume people aren't that interested so I will have added incentive to make it fade into the sunset... just something to think about.


Two weekends ago, I went to Wellington (the capital city of New Zealand for the geographically challenged). It was rather fun but work keeps getting in the way, which is why I am not posting about it until just now. For the record, the way this worked was I took the train down Saturday (it's an all day affair through wonderful countryside), hung out for two days as I had no class Monday, and flew back Tuesday morning. Really fun, and I met a bunch of cool people to hang out with while in Wellington that made it more than worth it!
View of Mount Ruapehu, the tallest mountain on North Island and the resident active volcano/ ski resort. We travelled through the areas where the lahar flows routinely go, such as the one I mentioned a few months ago... by the way one of the biggest disasters in New Zealand history is when one of these lahars swept away a bridge in the middle of the night and the passenger train fell in, but I probably shouldn't mention that.

Sorry about the cloud obscuring the top of the mountain by the way: it eventually veered off, but not before power lines got in the way of all my shots on that side of the train.
A typical view of the scenery on the Overlander. By the way, did you guys ever hear the story of why Peter Jackson decided to do Lord of the Rings, particularly in New Zealand? He was taking the Overlander from Wellington to Auckland and was reading the books, and kept noticing that the view out the window was exactly the same as what was being described in the books! I have to admit it's been awhile since I last saw the movies though so I can't remember how most of this scenery fits in; I suppose it'll be on my to-do list when I get home.
Hooray for the view of Wellington! Basically think of what Pittsburgh would look like on the ocean and you have a pretty good idea of the terrain. The only difference is the houses are really spread out when compared to Pittsburgh, so in my opinion the whole city looks a little out of place. It's nonetheless a lovely spot though to live; everyone gets a view!
Cable car! Yep, it's basically a glorified incline like the kinds in Pittsburgh (which is properly a "funicular" for those not cool enough to visit my hometown). You even ride the Wellington cable car to the top of the hill primarily for the view, just like if you were on Mount Washington!

I will note though, that one of the things that fascinated me most about Wellington is even some of the houses have their own, tiny inclines: the garage will be on the street but the house will be at the top of a de-facto cliff, so it's either walk up the killer steep stairs with all your gear or put it and/or yourself onto your own private rail system. I don't know about you guys, but I want my own private incline now.
This here is the center of government in New Zealand- the nice old building on the right is Parliament, and the modern building on the left (appropriately named "The Beehive") is the executive building. They mesh together suprisingly nicely actually... the fun thing about Parliament, I thought, was how I walked right up to/ around the buildings, including through the executive parking lot and rose garden where two people were having a discussion on internal policy, and no one really seemed to mind. Considering the fact that I've never been able to do this at my own country's center of government (and probably won't anytime soon) I rather liked this.

By the way, the inside of Parliament is very nice and done in the British woodwork style, but I wasn't allowed to take pictures of it. Looked a lot nicer than the last Parliament house I've visited, if you guys recall my visit to the Cook Islands...
This is the outside view of Te Papa, meaning "Our Place" in Maori, which is the National Museum in New Zealand. If you ever go to Wellington make a point to go as it has to be one of the best museums I've been to and it covers everything in New Zealand from geology to native wildlife to art to immigration to whatever else you ever cared for. This place is impressive: one of the kids I met at my hostel spent three days here in his attempt to see everything!
A stuffed kakapo on display, as I like kakapo. For those of you who are not my sister the bird-brain, kakapo are a species of nocturnal, flightless parrot of which there are only 86 left in the world. (Like many indigenous species, they didn't do too well when the feral cats, stoats, and possums showed up.) They thought they were completely extinct for awhile, actually, for a few decades until some were rediscovered in the 1970s. (The first sighting in a long while was in the Milford Sound area in the 1950s by some tourist- isn't that cool? You can wander around the beaten path here and happen to spot species thought to be extinct!) Now all the kakapo live on two islands and undergo a careful breeding system to keep them alive, so cross your fingers for these guys. They are probably the icon for the plight of New Zealand wildlife, the the point where Douglas Adams went on a search for them in Last Chance to See.

Man oh man, so many good bird stories... I think before I leave New Zealand I am going to do a bird post. Yay!
Cards at the hostel... can you believe no one knew how to play spoons, and I had to teach them?! Keep an eye on those two people on the left, Doug and Laura, as they are my British friends who I hung out with last weekend when they came to Auckland. The kid second from right showed up unexpectedly too in an Auckland pub, we called him "Canadian Ben"... alas Luis, the Argentinian on the right, missed out on the Auckland awesomeness.

By the way, the nightlife in Wellington is the best in New Zealand. Most places close down sorta early but here you don't have this problem even on a Sunday or Monday night! So believe you me, I have stories to tell, but I'm smart enough to not tell stories about my antics in this department online... trust me though, if you want a fun night in New Zealand go to Wellington, and if you don't have one it's your own fault.
I rented a bike for the day on Monday, and rode out on the coastal track to the airport. Took about an hour in one direction along some really nice bays (this is the view back to the city at the last visible point), and it was the first time I'd been on a bike since I left the States. Yeah, I know some of you guys are having a hard time imagining that... I am too, as I miss bicycling very much.
An actual, semi-standard sign on the coastal track. The fairy penguins in the picture (native to New Zealand and Australia) will go out to fish for the day in the ocean and come back to their burrows in the night, but have the slight problem in that there's a road between them and a lot of their burrows! So drive carefully in New Zealand, lest you feel guilty for the rest of your life for running down a penguin. (Because you know you would, and everyone would forever regard you as a horrible, evil person if you did such a heinous act of penguin murderer.)
The view from Wellington from the plane on the way back- pretty good for an airplane shot, I think! The sparse skyscrapers are at the bottom of this picture where the bay comes in the furthest, and the furthest picture of the city was taken from that point on the far right.

All in all, I had a great time in Wellington! It also classified as my first trip somewhere by myself (none of my other friends had no class on Monday like me, unfortunately) so I was really pleased as to how it turned out. I've met some of my best friends on this trip so far in Wellington, so for that alone it was definetely worth it!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

For Mother's Day

Füstbe ment terv
Petõfi Sándor verse

Egész uton - hazafelé -
Azon gondolkodám:
Miként fogom szólítani
Rég nem látott anyám?

Mit mondok majd elôször is
Kedvest, szépet neki?
Midôn, mely bölcsôm ringatá,
A kart terjeszti ki.

S jutott eszembe számtalan
Szebbnél-szebb gondolat,
Mig állni látszék az idô,
Bár a szekér szaladt.

S a kis szobába toppanék...
Röpûlt felém anyám...
S én csüggtem ajkán... szótlanúl...
Mint a gyümölcs a fán.
A Smoke-Turned Plan
By Petõfi Sándor
translated by Yvette Cendes

The entire journey- homeward-
It is this I wonder:
What is it I should say first
To my long not seen mother?

Just what should I say first to her-
Something kind, or pretty?
To that one who rocked my cradle
And held out her hand for me?

I then recalled a thousand memories
Of the kind things she's done,
And time seemed to stand in one place,
Though the small cart did run.

And in the little room I land…
My mother ran toward me…
And I clung to her… wordless…
Like fruit upon a tree.

In just a few short days, my mother, father, and brother are going to arrive in New Zealand to visit. I can't wait. I have missed everyone a great deal (and you too, Linda, even if you don't get to come). And while I might not be going home just yet, I am certain in a few days this poem will become a reality.

Boldog anyak napot! Sok szeretettel, Yvette

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

American Student Killed in Glacier Accident

The current big news story in New Zealand, as reported on

Two climbers have survived a fall of up to 400m from a steep slope in Mount Aspiring National Park, but a friend roped to them died.

Last night, police said a 20-year-old American man died after the Monday afternoon fall ended when the trio hit an ice wall.

The trio, all American, are thought to be students in Canterbury.

Follow-ups have revealed that the students were American study abroad students at Lincoln University in Christchurch, here for the semester. Apparently they encountered an obstruction on the normal trail so they went off instead onto the ice, roped together, but one of them slipped and dragged the others with him. The fact that only one of them died is rather miraculous, really.

I didn't know the student, but I know the area this accident happened in (I travelled through it last month). It's spread like wildfire amongst the American study abroad students, actually, because this student could have been any of us and reveals a darker side to tramping through the wilderness.

No worries though, everyone, as I have no plans whatsoever to wander off a marked trail anytime soon.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Graduation Day

During the past few days, the University of Auckland has been overrun by several thousand young people in academic regalia, who are followed around by a retinue of proud relatives bearing flowers and camera equipment. It's graduation time for all the students who finished they're requirements last semester- they're kind of slow here at sorting out final paperwork- but with several thousand students involved logistics require each school to hold its own day. (Science graduation day is Monday, by the way, meaning no class, meaning I'm off to Wellington for the weekend, but that's neither here nor there.)

I keep staring at these students with mixed feelings- while there is a month of class left here, this graduation roughly corresponds to the ones going on back home. Across the Pacific, I am dimly aware, the spring flowers are blooming and my friends are fretting over final exams right now. I feel a little guilty for missing out, and have had variants of a dream whereby I am required to sit all the exams I missed out on upon return as a result of this.

But the real reason I have mixed feelings about all these graduating students is a more personal one- in a year from now, if all goes as planned, I shall be given a sheepskin of my own, and I have utterly no idea what will happen after that. Upon inquiry I tell people I want to go to graduate school in astrophysics, but as the astute may notice this covers everything in the universe so it's not very specific in one sense. Furthermore I have no idea where this graduate study will happen, or even where I'll be applying, and I am both excited and terrified by this uncertainty.

But then when I get down to details I notice that I've given up the concept of geographical stability long ago anyway. Do you know that in the past year alone I have held no less than five indavidaul addresses? (They are Clark Tower, physics house, House 6, home in Pittsburgh, and O'Rorke Residential Hall, respectively.) A lot of people have fewer than that during the course of a lifetime and here I am, half a world away from the city I was born in. Considering I held only one address until I went off to college, I find this impressive.

I have learned a lot of things in the past year, ranging on topics from love to whitewater kayaking to statistical mechanics, but the most important thing I have come to understand is that nothing stays constant save that everything changes. I know you've all heard that quite a bit, but hearing something is not the same as understanding it.

But the most valued thing I've learned from this understanding is that while things may change for better or worse, I'm pretty ok with that. I would have missed out on an awful lot had I never held four of those addresses.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

South Island Picture Time

So I'm sure you've logged onto the blog today expecting perhaps a picture or two, only to discover that I went through my files and posted my prettiest South Island pictures. Hooray! I probably should have done this earlier, of course, but you know how these things go.

It doesn't really matter what order you go in here, but chronologically "Part I" refers to the first leg of the journey, which is unfortunately the exact opposite of how they appear on the page (if you want to see them in order, the "pictures" label might be the easiest way to do so). I also tried to add in relevant information as I went along, but if I missed something out just let me know.

By the way, anything that is listed as a "LOTR moment" means that the picture is from a scene somewhere in the trilogy, but I've often forgotten which scene that is as I'm not a junkie and have a hard time remembering odd Elvish names. So if you figure one of them out and I don't have a specific scene listed for the location, let me know and I'll fix it!

South Island Picture Time- Part VII (Christchurch)

Last section of pictures, discussed earlier here. Please keep in mind that Christchurch is well-known as "more British than Britain," and if you've ever been there you'll know what I mean...

The view of the main square in Christchurch from the steps of the cathedral. Cool little place (albeit deserted on Saturday morning), they even had a giant chess set set up in part of it.
Christchurch Cathedral is the focus in the center of the city, and really is one of the prettiest churches you will ever come accross.
View on the inside of the church, including the rose window. There were a lot of cool little things in this church, honestly, from old British flags to a few Maori designs.
Cable car! Too bad it's rediculously expensive to ride on it, as the car's mainly for tourists and just does a very non-useful loop of the inner city.
A rather humorous sculpture in the Christchurch Art Gallery, which is just a few years old but nonetheless a great way to spend an hour or two. I think the artist was trying to talk about the Disnification of wild animals by the way... or something...
View of the crafts market that we stopped at. Not to be confused with the two other markets we stopped at on Saturday.
What is known as the Peacock Fountain in the Botanical Gardens. I'm pretty sure we can all agree where the name came from.
Lots of pretty flowers still in bloom, despite it being fall...

By the way, one of the coolest things I've heard about Christchurch is how in springtime the part of the Botanical Gardens that lines the Avon is home to several hundred thousand blooming daffodils. Perhaps I've spent too many years counting the motley hundreds in my mother's garden back home, but I think this is a grand idea.
A close-up of a pretty rose in the rose garden.
What good would a (fake) British city be like without a prominent statue to Queen Victoria? Please note that just to the right of this statue is a distinctive red telephone box with the crown etched on it, the kind you don't really ever see outside Britain. I guess if you're going for the illusion you may as well go all the way.
Fairy penguins! No they do not wander around Christchurch (though that would be pretty cool), and instead I went off and visited the Antarctic Centre on Saturday while waiting for my flight. They have a fairy penguin conservation area there for penguins in New Zealand that can't make it in the wild for one reason or another, and they are just adorable.
Penguins swimming during feeding time. They really are suprisingly quick, considering the size of their wings...
Me hanging out in the "blizzard room" in the center a few minutes before the simulated storm hit. Basically, they run the storm for a few minutes, which is sufficiently short to not give you frostbite but sufficiently long for you to know that you never want to live through an Antarctic blizzard.
The official rules of golf at Scott base, per the bulletin board in the life-size replica. I realize you need to zoom in to read them but they really are funny...

By the way as someone asked, yes, there is a nice little picture and caption of BOOMERANG in one of the display cases, much to my excitement. I guess the CWRU Physics Department leaves its mark in interesting places!

South Island Picture Time- Part VI (Queenstown-Christchurch)

Covered in... actually, I think I skipped this part earlier. This is basically what Queenstown looks like and the drive to Christchurch (which is six hours away from Queenstown, but very pretty... as usual).
The view of downtown Queenstown. It sort of has the feel of a ski town out west with good reason- the ski fields open soon, in July, and there were a few snow flurries when we were there.

Queenstown was also the center of LOTR filming, for those keeping track, and the bars favored by the actors and crew still like to remind you of this fact.
You know how mountain ranges often have names that don't actually tell you much about the mountains themselves? Well the mountain range in Queenstown is known simply as "The Remarkables," thus proving that New Zealanders were one of the few people in the world capable of naming something in a way that describes what they actually look like.

There's actually a little gondola right in town that you can ride up the side of one of the mountains (the ski fields are a little further off), complete with resteraunt and obligatory bungy jump, but the weather wasn't that great by way of views so we didn't end up doing it.

Look, a moa! I found a moa! Linda, come quick, we'll be rich and famous!

Seriously though, you know how I mentioned at some point that humans haven't explored all of New Zealand yet? There's a small-but-not-zero chance that one of the New Zealand birds thought to be extinct still exists out there for this very reason- they've rediscovered a few of them not too long ago, even, like the kakapo. Ok, a moa's probably a little too big to escape detection, but you never know...
A pretty-but-typical lakeside view. Hope you guys aren't getting tired of these, as I'm not...
A stark view of what most of the lower lands are like in this part of the world- I'd show you more, including the place where they filmed that big LOTR III battle, except this is the place where my camera decided to run out of juice, so no more pictures until Christchurch.