Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New Zealand Day Two: Car Boat Bus Bus Boat Bus Boat Car

Day TWO!

And only a few days after I wrote about day one! UNPRECEDENTED!

So on day two we booked a cruise of Doubtful Sound. Doubtful and it's sister sound, Milford Sound, are on the list of 1,000 places to see before you die and Milford appeared to be the most popular with tourists, but Doubtful was the one that was supposed to be more untouched and less traveled. So to Doubtful Sound we will go!

In order to get there we had to drive two hours and then get on one boat for a couple of hours and then, for some reason that didn't seem obvious, tour New Zealand's hydro power plant, which involved getting off the boat and taking a bus deep into a mountain (it's a good thing neither of us are claustrophobic because HOLY HECK, that was a tight squeeze and the fact that the bus driver managed a three point turn in order to get us out was amazing to me because I would have been nervous about it in my HONDA) and then getting on another boat for the Doubtful Sound part and then I think another bus and another boat. It was a long and confusing day, but like good sheep, we just followed instructions and ogled at the views. (Plus, there was a bar on board.)

But first, two important photos we took that day but that don't actually have much of anything to do with Doubtful Sound or the power plant. The first was a caution sign alerting us to the presence of linemen. As a former PG&E employee and based on my interactions with linemen, I'd say that New Zealand has it right when they warn us of their presence with an exclamation point.

And then here we have a very smart but embarrassing feature of our rental car (I didn't see them on any other cars):

The rental car company was wise to give us a car with a WARNING AMERICAN DRIVERS: YOU ARE VERY CLOSE TO THAT MOUNTAIN guide post. I wished we had an American flag to tape on there so that people could have mistaken us for American dignitaries in a crappy Nissan.

Also car related, though I'm not sure exactly which day it happened: Early in the trip Carrie emerged from the gas station after paying for gas with a very special guest who turned out to be SUCH a welcome addition to our adventure: DOLLY PARTON.

A two disc set of her greatest hits, anyway.

We did some serious studying of those CDs, let me tell you. We were reminded of some classic Dolly hits (Jolene, Why'd You Come in Here Looking Like That), discovered some new hot hits (Baby I'm Burnin, Potential New Boyfriend) and then also heard some wwwwwttttttttffffffff Dolly songs like one about an unwed mother whose baby dies as a punishment to her for her indiscretions. Our research also led us to discover that Potential New Boyfriend and Jolene are 180 degrees from each other and we love that Dolly can either be the underdog or the sex kitten, depending on her mood.

[Cliff's Notes: In PNB, Dolly's all "I'm gonna go get that guy and make him my potential new boyfriend and I don't care what you have to say about it" but in Jolene she's all "I'm not as pretty as you Jolene so please take pity on me and don't steal my boyfriend."]

This wasn't the album we had but this picture was in the CD insert and I kept looking at it because I had no idea Dolly Parton was once so amazingly, naturally beautiful:

BUT ENOUGH ABOUT DOLLY. (Until Carrie and I go to Dollywood, which we've totally agreed is a top contender for our next adventure.)

Back to Doubtful Sound and all the various forms of transportation!

We went on a couple of boats! Carrie wore her America's Cup Team USA hoodie that Santa (also a sailor, himself) passive aggressively gave her for Christmas so he could be sure she was representing for the right team while in New Zealand.

It was windy!

And then we pulled up to this:

And we got on a bus that was essentially as big around as the tunnel it drove us through:

And then we went to an observation room where we got to watch water create power...which could be likened to watching paint dry, to tell you the truth:

I took this picture of the display of how they built the power plant and sent it to my dad's homie, who was a safety guy at PG&E for 100 years, because I felt like it was relevant to his interests:

And then we emerged and it was amazingly beautiful again:

And then we got back on a boat! And the light in New Zealand made my skin look amazing!

And we spent some time looking for dolphins and cruising the sound and eating lunch and drinking wine and enjoying the heck out of our day.

And then we got a bit turned around getting back to the highway, but we took the opportunity to pose with whatever the heck this was:

That picture also reminds me of our strategy with roundabouts and driving in general: Say whatever you're going to do out loud before you do it so that the universe knows to be a team player.

Driver: I want to turn left so when I get to the corner I'm going to look to my right and then I'm going to give way to whoever is coming from that direction. 

Or: I'm going to turn right at this corner and when I get there, I'm going to go all the way to the other side of the road and turn the direction that is least comfortable and intuitive for me.

You think I'm exaggerating, Internet, but I am not. The spoken instructions to our own selves were essential to keeping our asses on the correct side of the road.

We also found that trying to drive on the other side of the road *and* deal with non-American speed and temperature measurements was just too much to handle so we opted to go with a generic "units" for speed and temperature.

"What is the speed limit on this road?"

"60 units."

"What's the weather going to be like tomorrow?"

"20 units."

These "units" were essentially meaningless to us, but were good gauges against other days and other roads. We are firmly on Team MPH and Fahrenheit!

Eventually we got back on track and continued to enjoy one freaking scenic vista after another on the drive back:

We got to the point, pretty early in our trip, where we'd see another stunnnnnnning display of nature and go "OH RIGHT, LIKE WE'RE SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE THAT'S REAAAAALLLL???" We were pretty sure we were at Disneyland or something where everything is so fakely fake and perfect because NO WAY could any of it be THAT beautiful and THAT spectacular and also be REAL.

Good try and all Disney, but we're on to you.

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