1-1 Champagne Beach

It was pretty much a classic tropical island paradise

We got into Santo at 2 am on Wednesday morning. The ship got to Ambae where a whole pile of people was waiting to go to a wedding on the other side of the island. It took an hour and a half to load them into the ship going one speedboat-full at a time in a protected cove. It took four and a half to unload them on the other side. That delayed our trip.

Wednesday when we got up, we weren’t feeling really interested in doing much so we made plans for the next day. Thursday morning, we rented a truck and went to Champagne Beach.
I have never been swimming in a more beautiful location. The water was crystal clear at twenty and thirty feet down where you could see white sand and tiny fish. The sand was practically flour and there were no sharp rocks to surprise your feet. Coconut trees provided ambiance while a couple of leafy trees shaded the area around the beach. The only thing that made this Vanuatu and not an actual paradise were the occasional cow or pig coming to enjoy the beach as well.
Jason and Ryan were rolling around in the sand.
Now they look breaded and ready for the frying pan.

We spent the day there, diving off the dock, playing frisbee, wrestling in the sand and swimming. We had a picnic for lunch and the more tender-hearted among us fed scraps to the pig. I’m totally over pigs and chased the damn creature away from my basket when it tried to steal my bread.

We got back to the house sunburned and happy before dinner. Seriously, the most beautiful place I’ve ever been swimming.

9-16 Playing tourist in Dunedin

The white building with the silo is the Cadbury factory

On Monday, David and Zoanna had to do “work” and “school” things so we were on our own to find amusement. We had to choose between a brewery and a chocolate factory. After much debate, we went for the chocolate. We were going on a wine tour later in the week anyway.

We biked into downtown where the Cadbury Chocolate Factory was located. We took a tour, which was amusing. I feel like brewery/factory/distillery tours all follow a basic format. You go in, watch a video or hear a lecture about the product and why it is the best which usually includes historical claims to fame. For Cadbury, this included the first chocolate factory in New Zealand under other management, which was then taken over by Cadbury. Then you walk through and look at the initial processing of the product, in this case, how do cocoa beans go from bean form to cocoa solids and butter. Then you go through this factory’s specialty, for instance Jaffas (little orange coated chocolate balls) or Easter Eggs. Then you watch the production line and feel sorry for the people working on it as you are staring at them. Finally, there is a “twist” like a ton of chocolate that falls from the ceiling. And then you are out on your own.
On the Cadbury tour, there were a couple of gorgeous views from towers and they gave out chocolate. Really, they gave out enough chocolate to justify the price in my mind, so I’m happy. Anything that gives me chocolate gets points in my book.
Stained glass train in the railway station

After our factory tour, we did a little “self-guided” exploration. We ditched the bikes because it was pouring rain and wandered around. We found the train station, which was pretty, and an electronic store that was useful. We also stopped by a martial arts store and found out that ssang jyul bong are a controlled weapon and you have to have a black belt certificate to show to purchase them. I think we’ll just make some on the island.

It had stopped raining by the time we got done with all that so we picked up some groceries and biked back to the house.
I left Jason to go for a jog that continued to prove that New Zealand is beautiful. I can’t remember the name of the place we went, but we went uphill into the forest. The woods themselves were gorgeous and exotic to my northern hemisphere expectations. Giant ferns, like I see in Vanuatu, except growing side by side with hardwoods and scrubby bushes. The ground was littered with pine needles, or something like them, which reminded me strongly of home. I think I’m still more at home in the forest than on the beach, but don’t let my dad know. He’ll be disappointed that even a place this beautiful can’t instill his love of the ocean in me.
Playing cards in the evening with our hosts

We hung around the house and cooked and played cards for the evening and much of the next morning. At noon the next day, we left for the bus back to Christchurch and adventures in the Marlborough region, also known as wine country.

9-16 Following Locals in Dunedin

Living statues at the Market.  I miss art.

On Friday afternoon, we stopped in the town of Palmerston for lunch. We were ahead of our new-and-improved schedule and thought we’d pick up some internet at the library. One of our hosts in Dunedin, Zoanna, was on Facebook chat at the same time. She offered to come pick us up in Waiakouaiti. We considered our regularly frozen toes, another night in the tent and how much we wanted to watch the rugby opener and took her up on it.

We got to the Dunedin City limits on the bikes. It was another 50 k to Dunedin. Random fact: Dunedin’s city limits were set during a gold rush. The city planners were quite responsible and planned for the city to continue to expand, what they didn’t plan for was the gold to run out. So, they set the city limits based on the rate of expansion during the gold rush and now there are “urban farms” that include pasturage for herds of sheep and acres of fields. The Dunedin City limits are also outside of three very large hills. We got a ride over those. Which was good for our legs.
Our adorable guide through the city and her mama.

Friday evening, I got nominated to drive to the store to pick up more cider. New Zealand drives on the wrong side of the road and the steering wheel is on the wrong side. I didn’t hit anything and I came home with cider.

Saturday, David and Zoanna had to go do things for school but had asked friends of theirs to take us to the Saturday morning market. The market was like a Farmer’s Market and lovely in the variety of foods and art on display. It was actually overwhelming to have four kinds of apples to choose from and so many varieties of bread and pastries. Jason tried a Bacon Butty and declared it tasty. It involved bacon, cheese, and egg in a sandwich.
They gave us a short walking tour of the city including First Church, which is a lovely cathedral. Curiously enough, there was a Victorian Hat display in the museum at the back. The hats were nice and all, but why were they in a church? Some of them could have been worn to church, but some were certainly not church material. It was very odd.
Sandfly Beach at moonrise

After that, we went for a drive in the Otago Peninsula. Most or all of the Otago Peninsula is also within the Dunedin City limits. Go figure. There is a lot of gorgeous scenery and I enjoyed the conversation along the way. We even stopped for ice cream, which remains one of my favorite foods.

When David and Zoanna got back, they offered to take us back out that direction to Sandfly Beach to see sealions and penguins. Of course I jumped on that chance.
Very large mammals that smell like fish

The sealions were pretty amazing. The beach is the home to a large number of wild sealions. On our walk down the beach to the penguin hide, we were a matter of feet from some of them. It turns out sealions are enormous creatures and they smell like fish. Who’d have thunk that a sea mammal would smell like fish? There was one cute white pup with its mama, but we didn’t want to get too close expecially after Zoanna’s stories of being chased by one.

We waited at the penguin blind and got to watch a handful of penguins come waddling out of the water. Unfortunately, none of them came our way so we only saw them from pretty far off. The penguins are very shy and don’t like humans at all, so you have to stay well hidden to keep from scaring them off. We were hoping a few would decide to come roost close to us for the night, but we didn’t see the ones that did. We heard some that were very close, but we never caught sight of them.
We went back to a delicious dinner prepared by our guides from the morning. We ate while watching the England vs Argentina rugby match. It was a long day for people used to the isolation of an island or a bike and we crashed pretty hard that night.

Dunedin City from the Otago Peninsula