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Sunday, December 26, 2004

New Zealand - Days 5 & 6

Friday, Dec. 24 – Queenstown

We are sleeping a lot during this trip, partly due to the jetlag, partly due to the fact that we don’t need to get up for anything in particular… Pure bliss.

To start the day, we took the cable car up to the mountain in Queenstown, the so-called Skyline Gondola. The ride is about five minutes and the beautiful landscape unravels below you as you climb higher and the lake Wakatipu comes into full view. Once at the top, the weather brightened up and the sun started showing through the clouds, a welcome change.

Up on the top, there is a free chair-lift that takes you up a bit further and then you can go back down on a luge. A luge is plastic plate on wheels with a handlebar; you sit on the plate and slide down the hill on a paved track, controlling the luge with the handlebar. Simple, but great fun. I went with A. for a ride and when we got down we immediately wanted to go up again for another turn. This time we took H. with us; she rode with me on the way down and looked very cute in her pink helmet. A. got stuck this time around and with all his wailing “abba, abba” he managed to attract the attention of another Israeli family that heard him.

This was the first time we bumped into Israelis since we arrived. It was a family from Hod HaSharon, Ron and Ronit and two kids, on a long trip away from home. They spent three months in Australia and were now going through NZ. Turns out they were from Petah Tikva originally and went to the same school at T. there.

Back down from the mountain, we set out for a 40-minute drive to Glenorchy. The drive is one of the most scenic routes in New Zealand, along the lake and up in the mountains. The views are truly amazing and the air is so clear that visibility is excellent. Glenorchy is a tiny town (population 200) and the road from Queenstown to Glenorchy was sealed (asphalted) all the way only a few years ago. After Glenorchy, the road continues north on a dirt track for another few kilometres and ends up in a place called Paradise, a teeny-tiny village in the middle of nowhere. Many of the Lord of the Rings scenes were shot in this area.

After spending some time just staring into the wilderness and listening to the silence, disturbed only by a few sheep, we headed back to Queenstown for a quick trip to the supermarket before Shabbat, which started a bit before 9pm. Down here the summer days are very long.

Saturday, Dec. 25 – Queenstown

Christmas Day in Queenstown was a bright and sunny summer day. The weather was beautiful throughout the day, which was pretty annoying, as we couldn’t go anywhere. When you think about it, Christmas in the southern hemisphere is never snowy; I guess Santa doesn’t use a sledge around these parts.

Today, I saw the first sign of police in this country. A police car drove by our motel room this afternoon, but I can’t say I actually saw a policeman, just the car. T. says she saw a police station in Auckland, but she too did not see any policemen. Perhaps police here is just a façade...

Managed to get a lot of reading done today. I’m reading Amos Oz’s last book: A Tale of Love and Darkness, which is OK but somewhat long-winded. Some of the descriptions are a bit woody, in true Oz style. T. says Oz is a “sacred cow” that many are afraid to say bad things about and that most of his book are boring.

By the way, H. pronounces New Zealand as “Miz Yuland”, making it sound like a teacher at her kindergarten.

By the time Shabbat was out, it was already 11pm. Tomorrow, we have a long drive ahead of us.

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