Happy St. Valentine’s Day to everyone. Romance in the air? Well, it’s the thought that counts. We spent Valentine’s Day driving hither and yon to get to our next destination, Queenstown, only to not be able to find a camping spot for us to park our “romantic” campervan. Frustration building, we finally camped about half an hour outside of town in a Department of Conservation campground that was inhabited by some very pesky sand flies. Finding Kathy a yummy treat, they feasted on her, driving her mad. Lots of Benadryl, and soon she was blissfully snoring away. Ahhhh, Valentine’s Day in a campervan. Probably not the most romantic.
Trying to wake Kathy up from all the Benadryl, the next day we decided to take an approximately 9-mile hike. We climbed to the top of Mt. Creighton, saw some old historic buildings from the gold mining days, and then hiked down the steep hill on the backside of the mountain. The photos speak for the beauty of the hike. The day after Valentine’s Day, though, is a special day for Kathy and Dave. It is the “anniversary” of our first official date – 16 years ago! While they had met each other 5 months earlier, this day 16 years ago saw them take the leap and go on a date – skiing. Dave planned this well – the day AFTER Valentines, so no need to buy flowers or chocolates. He was smart that way!! Still keeping to the modus operandi, we decided on no chocolates or flowers. We did treat ourselves to a hot shower. Finding a nice local holiday park on the outskirts of Queenstown, we parked our vehicle, took a much-needed shower, and set off to explore the bustling city. We meandered down to a park, walked through the congested streets, and had dinner at Fergburgers (supposedly the best burger to be found in NZ). The hamburger was good, but not amazing. The waiting lines along the street showed the power of marketing and word of mouth. People took pictures, including us, of the joint to say we had been there and tried the burger. Next, we climbed the steep hill to attend mass in a small historic church. Finally, strolling back, we stopped for gelato and then decided to just relax in the campervan. Crammed into the car park like sardines in a can, probably not the romantic suite that most dream of. However, love can be found anywhere, and so it was, in a Toyota campervan, amongst dozens of others, in a Queenstown Holiday Park.
**On a side note: wildlife in NZ. We have seen many mammals in NZ, including (ranked in order of numbers of critters): sheep (It’s said that NZ has more sheep than people), cows, deer (grazing in fenced-in pastures, and not the eastern whitetail or western mule deer, but large red deer they raise like cattle!), roadkill varmints, rabbits, and one weasel. Oh, yeah, and my friend, the little pig in Turangi. NZ only has two native mammals: bats and seals. They have lots of birds, including 4 flightless varieties, 3 of which are endangered. They are endangered because of all of the introduced ground mammals which eat them, their young, or their eggs. Flightless birds have no protection from ground predators. This is why they evolved here – there were no ground predators. Now, New Zealand has put out thousands of traps and bait stations and even tried controversial aerial spraying to get rid of the rats, mice, weasels, ferrets, possums, stoats and others who have decimated the bird populations. We’ll see how well their efforts work.