Tuesday, February 17

Day 173-Fiordlands N.P.

I felt damn lucky to get out of Sydney. My flight was inexplicably canceled, and they held me in line for two hours just to grace me with the fact that they would fly me out at 7 pm, which was not acceptable with a 1 am arrival in Christchurch. Annoyed, I dashed off to talk to other airlines and was eager to buy another ticket with Emirates, but when he asked to see proof of onward flight from New Zealand, my hopes diminished. I had booked an e-ticket east a couple of weeks earlier but I had no paper evidence of this. A mad dash upstairs to the airline office (surprisingly open on a Sunday morning) resulted in the necessary printout, and by the time I got back to the desk, there was just one seat left, which I gladly snatched. At 80% of the original price, with premier lunch service and entertainment system, I could say with conviction "Alls well that ends well".

Now I am happily in New Zealand, and happily on the road in a beater Toyota rental. With already 800 kilometers behind me I am perched on the Southwest side of the South Island, prepared to take a walk tomorrow in this Unesco listed National Park. Getting here brought me through some dramatic countryside, rolling hills and farms dotted with more sheep than one could count in a lifetime of sleepless nights. It is altogether very reminiscent of the parklands of central Colorado. On the other side of the hiway, ocean looms large, the angry rollers come crashing to shore, after a long and icy ride up from Antartica. Huge beds of kelp slosh about in the shallows, and walking about the beachside stones and boulders, I was so enchanted that I failed to notice a big bull sea lion waddling for the safety of the surf, with me in the way. Fortunately they move quite slowly and I had plenty of time to wake up, take a pic, and clear out. Still I cannot be sure I am out of danger, for I must constantly remind myself to stay alert and on the left side of the road as I continue my auto tour of through this magical landscape.

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