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May 2002

The trip continues in the South Island of New Zealand and
then Easter Island!

Wednesday May 1st, 2002 – We got up and BOY was it cold!  The van has a heater in it but I don’t like to have it on while we sleep because it’s kind of annoying and loud when it cycles on and off.  Getting out of the van though I noticed that we had a wonderful view of the “Te Anau” lake, they say it’s the second largest lake in the country, but they never say what “THE” largest lake is, guess they don’t want to bother with their competition.  We headed off for the towns of Invercargill and Bluff where “supposedly” they have the world’s best oysters.  Bluff is one of the most southern points on the south island and I was wondering if it was going to be like Milford Sound and be just a dock and no real town.  The weather to Invercargill was truly awful, freezing cold, windy and raining, it even hailed on us for awhile.  I’m just glad we weren’t backpacking or bicycling, at least it was a good day for driving, we couldn’t have done much else but sit in the van and read otherwise.  As we got near Invercargill we noticed that many of the farms had huge stands of trees planted as wind breaks.  They were expertly manicured but had to be over 40 feet tall, I had no idea how they trimmed them but they looked perfectly trimmed.  Ron guessed that the farmers compete to see who could grow the neatest looking wind break, I can’t imagine any other reason, I’d just plant a row of pines and let them grow untrimmed. 

We got to Invercargill and proceeded straight through to Bluff, Ron was reading in the Lonely Planet book that said that there was a lookout point in Bluff so we drove up to that.  The lookout vista did give a nice eagle eye view of the city, but it was windier then hell and freezing.  No wonder the town is called “Bluff”, I couldn’t imagine even the poor people who built this lookout post or maintained the antennas on the point.

We drove off the mountain after quickly snapping a few pics and then kept driving to see if there was any more to the town.  We got to the end of the road and there was a nice vista view and also a nice bar, how convenient!  We walked up to the bar and asked the bartender if she had Bluff oysters and she said, “Of course!”  We ordered two plates of 6 each along with 2 D.B. beers.  We tasted our first Bluff oyster and I said to Ron, “This is the best oyster I’ve ever tasted!”  Just wonderful, very meaty, like a clam, didn’t have the “slimy” consistency of a lot of oysters, but the flavor was 100% oyster, just fantastic.  We tried to eat them slowly but they were gone in the blink of an eye and the blink of a beer.  The bartender came over and asked how we liked them, “Could we have more please?” is all I could respond.  Ron saw a sign on the table that said that “Monteiths beer was the perfect compliment for Bluff oysters”, so we ordered one more plate of 6 to split along with 2 Monteiths.  We also noticed a sign on the table that they were having an oyster festival THIS COMING WEEKEND!  Damn!  Of all the luck.  Really makes you consider changing flights when you see news of an upcoming oyster festival!

We finished up our beers and then jumped in the van to find a place to spend the night.  We found a nice campground as it continued to rain like crazy.  We got to our site, plugged in the van to the electric outlet and then jumped in the back for some cards and refreshments.  We were sitting there when we heard a big KAPOWWWWWWWWWWW, the first thunder we’ve heard, and then the power went off.  The thunder kept grumbling and I could actually feel it vibrate the side of the van through my feet that were resting against it.  Ron and I were just looking at each other, waiting for the power to come back on when a huge gust of wind rocked the van like it was going to blow over.  Hmmmmmm, I wonder if they have tornadoes in NZ?  Sure felt like tornado weather to me.  The power came back after about an hour, thank god.  The little heater in the van runs on electricity only and it was getting pretty cold in the van.

We were sitting there, me typing away and Ron writing postcards when all of a sudden the van was pelted with hail, it got so loud I was actually worried about the front window shattering.  What next? I thought, a rainstorm of frogs dropping from the sky?  The south island is pretty interesting, but who’d want to live here??  It’s not even winter and it was pretty damn cold.

Thursday May 2nd, 2002 – We woke up to the wind howling and rocking the van like we were in a gale, what a crazy night it was.  The violent wind had blown open one of the little ceiling vents and the gears were stripped so we couldn’t close it, luckily it was the ceiling skylight in the forward part of the cabin and not the one over the bed.

I went in to shower and the sink had the same double faucets, one for hot water and one for cold.  The entire country uses these damn 2 faucet systems.  When you wash your hands you either scald them in hot water or freeze them in the cold water, when you shave at least you can put the plug in and mix the water to the right temperature, I just think it’s totally bizarre that we have only seen 2 single hot/cold combination faucets in the entire month we’ve been here.

Just as I finished my shower Ron came in and said that some couple’s car had died and they wanted a push start to try and restart it.  Of course I was happy to help out till I saw that it was pouring rain outside with 40 km winds, what a time to try and do this.  I asked if they had jumper cables and they didn’t so we started pushing the car.  It wasn’t a big car but it was hard to get any speed going with the wind and rain making everything slippery and more difficult.  We weren’t able to start the car and they said they’d ask the owners of the campground for a jumpstart, I was glad to get out of the cold and the rain.  We went back to the van and had some toast and coffee but I was feeling guilty about the kids being stranded out here in the middle of nowhere so I asked Ron, “Would you mind if we tried to give them another push start?” and Ron said, “No, just wave at me if you need my help, I’m staying inside where it’s dry till they want the push start.”  I went out to the end of the driveway and the car was gone, I guess they were able to start it and were on their way.  Ron asked the owners of the park for some screw drivers to try and repair the skylight vent that kept flying open with the wind, this did not appear to be a day for mechanical things.  We got the screen off the ceiling vent and Ron secured the skylight closed with a plastic bag used as rope, at least rain would no longer get inside.

We stopped in to see Invercargill’s local museum, had a quick lunch, then headed off for Dunedin, our next destination.

                                 Canoe paddles

                                                                                                             The next 3 pics are all typewriters

When you think about it, these things would be damn hard to engineer

The wind was still blowing us all over the road and you could see the rain passing in front of the van horizontally.  Even though I was driving along at 85 km/hr the rain drops on the windshield were running horizontally across our window from right to left.  What a windy place.  The sheep we drove by continued to munch grass as if nothing was askew, I guess they’ve lived their whole short lives in such conditions and this is normal for them.  Sometimes you’d see a flock that were recently sheared and there’d be all these naked sheep, huddled together for warmth, wondering where their warm coats where, downwind from one of the wind breaks.

More sheep then you can imagine
Everywhere you look in NZ is a picture postcard perfect setting
We missed the peak of fall colors, but still was able to see some beautiful colors

It wasn’t much fun fighting the wind, but at least we were dry in the van.  Can’t say the same for the sheep, cattle and deer.  We’ve driven from one end of this country to the other and the whole country seems to be fenced off into paddocks with some kind of live stock in them.  We’d drive for hours seeing only the occasional farm house or small groups of buildings and yet as you drive you were always passing a fenced in paddock with something munching the grass.

We got into blustery Dunedin and found our motor camp for the night.  I was a little relieved to stop fighting the wind and just get in the back of the van and have a drink.

Friday May 3rd, 2002 – We woke up to the van rocking in the wind, I can’t believe how strong the wind is here, Ron asked someone if this was normal and they said it was like that most of the winter, you could barely stand outside as the wind could blow you over.  When I took my shower I lathered up with shampoo and closed my eyes, lowered my head and put it under the warm shower spray, with the van rocking back and forth the previous night in the wind, I got the same feeling you get after being on a boat for a long time, I had the strange “moving sensation” vertigo when I closed my eyes and almost fell over.

We headed toward the Larnach Castle, a home built on the bluff in 1871.  We drove up some narrow and scary roads till we got to the castle.  It was a lovely excursion and the home was quite wonderful, what I liked about it was that the rooms were in proportion, they weren’t huge empty cavernous rooms, but rooms you can imagine living in, adorning the walls and ceilings were wonderfully crafted carvings and ornamentation.

More Larnach Castle Pics

We drove on to our next destination and the wind was still fiercely pushing the van around, I’m glad this wasn’t our first destination in NZ, if it was I may have packed it up and gone home after this, it was just so much work to wrestle the van to keep it on the road.

We arrived that late afternoon in Ashburton and checked into a motor camp.  Ron asked the campground owner if he knew of a restaurant where we could get rack of lamb for dinner, many restaurants had lamb dishes but very few had rack of lamb.  The owner suggested a place but he couldn’t remember the name of it.  We pulled in and had a beer to relax after our day of driving, then headed off for the restaurant.  On our way out I thought Ron should stop and ask the campground owner for better directions and he remembered that the name of the restaurant was “Laurel and Hardy’s”, not the name of a fine dining establishment I thought.  We got to the restaurant and it seemed like a nice family restaurant but they didn’t have rack of lamb, oh well.  We thought in NZ where the sheep outnumbered the people 6 to 1, we were hoping to find rack of lamb somewhere.  Lots of places had lamb stew and lamb shanks, but no rack of lamb.  The search continues, we still have a few days in Christchurch before we return home, a pretty big city, so I’m sure we can find it there.

We had a nice kangaroo dinner at “Laurel and Hardy’s.”  It was the special for the night so we thought that would be a good thing to order.  The waiter said, “Don’t worry, it’s not Skippy!”  I guess “Skippy” is a cartoon character like “Bambi” or something, I have no idea who “Skippy” is but I’m glad I wasn’t eating him/her!

Saturday May 4th, 2002 – Did the usual morning routine of coffee and toast.

Arrived in Christchurch and went to the National Arts Museum for the afternoon. 

We had plans to meet the owner of the company who rented us the camper van.  I had found his website and through a few emails to reserve the van we decided to meet.  Ralf is the owner of the company and has an interesting background, he’s German and was a PHD biochemist scientist for a prestigious pharmaceutical company.  Unfortunately the stress of the job aggravated a heart condition he had so he decided to step down from his high stress job and start a company renting out camper vans to German tourists.  We called him to see when a good time to come over would be and he said about 6 pm.  With a little time to burn we toured the downtown Christchurch area of very interesting, historical architectural buildings, took a touristy tram ride on a restored street car and went through some artisan booths that were setup.

More Christchurch museum Pics

There was some really neat stuff, but our suitcases were already bursting and I couldn’t bear to think of trying to cram something else in.  We got to Ralf’s house right on time and met him and his partner Jason.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, I thought we’d just have a beer together but Ralf and Jason had made a wonderful dinner for us and we stayed up till 2am talking and drinking red wine.

Sunday May 5th, 2002 – Woke up to the sound of Ralf’s four “Jack Terrier” dogs barking away.  Jason’s daughter and ex-wife had shown up and the quiet house soon became a whirl wind of activity.  Jason’s daughter Skye is a 7 year old bundle of energy and she soon had dragged me out to the paddock where their alpacas were.  She was trying to show me how to round up and catch a goat to feed it.  We tried this for about a ½ hour before I gave up and wanted to head back into the house. 

Skye and I racing
More Ralf and Jason's Farm Pics

Ron was asking Jason and Ralf for suggestions on day trips.  They mentioned “Hanmer Springs” which was a natural hot spring about 2 hours drive away with bathing pools and massages.  This sounded like a great way to spend a Sunday so we headed off.

We spotted this old steam train now used to haul tourists, people were pulling off the road to take pictures of it.

We got to “Hanmer Springs” and the local spa was all booked for that day for massages.  They had a few ½ hour massages, but to me a ½ hour massage is just not worth it, just as you start feeling relaxed it’s over and no matter how much you beg or how much you offer them, they have other appointments and won’t continue.  The receptionist said, “How long will you be in town?” and I said, “Unfortunately only today.”  We reluctantly left the building but I stopped just outside the door.  I thought to myself, “We have one more day, why not just come back tomorrow?”  Ron readily agreed and we walked back in and made appointments for the following day.

We then went next door to the hot pools facility.  This had a large assortment of indoor and outdoor hot pools and mineral thermal baths.  We quickly changed and then tried to get into the water before we froze in the cold autumn air.  We hopped from pool to pool, checking the temperatures and soaking.  It was really a pleasant way to spend a Sunday.

We drove back to Ralf and Jason’s house and arrived around 6 pm.  We had offered to take them out to dinner to thank them for their hospitality and wonderful dinner the night before.  They took us to a restaurant called “Outlaws”, it was a western “theme” restaurant with all the servers dressed in country and western garb.  One of the waiters even had a whip that he came out and cracked like a gunshot, he’d have young kids hold out a balloon and he’d CRACK the whip and break the balloon.  The kids seemed to enjoy it but I wouldn’t have done it.

Pete, Jason and Ralf

Got back to their house and again stayed up till 2 am talking and drinking wine.

Monday May 6th, 2002 – We drove back to Hanmer Springs to have our massage, boy did it feel good.  Every time I have a massage I tell myself I have to do that more often. 

We were driving back to Christchurch when someone was flashing their lights at me.  I thought they wanted to pass me but they had several opportunities and they never passed me.  Finally they did, and as they were passing they pointed down and said, “You have a flat tire!”  Great!  I pulled over and looked at the rear tires, the van wasn’t pulling to one side or anything, but on the back there are double tires and one of the inside tires had gone flat.  The tires on this thing are pretty large truck tires and I’ve never changed a double tire, I had no idea where to start.  We were a few miles out of town but we decided it was safe to drive into town at a reduced speed to find a gas station that could change it for us.

We got to a service station and had the manager come out and take a look at it for us.  He crawled under the van, kicked the tire and said, “Yep, it’s flatter then a butterfly, but you got a spare, just put it on.”  I asked him, “Can I pay you to put it on?”  He said he was pretty busy but that he’d get someone to do it for us.  I watched this young kid replace the tire and it was quite a learning experience, you could NEVER do this on the side of the road yourself.  The kid did a very good job and was very efficient and methodical about his chore, but he had all the right tools and we were on a level concrete parking lot and it still took him over an hour to change the tire.  I was relieved to get back on the road knowing that the van was properly supported once again.

A nice sunset for our last night in New Zealand

We got back and Ralf had prepared us a rack of lamb dinner.  Ron had told him the story about not being able to find rack of lamb anywhere and Ralf thought he would make it for us, WOW!  It was a fantastic dinner and that night we stayed up till 4 am talking away and drinking every bottle of red wine we could find.

        Jason demonstrates how to eat rack of lamb

Tuesday May 7th, 2002 – We got up a little groggily and Jason (who doesn’t drink red wine) had setup breakfast for us.  Ron, Ralf and I all sat nursing our coffees and our heads filled with cobwebs and enjoyed one last breakfast together.  Jason then took us to the airport for our 1:30 pm flight, but being the perfect host he’d been, instead of just dropping us off at the curb, Jason parked and came inside with us to have one last coffee together.

Monday May 6th, 2002 – Because of the date line we arrived in Tahiti mysteriously one day before we left.  This is really screwing up my journal trying to keep this straight.

We got to the hotel, checked in and crashed into bed.

Monday May 6th, 2002 – Because of the date line we arrived in Tahiti mysteriously one day before we left.  This is really screwing up my journal trying to keep this straight.

We got to the hotel, checked in and crashed into bed.

Tuesday May 7th, 2002 – After the last few days of staying up late, we decided to sleep in and get some rest.  Not much interesting to say, except that Tahiti was beautiful and warm, a nice change from the fall of New Zealand that we had left behind the previous day.  Just spent the day laying by the pool, had a great happy hour at the pool bar and then went for a nice fish dinner.

More Tahiti Pics

Wednesday May 8th, 2002 – The day was a little overcast, but we still hung out by the pool writing postcards, and reading.  Occasionally we’d have to get under the umbrellas as it rained off and on all day, but it would then get nice and sunny for a little bit before the next period of rain.  We left for Easter Island that evening.

Thursday May 9th, 2002 – We arrived at about 10 am at Easter Island.  We had a long wait in the custom’s line and I was looking into the terminal to see where the bags where coming in. I could see about 12 booths where individuals where trying to sell hotel rooms, well… I thought, at least we’ll have a place to stay.  Our travel agent in Argentina didn’t make us hotel reservations here, he told us, “Just find a place once you get there.”  I wasn’t very happy with that, I really like to have a place to go to, I always think ‘how do you know what’s a good deal or not?’ in a place you’ve never been.  We got our bags and then headed over to run the hotel gauntlet.  The first guy we approached was very nice and told us of a hotel, I asked how much it was and he said, “How much do you want to spend?”  I HATE that question!  I asked again how much it was and he said, “$80 USA.”  That sounded reasonable considering what we were paying in Tahiti, but then again I had no idea if that was a lot for the island or not.  I thought we should at least try one other person so we went to the next booth.  The original guy quickly gave us a business card and said to call us if we needed anything.  The next booth over had a place ‘right in town’ for $50 a night.  We decided that sounded fine, we figured we could always look for another place if we didn’t like it and it looked nice in the pictures he showed us.  As we drove to the hotel we were passing through an area with a few scattered buildings on it, I was hoping the car wouldn’t stop, meaning we weren’t in the town yet, but sure enough we stopped and I thought, “This is the town??”  There were people trotting by on horses, a major form of transportation here.  I thought maybe they had 3 or 4 smaller towns, and then one major town, and this MUST be one of the smaller towns.  Ron told me, however, “No, there’s only ONE town on this island.”  I was a little hesitant to say the least.

Main street

We went to check in and the people were very friendly but they were telling us that the hotel had just been sprayed with an insecticide and that we couldn’t go back into the rooms for an hour.   They showed us 5 rooms to choose from and although the accommodations were spartan they all seemed clean and neat and perfectly adequate.  We agreed to the first room they showed us and we just held our breaths as we threw the bags in the room.  We then went for a little walk around town.  Like most overnight plane trips we got very little sleep on the plane so we were kind of walking around like zombies.  As we walked down the street people were riding by on horseback, I was really kind of in culture shock.  We walked through the little town in 10 minutes and I was feeling kind of uncertain about spending 5 days there as there wasn’t a whole lot to the town.  Then we found the post office and asked them if they had an ATM, “Oh no”, the gentleman said, “but the bank is right around the corner.”  Well, at least they had a bank, I was actually worried that they may not have one.  We easily withdrew some pesos from the ATM (unlike our experience in Tahiti (the French!)) so I was feeling a little easier.  Next door to the bank there was a tourism office so we went in to check on some tours.  The girl was very friendly and I asked her opinion about hotels in the area.  I told her that we were staying at the “Orongo” and she said, “That’s a nice hotel”.  This made me feel a little better about our pick of a hotel.  We then asked her about some tours and she called someone and handed me the phone.  The operator said that they had a tour leaving that afternoon at 3 pm for $25.  Sounded great to us.  We found a nice place to have lunch, then headed back to catch an hours nap before the tour.  The room was pretty aired out by then so the antiseptic smell wasn’t too bad.

They picked us up from the hotel for the tour and then picked up a few other people.  They took us to a dormant volcano on the island, the next stop was some restored rock dwellings next to a ceremonial area where once a year able bodied men would race to swim out to a small island about a kilometer off the coast, obtain a special bird egg and then swim back to shore with it.  Once on shore, they had to scale a treacherous cliff face, and the first person to return to the ceremonial area with an unbroken bird egg was named king for the year.  Seemed pretty crazy, but that’s the kind of stuff you dream up before they had TV.

More Dormant Volcano and Dwelling Pics

Our next stop was the first time we saw some statues.  Previously when we visited Viña del Mar in Chile, we had seen a statue that Isla de Pascua had gifted them in the early part of this century.  It was very interesting, but to see the statues in their original location was just fabulous.  As we walked near the statues some park ranger would blow a whistle at us if we got too close to the statues, this got to be pretty annoying as we had no idea who she was blowing the whistle at.

More First Statue Pics

We then went to a museum where our cute guide Carmen showed us some of the points of interest, then took us back to our hotels.  Ron and I walked down to have a beer before dinner.  Thia and John that we had met on the tour walked by and we invited them to sit down and have a drink with us, they’re both from Australia and are a great couple.  We told them we had a great lunch at the place we were having the beer but we were headed to another restaurant for dinner.  After a few beers we headed off,  had a wonderful dinner and then headed back to get a good night’s sleep.

Friday May 10th, 2002 – We had a continental breakfast at the hotel and then headed off to do some shopping.  I found a really nice carved figure but it was $300 US, the woman was explaining that it cost so much because it was so delicately carved, I agreed that it was very nice, that’s why I liked it, but it was out of my price range.

We saw a restaurant with empanadas and stopped for a light lunch.  We again saw Thia and John and they said, “Every time we see you two you’re sitting down for food and beers!”  They trudged off to do some shopping and then we saw Anne, another Aussie from our tour group.  Anne decided to sit with us to have lunch.  I told the waiter I’d have 3 empanadas and he said, “Oh no, hay muy grande!”  Thank god he said that, so I switched my order to two.  When they arrived they were about 4 times bigger then the empanadas we get in Argentina, one would have been a perfect lunch, two was too much and both Ron and I ended up taking a ½ of one home with us.

Carmen and the driver picked us up again at 3 pm and we headed off for our next tour.  The first stop was at a stop with 7 restored statues.  Carmen was saying these are the only statues facing towards the water, all the others are facing inland, watching over the people who lived on the island.  She said that these 7 statues are monuments and not ceremonial statues.  They think that they were to honor the 7 navigators who were sent out by a king who had a dream of an island to his east, hence the discovery of Easter Island or Isle de Pascua.  All of the other statues were created as ceremonial burial alters with the bones of a king or an important person below the statue.  When you see pictures of the statues they look impressive, but when you’re actually standing there in front of them, WOW!  It’s like actually seeing in person a famous piece of art work like the ‘Mona Lisa’ or a beautiful piece of sculpture like Michelangelo’s ‘David’.  When you see it in person, and stand there looking at them, then turn around and see what the statues have been looking at this whole time, it just bowls you over with emotion.  It feels like a cold ocean wave hitting you right in the face, it just smacks against you from head to toe.

More Seven Navigator Pics

We then headed to a quarry where they created the ‘top knot’ of the king statues.  Carmen was explaining how the top knots (representing hair) were quarried and then rolled to their destination.  We then walked up the hill to see the quarry.  There was a female cow standing on our path with a full set of horns which looked quite intimidating.  We asked Carmen, “The cow won’t charge us, will she?” and she says, “Oh no, of course not, just walk as far as you can away from her as you can off the path!”  Thia had a red shirt on and she was saying, “Watch out, she might charge me!”  We got to the top of the quarry and it was quite impressive.

Now, does she look docile?

Carmen, Ron, Pete, Anne, Thia and John
The top knot quarry

                          See Thia's red shirt on the right?                                  These things are NOT small
                         The cow is further up the hill!

We got back to the hotel and decided to have our empanada carry outs for dinner.  We stopped to get a bottle of wine to enjoy with our empanadas but discovered that we didn’t have a cork screw.  We ALWAYS carry a cork screw with us for just such occasions but Ron couldn’t find it to save his life.  We were trying to figure out what we were going to us when Ron used a pen to jam the cork down into the bottle, desperate times cause for desperate measures!

Saturday May 11th, 2002 – Today was our full day around the island tour.  We started off by stopping at a cave caused by a previous lava flow. 

Then our next stop was to look at the only statue platform that had very precise geometric shapes with perfectly fitted blocks.  This had some scientists thinking that the people of the island originated from the Incas of South America, something that Carmen refuses to believe.  I’m not so sure why she didn’t want to be associated with the Incas, but she sure made it clear to us that she believes that the people of her island originated from the Asian islands somewhere.

More Lava Cave and Geometric Pics

Next we stopped at the quarry where all the statues originated.  There are almost 1,000 known statues and 400 of them are still either in the mountain or adjacent to it waiting to be taken to a platform.  Some of the statues only have the heads protruding above the ground, but the entire statue is there buried in the soil.  We walked to where some of the statues were still being carved from the mountain, including the largest statue started but never finished.

More Statue Quarry Pics

The next stop was a site where they had restored 18 statues but a tidal wave had knocked them all down in the 50s, they were restored in the 60s but they could only find the pieces to restore 15 of them.

More Fifteen Statue Pics

We stopped next at something they called the navel of the world, some crazy story about how they thought round rocks attracted fish and this bay had lots of fish that they attribute to the round stone.  We all tried to feel the energy from the stone, but I think it just made Ron sleepy.

Our last stop was at a beach, the entire island is volcanic and there are very few beaches with sand.  This set of statues had been completely buried in dirt so much of the intricate carving could still be seen.  We took a dip in the water before returning to the hotel.

More Navel of the World and Beach Pics

Sunday May 12th, 2002 – Carmen had told us that there was a mass on Sunday mornings where the native people sang.  Ron and I decided to risk being struck by lightening and attend the mass.  It was pretty interesting how they constantly caused the priest to stop while they sang, I wonder how this all went over with the Pope.

Our last chance to play cards and have a beer before returning home
One last sunset pic

Monday May 13th, 2002 – When we had first arrived we asked if we could pay our hotel bill with a credit card and the daughter had said, “Oh sure, no problem, whatever you want!”  Of course when Ron went to pay, she asked if it was possible for us to get cash, since it takes 2 months before her parents get the money from the credit card company.  Ron happily said this was no problem and then went to the bank to withdrawal the money.  Unfortunately, when he arrived at the bank they said it would be another hour before they had the ATM machine stocked with cash.  We had breakfast and then finished packing before Ron went back to the bank.  This time they said the connection to the mainland was down and the ATM machine wasn’t working, so Ron tried to get a cash advance on my credit card, his card had expired in New Zealand and we were just using my card for everything, Ron had just been signing my name, but when the bank officer asked for Ron’s passport, he noted that Ron was Ron and not me.  Ron came stomping back to the hotel to get me and go back to the bank to get the cash advance on my credit card.  We were finally able to pay the people for our room and then grabbed a taxi to the airport.

As the plane took off I was trying to spot a statue from the air, but I couldn’t see any of them, but I know they’re still there, standing and watching over the people of the island.

All in all a fantastic trip and what an experience!

Monday May 14th, 2002 – We arrived home from our 6 week trip and took a cab back to the apartment.  The cats were of course thrilled to see us.  I’m so glad they’re used to us traveling that they don’t get all neurotic about us being gone.  The trip was amazing but it’s nice to be back home!

Happy cats!

Tuesday May 15th, 2002 – Lourdes came over to return the apartment keys to us.  She brought along two of her college friends that sometimes accompanied her to our apartment to help her out and keep her company.  It was great telling her about our trip and showing her the “bit a bungee” cord from our bungee jumping experience.

Friday May 17th, 2002 – A friend of ours, Frances, has been arranging monthly dinners for expatriates who live in Buenos Aires and this month it was being held in “Palermo Viejo”, an old part of Palermo that has become kind of a trendy place for trendy yuppie restaurants.  This month Frances arranged to have chef Pol Lyka at his restaurant “Freud & Fahler” prepare a 7 course tasting menu paired with a Lagarde wine selection.  The restaurant was a quaint little place, very trendy with a neat décor.  I was pleased to see that they keep the front door locked for security and monitor who comes in and out.  With the way the economy is going, there have been reports of an increase in robberies and it just made me feel better to see that they watch who comes in and out. 

We were the second ones to arrive after our friends Jennifer and Andrew and soon others were filling the back room where our tables were setup.  I think in total there were about 20 people that showed up for the dinner.  The meal was outstanding, I think I enjoyed it more then Ron, it’s always nice to talk with friends while someone else is doing all the cooking and serving.

Tuesday May 28th, 2002 – Ron just caught a winter cold, funny, every time I mention to him about returning to our Berlitz Spanish classes again, one of us becomes sick!  I think there’s some subconscious Freudian stuff going on there.  We’ve been enjoying being home and just getting back into the swing of things, as you can tell from the recent journal entries, we haven’t been doing much of anything recently, pretty dull, but we’ve been enjoying our café and media lunas in the morning and just veggying out.

Ron decided to make some chicken noodle soup and went out to buy the ingredients, he came back from the grocery store and starts chopping and putting things into a pot.  He always whistles when he doing things like this.  Our office with the computers in it is near the kitchen and I could hear him whistling and chopping as I read my email.  I walked in to see what he was doing and I noticed that he was cutting up a red beet and I wondered what he was going to do with it, “I’m going to put it in the soup of course!”, he said.  I love beets, but… “Won’t that turn the soup red?”  Ron assured me that everything would be fine.

So…. That night we had red chicken noodle soup.  Delicious, but strange color!  I remember my sister Phyllis telling me this story of how Alfred Hitchcock threw a dinner party and had all the food colored with blue food coloring.  Didn’t affect the taste, but no one could eat it because it was blue.  She uses that in her color theory classes she gives for interior design.

Friday May 31st, 2002 – Colleen and Gary called and asked if we wanted to go bowling with them and Jennifer and Andrew.  This sounded like a fun time so we met Colleen and Gary at their apartment for a quick margarita before heading off to the “Showcase” mall just north of the city where they have a small amusement park as part of the mall.  We’ve been there twice before with Colleen and Gary and for $10 pesos, which now is less then $3 USA, you get unlimited amusement park rides, a pretty good bargain!   Gary, Andrew and I went on a few of the wilder rides, Ron joined us for some of the less spine crunching ones.  One ride was kind of like the “Tea Cup” ride at Disneyland where the ride spins in two directions at once.  I was having a blast but then looked over to see Andrew who was in another spinning arm of the ride in a separate car looking kind of ill, he had his head down and I thought, “Bad Idea”, when you’re feeling ill, you have to keep your head up.  The ride finally stopped and poor Andrew looked pretty green.  Don’t think he’ll be doing that ride again.  We headed over to the Drop Zone, my favorite ride, this is the one where it takes you up to the top of a tall tower and then drops you.  I love that free fall feeling.  We all got a good scream out of it as Colleen shook her head, not understanding why we would subject ourselves to such a thrill!  We then went into the mall and bowled a few games.  The cute waitress kept us supplied with beers and peanuts and as we finished and were turning in our rented shoes she rushed over and gave us the money off the table.  I thanked her but told her it was a tip for her and she seemed quite surprised.  Bet we get REALLY good service the next time we go.