Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Ediza Rose taking time to smell the flowers in Queenstown.

Ediza playing with her baby doll, Cailin, on one of our many long road trips.

Ediza's interpretation of the phrase "living out of a suitcase."

Ediza trades in her hats for a helmet.


We're back along the coast -- this time in Kaikoura, an area best known for its whale watching.

We've arrived at our sixth llama farm, Cushchine Cottage ( This place differs from the others we've stayed at because it's an actual farm park. Along with a herd of seven male llamas, they have a variety of other animals -- ranging from donkeys to a wallaby -- that people pay to see.

Amber helped feed, shovel manure and groom animals today, while I watched Ediza and worked the cash register.

Owner Lynn Barrett showed Amber how to give pony rides, and Amber took a few kids out on the ponies. Ediza, the baby jockey, went twice.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mount Cook

Waking up before dawn, I left to go running to Kea Point in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. With wild winds roaring around me and drops of rain pelting my face, I couldn't help from screaming I felt so exhilarated.

After returning, we had a huge buffet breakfast and then took off for a family hike back to Kea Point. From there, we had stunning views of the Mueller Glacier and the hanging glaciers and icefalls of Mount Sefton. Mount Cook remained mysteriously covered in clouds.

Kea Point is named after the kea, one of the few alpine parrots in the world. We saw keas at Willowbank, but here we experienced them in the wild.

We continued to soak up this spectacular alpine scenery on another hike over to the Hooker Valley. Amber and Ediza can be found on this swinging bridge that has pure glacier water flowing underneath.

I could see what attracted Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest, to use the Mount Cook area as a training ground for his Everest and Antarctic expeditions.

On our drive out of the park, I looked in the rear-view mirror to see the clouds had parted and the sun was exposing Mount Cook in all its glory. What a magical place!

Saturday, April 26, 2008


So as spring is in full bloom back home we are in the heart of fall here. Since leaving Nelson (at the top of the South Island) it has gotten noticeably colder, windier and definitely more autumn-like.

We left Queenstown this morning and drove north through the gorgeous fall foliage up to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.

New Zealand's Southern Alps have quite a mystical feel to them as we experienced both on our drive into the park and on a walk around the Aoraki Mount Cook Village.

We are staying in the motel portion of The Hermitage, which is this park's version of The Ahwahnee.

Tomorrow we plan to venture off for a hike and better view of Mount Cook, New Zealand's tallest peak (which, as the pictures show, was covered today by clouds).

As for tonight, I am writing from The Old Mountaineers' Cafe Bar and Restaurant in the village. The bartenders are polishing glasses and people are heading out the door. I think I'll join them.


Sorry for the delay, but we have been without the Internet for a bit.

We just spent the last three days in the Catlins at the bottom of the South Island. Our accommodation was this beach house in the remote town of Papatowai.

Just down the street was this beautiful beach where the coastal rain forest meets the sea.

Yesterday we put on our gumboots and spent the day at a 1,400-acre farm which has llamas, guanacos, cows, sheep and even yaks. Thickthorne Llamas owner Janette Buckingham gave us a tour of the property and showed us some of the clothing she creates with her animals fiber.

Janette first got a small herd of guanacos almost 20 years ago to spin their fiber and make clothing out of it. She soon found, however, there wasn't much variation in the guanacos brown coat. Hence llamas.

About five years ago Janette and her daughter, who lives in Australia, started a clothing line called The Valley Beyond ( They sell most of their handmade clothing to customers visiting the farm, but they've recently been contacted by a woman in Rome about potentially selling their products in Italy.

We took a break from the farm to drive down to Slope Point at the very bottom of the South Island. It was there, within the windswept trees and rough seas, Amber found this baby polar bear that had washed to shore.

To get to Slope Point we drove down a long gravel road as the sun was setting, arriving just in time to have the whole place to ourselves.

Today we took a scenic drive up to Queenstown, a touristy spot that bills itself as the adventure capital of the world. As we checked into our hotel there were people falling above us in parachutes.

But who needs to bungee jump or skydive when you have Ediza Rose? Try eating out at a restaurant with her, as we did this evening -- that's a true adventure.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


We went to Willowbank, a wildlife reserve in Christchurch, today. Highlights of the outing included feeding these eels with mince on a straw. Amber even jumped in and walked through the eel water to retrieve a tennis shoe (one kid had thrown another kids shoe in the water).

We saw heaps of animals, like happy pigs...

...and friendly donkeys

Ediza, wearing an oversized helmet, rode on a donkey with Ferne.

Pretty soon she fell asleep in mommy's arms and we were on our way.

Later, I attempted to cook dinner and Amber got started on some artwork.

Well, should get going as we head out early tomorrow for a long drive to the bottom of the South Island. We'd like to thank the Robinson family for their generosity.

P.S. With the marathon less than a month away, I thought I'd fill you in on what my training schedule has been lately: I don't run, I drink lots of red wine and I eat ice cream for breakfast:)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Training & Trekking

Amber lead a successful llama training and trekking clinic today at Llama Lookout. Different llama owners came over this afternoon to learn about handling their llamas with an emphasis on halter training.

The clinic was almost canceled following an intense hail storm (one nearby peak even got snow) this morning, but it went on as planned. About 10 hearty souls decided to brave the strong blustery winds for the training session.

After a lesson on packing with llamas, the group headed off for a walk on a trail above Governors Bay. Ediza Rose, of course, rode saddleback at the front.

A dog running off leash approached the llamas, signaling our turnaround point on the trail. Once we returned, we ate some tasty scones with jam and cream. And we saw this impressive rainbow.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A birth & a death

This is Blue Moon and her baby Moonshadow (Amber named the cria during dinner the other night). I also got to name one of the llamas Clouds Rest, which I was very excited about.

"The reason why we have llamas is because we think they're living art," Robyn says. She thinks of her herd as an extension of her family. A llama owner for the past 10 years, Robyn said she can't imagine life without them. "I only ever want just one more," she said of her llama addiction.

Last year Robyn flew to the states with fellow llama rancher Anne Thompson to import about a dozen llamas to New Zealand. Four of Robyn's imports are suri llamas, which she says means their "fiber hangs in pearls of silk." All of the imports were shorn naked and put in quarantine for 90 days in Chicago. They then flew on an airplane all the way to Auckland.

Today we visited Anne's ranch, walking around her property and meeting her different llamas (including the Americans).

The past week Robyn has taken us to a variety of places around the Christchurch area, including the Lyttelton farmers market, a punk rock cafe and her children's democratic school.

Flax, 8, and Ferne, 6, go to a school where kids can choose whether or not they want to go to class. The school only has 45 students and they emphasize childhood playing. Below is Flax and his friend, Pablo, in the hut they built at school.

Here's a photo of Ferne playing with Ediza in a "Jolly Jumper" in their living room doorway.

One of the more interesting stories Robyn has told us this week actually involves someone dying in their living room. Just after Robyn and her husband, Mike, bought their place here they took a three-month trip to Europe. Looking at their photo album got us excited for our upcoming European adventure.

When they left for Europe they decided to rent out their house while they were gone. The only person to answer their classified ad was a man who wanted to find somewhere special for his friend, who had terminal cancer, to spend her last three months alive. The woman died in their living room shortly before they returned from Europe. "The day she died they said there was the most amazing sunrise," Robyn said.

Years later, a baby was born in the apartment we're now staying in.

Ediza! (Part 2)

Back by popular demand, even more photos of Ediza Rose:

Robyn helps Ediza ride yet another llama.

Now she's on the backyard trampoline.

After a busy day, we finally wore her out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


We've been enjoying our time here at Llama Lookout. Amber has been doing her llama thing, while I've had the opportunity to run along the trails up above their house. The other day I ran along the ridge line in the clouds with hang gliders circling above.

Today we went to the historic village of Akaroa -- the only French settlement in New Zealand and the oldest town on the South Island. Diane, who lives near Llama Lookout, was our tour guide. We got to see a bit of the region on our drive over, including a local art exhibit and a sacred Maori lake full of big, black eels.

Diane and her husband, who live in a cow shed, have a variety of animals, like llamas and goats, that elderly people from care homes can come and visit with.

In Akaroa, we ate lunch and walked around the little town. Amber and Ediza posed for a photo with this sculpture who painted them onto his canvas.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Llama Lookout

We have arrived in llama paradise! Llama Lookout, just outside of Christchurch, sits above Governors Bay and has fantastic views of the Lyttelton Harbor, which lies within the eroded crater of an extinct volcano.

Llama Lookout ( is owned by Robyn and Mike Robinson. They have two kids, Flax and Ferne. We are staying in an amazing llama-themed apartment underneath their house. This is the view from outside our door. Not bad, huh?

More from Llama Lookout later...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Big Bird

Meet Big Bird, a pet ostrich Sue brought home about five years ago from Westhaven (a remote area we flew over last week in Peter's airplane). Sue got Big Bird from a man who had to get rid of him because he would stalk his wife and she was afraid to leave their house. The man had placed a classified ad stating that Big Bird was free to a good home. Sue ended up with the ostrich as she was the only person who didn't want to cook him and eat him for dinner. Big Bird now lives with her female llama herd. Sue's quite fond of the bird, but she also knows her limits. "I don't trust him," she said. "You don't turn your back on Big Bird." Well, I guess you do if you're Amber.

Moving on to more gentler animals, Amber and Sue have been working with three female llamas -- Amber Rose, Ruby and Pollyanna.

Amber, who gave the girls haircuts yesterday, and Sue have been grooming the llamas and taking them for walks at places like the Maitai Valley (above), the mud flats across from where they live and even in the gentle waves at the beach (below).

Now moving on to one of Ediza's favorite animals -- puppy dogs. We got Ediza and Sue's four Spoodles (a mix between a poodle and a cocker spaniel) to all sit down long enough for a quick photo.

Whether it's about breeding Spoodles or transporting Big Bird to his new home in Nelson, Sue always has a funny story to share.

Sue and Peter, who've been married for the last 40 years, are both originally from Nelson, but have lived in other areas like the North Island and even the island of Nauru in the South Pacific. They built their dome house here in Nelson 24 years ago. Their house has a great view of the Tasman Bay and they also get some cool sunsets like this one.

Peter and Sue have seven children who have grown up to do all sorts of neat things. One is a pilot, one is an artist, another is a champion chess player. One of their daughters, Virginia, lives nearby with her husband, Jerome, and their two children, Katie and Isaac.

Ediza and Katie have become good friends playing together over the past two weeks and I'm sure will miss each other.

We'll be leaving Nelson tomorrow and heading down to Llama Lookout in Christchurch. Thanks to everyone here for their hospitality. That means you, too, Big Bird!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A haircut, a car & some rings

Some random photos for your viewing pleasure:

Ediza and papa can be found inside this small building at a nearby Japanese garden.

On our way over to Golden Bay we ate lunch in Takaka, where we came across this vintage car called the Morris. Up close, you can see "Morris" written across the front of the car.

Ediza and mommy were caught playing around at Founders Heritage Park, where Nelson hosts a farmers market every Friday.

Amber can finally see again after her bangs (they call them "fringes" here) were cut at a fancy salon in town.

"One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them. One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them." We visited the Nelson jeweler who designed the ring for "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. This lady who works there showed us this large, heavy ring that was used for close-up shots and special effects in the movies. The South Island served as the beautiful backdrop for those movies, and there's even tours you can go on to visit filming locations.