Sunday, January 6, 2008


Doug's cousin Fatty (I only learned his real name after five years) had his 33rd birthday party on Friday night on his farm a couple of hours away. Sara and Doug left one baby with each grandmother and away we went for the night.

Here's Lake Dunstan, which the town of Cromwell (home) is on the other side of.

The region of Central Otago is known for hills like these covered with golden tussocks. This is a typical landscape. The sign is for the Lindis Pass, which we drove through to get to Fatty's place, a sheep station called Simon's Hill, between Lake Tekapo and Twizel. New Zealanders are good at naming places to sound like they should be in fairytales.

The only route is the scenic route. Nearly all the roads on the South Island have only two lanes, and the bridges just have one, so we take turns.

After climbing a few more hills in the station wagon we arrived at Lake Pukaki. That mountain is Mount Cook, the highest in New Zealand. It's also as Aoraki, Maori for "cloud piercer." Even the locals can't help pulling over for photos. Ours are different in that we leave out the tour bus. Here are our family photo ops:

Young love.

Just young--and loving to be on a road trip.

This is a massive sculpture of a biker and his chopper that a farmer equally inspired by the open road made out of pieces of old farm machinery.

After countless more photos of Aoraki we made it to Fatty's. He just moved into the old farm house, and there is still some work to do. He's working on covering up the writing on the wall, but I thought this one near the ceiling was worth preserving.

In New York if you arrive at a party in a helicopter it means you really want attention. In New Zealand it just means you're a helicopter pilot.

Here's Aoraki again, the other side, from Fatty's backyard. I couldn't help it.

Here's the party. I met all sorts of interesting people. After my second drink I started to seriously consider joining Emirates flight crew and I ended up staying up until 4:30 in the morning talking dairy farm conversion around the fire with three farmers.

Here's the birthday boy in the wee hours, modeling Sara's sun hat.

Arriving home the next morning, there's Locharburn station, Doug's farm (all the way up those mountains). The strip of green trees along the bottom line the Clutha River--more on that to come...

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