|Farewell, cozy Chateau Franz!|
It rained pretty steadily all morning, but we dodged some raindrops to get a couple of pictures. We drove past lots of lush green pastures, and we actually saw cows instead of sheep for once!
|Cows toughing out the rain|
The pastures were also occupied by some very strange birds. I recognized them from the bird guides we'd been leafing through. They were pukeko, also known by the hilariously awesome name of PURPLE SWAMPHENS! They were pretty large, about the same size as a chicken, and they had this strange, rough patch of red skin on their faces. Like chickens, they fly and land rather awkwardly, so they generally try to stick to walking.
|Most elegantly named bird in all of New Zealand: the purple swamphen|
We stopped in a small town called Ross for lunch. Ross was a place just bursting with character. The Cardrona Hotel had me thinking of Clint Eastwood, but Ross was a little more showy and maybe even cheesy, making me think more of a Wild West show at Disney World.
|Gold Town General Store. I think the rain just makes it look more Old West!|
|Roddy Nugget Cafe|
Apparently Ross was more authentic than it looked. Info posted in the Roddy Nugget Cafe told us that the place was named for the fact that Ross was the site of the excavation of New Zealand's largest gold nugget (weighing at over six pounds) in 1907! The chunk of gold was named the Honourable Roddy, and the cafe was named after it. A pretty neat claim to fame. The cafe itself was pretty great, and we had a fantastic brunch there.
|Most serious stack of blueberry pancakes I've ever had|
Guess what Bryan had!
If you guessed something with bacon, you win the prize!
Half of the Roddy Nugget was a bar and cafe, and the other half was a hodgepodge of stuff: there were computers where you could pay to use the Internet, antiques for sale, and storage for the restaurant. There was a whole shelf of old bottles, and my Dad loves that sort of stuff, so we bought him one (Happy b-day, Dad!). I'm guessing they hadn't sold anything off of that shelf in about twenty years, because the waitress we handed our money to looked at us like we were bonkers.
|Random antique bottle collection in the Roddy Nugget|
We drove on through the rain for a couple more hours until we reached Arthur's Pass Village. We'd discussed staying there overnight, so we stopped on the side of the road to make a decision. We consulted out our trusty NZ guide, which informed us that Arthur's Pass boasted affordable, stand-alone cabins with fireplaces that we could rent out for the night. That sold us on staying there. Just as I was closing the book, I heard a sound and looked up, wide-eyed. "UMMMMMMMMMM," I said, surprised. "What?!" asked Bryan. I pointed out his window, where a huge parrot was perched on his side-view mirror!!
|Look closely. Holy smokes! Giant parrot on our car!|
We were afraid of the parrot's talons damaging the car, so we pulled slowly away, and it flew off. Arthur's Pass Village is about five buildings along the side of the road, so you can drive right on by it in about 10 seconds. That made it easy to find Mountain House YHA Backpackers & Cottages, the place where we were hoping to rent a cottage with a fireplace. Unfortunately, there was no one in the main office, so we headed across the street to have some coffee at the Wobbly Kea.
|A real kea on the sign for the Wobbly Kea|
|Hey! Are you guys eating something?! I love eating!|
|Pay no attention to all those DON'T FEED THE KEA signs...|
|Pretty please can I have some?! :::bats eyes:::|
Eventually the kea figured out that it wouldn't be getting any food from us, and it flew across the street to the Arthur's Pass store. I asked the waitress about the feeding situation. She said that, despite the abundance of signs asking people not to feed the kea, it still happens quite frequently. She expressed frustration at the situation, and I heard more than a little of myself in her as she described marching across the street earlier in the day to scold a photographer who was feeding the birds. The reasons not to feed the kea are numerous, but here are just a few:
Don't feed the kea because:
1) Feeding the kea makes them more drawn to human civilization, and therefore more likely to investigate (and damage) cars and buildings.
2) It makes them more likely to approach humans for food in the future. This puts people in danger of scratches from sharp beaks and claws.
3) Drawing kea closer to human civilization makes them more likely to become victims of roadkill.
4) In the wild, kea live off of a lot of plant material, and human food can have serious detrimental effects on their health.
5) Kea have a conservation status of "vulnerable" and feeding them isn't helping to make that status any better.
Be a responsible tourist and don't feed the kea!
OK, I'll get off my conservation soapbox. But the kea are pretty amazing animals- I've never looked at a bird and seen such intelligence in its eyes. I hope efforts to conserve them in their wild habitat are successful. They're also stunningly beautiful animals. They're a gorgeous shade of green, but the real surprise comes when they spread their wings.
|Their wings are RED underneath!!!|
|Pretty fantastic, huh?|
Eventually we saw the office guy return, so we went back across the street to inquire about renting a cottage for the night. We got all squared away pretty quickly which was nice, since it was still pretty early in the afternoon. We drove around the corner to our cabin, which was out of the way on a back street.
The cabin was amazing. As soon as we pulled up, we were excited.
|Our cabin in the sunshine of the next morning|
As promised, there was a fire roaring in the fireplace. There were also two fluffy couches, a fully-stocked bookshelf, and windows with great views of the wilderness all around us. I was all ready to just move in and never leave.
|It took me about five seconds to get comfortable|
|The bedroom had big windows with views of the mountains|
|My view whenever I looked up from my book!|
We lounged around for a few hours, listening to the soothing sounds of rain on the roof and a fire crackling in the fireplace. We sipped red wine while Bryan read Planet of the Apes and I dug into A Game of Thrones, one of the best books I've read in awhile. It was the ideal way to spend a rainy afternoon, and I couldn't believe that we happened to luck upon such a great cabin on the one day that it rained all day long. At around 7 PM, we headed back into town with the plan of picking up some basics at the little store to cook dinner in our kitchen. As it turned out, Bryan and I have spent too much time in the big city and it hadn't occurred to us that the only store in town would already be closed at 7. We ended up back at the Wobbly Kea for dinner, munching pasta and drinking red wine.
|Still showin' off my new bling|
|Relaxed after a laid-back day|
We wrapped it up early to get back to our cozy spots by the fire. Besides, as we learned, there's not really anywhere to go in Arthur's Pass after 8 PM!