We split the drive up on the way to Mount Cook region with a stop overnight in a small town called Cromwell. The strip motel that we were staying in with nothing special, but it had a pool, and it was quite hot so we at the ability to cool off in the middle of the midday heat.

Both Wilson and I were in need of haircuts so we headed off to a local barbershop, but on the drive there we actually came across an ambulance I was parked on the side of the road and there was a big flag that said “Barber”.  Huh?  An ambulance crew that cuts hair?

Well, it turns out that this woman bought a used ambulance, fixed it up so that it could be a mobile hair studio.  Super cool!  Plus no line up, and very reasonable.  She said that she goes around and parks at public places, as that is where she has a permit, and events around town.  She lets people know where she is going to be through social media and then she just starts cutting away.  She says that she often has a lineup of 6 or 7 people, and this was the first break that she had in a while.

We got our hair cut, and headed back to the motel for a swim to rinse the hair off of us.

And then we headed to “downtown Cromwell”, a town that is slightly bigger than Burks Falls.

Cromwell was a historic town that had a small trading post way back in the day…

When we got down to the town centre, there was a mini put, an awesome looking playground and skate park, a open air mall, and a bunch of large fruit.  Yes.  Fruit.

This area is rich with vineyards and fruit growing, which was strange as the land was drier than dry.

So, we did what all good tourists do, we posed for a family photo with the fruit, then went to the park to play some mini put.  We got our balls and putted away, which was fun since everyone was doing not too bad, whereas I was having a horrible game.  Who cared anyways, we were just playing for family bragging rights.  I think I score 18 on one hole.  It was the hole where you had to putt the ball through a small opening in order to reach the rest of the course.

Then on the last hole I got a hole in one, which means that you get a free game if you do it on the 18th.  Wilson and Deb got holes in one, but too bad so sad that it was not on 18!  Haha.

Off to the playground we went, where they had a structure that reminded us of one of the contraptions that we encountered in Austria, which (when Wilson suddenly jumped off) Lulu hurt her foot on.  Except this one you had to run around in a circle and the arms of the ride would carry you around. 

It started off ok….

I was wearing flip flops, and lost my footing as we ran faster around in the circle and I got dragged through the mulch of the playground.  What is it with me and playgrounds!

They had a “hamster wheel” structure too, that you had to run in to get it to move in a circle, and the kids had a blast with this.

(YouTube Video Link of Rich and Wilson in the Hamster Wheel … https://youtu.be/6sfX06haEks)

We got all sweaty and hot, and then went back to the motel for a swim and to get ready for supper.  We went back to the mall for dinner as they had a good Mexican restaurant there.  The meal was very good, as were the margaritas!

There was still a bit of daylight left, so the kids wanted to go back to the playground to play before bed.

The kids wanted to go run on the hamster wheel, and since I had a margarita under my belt, I thought that I would get on and try my luck.  First, I tried running with Wilson, but he was able to run faster with his flip flops than I could.  That was near disastrous.

(YouTube Video Link of Wilson in the Hamster Wheel While Dad Gets Spun Around Only To Fall … https://youtu.be/bkNMuDwx9lo)

Then I tried to replicate a trick that I saw a younger, much younger, person do earlier in the day.  Mistake number two.  Just watch the video below and you will understand.

Maybe if I had worked out a bit more while we were away, then I might have been able to support my “large” frame.  But, instead, I crumpled on my second time around.

I moved all my parts….I could still move my legs and arms.  Good sign.  Boy, I was going to be sore the next day!

What a dumbass.

We were moving on the next day, but we had to go to the awesome go karting place before we left town.  It was a race car (like F1 and Nascar) museum, full race track (and there were cars out there zooming around as there was a race that weekend), and a go kart track that looked awesome.  So, we strapped in, and took off.  Deb and Lulu were in a tandem car, while Wilson and I were in our own cars.  The girls were going their own pace, but Wilson and I had a full on race.

He passed me on the inside, and I couldn’t recover.  Bugger!

We both lapped the girls a couple of times, and on the last time we lapped them, there was obvious anger and tears in Lulu’s eyes peering from behind the visor of her helmet.

That was even more evident when she stormed off after the race was all done.

At the end of it all, Wilson finished in first….good for him!  He was actually a good driver.  Must have been due to the fact that he has been driving our car on our laps since he has been about 5 years old.  Just down the road and back.

After we were done there, we took a quick look around the museum where they had a number of race cars, but also some reaction time games that Deb and I competed against each other….I won those as I have longer arms…unfair advantage me.

We took off and went towards Mount Cook, which was our next destination, and also one of our favorite places in New Zealand.

We were going to be staying there for a couple of days, so that we could take a couple of hikes, enjoy the area, and bask in the glory of the mountains of the South Island.

I know in a lot of my posts I have talked about the drives and how beautiful they are just to look around.  It is hard to put down in words what you are seeing and the way the roads wind lazily around the hills….except when they are hairpin turns and a crazy kiwi tries to pass you.  So you will just have to take our word for it, or go experience it for yourself someday!

We stopped along the way to have lunch at a playground park, and the sun was shining, so the kids took full advantage of playing on the little playground they had there.  No playground is a bad playground according to them.

We hopped back in the car and made our way to the Aoraki, or Mount Cook, region.

When we pulled into Twizel, which is the local “big town”, we grabbed some veggies from the grocery store so that we could have them with the salmon that we were going to buy from there.

We passed by one salmon farm on the way to Twizel, but it didn’t look like the one that we had visited in the past.  We made it all the way to the visitors centre which was the salmon farm  store but there was no farm.

The lady there told us that they stopped doing tourist visits there a number of years back, and the one we passed was the only one to visit.

These farms are kind of cool though in the sense that they are just big pools of water where the salmon swim around, rather they have large cages in the Mount Cook River which allows the fish to swim in cold glacier water like they would in the wild, rather than in circles around a holding tank.

Regardless, bot the salmon farm up by Pohara and the Mount Cook Salmon was absolutely delicious.  Way better than home. It was like eating butter.

A big storm was blowing in, which meant that at the foot of Lake Pukari that the vistas over towards Mount Cook were pretty dramatic, with waves crashing into the shore, and the lake water extremely blue from the glaciers that supply it.

We headed down the last stretch of road towards Mount Cook, and came across a lavender farm, which was beautiful to see the rows of lush lavender growing row on row.  I wish our lavender back home grew that well!  The smell was incredible, and it just looked like a blanked of purple lay over the yellow grass and big rocks of the area.

By the time we got to our accommodations, the rain was starting, so we quickly unloaded the car with all of our stuff, and since we were arriving late in the afternoon, the fridge already had most of its space occupied by other guests food.

It started to rain….more like downpour.  Like you see in the movies.  So, there was not much to do other than hang out and enjoy the inside of the hostel while I got supper ready.

Even thought it was raining, I got the BBQ under the edge of the roof overhang and fired it up to barbecue the salmon.  Travelling with a small spice case allowed me to throw some salt and pepper on there, while I made up a mustard maple syrup glaze…which turned out to be pretty good!

Eating salmon and playing cards…

The salmon was delicious and super tender, just as we remembered it.  We hopped off to bed so we could have fresh legs for the hike out to the base of Mount Cook by way of the Hooker Valley Track.

As the storm passed by overnight, the winds picked up from the new system moving in, which was great for Fun Killer Dad to kick in with a lesson on wind for Lulu, as this is something they are doing in her class.

There were a lot more people on the track compared to the last time we were there.  Locals told us that the area has become much busier with tourists in the last 10 years, especially Asian tour buses.

Kids took a break from the hike, and the wind, behind a rock ledge.  This was a fun killer dad “Are you serious???  Look at the beauty around you” moments…

It was a relatively flat hike, which was great for Lulu, but the fact that it was at elevation made it challenging for all of us….that and the fact that we are out of shape compared to our normal fitness levels.

We made it to the end of the hike, where the winds were incredibly strong, and the air was cool, but the scenery was absolutely beautiful.

(YouTube Video Link of Deb and the Wind At Hooker Valley Track … https://youtu.be/cQfvu4nR768)

The glacial lake had a number of icebergs floating in it, and there were a lot of chunks of the ice that had washed up on shore.

Our first ever heart shaped glacier chunk!

I grabbed a chunk of it, and compared to normal ice, this was the clearest ice that I have ever seen.  You could see right through it, and the sun just sparkled when you peered through it.

Wilson and Lulu were hiding in a little calm spot behind a big rock, so Deb and I walked a bit further along the lake to where the river that goes down the valley flowed the water away from the glacial lake.

We walked back on the track as it was and out and back track, and the kids found a couple of big boulders that we could do some rock climbing on.

Up, over, down, up, over, down…. The kids really love bouldering and rock climbing like this.  Wish we had better facilities at home.

That night, we took a hike up to the iconic hotel in the area, The Heritage Hotel, where they had a Sir Edmund Hillary museum as he is from New Zealand, and he started his climbing adventures in this area.

Lulu and I settled into watching a movie about his life.  It seemed like he had a hard life, with an overbearing and overprotective father who was a bee farmer, and expected Edmund to do the same.  But when he got into high school, he decided to leave for a boarding school where he found a love for exploring and hiking.  Always pushing the limits of what “normal” was and where you could explore.

The end of his life was pretty sad after his wife passed away, as he couldn’t find a way to grieve and let his emotions go.  And it wasn’t until a trip to India where he finally was able to put that all to rest.

Sun setting…

Sun set…

From what I understand, he lives in the area and visits Mount Cook often, and also visits the area frequently.

I went out in search of night stars as the next couple of days were supposed to be cloudy at night.  I drove out to the campground where Deb and I stayed the first time that we were here, and found a dark corner of the grounds to snap some shots.

I headed back knowing that we would be needing to get a lot of rest since we were going to be doing two hikes the next day.

The next morning, I woke up with really itchy legs and red bites all over them.  I looked at my sheets and there were little bloodstains on the sheets down where my legs were lying.  Uh oh…bed bugs!

I went and told the manager/owner of the hostel, who told me that they have never had them, or had a problem with them.  Sw, the manager and I carefully took my bed apart, and we didn’t find any nests in the mattress.  There weren’t any in the corners of the window that were close to the bed.  But then I saw something jump, and found a single red engorged flea in my bed.  That would explain it.  Hopefully there weren’t more fleas in the room and others had it in their bed as well.

We bagged everything up, washed all of our clothes, and headed out for the day so that the general manager could fumigate the room.

The first hike that we went to was the Tasman Glacier, which was a short little hike but offered up a spectacular view of the glacier and glacial lake below it.

There was an information post there that was quite interesting and startling to see how much the glacier has receded over the past century or two.

Ahhhh….The Kiss at the Tasman Glacier

And the crazy Trenholms at the glacier!

Deb and I both remarked how the lake headed into the valley seemed to be not extending as far as it had been when we were here last.

We did one geocache on this track, which took us a bit off the beaten path.

We climbed down the path, and headed out to a local cafe for a quick lunch before we went to the visitors centre and the next hike which was going to be a vertical challenge.

The visitors centre was very interesting and quite extensive about the history, geology, flora, and fauna in the area.  The kids got an activity book that they had to find information about all of these areas scattered throughout the centre, and if they did, they could get a badge saying they were official kiwi rangers.

Kiwi Ranger Lulu and Wilson!

We headed down the road to the Red Tarn hike, and Deb counted the 1301 steps that took us up the side of the mountain.  It was a great hike, but super challenging.

We came across a couple of other hikers that were taking a break and they quickly got up and moving as they didn’t want to be passed by a couple of kids.  haha.  We passed them anyways.  See ya, suckahs!

Pulling Lulu up the hill again…

The view from the top was really nice down the Hooker Valley when we reached the top, and we took a break from the hiking for a minute.

There was a sketchy path that led up to the top of the ridge, but wasn’t a “formal” part of the path.  Wilson and I were game to try to go on up, but Deb instilled some common sense into our idea as the side of the hill was loose gravel and would have been a hard slog up the steep side of the hill.

We headed back to the hostel, stopping for ice cream on the way back and had “must go” for dinner as we had a bunch of leftovers from previous days, and then we were off to bed for our drive out.

The next morning, Lulu got up and had her first Skype session with her class back home.  It was great to see all of the kids, and get ready for the fast approaching return to home.

We packed everything up and we got on the road, stopping several times along the way to get some last photos of Lake Pukaki and the Mount Cook vistas.

We stopped in Lake Tekapo and visited a small stone Catholic Church that we had visited last time and it was just super cute.  Again, like many places, it was very busy, and now had buses and tours taking photos of this cute church.  It kind of took away the great memory of the church that we had.

On the road again as we were on our way to Kaikora, which was going to be a long drive for us.  But we stopped outside of town at a public rest stop that had bathrooms.

I was sitting in the back seat working on the photos and blog, and had my camera card plugged into the side, and the external hard drive plugged into the other side of the computer.

As the car was jam packed, I put the computer, card, and hard drive…which had all of our photos from the past five months of travelling on it…on top of the car.

We went to the bathroom and headed off on the highway towards Kaikora.

I should have been supervised…

About 10 minutes down the road, I was ready to start working on the blog again, and couldn’t find the computer.

“Where is the computer?”, I foolishly asked.  Then it hit me like a million tons of bricks.  The last place I had seen the computer, and the hard drive that backed up our photos, was on the top of the car.  An empty, gut wrenching feeling inside me doesn’t even describe the feeling I had at that moment.

The car that was full of music and banter suddenly turned quiet.  We turned around, and we all looked at the road, the side of the road, and the ditches along the road as we drove back to the rest stop.

We didn’t see anything along the way, and there wasn’t any evidence of a computer or our equipment at the rest stop.

We ventured into the ditches along the road, which were thick with long grass and tall lupins that were in full bloom.  We couldn’t find anything.

This was down the road from where we lost, well I lost, the computer…the bush on the side of the road was about 50x denser and taller. Like a jungle.

No keys from the keyboard.  No glass from the screen.  No cables from the guts of the computer.  Nothing.

Deb and the kids drove back to Lake Tekapo to see if someone picked it up and dropped it off at the police station or the info spot, and left me to comb the ditches some more.

I found the back case of the external hard drive…but was it mine?  Was it someone elses?  What would the chances be that some other idiot would have thrown their hard drive out the window.  I couldn’t possibly be the only idiot.

Then I found a cable.  Full well knowing now that it wasn’t the cable that attached the external hard drive to the computer, I convinced myself that it was the cable.  Further evidence that I was an idiot.

I was so mad at myself for being so careless.  For letting my family down.  For the hours upon hours that I had spent sorting, editing, tweaking photos…and Deb had done as well.  All for not.

I was initially uploading the photos on to Google Drive, but I thought that I had only done Europe, which meant that Africa, Vietnam and Australia were gone.

Deb came back, and nothing had been turned in.  I had gone through the ditches like I was searching for a lost child.  Back and forth, and back and forth.  Nothing.

There was a lot of praying to God asking for a sign, or asking for some direction as to where to look.  There wasn’t any direct sign like a bird landing on a tree chirping “Look here!  Look here!”.  But there was an urge to look at my phone.

I started thinking about the physics of how the computer would have rolled off of the car, how it would have flown in the wind as the computer was open on the top of the car, so maybe a gust of wind from a large truck would have carried it into the ditch further than where I had been looking.  What direction would have it gone if a car or a truck had hit it?  But there was no evidence of mass destruction of a computer other than a case.

Deb put a deadline and said “If we don’t find it by then, we have to keep going and it is what it is.”

While Deb was back at the town, I had this niggling urge to check my phone, which Deb had with her in the car.  I had her phone since she had cell service and I have left my phone on airplane mode the whole trip, which meant that I wouldn’t receive any texts, messages, or emails unless I was connected to wifi.  If I did, I would incur roaming charges.

After a while of looking with Deb, I said “Screw it” to myself, and went to the car to get my phone.  I turned it on and took it off of airplane mode, and found that there was a Facebook message from someone I didn’t know.  I opened the message and found a message from someone saying they had found my computer on the road!  She had also sent me an email….I don’t know how she get my email and my Facebook account, but holy crap, there was at least a glimmer of hope.

I asked her what state the computer was in, and she said the computer seemed fine, the camera card seemed fine, but the external hard drive looked damaged.

“Might be damaged” was the understatement of the year.

We made arrangements to go and meet her in Christchurch which was on the way to Kaikora and pick up the computer and its pieces.

We drove to Christchurch with a stop along the way as there wasn’t the full understanding that the external hard drive was attached and it was still back in the ditch (that was later clarified with some photos that she sent us).

During the drive north, I spoke via text to a couple of my most knowledgeable computer friends who gave me some sage advice about the possibilities of getting data from a damaged hard drive….(a big thank you D’Arcy and Daniel!)

We found our way to the botanical gardens and there was an electronic musical festival going on, so traffic was pretty crazy, but we found our saviours nonetheless.

We drove to the botanical gardens in Christchurch and found her and her partner who were in Christchurch before they left the next day to go back to Israel where they worked as Software Engineers at Google in Tel Aviv.

We found them sitting at a fountain with our stuff in a bag, and there wasn’t enough hugs and smiles that I could offer to show my appreciation for them.

She said that they had found our computer in the open position just on the side of the road, face down, so it was lying like a tent on the ground.  Since I had just finished working on it, it was still logged in, so she could access my email and my Facebook account through Google Chrome.

So, suddenly, our tragedy turned into celebrations, more or less.  There didn’t erase the fact that I was still an idiot for doing it in the first place, but at least there was hope.

Of course we had to include them in on the crazy photo!

We hugged and hugged and hugged again before we left them for the final leg of their journey back to Israel and ours up the coast of the South Island.

I opened the computer, and it did in fact work, which was great.  The camera card was in the slot still and it was still full of data.  But the hard drive looked like it had been through the ringer, and sounded like a bunch of broken glass inside.  Maybe that was just gravel I thought….hopefully.

Oh well, we made it to Kaikora and found our place for the next couple of days which was perched up on the cliff of the peninsula that made up the area.  It looked over the town, which was lit up waiting for another day to begin.

There is always a rainbow…

We had a funny bet in New Zealand….everyone in the car thought that the company name was Juicy, and the woman represented the i…however, smart fun killer dad said the name was “Jucy”, and I was right!!!

Deb and I did bananagrams where we needed to spell out words that would describe various elements of the trip…

Lulu, frustrated when we told her we were going on another hike…