Kia Ora! Well here it is, my first blog post from New Zealand! It’s been over three weeks already and trying to absorb all the beauty of this remote little country has been quite a task. I had no idea that each region is so unique…or that there were so many to see. I will try to capture it the best that I can but will probably use words like stunning! lush! and amazing! a lot. First world problems.
PART ONE: It’s just over there Subtitle: Just a little bit further…oh I guess we walked 5 kms again.
My mom and arrived in Auckland on October 26th after a truly outstanding plane ride. Real cutlery, menu options and endless wine! What is this magical land and how did I find myself here? One of the many perks of traveling with my mom I suppose. Thanks mama bear! Once our jet lag wore off we set out to explore the city of sails. It definitely lives up to its name! One in four people here own a boat and most of them are found in the Waitemata Harbour. It’s also the largest city in New Zealand with a quartler of the population living amongst 48 dormant volcanos. So lots of things to see and do! Our four days together pre-bus tour consisted of lovely walks around Queen St., many flat whites and five dollar pastries that are actually worth two dollars, and lots of sight seeing. Ferry rides to sleepy beach side suburbs, climbing up volcanos, walkng through The Domain Park (which was a much longer walk than expected. Note: When using Google maps on your phone, make sure you have selected the “walking” option for accurate times. Unless your legs are actually a car.) and checking out the Auckland Museum. We also made our way to an underground aquarium that apparently used to be part of the sewer system. The piping is now see-through and full of sharks, sea turtles and sting rays! Stepping on a conveyor belt will take you through the tube so you are surrounded by ocean creatures on all sides. Neat stuff!
PART TWO: The Grand March Subtitle: Retirees are living the life.
Bet won, I am the youngest person on bus tour by about 30 years. But everyone is absolutely lovely and there to have a great time. From 6am to 9pm. Maybe 10pm, but that would be crazy! The bus zipped around the North Island for four days and we saw so many things! Geothermal activity and rotten egg smell in Rotorua, glow worms in Waitomo Caves, litle Hobbit holes and many many fields of sheep. Peter Jackson probably owns most o f them…We enjoyed a “cultural evening” in a Maori village which was interesting. It was very well done and we walked away with loads of facts and hangi-filled tummies. Since this dinner I have been learning about the Maori culture and it’s integration with the non-Maori population. It sounds like present day friction has been caused by the usual: European settlers trying to take advantage of a situation and assuming their way is better than whoever they come across. It is obviously more complicated, so this tourist will strive to learn more.
PART 3: Mountains, rainforests and coastlines. Oh my! Subtitle: A beautiful secret.
We crossed the Cook Strait on November 4th and arrived in Kaikoura for crayfish and vast stretches of coastline. The view is unadultered as there is basically nothing around for miles. No people, homes, dogs, cars even! Just the occasional tour bus stopped on the side of the road with hoards of Germans, Americans, South East Asians, Canadians and people from the UK taking photos of yet another stunning landscape. 500 photos into the trip and we make it the Southern Alps and Franz Josef glacier. To arrive at the base of the glacier you get to walk through the world’s only alpine rainforest. It’s just so darn surreal! And then of course there’s lakes, Keas and other rare birds, jade, limestone, etcetera and then some. Yawnsville really. The first real city we get to is Queenstown which was my favourite city of the trip so far, and I think my Mom’s too. It’s like Canmore on steroids with an 83km lake thrown in. From here we shot around on a jet boat, made a trip to Milford Sound and drank and ate with our lovely newfound bus pals. Milford Sound is the most amazing place I have ever been and I doubt if I will ever get that close to Antartica again. I don’t even know what else to say about it, the fiords are just endless and massive and, and, and. I can’t wait to go back with Curtis! Before we know it, Mom and I are back on a plane to Auckland. It was so hard to see her go back home. We had a wonderful time together as mom and daughter and as friends. It’s a good thing there is Skype!
Next up: I toodle about New Zealand solo with a backpack, food satchel and enormous camera.