Ahhh! I honestly have no idea where to begin on this one.
To say we fell in love with New Zealand is a understatement. There are lots of beautiful places on this planet but the land down underer really has it all. In addition to having stop-the-car-I-need-to-take-pictures-because-this-is-so-friggin-beautiful landscape, the country is full of wonderful people, fun things to do, delicious food, and yummy beverages.
There is SO much I want to share about our trip so I will be splitting this janx up over two or three posts. I know you have better things to do than read a 7000 word ode to Middle Earth, so I will try and supplement with pictures as much as possible. I have no doubt that by the end of this, you will still be comparing me to Peter Jackson and the posts to the Hobbit movies (colorful, bloated, and lacking substance). But in any case, let’s get started, shall we?
The Itinerary: There are a multitude of ways one can spend their time here but we decided that we would focus primarily on the South Island and then come back and do the North Island another time. Below is a rough sketch of where we ventured and as you can see, two weeks is barely enough time to scratch the surface of this awesome country.
Stop #1 – Auckland (not pictured above): The only part of the north we saw was Auckland. We flew there via a 17 hour flight from Dubai and spent 2 nights to rest, overcome jet lag, and to do a wine tour (was there ever a doubt that we would start our vacation like this?). We stayed in the downtown area but as it is more or less a commuter city, with most of the residents living on the outskirts of town, it was fairly quiet and many places closed early. But we live in Munich and are used to everything being closed all the time so we were fine.
On the second day, we took the ferry out to Waiheke Island where we spent the day visiting a few vineyards. The island was drop-dead-gorgeous and definitely warrants another visit. And to be honest, the wine tasting was just a bonus. I would have paid our tour guide, Graham, to drive us around all day pointing out different homes and telling us how much they cost or about how him and Linda (his wife) finally redid their kitchen. In my opinion, the Irish, Turkish, and New Zealandish are currently in a three-way tie for the friendliest people we have encountered on our adventures.
Stop #2 – Queenstown: I am sure that others may feel differently (and those people are likely crazy) but Queenstown was incredible. I reckon our affection for the place comes from a combination of the 92 activities we did there, the landscape, and the fact that it’s home to some of the best tacos, burgers, pies, coffee, and cookies that I’ve ever had (we all know the way into mama’s heart is through her belly).
I’ll dive into more of the activities below but one of the best things we did, that was not originally in the plan, was the luge at the top of Bob’s peak. For a small fee, you get to take these little sleds down a course that overlooks the lake and the city. It’s like go-carting but with sleds. We only did it twice but could have done it all day and not been bored.
Bungy Jumping: Queenstown is certifiably the adventure capital of New Zealand and possibly the world (I don’t know for sure – I like to make statements and hope they are true). You can take your pick of paragliding, canyon swinging, zip lining, etc. If you can dream it, I bet Queenstown has it.
Bungy jumping here is essentially a rite of passage so naturally I had to do it and somehow convinced the husband to do it too. A.J. Hackett offers three options and we picked the Kawarau bridge because a) the water is gorg b) it’s the original one and c) it’s the shortest drop. I am adventurous but the 8 second free fall of the Nevis seemed a bit much for a first timer. Next time though! [queue a text from my mother in 3..2..1…]
I have sky dived before but this was a bit different. When jumping out of a plane, the guy you are attached to essentially jumps for you so you don’t really get the chance to think about it. It’s kind of like, oh I guess we’re falling now, cool. When jumping off the bridge, it’s just you, the guys who just strapped you in, and everyone else on the bridge watching you… so there is a bit of pressure. But once you leap, it’s this amazing feeling of flying and within a second or two, you are caught and dangling upside down and swinging through the air. It was exhilarating and an experience we won’t soon forget. Note: the pictures below are mostly of me because Jerry is a bum and won’t download his pictures from the site.
Horseback Riding: Since jumping off a bridge takes all of five minutes, we had a free afternoon so I called up High Country Horses to see if they could fit us in for a three hour horse ride outside of Glenorchy. Even with the drizzle and fog, I had a great time riding through the country, crossing rivers, and checking out the area they used for filming Isengard (my fellow nerds know what I’m talking about). I purposely said ‘I’ in the last sentence because I think Jerry was done after the first hour. He has a hard head but his rear is another story…
Flight and Boat Cruise in Milford Sound: If someone were to put a gun to my head and ask me what my absolute 100% favorite activity that we did, I would have to say the ‘Fly – Cruise – Fly’ trip we did to Milford Sound. It’s a good thing we loved it so much because it was also the most expensive activity on our itinerary. You can drive or take a bus trip for much less money but it takes about 12 hours in total, whereas the flight/cruise takes about 4. In a country where there is so much to see and do and time is of the essence, taking the flight was worth every penny.
We were very lucky that it even happened…if one cloud hadn’t cleared up by 8am, it would have been cancelled. Luckily the travel gods smiled upon us that day. Flying over Queenstown, the mountains, and over the sound was pure magic. I included a few pictures below (ignore the propellers) but they don’t do it justice. After we landed, they took us on a cruise, which was so quiet and beautiful that it almost felt prehistoric. We were also fortunate enough that some dolphins, seals, and penguins came out to play.
We were back in Queenstown by noon, grabbed another Fergburger (worth the hype), then headed off to check out the nearby Arrowtown. In case you were wondering, there is no such thing as “relaxation” on a Foutz vacation.
So that brings us to day 5 of the trip. Still to come in future posts: lakes, hiking, chicken farms, and much more…