This is a story about faraway places and our relationship to the somewheres we dream of visiting. It’s also about the fact that we fly to New Zealand next Monday.
Some places on our planet seem to lend themselves to the imagination, that is to the image of the mind, to putting eyes closed and attempting to place yourself somewhere you’ve never been. Think about it: there are endless beautiful places on Earth that evince all manner of beauty, but among them, there are a few special places whose reputation so precedes them.
One of those places: New Zealand.
Audrey and I explained this to a friend just as we’d firmed our flights into Auckland, “…but all we know about New Zealand: beautiful landscapes, sheep, Lord of the Rings, and the Maori,” I said. And in reality and fairness, we really don’t know all of that. Much of it is preconceived notion, expectations carved of fantasy.
Turns out our friend Ralph had lived in New Zealand for 18 years and added further “…like that, plus wine and yachting.” He laughed, and knowing what else we were after, suggested a few people to contact to get to the root of what and who New Zealand is. He finished with geo-contouring, “it’s like…Hawaii down there, Wyoming around the side, Scotland over there and Switzerland in the back.”
And then there are the people, the Kiwis. Even the Scots, a patriotic group intensely proud of Scotland’s natural beauty and culture, urged us to visit New Zealand. As Craig, a rugby player decked out in a kilt at an Edinburgh pub, put it: “New Zealand. You have to visit. It’s beautiful like here, but the people are even nicer.”
A group of people even friendlier than the Scots? Now this I gotta’ experience.
But New Zealand is not just about sitting back to enjoy the beautiful scenery and friendly people; it’s also a place for action and context. It’s been a while since we tackled mountains. And it’s time we get back on track.
Crikey dick! We’re flying to New Zealand next Monday for a month!! We’re thrilled with the opportunity to discover just a bit of what New Zealand is all about, to move it from the imagined to the real.
Before too long we’ll be wearing our togs and jandals to the beach with a chilly box knowing that she’ll be right. (Did we get that right, Casey?)
So what will we be up to in New Zealand?
G Adventures has begun offering tours to New Zealand and Australia this year. And we’ll be on one of their first. Interested to see both the North and South Islands, we opted for the New Zealand Encompassed Tour and we’ll be flying across the globe (on the longest flight we’ve ever taken!!) with Air New Zealand.
New Zealand: North Island
Our New Zealand journey will begin in Auckland where we’ll kick off the first week exploring the North Island. We’ll snorkel and kayak in the Bay of Islands while sleeping on board a houseboat. From there we’ll head to Raglan where we hope to get up on a surf board after a few lessons. Surfing? Yes, a first for us. In Rotorua we’ll learn a bit about Maori culture (which, I’m embarrassed to say I know very little about except for the haka, the Maori war dance that the All Blacks perform every rugby game) by visiting a Maori village and enjoying a hangi, a Maori barbecue where the meat is cooked in the ground.
Then we launch into trekking with a hike of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (including a peek at the Emerald Lakes), supposedly New Zealand’s best one-day hike.
From there we’ll continue on to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, for a taste of the urban.
New Zealand: South Island
After arriving by ferry from Wellington, we’re looking at some beach and hiking time at Abel Tasman National Park and Punakaiki. From there we’ll have a couple of days in Franz Josef for a glacier walk (of Franz Josef Glacier, of course) and a pop into the hot springs. Then comes three days in Queenstown, the adrenaline capital of the world.
Post-adrenaline overload in Queenstown – yes, we are thinking bungee jump — we’ll relax in Doubtful Sound with a bit of kayaking (so you’re laughing at relaxing by kayaking?). Then comes one of our favorite parts of any trip: wine tasting. How about that for balance — pump up the endorphins, then cut them with wine. We’ll spend a couple of days in Central Otago where we can bike the rail trail as we stop in wineries along the way. For us, the final stop of the tour will be in Kaikoura where we can hope to spot a whale or take the safer bet of swimming with seals.
An Extra Week on South Island – What to Do?
At the conclusion of our G Adventures tour, we’ll spend another week on our own on the South Island. At this moment, we are flexible and weighing various plans and options.
We’d love your help. What are your New Zealand favorites and suggestions? If you have recommendations on what we else we should do or whom we should meet or where we should eat, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below or drop us a line.
Although we may not get to everything, know that we read and factor all suggestions into our travel decision-making process. Chur bro! (How about that for some more Kiwi lingo?)
Follow along with our New Zealand adventure!
As we explore New Zealand’s outdoors, people, culture and wine, we’ll share what we find through photos, stories, updates and maybe a video or two. We will update our blog as often as we can, but we are realistic about time and connectivity constraints.
“You know New Zealand is magical. But then you go and it’s even more magical than you could have ever expected,” Ralph concluded.
When we set down in New Zealand, we will open our eyes. And we’ll no longer wonder what we’ll see.
Disclosure: Our tour of New Zealand is provided by G Adventures in cooperation with its Wanderers in Residence program. Our flights are kindly sponsored by Air New Zealand. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.