Christmas in New Zealand 2017. It was a bit of a turbulent beginning to our trip and not due to cloud storms while flying. Someone assumed we were flying out of Narita airport. It wasn’t until the lady at the check in counter pointed out our tickets stated Haneda. Oh my word, we raced over to the bus stop, and an hour later made in to Haneda airport. We were the last passengers to check in. Think Home Alone craziness. We were escorted through the staff and cabin crew security area, and then a taxi cab drove us through to our gate. You know the type that are for elderly and disabled, not three abled passengers who are running late. Quite embarrassing, because my oversight caused many assertive employees to rush around and work harder. Thank God for the impeccable work ethic Japan holds. We arrived safe and sound in Auckland, but I opened my suitcase to read the note that my lithium camera batteries had been confiscated. Cursing my blasé attitude to traveling! At least, they weren’t expensive Canon ones and, I have one battery (not confiscated) in my camera body. We will search in Auckland for a spare. Or two.
Hobbiton and Waitomo Glowworm Caves I shall now be residing in Hobbiton. Please forward my mail to the red door with the wheelbarrow of vegetables in front of it. It was fantastic, just as I’d imagined it would be. The details were phenomenal and precise. I loved seeing lace curtains in the windows with a vase or jug on the window sill. The laundry on the clothes line, the fishmonger’s house, the honey on the table, the cheese hobbit hole; all delightful details. Best of all was the pipe and papers on the bench outside Mr. Baggins’ Bag End on the Hill. Perfect, just perfect. Down the lane, passed Samwise Gamgee’s hole, and over the Brandywine river to the Green Dragon for a tipple of ginger ale, cider or beer as you can only get in Hobbiton. The books on the shelves in the inn were just the right amount of dusty. The fires were lit. Cozy little hobbit nooks comfortably set with cushions. Notices and announcements posted up on wooden beams. A row of cloaks and bonnets hanging near the door. Just the right number of sunbeams filtering through the round windows. It was lovely, but I wish (selfishly) I could have stretched that 2 hour tour to a half day tour! We raced from Hobbiton over to Orotohunga towards the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. I’d seen a Pinterest post on the Caves and they looked so magical and ethereal I had to add it to the itinerary. It was most certainly worth it! We had to change our booking time, as we ran out of gas. It was a frantic 15km of praying on a yellow light and an ever decreasing quarter of a tank to the fated E of empty. We made it! Going from a $20 full tank to $125 is a wee bit steep to get used to, especially with all the driving we’ve yet to do. A pack of noodles between three for dinner it is from now on! The Caves were pretty spectacular, but nothing surpassed the beautiful blue glow of those worms (not in fact flies, but worms, but who would pay to go see flies?!) We sat in awed silence (and instructed silence) in boats: in almost darkness apart from the glow of the worms above us. We drifted almost silently through the still waters of the underground river, with only the occasional drip dropping of water. God is so creative in His Design was all I kept thinking. Sadly, no photos during the tour, so as to not disturb the worms. We stayed in a campsite in Otorohunga that night. Tidy and relatively clean. Quiet apart from the occasional train that went by.
To Napier We drove 3.5 hours from Otorohanga to Napier the following day. We passed hills and hills and hills filled with sheep, cows, lambs and calves. It’s nice driving cross country as you can watch the landscape change. Approaching Napier were lots of vineyards and wine tasting tours. And on to see a friend I met in Korea 6 years ago teaching at a haegwon. A lovely catch up, stroll along the beach, fish and chips at the beach as the sun went down.
Napier part deux, and on to Wellington A morning at the beach, and what a beautiful beach Waimarama was! The drive there was winding through vineyards, and hills and valleys. It was a little windy, but by mid morning all the clouds had been blown away. The beach was littered with clear jellyfish to peak the curiosity of a three year old. Plus a few bluebottle jellyfish, which we observed but did not touch! The water was a little too refreshing for me to venture in further than feet. But the sun was glorious to soak up.
To Wellington with detours We left Napier and drove 3.5 hours towards Wellington with a few detours along the way, adding an extra hour the journey. Gorge Road was closed due to blockages or boulders obstructing the road. Our detour took us up some very windy roads by enormous wind turbines. Beautiful hills all around us, at the expense of some slight stomach nausea. Wellington took a while to get in to with Sunday afternoon travelers headed back into the city. We couldn’t find a campsite close to the Interislander ferry terminal so had to get a fancy hotel. Just had to, no other option. I realized, as I enjoyed the luxuries of showers and a bed, that although I like the idea of camping, I’m much more of a ‘glamping’ kinda girl, and I’m totally ok with acknowledging that! We woke up in Wellington, ready to get on to the ferry. We welcomed rain, and cool temperatures after the hot sun of yesterday. We spent the night previous redoing our South Island itinerary. I’m so glad Jesus balanced me well: he’s much more practical, realizing 10.5 hours driving is probably too much to accomplish in one day! Jesus sees our trip as a chance to relax and go at half speed of his daily work routine. I see our trip as the time to go twice as fast as normal routine; packing a ridiculous amount of attractions and activities into a truly unreasonable amount of time. We reached a balanced compromise, serenely.
The international ferry to Picton.
A 3.5 hour ride to the South Island. Chuy played in the play area the entire time with ceaseless energy, while Jesus and I closed our eyes and turned a delightful shade of puce. Going up to the outside deck with fresh air helped as did my peppermint and Digize essential oils. So very thankful for them as the number of sick bags and tissues increased in their distribution among the putty colored passengers. We drove 4.5 hours to Greymouth; a seaside town with Tasman Sea on the left and mountains on the right. We passed mountains and hills, with rivers and streams, along windy roads; more sheep and cows than humans. We barely saw another car every 20 minutes; how different when compared to Tokyo. Greymouth campsite was right by the beach: a Top 10 campsite. We played in the sand, stepped around bluebottle jellyfish (long since deceased, but still best to be wary), watched the sun set, and was pulled to sleep by the sounds of the waves. I had read a blog that Pukukakai was the place to go for this, but so glad we drove on to Greymouth. It’s a bigger town, with more amenities, but still such peace and beauty was found in the warm setting sun on the beach.
This was the highlight of the entire NZ trip for me. 11 pm at night taking photos of the Milky Way at Fox Glacier. I had to walk a little way from the lights of the campsite. There was silence. Me and the beautiful stars the Lord created to show His immeasurable greatness. I was worshiping between those 30 second exposures, silently singing to His glories. I had never seem a shooting star before this night. Best moment ever! Look how bright it is!
Night photography is not my forte, as I enjoy my sleep too much. But NZ is one of the best places to see the Milky Way, due to position and lack of light pollution. I can do without my usual 8 hours for one night I suppose. And it was a thousand times worth it. I had expected to fumble around trying to get the correct settings and getting frustrated that what my naked eye saw was not what I computed my camera to capture. But this was one of the first shots I took. Very pleasantly surprised and amazed. Yes, you can see the orange-y house light bouncing off the trees, but I included it just for size comparison to the stars.
The Mt Cook mountain range from the Fox Glacier Lookout. I got many photos of the entire range for some upcoming panoramic montages! Keep on the lookout for them!
We walked to a few lookout points for Mt. Cook. The clouds rolled away just enough for me to get this shot. It was well worth the cloudy, rainy day for this view.
Our drive to Milford Sound: extremely wet and misty along the way. But it started to lift, and created such beautiful, ethereal scenery with the rock face showing through.
We didn't go on the boat ride, but had lots of fun walking around and throwing bits of drift wood and rocks into the sound. After the long, winding drive to the Sound, we all welcomed the walk down by the water.
On the way to the Sound, we had to wait at a tunnel, and we were surrounded by the longest trickling waterfalls I have seen. They were all around us! During our wait we had some cheeky visitors: the Kia birds. They took a piece of plastic off our roof in mere seconds from landing upon our vehicle. I was already out the van, and busy snapping photos, while my husband was frantically indicating for me to close the passenger side door, so the bird couldn't fly inside and possible scratch us. I got some good photos of the birds during mid destruction.
Check out my husband's more than concerned expression. I shut the door soon after this.
Omarama, Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo by Mt Cook 3.5 hours from Te Anau to Omarama, with a short playground stop. We spent the afternoon with a short stop at Lake Pukaki, before driving on to Lake Tekapo. The popular tourist sight was the Good Shepherd church with the lake and mountains behind it. After significant paddling, splashing and rock throwing we headed home. Our evening activity was spent in an outdoor hot tub with the views of the rising moon over the mountains, a pond with a few ducks.
This was my favorite shot of the mountains during our drive around lakes. It was still relatively early in the morning, but I could have stayed there all day.
Hanmer Springs to Picton 4.5 hour drive. Hanmer Springs is a gorgeous town in the Hanmer Forest Park with hot tubs and thermal pools, horse trekking and more adventurous activities such as bungee jumping and jet boating. The following morning, we spent at the Hanmer Springs Pools. Chuy had a great two hours splashing around in the kids area. The thermal pools were lovely. Had a great lamb souvlaki #meattornado and Greek salad. Discovered we can change the accent of our TomTom: we now have an Aussie lady directing us 😁 New Zealand reminds me of England with a lot of the food and snacks, and the culture a little bit, but with more sunshine.
Picton Christmas Eve 3.5 hours drive. We stopped at the beach for some fresh air along the way. Loads of pebbles. And tidying up blue cod skeletons into a neat pile on the beach. Chuy takes after Jesus for cleaning up.
Rotorua back to Auckland I wish I’d researched Rotorua more thoroughly before we started our trip. I wanted to do the Mauri Show and Banquet, but it was booked out until January.
We checked out early and made our way to Wai-O-Tapu, a ‘thermal wonderland’ featuring bubbling mud pools, a geyser, volcanic craters, hot and cold pools and the famous Champagne Pool.
The smell of sulphur was pretty strong in some areas, walking around the geysers and craters, but not so overpowering that one needed a mask. The Artist’s Palette and the Champagne Pool were incredible. I thought the photos I’d seen on Google were enhanced, but looking back through my camera, it truly is that bright and vivid.
We’re now back in Auckland and resting in the hotel until our flight out this evening. Tv, Pool and too many lamb cutlets than are necessary
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