New Zealand Trip
We have traveled to a number of beautiful places in the world over the past few years and New Zealand was no different. The only problem for me was the beauty was more panoramic than focused. I didn’t have the right camera equipment to take in all the beauty through the camera lens but I hope you will enjoy the pictures I did take.
You can view all the pictures on-line at:
Enjoy the pics!
OK, we are home and it was a whirlwind of a trip. We saw some amazing sights and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The scenery was just breathtaking from start to finish, including our time in Sydney both on our way to New Zealand and on our way home. We enjoyed a 8 hour layover on the way there and a 7 hour layover on the way home, so we were able to go to Sydney both times. We learned how to store our luggage at the airport and where the free internet was to do our research. Sydney Airport is pretty nice and even has showers available for free. Next time I need to bring a towel since we didn’t choose to use the showers on this trip, maybe next time.
I must say that the highlight of the trip had to be Queenstown. It was just so beautiful there and the weather was spectacular the first day we arrived. It also happened to be Ilise’ 50th birthday and we really enjoyed the day. We took a day trip to Milford Sound the following day, which was highly recommended, and we thought that it was really nice but the weather was not great. We were scheduled to take a bus there (which took almost 5 hours) and then take a flight back to Queenstown, but since the weather was pretty nasty they cancelled the flight back to Queenstown. That meant another bus ride back, which took another 4 1/2 hours. OUCH! That was one long day in a bus.
Once we were done with our time in Queenstown the real fun began, we rented a car. That might not seem like a big deal, but I got to drive on the wrong side of the road. That was a great experience, expect I kept turning on the windshield washers every time I tried to make a turn. I also didn’t look in the rear view mirror much since it was on my left side and I am so programmed to look to the right. All in all, it was lots of fun even if the round-a-bouts scared the bageezus out of me 🙂
Our drive took us through some amazing, actually spectacular views. The glacial lakes, waterfalls, mountain vistas and so much more. Every town we drove through looked deserted, but there are only 4.4 million people living in New Zealand and I believe less than 20% of those live on the south island, where we were traveling. We spent our first night on the road in Franz Joseph, which is the location of a set of glaciers. It was raining when we arrived and when we left the next morning so we didn’t go to see them. The hotel we stayed in had a great video so we got an idea of what we were missing.
Our next day, which was New Year’s Eve, took us to Nelson on the northern tip of the island. We had a really nice afternoon walking around town and reserving our tour of Able Tasman National Park the following day. We signed up for a hike and kayak which started at 8:30 on New Year’s Day. When we arrived at our hotel Ilise was reading the info and the sushi restaurant in the hotel was extremely highly rated so we booked a reservation for 8:30 for a nice dinner. The dinner was amazingly good, even though the sushi chef took forever to get us our food! We headed out for a walk around town and listen to a few bands in town and headed back to the hotel. We were asleep before 11 PM and missed the whole celebration. Ilise was still fighting a cold and I had spent 13 hours driving over the past two days and was exhausted. Plus, we wanted to be well rested for our hike and kayak.
Well, the rest was well worth it the next day. Able Tasman was pretty special. The water color was something we had never seen before. Different than the Caribbean, different from the Pacific or any other body of water I have ever seen. The trip started with a water taxi like no other. We arrived at the facility to prepare for our tour and they loaded us on a boat that was on a trailer attached to the back of a tractor. That’s right, this 20 person power boat was on dry land and we boarded it and we were about 1/4 mile from the ocean. It turns out that the tides are so variable that every time they take a group out on a water taxi they start on dry land. When the boat gets back they pull it out and wait for the next time they need the boat. For the engineer in me it was really cool to watch this whole process unfold. I was taking pictures of all the boats around us being pulled by tractors. Who in the world would ever think that a small town in New Zealand would buy so many tractors, to pull BOATS! The salesman for the first one must have been laughing for days until they ordered 10 more the following year. They have this system down, with motorized boat trailers that raise up to let the boats slide off when they get out a bit in the ocean. It was a very cool experience.
To be continued ….
Once we got dropped off by the water taxi we hiked for almost 3 hours and then stopped for a nice lunch right on the beach. The hike reminded me a lot of our time in Costa Rica with a swinging bridge and the dense forest. The walk was really nice and peaceful with some special views of the ocean and some lagoons. We have some pretty special places here in San Diego, and this rivaled ours. On our trip we met a family from Michigan that we talked with most of the trip. There were 4 in their family, with an older daughter who was 25 and a son who was around 20. They were very nice and within a few minutes of meeting them we found out that the daughter was living in Nairobi working for a social enterprise called Saner.gy. Not only is she working for a social enterprise, but her company happens to be one of the investments of a foundation I am working with out of Santa Barbara. She was also an intern for a company that I met in Mexico this past October. It is truly a small world and continues to cement my belief that what I am focusing my spare time on is the right thing to do.
After lunch we took kayaks back to the original drop off point. We were in some open ocean but we stayed very close to the shore. Ilise and I shared a kayak and it was a good thing we shared because it was a very windy day and there were some choppy seas. We saw a little baby blue penguin just floating in the ocean and took a bunch of pictures. The little thing was so cute and looked tiny in such a large body of water. We also went to a small island where there are numerous sea lions, which seemed very similar to La Jolla Cove here in San Diego. Since is was so windy and rough it was hard to take out my good camera to take pictures, but we did take a few by the sea lions.
The wind ended up being a really good thing at the end of our kayak experience. There were 4 tandem kayaks as part of our group plus the guide in a single. We were about ½ mile from our landing spot and the guide pulled out a large tarp. She asked the 4 kayaks to line up next to each other side by side. Ilise and I were on the extreme left side of the pack and we turned the tarp into a sail. I took a corner of the tarp and tied it to my paddle, as did the back person on the right side of our little kayak pack. The women in the front held the front corner of the tarp and when we raised the paddles in the air we created a sail. From that point on it was all wind power, we didn’t have to paddle at all. The wind was really howling at this point, so we were humming along at a good clip. It was on this excursion that we learned if we wanted to eat good food in New Zealand we should focus on the fish.
Since we were on an island that had lots of sheep and cattle we figured the meat would be good, but we were wrong. The best meals we had were definitely fish, not steak and lamb. So, that evening we asked the front desk of the hotel for the best local seafood restaurant and headed out. It turned out to be one of the best meals we had on the whole trip. We shared some appetizers, including something called whitebait. We also had some broiled fish that was absolutely delicious. Next time in New Zealand, focus on fish and ethnic foods, those were our best meals.
The next morning we hopped back in the car with our bags and headed for Picton, the port for the ferry from the south island of New Zealand to the north island. Our destination was Wellington. It was a blustery day again but the seas were not too bad. During our boat ride I headed out on the front of the boat where winds ended up sustaining at about 80 knots, which is pretty strong. The ferry took about 3 hours and Ilise slept most of the way. When we arrived in Wellington my client was there waiting for us and drove us to our hotel. That was a big surprise and it was great to see Ross. He took Ilise and I to our hotel and we agreed to meet for dinner around 7 PM. It was only about 2 PM when we checked in, so we decided to head out for a walk.
To be continued ……
Well, if you have ever been to Wellington they call it the windy city and the day we arrived was one of the windiest days they had had in a very long time. When we got out of our hotel, which was right along to waterfront, the wind kicked up a bit and then we turned the corner around the national museum and we were fully on the waterfront. WOW, is all I can say. Ilise and I were laughing to each other that if the kids were with us, Drew, our daughter, would have just been blown away by the wind. We had to lean our whole bodies forward not get blown over, it was incredible! We were able to visit a museum that captured the earthquake in Christchurch, which lasted 37 seconds, with 37 pictures and each person photographed was able to write 37 words about their experience. It was a very interesting exhibit.
That evening we were picked up for dinner by our clients and their wives and we all headed out for dinner. We had a wonderful time and everyone got along great. The food was Asian fusion which Ilise and I really enjoy and after dinner we headed back to our hotel for a nightcap. All in all, our first day in Wellington was really nice. The following day I went to work at 8 AM and Ilise was able to have the day free. She spent most of the day at the famous museum in Wellington right across from our hotel. She had a really nice day, as did I.
Ilise and I reconnected at the hotel around 8 PM to begin our long trek home. We flew from Wellington to Auckland and arrived around midnight with a 6:20 AM flight scheduled to Sydney. That left us about 4 hours of sleep as we needed to get to the airport 2 hours early, which we are glad we did. The airport in Auckland was packed at 4:20 AM! Ouch! We got on our flight on time and arrived in Sydney at 7:30 AM with a two hour time advantage. This time we had a 7 hour layover so we checked our bags at the airport and headed back to Syndey.
Since we saw the Opera House and did a harbor tour on our first layover we decided to take a walk in an area of Sydney called The Rocks. It was a very nice day, not too hot, and we walked for almost two hours. We stopped in a few art shops and then made our way back to the airport. On our first layover we decided to take a taxi to and from the airport but on this trip we took the train. The train was much more effective and just a bit over half the cost of the taxis. Both were fun experiences but in the future I believe the train is the best way to go.
All that was left was our 14 hour flight back to LAX and then picking up the kids. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful as we arrived at LAX on-time, spent some time at Starbucks catching up on some work and then heading back to pick up the kids. We arrived around 9:30 AM and the kids didn’t arrive until 3 PM. The kids were very happy to see us and told us all about their trip on the way home. It was really nice to see the kids, but I am glad they were able to spend some quality time with their grandparents and Ilise and I were able to spend some real quality time together without them. Maybe next year the kids will go to NY and spend some time with Ilise’ mom. We will see.
‘Til next time …..
I opened the passenger door and hopped in the car. In front of me was a steering wheel and a little yellow sticker that said “keep left” for us Yankees! The rear view mirror was on my left and the whole thing seemed a bit odd. For the first time in my life I was about to drive on the wrong side of the road and it was right. Well, that is, we rented a car in New Zealand and I got to drive on the left side of the road. It was pretty simple most of the time since we were on a single lane road most of the time with very few crossing streets so I can’t complain too much. If I had to drive in Uganda that might have been a very different story, but here in New Zealand there aren’t many cars on the road, they were well paved and the experience hasn’t been too bad. That was until we arrived in Nelson, which is a reasonable sized city.
Learning to turn and where to look when turning has been the most challenging part. The drive from Queenstown to Franz Joseph Glacier was pretty spectacular. There were some huge lakes and a couple of amazing waterfalls. There was also a raging river with amazing white water falls through a canyon. It was a rainy day so we didn’t get to see all of the mountain peaks, but the south island of New Zealand seems like a collection of mountains popping out of the sea. Pretty amazing all around. In Nelson we headed out to Able Tasman, a national park that is beautiful, caused us to drive a bit more through some city areas. The roundabouts are a bit interesting when driving on the left side, everything is backwards, including these traffic circles. Making a U-Turn was really weird as we decided to pick up a hitch hiker that we passed on the road. I had to make two U-Turns and that was fun 🙂
The last drive was yesterday to Picton for a ferry to Wellington, where I go to work today. All is all this has been a pretty special trip for us. The people have been very nice but I must admit that the food has been just OK until someone told us to eat the fish. After they said that, this is an island and the fish has been very good since we took that path. From our excursion today we might look to take a wilderness adventure with the kids at some point in the future. Maybe head to Alaska during a school break and do some camping, white water rafting and hiking. Those are things that the whole family will enjoy. Not sure about Ilise and the camping part, but we will work on that one.
“Til next time …..