Friday, January 17, 2014

Travelog: New Zealand

What a year it has been.  Full of adventure, travel, and quality time with loved ones.  We set a record for guests coming to visit us and traveling to more countries than we could have ever imagined in a year!  So, you can understand why it has been quite some time since my last post.  Picking up where I left off, it wouldn't be right not to share our anniversary trip to New Zealand.  
Before we headed off to the sister island, we celebrated our three years of marriage at home starting with surprise breakfast in bed and a morning coffee run and ended the day on our balcony over a bottle of champagne and sentimental gifts.
I tried my luck at embroidery once again and made Ronnie this "always and forever" framed piece.  I still have some of my mother's work from when she was my age, so it's something that makes me feel closer to her.  This anniversary was bittersweet knowing that it was our last in Australia.  

Since we will be moving back in the middle of this year, the "last time's" have already started (tear, tear).  Until then, we will continue to see the world as much as possible and cherish this special time that R and I have been able to share.
Looking out the plane's window on our descent into Queenstown, NZ (the south island), I knew that we were about to be embark on one of the most picturesque journeys of our life.  Disclaimer: the pictures you are about to see do not do this place justice…you must GO and SEE for yourself.  
To spare you a heartbreaking airport security story...long story short is that you should take quarantine regulations very seriously and throw away that $1 mandarin orange that you forgot was hiding in your purse in order to avoid a heavy (like really $$$) fine.  And no, simply saying "I promise it was a mistake" and shedding a few (or a lot of) tears will not gain NZ government's sympathy (not even a tiny ounce of it).  Not speaking from experience or anything…
Luckily, we were greeted with a warm fire and afternoon tea at our fab accommodation to ease the pain. By mid afternoon, our airport disaster became a thing of the past as our day was transformed by the breathtaking lake and mountain views everywhere you turned.  Queenstown is an upscale resort town with plenty of quaint shops, hip bars and restaurants, and action sports to dive into.  
Lots of good food and drink, from gourmet breakfast prepared at our boutique hotel to "famous" Fergburgers to fresh seafood platters to many "cheers!" over our stay.
We were seriously in awe over these breathtaking views after a steep gondola ride up the mountain.  If that wasn't enough, we got to zip our way down the mountain riding a luge!  I had a hard time staying focused on the winding track in front of me while the turquoise blue water kept catching my eye.  
In order to feel like real thrill seekers of New Zealand, though, we had to check out the world's first commercial bungee site at Kawarau Bridge.  It was the perfectly cliche way to celebrate three years of marriage…by taking the plunge strapped together by the ankles and holding onto one another for dear life!  Sounds about right.  Standing 140+ feet above a rushing stream of water and committing together on the count of "3..2..1" to JUMP face first was an exhilarating experience that we will never forget!  (But not soon to be repeated). 
After making the most of the "Adventure Capital of the World" (which included an intense whitewater rafting experience as well), we hit the wide open road.  
We fell in love.  The miles of lush greenery, snowy mountaintops, sparking blue water, and open pastures populated by sheep and cattle were never ending.  It was as if we had the south island all to ourselves and the world's problems had disappeared.  
'Pure' is the word I would use to describe the feeling of this place…the air, the beauty, the people.  As we made our way up north to Wanaka and then to Te Anau, we made frequent stops just to take it all in.  
On the road:
A winery cave tour and cheese platter for lunch.
A walk across the historic suspension bridge in Fiordland National Park and a trail plentiful of flora and fauna.  Being the intense nature gal that I am, I came prepared with my ballet flats and all (ha!). 
A camera opp was not to be missed, neither was the cowboys game!  It's all about compromise.  
A walk through Arrowtown, a historic gold mining town.
A stand alone shelter (in the middle of nowhere land) selling organic eggs and fresh lavender based on an honor system seemed too good to be true.  
…and my favorite obsession of them all, all of the little lambs and cows happily grazing!!  I didn't realize I was so infatuated with these creatures until we starting driving and every 5 seconds I would yell to R, "Look! Baby sheep!  Awweeee…Pretty cow!  Stooopp I want to take a picture of them!!".  R must have secretly loved them as much as I did, because he was very patient as we went off the beaten path to get the perfect shot of them looking through the camera lens.  
Our trip had a memorable ending as we boarded an overnight boat cruise through the peaceful Doubtful Sound on the Fiordland Navigator.  Our cozy bunk bed quarters for the night and matching tartan carpet were all part of the experience.  
Although it rained for some of our trip, we benefited from the abundance of waterfalls falling from the tall fiords in this serene setting.  Cruising through this World Hertiage Area of Fiordland National Park was a truly unique experience, and the fact that we were on the only boat who had access to the area made it that much more special.
Our favorite part of the cruise (besides the dolphins swimming alongside us) was kayaking in a cove where the boat docked overnight.  After some uhhh "technical difficulties", I learned how to paddle properly and showed that this city girl can hang with the best.  The best treat of it all, though, was the many wonderful people we met onboard.  We all originated from different countries, spoke a variety of languages (luckily for us everyone also knew English…dummies we are for being the only ones knowing one language), and were of all ages, but we could come together in peace and agree on the beauty of this place.
New Zealand taught us openness.  To travel off the beaten path, dare ourselves to jump (literally!) beyond our comfort zones, and see beauty among the purest things of the Earth like never before.  Another anniversary trip for the books and I still can't believe I have the most incredible partner to share life with!  

Much love,