|Dana and Amy at Hobbiton Movie Set|
While we were spending time in Connecticut in May, we were telling our friends about our plans to head back to New Zealand. My friend Dana got the brilliant idea that perhaps she would come with me (Amy)! Being a high school English teacher, and having summers off, she really wanted to relax and treat herself with a well deserved holiday. So when I got back to the states, we set about planning our trip down under. Taking advantage of Thomas' generous and hospitable relatives all over the country, we did a fantastic job seeing and experiencing heaps in just under 3 weeks.
We departed New York in the early afternoon and enjoyed 19 hours of flying. With a bit of a long delay through customs in Auckland and a hilarious conversation explaining "Fashion rainboots" vs gumboots to the customs guy, we shuttled our way into Auckland city to catch our immediate bus to Matamata.
As a Lord of the Rings fanatic, Dana insisted she needed to go to Hobbiton and tour the set there. I was indifferent, but tagged along and had a fantastic time. The set was so impressive, and with a gorgeous, sunny day we couldn't believe it was winter. A surprise pint of our choice at the Green Dragon Tavern at the end made the whole experience unforgetable. The bus continued us on to Rotorua where we were to be met by Alan Deverson. Having never met him before, I chose a "Deverson" looking man in the crowd of waiting people and hoped it was him! Luckily, it was!
|Dana and Alan|
We were absolutely blown away with Alan's hospitality. He drove us around Rotorua on our way to his house, and the tour didn't stop till he dropped us back at the bus the following evening. Having been up since 3am NZ time, we were nearly about to crash, but were pleasantly forced to sit through an amazing four course meal, complete with Alan's own caught and smoked trout and homemade limoncello. The following day was completely scheduled for us, with a drive down to Lake Taupo passing Wai-o-Tapu mud pools, Aratiatia Dam, and Huka Falls. Alan dropped us off at Te Puia Maori Village on the way back into town where we saw their kiwi birds, mud pools, gyesers and a traditional Maori performance. The afternoon included another tour to lakes, the Redwood forest, and Buried Village, until dinner and then off to the bus stop for a 12.35am overnight bus to Wellington!
We had a gorgeous Interislander Ferry ride through the Queen Charlotte Sound, and once we arrived in Picton we picked up our rental car, and Dana easily convinced me to head to the waterfront. Once there, I was shocked by seeing Thomas sitting on a bench, and after not seeing each other for five weeks, it was a bit of an emotional reunion. The two of them had planned this surprise, and thankfully Thomas could drive the rental car all the way to Golden Bay! (With a stop in Nelson for a craft beer pint of course!)
It took us more time than we thought it would, but we drove through the dark up and over the terribly windy Takaka Pass, and made it to our accomodation in Collingwood and went to an awesomely local and totally Kiwi pub for dinner and a pint, watching the replay of the Crusaders Rugby, and trying to teach Dana the rules. A fantastic idea to wake up super early the next day, we ran to the beach in time to enjoy the most magnificent sunrise we've ever seen.
The next day we bused down to Kaikoura and spent 3 hours exploring. We met a man from Estonia and invited him to join us on a walk to the seal colony. The views were spectacular as always, and the seal pups playing in a pool was the highlight of the day. We then caught the next bus to Christchurch where Thomas' Gran was waiting to pick us up, with a delicious home cooked meal waiting for us. We didn't have much time in the city, but we caught up with a few friends, showed Dana the beaches, enjoyed fish and chips, walked through CBD and even went for a drive through the porthills with Tony Deverson! And enjoyed a delicious dinner and some craft pizza with him that night too!
|Thomas' favourite place, the Port Hills|
A long bus ride through some of the most gorgeous parts of New Zealand, left us in Queenstown. We enjoyed a meal with John and Kathrin, but prepared for our immediate departure the next day to the Catlins! Renting another car (thanks Dana!) Thomas drove us through Otago, and we made it early enough to check out some sites before heading to Malcolm and Carolyn's house. We stopped at Kaka Point, where we collected paua shells, Nugget Point and went for a walk through Tunnel Hill. We were able to really teach Dana some rugby that night while we watched the final match, and to Thomas' great surprise, there was a Rally Car race on the next day! We got up early, headed over there, and watched as the cars zipped along the gravel roads that we had such a hard time driving on the day before! We made the most of the rest of the day, heading to the highlights of the Catlins: Slope Point, Porpoise Bay, Petrified Forest and many waterfalls.
The next day we left reasonably early, and drove up the coast to Dunedin. Dana and I went on a tour through the Cadbury Factory, and the three of us enjoyed a VERY kiwi lunch of fish n chips, with tomato sauce and L&P while watching the surfers at St. Clair Beach.
We finished our little road trip with a stop at Moeraki Boulders, which are always such fun to play around.
Dana spent the rest of her time down under bungy jumping and enjoying some days shopping and nights out in Queenstown, and she even did a two day trip to Milford Sound and a two day trip to Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Without a doubt she had the time of her life in New Zealand, and will have stories to tell her kids at school this year for sure! Thanks to all those who helped make her time in New Zealand most memorable and for helping show her around this gorgeous country.
|Dana, Thomas and Amy at Kaka Point|