I spent 6 months planning a 15 day solo trip through paradise. That's 6 months of over-thinking, over-planning, and over-sharing about this vacation. All along, I thought how wonderful it would be to do a blog post when I return to document it.
Then I went. And was in awe every single day.
Since my photos don't do this country's natural beauty justice- and that's my strong suit- I know my words will fail it. So, here's the Cliff's Notes version of my adventures. For the few of you who expressed interest in my notes/ itinerary, I'll gladly share the full story privately!
Arrival! 24 hours of travel and an 18 hour time difference, and here's the security line for my first New Zealand domestic flight- a little different than ORD!
Stop 1- Paihia, Bay of Islands, North Island - A quiet town perfect to relax after a long day (Plus!) of travel. Beautiful quiet beaches, scenic walks, and most importantly to me, Scuba diving!
Stop 2- Auckland, North Island
Auckland is the "big city" (in quotes because I live in a city that overwhelmingly beats out the population of this entire country!) of New Zealand. And while it does offer the typical city fun, I was more interested in the 40 minute ferry ride to Waiheke Island. A breathtaking island with picturesque beaches, a quaint teeny main street with local art shops, and a ton of wineries. I chose to do a morning on the beach and then an afternoon walking trail of 3 wineries. My other two days in Auckland were spent exploring the city, getting a massage, and taking in all those beautiful sailboats.
Auckland- The City of Sails!
Waiheke Island including the ferry ride from Auckland and hike into town
Stop 3- Christchurch & Akaroa, South Island - Moving on to the South Island, I again enjoyed the luxury of NO AIRPORT SECURITY on NZ domestic flights! A good thing too, since the night prior to my 6:30 AM flight, I was out dancing until way too late with the future Mr. Cara Crumbliss. If anyone knows "James" from Perth, who lives in Sydney, and went to Auckland for the Cricket World Cup, please share my contact information so we can proceed with my marriage plans. I digress.
Christchurch was devastated by a couple different earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. Seeing the devastation was beyond words. I'm glad I went to experience the "donut city" -- so called because the recovery efforts are around the outside of town and the city center hasn't yet recovered- notable from the bus stop photo below. However, it was only a quick stop en route to Akaroa for Sea Kayaking on a marine reserve.
After surviving driving on the "wrong" side of the street (that really gets non-Americans going about how arrogant we are...) and being rewarded with views that were truly breathtaking, I was greeted at the base in Akaroa by black sheep and then accompanied on my kayak by Hector's Dolphins (super teeny with a rounded fin) and seals. Lastly, I was privileged to witness the release of a Yellow Eyed Penguin, which is the successful product of Pohatu Penguins' breeding program for this endangered species.
TranzAlpine Scenic Train, South Island- A destination in itself, this scenic train ride took me from Christchurch to the west across Arthur's Pass through the Southern Alps. On one side of the mountain range is dry/ arid land, and on the other side, it's rich almost rain forest. While I did LOVE this train ride, it was notable that I was one of very few people without grey hair. I later found out that this is on the "luxury" end of the scale for travel in New Zealand, so the younger folks, who are typically backpackers, just don't spring for it. I'm glad I did... it made me feel young.
Next Up- Week 2!