It takes watching just a few seconds of Lord of the Rings to get an idea of how beautiful New Zealand is. With so many wonderful places to go why would you ever spend a day inside or at a museum? For two people who often spend their days off at an exhibit missing some of these gems would have been tragic.
At the Auckland Museum
On our second day in New Zealand we spend the afternoon at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. It is situated in the middle of Auckland Domain Park within walking distance of a few other attractions. It’s a fairly large facility and took us a few hours to see the entire place. I would recommend this as a great day-one activity; get some history and culture before exploring everything else. Learn the lay of the land and a little better understanding of language.
The whole group together
We also went to a number of monuments, the names of which I don’t recall. Like any country that was colonized by England (we know nothing about that) there are plenty of memorials to war and conflict. Most were surrounded by beautiful gardens.
One afternoon the boys when in to the New Zealand Army Museum, not that I don’t enjoy that sort of thing but I was really tired. I get carsick and the roads in NZ are a bit whinedy. I know Josh enjoyed seeing some machines that he doesn’t get to in US museums.
And one strange but interesting facility was World of Wearable Art. This crazy collection of pieces was from a yearly completion. Designers create a piece of art that more only has to be worn but also has to move in some interesting way. Their theater plays highlights from the shows and you can see how not only are these items beautiful but was the model or dancer moves in it the piece tells a deeper story.
These are just the highlights of the stops we made. Don’t miss out on all of the cultural experiences there are.
The first test to our friendship came just a few days into the trip, how do we do in the car together. It was going to be three really long weeks if one person had a bad habit. Thankfully it wasn’t a terribly long drive from Auckland to Rotorua. Josh even did some of the driving.
We had been warned that Rotorua would smell of sulfur, like any place with hot springs. It was pretty smelly and very touristy. Also had our first experience with Kiwi customer service. It’s not a country where the folks rely on tipping or good feedback to keep jobs. While checking into the hotel that afternoon the manager hung up on someone. One of many things we would adjust too on this trip.
We couldn’t possibly go on vacation and not go for a dive, thanks to Air New Zealand we didn’t have any of our gear. While my suitcase arrived the next day, Josh’s didn’t come for two more.
The site we picked was Poor Knights Island, one of the more famous dive sites in New Zealand. The collision of currents makes available a menagerie of wildlife not seen in other areas. For two people whom dive mostly in the tropics suiting up in 8mm wetsuits with hoods was a bit scary. I love to dive but I get cold even in Cozumel. There will be a video from our dive coming, I just have not done the editing yet. A bit lazy, but here is a little clip of Josh (and his beard) all suited up.
Wearing the GoPro was very comfortable and much easier than messing with my DSLR in a case. My favorite part of diving is watching the schooling fish do their thing and when you are in an area that is prime for migration its heaven. The dive was incredible and even though it was a large charter we were with a group of more experienced divers.
And, we weren’t cold.
It’s Christmas morning and we have arrived in Auckland, this is the farthest we have ever traveled. We are here to meet our friends for a three-week long trip around the islands. They wait patiently for us to clear customs and join them for celebrations at a childhood home. We wait for luggage that isn’t coming and realize that today is going to be a bit crazy.
My family is a ham lunch crowd, Josh’s does turkey but Maria’s is lamb. Now having seen it prepared I was a bit grossed out to try it but hey when in Rome. While that lamb was roasting in the oven we went to Waiwera Thermal Resort to steam out all the stiffness and just all around yuckiness of the previous day’s travel. It was awesome, I am a huge fan a hot springs anyway but they do it right. That is once you get used to the sulfur smell. We left feeling much more relaxed and ready for dinner.
Not only was the lamb fantastic but we were also treated to a selection of very Kiwi foods. Roasted potatoes, pumpkin, and kumara along with Pavlova. I could have eaten about half of that dessert had it not been for all the other goodies. Josh and I were starting to get tired and figured it was time to make for the hotel.
However we couldn’t resist making a few stops on the way, including a terrific scenic outlook of Auckland. A bit tough to see with the fog. We laid down to take a nap before going out to eat and didn’t wake up until the next morning. That many timezones has to catch up with you eventually.
Josh has come up with an idea for how we can share our trip to New Zealand. In three weeks we traveled most of the two islands and ran into all sort of incredible things.
We did not have a Christmas Eve, departing Chicago on December 23rd and arriving in Auckland on December 25th. Our 24th was just a blip as we crossed the international dateline. I already shared the trouble we had with catching our Auckland flight and the lost luggage. Our actual flight wasn’t nearly as bad as we both had expected. Really just slept most of the time. The folks at Air New Zealand deserve a huge pat on the back for all they do to make a very long trip comfortable. A special thanks for not leaving us behind too.
A bit cold leaving Chicago
Ready to get off this thing!!!!
While in New Zealand Josh took advantage of the extreme sport offerings to make his memories. Cave tubing, glacier hike, river surfing, and bungee jumping. He took the GoPro with him on all of these and I made a video the other day of his bungee experience. He chose the longest fall available in Queenstown. A 134 meter jump from a gondola suspended on cabled over a river valley. It’s called the Nevis Bungy and as you can see from the video it is every bit extreme.