Beautiful Land

Our last day here and we’ll miss this country tremendously.

Yesterday, we did quite a bit too! The day began at ZipTrek on the top of Bob’s Peak. We took the gondola ride up and decided that zip lining through the forest would be a good idea. I was a proud wife! JTB went zip lining! Here’s a video of his first zip. The trip lasted about 1 1/2 hours and about 4 zips in total, with multiple challenges along the way, including zip lining upside down!

After the zip lining, we decided to take an unplanned trip over to Glenorchy, which is a super small town about an hour away. It’s supposed to be a real adventurous town, with rafting in the summer and skiing in the winter. A portion of The Lord of the Rings was also filmed there. JTB found a nature trail and we came across this stunning view:

In Glenorchy, New Zealand

In Glenorchy, New Zealand

Going to leave the blog with this photo, as it sums it up nicely…

Strap Yourself To A Beautiful Stranger

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Another great slogan from Skydive Wanaka. Being in marketing makes you appreciate these tremendously! What a day. This was the fourth skydive for me and it didn’t disappoint. The town of Wanaka is about 1 1/4 hours from Queenstown and it’s where quite a few New Zealanders go on holiday. There were many skydiving places to choose from, including NZone (I guess it’s really famous), however I wanted to try something a little off the beaten path, so Skydive Wanaka was the place to be!

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We left around 1:30pm from downtown Queenstown and headed up the very hilly climb to Wanaka. The day was beautiful, only a few clouds in the sky, about 80 degrees. You really couldn’t have asked for a better day. Upon check-in, I decided at the last minute to get the Handi-Cam for a video of the adventure. Not sure when (or if) we’ll be back in New Zealand, so I decided “what the heck?”. We made the climb up to 10,000 feet and my stomach wasn’t feeling so well. I started to get real nervous, twitching in my seat, constantly adjusting things, thinking about turning back. Then I remembered a little saying that my ma used to say “You can rest when you’re dead”. A little morbid, but it really struck a cord with me. Take life to its fullest because you never know when it’ll be your last. And, I’m also experiencing something that not a lot of people get to see. Plus, I think that it’s important to push the limit because it’s how you grow. So, finally at 12,000 feet, the door swung open and a first-timer jumped out into the friendly skies with her tandem instructor. It was probably about 20 degrees cooler up there and the wind felt fantastic. I briefly looked down and saw multiple lakes, mountains (including Mt. Cook!, which had snow-topped peaks), and spectacular scenery. With hands clasped to my harness, we fell at 200kph. Look at the video and you can see a super contorted face and a few swear words being uttered. Nothing really compares to free-falling for that 45 seconds. It’s like a natural high, where you feel no pressure, no commitment, no worries, just pure heaven. Finally, the parachute opened and we glided down to the ground in about 6 minutes. Immediately upon landing, I felt like I wanted to go up again. Strange, but true! Till the next time…

While skydiving, JTB did a really strenuous hike up the Ben Lomond trail. He was gone for about 6 hours and said that he saw quite a few people and a few goats too!

We met each other around 7:30pm and headed to Winnies for some pizza and beer. A great day for both and we fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

Take A Hike!

A slogan from one of our favorite beers in Vermont, Long Trail. We definitely did that today by hiking Queenstown Mountain. On a side note, has anyone climbed The Long Trail in VT?  Thinking about doing this as a big trip next summer, but would love any feedback!

We got started a little late, however it was a spectacular hike, about 2 1/2 hours. If anyone knows JTB, he always has to be the fastest and first to get anywhere. Me, I like to take my time and enjoy hidden inlets and take interesting photos. Here’s a panorama video of it from the top:

and a personalized cairn that the hub built for me on the trail.

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It was REALLY windy at the top and it started to rain, so we immediately made the trek back into town, but not before we saw this sign. Maybe kinda corny, but I thought it was inspirational.

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It’s Saturday here and they have this great arts and crafts market where they sell local artisan’s works. A few purchases later and we found ourselves at a local restaurant for a light salad and tasty beer.

The internet here is really spotty, so I’m trying to use the connection when everyone is in town (it’s about 3PM here). We’ll take a little snooze-a-rooz before heading back into town for dinner.

Skydiving in Wanaka is tomorrow around 1:30. Hot damn! A little skeered, to be honest (that’s the made up Mo terminology that says you’re more scared than scared, but still super excited). JTB will probably rent a bike and tour the countryside while I’m away. Looking forward to the adventure.

Lord Of The Rings Country

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We really are in Lord of the Rings country. The trilogy was filmed entirely here and one can see why. The scenery is truly breathtaking.

The day started early at 5:30. We made the long trek (4 hours) towards Milford Sound. We left before sunrise and didn’t get to truly appreciate the scenery until after 7AM. We learned that Milford Sound was incorrectly named because a “Sound” is formed by rivers and a “Fjord” or “Fiord” is formed by glaciers. So, it really should be called “Milford Fjord”. On average, they have approximately 200 rainy days per year and this day was one of them. After exiting Homer Tunnel (a huge tunnel carved into the mountain), we came across the fjords. Since it has been raining so much here, there were waterfalls EVERYWHERE! We also learned that after it stops raining, the waterfalls dry up within about 4-6 hours. We were actually lucky to witness such breathtaking views.IMG_0920

Waterfall

Waterfall

Here’s a short video to show you the waterfalls in action:

We left around 1PM and headed back to Queenstown (about 5 hours). The weather cleared up tremendously, so we decided to turn off at one of the pit stops for a cool photo op:

Overlooking Lake Wakatipu

Overlooking Lake Wakatipu

We were pretty tired when we got back, but we headed into town for some grub. Honestly, it was one of the worst meals we’ve ever had at Pub on Wharf. It was first come, first serve, you couldn’t eat at the bar (why is that in New Zealand?), you paid before the meals came out, the food was terrible, the bartenders were rude, and they had misspelled so many things! See below pic:

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Sorry, that’s all the negativity for the rest of the trip (just couldn’t believe it!).

A cool hike is in store for tomorrow. Location: to be determined!

Kia Ora

A greeting in New Zealand, which means “hi” or “be well/healthy” as well. It is also used as a farewell and thanking someone too. New Zealanders, in general, seem to be so nice. As we’re walking down the street, the locals smile, they actually smile and make eye contact! So strange. Honestly, it’s hard to get used to, but I really like it.

The day started out at “Bean Around The World“. JTB went there for a long white (coffee with milk) and a flat black (regular coffee, with nothing), then he made some yummy scrambled eggs with toast at our apartment.

After breakfast, we saw some wicked cool hang gliders outside of our apartment

Hang glider with my super zoom lens

Hang glider with my super zoom lens

After that, we walked around downtown. Does anyone know what this game is?

What game is this? Kudos to those who guess  correctly!

What game is this? Kudos to those who guess correctly!

We saw some ducks:

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After that, it was raining wicked hard, so we went to some wineries on the outskirts of town. Here’s a photo of Jim at Chard Winery (in the mountains)

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The clouds came in after that, so we decided to take the gondola ride up the mountain:

Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu

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Ignore the losers who have matching outfits (not planned as I’m borrowing Jim’s raincoat because I forgot mine) and look at the rainbow!

A nice Irish meal later and we’re looking forward to Milford Sound in the early morning.

Nestled In The Treetops

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A day of travel, flying from Wellington (north island) to Queenstown (south island). It was a pretty short flight and a little bumpy. Rain was in the forecast, so after renting our car we went straight to our rented apartment. So cute! Not sure how we managed this, but we got an apartment with a kitchenette and laundry too. There was a supermarket just across the road, so we decided to stay in tonight and made some homemade spaghetti paired with a nice bottle of Martinborough Syrah from Murdoch James. Sitting here, nestled in the treetops, we listened to Dean Martin, Harry Connick, Jr., and Frank Sinatra, while looking out at this view (see below pic). Gondolas are to the left going up and down the mountain amidst the mist. Not sure what’s in store for tomorrow, but we already feel at home and are looking forward to the next few days.

View from our room

View from our room

Shoes and Tattoos

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There is an abundance of both there. There is a shoe store every 25 feet or so and probably the coolest tattoos I’ve ever seen!

It was raining like cats and dogs this morning, so we thought it would be a good day for museums. The day started at the Te Papa museum on Queen’s Wharf. We saw the Gallipoli walking exhibition which shows New Zealand’s involvement in WWI. Extremely sad to hear of how many people lost their life here. You don’t realize how many until their stories are told right in front of you. A few more exhibitions later, we found ourselves on the 6th floor – Contemporary Art. Halfway through the tour I heard a very loud “beep! beep! beep!” and thought to myself “some poor loser set off the alarm”. I turned the corner and sure enough, it’s my dear old husband. He got too close to a super expensive painting and sounded the museum alarm. Oy…never a dull moment. Honestly, I think he just wanted to make it into my blog (he won).

The day cleared up, so we took the cable car up to the beautiful botanical gardensIMG_0793

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and a long trek back into town.

The night ended at The Hideaway (think Mad Men in the 1960’s with red leather booths, dim lighting, and hard to find front door). A few Syrahs later, it was definitely time for bed. Off to Queenstown!

It’s Wine O’Clock Somewhere

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We headed to Martinborough (wine country) around 10 this morning and it took about an hour or so to get there. According to the local folk, Martinborough produces only 1% of New Zealand’s wine, but they win 10% of the awards. We immediately went to this great cafe in downtown called The Village Cafe where they serve local, umm, everything. It was delicious.

Super cool open sign

Super cool open sign

The town reminds me of a cross between Cheyenne, WY and Healdsburg, CA. Super quaint and down to earth and a very local feeling. After the cafe we headed to a few wineries including Murdoch James, Martinborough Vineyard (see picture of Paul, a retired school teacher who talked with us for at least 45 minutes – super nice). They also won an award a few years ago for best Pinot Noir in the world!,IMG_0634

Te Kairanga, and Colombo Winegrowers (meet Anne, painter / owner, and wine dog Rowe, who owns the operations of the vineyard).

Anne and Rowe

Anne and Rowe

Could totally see living in this town in years to come, but we’ll see (only an hour from Wellington!).

After driving back to Wellington, we immediately dropped off the car we rented and headed to see the birthplace of Katherine Mansfield. Unfortunately, her backyard is now a motorway…

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After that, we walked to the Back-Bencher Pub & Cafe for dinner. The local politicians go here to cool down after a hot debate (Parliament is right next door) and the food was pretty good. The sun was shining on our faces through the windows and the local Chardonnay made us giddy. Following dinner, we headed down to the Foxglove on Queen’s Wharf for a night cap of cider (they love it here) and are finally calling it a night. The puppies (feet) are barking and we’ll rest before tomorrow’s escapades.

We’re Ok

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There was a 5.7 magnitude earthquake today in Christchurch, New Zealand (1:13 pm) with aftershocks a few hours later. Just wanted to say that we are fine. We didn’t feel anything in the north island and are glad that there aren’t any casualties in the south island. Kind of scary.

On another note, cheers to two holidays in New Zealand. Today we’re celebrating Chinese New Year (the monkey) and Valentine’s Day.

We started the day hiking up Mt. Victoria (see pics) super early this morning.

Jim climbing Mount Victoria

Jim climbing Mount Victoria

Atop Mount Victoria, looking down on Wellington

Atop Mount Victoria, looking down on Wellington

Overlooking the bay

Overlooking the bay

A cool totem pool atop Mount Victoria

A cool totem pool atop Mount Victoria

On the way back, we hit a city market for some yummy paella.

Homemade seafood paella

Homemade seafood paella

Super yummy paella

Super yummy paella

After the city market, JTB thought it would be fun to take a ferry ride over to Days Bay and Eastbourne. 20 minutes later, we were there. We visited Katherine Mansfield’s summer cottage.

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It was really hard to find since it wasn’t marked. We got lost (shocker!), so we had to ask for directions at a local gas station. Turns out that the owner used to live in the cottage so he knew exactly where it was. He told us that a few years ago there was a huge storm and it washed away the original cottage, so it was sold and built up, but the sentiments are still the same. “At The Bay” was written there and am looking forward to reading it when back in the states. After KM’s cottage, we walked over to Eastbourne, where we grabbed a couple of local suds and then headed back to Wellington via the ferry. A nice meal and conversations later, we’re glad to be looking forward to tomorrow. Martinborough, here we come!

That’s An Expensive Banana

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My original post was going to be one of romanticism: watching “An Affair To Remember” with Deborah Kerr / Cary Grant, having a glass of wine 30,000 feet in the air at 2AM, and finally, watching the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean heading into Aukland. The 15 hour flight was wonderful and Air New Zealand was absolutely amazing. And then we entered customs at the Auckland airport.

On the airplane I filled out the declarations form which says that I’m not bringing anything illegal into the country (and a long list of other things) before signing my life away. Unbeknownst to me, I had forgotten that I had taken a banana at the Hilton in Houston and stuffed it in my bag underneath my camera and a blanket. I knew something was wrong when I saw the conveyor belt go back and forth and my bag was stuck in there. Immediately, my face went flush because I knew I had done something wrong. The darn banana! Being held at customs is not fun, not to mention the $400 I had to pay to the New Zealand government for my scoff-lawness. A few choice words later and furrowed brows from the hub, we were running with all luggage around the airport, trying to catch our connecting flight to Wellington. With 2 minutes to spare and multiple beads of sweat on the brow, we made it!

Being in Wellington now for a few hours, we’re already relaxed and are enjoying the laid-back atmosphere and super yummy food. We’re headed out to the Cuba District tonight for a light salad and to discuss the adventures for the next few days. Till tomorrow…