Living in American Samoa offers a real advantage to traveling this side of the world. So Ashley and I decided to spend Christmas in New Zealand. We made our first crossing of the international date line when we flew from Apia to Auckland. From Auckland we flew down to the South Island of New Zealand and spent a day in a half in Christchurch. I loved Christchurch it is a beautiful mid sized city that is very easy to walk around. It has old hardwood trees and amazingly large parks. The buildings are either modern or made of classic stone construction.
There is shopping, bars, restaurants, museums and markets. The place is simply a drastic improvement to Tutuila. I would move there tomorrow if I could. While in Christchurch Ashley and I quickly (read about one cup of good coffee and customer service) reacquainted ourselves with the world of modern convenience. We then rented a 1987 Nissan Station Wagon that was converted into a camper van and headed out to see New Zealand.
Our first destination was to Akaroa a small town on the peninsula of the South Island. On the road to Akaroa we came across a giant horse with a saddle and no rider running down the road. The horse saw our car coming, sized it up, and decided that he could take us in a fight and preceded to give me a death stare as he ran by the car. Ashley and I found this to be hilarious. We met the rider up the road he said he was fine and that he would just meet the horse at the barn.
We continued along the highway until it abruptly turned from a two lane paved road into a one way dirt road. Again Ashley and I thought this was hilarious; throw in the fact that we needed gas and had not seen a gas station since we left Christchurch and we were having an adventure.
On the way down this one way dirt path we stopped at a bed and breakfast (Side Note: Everyone in New Zealand owns a sheep farm and a bed and breakfast) to determine how much longer to a gas station. This couples bed in breakfast was spectacular. Their property was high up in a valley surrounded by large mountains (full of sheep fields) and a view of the ocean. These people had it very well as does everyone in New Zealand as far as I could tell. The owner informed us that once we made it to the top of the hill we could cost down and drift into a gas station. And that is what we did. After re-fueling we made it to Akaroa a tiny town that has boat tours to go out and see the worlds smallest dolphins. We unfortunately missed the last tour for the day and decided to head towards our next destination, Mt. Cook, and save the dolphins for the next visit.
We made our first campground stop, enjoyed a Steak cooked camp side and bundled up for a night’s sleep in our “camper”. In the morning we enjoyed the drive to Lake Tekapo where one of the most photographed churches in the world overlooks this glass like lake.
Then to Lake Pukaki that is the Red Carpet of Mt. Cook. Mt. Cook is the tallest mountain on the South Island and has many glaciers surrounding it and it is just stunning. We have never seen so many glaciers and blue ice.
In Te Anau we pulled up just in time to take the last boat to the Glow Worm Caves. Where you get to see these tiny little worms light up a totally dark underground cave. Not to mention see an underground waterfall. http://www.realjourneys.co.nz/main/glowwormcaves/
The next morning we drove through the amazing Fiordland National Park where you see tons of waterfalls, beautiful rivers lined with wild flowers, and Kea Birds!
They are huge parrots that are quite aggressive. At the end of the park is Milford Sound. To see Milford Sound you have to go on a boat tour. On the big fancy boat we got to enjoy getting up close to a waterfall and a colony of seals! After the boat ride we took a little hike up to see another beautiful fall and checked out a spooky rope bridge. I would love to go back and try out an overnight hike to see what is off the beaten car path. We did camp out a bit more rustically that night. We picked a campsite with no power or water, unless you count the beautiful river next to our site and I do. Jeremy made a fire for us to sit by but it rains a lot in the that area so it did not work out too well.
After a few nights of camping in the car we were excited to get to Queenstown where we stayed in a beautiful studio overlooking Lake Wakatipu. We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas in this cute tourist town that is the adventure capital of the country. Unfortunately the town shuts down for the holidays so we enjoyed being on vacation by being lazy. We had some great meals, walked around their beautiful park and did some shopping.
Our adventure was a Christmas day Paragliding flight. Was a little nervous about this but it was not scary at all. We both enjoyed seeing some of Queenstown from above as we glided easily towards a sheep pasture.
After Queenstown we went to see the Fox and Frans Joseph Glaciers. We had an opportunity hike around the Fox Glacier for a few hours, it was quite the experience.
We spent one morning checking out the town of Hokitika where we bought a neat art piece from artist William Steyn and checked out the stone covered beach.
After that we cruised over to Kaikoura to take a whale tour. Before the tour we went to check 0ut the Seal Colony and take a little walk around the peninsula. On the tour we saw three sperm whales, a pod of dusky dolphins and a large sun fish.
We were in Auckland for New Years. While there we spent our days in the Langham, a very fancy hotel. This was extremely luxurious after living for two weeks in a 1987 hatchback. We checked out the big city, shopping(great for Ashley terrible for Jeremy) and went to the Museum where we checked out the South Pacific exhibit. We were fortunate enough to have some of our friends from American Samoa to ring in the New Years with us. That night we watched the worst fireworks display I have ever seen in the first major city in the world to see 2010, heard some good music, ate some great food and shared some laughs. Then the next day we relaxed. Then it was off to American Samoa. Good trip. You should go to New Zealand, you would like it.