What an amazing, awesome inspiring month this has been in the “Land of the Long White Cloud”. We have traveled from the far end of the south island, including a jaunt over to the “third island”, Stewart Island, to Auckland on the north island and many, many parts in between. There hasn’t been a place or people we haven’t enjoyed.
Beginning in Queenstown, renting our “Little Miss Putt-Putt”, we drove 4,999 km….. That’s 3,124 miles, all on the “wrong” side of the road. It is only daunting the first day, getting the hang of the roundabouts, but otherwise it felt totally natural. The roads are enviously good, the signage excellent and the drivers are considerate. We couldn’t have done it nearly so well without the help of Siri. It didn’t matter where we went, how remote it was, she was guiding us the entire way. Wish I could thank the brilliant people who created her and that capability.
While we were thrilled with all the awesome places and things we saw, it was the people we met along the way that gave us the true spirit of travel and this country. The Maori have a saying “If you ask a Maori what the greatest thing in life is, they will reply: the people, the people, the people”. That has proven true for us on this journey. From the locals, to our hosts to our fellow tourists, we’ve been met with nothing but friendliness and hospitality. It seems to be a national characteristic of Kiwis, whether born here or immigrated, but it must somehow rub off on tourists. Part of it was just traveling with Dian. I’ve always been told that I’ve never met a stranger, but she takes it to a new level. With her infectious grin and her perpetual question of everyone ” Where are you from?” it got even the most reticent of people talking. We’ve learned more, met more, enjoyed more because of that.
We stayed primarily in Airbnb’s. I can’t say enough good things about that – from the ease of finding places online, booking them, finding them, discovering unique homes and interesting hosts, it was great fun at the end of each day. We stayed in everything from modern homes to 100 year old bungalows to private rooms to city apartments and we’ve found something wonderful in each of them. It was a great way to see how many people live, getting accustomed to some little quirky differences from our daily life. While every place had a TV we made a point of never turning one on. We wanted a news blackout so we could focus on the time and place. That served us well, though we did hear of the tragic terrorist attack in Christchurch. It saddened us deeply to learn that such an event could occur in this peaceful land.
In all our touring we were able to enjoy so many wonderful things from seeing the albatross soaring on the wind, to glow worms in caves, to forests from the paths to gliding above them on zip lines, to Maori cultural treasures and customs, to mountains and lakes and beaches, cities and tiny towns. Sounds like a lot but we’ve really only scratched the surface of all the beauty that is here. And beautiful it is with all the environmental work they do plus their vigilance in caring for their country. I’ve never seen another place where on the trash bin it said “thanks for your rubbish”. We were also fortunate with the weather, as we never had anything ruined by rain. It only rained a few times either while driving or once we were safely ensconced in our quarters for the night.
All in all, it was one of my most memorable trips. It is my hope that you’ve enjoyed coming along with me by reading my daily recaps and seeing a small portion of the many pictures Dian and I took trying to capture the essence of this grand country.
I’ll be home for two months then will be off again on another adventure. Hope to have you along on that one as well.