Our long-awaited trip is over. We’re home safe and sound from a fabulous trip to New Zealand! In the two weeks we were gone we saw an incredible amount of God’s beautiful creation, met and celebrated Christmas with people from all around the world, got a good dose of adventure, and made some memories that will last a lifetime!
Remember how I said that I was NOT going to New Zealand because of anything LOTR or Hobbit related? Well…that didn’t work out so well for me! Our trip began with a LOTR/Hobbit themed safety video. I’m not even kidding. Check it out. Even I was amused the first time…not so much by our last flight!
We started in Queenstown with a gondola ride to the top of a mountain overlooking beautiful mountains and lakes then started the drive to Lake Wanaka. Along the way we stopped for a “walk”. Running only on red eye flight of sleep, Than and I were eager to get out of the bus for some fresh air and move around. A walk sounded lovely. And on our first day in New Zealand we learned a VERY valuable lesson. When they tell you about a “walk”, what they really mean is a hike up a very steep hill/mountain. Little did we know this was just the beginning of a serious workout for our legs over the next two weeks! My mom was right when she told us we should do some hiking in preparation for our trip. We didn’t listen. I thought 30 minutes a day on the elliptical or treadmill would cut it. I was wrong. The view of the lake district from the top was absolutely beautiful and totally worth it.
We set up camp by Lake Wanaka then headed out the next day to Glacier country! The heli-hike up Fox Glacier was incredible! Definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Our guide told us we had the best weather that they’d had in 2 weeks to explore the glacier. They outfitted us with really thick socks, sturdy boots and some instructions, then we were flown to the glacier. I felt like I was on the Bachelorette (they always are going cool places in helicopters on that show!). Ok actually Than and I were squished into the helicopter with a few other people. Not quite the romance you see on the Bachelorette, but very cool nonetheless! We landed on the glacier and were outfitted with crampons and walking poles. Our guide Tom led the way with the ice axe, creating a path and steps as we hiked around exploring the glacier and beautiful ice caves and arches for the next three hours. Making our way through the ice arches was a bit treacherous at times. Because the sunlight never hits inside the arches it’s very difficult to get your crampons to grip the rock hard ice. Than took a bit of a tumble one of the arches (with both of our cameras in hand – fortunately the cameras and Than were fine). He took quite a slide down a part of the glacier creating a bit of commotion, though just resulting in a few bumps/bruises and a story to tell. I may or may not have been more freaked out by this than him…!
We continued making our way up the west coast of the South Island seeing everything from rainforest, beaches, waterfalls, sheep, beautiful aqua pools of water, swinging bridges, misty mountains, more sheep and the pancake rocks. And yes, we did plenty of “walks”. One of our favorite stops on the trip was Abel Tasman National Park. We spend our morning kayaking on the Tasman Sea and our afternoon sailing. The water is an incredible color of blue and aqua and green. While kayaking we saw lots of seals – including two male seals who were fighting come right up under our friend’s kayak – scary! We thought for sure they were going over! In the afternoon we saw a little blue penguin – it was so cute! We really hoped to see a penguin while in New Zealand but it didn’t seem very likely based on where we were going and so we were thrilled to see the little guy!
From there we took the Interislander ferry from the South Island up to the North Island. We spent Christmas Eve in Wellington and Christmas morning at the home of a family from our tour group. They very kindly invited us over for Christmas breakfast! From there we traveled up to Taupo and spent Christmas evening swimming in the hot pools and having a BBQ (common way of celebrating Christmas in New Zealand). We traveled up to Auckland via the gloworm caves at Waitamo and spent a couple of days exploring the city before flying back home to spend New Years with family and going to the Rose Parade!
Our bodies are tired and still have lingering sand fly bites, scrapes and bruises. Our minds and hearts are full of freshly made memories and the joy of new experiences. There’s a world to explore and we were blessed to be able to wander around New Zealand for a couple of weeks, to soak in things that are new and different and most importantly to allow those experiences to shape us and stretch us more and more into who God has made us to be.
“Not all those who wander are lost.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring