The Great Adventure

It began something like this...oh, wait..

Obligatory shot of sheep for my mother....

When you think about vacation, you usually have to settle on one basic idea. It may be skiing, or perhaps some snorkeling, or maybe you're into a cruise. You can't exactly take some time off from work and skip from Canada to Bermuda, then New York City and back again. Its just crazy. But we did something almost exactly like that for our R&R last month. It turns out, Uncle Sam will fly you home for a break-he may not put you up in a hotel, but he'll get you there. And when you're posted on the other side of the planet, that's a pretty pricey flight. Now, if your family is VERY understanding, you might be able to compare flights to other destinations...and, well, if you are willing to stay away from home a bit longer, you can use those flights to venture somewhere new, if you stay below the budget. Did I stress how expensive it is to fly home? Just ask my folks and my in-laws-they can tell you all about it. Well, it turns out you can fly to New Zealand, then Singapore, and finally de-stress your buns in Bali and still not max your allowance. Incredible. So that's exactly what we did, and I'm here to tell you it was worth it. I love you Mom and Dad, and thanks for understanding!

Day One of the Great Adventure began in lovely Christchurch, New Zealand in the brand new Novotel in the "downtown" district. We woke early and prepared to pick up our RV and discovered we were in a ghost town. All around the district were lovely homes, each individually walled in and adorned end to end with cascading flowers, but in the center of the city it felt like a post-war battle zone. It turns out, the hub of Christchurch was completely devastated by an earquake in 2011, and was still sheepishly trying to recover, with new shopping areas and hotels that slowly emerged, but never took hold. It was shocking and strange to begin this way, but the rest of the trip was so different.

A few hours later we checked out of Wilderness Campers with this sleek little number, stocked with groceries (from a REAL supermarket that made me almost cry), gas, electric, and seats for our boys. It was amazing. Among all the white boxy campervans and RV's, we coasted in style inland towards our first destination picked from the NZ Frenzy guide, feeling pretty good about the days to come.

We stopped wherever we wanted, to grab a bite to eat, or make some lunch, like at the lovely Rakaia Gorge. After a smooth 1-hour hike (my 3 year old is a trooper!) we continued on towards Mt. Sunday, and soon the pavement disappeared and we were rumbling over dirt roads, hardly another person for miles. Just sheep. A few cows. But mostly sheep. At first it felt so strange, coming from Bangkok, when we looked at each other around 5pm that day and realized we hadn't seen another human being since lunchtime. Oh, I should add that it doesn't get dark until 9, so if you stop watching the time, and ramble on as we did, you could go a very long time without seeing people at all. Nothing to distract you from the gorgeous peaks and landscape that begin just 30 minutes outside of Christchurch...

Mt. Sunday was my pick, and I had begged Phil to let me get my Lord of the Rings fixx as early as possible so it didn't complicate any future plans. He was glad we did, because this little speck on the tourist map was so remote and so breathtaking-you drive for hours until the mountain tops are covered with snow, and then get out for a leisurely hike to the summit. Mt. Sunday was actually the background or natural structure that they used to place Edoras, and so while there was no "LOTR" sets or structures actually there, when I saw it in the distance it gave me goosebumps.

Behind it, in the sweeping valley was the backdrop for Helm's Deep as well, so double score!!!

It was a beautiful hike, and we returned to the RV and sought a place to stop for dinner after the great workout. Did I mention it doesn't get dark until very late? We were eating a quick supper when someone finally checked their watch and shouted "Oh my god! Its already 7? But it feels like 4! We need to find a place to sleep!"

We drove for a few hours, which sounds terrible, but in New Zealand its not-every mile is majestic, some downright breathtaking. Some miles are just so calm (hundreds of sheep) and all of it is spectacularly CLEAN. Roadside trash or debris? None. Nada. So we "freedom camped" at a place we found online at a quiet abandoned spot, and woke up ready to see what else South Island had in store for us.

Day Two took us on the scenic inland route back out to the coast, on  our way to Dunedin. On the way to the seaside campground we had picked, we stopped to check out the mysterious site in Moeraki: the Moeraki Boulders. These stones formed curiously on the beach, and are sometimes almost totally submerged, but luckily for us, that time the tide was low and dozens of these strange stone orbs were sitting on the beach.

We slyly picked at one, and found there were crystals forming on these looong seams inside, which would explain why eventually they split and break apart, but who knows how they initially form!

That afternoon we settled into a campside by the beach with electricity and water and stumbled out to the sand and almost fell over a sealion that was resting close to the water! We kept our distance and enjoyed the amazing view, and the next day when we checked he was gone. And so were we, on to Queenstown, one of our favorite parts of this trip! Stay tuned....


A said...

We did New Zealand out of Beijing. Best vacation EVER!