Okay, so my plan to post a blog a day on the New Zealand trip didn't pan out. I am prepared to blame Vodafone (in part), but that's a whole other post. Simply put, Internet access sucked.
Instead, I'll wrap it up in a single post. Let's see... when last we left our intrepid adventurers, they were exploring Tongariro...
After Tongariro (the Chateau is retro-awesome, by the way) we went on to Napier. Napier burned the 1930s, in an event that closely paralleled San Francisco in 1906: bad earthquake, followed by fire. When they rebuilt the town, art deco was in vogue so they ended up with a pretty cool art deco time capsule. I won't really add anything to this story, except to say that it was pretty cool. I am not sure what I was expecting -- maybe sort of Rockefeller Center/Empire State Manhattan-style art deco. Napier was much more low key, and a nice little thriving city to boot. We watched a really great sunset at Perfume Point. I was still ventilating work tribulations so it was surprisingly therapeutic to just sit and watch a sunset. That and the Taranaki Falls walk in Tongariro might have been my most relaxing moments.
After Napier it was on to Wellington. Originally I'd intended our 2 days in Wellington to be basically dead days. However Wellington had a couple interesting attractions that I wasn't expecting, and I turned out to not be nearly as tired as I was expecting. We wanted to go to the Botanical Gardens, but to get there you have to go through the Memorial Graveyard. I was surprised by how cool I found the graveyard to be. I've never been one for cemetery sentimentality, but I thought it was neat how dedicated Wellington evidently is to preserve their memorials to their early pioneers. As for the Botanical Gardens, we got a little confused by the layout and ended up not finding the gardens proper at all, although we did find the rose garden and get some great photos.
Then it was on to the South Island! We took the Interislander ferry across, which was quite nice. There were yet more spectacular views. About this time I was honestly starting to feel a little scenery fatigue. So many great views that they all started to blend together in my head. Didn't keep me from taking some more neat photos though. Picton in particular is pretty picturesque.
The next two stops were Nelson and glacier country. We planned 2 nights in glacier country and one in Nelson, and in retrospect I wish we'd reversed that. Nelson is a wonderful little town and we loved the beach there, but we had to move on to the glaciers. We walked up to the base of Franz Josef glacier (and got some awesome photos) and the next day did a heli-hike on Fox Glacier (and got some more awesome photos), but we ended up with like a half-day of dead time in Fox Glacier. I wish we'd spent it in Nelson, but so it goes. Fox Glacier was a lot of fun, even if I did spend a big part of my time afraid of hurting myself by falling on the ice and having to be airlifted out in pain, or something. Trust me, that's not just an idle fear -- I've dislocated my kneecap twice. We'd done a glacier hike on Mendenhall Glacier before, but Mendenhall is way more level and smooth than Fox. In the end I emerged unscathed, and honestly kind of feel like I accomplished something in so doing.
After that, we wrapped in Queenstown. Originally this was supposed to have been Christchurch, but due to the quake there we changed plans to Queenstown. (Our hotel in Christchurch was just a few blocks from the cathedral that fell, and they weren't anywhere near being able to re-open so our reservation was canceled.) We were scheduled to do a flight to and sightseeing cruise on Milford Sound, but weather scotched that. Instead we took a trip on the TNS Earnslaw heritage steamboat, and took the gondola ride up to Bob's Peak to see what we could see from there. Both of those were surprisingly fun. I particularly enjoyed Bob's Peak, and -- surprise! -- got some more awesome photos.
Then it was a hop skip and 13-hour jump back to San Francisco.
All told it was the best vacation I've had in a long, long time. We LOVED New Zealand. And that's not just "that was a great vacation I love this place", I'm talking about love as in making plans for our next trip before we even left after the first one. In particular we want to explore the south island a bit better. Our itinerary was actually pretty good and I think we chose well, but there was a lot of dreary driving on the south island (two 4-hour drives and one 6-hour) and next time we'd pick cities better, and could skip the glacier country since we've seen it now.
And, obviously, we need to get back to visit Christchurch. Don't think you've escaped us that easily, Chch.
So, yeah, pretty excellent trip. One might even go so far as to say it was EPIC.
Also, I had lamb 7 times -- delicious, delicious lamb, prepared a different way each time. So there's that.
Anyway, obligatory photos:
...and some YouTube videos that I took to capture things that still camera photos don't really do justice for: