February 2017: New Zealand

New Zealand was a country we’d heard a lot about, mainly its beauty, and it didn’t disappoint. We flew from Perth to Christchurch to start our tour of New Zealand.

Christchurch

Christchurch was okay, but basically a normal city, rather than the beautiful countryside we were looking forward to seeing, so we were a little impatient to go. Our AirBnB left something to be desired as well (like an up-to-date kitchen and any place in the house that a curious one-year-old could explore). So we wandered around a lot, partially completed a free walking tour, and watched a remote control boat club sail tiny yachts around a small lake.

The Bridge of Remembrance on our walking tour.

This rose sculpture was quite prominent in a beautiful garden we explored.

This is a big, big tree. Click on it and zoom in to see Joe and his six-foot wingspan.

Annabelle loves airplanes, having already acquired multiple passport stamps and done several international flights! This exhibit was occuring in downtown Christchurch to learn about them and tour the inside of planes (along with a VR simulation).

We took a Gondola ride up out of the city.

The beautiful view from the mountaintop above the gondola.

RV relocation, Take 2

After our first RV relocation in Australia, we decided to try another one to help us see a bit of NZ, and we found a Christchurch to Auckland one that fit our time-frame, so we settled into another moving house and drove north, taking a ferry between the islands and exploring some of the beauty of New Zealand.

This is what the GPS route looked like as we took a windy route up through the mountains in the interior of the country.

And dang, New Zealand is beautiful. We took way too many pictures of pretty water, pretty hills, pretty landscapes. We cruised along roads where every turn took our breath away, and we were constantly amazed at what we were seeing. The country is jaw-dropping.

One morning the RV park where we were staying was on a lake; this was the view we woke up to.

Along the way, we of course stopped at Lord of the Rings sites, including Rivendell and Hobbiton (Matamata in real life) and enjoyed the nerdy hobbit-hole houses. (The free ones. If you think we were going to pay those kinds of prices for a tour of a movie set, you are sadly mistaken.)

We aren’t huge Lord of the Rings (LotR) geeks, but this is cool regardless of who you are.

Joe and Annabelle combined are almost as tall as Legolas!

Yeah, Hobbiton! Joe loved “The Hobbit” as a kid , much more so than LotR.

Annabelle is not sure what to think of this creature.

Adorable Hobbit home!

Joe tries on The One Ring (replica) in The One Gift Shop. (It probably wasn’t called that.)

Annabelle enjoyed exploring Hobbiton.

The big highlight of the drive, though, was Hot Tub Beach. There’s a beach way north in New Zealand where you go so you can dig a big hole and then you sit in it. It’s okay, you don’t feel weird; everybody’s digging holes and sitting in them. So you dig your hole and you sit in it, and hot water seeps in from below to create your own personal hot tub in the sand! Ideally, you dig your hole just close enough to the ocean that the waves occasionally splash into your hot tub to cool it down, because that water is hot. Sitting in the beach, in a giant tub of warm water, with the ocean lapping the edge of it… bliss.

Ali and Annabelle soak in the naturally warmed water.

Joe sits in a shallow pool of warm water, enjoying the sunset.

All the volcanic activity underneath the islands creates several crazy thermal spots, but this was by far the most awesome. There was plenty of other cool ones too though, like these sulfur springs.

A thermal hot spot; that’s steam rising from the water. Mmm sulfur smell!

We visit Cathedral Beach on the way to Auckland.

Ali and Annabelle enjoy the beautiful ocean views.

Auckland

After the RV relocation, which flew by way too quickly, we hunkered down in Auckland for a three-week stay. During that time, we met up with my aunt and uncle who happened to be traveling in the area, did lots of wandering and play time with the kiddo, and survived an enormous rainstorm that almost flooded the trailer thing we were staying in. The area was lovely, the people were pleasant, and we had a relaxing time before leaving for Japan.

Massive flood outside the trailer we were staying in from a torrential downpour.

To sum up New Zealand: the major cities are cities, which is just fine, but to really experience the awesomeness of the country, you have to get out of the cities and drive a bit. There are tons of beautiful, fascinating natural wonders all over if you go out and look around. We loved it.

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