[This was written a few days ago on New Year’s Eve – access to wifi during the trip has been limited, so today was the first opportunity to post it!]
Even though this New Year’s Eve is our fourth day in New Zealand, and I’ve worked my way through the jet lag and shock, I can still hardly believe that I’m actually here! Traveling to NZ has been a dream since I first became aware of the country’s natural beauty when I was in college, and I feel so fortunate to be finally experiencing it.
This post is a little longer than usual, so in case you don’t make it to the end, I’ll say first that I wish you all a Happy New Year and the very best in 2017!
I remember this time last year, saying to myself that 2016 HAS to be better than 2015 was, and that hope certainly came true. 2016 was a year of many happy changes, and for the first time in a long time, I’m truly excited about the future.
The flight from San Francisco to Auckland was about 13 hours, and here we’re 18 hours ahead of the east coast of the United States. So when the ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, it will already be 6 pm on New Year’s Day here! It’s summer here, but the weather is wonderfully comfortable: 60’s – 70’s during the day, 40’s – 50’s at night. And the days are long, with sunrise at 6 am and sunset at 9 pm.
We’ll be in NZ for 22 nights, so the trip has only just begun. Auckland is on the North Island of NZ, but we’ll spend the bulk of our time on the South Island. So, we’ve spent our first three days trekking south from the airport. We spent the first night in Turangi, the second in New Plymouth, and the third in Wellington:
One of the highlights so far was the drive on the Forgotten World Highway, which will never be forgotten as far as I’m concerned! It’s considered the #1 scenic drive in NZ, with about 100 miles of twisty-turny road through some gorgeous, and quite remote, hilly countryside. We drove it on a cloudy, drizzly day, so unfortunately it wasn’t the best for photos, but a few are below:
It may be the most scenic drive in New Zealand, but we read that it’s also the most dangerous drive. In many areas, where part of the road was washed out and fallen down the cliff, you have to drive in the oncoming lane with blind curves; in other areas, rock slides have left debris in the road which you encounter by surprise when rounding a bend.
Add to this the driving on the left side of the road and the lack of any guardrails – well, let’s just say I was extremely glad that Eric was behind the wheel! Definitely a white knuckler: the drive was exhilarating and we’re glad we did it, but we both needed that cocktail when we arrived safely in New Plymouth…
Another highlight of the first few days was delving into Eric’s father’s history in World War II, when he was injured in the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, and recuperated in Wellington for several months. During that time, he became engaged to a NZ woman named Joan Hay. Although they never married, Eric has numerous letters from Joan to his grandmother and aunt during the war.
Unfortunately, Joan died last year, but we had breakfast with her son yesterday in New Plymouth, and then found her parents’ house in Wellington where Eric’s father courted her. We also found the location of the Marine barracks where he would have stayed during his convalescence. I think Eric felt very satisfied to track down his Dad’s path here, and I certainly have enjoyed that touch of family history on our trip.
As I’m writing this, we’re cruising on the Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton, where we’ll jump in another rental car and begin our South Island tour. It’s a three hour stunning ride across the Cook Strait to Picton on the South Island.
After a few hours of driving this afternoon, we’ll be clinking glasses in the town of Nelson tonight as we say a fond goodbye to the wonderful year of 2016, which brought multiple significant milestones to our little family.
Cheers to family and friends – here’s to a happy, healthy and adventure-filled 2017 for one and all!!! xoxo