New Zealand, New Year!

[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:

View of Lake Taupo with Mt. Ruapehu in the distance.  Near Turangi.
View of Lake Taupo with Mt. Ruapehu in the distance. Near Turangi.

 

Sunset in New Plymouth, New Zealand
Sunset in New Plymouth, New Zealand

 

Wellington Harbor
Wellington Harbor

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:

One Way Tunnel with dirt road along Forgotten World Highway
One Way Tunnel with dirt road along Forgotten World Highway

 

Lavender Farm along the Forgotten World Highway
Lavender Farm along the Forgotten World Highway

 

Intersection along Forgotten World Highway
Intersection along Forgotten World Highway

 

Scene along Forgotten World Highway showing gravel road
Scene along Forgotten World Highway showing gravel road

 

Terrain along Forgotten World Highway
Terrain along Forgotten World Highway

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.

Area of road washed down cliff along Forgotten World Highway
Part of road washed down cliff along Forgotten World Highway

 

Fallen rocks in road
Fallen rocks in road

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.

View from Interislander Ferry as we approach the South Island
View from Interislander Ferry as we approach 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.

Interislander Ferry in Picton Harbor on the South Island
Interislander Ferry in Picton Harbor on the South Island

Cheers to family and friends – here’s to a happy, healthy and adventure-filled 2017 for one and all!!!  xoxo

6 thoughts on “New Zealand, New Year!

  1. Chris, what a treasure to follow your trip travels to New Zealand here! Thanks so much for documenting and explaining each leg of the journey thus far. Looks like a beautiful country. Most interesting to see where our Dad spent some of his life in wartime and met a previous love. Glad he went on to marry our Mom😍 Happy New Year to Eric and you from the USA! Love, Shannon

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  2. what lovely people— kind and gentle…the land of sheep– congrats you made it!– how did you drive over the ocean? did a couple IM’s in Lake Taupo– great town.

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