One of the measures of a happy life might be to gauge how you feel when you get to the end of an adventure and it’s time to go back to your “real life”, like I did last week. I feel SO differently than I would have just a few months ago, when I was still living the life I had in Pennsylvania.
I wrote most of this blog post sitting at the airport in Auckland, New Zealand on January 19th, while I was getting ready to board a plane to San Francisco, and then another one to Orlando. Reflecting on the previous three weeks, I absolutely loved my time in New Zealand, AND I was excited to be getting back to my winter home in Florida – I feel like I’m just jumping from one fun thing to the next!
It’s such a welcome change from the usual sadness when coming home from a trip – sad that I didn’t have more time to stay in whatever place I just enjoyed, sad that I have to go back to a lonely house, sad that I have to go back to freezing cold weather, and sad that I have to go back to work. I definitely did NOT feel that way this time!!
Eric and I enjoyed seeing the airport’s decorative photographs of some of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. We realized that we had been to most of them, and it just confirmed my sense of satisfaction about the whole trip – I feel like I DID New Zealand.
During the final few days, we traveled from Dunedin up to Twizel, in the central part of the South Island. Of course the scenery is fabulous everywhere, but this area is unique because it’s on the eastern side of the “Southern Alps”. Meltage from numerous glaciers creates absolutely stunning turquoise rivers and lakes:
The other amazing thing about this area is that it’s designated an International Dark Sky Reserve. There’s an observatory on top of Mt. John, and there’s a café there where we got spectacular views:
Seeing the famous “Dark Sky” was a little tricky, because twilight lasted until about 10:30 pm, just before the moon rose and lit up the sky, but we did it. Here’s a photo from the University of Canterbury, which does not do it justice at all:
We could see the entire Milky Way, and of course the constellations are completely different in the Southern Hemisphere. I can usually spot the Big Dipper right away, but it’s not visible in New Zealand. I was excited to see the Southern Cross for the first time, which is depicted on the New Zealand flag.
After a couple of nights in Twizel, we drove to Christchurch. As you may know, multiple earthquakes and aftershocks have caused significant damage in Christchurch, where about 70% of the buildings in the Central Business District have been or will be demolished. It was especially sad to learn about the many historic buildings lost. Here’s a picture of ChristChurch Cathedral, built about 150 years ago, before and after the earthquake:
You can see that the beautiful spire is completely gone, as well as much of the end wall, which had to be braced with steel scaffolding.
We took a trolley tour around the downtown, which was a terrific way to see it all. Many creative minds have joined together to provide temporary solutions, while the city is being rebuilt. Here’s an example of a downtown area where shipping containers are being used to house shops and restaurants:
And the congregation of the ChristChurch Cathedral constructed a Transitional Cathedral, which is a temporary building made with ginormous tubes of cardboard:
The next day, we got on a plane from Christchurch to Auckland, and you know the rest of the story. It was a perfect ending to get on the airplane headed home, with a feeling of satisfaction that the trip was everything I hoped it would be, and I can now check New Zealand off the bucket list!