New Zealand (Dec 26, 2004 to Jan 15, 2005)

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new_zealand_coverConditions: Day trips, heli hike, lots of driving
Gear: just about everything
Area: New Zealand
Stats: unknown

I got a job offer... Why not take some time off? Where should I go? How much time off should I take? Then I get an email from Brig (a Kiwi friend that used to live in Seattle but had moved back home to Wellington)...could I send her the most recent Pottery Barn catalog. Brig was remodeling their kitchen and was looking for some ideas. I quickly sent an email back..."sure, how about I deliver it in person?"

I did some research and figured I'd need about a month in country to make the trip worthwhile. I had lots of places I wanted to see, several hikes I wanted to do. Eventually the itinerary developed and I was stack of tickets a couple of inches thick. I was headed first to New Zealand and then after my vacation, I'd head off to China for my first week with a new job. The stack of tickets was impressive...Seattle > LA > Auckland, NZ > Wellington > VACATION > Queenstown > Auckland > Sydney, AU > Hong Kong > Shenzhen, China > Hong Kong > Taipei, Taiwan > LA > Seattle. It was a total of 6 weeks of international travel. A GREAT time but wow, finally getting home was nice...

I started out my trip visiting first with Brig and Butch in Wellington on the North Island. My flight left Seattle on Christmas Eve and since I crossed the international date line I skipped right over Christmas Day and arrived in Wellington tired, on Boxing Day (Dec 26th). Brig picked me up at the airport early in the morning, we drove back to their cute little bungalow and she tucked me in for a nap. Knock, knock...I heard the knocks on the bedroom door about 11am...Brig makes me some coffee, sets me down in front of the television and says "you need to see this"... I'm still shocked and humbled by what I remember seeing on the tube, the scenes of destruction from the massive earthquake in Sumatra and the resulting massive tidal wave. Gives me the chills just thinking of it...

I spent a few days visiting with Brig, we headed up to the North Island for Christmas and New Years. Really, it's awfully strange having summer temps and dressed in shorts and t-shirts for the holidays. Butch and I tucked in a hike of Urchin Mtn while I was there. Then it was time for me to head off on my own...Brig dropped me off early in the morning of New Years Day for a hike of the Northern Circuit Track. This was a beautiful hike. I had hoped to do the loop trip around Mt Ruapehu but with NZ having its wettest summer in decades, the track was closed. A day trip in the area would have to do. It's a great hike. Flat at first, then a steep climb up the Devil's Staircase, then a traverse over the White Crater and Red Crater and then exiting the circuit at Ketetahi. It's a spectacular day hike and a must see if visiting.

An acquaintance from Seattle asked to join my vacation so I said my goodbyes to Brig and Butch, met her at the airport in Wellington, we picked up a rental car, and we headed off. We first headed over to Mt Ruapehu to poke around, then Huka Falls (now that's a BIG waterfall), and then to Craters of the Moon. Craters of the Moon is a large geothermal site near Lake Taupo (Lake Taupo being the site of a super volcano just like Yellowstone which blew itself to bits millennia ago). Just like Yellowstone, Craters of the Moon has the same types of geothermal features, bubbling mud pots, geysers, etc. The only place that has more geothermal activity than Craters of the Moon is Yellowstone NP in the States.

We eventually headed down to the South Island touring around Christchurch. We eventually made our way over (actually through) Arthur's Pass and then made for our next destination, Fox Glacier. We had arranged to take a heli hike. The tour company flew three of us up over the Fox Glacier to a hut overlooking the glacier. The following morning we were scheduled for a "hike" up Chancellor's Dome. It was a real PAIN to be short roped on the trip. In my opinion, I'd never have roped up for the hike up the dome back home, but...we weren't home. There were nice views of the Fox Glacier, Mt Tasman, and Mt Cook (the two highest peaks in NZ) from the summit. Then it was time to head back to the hut. The following morning we descended down towards the glacier. We'd need to cross parts of the lower reaches of the glacier (heavily crevassed) to the heli landing area where we would get picked up and flown back to Fox Glacier.

After leaving the town of Fox Glacier, we headed down to Haust, with a side trip to Thunder Falls, through Wanaka, and then down to Queenstown. I made a side trip over to Milford Sound by myself. My travelling companion unhappy with the weather and not wanting to head to a place known to be wet, really wet. I figured this was a once in a lifetime trip so what's the saying about living life with no regrets....well no regrets for me so I was happy to go by myself. I arrived at the sound and booked a boat tour of the area. Wow, spectacular!

We finished up our trip in Te Anau with gorgeous sunny weather before we headed back to Queenstown where I parted ways with my trip partner. She flew back to Seattle, I was headed out later the same day for Sydney and eventually mainland China.

This was a really great trip. One of my favorite international trips ever. I often think about going back...

New Zealand Slideshow


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