I’m back in the Bay Area after a wonderful 3 week trip around New Zealand with my father. This was a nice father-son trip to reconnect after I’ve been gone for a number of years now for college, graduate school, and then off working in the Bay Area. After years of hearing wonderful things about the country (and of course after watching Lord of the Rings), I couldn’t wait any longer, and we headed off. Our winter is New Zealand’s summer, and busy season, so there were certainly some crowds in the more popular tourist destinations. However, we did manage to do a lot of hiking and get out away from most people and into the spectacular wilderness.
We started our trip with 2 days in Auckland, where the highlight was definitely the Auckland Museum. It had some great exhibits of Maori artifacts and culture, as well as a bit of natural history and a substantial collection of war memorabilia and exhibits. I was particularly impressed by the imposing Maori sculptures.
Auckland is a city of contrasts. Culture, waterways and open space starkly contrast with increasing traffic congestion, skyscrapers and modern architecture.
After a brief stay in Auckland, we flew to Christchurch in the South Island and started driving down the East Coast, passing through Dunedin and quickly on into the countryside of Southeast part of the island. There were bays and winding roads, and a landscape that looked strikingly similar to what I’m used to in California.
Along one beach, we passed by a small sign to “Cathedral Caves.” It seemed interesting, and without a set agenda we decided to take the 20 minute walk through the forrest and down to the beach. Totally undeveloped, just a few minutes walk away was a large hollowed out part of the cliff that formed two connecting caves, certainly like a natural cathedral.
Over the course of the 3 weeks, my dad and I drove over 6,000 kilometers…so we had a lot of car time. Luckily I was able to stay entertained, such as enjoying the thrill of sticking my fancy camera out the window of a speeding car for a unique photo of the sunset.
New Zealand is an amazing country of rainbows as well. With an uncommon amount of rainfall that feeds the country’s many lakes and rivers, transitions from storms into sunlight quite often lead to magnificent arcs of color stretching over the horizon. Over the course of the trip I saw rainbows over glaciers, lakes, farmhouses, sheep pastures, cities. Just about everything. Here’s a particularly beautiful one I managed to capture.
Speaking of sheep, these little animals outnumber people on the islands by a tremendous number. A few years ago there were about 70 million sheep on the island, compared to the human population of about 5 million. That number has dropped dramatically to a measly 36 million or so after market prices for wool vs dairy and meat have pressured farmers into other areas. There were still plenty of the cute little creatures around though.
Not that far from the coast (even though it’s in the middle of the country) is Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain.
Towards the far southern part of the South Island, near the Catlins National Park, we stopped off a Nugget Point. This jutting little peninsula almost seemed like the end of the world, looked over by a solitary little white lighthouse.
We ended our tour of the central and eastern part of the south island with a stop in wine country, the Central Otago Valley. Friends of ours have a magnificent winery in the area called Aurum (Latin for gold). They make some great Pinot Noirs. Ok, pretty much everything was fantastic. We stayed with the owners Tony and Joan, got a tour of the winery, and had some amazing food with plenty of good wine to accompany. Running a vineyard and winery is rewarding but definitely intense and grueling work at times. I really got to appreciate what they do, and brought back more than my limit of bottles on the way home.
That was just the start of the trip. More photos to come shortly…