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January 4th 2017
Published: January 4th 2017
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Blue Mountains · Australia
Hello from New Zealand! Backtracking a few days, the Blue Mountains were very beautiful, and we even saw a young kookaburra! We did the hop-on hop-off bus and our highlights included the iconic Echo Point and the Three Sisters, the Leura Cascades, Gordon Falls Lookout, and lunch at the only all vegan café in town, Rubyfruit. Again, I was wiped out at the end of the day, but the two hour train ride back was a nice respite. After our dinner of Indian food was delivered, we all crashed early since we had an early 8:45am flight the next morning.

I'd requested an Uber the night before, and it worked out perfectly, getting us to the airport with more than 2 hours to spare. Unfortunately our flight was delayed, and the Emirates app on our phones never updated, so we had to keep walking down the hall in the terminal to look at the screens to check the updates (no employees around and the screens at the gate only showed the airline's logo). I requested both app and text alerts for updates on the flight, but didn't get any until we were ready to board (45 minutes after our original departure time). Fast forward 36 hours
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Blue Mountains · Australia
after landing and subsequently deleting the app, I've received around 2 dozen texts alerting me to the other flights from Dubai and Sydney with the same damn flight number. I even re-downloaded the app to see if I was still "tracking" the flight, and I wasn't, so I had no idea what to do. With the impending hassle of deleting texts about this flight for the next zillion years, I finally replied "STOP" to one of them, and it worked! I haven't received any updates since! Anyway, the Emirates flight itself was extremely smooth, as were customs, baggage claim, and picking up our rental car in the airport at Christchurch.

Once we were on the road (on the other side of it of course), we made our way to the Garden View Bed and Breakfast in Rolleston and met our gracious hosts and had a cuppa (after petting the extremely friendly outdoor cat of course). Beth and John are very well traveled (they've definitely seen more of the U.S. than we have) and have been lovely to chat with. John's background is in agricultural sciences and the grounds are filled with beautiful flowers and fruit trees - we had freshly picked
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Blue Mountains · Australia
plums, peaches, and tomatoes with breaky. The guys shared the main bedroom and I got the connected garden view room which looks like it may have been a greenhouse or something in a past life. After we settled our luggage, we headed back out for a yummy dinner at Tutto Bene Italian restaurant. We all had pizza and wine, and it was glorious. We had a huge laugh after we realized there was no door between the main bedroom and the shower room, and not between the shower room and the bath room - there was only one between my garden bedroom and their bedroom and between the sole toilet and the shower room. Jason can see right into the shower from his spot on their bed if he wants to.

This morning after a hearty breaky (and carefully coordinated showers), we drove the curvy roads up through the mountains and to Akaroa. The guys had planned on going on a dolphin watching cruise, but unfortunately the stormy weather hadn't cleared up during our 2-ish hour drive, and the cruise was cancelled. The three of us wandered around the small town in the rain for a bit before
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Blue Mountains · Australia
settling on lunch at L'hotel, then headed back through those treacherous mountains back into Christchurch. Once back in the city, our first stop was the International Antarctic Centre, where Jason went into the Antarctic Storm experience, to which his response after exiting was "Only one-below zero with wind chill?! That's child's play compared to winter in Minnesota." (To note, my little sister texted me today saying she was snuggled up under the electric blanket I gave her for Christmas because it was 15-below with wind chill today.) There was also a faux ice cave, replicas of camps and things, and even live rescued blue penguins. The penguins all had a story including why they couldn't survive in the wild anymore, and their names and flipper tags were listed on the wall, so we knew who was who. My favorite was Marty, an un-coupled female who was alone at the top of the enclosure but who had a paralyzed flipper. Toward the end of the exhibit, we watched a short film with some good drone or helicopter footage of different parts of Antarctica, and I even got a couple souvenirs in the gift shop before we left.

Once we got our penguin fix, we went to the Canterbury Museum, and walked around the Botanic Gardens after. Both were free, which (at least in my experience) is rare unless you're in D.C., but they could've easily charged admission and it still would've been worth it. To be honest, I liked them more than the IAC, which we did have to pay to get into. The museum was celebrating 75 years of Air New Zealand and had a neat temporary exhibit on the history of the airline (both of the guys said this was their favorite part), including models of some early planes you could sit it, and even retro lounges and retired staff uniforms. I really enjoyed the Iwi Tawhito - whenua hou exhibit which showcased the extinct moa (giant bird-like animal) and the Maori people who used to hunt them hundreds of years ago. Walking through the gardens was very peaceful. The rain had stopped while we were in the IAC earlier, and the sun glistened off the flowers and trees, and the waterfowl were constantly preening themselves. The rose garden wasn't as fragrant as I'd expected (compared to the one in Minneapolis), and the aroma was likely muddled by the rain - still very pretty
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Blue Mountains · Australia

For dinner tonight, we had Chinese food at Welcome Vegetarian Café after seeing them on Happy Cow (the vegetarian/vegan-food-while-traveling bible). Dave and I had our meals mixed up, but were still happy. Bummer the one man show didn't tell us until I went up to pay with my credit card that they only accept local credit cards. Luckily the guys had NZ cash and saved us from having to spend the rest of the evening washing dishes or whatever they do when you can't pay for the food you've already eaten. After dinner, we made it back to the B&B where we drank some NZ wine and rested up for the long road trip ahead of us tomorrow. Oh! Dave spotted a little hedgehog out the window while Jason was doing I have no idea what, but by the time I grabbed my camera and made it over to the window, the little guy had scrambled away through the luscious flora and I never got a suitable photo.

Tomorrow we have at least a 5 hour drive down to Fox Glacier, where we'll spend one night before continuing on to Queenstown and Dunedin each for

The blue penguin with the paralyzed left flipper at the International Antarctic Center. (New Zealand)
one night. There are supposed to be penguins near Dunedin, which is our main purpose for heading over there, and we're hoping for some good weather before we go back to Queenstown for 2 more nights, including a day trip to Milford Sound, and then back to Sydney on Tuesday.


Additional photos below
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Dew kissed rose

Christchurch Botanic Garden (New Zealand)

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