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Milford Sound, NZ

At Milford Sound. What can one say to this, other than 'WOW'?

Daaaaamn! Has it really been nearly three months since my last post? My bad. My husband actually informed me last week that he’d cut me from his Google Reader due to inactivity. So now it may just be my parents reading, I dunno, but nonetheless I’ve finally felt compelled to post again.

Since October it was mostly more of the same (which is a good thing) – work, gym, going out on the weekends, repeat – with the added excitement of my husband’s little brother crashing here for a few weeks. He spent more than two months riding a mountain bike (solo!) around Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, then stopped off here for some R&R before heading back to the U.S. in time for Christmas. I love my husband’s siblings (he has a number of them), particularly since as an only child it’s fun to pretend that they’re mine, without all the weight of sibling rivalry and scarring memories and all that. So I got to have a little brother for a few weeks, then shortly after his departure the hubs and I headed out for a holiday of our own.

After a miserable Christmas last year where it rained and we discovered that everything in Sydney closes for at least two weeks, I vowed that we’d take a trip this time around. And so, on December 23 we headed to New Zealand for 12 days of driving both the North and South Islands. Things definitely got off to an excellent start when the hubs gave me the Christmas present I’d been pining for for over a year, a new DSLR camera. I certainly put it to good use on our trip, and plan to continue to do so during the rest of our time here.

The view from Breckenridge Lodge in Hawkes Bay, where we spent Christmas

In brief, I LOVED New Zealand. The landscape is not only breathtaking, but it changes constantly from rolling green hills to jagged glaciers to turquoise lagoons to sunny vineyards, sometimes in a matter of minutes. The food (oysters…kumara fries…lamb for those so inclined) and wine (some of my all-time favorites) is delectable. And the people just seemed really chill, and a lot less flashy than in Australia (or Sydney, anyway). Like, there was a lot of messy hair and fleece, a lot less fake tans and unnecessarily deep V-neck shirts. Of course that’s probably because the weather is a lot less beachy – it was fairly chilly, jeans weather for most of our trip – but all the same I liked the vibe a lot.

A Maori performer demonstrating the famous Haka in Rotorua

I also found it to be blissfully harmonious and multicultural. Obviously the U.S. and Australia both have turbulent, even painful, histories of race relations, and it’s not like I studied it in-depth while on vacation, but to an outsider New Zealand seems to have an infinitely better relationship with its indigenous Maori people than Australia has with the Aboriginals. I hate to sound like a PC douchebag, but it was kind of neat to see Maori words on all the road signs, to hear the newscasters roll Maori words of their tongues, to hear Maori reggae on the radio (yes, it’s a thing!). I read somewhere that the British settlers who came to New Zealand were determined to escape England’s rigid class system and were more than happy to embrace everyone as equals, and that ethos really does seem to have carried through to today.

So of course I’ve (per usual) written way more than I’d planned, so I think what I’ll do is publish this bad boy and then use a follow-up post to discuss each place that we went in-depth. After all, we went to Auckland, Rotorua, Hawkes Bay, Wellington, the Marlborough, Christchurch and Queenstown, and I naturally have opinions (and lots of photos) to share for all of them. Watch this space…

Approaching the South Island & Marlborough Sound by air