Saturday, February 27, 2010

New Zealand Honeymoon: Part III

This is the final installment in my three-part, New Zealand honeymoon posts. So far, we'd been to Christchurch, Kaikoura, Marlborough, Marahau, Nelson, and had started our drive down the west coast to the high-mountain town of Franz Josef.

Once in Franz Josef, we checked into our hotel, Te Waonui. Our room had a wall-size window that looked into a full-on rainforest. It was gorgeous. Moss, intermingling tree branches, ferns, and dampness were framed by this window. I could've sat there and stared at it all day. But instead, we woke up the next morning to hike the Franz Josef glacier.

That's the glacier behind us. From where we're standing in this picture, it was about a 40-minute walk to get to the base of the glacier. And it was raining, no less.

Here's a shot of the glacier once we arrived at the base:

Here I am hiking up the glacier. We had to wear those silly fanny packs to carry our crampons during the hike across the valley. It was incredible to experience this because all of the glaciers are receding rapidly. Plus, there so so may cool ice formations and endless holes to stare into.

After the glacier, we continued our drive south towards Queenstown. There were so many places to pull over that were so scenic. Here's one of the random beaches we stopped at. It had an awesome lookout tower.

We then drove through Mount Aspiring National Park where there was a new waterfall every five feet. The tops of the mountains were misty and it was just gorgeous.

As we came into Queenstown, everything got so pastoral, mountainous, and stunning.

After a rainy day in Queenstown (with plans of rafting lingering in our future), the sun came out. And what did we decide to do? This:

The one place we were told not to miss was Milford Sound. But, the long, long drive was doing a good job of staving off our decision to get in the car again. So, instead, we booked a scenic flight so instead of an 8-hour drive in one day, we took an hour flight there and back.

Mr. CB sat up front while sat diagonally behind him.

And here's what we saw out the window:

And here's where we landed:

We hopped on a boat to cruise around the Sound.

Some little penguins came out to greet our boat. And tons and tons of waterfalls of course.

As the cruise came to an end, the rain enveloped the Sound and we had to fly out very quickly (or suffer a 4-hour bus ride back to Queenstown). We were able to get out though which afforded us pictures like this:

I don't have any pictures from us rafting except for hard copies. So, that's it, my friends. The end of our New Zealand honeymoon.

While we traveled far too much (hours and hours every day in the car), it was amazing to see so much of another country. And, a place that we could see ourselves moving one day. But for now, we'll stay here in Santa Fe, from where I'll continue to blog here on Weddingbee. At least for a few more posts.

Where are you headed on your honeymoon? Anyone up for an adventure?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

New Zealand Honeymoon: Part II

So, just to catch you up, we'd flown in (albeit, after a lot of stress), wandered Christchurch, taken an incredibly scenic drive to Kaikoura, and gone wine- and beer-tasting in Marlborough. And, remember, we now had George, an adorable little stuffed bear, along for the ride.

Day 3: Marlborough --> Marahau

We arrived into Marahau in the middle of the afternoon with plans to go horseback riding up into the lush valley. We met our Kiwi horseman and off we went.

Our horses didn't like each other so we couldn't stand too close together.

Finally, we made it to our accommodations, the Ocean View Chalets.

George on our balcony

Day 4 --> Mountain Biking in Abel Tasman State Park, then to Nelson

In the morning, we woke up and connected with Anna and Reg, the husband-and-wife team who owns Abel Tasman Mountain Biking. They drove us up into Abel Tasman State Park in a huge, four-wheel-drive vehicle (equipped with snorkel for driving through flooded roads) and dropped us off in a grassy field with a guide. We'd signed up for their Full Dirt trip, which included five hours of biking through some of the most stunning landscape I've ever seen.

Yep, that's us coming down the hill. Note: There was a professional photographer on the trip. All mountain-biking photos by Ian Trafford.

Biking in a marble quarry. Amazing.

We left Marahau muddy. Although we were only on our way to our next accommodation in
Nelson, we decided to make a stop at an olive grove to taste some New Zealand olive oil. When we got engaged in Italy, tasting olive oil was one of our favorite memories, so we wanted to compare.

After making a quick purchase, we made it to Nelson, about an hour from Marahau. We checked into our next place, The Wheelhouse Inn. I loved this place because it had such a cute story. The couple who owns it is American. They sailed away from Long Beach, California, 30 years ago and planned to go around the world. Their anchor got stuck in Nelson so they've been there ever since. Their property is made up of about five self-catering apartments.

The Wheelhouse Inn: Our Quarters

The view from our living room

Next up, we head down the West Coast of the South Island, a road less-traveled by tourists. What did we find? Some of the most beautiful places to pull over for lunch, like the one below.

Our rental car

Monday, February 1, 2010

New Zealand Honeymoon: Part I

Once we finally arrived in Christchurch, on the east coast of the South Island, after our horrible debacle flying to New Zealand, we were ready to start our trip. One of our favorite parts? Our rental car and driving, not only on the wrong side of the road, but on the wrong side of the car! [Note: Mr. CB didn't let me drive once. Probably a good thing.].

Day 1: Christchurch

We checked into our first hotel, The George, to find, well, George on our bed!

So, we brought George along for the ride in the same way that the French Bulldogs brought their gnome, Sheldon! Once we'd had a minute to breathe, we strolled around a rainy city that resembled Holland more so than, say, the Lord-of-the-Rings' Shire.

Have you ever seen flowers the color of the ones behind me?

This was followed by a drive along the Port Hills, which we were supposed to be mountain biking but the sleet wasn't really appealing on two wheels.

That night, we went to dinner at our hotel's restaurant, Pescatore, which began with a berry spritzer (see below).

Day 2: Christchurch --> Hanmer Springs --> Kaikoura

We took a detour from Christchurch to Kaikoura (about an hour and a half north) through Hanmer Springs, a high altitude hot springs destination. The drive was gorgeous.

Photo by Mr. CB

Because it was springtime, there were TONS of baby sheep milling about.

Photo by Mr. CB

While driving on these one-lane country roads, we weren't sure what the speed limit was. We passed a cop and Mr. CB decided to slow his driving so he didn't get a speeding ticket. It didn't matter because we got pulled over anyway.

"The speed limit around here is 90 [kilometers per hour]," the cop said, "but people like to drive 100. So just go as fast as you can without losing control of the car, okay?"

We were in shock for the better part of the next hour at how back asswards this place was.

The country road opened up onto the beach in Kaikoura and our jaws dropped. We'd never seen a more beautiful place on Earth--turquoise ocean to our right and snow-capped giants to our left. It was so surreal.

My absolute favorite hotel we stayed in was in Kaikoura: The Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses.

The view from our tree house (Starring George):

From the other way:

My favorite was the view from our shower:

The inside was not too shabby either.

Day 3: Kaikoura --> Marlborough

As many of you know, Marlborough is New Zealand's biggest wine region with what I think is the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world. We had to make a stop.

Which turned into a beer tasting at one of New Zealand's only beer makers (they only have about four!).

Next up: horseback riding and mountain biking in Abel Tasman State Park...