Where do you want to travel?
Your journey will lead you to exotic destinations around the world.
Your journey will lead you to exotic destinations around the world.
As I sat in the Queenstown, New Zealand airport reflecting on my last 10 days, I realized I didn’t know how or where to begin.
I will start by saying thank you to my Aunt Peg. No way in the world would I ever have been able to take this trip without her. She has been so extremely generous, understanding and kind even through the death of her mother, my Gaugi, in the middle of our trip. She certainly is one of a kind!
We began our trip in Keri Keri on the North Island. We arrived at Kauri Cliffs lodge at around 1 pm on Saturday, after over 24 hours of traveling for me. What a relief that was. I would have been satisfied with a sleeping bag and tent at that point, but instead I found myself in the lap of luxury, personally greeted by the lovely lodge manager John and escorted into the beautiful interior of the lodge with sweeping views of the golf course and cliffs down to the ocean.
After exploring out surroundings, we had a late lunch and spent the afternoon at the spa (quite unlike Brooks’s trip haha). The next day brought a leisurely (VERY HILLY) run with amazing views, but I had to run up and down cliffs (literally) to get to these amazing places. What I found most amazing about this run, was that as I made my way down to pink beach, I found myself completely alone on this deserted little stretch of beach. It was absolutely beautiful and well worth the climb back up the hill. They even had a rope swing down there for me to rest on before the long steep journey back to Kauri Cliffs.
A well deserved delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, eggs and me and Aunt Peg’s new favorite, MacKenzie multigrain toast followed my run. Aunt Peg and I then took a leisurely drive to Puihia and a quick fast ferry ride over to the former capitol of New Zealand, Russell, which is now a small fishing village. It reminded me a lot of Nantucket actually. VERY small and very quaint. Not much to do, but a good stop! Then, back to the lodge for dinner and “pre dinner drinks” with our friends from “Boca”.
The next day, it was already time to leave Keri Keri. After some confusion about our flight to Auckland and then on to Hawke’s Bay, we barely made it to the airport after a wild ride in the audi Q5, audobhan style (Brooks), just in time for our lovely flight in the 15 seater plane with no door to the cockpit in the dense fog, rain and wind. For those of you who know me well, you know how much I LOOOOVE flying (not), so I was thrilled by this ride. Luckily my Aunt made it out with all fingers intact, although slightly bruised.
Anyway, we somehow made it to Cape Kidnapper’s Lodge in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. This was also our first drive (Aunt Peg is probably the best driver I know to be able to navigate those windy roads, in a stick shift on the left hand side of the road no less). I think this was my second favorite place out of the whole trip. The views again were amazing and on our second day, we took a Can Am tour with our guide, Matt. WOW. Thats all I have to say about that. He was an amazing, amazing guide. He grew up in New Zealand and knew so much about the land, the history of the land and the country and sheep farming. He was such an incredible source of information and the places he brought us in that Can Am were incredible. He actually told us his family used to camp at one of the remote locations he brought us to, right next to the ocean. I cannot even imagine growing up in a place that beautiful. I mean Scranton is great and all……..
After 2 wonderful nights at Cape Kidnappers, it was time to move on to Wharekauhau for a night before we took the Interislander ferry from Wellington to Picton on the South Island. We arrived at Wharekauhau pretty late at night and were graciously welcomed by the staff and taken on a property tour by another native Kiwi, who was actually part Maori. Maori are the indigenous people to New Zealand. Again, very knowledgeable about the country and New Zealand environment and culture. I even got to pet some eels. Yes, they have a pond the property that has eels in it and they are very friendly. Our guide was able to call them over and they actually liked receiving “pets” just like dogs. Pretty funny. We then continued on and learned that James Cameron, the director of “Titanic” owns the land neighboring the lodge. Pretty Cool.
My all time favorite part about this Lodge, was the fact that William and Kate, yes the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, stayed here during their trip to New Zealand in April.
Early the next morning, we began our journey South on the ferry to Picton. Not a bad voyage overall. On arrival to Picton, we were picked up by a water taxi and ferried out to our next stop, Bay of Many Coves. What a place. If you are up for complete relaxation away from all technology and civilization, this is your place. No cell phone service, spotty internet, no roads and only the water taxi as a means of exit, I was feeling a tad claustrophobic, but in the most incredible setting. Once I talked myself into relaxing and just took it all in, it was pretty incredible. The next morning, we were all set to go on the dolphin excursion. What a day it turned out to be. The water taxi back to picton was enough excitement for me and Aunt Peg. I never expected, given the conditions, that we would actually go out on the boat and get in the water, but we did. Decked out in a wet suit (mine had a nice large hole in the butt), booties, gloves, a mask and snorkel, we dove right in, 3 whole times. The first time in, in the gail force winds and torrential rain, I was lucky enough to have 6-7 Dusky dolphins swim right under me. Incredible. I have been swimming with dolphins twice before, but nothing like this. Not in their natural habitat in the wild. It was amazing. Almost reignited my desire to be a marine biologist again.
After a nice lunch and warm vanilla chai for me, coffee for aunt peg, we took another treacherous water taxi ride back to Bay of Many Coves and chose to take the rest of the afternoon to relax and read. It was rainy, cold and windy and after out water taxi rides, we both needed to just sit still for a while.
The next day, it was time to move again (Aunt Peg keeps a dizzying pace!). This time, after a much calmer water taxi ride, we were off to Picton to pick up our rental car and head towards the Hapuku Lodge in Kaikora for our next night and yet another whale watch tour. Aunt Peggy graciously allowed me to drive today and after a few mishaps, I think we did ok! The whale watch was pretty cool, we got right up close to a sperm whale and were able to see it pretty well. the pictures didn’t come out well however. We saw a bunch of dusky dolphins again, which was awesome. After that, we did a little shopping in Kaikora (great little town) and headed back to Hapuku for dinner. Hapuku was awesome as well. It is owned by a family of architects, so clearly the design is impeccable. The rooms are literally tree houses. We had to climb 3 flights of stairs to reach our room and I absolutely loved it. All the rooms had woodturning fireplaces (except when I tried ours I just managed to fill the room with smoke for about 15 minutes and that was the end of that idea). The front faced snowcapped mountains and the back faced the ocean.
After dinner, while we were organizing our suitcases, we got a call from my Aunt Rosie. We knew my grandma was not doing well, so both of us knew what this call probably meant. My 93 year old Gaugi, my Aunt’s mom, had passed away peacefully at around 3 am on Saturday, Pennsylvania time. My aunt and I spent the rest of the night reminiscing and sharing memories and funny videos of my grandma. She was quite an incredible woman and lived an active life right up until her last days, which is exactly the way she would have wanted it. Although I know we will all miss her, I am happy that she is at peace. Don’t worry everyone, I will carry on the buckeye tradition, I have the infamous double boiler.
The next morning, prior to leaving for Matakauri Lodge, I went for a run along the road we drove in on. It borders the ocean and winds around the mountains, (this run was thankfully pretty flat), and I had some amazing views on foot. I always love to run in new places because it always gives me a good feel for the area.
After my run and breakfast, we left for the Christchurch airport for our flight to Queenstown for out last 2 adventure filled days and nights. I won’t go into detail on the flight, just to say the flight attendants actually apologized for the amount of turbulence. Again, my aunt escaped with her fingers intact (she learned to take her rings off this time).
After arriving at the airport, we drove through Queenstown and out to Matakauri.
Words seriously cannot describe how I feel about the last lodge that we stayed at.
Before we got there my Aunt told me she has had clients tell her that they cried when they left after their stay. I now understand why. The city of Queenstown was amazing enough, not to mention the setting and decor of the lodge. Our first day in Queesntown, we did a ton of good shopping! Lots of authentic New Zealand merino wool! The next day was adventure filled! The schedule got a little messed up because our helicopter tour to the glacier in Milford Sounds was cancelled due to weather, but we made the best of it! We started out with a drive and a quick stop in a quint town and Amisfield winery for a quick wine tasting on our way to the shotover jet boat ride. This was pretty cool. Brooks you would have appreciated the talk about the actual mechanics of the boat (something about a twin V8 engine???), but this boat can go extremely fast in water as shallow as 4 inches. Crazy. It was a 20 minute ride on the river in a canyon on Queenstown. The water was so incredibly blue because it is glacial water. After that, we had lunch and I was off on my next white water river rafting adventure. I am used to rafting on the delaware river in PA. Well, this was a far cry from that. Class 4 rapids and all. However, the most terrifying part was the bus ride to where we put the rafts in the water. The lady was nuts! This road was like a one lane dirt road literally carved into the side of the mountain. It was an old gold mining road. I could literally look out my window at times and not even see the road, just straight down the cliff. And the lady did not drive slowly. Anyway, I was relieved when we got to the river, donned our helmets and prepared to begin rafting. After my initial nerves calmed down, I was able to enjoy the scenery. We floated and bumped down the clear pristine blue river with canyon walls rising on either side of us for 16 kilometers. My boat was full of medical professionals, so I felt a bit better about things, if anything went wrong, we were well prepared. A nurse practitioner from Utah, and 3 nurses from England and Ireland. Our raft did not flip, but one of the groups did. No pictures from this trip unfortunately, since I did not bring my phone.
When we finally got back to Queenstown, I did some shopping before I headed back to the Lodge for our last night. I told my Aunt Peggy that I was ready for about another 6 weeks at Matakauri as long as we could ship Chris over. Queenstown just had so much to see and do I didn’t want to leave! For anyone who visits New Zealand, Queenstown is a must! Anyway, we had to leave, and the next morning we made our way back to Auckland airport for our departing flight to LAX at 730 pm.
I cannot conclude without mentioning the upgrade to first class that my Aunt scored for us on the way home. Wow. I know I will never experience anything like it again. I felt like I was in my own little resort up there, with a seat that laid completely flat, sheets, 2 pillows, a duvet, my own personal TV, foot rest, and meals complete with real china. Talk about flying in style.
After reading my brother’s blog for the past 2 months, I realize how different my trip was from his adventure. I am very lucky to have the experience I did with my Aunt. I was able to see and do things I never would have been able to do on my own and I cannot even express how much I will always appreciate that and never forget our epic trip. But, my brother is doing something else entirely and I am so extremely proud to call him my little brother. What he is doing takes so much courage, spirit of adventure, knowledge and skill. He gets to experience people and places that aren’t exposed to tourism and He is really getting a feel for the various cultures that exist in our world. He has learned and will continue to learn such valuable lessons on his trip and I envy him for that. Keep it up little bro! We are all so impressed with you back here at home! We miss you and love you! Stay Safe!