a blog about the cultural experiences my husband and I have because of our work abroad...what's delightful and beautiful about different countries and cultures...what we have learned from living and working in countries other than our home country...and how those experiences have changed us

Friday, July 19, 2013

New Zealand's South Island: a paradise

I think those Kiwis we talked to might just be right: the South Island is possibly even more beautiful than the North Island! And we didn't even get to the southern part where most of the gorgeous landscape photography for The Lord of the Rings was filmed! Actually we drove to this spot because a sign for a lodge had tempted us with the prospect of seeing where some of the movie was shot. We didn't find the lodge but this view was well worth the drive.
But our tour of the South Island started in the city of Christchurch. In 2010 and again in 2011, Christchurch was hit by big earthquakes. And even after two years, it's a long way from full recovery. In the picture above you can see how the city has used shipping containers to hold up the walls of buildings nearly destroyed. But despite the rubble, there was a sense of hopefulness that Christchurch is going to be rebuilt even better than before.
In the CBD (central business district) there were signs detailing the Recovery Plan. Stephen and I noticed one that showed a graphic of a survey given to the citizens of Christchurch asking them what they wanted to make their city into.

After "green spaces", "people" is the biggest box. Yet one more reason to like New Zealand.

It's not as if Christchurch is devoid of green space though. Near our hotel we walked to this park that contained Botanic Gardens in the center of it.

The food was delicious all over the country, but especially so in Christchurch.

Of all the places we went to in New Zealand, Christchurch felt the most like an American town to me.

From Christchurch we drove up the coast to the town of Kaikoura and took a dolphin cruise. Maybe the best part of the whole trip!

The Dusky dolphins love to play. They put on an amazing jumping show for us during our three hour tour.

And what a setting! I could have stayed out on that boat watching dolphins for a week! 

At the end of the tour just before we jetted back, we saw this nice bonus. The same tour company does separate albatross tours, but we didn't need to take one because we had this up close and personal encounter during our dolphin cruise. 
When I was searching for places to stay in New Zealand, I found this holiday cottage called The Wheelhouse Inn in Nelson that seemed exactly what I was looking for. Turns out I was even more right than I thought. This upstairs room had the perfect journaling spot. 

And this was my view! When I have dreamed of my ideal spot on the planet, this is what I had in mind. :)

Abel Tasman National Park was what Stephen was most looking forward to when we were planning our trip. 
The weather was pretty much perfect and so the first day we got there we took a hike in the morning and rented kayaks in the afternoon. Golden Bay Kayaks was the company we rented from and the guys there were great. Gave us a 30 minute safety class before sending us out. The water was so smooth and a double sea kayak is fast. We saw cormorants, which in New Zealand they call "shags", seals, and heard stingrays. Big splashes would tell us we had startled one but Stephen and I never saw any. Later Stephen told me he was a little nervous about the stingray. We were out in open ocean, after all, and he was thinking the whole time how stingrays are Orca's favorite food! I'm glad he didn't share his thoughts at the time!!

 The next day we took an all day hike up the hill from one beach down the other side to another.

We were rewarded with a beautiful golden beach that we had practically to ourselves.

We were pretty tired by the end of the day. :) 

We didn't have time to stay on the west coast but from our base in Pohara, we drove and then hiked to a beach on the western coast at the top of the island.

And that's where we saw seal pups!

The marine life in New Zealand was such a wonderful surprise. Before we went to New Zealand, I expected to see lots of sheep.

And of course we did along with horses and cows.

But there are no snakes in New Zealand. So when I came to a place like this, I had to tell myself it was quite alright, no need to worry.

Airport security is very strict about what comes into the country. There were warning signs all along the way about declaring the things you were bringing with you or beware of hefty fines. I told them I had boots that I'd walked in around Montana months before and they took them out, washed them down and gave them back to me in a new bag. Stephen and I appreciate any and all efforts taken to preserve this beautiful country.
It was just the perfect trip. New Zealand makes for a wonderful holiday no matter where you are coming from in the world. But when your home is in a third world country, New Zealand is truly a paradise.


  1. We're headed there Aug. 18, after a week in Australia. Will visit Christchurch, Queenstown, and Mt. Cook. Can't wait! Wish we had time for all you did!

  2. Two excellent places to eat in Christchurch: Cooking with Gas and Strawberry Fare