I have been thinking of how and what to say regarding my vacation to NZ.
First of all, THANKS, THANKS, THANKS to everyone at TA who gave info and advice.
I did indeed go to NZ for 22 days (Visited both islands).
I had a great vacation.
SO had a great vacation.
We both loved NZ.
I am not good at giving a blow by blow of every day's events.
So, here's where we went - thanks to SO who gave this list of events
AKL - CONNECT TO CHC
CHC - Trans Alpine - Greymouth RT
Kaikoura - boat/whale & dolphin viewing
Akaroa - boat
Drive to Dunedin - Moeraki boulders
Dunedin - Otago pennisula- boat ride
Royal Albatross Colony
Te Anau - Milford - boat ride
Doubtful - boat ride and power plant
Wanaka - by way of Glenorchy
day to Queenstown for Ernsclaw boat
ride/sheep farm w/dinner
- day to Mt. Cook
Fox - drove to Fox glacier
- drove to Frans Joseph glacier
- Lake Matheson
Nelson - by way of Punakaiki pancake rocks &
- day to Abel Tasman/boat ride
Ferry to Wellington
Wellington - cable tram to garden and walked
- drive to southern beaches
Lake Taupo - Tongariro National park
- Chateau Tongariro historic hotel
- drove to Rotorua & thermal parks
- Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
- Huka Falls & Craters of the Moon
AKL - train to downtown & Sky Tower
- relaxing pre flight/sort/pack day
So, I will try to give a review of things instead.
I think sorting things into the following areas works best for my dyslexic mind.
Things we loved, things we liked and things we didn't love.
We loved -
What we saw as the English/British flavor of NZ (the money, fish and chips, driving on the left side of the road, the green loveliness of the farms and fields, homes with charming flower gardens).
The feeling of going back in time to a kinder, gentler way of interacting with others and the world.
Sheep, lots of sheep and adorable lambs. I have endless sheep photos. I never got tired of them. And I never ate lamb - I knew I was not going to before I left home. No offence to sheep farmers or those who enjoy a lamb dinner.
Boat rides, train rides, ferry rides.
Ocean views, lake views, river views.
Snow covered peaks.
A decided lack of crowds and heavy traffic in so many places.
Keas that climbed all over the roof of the Xterra we rented.
Thermal parks, boiling mud pots (my favorite), steaming geysers.
Food that didn't give SO hives - not soaked in additives?.
Bakery goods that were lovely, sweet. fresh and tasty.
Lambingtons, all lamingtons. Will someone, anyone, share a recipe?
Fish and chips, well, really the chips. I loved them, lots of them and really reasonable (cost wise).
Potato crisps (chips) in all kinds of cool flavors. I ate loads of them.
Kingston (sp?) cookies. Made several meals of them while driving (as in SO and I ate an entire bag at a time).
Men wearing shorts (all lengths) everywhere when it was rather cool to me. I took some home to a brother who wears them a lot and is never really bothered to wear a jacket if it's above freezing. Got lots of photos of them, too.
Women who look very fit and healthy (on tv, in adds, on billboards, strolling down the street) rather than the extreme annorexic thin size 0 ones that adorn everything at home. I don't know the PC way to say this. However, it was so refreshing to see women who don't seem to be starving to be thin or layered with rolls of fat over the waistline. At home it seems to be one extreme or the other. And only the extreme thin is desired.
Driving on the left side on narrow roads with sheer cliffs and few railings (loved it after a few days of getting the hang of driving in CHC before heading away from the city).
Clean motel/hotel rooms, with very nice folks running/cleaning them (well all except one, weird one).
Hotel/motels with rooms with their own washers and dryers. It made washing clothes in the evening so convenient. By the way, no problem finding clothes detergent for sensitive skin/allergies that SO needed.
Stores with the beloved self check registers. And anti-bac hand soap, shampoo, etc. I didn't have room (or weight allowance) to take.
Lovely insulated, box style, zip lid grocery totes for 1-2 NZ dollars each. They were great for toting all the things we got along the way. I folded several of them and brought them home. Strange the things we fall in love with while travelling.
Air NZ, lovely food, lovely people.
Freedom to walk anywhere (almost) and not feel restrained like a toddler. At home, every cliff has a fence, a railing and a warning - at least it seems that way. NZ seems to start with the idea that everyone has common sense and is not afraid to use it.
A calm, relaxing serenity to life that is not only from being on vacation.
Things We liked -
Fewer chain eateries.
Children that seemed to behave while at the same time not be hovered over every moment by indulgent yet overprotective parents. Well, most of them.
Things We didn't love -
The high cost of cosmetics - THANKS TO WHOEVER WARNED ME TO BRING THEM. Wow, some things that cost $5 at home were $15 in NZ (allowing for exchange rate). Not everything, shampoo and conditioner, bar and hand soap were reasonable.
The Glow Worm Caves - Well I did go in for the ordinary visit (I'm claustrophobic, by the way). I didn't last long since the closing door of the airlock near the entrance and the very narrow walkway where we had to stop for a brief talk were not in my comfort level. I went back with some other visitors who were headed to the exit - so no one was inconvenienced. I knew ahead of time that I might not be able to do this. I really wanted to see the glow worms. I gave it my best try. A lot of years ago, I did an all day cave visit (long before I was claustrophobic) and loved it. I did get something great from this - I was so thrilled to be back in the day light and fresh air, I don't think I have ever enjoyed it more. I was more than glad to wait for SO at the visitor center (didn't think to get the vehicle keys from SO before I left the cave).
Well, there are lots of things I have forgotten.
All in all - We LOVED NZ.
WARNING - THIS IS MY VIEW ONLY -
NZ is not for the mindless or the wreckless driver. Be alert, stay off the mobile phone while driving (and walking, for that matter), read and adhere to the speed limit signs and all will most likely go well. And visitors, don't even think of drinking and driving. I never do, however the very idea of anyone doing it on NZ's narrow, winding and/or dark roads gives me the shakes.
It really does take the reccommended time to drive from a to b given by the wise ones on this board. Allow for breaks and don't drive far after dark when tired or jet lagged. Not worth it at all on any level.
THANKS AGAIN, for all the great advice and info.