Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring Break 2012 - New Zealand (part 1)

2001:  Canadian Rockies
2008:  Hawaii
2010:  Steamboat, CO
2011:  London
2012: New Zealand

Top Five List of Best Marion Family Vacations? 
Just the Top Five List of Vacations Made More Memorable by Someone Throwing Up. 

Ah, yes.  It's not just holidays that are made more memorable; we include vacations, too!  That's how we celebrated our first night in New Zealand.  We congratulated ourselves on a good flight, an easy handover of our camper, and a quick grocery shopping trip that enabled us to get out of Christchurch ahead of schedule.  Although we drove later into the night that we had planned, we successfully made it past Arthur's Pass and into Jacksons to a great campground.  Everyone was cosy and warm in their beds.  Until about 3 am, that is.    After that, I began to wonder whose crazy idea it was to go to New Zealand, and who thought a 5 x 10 space for all 4 of us was a good idea?  I was certain the entire trip was ruined!  Would we pass a virus around for the next 7 days? 

Thankfully, no.  B3 was our only victim (he did have an encore performance on night 5, too), and otherwise, the trip was absolutely wonderful. 

Prior to moving to Singapore, I didn't know I wanted to go to New Zealand; it had never been on my radar.  It's too far away from The States to be practical.  Now,   I can honestly say that it's one of the most amazing places I've ever been to.  Each day, Ben and I would comment that our surroundings reminded us of something familiar from another vacation or from another home.  We were reminded of:
  • Hawaiian Rain fForests
  • Highways around Mexican Volcanoes
  • Blue Ridge Parkway Drives
  • Yellowstone Valleys (We automatically searched for moose in swampy areas and bison in the fields)
  • Wyoming cliffs
  • Alaskan Mountain Views
  • Montana Skies
  • South Georgia Tea Colored Rivers
  • North Georgia Winding Roads
Perhaps that's why the trip was so enjoyable; everyday brought something new, but there were fond reminders of other favorite places.

It's Autumn in New Zealand right now, so some of the trees were even kind enough to have some color in their leaves for us.  The weather was cool but comfortable, and the rain was courteous enough not to completely ruin any of our days.  Although I took lots and lots of pictures, they don't compare to the amazing beauty that we were in awe of daily.   If I had asked Ben to stop each time we saw a view that I wanted to remember in a picture, we wouldn't have made it very far at all. The scenery was absolutely amazing, and everyone we met was kind, friendly, and polite. 

(Note:  I'm giving a little extra detail here so I have a record for our next trip to NZ ).  After arriving on Friday, we spent the night in Jacksons after crossing through Arthur's Pass.  We rolled in after dark and chose a spot in an odd little shelter .
We were thankful for that shelter when we awoke to rain (and other events at 3 am, but enough about that). Ben claims to have seen a kiwi here as well - the first of two he spotted on our trip.  I didn't see one, and I'm still a little bitter about that. 

Saturday morning's plan was to drive to the glacier area on the West Coast.  As we drove, it became obvious that the couple of cute one lane bridges we had seen the day before weren't unique.  Evidently, the entire country (at least the South Island) saves on its DOT budget by only building 1/2 of a bridge. 

I never got used to seeing another camper driving across the bridge as we sat and waited.  Crazy!

Another driving challenge was staying on the left hand side of the road.  Ben had a crash course in driving a right hand drive, manual transmission camper on the left side of the road.  He says that shifting left handed was the biggest challenge, and he only drove on the wrong (right) side of the road twice all week!  Thankfully, the road usually had arrows to remind us which lane was ours.

 We dropped out of the mountains and hit the west coast near Hokitika, where we had our first glimpse of the Tasman Sea. 
As you can see, it was windy, rainy, and not especially warm.  Even so, it must have made an impact on this little girl.  She asked questions about the "sea" and seemed thrilled to be there.  Later, she proudly unveiled an artist's rendering of what we had seen.

Note the raging storm clouds in the sky :). 

These two really were terrific travellers.  Aside from a daily spat over who got to sit by the window, they did a great job of filling the long drives with games and songs and giggles.

As we headed south down the West Coast through the Southern Alps, we had the odd combination of snow capped mountains, the beach, and a rain forest.  And, what would a rain forest be without rain? 
When we arrived at Franz Josef Glacier, all of the glacier walking trails were closed because of the rain.  So, we took a short walk in the woods just to stretch our legs and see the forest. 

It was incredibly green and lush and a bit peculiar to know that if we could have seen the mountains around us through the fog, we would see snow.

We spent Saturday night in the Franz Josef Glacier Top 10 Holiday Park, which was great.  Our little camper was just the right size, but we definitely didn't have room to spare.  Each night, my job was to occupy kids by brushing teeth or playing a game while Ben built their bed in our eating area.  By the end of the week, we had our routine well rehearsed.  We were definitely thankful to have the camper each day as we travelled many miles without seeing (m)any stores or facilities.  When we needed a potty break or a snack, we were ready! 

**Stay tuned for the next installment!**

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