New Zealand was a relatively relaxed trip for us. The impetus for our trip was to reunite with Dale's good friend and coworker from China, Jacob, who had since returned to Wellington, New Zealand, got a new job, bought a house, married his girlfriend Sha, and had 2 kids. Jacob and Sha (and Sha's mom) were wonderful hosts for us and their sons Elon and Enzo are adorable!
Darcie also got to see her friend and coworker, Fred Wu, in Auckland, proving it's a small world after all.
New Zealand is as picturesque as we heard, and we only had time to see the North Island. Unfortunately, the heavy rains limited when we could hike, but we saw some amazing trails and caves (in Wellington), then drove north.
Driving North (yes, Dale drove on the left side of the road!): New Zealand doesn't really have multi-lane highways, so the 450-kilometer drive on Highway 1 from Wellington to Rotorua took over 6 hours in the rain, because the two-lane, winding road with mountainous switchbacks is shared by semi's, bulldozers, combines, and tentative foreign drivers (who drove Dale nuts). The South Island is supposed to be more scenic, yet on our short drive, we saw geothermal pools, beautiful forests, rainbows and waterfalls. And sheep. We saw lots of sheep.
We also spent an evening at a Maori Village learning about their customs. Below is the "Welcoming Ceremony." It was pretty intense. Each tour group nominated a chief (the 2 caucasian men you see at the front of our group). The Maori Chief is the man flashing the knife behind his warriors. Like we said, it was intense.
Dale learned the Haka dance!
We also ate a Hangi meal (lamb, chicken and root vegetables cooked underground) and met people from all over the world.
At the end of the visit, the tribe entertained us with song and dance. The Haka dance occurs at the end of the clip.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in NZ and plan to return to explore the South Island, perhaps during dryer weather!
After New Zealand, we took an 11-hour, non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean to Santiago, Chile.