New Zealand Prologue

I am long overdue to blog about my trip to New Zealand. I returned over a month ago, but almost immediately started the new semester and didn’t have time. Things have settled down now; we’re on week five of the term. So I don’t really have an excuse.

It’s tough to get started because it felt like it was a really long trip even though it was only 3 weeks. But there was a lot of traveling in that time.

How to begin?

Well, the basics, I suppose. I went to New Zealand with my friend/coworker, Stephen. At the beginning of last year, Stephen was the first person I made a good connection with. We’ve been good friends since then. We’ve done a fair bit of traveling together and lots of just hanging out around Zhuhai.

Stephen’s a Kiwi, but his parents moved to Australia. So for summer holidays, he usually goes to see his parents. As a result, he hadn’t been back to New Zealand for 6+ years. He had the idea of going “home” during Spring Festival. Sometime in November he mentioned it to me and sort of flippantly asked me if I wanted to come along.

Although I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand, I initially was hesitant. My plan all along had been to travel in Asia: Thailand, Malaysia, maybe Indonesia. I was also concerned about money because NZ is not a budget destination. And we’d never traveled 3 weeks together before. Would we kill each other? So I had some concerns.

On the other hand, I saw that this was a unique opportunity. If I went with Stephen I would have a very different experience than if I went by myself. I would be traveling with a local. I’d get the inside scoop on all manner of daily life stuff. Like a private tour guide. Hah. And we’d be staying with a number of his family and friends, so I’d get to meet lots of other Kiwis. Get a feel for their life, for local culture, etc.

Weighing the pros and cons, I was leaning towards going, assuming we could do it on a reasonable budget. A deal breaker for me though was when Stephen said he wanted to drive around New Zealand. A road trip! What Californian can resist the call of the open road? Not this one. That was the point when I began seriously investigating going.

Airfare to New Zealand was dismayingly high. To the point where I despaired of going. However, Stephen somehow found a excellent deal through Malaysian Airlines: $975 round trip. Buying the tickets felt a little surreal. I’m going to New Zealand?!?

Since it was Stephen’s first time back in years, he had a number of people and places he wanted to visit. I also wanted to see as many of the big things as possible. Together we worked out an itinerary that managed to cover most of both, a whirlwind tour of both islands in 3 weeks. Our list was Auckland, Matamata, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Wellington (North Island), Nelson, Christchurch, Queenstown, and Dunedin (South Island). Plus there would be lots of things we would stop to see on the way between places.

First stop: Auckland