DAY 1Jan 14 2016
John F. Kennedy International Airport
Incheon International Airport
The food and drink was "indulgent" as Candra said. 7 courses highlighted by asparagus rolled with smoked salmon, Korean bibimbap, and an excellent strawberry cheesecake & ice cream. The 2004 Perrier-Jouët Belle Epique Blanc de Blanc Champagne & Johnnie Walker Blue didn't hurt either.
After about 3 movies, we decided to go for a tour of the plane. We wore matching PJs, courtesy of Korean Air, and decided it'd be best not to venture into coach in our PJs. There were only 5 other passengers (out of a possible 12) in our first class cabin, but the entire! upper deck of the A380 was business class. The whole thing. We appeared to be some of the only non-Asian people on the plane as well as maybe the only two people awake and walking around. The plane has three wet bars. One of which was three feet away from our seats. I probably drank three liters of water. On our tour, we found a bar with a bartender and Absolut vodka cocktail menu. So we had a cocktail and read Vanity Fair.
DAY 2Jan 15 2016
Incheon International Airport
Sydney International Airport
Our second flight was basically identical to the first, just 4 hours shorter. Same seats, same PJs, same movies, except there were only 3 of us this time. The third person was a guy who was also on our first flight. He met up with his parents in Seoul and was heading to Melbourne for the Australian Open. Apparently he knows or is good friends with Serena Williams' trainer.
We've been really good at sticking to our time change plan: stay awake for 24 hours (entire first flight, layover, and one movie into second flight) and sleep almost entire second flight (about 6 hours). We were able to do just that. We had another meal, although I was not even the slightest bit hungry (I opted to only have 1 of the 7 courses this time...) and then immediately went to bed. The turn down service was something I'd never experienced before. While I was brushing my teeth, the flight attendant laid my seat flat, added a little pad, and changed out my blanket from a nice fleece to a nice duvet. I have to say, it was probably the most restful sleep I've had on a plane. Note to self: don't get used to this.
We woke up with about 40mins left in the flight, we changed and had breakfast - sill not hungry, but can't not eat "free" food. I opted for a light breakfast of granola, yogurt and fruit. I hope my belly appreciated that. When we landed, I felt way overdressed in my wool socks and hiking boots, sweats, and winter coat in the dead of summer. I was sweaty.
DAY 3Jan 16 2016
We went to the transfer desk and checked in for our third and final flight. Our destination is in sight! When Kellan handed me my boarding pass he said, let's go to the lounge! And to my surprise, we're flying business. Already some nice surprises on this trip! My husband is spoiling me. And I'm totally cool with it.
We are flying Emirates for our last flight - the lounge is MUCH better than Korean's. Even after all the food in the last 24 hours, Kellan b-lined to the buffet. I just wanted some coffee and water. And when I was waiting for my coffee, I saw all the food. And a poached egg caught my eye. And then toast with a zucchini spread. And then a mango-passion fruit smoothie. So I piled them on my plate in a balancing fashion a la my old waitressing days. #fail. I knocked my elbow and everything went flying and things shattered and I got smoothie all over my pants and shirt. Like baby vomit. I'd like to say I was embarrassed but I've become at peace with my clumsiness. I just smiled and looked for a server and apologized. One of the Emirates staff came over to ask if I was ok. I said yes, just made a mess. She said, "Accidents happen. As long as you're ok. Isn't that smoothie amazing?"
It was. I drank the smoothie but did not refill my plate. I took the spill as a sign that I really didn't need to be eating.
It was the perfect time for a shower. A nice hot shower was everything. It's amazing what feeling clean can do for your mood. When I emerged from the shower, I found Kellan drinking champagne with an older woman. I walked over and it turns out she is on our flight and she lives on the South Island. She gave us a few tips for traveling and a couple recommendations for restaurants and vineyards.
Sydney International Airport
Christchurch International Airport
I made a point of requesting a GPS for the car so we could avoid getting lost and frustrated with each other. As soon as we got in the car we pulled out of the rental car parking lot, the GPS failed me/I failed. As the navigator I'm responsible for getting us to where we need to be, regardless if the GPS isn't working. The GPS is probably from 1998 and doesn't have the option of multiple routes and it wasn't matching what my google map said. So we took a wrong turn but eventually got to where we needed.
Christchurch, the land of gravel parking lots. All the public lots we saw were gravel or big pebble stones, including the one at our hotel. Once we'd checked into our hotel, we got out of our hiking boots we'd been wearing for a day and a half. That felt good. We put on some sneakers and headed out. We walked for about 2 hours, and I'd say we saw most of the city. It's small and very walkable. It felt like a ghost town. Not a lot of people, most stores and cafes closed (it was after 5, but still). There is clearly a lot of destruction and change as a result of the 2011 earthquake. Something like 1,100 buildings were demolished, the infrastructure (roads, electric, sewers, etc.) were all severely damaged, which has slowed rebuilding. We tried to imagine what the city would have been like before, but it was hard to do. We walked through the main city park and some of the botanical gardens. We stopped by the Cathedral. We walked through the re:Start city mall, what started as a pseudo "refugee camp" for local businesses after the earthquake and turned into a little shopping mall. Most of the stores/shops/cafes are housed in shipping containers. There's also a food court. At 6:30pm on a Saturday, it was completely closed and dead. Again, this was just weird.
Once we completed the circuit back to our hotel, we went down a little pedestrian walk that has a bunch of shops and bars and restaurants. There were basically only 4 places open. We went to two of them for happy hour. At about 9:15 we headed back to the hotel. I needed a snack because there was a chance we'd be getting up at 3:30 and not eating until after 10. We got soup at the hotel restaurant. Spinach, coconut, and ginger with chunks of smoked salmon. Yum.
I set the alarm for 3:30am since we would have to be at the flight field for our hot air ballooning at 4:45. The company said it's email us at 3am to let us know if we would still go. When the alarm went off, I checked my email and the flight had been called off. We were prepared for that - the weather was not great.
DAY 4Jan 17 2016
The bad news: our hot air balloon ride was cancelled because of bad weather. The good news: instead of waking up at 3:30am, we got to sleep until 7am. We did a short workout in the hotel gym to get the blood flowing and then grabbed some breakfast before hitting the road to our next stop: Mount Cook
We drove in on and off rain on a scenic road to our first stop of the day: Lake Tekapo. There were a few nice views, but sadly the clouds blocked a lot. We saw a lot of cows and sheep (though not ever so many at once that we were blown away -yet) and we noticed that all the farms had manicured tree/shrub borders. Kellan was blown away by this - why spend time and effort and money to keep your borders manicured? These things were perfectly shaved into flush walls. They look really nice, though!
Lake Tekapo is known for its turquoise blue coloring (from rock flour from the mountains) and for a small church built in the 1930s. The lake was definitely blue, but because of the clouds, we did not get the full effect. The backdrop of the lake is supposed to be pretty magnificent as well, but again, because of the clouds we couldn't see much. The church was tiny but beautiful. It's still operating and faces the lake with a big panoramic window, you can tell why it was built there. As we were taking photos and admiring the scene, the sun decided to grace us with its presence! It was strong and glorious. We then headed to the Mt. John Observatory, about a 10min drive from the lake, operated by the University of Canterbury. From the top of the hill, we could see almost all of Lake Tekapo and some of the mountains in the distance.
We then continued to our stop for the night: Mt. Cook Village.
Mount Cook National Park
The drive to Mt. Cook was a bit different - all of a sudden instead of flat plains, there were lots of hills and visions of mountains. We eventually hit the next "cold lake", Lake Pukaki (there are 3 main lakes in this region, known as cold lakes because they are glacially cold year round). This was much bigger and appeared more blue thank Tekapo. We turned off the main road to drive west into the valley towards Mt. Cook. We drove along the lakes long side. On a clear day it would have been amazing views. It was still beautiful with the clouds/rain. Before checking into our hotel, we made a pit stop at the Tasman Terminal Lake view. About 8 mins from our hotel was a short steep walk to the top off a hill, from which you could see the Tasman Glacier (the largest in the South Island), it's lake and it's icebergs. Worth the short hike (we got up in 9 mins). There was a sign that showed the melting of the glacier over the last 100 years. Pretty crazy to see how much had disappeared. I did learn how icebergs worked.
Our hotel is the nicest one in the village (when we were booking it was also the only one with vacancies). We paid for a mountain view room - it certainly had a view, we just couldn't see all of it. We had let all the hotels we booked know we were visiting for our honeymoon in hopes of some special treatment. We received no special treatment in Christchurch. The Hermitage left us a nice note and a small bottle of wine. We immediately went to the lounge for happy hour. Two beers and some internet for our blog. When we were done with our beers, we walked down to one of the other hotels that had a less expensive restaurant (the hermitage had $45 entree night because they could - not that we are against spending that kind of money, but when that's the only "nice" option available you don't have a choice. And we like choices. So we headed to this other place that was attached to motel. It was actually quite nice. It was kind of cafeteria style - place an order get a number pick up your food at a counter. We were really hungry. The company was great but the 45min wait for food was making me grumpy. We weren't sure why it took so long since the place was maybe 60% full. Anyway, the food ended up being really good! I had salmon and Kellan got lamb chop. We ordered french fries that were tossed with chili pepper and garlic. Yum. At dinner we talked about beer brewing, Kellan's senior design project at Bucknell (trying to accomplish continuous fermentation during beer making), pros and cons of different business/first flight service we've gotten, and genetics. After dinner we started feeling tired. We went back to our hotel lobby for one more drink and Internet and then headed to bed. I drifted off to sleep as Kellan read a Wikipedia article on sir Edmund Hillary, a Kiwi and first person to summit Mount Everest. He was also the first to summit Aoraki, the highest peak of the mountains where we were.
DAY 5Jan 18 2016
Mount Cook National Park
I did not sleep the best (pillow wasn't great so my neck hurt, my stomach was bothering me, and I woke up with some post-nasal drip). Around 7am, the view outside had gotten worse. We were supposed to hike that morning and then go gliding in the afternoon, but it was raining and there was poor visibility so we decided to not hike (we'd be hiking and getting wet for no reason) that we'd head on to our next stop and stop at the gliding place on the way to confirm there'd be no flights today. Before we left, at around 8am, we watched a 20 min show about Mt. Aoraki/Cook. Didn't learn anything, just saw about of footage of how awesome the area is and got a little sad we wouldn't be seeing it first hand.
On the drive to Omarama (where the gliding is) we took a short detour to a site called The Clay Cliffs. We had to drive on gravel roads and pay $5 on the honor system. The cliffs are on private property. When we got to the point our car couldn't go anymore, we put on some rain gear and our hiking boots and tramped up a path where we had some close encounters with several sheep. Too bad they are scared of humans, they were so close but they're also really fast. Our guide book said it'd be a 15 min hike but I think we made it to the spot faster. It was a cool stop. Lots of clay cliffs that were tall and skinny, kind of like spikes or like a sand castle made by dripping sand on top itself. We hiked up in pretty far. It was soft and very clay colored. On the way back to the car we saw two other older couples walking towards the cliffs. The rain wasn't so bad, we got back in the car and continued to Omarama. We got to the airfield and didn't see any planes or gliders out, which was not a good sign. Inside the office we said we had reservations for later and that this was on our way to our next stop and we just wanted to stop in and confirm there'd be no flying today. There would be no flying today. Thwarted again! We stopped to get a snack and coffee and gas up and then continued another hour to our next stop: Wanaka
Wanaka is a complete 180 from Christchurch. It's buzzing with people and activity. We arrived around 11, our B&B check in was around 4. So we did a little driving tour of town. Lots of shops and bars and restaurants right on the lake. People everywhere walking, biking, swimming, boating, even with some drizzle. I think I was a little tired because I was a little grumpy still thinking of the rain, Kellan said we should take a car nap. So we did. We parked in the lot on the lake and snoozed for about an hour and a half? Afterwards we decided to go for a short hike for some views of the town and lake. The hike was about a 5k loop and we decided to run it. 2 mins out of town there's a lot. We changed into active clothes and off we went, almost immediately regretting the decision to run. Kellan egged me on, and we did make it to the top with a few short breath-catching breaks. The trail seems popular, even among locals, many of whom had dogs with them. At the top the views were great. Again, we had some sun peaking through the clouds. The way down was much easier and I just focused on my prize at the end: bottles of water.
We felt good and energized and by that time we thought we might be able to check in. We got to the hotel around 3:45pm and thankfully were greeted by Liz, the house's/property's owner. She is a woman about 60 years of age, super friendly and knowledgeable about the area. Though by no means pushy, she definitely continues to bring up paid excursions and the same restaurant recommendations multiple times. The local owners must all try to help each other out. We learned the that the B&B was relatively new and that Liz (and her husband Neil who was not home) have gotten around. She shuttles guests to and from town (about a 3 minute drive), which will be nice when we want to have a drink or two.
We settled in our room, took a shower and then headed to town. Such a picturesque setting on the lake. We took Liz's recommendation to have drinks at Gin and Raspberry, where we encountered a bartender from California. Kellan continued his quest to find a good hoppy beer in NZ and I drank a made up concoction by the bartender, a gin old fashioned. It was interesting but not great. Kellan had another beer, I had a Bloody Mary, and the third and last drink at the bar was another beer and a white wine. For the most part we were outside (the bar is on the second floor of a building and has a nice outdoor deck). There was a group of three couples and an extra guy who were a bit older and they were hysterically laughing and being loud and making jokes and crafting inappropriate objects out if I don't even know and violating the "deck ornaments". They were clearly having a good time. It started to rain and we decided to move on after 3 drinks. We went to another bar/cafe and had another drink before grabbing dinner. Both our host, Liz, and the bartender at the last bar recommended an Indian place called Spice Room so that's where we went. We were excited for some spicy food - not that the food here is not flavorful, but apparently spicy is not a practiced thing. The food was amazing. When we finished, the owner of the restaurant, who'd been serving us, called Liz to pick us up. She gave us a bar of chocolate on the way out. Back at home we felt full and exhausted. We changed into our matching PJs and immediately fell asleep on a nice king bed.
DAY 6Jan 19 2016
We woke up like clockwork around 7am and lounged in bed on the Internet, or reading our guide book to try to figure out what to do today. It was forecasted to rain in the afternoon and it was a bit cloudy this morning. We had two options and went out to the house for breakfast. Liz had prepared a lovely spread: fruit, granola, yoghurt, fresh baked bread, jams, butter, cheese, juice, coffee, water, and then she asked us how we like our eggs, and she brought us out platters with two patches eggs on toast, bacon, hashbrown, and tomato. Yum yum yum. We chatted with Liz a bit about what to do that day. She suggested we do a short walk around Diamond Lake, which was on the way to our two options (Roy's Peak and Rob Roy Glacier) because it was pretty low altitude and out of the clouds. Hen we could decide after if we think it's clear enough to do another one. So that's what we did. By 8:45 we were in town picking up a couple sandwiches for lunch in case we needed them and then on the road to Diamond Lake. The drive was beautiful. We were right along the lake for the most part and drove on a couple different bays. One of the bays is a camping park. We guess there must be 700 tents/trailers or approx. 3,000 people on one bay. Pretty impressive. We learned later from Liz that these camping spots were essentially deeded and passed down through families generation after generation. Liz grew up in the Wanaka area and said she spent several summers camping there when she was little. She also said that some families rent out their nice houses in Wanaka for a month for double their mortgage and camp for a month to make decent money. We drove by a cool looking vineyard, which we said we'd stop at before we leave. We drove by the entrance to Roy's Peak track, visibility at the top was poor. We made it to the lake trailhead and began. It was only about a 40min hike up, 5k round trip. We did get gain some altitude but it was pretty easy all around. The top had a nice view of town. We decided that we'd attempt Roy's Peak because it was closer. Roy's Peak is an estimated 6 hour return hike. We were confident that we could do it in much less. But first, we took a car nap...😴😴 after the car nap, we put on some sunscreen, I strapped on my new pack (it has a 2.5L camel back and it's my new best friend), and away we went. At first I felt great and like I was making a lot of progress. But it was an illusion since we couldn't see the top third of what we were climbing. The first part of the climb was beautiful. A bit boring since it was the same road just switching back and forth but the views were great. It was steeeep. I ended up carrying the pack the whole way up and Kellan carried it down. At one point we decided to put on some music. Our legs started to burn. Our heels started to hurt (for me that would mean blisters) and our lower backs were aching. We were moving pretty fast and only stopped once for photos. We eventually got into the clouds and every time we passed someone we'd ask "How much further?" The answer always felt like 30 mins. We knew we were almost at the top but my blisters were hurting and Kellan was concerned about them. Then it started to rain. We called it (what we later figured was about 20 mins short of the top) because of those two things and the fact that we wouldn't be able to see anything anyway. The way down a bit easier on the heart and lungs (and the heels) but was hard on the quads, the knees and the toes. At some point I started running the steeper downhill parts and then winding back and forth like an airplane while singing along to the music. I think Kellan's feet really hurt him but we eventually made it back down!! We hiked about 20km all in that day (about 13 miles!) We were ready for a shower and happy hour. Back at the B&B we got cleaned up and Liz served us a little happy hour. We had some sparkling Pinot Gris, which was excellent, and tried some of Liz's son's beer. He started his own brewing company called Ground Up, which is slowly growing. The beer was excellent too, probably some of the best we've had (we've found the beer to be pretty plain/boring up until this point). We chatted with Liz for a while - she was an ER nurse, then a teacher, and then eventually started the B&B. She's travelled pretty extensively with her husband and had some fun stories about hosting people. We got driven into town and popped into Speights Ale House for a beer. This is a brewing company that has branded itself into a brew pub. The beers were decent. We ended up having dinner at Relishes Cafe. We sat outside with a heat lamp and overheard a conversation between two people traveling alone. After dinner Liz picked us up and when we got home we immediately fell asleep.
DAY 7Jan 20 2016
When we woke up it was finally sunny with some blue skies!! We ate another amazing breakfast and headed into town to pick up some beers and sandwiches for lunch. Then we drove an hour to the trailhead for Rob Roy Glacier Track. The drive there was beautiful. It was partly on an unpaved road, which wasn't bad except that Kellan kept getting frustrated with drivers who were slow and wouldn't move out of our way. This hike was shorter than yesterday's but way more interesting and scenic. It was a pretty windy day but once we were in the woods on the trail it wasn't bad. We crossed a swing bridge that was swaying back and forth and then were on the trail. Lots of ups and downs, a mix of alpine and rain forest feels, the glacial river was constantly roaring and you could hear birds and insects. I was in sneakers to avoid more blisters and so was running the trail at some points. I decided I could really get into trail running. Too bad there's not much of that easily accessible at home. When we finally got to the end, the glacier was, as our guide book said, Wowing. Beautiful contrast of green, white, gray, and blue. We sat and ate lunch and had a couple beers and just sat and watched and listened. Kellan practiced using the telephoto lens. Then we ran almost the whole way back. On the way back to town, we stopped at a vineyard on a hill. It was closing shortly but we still had time for a tasting. The Otago region is known for making Pinot and more specifically Pinot Noir. We bought a bottle and had a glass out on the property. More amazing views. I should note that lavender is everywhere in NZ and this vineyard had a lot so it smelled really good. We decided to switch things up and stayed in town instead of showering before happy hour. We had a couple of beers, ate dinner on the water and then headed back to the B&B. We drank the rest of the bottle of Pinot in the hot tub and watched a semblance of a sunset.
DAY 8Jan 21 2016
Our last morning in Wanaka we ate and then hit the road. The drive to downtown Queenstown is about 50 mins. We took the scenic route over the Crown Range and quickly drove through a village called Arrowtown. Another nice day so we took advantage by driving the road from Queenstown to Glenorchy, another small village. This drive is supposed to be one of the most scenic in the country. Kellan says it reminds him of the PCH. Lake Wakatipu's water is a beautiful blue and very clear. With the blue skies it was great sights. We stopped in town for a quick coffee and soup and then drove the road to Paradise (a place). A lot of the Lord of the Rings was filmed there/inspired by this region. When we got back to Queenstown, we decided to also drive up the ski road to The Remarkables, a suggestion from our guidebook. They were doing road work so we had to wait half an hour to continue up, but it was worth the wait. When we finally got to our hotel, we enjoyed a bottle of champagne that the staff left us as well as a nice upgraded room with a view of the lake and mountains. We then walked around town for a while checking out the scene and decided on a place for dinner. We ate steak. It was yummy. Then we walked around some more and stopped in at a few bars for some drinks. All the bars were fun atmospheres and something a little different to offer. I think we ended up staying out until 12:30am, which was the latest we've been up this trip!
DAY 9Jan 22 2016
DAY 10Jan 23 2016
DAY 11Jan 24 2016
DAY 12Jan 25 2016
We decided to cut our time in rainy New Zealand short, and spend two extra days in Tahiti 😬😎 (with all our canceled excursions, it basically evens out...)
DAY 13Jan 26 2016
DAY 14Jan 27 2016
DAY 15Jan 28 2016
DAY 16Jan 29 2016
DAY 17Jan 30 2016
DAY 18Jan 31 2016
DAY 19Feb 01 2016
Los Angeles International Airport
John F. Kennedy International Airport
Back at the airport we learned that when Air Tahiti Nui rebooked our connecting flight we were going to miss, we were rebooked in first instead of business. Flying surprises until the end!
John F. Kennedy International Airport