Buckled up? Okay, then, we're off!
We started off our adventure in Queenstown, known as one of the adventure capitals of the world. Beautifully situated next to a lake and surrounded by mountains, Queenstown was our favorite city of all that we visited.
The first meal we ate in Queenstown was that remarkable chicken, cranberry, and brie pizza. It was so good that we ate it several more times throughout our trip, and I didn't hesitate to make it once we got home.
We also ate the most incredible dark chocolate gelato that I've ever tasted at a little place called Patagonia Chocolates (I was too jet lagged to remember to take pictures). I think that gelato may have changed my life. Seriously.
We enjoyed some white water rafting down the Shotover River outside of Queenstown...
...and then we left Queenstown behind us to begin our journey north.
We ended up in Twizel at a little place called Poppies (I think it might seriously be the only place to eat in Twizel). I ordered a pumpkin sage risotto...then I swooned.
Continuing on, we ended up at Mt. Cook, New Zealand's tallest mountain. It also happens to be the mountain that Sir Edmund Hilary practiced on before becoming the first person to climb Mt. Everest. Our first hike took us to the Tasman Glacier - it is melting and has formed a lake (with iceburgs!).
That hike wasn't exactly strenuous, but we still had to eat at the Hermitage, a nice (and I mean nice) lodge. I had the most delicious pumpkin soup ever.
My husband thoroughly enjoyed his pumpkin and feta canneloni.
Yes, yes, we were obviously in the pumpkin mood. It was Thanksgiving, after all.
We enjoyed hiking through the beautiful Hooker Valley to get this glimpse of Mt. Cook...
Then, it was off to Christchurch! The cathedral and botanical gardens are absolutely lovely and a perfect way to spend the day.
We celebrated Thanksgiving Day in Christchurch but couldn't find a single restaurant that served turkey. So...we ate Thai food. Haha.
We took a train out of Christchurch to the opposite side of the South Island...
...and ended up driving along the west coast, where we saw the Pancake Rocks. Don't they look like a stack of pancakes? They made me hungry.
We then headed northeast until we ended up at Abel Tasman National Park. It's beautiful - orange sand, turquoise water, penguins...
We kayaked in the ocean, spent some time on the beach, and then hiked our little toes off. What did we eat? Why, summer sausage and dehydrated chicken and rice soup...for three days. Num, num.
When we finally finished our three day trek, we were in desperate need of good food...so we stopped at a McDonalds. Yes, I know, we are pathetic. But we enjoyed every last bite!
We also went to an incredible restaurant called Lone Star. It's a chain restaurant that serves "Texas" food, but man was it good. I ate every bit of this steak...
I also ate some of hub's stuffed chicken breast. I think I may have been subconsciously punishing him for making me hike for three days with nothing to eat but summer sausage and dehydrated food. Or maybe I was just hungry. Who knows?
We took a ferry over to the North Island. It was a cold ride, but the ferry was awesome - it had both a food court and fine dining. We went to neither. In fact, with the rocking of the ferry on the waves, neither of us felt much like eating. Go figure.
We headed up to New Zealand's largest lake (Lake Taupo) for an afternoon...
...and I enjoyed a delicious shepherd's pie at a cute little restaurant called Dixie Downs. It was a little bowl of perfection!
My husband had the hair-brained idea that we should do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. We started at 6am and hiked a bazillion miles over active volcanoes! Okay, I'm lying. It wasn't a bazillion miles. It was 18 1/2 kilometers, and I almost died. Here's a visual to show you what I hiked over...
Yep, I hiked over that. Oh yeah, we also did a side hike up Mt. Doom (you know, the one from Lord of the Rings). And I also had to find multiple places to go to the bathroom along the way (and as you notice, there aren't a whole lot of bushes).
Because of the trauma of that hike, I ordered my husband to buy me a chocolate bar immediately after we were done. Knowing what's good for him, he complied.
We then headed to Rotorua for some much-needed rest and relaxation. Rotorua is a spa town to the extreme...the entire town is an active thermal area. Imagine condensing Yellowstone Park into a few square miles and then putting some luxury hotels in the smack-dab middle...that's Rotorua.
After walking around a thermal park to check out the boiling lakes and vivid colors, we went to the Fat Dog Cafe where my husband ate the biggest hamburger I have ever seen.
Well, at least he attempted to eat it...
I chose a less ambitious meal.
In case you were wondering, that red stuff on the hamburger and the salad is beetroot (or beets, as we call them in the U.S.). My husband was completely flummoxed by the pile of beetroot on his hamburger, but I loved it. I might just have to start adding beets to my hamburgers and salads back home. They added a nice bit of color and flavor, and it got my husband to eat his veggies. :-)
Before we left Rotorua, we ate a delicious breakfast at a place called Lewishams. Hubs had the corn cakes...
I had the eggs benedict...
And we both shared a bowl...yes, a bowl...of hot chocolate. Most of our experiences with hot chocolate in New Zealand were disappointing, but not this one. It was rich and wonderful.
There were sheep everywhere!
We headed to what was our favorite adventure of the whole trip...blackwater rafting through a glow worm cave. You don a wet suit, repel 100 feet into a cave, inner tube through frigid water, and then free climb up two waterfalls to get out. Oh, and the whole time, your only light source are glow worms on the cave ceiling. It was absolutely amazing!
Finally, we ended up in Wellington. We checked out the city sights...
...walked through the botanical gardens...
...and rekindled our romance. :-)
We witnessed two great friends get married...
...and then we flew home!
We learned a few things during this adventure:
- Calories don't count in New Zealand! I've gained weight on every other vacation I've ever been on, but not there. No matter how much hot chocolate, gelato, fried foods, red meat, or Nutella I ate, I didn't gain a single pound. It must be because they use the metric system there.
- Don't order nachos in New Zealand. We made that mistake not once...not twice...but three times. Don't ask me why.
- It is possible to spent 21 days in that country without eating seafood. I'm living proof.
- It just might be the prettiest place on earth.