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Kia Ora From New Zealand, Bo Bo, Bungee Jumping and God Bless Christ Church

Dear Friends and Family,

Kia Ora from wonderful, magical NZ! What an incredible destination this is. Unbelievable biodiversity, breathtaking scenery, tons of unique experiences, and warm, wonderful people.

We began our NZ adventure by staying at a lovely upscale Bed and Breakfast called The Arthouse in Matamata on the North Island. Our hosts Bruce and Denise were very down to earth former art gallery owners and their home was filled with one of a kind, artworks including Picasso and Frieda Kahlo to name a few. Moreover, they were situated on a jaw dropping piece of NZ farmland overlooking a mountain range. On top of that their pets were 3 Alpacas, (aka “the girls”) with personality plus! All this makes one want to consider dual citizenship...

Each morning after our gourmet breakfast, art history discussion, and Bruce’s “George Clooney coffee” (Nespresso), we set our compass for a new destination. We saw Hobbiton- the film set for the Lord of The Rings, the beaches of the Bay of Plenty, star gazed and kayaked with Glow Worms, soaked in hot springs and marvelled at geothermal beds in Rotorua .All of us decided we could easily relocate to Matamata but alas adventure called and we headed toward the South Island.

After a very long ferry ride we arrived on the Marlborough in the middle of a rainstorm to find our accommodation on a farm, in the middle of nowhere, with the key left in the door to let us in. Our host eventually turned up and was very friendly, (not at all like the axe murderer we anticipated), but he had a problem; he and his wife were scheduled to journey early the next day to Auckland and he needed someone to “ look in “ on Bo Bo the pig and feed the Alpacas. Being the polite Canadians that we are, without batting an eye, we said of course we would; like it was the most natural thing in the world for us to go on holiday and feed someone’s animals, on a farm, in a foreign country, that we had never laid eyes on before.

Having not “looked in” on a pig I don’t know what I was expecting. I think I had this fairy-tale notion of Bo Bo being a little like Wilbur in Charlotte’s web; cute, and pink, and cuddly, maybe even talkative. Bo Bo bless his heart turned out to be a 30 kg wild boar sort of thing with tusks, long fur like a scrub brush, and a big toothy grin. Sort of like a cross between a pig and the Tasmanian devil on Bugs Bunny.

After finishing our chores, we travelled to Marlborough where we sampled some lovely wine and oysters at Cloudy Bay winery while streaming the Leaf’s play off game on our laptop because they had free Wi-Fi. After all, doesn’t everyone go to a high-end winery and watch play-off hockey on the lawn while wine tasting? I drew the line though when the boys pulled out the frisbee…

From there one of our favourite stops was Kaikoura where we stayed with Lyn and Gary at their Air BnB condo on the ocean. Turns out back in the day Gary was a top-notch ski instructor who taught worldwide in France, Switzerland, Banff, and Vail. In Kaikoura we sea kayaked with seals and Albatross, surfed, dog-sat their 100 lb Labrador Retriever while they went golfing, and dined with Gary and Lyn our incredible hosts who made us feel like family.

After that we made the long, sometimes white knuckle but worth it drive to Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park- supernatural scenery! Here we boat cruised with dolphins and I logged a record 20,147 steps in one day after a 3.5 hr hike scaling the summit. I truly thought my feet were going to fall off, but I loved every minute.

This Easter weekend we biked, and bungy jumped our way through beautiful Queenstown the adventure capital of the world. Essentially, if you want to do something extreme and extremely dangerous this is where you go to do it. We invited our new friend Kasey a lovely girl from Colorado we met on the Hobbiton tour to spend Easter with us. We spent Good Friday - your Thursday, high in the air as Ross, Ryan and Kasey bungy jumped from the tallest peak in the world. I got to tag along and be there for the whole thing- it was awesome!!!! If I hadn’t had that concussion, I might have seriously considered doing it myself. Today we celebrated Easter Sunday with free yoga at Lululemon, coffee by the lake, golf, and a delicious Easter dinner we all cooked together. Out of respect for Bo Bo, we served chicken this year.

From there we hopped in the car again and journeyed to Christchurch. If I had to pick 3 words to describe Christchurch it would be strength, hope, and perseverance. Before arriving here, I knew that Christchurch had experienced an earthquake in 2011, and some after shocks, however, I had no idea the devastation, loss of life, or property damage this city had experienced. Consequently, one cannot possibly discuss Christchurch without acknowledging what this city and its people have gone through, or be touched beyond words at the hope these individuals hold for the future.

To help us understand these events we enlisted the guidance of Guided Walking Tours run by Mary and Abigail. Now Mary and Abigail aren’t your stereotypical Tour Guides. Mary and Abigail are two stoic ladies who wouldn’t say “&$@!” if their mouth was full of it but could put you in your place and have you “sorted” faster than any drill Sargent with the NZ armed forces. M and A are each pushing 80, or so, and sit in a little red booth the size of a matchbox across from the Botanical Gardens. They run two tours a day.

After doing my google search of walking tours and coming up short I stumbled upon “the ladies.” Btw, I always try to do a walking tour when I travel, and I recommend you do too; it is a wonderful way to learn about the area from the locals and very cost effective. So, like Gilligan, we put our names on the roster and for $20.00 got a 3-hour tour.

Now Mary doesn’t believe in microphones, so we had to listen very closely as she spoke. In fact, I think most people might have given up trying to hear her. But what came through loud and clear was that she was proud of her town, and with her very small footprint was trying to put Christchurch back on the map as a destination.

What we learned was both horrifying and hopeful. On February 22nd at approximately 12:13pm a quake measuring 6.3 hit the very centre of Christchurch. It killed 185 people and left hundreds injured and homeless. Daily life essentially stopped as we know it; children didn’t go to school, people didn’t go to work, and a lot of people didn’t go to the bathroom where they used to go because all plumbing and water was gone- not just for hours or days, but for months! Buildings were torn down, businesses were shuttered, and people stopped going to Christchurch.

However here is where the hopeful part comes in; because all universities were closed indefinitely, a student started a Facebook group and mobilized an army of thousands of student volunteers- pretty much every student in every post secondary institution, who dug out ash, brought water and food to people, took care of pets, and basically did anything that needed doing for the next year. Since the cathedral was decimated and closed a “cardboard cathedral” was erected to not only provide a place of worship, but to support and provide services for anyone who needed it. Moreover, Australia ( who doesn’t usually get along with NZ), offered anything and everything needed; including 60,000 portable toilets so people could go again when they needed to.

Whilst I have your attention ( they say whilst a lot in NZ), let me indulge you with a brief Kiwi lingo primer with translation:

Trim Milk = Low fat milk

Flat White = Coffee with milk

Sweet -as = Fantastic!

Crackin’ Night = We’re going to have a great night and get ourselves into a bit of trouble while doing so….

Kia Ora = Hello and Welcome

We’ll get this sorted = We will get this organized.

Lazy Shag = Self Explanatory

An incredible trip in an incredible country you have to visit. Or as they say in NZ sweet-as!

Cheers and thanks for hanging in there with us… off to Fiji this week so stay tuned...

Stay, Play, Dine and Shop in New Zealand!

Click on the photos below for direct links to Jane's "Must Do's" in New Zealand.

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