The seeds of our New Zealand trip were planted years ago by a friend whose pictures and memories inspired us. After we retired in early 2016 we began planning a month-long trip with the help of Pique Travel Designer, Kris Nosworthy. Being bookish types, we had a fairly long list of things to do and see, knew we wanted to travel by car or caravan and wished for a trip that made us feel like we’d met and learned about the people of New Zealand. Kris put a structure to our wish list as he mapped out a tentative route that took us from Minnesota to Auckland to Stewart Island and home again. With Kris’ help we made a few changes to the itinerary, dropping a couple things that didn’t seem to fit us, adding an adventure and keeping a couple stops that Kris told us we couldn’t miss (he was right!).
While travelling to Alberta, Canada last fall, we happened to meet a couple from New Zealand. When they saw our proposed itinerary, they rated it as complete so we knew we were ready to go.
We left for New Zealand in February and had a fantastic time. Travel was made so easy by the loose bound book made for us by Pique as it contained all the information we needed; reservations, ticket numbers, voucher numbers, addresses, contact names and phone numbers, and a contact in NZ for immediate travel questions. The book was our daily planner. We also used it to jot down notes about things we’d seen or email addresses of people we met along the way.
The people of New Zealand were welcoming and friendly, and were very curious about us – what we thought of their country and what was happening in the USA. Our first venture out in Auckland was aided by a young man who walked with us for a few blocks. We spent a morning with a Maori elder and his sister learning about their history and their local triumphs and struggles. A behind-the-scenes tour of the Te Papa national museum was of course educational, but also touched us as our host had personal connections to what we were learning. Thanks to three wonderful Stewart Island folks, we enjoyed winning a trivia night contest at the Stewart Island Hotel, and sharing the winnings (a bottle of port) afterwards.
The plant and animal life is extremely different than in North America. We were fascinated by the native birds. The Tui (a bird with two voice boxes) and the bush robin (which pecks at the ground around your feet on hiking trails) were our favorites. We enjoyed a walk with a birder who shared her knowledge and enthusiasm for New Zealand’s unique feathered creatures.
Did we mention that New Zealand is a beautiful place? OMGosh, it seemed every day’s scenery topped the previous day’s. The variety was staggering – rocky sea shore, fjords, lush forests, beaches, volcanoes, mountains, rivers and more. All of which is all fairly accessible. We enjoyed a jet boat ride followed by canoeing on the beautiful Wanganui River. A day hike along part of the Routeburn Track with a naturalist gave us a taste of one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. And horseback riding near Tongariro National Park was fantastic fun in a beautiful setting, courtesy of a father and son who are members of the local Maori tribe.
Our “taj” (thanks) to Kris Nosworthy and Pique Travel for a special trip that we will never forget.