At 3:30 am, feeling less than stellar, we got up and left the hostel. We had to wake our cab driver, who was snoozing outside, in order to load into the taxi. Paul said the driver continued to doze off while driving us to the airport, but I was too nauseous to notice. From there, we went through nearly the same route in reverse, flying from New Zealand to Australia and then to LA before finally landing, nearly 40 hours later, in Minneapolis. The timing of our flight combined with the time zone shifts meant we left on Monday and got back on Monday. This resulted in us eating a ridiculous amount of meals at odd times. I think it is possible we ate 3 lunches that day!
We were definitely sad to see the trip end as we could have been happily busy for so much longer in New Zealand. But, we knew we had limited time and that we made the most of our time there. Paul said the picture above (drawn on a wall at Spa Lodge Backpackers) really captured how it feels to leave New Zealand. Big, fat unicorn tears.
Blogging about this trip would not be complete until I trace this trip back to its source. Paul and I were able to take this trip because of a generous gift. My mom and her husband Roger inherited some money when Roger's brother Jim passed away. Jim was a well-traveled man who placed great value in seeing the world. He lived according to that value, working in many different countries throughout his life, many of them developing nations. When he passed away and money from his estate went to my Mom and Roger, they wanted to use some it in a way that would have pleased Jim. The chose to give my sister, Paul and I the very generous gift of airfare to anywhere we wanted to go. The instructions were to pick somewhere we may not have otherwise been able to visit. (My sister Jessy went to Kenya!) So, we thought long and hard about what would be a memorable and rewarding place for us to go that both Paul and I would enjoy. We finally settled on New Zealand, as halfway around the world is pretty much as far away as one can go!
This trip was truly memorable and also very well timed. When we received the gift, we both had just started new jobs. As soon as we chose where we wanted to go, we spent the next year saving up money and vacation time. It took a full year to get it all in place and now that we went, it is safe to say we have the travel bug! We plan to continue saving at the same pace so we can travel again as soon as possible. The gift from Jim, Roger and my mom has definitely encouraged us to dream big! So, folks, tell us! Where would you go if you were given a gift like this? Where should we go next? Such fun questions to ponder!
You know, sometimes when generosity starts flowing your way, it keeps on flowing. When Paul's mom found out what we were planning, she surprised us with some money to spend on something special while we were there. With her funds, we went on that amazing caving trip. Although, she may not have approved of our choice if she could have weighed in on the decision ahead of time!
And, my friend Pam was so excited for us when I told her where we were going, she pulled out some cash and gave us the instruction to have a treat on her there. We bought the ingredients for this tasty fruit and nut plate with her gift.
And, last but certainly not least, a debt of gratitude goes to Meg and Cyrus for holding down the homefront while we went on our adventures. They moved into our house and took care of Jack, Tchazo, Fanny, our plants and our house. I think they may have even had to shovel while we were gone! We felt completely comfortable leaving our home and our family in their capable hands. It was wonderful to know that our pets got to stay home and be stress-free while we were away. And, Meg and Cyrus are insanely considerate house guests to boot!
So, folks, that is the end. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone mentioned above and to Paul, the best traveling partner (and all-around partner) I could ever hope for. And, thanks to you for reading through this and experiencing a bit of NZ with me. For the time being, we'll go back to regularly scheduled programming around here (knitting, life, food), but I have a feeling we'll be traveling again soon.
(One more thing! Yesterday, we got the reimbursement check from Delta! We were not going to take no for an answer and I think they might have figured that out. The lost bag saga is finished!)