Sunday, April 28, 2013

New Zealand Adventure

I had dreamt of going to New Zealand for many years.  It was a place that I thought if I ever went to I might not come back.   I had been saving a long time for the trip so when I found a great off season special I booked it.   My flight to Los Angeles was delayed due to wildfires and I remember thinking how fortunate I am and that set the tone for the entire trip. 

Because of the delay I was minutes away from missing my connection to Auckland and there wasn't another flight for 3 days.  When the ticket agent gave me my boarding pass she told me to run and when I arrived at the gate to not hand my boarding pass to the gate agent but to drop it – if they picked it up they would let me on the plane.  I felt like a television commercial running through LAX with my bag.  Fortunately, I only had one small carry on with me (reason #32 to always pack light!) so I was able to move quickly.  The gate agents saw me running and told me not to worry they would wait for me.  It was such a relief.  I wasn’t a very experienced traveler then and didn’t really know how to make alternate arrangements or what to do if I got stuck at an airport.  As I boarded the plane the flight attendants assured me that they would take good care of me and that my holiday started now!  It was by far the best airport and flight experience I have ever had due to the wonderful people at Qantas!

After arriving in Auckland I immediately flew to the south island.  I stayed at a lovely B&B in Nelson and the hostess recommended a short walk in Abel Tasman National Park.  I was still tired from the long trip so a nice walk sounded perfect.  I took a small boat with about 20 people to be dropped off at the trailhead.  I was more than surprised when I was the only one getting off as they handed me a map and told me to be on the other side in 5 hours to be picked up.  When I asked how long it would take they said 4 – 5 hours depending on how quickly I walked.  At first I was terrified as I stood alone and watched the boat pull away.  With the Tasman Sea on one side and the Rainforest on the other it was time to begin my trek.

Walking (or tramping as it’s called in NZ) along this trail was unbelievable.  I felt like a character in a fairytale; I was so far away from home in this strange and beautiful place.  It was a glorious day with the bright blue sky blending with the color of the sea and the lush green forest shining from the morning dew.  Staying very cognizant of the time I moved quickly following the few small trail markers along the way.  I only paused briefly to eat and take photos but I had no idea how long it would take me to get to the pick-up location so I didn’t want to waste time.  I only encountered a handful of people (going in the opposite direction) none of whom spoke English so I felt totally isolated.  Part of that was frightening but it also made me feel strong and determined.  When I arrived at the pick-up spot I felt such a feeling of accomplishment.  It was a truly the most beautiful hike I’ve ever taken. 

I traversed the entire south island by train and coach and was amazed at the diversity of this gorgeous country; coastlines, rainforests, glaciers, mountains and lush rolling green plains.  It was all so beautiful but it wasn’t until I flew over Milford Sound in a small 6 seater plane that I thought to myself - if I were to die now I would be a happy woman.  Since I was traveling alone the pilot let me sit next to him in the cockpit, what an unbelievable experience.  It was absolutely surreal and the perfect way to end my New Zealand adventure.

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