At the beginning of the year I attended an international travel show in Long Beach. The main reason was to get information for my business trip to Japan. However, the show ended up being a gold mine of resources for almost any destination on the planet.
I did get the information I needed to mix business with pleasure in Tokyo, but I also walked away with some great ideas and deals for traveling back to Australia so that I could visit some friends.
Air Tahiti Nui (TN) was promoting their new route from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand. It was a flexible route that allowed two free stop-overs in Tahiti and three free nights of accommodation at various hotels around Papeete. They also had an extended trip that included flying to Sydney or Melbourne. All this was capable because TN recently established a partnership with Air New Zealand. The best part was the price. Only $900 USD return. So after thinking long and hard over a series of months whether to take the plunge or not, I booked the flights on the final day of the promotion.
Due to time constraints, the Australian portion of the trip was cancelled. Nonetheless, a commitment was made to be dropped off in Auckland – a commitment that could not be changed. We were going to New Zealand and that was it. What we were going to do once we landed ended up being a two month project. A project that created a memorable and cultural experience on an efficient budget. This included renting a car, organizing hotel stays, inquiring about Baches (aka a Kiwi Cottage) through BookABach.co.nz, setting up local tours, and finding cheap airfare inside the country. So when November came, I had everything planned down to locations, travel distances, dates, and times. Looking back on the details, I don’t think I could have done it without my certification in project management and knowledge of gantt charts and MS Project
But seriously, the flight to Tahiti and New Zealand was very enjoyable as we were upgraded to business class straight through to Auckland. It was such a pleasant surprise when I was telling the ticket attend that we were in row 29 and she found our seats in row 3.
Upon arriving in Auckland, we took the local bus downtown and walk a few blocks to our hotel. The second pleasant surprise was that when we arrived at the hotel at 11am, our room was already prepared. So, with a little rest followed by a shower to freshen up, we spent the first night in New Zealand like tourists walking around, taking pictures, and enjoying the sights.
What really surprised me in Auckland is that they have Montréal Bagels. There is also a large French population and sometimes it felt like I was visiting Montréal. There are quite a few things to see and do in Auckland, but because the weather was not that great, the farthest we walked was up the hill to the war museum. We were also able take the train a short distance out of the city and visit a friend I met Japan nearly twenty years ago. When we met, it was like no time had passed at all and that everything was the same – except of course for having a house, a husband, a few pets, and two amazing teenage kids. It was great to see them and at the same time, experience true Kiwi hospitality in a suburban setting (excellent coffee, too!).
Once outside Auckland, a drive through the countryside is both peaceful and relaxing. I brought my drone on the plane and found New Zealand to be the perfect place to fly. New Zealand has wide open spaces and a lush countryside that’s perfect for taking pictures and videos.
On top of that, there is Maori culture everywhere and everyone we met and talked to were extremely friendly, happy, and accommodating. I think it’s the perfect place to raise children and I couldn’t believe that McDonald’s had a complete full-size airplane as a play area.
Of course, being in New Zealand, we also checked out where Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed. This journey down Middle Earth was pretty amazing and make for a nice side adventure. As a matter of fact, I think that Hobbiton and the Waitomo Caves, to see The Shire and glow worms, respectively, should be on everyone’s list when visiting North Island. I also recommend seeing the Actinidia Chinensis plantations and trying to catch a glimpse of the Kiwi birds. I hope to return in the near future to visit the Coromandel peninsula and South Island.
Some other Kiwi-specific eye openers were discovering how big a Kiwi hole is and Farm Fairways. Farm Fairways are golf courses in rural areas where the farmers make their land available to play on and have the sheep do all grass trimming. In California we have a Greens Superintendent, but in New Zealand, that job would go to the Farm Manager. I’ve also been told that the sheep have an inborn radar for knowing when to move out of the way when you’re playing up the green. The next time I go to New Zealand I’m going to play some golf and see if I can experience this first hand.
I’ll talk more about New Zealand in December’s Photo History as we’re still here. But I’ve also written little more about my New Zealand experiences in these blogs:
On closing I just want to say that I saw many active people in New Zealand. I also found it interesting how the government and various companies or enterprises promote an environmentally aware and healthy lifestyle. For example, I came across a number of Powerade Challenge Stations in Auckland and Wellington. I think this is a great concept that could help curb obesity issues in North America.