Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Home Sweet America

The Meesh and I have officially been home for a little over a week. Upon arrival at the Minneapolis airport, my brother and his beautiful family greeted us with a beautiful bag of Chipotle. So many beautiful elements coming together.

So now to back track a little...

We met up with my parents in Christchurch on the South Island on our second day in NZ. Our first day included two failed attempts to land in Christchurch and being re-routed to Wellington, having a generous allowance from Jet Star to feast, staying at a trucker stop and playing pool with some locals, and then hitchhiking to the airport. The locals taught us a lot of interesting things like, you can't sue people in New Zealand, and that there are 12x as many sheep as there are people.

After connecting with my parentals, who from here on out we'll refer to as Bar and T-Ho (Barbara and Thomas), we set off to dominate New Zealand. Boy did we ever.

South Island:
We started our trek in Christchurch which was a nice little quaint town, and then made our way to the Aoraki Peninsula where we went on a boat ride to see hector dolphins (the smallest and rarest of all dolphins). Thus began an amazing time of seeing absolutely beautiful wildlife in NZ, that included but isn't limited to Alba Tross, Yellow-eyed penguins, blue penguins, dolphins, seal pups, big horned sheep, and sting rays. The dolphins swam along with our boat and took turns jumping out of the water. There was even a little baby dolphin. We also saw a couple gangs of seals (who appeared to be doing yoga poses on the rocks), as well as a couple of blue penguins. Enjoy this picture of a dolphin and the fam:

In all honesty, I don't remember or know the names of a lot of the places we visited and saw. For one, the names were long and confusing. Two, T-Ho was the chief planner. As a whole, the South Island was spectacular. The scenery, the lack of people, the color of the water... Lakes in New Zealand are an emerald, turquoise, see-through color. They are amazingly beautiful. As our the sunrises, as seen from this lovely Holiday Park.

There are also sheep everywhere. For those of you who do not know my mom, she is a sheep lover/fanatic. She would chase sheep through fields, valleys, and mountains. The sheep were certainly given a run for their money, pun. If I remember correctly, there are 60 million sheep in New Zealand (only 4 million people). Much to Michelle's joy, there were also lots of border collies to chase the sheep around when Bar wasn't present. One day, we went to a sheep show where we witnessed the shearing of a sheep, as well as the border collies running around and jumping all over the sheep. At one point, one of the dogs laid down on top of the sheep and started kissing its face. Our hearts melted like warm butter. Here are some sheep glam shots as well as Meesh with a statue of a dog and my Mom being selected as a volunteer to feed a baby sheep:

Some other highlights in the South Island included going to see Mt. Cook, Fjordland National Park, Doubtful Sound, Milford Sound, and the Moeraki Boulders. We also went on a wine tour where we not only sampled various wines from the region, but Michelle also got to budge in front a 5 year old to feed a baby llama. It was really funny, much to the child's chagrin.

In Nelson (the sunniest city in NZ, and also home to the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park), we went skydiving! It was a bit of an impromptu decision, but what an amazing decision it was. Unbeknownst to us, T-Ho has always wanted to go skydiving and Bar being the champ she is, stepped right up as well. We already posted some pictures, so give those a looksy if you'd like. We also have a video of each of us jumping that is pretty funny as well. T-Ho was cool as a cucumber. Bar was giving lots of thumbs up. Meesh was licking her lips and blinking furiously. I couldn't close my mustachioed mouth.

North Island:
In the North, we continued our adventure with white water rafting and sledging. For those of you who do not know what sledging is, you essentially go white water rafting but by yourself and on a small sled with handles. It proved to be a lot more invigorating and terrifying than any of us expected. Bar, true to form again, conquered both rafting and sledging, which for someone who doesn't like to be in water, is pretty incredible. Here are some pictures including the 7 meter (22 foot) waterfall that we rafted down!

Other highlights on the North Island included seeing glow worm caves (yes, like on Planet Earth), seeing the "clearest" water in the world (PuPu Springs, pronounced poo-poo. The visibility is 65 feet), seeing Mordor (not as evil as expected, Michelle is taking a cookie from it and I'm sitting on it), and going to a traditional Maori dinner and show. Here are photos of the aforementioned activities.

We concluded our time with Bar and T-Ho at Cathedral Cove, where they filmed part of the Narnia movies. The beach is absolutely beautiful. Michelle wanted to do a little photo shoot, so I decided to sass it up a bit. You may want to shield your eyes, dim your screen, or leave the room. You were warned.

After having an amazing 3 weeks with my parents, we bid them farewell and told them to warm up America for us. We only had one more week on the North Island before we too would make the long journey home. We decided to park ourselves on Waiheke Island, just 35 minutes from Auckland. The island was beautiful and mostly devoid of any people, save for senior citizens. They thankfully welcomed us with open arms. We spent most of our time there eating boxes of Cocoa Krispies, playing lots of two person Euchre (thanks Yuji), and picking up shells from the beach. It was the perfect way to conclude our 6 month adventure.

So now we're home and it's a bit of a surreal feeling. It's hard to believe the past 6 months happened. They were easily the best of my life and I am beyond grateful for all of the experiences, and to have shared them with the Meesh. We likely won't be embarking on another 6 month trip, but we certainly still have the travel itch. Hopefully it can be scratched sometime early 2011?

As a quick shameless plug, we'll be posting more of the photography to our site as we continue to get through all of the images ( It's a family friendly site and should provide a few minutes of solid entertainment.

Before we sign off, here are some very memorable father son photos. T-Ho agreed to shave his beard to the highly regarded fu-manchu mustache. It was a bonding moment for the two of us.

Also, here is a photo of Michelle eating Dominos pizza in bed on the last night of our trip as well as a picture of her holding a street sign of her former last name, current middle name. Thank you for following along and for all of the love over the past few months. Much love from the Hoffners.