Brad and I are finally back from our honeymoon and I've been looking at these photos over and over again in between doing the mountains of laundry that we accumulated, catching up on Mad Men, and organizing/cleaning our new home (which mostly means going through wedding gifts and putting them where they belong. We have no furniture whatsoever because um, we went to NZ for a honeymoon. Eating dinner on the floor is endearing, right?) We were gone for a little over two weeks. We flew into Auckland, drove all up and down the north island, and then flew to Queenstown in the south island.
Backstory: I was obsessed with the Lord of the Rings in middle school, and it was my dream to go to NZ for my honeymoon when I got married. Ladies, here's a tip: marry a guy who makes your dreams come true.
We arrived in Auckland at 6am NZ time after about 24 hours of travel. We were dead. And the day had just begun. And we couldn't check into our hotel until 4pm.
We rented a car and drove to downtown Auckland during rush hour. They drive on the left side of the road, so that was a fun time being thrust into crazy downtown traffic when everything you know about driving is wrong.
Also, New Zealand is SO ASIAN. I felt like we had got on the wrong plane and gone to Asia. Japanese, Thai, Cantonese, Chinese, and Indian restaurants and markets everywhere! For the whole trip, we were always outnumbered by Asians everywhere we went.
NZ knows how to sushi. The sushi restaurants outnumbered the McDonald's 100 to 1 it seemed (which means we ate sushi like, every other day.) Since we couldn't get into our hotel room yet, we walked around downtown and found some sushi, of course, for breakfast.
The Skytower of Auckland.
We finally got into our hotel room after pestering the front desk! This is the view from our room. We dropped our stuff off and then went out to grab lunch. We find...
By this time, it's about 2pm in Auckland, but it's 10pm in Tennessee and we've been up for a long, long time. We resisted the urge to go to sleep and watched some weird NZ tv for a few hours. Then we went back out for dinner, and promptly fell asleep at 7pm.
A few weeks back, I contacted UK photographer, Ellen Richardson who is currently living in Auckland and asked if she'd be open to a shoot at Piha beach. She loved the idea and she met us at 6am at our hotel, and we drove an hour to one of the most breathtaking sights.
It was SO windy. So, so windy.
Ellen took BEAUTIFUL photos of us. You can see them here.
I took some of Ellen as well. LOOK AT HER. She is so great! Also LOOK AT THIS DOG. He followed us around and just sat and posed for pictures. It was amazing.
We then headed back to Auckland, walked around downtown, and had dinner in the Skytower.
The next day we headed to Whitianga, and it was one of the best drive days. We drove along the coast for a while, and then headed into huge, green, rolling hills.
We made it to Whitianga, which is basically a small beach town. Here is the view from our room!
Side note: Bed and Breakfasts are amazing! We only stayed in two but I wished we had stayed in one every night!
We took a short drive to Cathedral Cove, which was one of my favorite places that we visited. We didn't realize it was a little hike down to the cove, so we were both unprepared with our flip flops.
At the beginning of the hike:
Brad tried to swim to this rock, but after a few feet he turned around.
"There are big stingrays over there."
We spent the rest of the evening at The Lost Spring. Holy cow, that was probably my favorite thing about the trip. Absolutely incredible.
The next morning we woke up and started the drive to Rotorua. And what better way to start our day than sushi?
Most of the sushi places in NZ are just a self-serve counter with lots of different rolls. You pick whatever you want and just pay per piece. WHAT. Why don't we do that in America?! I am forever going to miss the sushi from NZ.
We went to a weird park/zoo thing that had the prettiest deer.
We then went to the Waitomo caves. The caves are home to a little insect that doesn't matter, but the insect's larvae live on the ceilings of the cave and GLOW. IT'S A GLOW WORM CAVE. Yeah, google that stuff.
Then we did something I will never ever do again. We tubed in the caves. Look at this mess:
Cave water is absolutely freezing, so we had to wear wetsuits. Except the wetsuits were already wet and cold. I've never put on a a wet wetsuit, or even a dry wetsuit, but that was not fun.
My face pretty much sums up the whole experience for me:
By the end of the tour, I couldn't feel my hands. I couldn't move my hands. I thought my hands would need to be amputated. I didn't completely warm up until the next morning.
Okay, I am being dramatic, it was pretty cool. But I'm never doing it again!
Rotorua is an area riddled with geothermal activity. Steam literally was coming out of the sewer grates. The whole town smells like a fart. And it's home to the world's worst Pizza Hut.
We found a thermal pond with a bridge across it, with the BEST LIGHT.
We spent some time at the Agrodome. I don't know what to say about it, except just look at this picture:
It's basically a farm that also has a sheep and dog show. We were the only white people in the room. Everyone else was from Korea or China. It was a wild time.
Brad milked a cow on stage:
And here's a dog on top of a sheep:
After the show, they let everyone pet the sheep, but of course I made best friends with the dog. (Notice all of the Korean people in the back.)
Here it is, guys. I WENT TO THE SHIRE.
NO BIG DEAL THAT'S JUST BAG END
Our tour guide told us a joke that only works if you have a New Zealand accent:
"If Hobbits live in Hobbiton, where do orcs live? Auckland." (It sounds like "Orc-land" with a NZ accent. Silly Kiwis.)
Then we took a short walk to The Green Dragon for some hobbit ale and steak pies. Our guide told us this is not the original Green Dragon, but it is an exact replica. It was built just a couple of years ago.
Rotorua is where Zorbing was invented, so naturally, Brad had to do it. We also watched a group of five Buddhist monks in their orange robes go Zorbing.
Waiotapu - home to the Lady Knox geyser and a thermal wonderland.
This lake was HIGHLIGHTER YELLOW.
Bubbling mud pools!
Tongariro National Park - that volcano on the left is the model for Mount Doom. This is where they filmed Mordor!
More sushi! And the best kind! Sushi on a conveyor belt!
By this point, we are in Wellington, one of the big cities of NZ and where most of LOTR was filmed.
We went on a Lord of the Rings tour and it was pretty sketch. A lady in a van just picked a group of us up on the side of the road and took us to spots around Wellington where they filmed scenes. They were all places that you wouldn't expect, like at one point she just parked on the side of the road in a rock quarry and said it's where they built Helm's Deep. Literally just on the side of the freeway.
This photo was taken in a park where they filmed a couple scenes:
Our weird tour lady had us WALK THROUGH PEOPLE'S YARDS to get to this location in the back of a neighborhood where they filmed a scene with Aragorn:
This is the real tree from this scene! Just in a random park in Wellington. Our tour guide had handy props.
On to the Weta Cave! Weta is responsible for basically everything in LOTR and many other films.
Then we caught a flight to Queenstown and found more goodies at the airport. New Zealanders love their wizards.
We took a quick trip to Glenorchy, drove through rivers, found a dog that loved to play fetch, and a duck that loved to have its photo taken.
We had one of our best dinners here in Queenstown! Please excuse the horrible phone pictures.
I haven't seen many places, but the most beautiful is Milford Sound. It is a fjord with literally thousands of waterfalls on both sides of you. Its beauty is just something you cannot describe to someone unless they've been there, and impossible to show with just a camera.
We drove eight hours round trip to Milford Sound to take a cruise through the water, but the storms were so bad that it got cancelled. The drive was the best part, though.
The world is crazy, y'all!
Our last day in NZ was a lovely day spent visiting Arrowtown, eating cheesecake, having a seafood feast for dinner, and hanging at the pool.
Our last picture/last meal. It's been a time, NZ! See you later!