It’s one thing to go away for a week to a Caribbean island and just hit the beach every day. It’s another to go half-way around the world for several weeks and explore a country you know nothing about. Four travel books, two maps, and countless websites later, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of researching where we will travel, eat, drink and sleep in New Zealand.
One of the most interesting things I’ve found in my quest for the lowdown on the land of the Kiwi was the fact that I had no idea just how many people my wife and/or I know that have been there: a former New Zealander promoter now living in New York…my CrabApple Whitewater rafting friends Jen and Frank, who went there on their honeymoon…my cousin’s Kiwi friends who now live in Abu Dahbi…and Angela and Richard, two wonderful people my wife and I met a couple of years ago in Santorini, Greece, who live in Auckland and will actually be having dinner with us our first night there!
Besides the perhaps obvious facts that I will be looking up at a totally different star-filled sky (a little CSN “Southern Cross” would be good right about now), the fact that my toilet should be flushing counter-clockwise (don’t worry…I will take video of that), and that this was where the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was filmed, what I didn’t know is that New Zealand was the very last country on earth that man set foot upon. The entire country is geologically active, as witnessed recently by the 7.2 earthquake that hit the city of Christchurch, where we will be New Year’s Eve. Miraculously, no one died in that earthquake, and the standards for earthquake-resistant buildings in New Zealand are a testament to that.
The country is all about adrenaline: whitewater rafting, which I will do on the Shotover River near Queenstown, is just the tip of the glacier (which we will also explore in Franz Joseph.) New Zealand is where bungy jumping originated. There are opportunities for spelunking, flying upriver in jetboats, scuba diving, snorkeling, skiing, helicopter and small plane rides, hurling down mountainsides inside one-man spheres (they call it Zorbing: www.zorb.com ) and the list goes on and on.
My excuse to skip some of the crazier adrenaline-pumping activities will be my 4-year-old daughter, Ava: after all, what kind of responsible parent would I be if I did this? But I know we will have fun. Besides, I think the sheer exhilaration of sipping one of the many fine New Zealand wines and enjoying a meal prepared by a talented chef is much closer to my idea of “living on the edge.”
Those who know me know that I love to travel–once I’m there. I’m not good with airplanes. And considering it’s 6 hours non-stop from Boston to L.A., then another 13 hours from L.A. to Auckland, I’ve got quite a challenge ahead of me. I did buy a fear-of-flying DVD set that has helped a little. But I also have a supply of prescription drugs, so I’m hoping for some help from Mr Alcohol, Mr Ambien and Mrs Valium! Wish me luck! (Actually, wish Kelly luck!)