Saturday, January 13, 2007

Returning Home

Hi all - it's been a whirlwind three weeks and we can't believe it's over.

New Zealand was the most gorgeous country I've ever been to date and one we will definitely be going back to someday. An incredible vista around every corner - from air, road or sea. We packed a lot into our 9 days there. You heard about Auckland and Marlborough in the last update. Queenstown is where we spent the remaining 4 days and it was beyond compare.

The beauty of the surroundings made us feel God's presence every moment of the day and night. In addition to being one of the places Peter Jackson did a lot of filming for Lord of the Rings (we got to stand on Middle Earth!!), it's a place where lots of crazy folks come to do their extreme sports - gliding off mountain tops, bungy jumping off bridges, luging down steep inclines, jumping out of planes, etc. We took pictures of all that insanity but the boldest we got was a speedy (and sometimes wet!) jet boat ride up and down the Dart River in Glenorchy. We also took a scenic ride to Milford Sound and back in a tiny little plane - swerving through mountains, glaciers and over the bluest waters you've ever seen. Yours truly did just fine in the co-pilot's seat - giving David hope that I will be able to go flying with him when he completes his pilot training.

In Milford Sound we took a cruise through the amazing glacially formed fiordland and were greeted by many seals and a huge pod of Dusky Dolphins. We met some great people along the way and enjoyed the fresh seafood and incredible wines every chance we could. We took a ride to the other side of Lake Waitapitu on the TSS Earnslaw Steam Ship and rode the gondola up to the top of one of the Remarkable Range mountains (where the paragliders jump off!!) and back down.

David honed his wrong-side-of-the-road driving skills as we drove off to historic Arrowtown (main site of New Zealand's gold rush) and the Otego valley wineries who specialize in Pinot Noir (our favorite!) Since David was driving he just tasted but we brought back some to the room for later indulgence :-)

Last night we spent a wonderful evening back in Sydney at the Park Hyatt right on the water near (under!) the Harbor Bridge. It was romantic and a nice way to end this fabulous honeymoon. Now we await our 20+ hours of flying - back through Tahiti to New York. Hope all is well with you and your families and we'll talk to you all soon.

Marlborough NZ

Hi all - All's well with the traveling Jacksons. We're about to leave for Queenstown but we had a marvelous time in wine country and catching a bit of email from the airport internet connection. We had our own villa all to ourselves here with two full bedrooms and baths, a kitchen, BBQ, laundry, etc. It came at the right time for us to refresh all the clothes so we have something to wear on the next part of our journey!

We had great fun visiting the wineries here - it is very hard to leave as we know we can't get many of them in the US yet - some they only sell here at their "cellar doors". The people have been so nice and the food organic, fresh and some of the best we've had in addition to sauvignon blanc and pinot noirs to die for.

David is a practised wrong side of the road driver now after our drive through Picton, Havelock, Nelson and Richmond. We did a full loop - on the way out admiring the amazing Marlborough Sounds - it's stunning beaches, inlets, etc and through the mountains on the way back . It was a very special day!!

Lots and lots of pictures coming when we get back home. I might need two websites!!!! We realize of course that we have much more to see here that we just didn't have time for so if any of you are planning your own NZ adventures, count us in - once we recover from this one!!!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Great Barrier Reef update

Hi all - we are about to leave the idyllic Whitsundays and head to New Zealand. The Beach Club on Hamilton Island was a fabulous five star tropical paradise....starting when they met us at the airport, tagged our bags and whisked us off to our room in a golf cart past the infinity pool overlooking the Bay. Our bags were waiting there of course, as were freshly poured tropical drinks as they showed us around this beautiful place.

It was hard to leave the hotel at all these last three days but we did manage to squeeze in a snorkeling and diving tour out to the Great Barrier Reef. Yours truly was deathly ill on the 2 hour rocking and rolling over the open much so that I opted for the expensive but scenic helicopter back rather than set foot on that boat again. But once at the pontoon, I was able to do some of the most amazing snorkeling - the colors of the reef and the fish were like those pictures you see in books but don't think could possibly be real. David was able to do a guided dive and get up close and personal with several of the sea creatures - captured all on a DVD we'll be bringing home.

My trip back in the helicopter was the best way to see the reef in all it's glory - you can't believe the size of it until you see it from the air. The colors from there were even more spectacular. They felt so sorry for me that I got to sit in the copilot's seat and had an extended trip as we dropped a few others off at other islands on our way back to Hamilton Island. I brought a little white bag with me just in case but there was no need for it -- I loved every second of my personalized tour with the pilot. He flew me over Whitehaven beach, the heart reef, all of the other Whitsunday Islands and many other scenic extras. During the wait for the helicopter, I got to meet some lovely folks from Perth (Western Australia), another honeymoon couple from Boston, and a couple from Canberra. All of us were last minute helicopter bookings because of the traumatizing ride out there.

Now it's off to New Zealand for something completely different!! Wine country touring is highest on our list but we hear the sights are spectacular there as well. More later if there's an internet connection. Otherwise, talk to you all when we get home!!