It was spring in Tennessee and my 22 year old son Zach was home from college when he tickled my ear with his latest adventure idea.
Me: Oh that sounds like fun. Where do you want to go?
Zach: New Zealand
My brain began to spin with rebellion - New Zealand was top of my bucket list of places that I wanted to visit and I wasn't quite ready to fork out extra funds for even my darlin' #3 son to spend a semester "studying" in the land of my dreams. Would he even begin to appreciate that about 80% of the plant material growing in New Zealand could never be seen growing wild anywhere else?
|View from Eremia Retreat Centre over Coromandel|
|Alfred Park in Auckland|
|View from The Luge in Queenstown, NZ|
So our adventure began 6 months later in early November - aka, springtime in New Zealand - with a 22 year old adventurer son as our tour guide. Two weeks touring from the south island and working our way north through flora, fauna, misty mountains, fiords, hair-pin turns, golden beaches, and more etherial sunsets than I thought my heart could handle.
|A few of my wooly friends - supposedly there are 9 sheep for every person living in New Zealand|
|Ulmus glabra 'Horizontalis' in Queenstown Garden|
I thought I was prepared for the beauty.
|Wisteria arch in Queenstown Garden|
|I would love for someone to identify this for me!|
|A mound of Lady Banks Rose in Queenstown Garden|
|On the way to Milford Sound|
|I saw more varieties of ferns than I think I'll ever be able to label.|
|The rhododendrons were vibrant with color enhanced by the acid soil in the Queenstown area.|
I went to New Zealand prepared to experience the wildness of the countryside and eagerly embraced the dramatic swings in temperature and landscape. We stopped dozens of time along our way as each turn held a new scenic wonder. I was captivated by the sweetly scented air that permeated my very core. But what stole my heart were the people of New Zealand. As we traveled late into the day, we often drove up to a closing resteraunt, hostel, or bed and breakfast that had put away any thoughts of evening guests. Yet time and time again we were welcomed, fed, entertained with stories from the locals who had to stick around and listen to some deep southern-USA accent. We found warmth in their graciousness, a wildness in their spirit that echoed their homeland, and a sweetness in their kindness that permeated as deeply as the jasmine scented air. The untapped natural beauty we found in New Zealand was a framework for the treasure of people who cared for and nurtured it.
|The Mussel Inn - hands down some of the best mussels and beer on this planet.|
|Loved getting to know Marie and Serge and their friends - Belgium-Kiwi folk - at their Garden Retreat Bed and Breakfast|
|Fred Jordan explains some of the complexities of growing kiwifruit organically on his orchard "La Marguarite"- we stayed in their Katikati Kiwifruit Cottage|
|With wind gusting at 35-40 knots I was literally being swept away by the beauty around me.|
|Sunset at Wharariki Beach|
More stories to follow on New Zealand - I just have to whittle through about 6000 photos first...