Steampunk, penguins and earthquakes

This is why AGMA will never be a travel blogger.

It’s taking me longer to get the posts done on our trip to Fiji/NZ than the entire trip lasted.

AGMA’s a bit like a hyperactive puppy.  All kinds of things (squirrels, squeak toys, etc.)  distract me and cause me to run amok for a spell.

(The etc. being devastating Austrian wildfires, the assassination of a high ranking Iranian official in a neighboring country, and the potential start of WWIII.  And Christmas and New Years – but they seem a pretty minor compared to everything else aside from the squirrels and squeak toys.)

I WILL finish the saga of the Great AGMA Adventure to the lands of Fiji water and Kiwis!

9.  Oamaru.  Oamaru is generally not on the radar when most folks think about visiting New Zealand.  But AGMA thinks it should be.  First of all, it’s the Steampunk capital of the world.  Yeah, I said Steampunk.  S-T-E-A-M-P-U-N-K.  Very surreal. Second, it’s one of the few towns in New Zealand that still has its original Victorian architecture and it’s gorgeous.  Third…PENGUINS!!  Cute, adorable little blue penguins (also known as fairy penguins.).

But oh Lordy…that Steampunk thing…

 

 

10. Christchurch.  AGMA and hubs were in Christchurch for the first time in 2014.  We were shocked to see that the city had barely begun to recover from the devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.  Unsafe, unstable buildings still stood in the CBD.  All over the CBD.  I remember a parking garage that had cars in it that had been sitting, parked in the same spot they were in when the last quake hit 3 years before, because the structure was too damaged to safely be able to remove them.  But you could tell that the people of Christchurch were determined to see their city come back better than before the quakes.

And AGMA’s happy to report it has!

Other than a few sites we recognized on our first trip, it was like visiting a totally different city.  New office buildings, lots of gravel lots where old buildings used to be, cute laneways with kickin’ good restaurants and bars, new shops, and some buildings severely damaged in 2011 that were still sitting abandon.

We stayed spent the night outside of Christchurch at an AirB&B in the caldera of an extinct volcano turned inland bay.

We flew out of Christchurch on 12/5 with a 4 hour layover in Fiji then on to Los Angeles.  We landed 3 hours before we took off…  That International Date Line screws with AGMA’s head.  Spent a couple of nights in LA visiting a friend then headed back home.

As Dorothy chanted, “There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home.”  She was right.

Thanks for hanging with AGMA while I chased those squirrels.

And between 3 international trips, the upcoming presidential election (if we haven’t been nuked before then as a result of tRump’s psychotic madness), the grandkids, and the possibility of selling our house, I think 2020’s gonna be a wild ride…

Hang on!

P.S.  Happy birthday to me!  Today Mrs. Mowry’s little girl completes yet another trip around the sun.  Now I’m one number shy of the mark of the beast (just need to add another 6) so nobody better give me any sh*t this year!  🙂

 

 

Extreme sports, dark skies and lupins

For those who celebrate Christmas, we’re in that purgatory between Christmas and New Year where nobody quite know what day it is, where they are or what they’re supposed to be doing.

It’s a perfect time for a blog post!

I promised the rest of New Zealand, but after the franticness (is that a word?) of the past 3 weeks, it seems like our trip was a long time ago.

Funny how time has a way of doing that.

When you read the words “extreme sports”, I know that AGMA is the first person that comes to mind.  Just like tRump is the first person that comes to mind when you read the words “honesty and integrity” right?

AGMA has a very strong sense of self preservation.  Because of that, I’ve never really done anything even remotely dangerous.  Unless you consider not putting my seatbelt on in an Uber as living on the edge.

And sometimes it is.

But on this trip both hubs and I caught the New Zealand extreme sports bug and indulged in activities outside of my itty bitty, teeny weeny comfort zone.

(FYI, each picture has a caption.  If you want to read it, just hover over the picture.)

After visiting Middle Earth, we finished our visit on North Island in…

5. Auckland.  A beautiful city sitting inside the innards of multiple extinct volcanos.  Or so they say…  And quite a diverse city with wonderful energy, great restaurants and a beautiful harbor.  They have this tall structure in the CBD (just 1 1/2 blocks from our AirB&B) called the Auckland Sky Tower.  It’s kinda like the Seattle Space Needle.  And hubs decided to jump off of it.  Jump.  OMG.  192 meters (630 feet) straight down.  Of course he was in a harness and it was all super safe, but he still had to step off a ledge into a free fall (for the first 1/2 of it).  OMG. AGMA stayed at the bottom and watched.  Call me a chicken, but at least I had clean underwear at the end of the day!

6.  Blenheim.  We flew from Auckland to Nelson (on the South Island) and immediately hopped into our rental car (sadly, because Nelson looked very cool!)  Destination,  Blenheim, at the heart of the famous Marlborough wine district.  There’s a lot of sauvignon blanc there and somebody had to drink it!  On the way (which was incredibly scenic over unexpected mountains), we stopped in Havelock, the self proclaimed green lipped mussel capital of the world.  Who knew?  These mussels are MASSIVE and put US and European mussels to shame.  Kinda like tRumps imaginary brain.

7.  The Wild West Coast of South Island.  Going across South Island on the way to Greymouth on the beautiful west coast, we drove along the gorgeous Buller River.  In keeping with the extreme sports theme hubs inaugurated in Auckland, we opted to walk across the Buller River swing bridge and come back across via a zip line.  Okay, so maybe those just a demi-extreme experiences, but for AGMA it was cray cray!  A seal colony in Westport, the fascinating Pancake Rocks, and gorgeous coastal scenery are just some of the reasons we would LOVE to go back to the west coast to do more exploring!

8.  Lake Tekapo.  AGMA was pretty excited about our drive to Lake Tekapo.  It was going to take us over the Southern Alps through Authur’s Pass National Park.  This is supposed to be one of the most beautiful drives in the world.  “Supposed to be” being the operative phrase.  Unless it rains.  And is foggy.  Like it was the day we did the drive.  Damn.  It was still lovely even in the fog and rain, but I feel like I need to go back someday to see it in the sunshine.  But the incredible beauty of Lake Tekapo helped heal our broken expectant tourist hearts.  And the lupins.  So many lupins.  And the night sky.  Tekapo is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve which is the worlds largest dark sky reserve.  Clear skies and few people along with strict regulations on exterior lighting results in some of the most amazing dark skies in the world with (to quote Carl Sagan) “billions and billions of stars”  The opportunity to do the Summit Experience at the Mt. John Observatory, I think, was the main reason we returned to New Zealand.

Okay – so I’ve been at the coffee shop for 3 hours now and AGMA’s pretty sure they are going to kick me out. There are a few more highlights, soooo…it looks like there will be one more post on New Zealand.

Sorry.

In the meantime, I’m going to try to figure out what day it is, where I am and what I’m supposed to be doing.

A typical day for AGMA.

Volcanoes, Hobbits and glowworms

AGMA’s back!

And I’m still fighting jet lag. Even after a 2 night stopover in LA on Thursday and Friday before we flew home on Saturday.

So sorry I didn’t get anything posted other than the stinky haiku. The days were full and this AGMA needs a full 8 at night.

And I really can’t do a proper post on my phone.

Fat fingers….

I missed you all!

Here’s the Readers Digest of our escapades:

  • 1 night in LA (fun and hot!)
  • 2 nights in Fiji (yes – Fiji!)
  • 7 nights on the North Island of New Zealand
  • 7 nights on the South Island of New Zealand
  • 2 nights in LA (cool and rainy – WTF??)

All good?

We were in New Zealand for a week in 2014 and went to Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.

This trip, our stops were Hamilton, Taupo, Rotorua, Auckland (all on North Island) and Blenheim, Greymouth, Lake Tekapo, Oamaru and Cass Bay (all on South Island)

We had AMAZING weather pretty much the whole trip. And it was far warmer than we had anticipated or that Weather.com had predicted for New Zealand. AGMA had a “feeling” so I took out some long sleeved shirts and threw in some t-shirts, an extra pair of capris, and sandals in my suitcase like an hour we left!

Maybe I could get my own 800 number as a weather psychic?

I’ve said before, I’m not very good at the travel blog thing. AGMA would end up droning on about boring stuff that you really couldn’t care less about. ZZZzzz…

So let’s just do highlights with pictures (some pictures have captions that will pop up if you hover over them.) And of course some words. You know me…

1. Fiji. It’s a country made up of 330 islands, 100 of which are inhabited. We were there for 2 nights. Guess how many islands we visited? Yup – one…Viti Levu (location of the international airport.) AGMA’s not too much of a tropical island/beach gal so what impressed me most about Fiji was the people. Gracious, friendly and charming. And the orchids at the Garden of the Sleeping Giant (land that used to belong to Raymond Burr of all people!!)

2. The Ruakuri Cave and Waitomo Glowworm Cave (North Island). Most people don’t do Ruakuri because the glowworms are the big draw at Waitomo. But since hubs uses a mobility scooter and Waitomo isn’t accessible, but Ruakuri is, I did both caves. It’s very cool that Raukuri is only one of two fully accessible caves in the world. And honestly, Ruakuri was more interesting than Waitomo! And it had glowworms (but not nearly as many as Waitomo.) And you could take pictures in it.

3. The awesome and plentiful geothermal features of the Taupo/Rotorua area (North Island.) Yes – AGMA’s a geology nerd! This is one of the most geologically active areas of the world – the Pacific plate is moving under the Indo-Australian plate right underneath this area!! It’s called the Taupo Volcanic Zone and is a super volcano like Yellowstone in the US. Lake Taupo is the largest lake in NZ and it is part of an enormous caldera formed from a volcanic eruption some 26,500 years ago. The last eruption way back in 180 AD was the LARGEST volcanic eruption EVER! EVER! The effects of this massive eruption were seen and documented in Rome and China. Just this morning, there was a volcanic eruption on White Island (the red dot at the top right of the first picture) in the Bay of Plenty (in this Taupo Volcanic Zone) which unfortunately took 5 lives with 8 people missing.

4. Hobbiton in Middle Earth (North Island) And yes, I’m a LOTR geek as well!

Okay…there’s a bit more – we aren’t even on South Island yet! But I’m still jet lagged (I think I said that already, but hey, I’m jet lagged!) and AGMA needs to get started on Christmas stuff. We’ve been home almost 48 hours now I have done nothing that is holiday oriented.

One more travel post so hang with me.

Maybe only one…

Stalking Hobbits

Image

Man….  Keeping up with a blog while on vacation is tough!  Especially if you’re on a “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belguim” type of trip.  In my case, it’s “if it’s Saturday, this must be Sydney” trip.  We are seeing as much of Australia and New Zealand as we can in 23 days so we’ve been on the move.  Like really fast.  I’m exhausted.  I know – my life is so hard…

We left New Zealand yesterday at 7 AM.  I hate early morning flights.  Especially when I get up at 4 AM and my destination is two hours behind.  So it really means I got up at 2 AM “destination time”.  Am I whining too much?   Did I mention I was tired?

I wrote the below on our 3rd day in New Zealand and I naively thought I would have some free time to finish it before we left.  Clearly that didn’t happen.

So close your eyes and pretend it’s 5 days ago…

I am officially in Middle Earth.  The Land of Hobbits, Orcs and Elves. I think the Elves are sort of creepy the way they skulk around.  The location of Mt. Doom – otherwise known as Mt. Ngauruhoe to the locals on North Island.  It’s real name doesn’t seem as scary right?   Just hard to pronounce.  Lothlorien, Isengard and Fangorn Forest.  New Zealand.

I’m a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings.  I’ve read all of the books plus seen all the movies multiple times.  Like “reciting dialogue along with the movies” multiple times.  I’ve watched all of the “special features” and “making of” parts of the extended edition LOTR DVD set.  Several times.  I wish they would’ve made three movies out of The Return of the King ala Harry Potter instead of just one.  My son has a 3D HD TV that kicks ass with The Hobbit 3D BluRay DVD.  Now I’m thinking of getting a 3D TV…   Yeah – I’m a fan.

We have a half day LOTR tour set up for our visit to Queenstown.  Some of the most dramatic scenery in New Zealand is around Queenstown.  Lots and lots of LOTR movie locations close by just waiting for me.  I’m seriously afraid that a half day might not be enough to quench my thirst for Middle Earth.

I discovered quite by accident that my NZ road atlas lists all of the LOTR filming locations in New Zealand.  Happy accident indeed!  I’m dizzy with the thoughts of tracking Bilbo, Frodo and Gandalf around New Zealand.  Is it possible to stalk a fictional character?

I had to give up Hobbiton.  Our schedule is too tight.  It was a tough call.  I regretted it as soon a our train pulled out of the Hamilton train station, the stop that’s the gateway to The Shire.  Crap.

The spectacular location for Edoras, the seat of the kingdom of Rohan, is just a bit off the main scenic route into Christchurch from Queenstown.  We are driving from Queenstown to Christchurch.  But once off the main road – any main road – in New Zealand, 4 wheel drive is a must.  Mandatory.  Or your car engine will fall out.  I saw a video from a tour company that goes out to the Edoras location and the roads were like washboards.  I think they were trying to warn off people like me. I am still wondering if the Corolla we’re renting can do it…

However, I did go to one of the most sacred sites for LOTR fans – the WETA Design/Production Studio in Wellington (queue angelic harps and singing…)  There is a shrine set up for people like me called the WETA Cave.  It has all kinds of “stuff” from the LOTR and Hobbit films.  I saw a life-sized Uruk-hai. They had King Theoden’s sword and Legolas’ bow.  For crying out loud, I had my picture taken with a huge Cave Troll.  Does it honestly get any better than that?

Maybe it could.  I’ll let you know if the Corolla’s engine falls out.