Thursday, June 16, 2016

Holidaying with Hobbits

What happens when three friends from Papua New Guinea actually manage to align their schedules so that when one person is flying back from the US and the other two are flying to the US and Canada, they cross paths?

Why, they stop in New Zealand for 10 days together, of course!

You may remember discussion about the challenges of going on holidays in Papua New Guinea back in 2015 (Choose Your Own Adventure Part 1 and Part 2). So when Jessica, Rebekah and I realized we could actually have a real holiday together, we jumped at the chance!

It was an amazing 10 days--it felt like my first true holiday in years, and I was blessed that not only did my energy hold up better than I anticipated, but that I could share life with two such amazing friends. (And I got to see is always better when you get to see penguins!)

Enjoy some photos of the adventures we shared during our whirlwind visit to this gorgeous country.

What's a trip to New Zealand without visiting Hobbiton?

It really is an idyllic place.

Look, I'm a wizard!
photo by Rebekah Drew

Look, I'm a hobbit! (The hobbit holes were built to different scales for various filming needs. Most were only the facades--this was one of the few that you could enter (and it was only a few feet deep!).)

I've always wanted to see the glowworms of New Zealand ever since I watched some geographic show for kids when I was little. It looked like the caves were covered in stars! Alas, we couldn't take photos inside the caves, but here is the cave exit and the boat that we took through the system.

Being linguists, we were thrilled to learn more about Maori culture and language. So, in Rotorua, we visited Te Puia where we watched an amazing cultural show, learned about various Maori traditions, and saw a really cool geyser and bubbling mud pools. (There is so much thermal activity in Rotorua, that we even saw steam coming out of sewer grates on city roads!)

photo courtesy of Rebekah Drew
We also went ziplining in Rotorua and learned about the subtropical rainforests of New Zealand. "Hey Catherine, just fall back," they said. "We'll take a picture!" they said.
photo courtesy of Rotorua Canopy Tours
"Hey Catherine! Try flipping upside down," they said. "We'll take a picture!" they said.
Okay. (Apparently I'm very trusting of zipline ropes.)
Photo courtesy of Rebekah Drew
Yay for sheep! New Zealand is famous for it's sheep-farming (and it's merino wool--amazing stuff), so our trip wouldn't have been complete without learning the many different kinds of sheep, the art of shearing, and the many dogs used on sheep stations (including the one that is bred to Never. Stop. Barking. Ever.)

In the middle of the sheep show, I was called up to milk a cow. Not sure where that came from.
photo courtesy of Rebekah Drew
After sheep, we were blessed to meet up with a Papua New Guinean colleague now living in the Auckland area. Then we flew down to the South Island where it is, in a word, gorgeous.

photo courtesy of Rebekah Drew
 And, for some strange reason, we decided to go white water rafting in frigid glacial water. 

Wave at the camera everyone! (Except me. Because I was too petrified to let go after the long safety briefing about what would happen if I fell out. But Rebekah waved, brave woman.)

But, the highlight of my trip was definitely the two-day horse trek through the Queenstown area of the South Island (Lord of the Rings fans...this means we saw or rode through the forest where Boromir was killed, the Misty mountains, the mountains of Morder, and Isengard. It's pretty much all as spectacular as you think it would be.)

I rode Spike, a hardy Appaloosa who had definite opinions about everything.

photo courtesy of Rebekah Drew

photo courtesy of Rebekah Drew
See the rainbow! It was actually deathly windy up there and poor Spike was none too pleased about being asked to pose for a photo.

photo courtesy of Rebekah Drew
The holiday was exactly what I needed--a chance to leave Papua New Guinea well, take some time to enter the first world (and all its strangeness) with fellow global workers who understood my shock when cars stopped for pedestrians, and have some fun before all the work of home assignment descended upon me. (Sometimes, it's a a great relief to be an average person or a tourist, instead of being the Main Speaker and the Primary Attraction, which is often a missionary's experience as they travel around their home country.) Yay for holidays!

And now, on to the next adventure! After all, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to!"

photo by Rebekah Drew