Recently I had the good fortune to travel to New Zealand to deliver a keynote and some sketchnoting workshops. I jumped at this opportunity because my youngest daughter, Lauren, lives in Auckland and we were long overdue for a visit. My husband, Steve, also decided to come with me and we met our good Toronto friends Jeff and Doris Plunkett for a few days who were also travelling there. I had been to New Zealand once before, but never had the time to explore it properly. This time, we had 10 days in Kiwiland, and I turned to my daughter for advice since she had already toured NZ in her van. She said that we should focus on the South Island because that’s where all the great hikes are. So we did, and boy, was she right!
Reunion with Lauren in Queenstown
Day 1: We landed in Queenstown and immediately we were overwhelmed with the beauty of the green, rolling hills covered with sheep that we could see from the plane. Everywhere you looked, it seemed like a picture postcard. We were there in our spring which was their fall, so we were able to enjoy the spectacular fall colours. We picked up our car rental then drove to our Airbnb which had a stunning view of the harbour and was a five-minute walk into town. Queenstown is adorable, with many shops, bars and restaurants and a nice, flat hike around the harbour. We had tapas and cocktails at a cozy bar called Eichardt’s Bar which is attached to the luxurious Eichardts Hotel. A great spot for breakfast is the Bathhouse Cafe, right on the water.
Day 2: We hiked around Lake Hayes which is a short drive from Queenstown and is an easy, flat hike around a lake as still as a mirror.
Day 3: A stunning ½ hour drive along ice-blue Lake Wakatipu took to us to Glenorchy where we did an easy hike with a gorgeous view of the lake. At the top we found an abandoned mine with old tracks that seemed to drop at the edge of a cliff.
Day 4: We left Queenstown and had breakfast in Wanaka Town, another beautiful small town on Lake Wanaka. We picked up some groceries, then headed to Roy’s Peak for the hike of a lifetime. It took us 2hrs45 to climb up and another 2 hours to climb down. The uphill climb was relentless, and if it wasn’t for Lauren cheering me on, I don’t think I would have made it. But boy, was it worth the view!
Later that day we arrived at our next Airbnb in Twizel, a tiny town 22 km from our Airbnb. It was one of the most enchanting Airbnb’s I have ever stayed at, in the middle of an 11,000 acre sheep and cattle farm, on the edge of a lake with Aoraki Mount Cook in the background.
Steve cooked us a delicious lamb dinner while Lauren and I went for a walk down to the lake. With a wood stove keeping us warm inside the house, we pulled out our books after dinner and decided that we could be happy staying here for a long time, but alas, we could only stay for one night. Early the next morning our hostess showed up with freshly laid eggs, bread and milk and we had a yummy breakfast.
Our Airbnb hostess, Sonja.
Day 5: We drove up to Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand.
Lake Tekapo, en route to Christchurch (Yes, the water really is this blue!)
The hike at Mount Cook was nice and easy, a flat walk up to the base of the mountain and back, with a view of some tiny icebergs which had broken from the glacier above.
Day 6: At the end of the conference today Emma Scott, who attended my sketchnote sessions, surprised me with a wonderful sketchnote of my keynote: “Why Creativity Matters”. Yes, this is her first sketchnote. I know, c-r-a-z-y good! She blogged about the conference here: Day 1 and Day 2. Another teacher I was looking forward to meeting was Rachel Chisnall, having “met” her on Twitter previously. You can read her blogpost about the conference here (scroll down to read about my keynote).
Sketchnote by Emma Scott
I met so many wonderful, energetic teachers at this conference, who were keen to learn about new methods to engage their students and were so much fun! We danced, made paper airplanes and drew cartoons during my keynote. A huge thank you to Cyclone for inviting me!
This is my “Mihi”: The Maori way to introduce oneself. Many thanks to Arnika and Sylvia Fidow for helping me with the pronunciation! Click here for a translation.
Day 7: We flew from Christchurch to Blenhelm in a tiny 9 seater plane. Unfortunately, it was nighttime, so we were not able to see much during the short flight.
We met a tour guide/driver, Joe Kelly, at the Blenhelm airport who drove us 30 minutes to Picton and we arranged for him to take us for a wine tour the following day. When we woke up in our Airbnb the following morning, we gasped at the beautiful view of Picton harbour and the mountains beyond.
Day 8: Unfortunately, the rained the entire time we were in Picton, but it was fine for the wine tour. We visited 3 vineyards and stopped for a snack at the last one. It was wonderful having Joe as our tour-guide giving us a personal view of the area since he has lived in Marlborough his entire life.
Day 9: We took a 2 ½ hour ferry from Picton to Wellington but sadly, the skies were gray and rainy so we were not able to see much. Our Airbnb in Wellington was beautiful, but a little out of town so we Ubered back and forth to get a taste of Wellington city life. It looked lovely but we couldn’t really see much because of the rainy weather. We did discover a great cocktail bar called “The Library” with live music, and we had an amazing meal at Mr. Go’s. Also, an amazing breakfast place near the Airbnb called “Scorch-o-rama” right on the water’s edge.
The Library cocktail bar in Wellington
Day 10: We flew from Wellington to Auckland for our final destination. We stayed at the Grand Mercure Hotel, a boutique hotel right in Auckland Harbour. We wandered around the harbour and had oysters and drinks at Dr. Rudi’s Rooftop Bar overlooking the harbour.
Lauren then took us to two of her favourite neighbourhoods: K’Road and Ponsonby. Later in the evening we discovered a really cool whisky bar called “The Jefferson”, and then we had one of the best meals of the trip at an Italian restaurant called “Amano” near our hotel.
“The Jefferson Bar”, Auckland
Day 11: On our last day in Auckland I delivered a day long sketchnoting workshop for administrators and staff at Te Whānau o Waipareira, a government sponsored agency for the Maori community. I was moved to tears at the end when a Moari elder blessed a jade necklace and placed it around my neck.
Papa Rangi greeting me the Maori way: nose-to-nose, “Sharing the breath of life”.
Everyone in the in the room said a Maori prayer in unison and then sang a Maori song. I wish I could understand what they were saying, but their warmth, hospitality and national pride shone through the music and lyrics. Thanks you so much to Jo Nicholson for inviting me and to the entire Te Whanou o Waipareira community for making me feel so welcome. What a wonderful way to cap off my whirlwind trip through New Zealand and to solidify my commitment to come back to this beautiful country for a prolonged visit.
The staff at Te Whānau o Waipareira
Yes, dear readers, New Zealand is as beautiful as all of the pictures you have ever seen. In fact, it is even more beautiful than you can imagine. Our daughter Lauren might never leave and I don’t blame her. Its unspoiled, pristine beauty, majestic mountains, epic hikes, friendly people and tremendous respect for the Maori culture makes it a must-see destination for everyone. Put it on your bucket list! Click here for a list of useful Maori words and expressions. Click here for a complete photo album of our trip.