So, without further adieu, here are ten things I learned in New Zealand:
1. First and foremost, Kiwis (New Zealanders) are some of the most friendly and engaging humans on the planet. They not only want to chat with you, but they want to learn something from you and interact with you on a personal level as well. The whole experience was so sincere and friendly. It was quite refreshing. Sweet As!
2. Caves are some of the coolest pieces of mother nature's handiwork ever. In one cave we saw stalactites covered in moss that were being pulled towards the sun by the moss, rounded rocks, glow worms (!) and so many other things. Our guide, Dion, was another example of kiwi awesomeness too.
(Honeymooners in one of the Waitomo caves)
3. Driving on the right-hand side is MUCH easier to get used to than one would think. Honestly, the harder part was being a passenger because you kept grabbing for the invisible steering wheel!
(Look mom, no hands!)
4. Hobbiton smells like fresh cut grass & sheep.
(The view up to Bag End from the orchards)
5. Frodo could step out his front door, look down the hill to the left and see Sam's house. I like to think of the two of them, outside, smoking a pipe to wind down for the day and giving each other a little wave.
6. There are California Red Woods in Rotorua, New Zealand. A long time ago, botonists attempted to plant a ton of different types of trees where the Whakarewarewa Forest now stands. One of the trees to survive and thrive? California Red Woods:
(Why, hello, Mr. Redwood! It seems you're far from home!)
7. This is so, totally fun:
(Chelsea Thrillseeker on the Kaituna River Rapids, ladies n' gents.)
8. Restaurant service in New Zealand is very different and inconsistent. There really isn't a standard order to things. Some restaurants have you order & pay for your food and THEN sit down and be served. Others will bring you a bill at the end of the meal. And still others will require you to walk up to some cashier to check out after all is said and done. Nothing is posted and no one tells you how it works. It must be so they can laugh at the confused Americans. We had a very kind waitress at the Fox and Ferret in Christchurch take pity on us and explain this. And, for the record, this is the size of a true pint glass. Not the slimmer versions elsewhere:
9. Earthquakes suck:
(What remained of Christchurch's beautiful cathedral)BUT as with any large tragedy, people do amazing things in spite of their wreckage. Behold, the Re:START zone in Christchurch, New Zealand:
(Abseiling. See the tiny white dot down below? That's a person's helmet)
(Sean attacks the Kaituna River Falls)