Life has a funny way of working itself out. Liz and I had one of those moments recently, when one small and insignificant decision led to an unexpected journey. On our last night in Bangkok our host, Mac, arranged for us to visit with his monk friend. Afterwards, we decided to go with him to his pub, Enjoy BKK, for a drink before heading out to explore on our last night in Bangkok. Well one drink turned into two, and dinner, with a gentleman that we met there at the pub; Leon from New Zealand.
You Never Know Who You Will Meet in a Bar in Bangkok!
He over heard us talking about AirBnB and our backgrounds in digital marketing & social media. As it turned out, he had a beautiful property in the heart of New Zealand wine country and needed some help with digital marketing to get it off the ground for the season. He was excited to have met us, and offered to bring us to New Zealand to help him out.
You meet some interesting characters in Bangkok, and we know to take every encounter with a grain of salt. But Leon was serious. He went to get his computer and returned to the pub to show us his property and discuss a little bit about how we could help him. As it turned out, he wanted us to come down to New Zealand ASAP.
Luckily, we only had 4 more days of our around the world trip officially planned out & booked…the rest we were just playing by ear. So it worked out! We told him that we could come to New Zealand 4 days later, and it was perfect timing because his season started on October 1.
So we traded information with Leon, and a couple days later, we heard back from Leon’s assistant with flights booked to Christchurch, New Zealand! So there you have it; we were suddenly on our way from Bangkok to New Zealand to help out with the digital marketing of a luxury B & B in wine country!
6 Hour Layover in the Fun Singapore Airport
During our journey to New Zealand, we had a few stops along the way. We first had a 6 hour layover in Singapore at the Changi Airport, which was awesome because there was so much to do! We never had to leave the airport to have fun because there are so many things to do at Changi airport! The airport is full of great activities to pass the time during a long layover. They have movie theaters, arcades, beautiful orchid gardens, and a butterfly center to pass the time…all for FREE!
Also there was a physical geocache hidden within the butterfly center. This is extremely rare to have a physical cache located inside an airport, but it had been around for a long while and discovered by travelers from all over the world. They also have areas where you can sleep, shower, and get a massage. Oh, and LOTS of shopping malls. This airport made our 6 hours go by extremely quick and before we knew it, we were off to Sydney, Australia.
9 Hour Layover in Sydney (Geocaching)
The next leg of our journey to NZ took us through Sydney, Australia. It was an overnight flight, so we arrived first thing in the morning. Having a 9 hour layover here, there was plenty of time to pass through immigration and venture outside the airport to experience Sydney.
We had always wanted to experience Australia, so this was the perfect opportunity. Of course, we wanted to see the main sights of Sydney like the world famous Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the Royal Botanical Gardens. So we put our packs in a locker and took a train from the airport to the city center, near the Harbour.
Whenever we visit a city without specific travel plans, such as this time in Sydney, we always turn to Geocaching to show us around. We used Geocaching as a way to tour Sydney Harbour and historical areas nearby.
We were fortunate to have an amazing Spring day in Sydney during our layover. The sky was so blue and the sun was shining bright. Liz and I just couldn’t get over the fact that we were walking around Sydney, Australia.
It was just mind blowing to think that only a few short days earlier, Australia was nowhere on our radar! A completely unexpected stop for us!!!
We had a blast exploring Sydney, and the layover was just what we needed to break up a long travel segment. We were lucky to share our experience Geocaching during a layover in a recent post on this site, as well as on an episode of PodCacher!
But after a few hours of exploring the downtown Sydney area, we found ourselves on another flight…this time heading to our main destination of Christchurch, New Zealand.
We Land in Cold New Zealand
After several days of flying (with all those layovers), we were happy to walk off the plane in a new country; however, it quite cold in New Zealand! It was a shock to the system coming from perpetually hot and humid Thailand, especially because it was technically still winter in New Zealand and only beginning to inch toward Spring. So that was big climate change that we had to get use to. Luckily, we did pack one pair of long pants, shirt, and our jackets (remember, our backpacks are small so we brought limited clothing). So we wore layers and bundled up anyway we could while in New Zealand!
Our flight into Christchurch didn’t land until midnight, where we were met there by our host Leon. He lead us to his van and we were off to our hostel for the night to get some much needed rest in a comfy, warm bed at a really cool backpacker hostel.
Staying High Up in Wine Country
We woke up the next morning and loaded up for a 3 hour trip up the east coast to our ultimate destination in Blenheim, New Zealand. We did make a stop about halfway for lunch in the coastal town of Kaikoura. This is where we got our first taste of the beauty of NZ, and also driving on the left side of the road again. Leon let Liz and I drive a little bit, and ride up front to snap some pictures. Pictures like these were around every corner. Just amazing.
Mountain View Villa
After lunch and a little bit of exploring Kaikoura, we headed off to the famous Marlbourgh Wine region on the north end of the South Island. As we were driving into the region, we could easily see why it’s called wine country; vineyards were everywhere! I have never seen so many vineyards in one place ever in my life.
As we made the final leg up to the Mountain View Villa, our anticipation was building to see this property that we were sent here to work on. This gorgeous villa sat high above wine country with breathtaking views of the region. We settled right into our room, cooked dinner in our chef style kitchen, and watched the sunset over the vineyards below. A beautiful and relaxing sunset.
Meeting Some of the Most Wonderful People in New Zealand
New Zealand does not lack in hospitality. During our visit in Blenheim we met some wonderful people. During our first week at the Mountain View Villa we met Kate. She is a friend of our host Leon and one heck of a bridge player! We met up with her a few days before she was heading off to reclaim her bridge international championship. She was kind enough to show us some of Blenheim’s best kept secrets.
Omaka Aviation Heritage Musuem
Liz and I love history and museums. And we were in for a special surprise when Kate took us for a visit to the Okana Aviation Heritage Museum, where we saw Peter Jackson’s personal collection of WWI aircrafts. This collection has been turned into one of the best museums we have ever seen. It was literally like walking in a WWI movie set.
This was a special treat and one that was just truly amazing. The aircrafts and presentation was nothing short of perfection. Everything was thought out so carefully, and no detail was overlooked. All the way down to the whiskers on the WWI soldiers. It was a Peter Jackson exhibit, so you can bet that it was perfect.
Private Wine Tour
A few days later we were set up with a wine tour by another hospitable soul, named Chris. We were introduced to Chris through Kate a few days earlier. Chris is a guide for Na Clachan Wine Tours. He picked us up in a luxury Mercedes and took us on a private tour to visit 5 of Marlbourgh’s finest wineries to sample a variety of wines, with an exceptional lunch in between stops His knowledge and hospitality was top notch! We learned so much from his tour and gained such an appreciation for the craft. Be sure to check out our full, detailed post about our Private New Zealand Wine Tour with Chris!
We Leave the Marlbourgh Wine Region and Pick Up “Bessie”
Of course, we could not go to the beautiful country of New Zealand and not rent a car to explore the wilderness on our own. We had heard for years that the thing to do in New Zealand is to rent an RV to go explore for yourself. So we decided to pick up a self contained RV from Discover NZ. We liked the RV so much that we nicknamed her “Bessie.” Bessie was perfect for the way that we wanted to explore!
After a quick, but thorough explaining of how Bessie works by the Discover NZ guys, we set off to explore! Bessie had everything we needed to be able to pull off the side of the road and camp. In New Zealand, you are able to camp anywhere on National Lands for free as long as it is not posted that you can’t. This was great way to save money during the trip,and who wouldn’t like waking up on a beach or next to a glacier lake?!? We actually camped in some of the most beautiful places – we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way!
An Amazing Sunset, and Prickly Geocache
New Zealand is full of beauty and full of wonderful geocaches. For our first night in the RV, we started off in Nelson on the north end of the South Island, and headed down to the west coast. Traveling along the west coast was beautiful, very typical New Zealand. We thought that as the night approached, we would pull out our Garmin 650T to see if there were any geocaches that would be fun to go after, and possibly enjoy a sunset while grabbing a geocache. Sure enough, there was a highly favored geocache on our route that was known for the amazing views! So we set out to find this cache and enjoy a beautiful sunset on the coast.
Well our plans didn’t go exactly like we had planned. We found a beautiful view, but we didn’t find the geocache. But we loved the fact that geocaching took us to this amazing place where we could watch the sunset, and overlook the rocky coast. We like to call this adventure, the best geocache we never found…and we will always remember it!
RV’ing Around New Zealand
Windows down and open highway ahead, we loved RV cruising in New Zealand. Our new friend, Bessie, was taking great care of us. We loved that we had no firm agenda or schedule to keep to. We could go at our own pace and change our route on the fly, being able to simply pull over and set up camp anywhere we liked. Our first night we slept by the beach. The next night we slept by a rushing river. The next night we awoke to a beautiful glacier lake. The freedom of the open road and the freedom to camp made every night and every morning a different experience. Each one more beautiful than the next.
Milford Sound – Possibly the Most Beautiful Place We’ve Ever Seen!
Our journey through the South Island took us to one of the most amazing places Liz and I have ever been to, Milford Sound. This famous region of New Zealand is one that can not be missed when traveling in the region. We started off our journey to Milford Sound early in the morning, which turned out to be the best way to experience this majestic place. The drive into the sound was just stunning. With beautiful flowing waterfalls all around us, and ever-changing cloud cover made for a beautiful scene while we cruised down the winding road toward the water.
Once we arrived at the sound, we were able to get on the first boat out and even get a discount for being the first out! Although it was very cloudy and little rainy, that did not hamper our experience. We hopped on our boat and got to see the beautiful landscapes of the sound. Words just won’t do it justice, so I will let our pictures do some of the talking.
Mount Cook – the Tallest Mountain in New Zealand
The next day we headed deep into the mountains and into a ravine to see the tallest mountain in New Zealand, Mount Cook. This is the home of the Sir Edmund Hilary museum, because he was a “Kiwi” and used this area to train for his Mt. Everest Expedition.
While in New Zealand we got to experience many climates, and here was no different. It was even snowing on us as we set out on a hiking trail in search of a geocache in Mt. Cook National Park!
We Love You New Zealand!
Although our time exploring the South Island was brief, we did get to experience a lot. But we definitely look forward to coming back to NZ and being able to explore the North Island, including the famous Hobbit Lands and the capital of Auckland. New Zealand is a special place and one that all travelers should experience once in their lifetime. But for now, it’s time for us to head back to Thailand and experience island life for a month while we get our TEFL teaching certificates. Back to Thailand we go!