My husband and I started the year with a magical trip to New Zealand. During those three weeks, it felt like I was on the other side of the world … and I was. As we walked down through the gardens and enjoyed the sunshine, I forgot all about London’s damp and cold. Life taught me some lessons which made the trip even more rewarding.

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Nature's kingdom

I have never seen such beauty before. It seemed like all the beautiful sceneries in the world had been assembled in one place. No wonder it was chosen for the Lord of the Rings filming locations. One moment we were driving through fields filled with hundreds of cows and sheep basking in the sun and a few hours later we were looking at mountains tops with covered in snow. By the end of the day we might be sitting on the beach and watching the sunset! The immensity of the green temperate rainforests cannot even be described. It is like being in Nature’s kingdom, with places still untouched by human beings.
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Yummy kiwis

This blog would not do justice to the land of kiwis if I don’t tell you about the massive orchard that we visited. There were kiwis hanging everywhere. It was splendid and the kiwis tasted fresh and delicious. We even had kiwi wine and jam. However when we later bought kiwis from the supermarket, they were ‘produce of Italy’ …. Doh!
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The Fox Glacier

I had told Tim that if there was only one place I could visit in New Zealand, it would be a glacier. I had never been on one and it really appealed to me, especially the Fox Glacier. Before we left UK, we booked a heli-hike. A helicopter would be dropping us at the top of the glacier with a guide and we would hike for a few hours before being picked up again. I couldn’t wait! It took us 4 hours of driving along a dangerous winding road through forests and up the mountains before we finally arrived at Fox Glacier, only to be told that there was heavy rain forecast and it was likely that our trip would be cancelled the following morning. We were both disappointed and I prayed that it wouldn’t rain. However, the noise of heavy rainfall woke me up in the middle of the night. It was still raining in the morning and we could not even see the glacier or the mountain tops. I was frustrated, especially because the journey there had been such a pain and it meant that we wasted a whole day from our holidays. While looking at the clouds I was reminded then that some things are out of my control. All I could do was smile and accept.
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How about shooting?

We decided to do something else that would be fun. We went to a shooting range. I can still feel the rush of adrenalin from firing a .22 rifle and a shot gun with real cartridges. That weapon was so heavy that it hit me in the jaw and the shoulder each time I fired, but I would certainly do it again. I turned out to be an excellent markswoman!
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Rotorua's eggy farts

I was particularly impressed with Rotorua, known for its shooting geysers. The strong presence of sulphur in the atmosphere made the place stink of eggy farts but it was worth it. We visited a cultural site where we saw how the indigenous Maori people used to live and saw a live Haka war dance. Both impressive and scary!
At the spa, we soaked in the naturally hot water filled with minerals. There were several pools with different temperatures, from a balmy 36 right up to a steaming 42 degrees. The spa was right beside the huge lake and it was divine to simply relax in the surrounding beauty. My weirdest experience was the mud shower massage. It was like having a shower, while lying down covered with a wet towel and being massaged in mud. It was a strange feeling, a bit like I peed in my clothes while in bed!
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The Redwood forest

In the Whakarewarewa forest, it felt like we were in a unique postcard and nothing else existed. Far from the city, this panoramic forest holds thousands of towering redwood trees. It was like they each had a story of their own as they stood tall, proud and peaceful. The fresh forest air was invigorating. We went down one of the tracks to a spring source and I was overwhelmed by the beauty. I had never seen such a spring before with clear water. The water was soft and cold. It was the source of what turned into a river further down and merged with an immense lake. A duck appeared out of nowhere and was paddling quietly. It reminded me that this was the beginning of life, purity and innocence.
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The Peace garden

We took a ferry to a headland called Devonport. We were struck by the splendour. We went up a hill and the view was spectacular from there. It was the same when we visited Papamao and stayed on the beachside. If we were to migrate one day, Tim and I agreed that it could very well be to New Zealand. In Wellington, we visited the botanical gardens which included a native forest, a rose garden, a peace garden, a hydrangea garden, a tulip and begonia greenhouse and rare plants collections. We spent half a day wandering around there.
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The red light district ...

Our stopover in Hong Kong is a totally different story. Unknowingly, we had booked a hotel in the red light district! We were surrounded by cabarets, bars, music and people talking in Cantonese. A group of performers were assembling an enormous dragon for their dance to herald the Chinese New Year. Thankfully, our hotel was respectable. We had even been upgraded to a suite. The following morning I had stir fried noodles, sao mai, vegetables, fruits and coffee for breakfast. Absolutely delicious! I even had a second serving. I guess there is no harm in forgetting about continental breakfast for one day.
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