Departure Lounge: New Zealand

Departure Lounge: New Zealand

I’m over-the-top excited about my next big travel adventure.

In just 6 weeks I finally get to visit my #1 Dream Destination – N E W  Z E A L A N D !

I am a huge Lord of the Rings nerd and have been obsessed with New Zealand ever since I first saw The Fellowship of the Ring back in 2002. Since then, I’ve learned more about the country through friends, family, and strangers on the Internet and my fascination has only grown. I’ve been told that it is very similar to my beloved BC, which is fantastic because I think I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

With all the traveling that I’ve done over the past 15 years, it’s hard to believe that I haven’t been to New Zealand before. It seems that the two-month window that I’ve been waiting to find in my calendar has yet to appear. So, I’m making the most of the 2.5 weeks available to see as much as possible. I just can’t wait any longer!

I have a jam packed itinerary, which includes visiting friends and family and taking in a tour of the South Island with travel blogger extraordinaire and NZ resident, Liz Carlson, of Young Adventuress. I’m so excited to experience this country with locals and to maybe even pick up some photography tricks from Liz.

I know I won’t be able to check everything off my bucket list this time, so hopefully this is just the beginning.

Itinerary

March 19: Auckland

March 20: Matamata & Rotorua

March 21-22: Orari

March 23: Christchurch & Lake Tekapo

March 24-25: Queenstown

March 26-27: Wanaka

March 28-29: Franz Josef

March 30-31: Punakaiki

April 1-2: Abel Tasman National Park

April 3-4: Wellington

nzmap

These are the activities I am most looking forward to:

  • Channeling my inner Baggins in Hobbiton.
  • Zorbing in Rotorua
  • Glacier Hiking at Franz Josef
  • Cruising the awe-inspiring Milford Sound
  • Visiting the WETA studios in Wellington where LOTR came to life!

 

Have you ever been to New Zealand? Any recommendations or travel tips?

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Travel Highlight: Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia

Travel Highlight: Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia

This is what $100 million dollars looks like. IMG_4259 Do I have your attention? This is without a doubt the best thing that I did in Turkey. Not only was riding a hot air balloon a giant check off of my travel bucket list, but it was the reason I wanted to go to Turkey in the first place. That’s a dangerously high mark to live up to. Fortunately, Cappadocia and it’s famed hot air balloons delivered one of my favourite travel moments ever!

But, it almost didn’t happen at all…

Everyone knows that things can go wrong when you’re travelling. And unfortunately, Murphy’s Law often comes into play at the most inopportune times.

When I started organizing this trip, I wanted to leave very little to chance. Not only did I have some newbie travellers joining me but I had some major travel dreams that needed to come true. So, I used my expert planning skills to secure our flights WAY in advance with a top notch balloon company in Goreme. The best flying weather is from April through October when the skies are clear and the winds are light at dawn. We booked our flight smack dab in the middle on June 30th. I triple confirmed our dates with the hotel and was ready for the experience of a lifetime. But, as we got closer and closer to the designated date my weather app stalking revealed a blip in our weeks of sunshine-filled Mediterranean bliss. I started to get very nervous. What happens if they cancel our flight? We were only spending two nights in Cappadocia and had a flight to Istanbul scheduled on our second morning. We only had one shot.

On the morning of our flight we woke up before dawn for our 4:40am hotel pick up. It was at this point that my friend Mindy informed me that she had been sick all night and after taking one look at her I knew she wouldn’t be joining our group. With strict orders to stay in bed and drink lots of water, I left with Caleb & Rachel. We arrived at the balloon office to a light buffet breakfast and a waiting game. The weather forecast was not promising. After repeatedly being informed that they would decide in 20 minutes and then again in 20 minutes, we got the news. What CAN happen DID happen. Our balloon ride was cancelled.

I had mentally prepared myself for this disappointment and had already begun working on a back-up plan. We would simply rebook for the next day and if necessary push our flight to Istanbul back a few hours – it only cost €15 anyway. What I was not prepared for was the news that they were fully booked for the next day. WHAT!!!! For those of you who know me, I’m sure you can imagine my reaction and the full scale meltdown that proceeded. Not my finest hour.

Rachel and I tore back up the hill to our hotel reception and begged the night manager to help us. Keep in mind that it’s still before 6am. We asked if we could call the other balloon companies in town to check for other openings. He politely informed us that reservations at all the balloon companies would be closed until 8am and that we should come back later. We all decided to go our separate ways – Rachel & Caleb to get some more sleep and me, to sulk alone on the breakfast terrace. I ended up making friends with some of the kitchen staff and had a long leisurely breakfast with bottomless coffee and apple tea – so I guess there are worse places to be disappointed. Did I mention that we stayed in a cave hotel? IMG_1634 IMG_1633 When 8am rolled around – Rachel & I were back at the reception. We hijacked the front desk and basically demanded that the receptionist call every balloon company in town, which he did. We are quite a convincing pair. Unfortunately, he got the same response from every single company. Full. At this point we had to get ready for our History and Adventure tour (more on that later) that was departing at 10am and I needed to tend to my sick room-mate. But, not to be deterred, I went back to the front desk at 9am to speak with the daytime agent. She promised to call around while we were on our tour and sounded quite optimistic.

And what do you know… she came through with a confirmed booking on Deluxe Balloons and an earlier pick-up time that would allow us to still make our original flight to Istanbul! I couldn’t have been more thrilled to find out that I had to wake up before dawn yet another morning.

So early on Canada Day, my travel crew with a mostly recovered Mindy, woke up to clear skies and minimal wind. We were a go! IMG_4255 IMG_4254 IMG_1821

This is what happiness looks like :)

This is what happiness looks like :)

After a chilly dawn launch in our 16 passenger basket, we floated for one hour over the Cappadocian moonscape dotted with villages, vineyards, and the show-stopping Rose Valley. Our pilot informed us that no two flights are the same because we go wherever the wind takes us. We watched the sunrise over the mountains cast the most picture-perfect lighting over the dozens of balloons that joined us in the skies. It’s crazy to think that this is an everyday occurrence here. Each balloon costs roughly a million dollars and with approximately 100 balloons launched each day, we helped fund a 100 million dollar view. And we were happy to do it!IMG_1839 IMG_1864 IMG_1904 IMG_1908 IMG_1848 IMG_1866 IMG_1898 IMG_1935 IMG_1938 IMG_1912 IMG_1852 IMG_9896 IMG_1927 IMG_1943 IMG_1948 IMG_1874 After taking approximately a trillion photos and videos we proceeded to land in a nearby farmer’s field, narrowly missing some fruit trees and a vineyard. The ground team that had been chasing our balloon from below arrived within minutes to help guide the basket onto the truck and return us to our hotel.

But first, some bubbly for a traditional champagne toast to a successful aeronautical adventure! IMG_4250 Have you ever been on a hot air balloon ride? What’s on your travel bucket list? Leave a comment below.