Wow, I don't even know where to begin. I'm usually one of those people that uploads my photos to facebook just moments after they were taken, so the fact that it has been 32 hours since I have been home from the biggest vacation of my life and I have not yet uploaded a single picture is pretty unbelievable. The problem is that I have about 500 pictures and it's incredibly overwhelming to even think about sorting through those and deciding which ones to post. Plus, I don't remember half the names of the places we went. Well, that's not entirely true. I remember lots of names. I just can't remember which name goes with which picture. So again, I am going to defer to Sherry's blog, where she is posting a much more detailed description of our journey than I ever could...or ever will.
In answer to the very broad question that everyone is asking, "what did you do?" I will answer with a very broad, "spent a few days in the Dunedin area checking out the shops and local tourist spots, touring the beautiful Otago peninsula where we went on some hikes and saw lots of sheep and birds and sea lions (AND...keep reading to find out what else we saw there); spent 5 days driving/camping around the south island, mostly on scenic highways, stopping for lots and lots of hikes and going on 2 boat rides; and finished off with another day and a half in Dunedin."
One day soon, I will upload a large number of my pictures to facebook and you can look through them there.
For now, I will just list the highlights of my trip!
1. I saw a penguin in its natural habitat! Who can say that? And, to top it off, it is one of the rarest species of penguins in the world! It is called a yellow-eyed penguin and you can learn more about it and see better pictures here. We went to Sandfly Bay on the Otago peninsula, which is just outside of Dunedin to catch a glimpse of these little guys. Penguins will run/swim away if they feel threatened and this can be detrimental to their hungry babies, so it is very important that you are not seen. So...we had to hide out in these wooden rooms. We only saw one penguin and it was pretty far away, but it was worth it. Even from 100 meters away, I could tell it was cute. =)
2. The Catlins rainforest. It was incredibly green and dense. We went on lots of short hikes, which was really fun because we could walk for 10 minutes and be at a gorgeous waterfall. All of our hikes pretty much looked like this. It was great.
3. Fiordland National Park. Yeah, the whole park was a highlight. It's hard to pick out the best parts, because it was all incredible and unlike anything I'd ever seen before. I'm not hard to please when it comes to nature and scenery. I can find beauty in a variety of landscapes. But this was really just different from anything I've ever seen before. There was moss growing on everything - the trees, the rocks, the ground. I'm pretty sure it was even growing on itself. And if we had stayed there long enough, it would have grown on us, too. Sadly, I don't really have any good pictures that describe this because my camera battery died that day, but I did snag this video, so check it out to see some awesome scenery. Besides hiking and camping, our main activity in the Fiordlands was going on a boat cruise in Milford Sound. It was gorgeous.
3. The waterfalls. Oh, the waterfalls. We saw so many waterfalls, Sherry even started joking that she was sick of seeing waterfalls. We saw big ones and small ones and there were definitely too many to count. Besides the one at Milford Sound, here are some of the impressive ones.
4. The totally awesome science exhibit at the Otago Museum. I felt like a kid playing with all of the hands-on exhibits. Just think back to a really cool science museum you went to as a kid and you've probably got the idea. Except NOT. Because this one was at least twice as cool because it also had a RAINFOREST! This rainforest had a banana tree and a waterfall and geckos and turtles and a bazillion butterflies. Seriously. One bazillion. I think I read that somewhere. There was also a display of butterfly and moth pupae and you could see the adults breaking free and starting to fly!
5. The Haast Highway. Why? Because it looked like this. If there were a road you could drive on to get to heaven, I think it would look like the Haast Highway did the evening we were on it. Absolutely stunning!
The best part of New Zealand was, without a doubt, the beautiful landscapes. So I will try to add pictures to facebook tomorrow, because showing you pictures is probably the best way I can describe my experience. And I will add a link to the album on my blog, for any of you who are not facebook users.