I'm finally returning to writing up my travel diary about New Zealand - sorry it's been on hiatus for so long! When we last left off, I had ditched Christchurch to head inland to the mountains. I stopped off in Timaru for the night, with plans to turn away from the coast the next day.

Timaru to Lake Tekapo )

Lake Pukaki and Aoraki/Mount Cook )

Oamaru = more penguins! )

Next up: Oamaru's botanical garden and Dunedin's yellow-eyed penguin colony! Also, the biggest sea bird I have ever seen!

All of the pictures posted in this entry, along with a bunch more, are in this flickr set.
I've been slogging through the summaries of the other days, just biding my time until I got to this day. Because, I can barely contain my excitement about this, I saw penguins. Swimming around, out in the open water, not in a zoo. But, I get ahead of myself..

Drive to Akaroa and Birdling Sanctuary )

omg penguinz!!!11!! (Or, the Harbour cruise in Akaroa.) )

Back to Christchurch, and away again! )

All the pictures for day 6 are in the flickr set here.
Kayaking )

Wine Country.. )

Next up - Christchurch
All of the pictures for day 4 are in this flickr set.
February 13.
(Those following along at home might notice that I missed February 12th. That's because due to the time change I really did miss it. New Zealand is 19 hours ahead of Minnesota.)

Arrival in New Zealand )

Chiara's abode and around )

Evening Activities )

Next up - Across Cook Straight to Picton
In case you don't want to read the whole long entry, and just want to see the pictures. Flickr set of Day 2 pictures.
February 11.

The day started with an early cab ride to the airport, and a 9 AM flight to L.A. The flight was a teensy bit delayed (20 minutes), but otherwise uneventful. I collected my luggage and went outside to meet [livejournal.com profile] minorninth who picked me up in his shiny Prius. We headed off to Santa Monica, where he parked in the lot for his employer's Santa Monica office. I was amused to see that the support columns in the underground lot were painted in Google colors, and that all of the office furniture in the lobby was also in Google colors.

We walked to Fritto Misto, where [livejournal.com profile] percussivebunny was already there waiting for us. It's been about 7-ish years since I've seen her, so much hugging and exclaiming ensued. She had very sweetly made me some puppy chow to snack on during the flight. I was famished, so I dug into it right away. :) We then went into the restaurant where we were joined by [livejournal.com profile] zellandyne and [livejournal.com profile] bagoffarts. I had a goat cheese omelette, which was delicious.

Here we all are at the restaurant:

IMG_1768

It was a beautiful day, so after we ate we decided to go walk along the Santa Monica promenade, an open air mall. With a few exceptions, most of the shops are exactly the same things you'd find in an indoor mall, but the people watching is way better. :) We saw someone tap dancing to rap, a barbershop quartet, and various other street acts as we walked. We stopped in at a gaming shop, a kitchen shop, and a coffee shop where I got an iced lemonade. It was a nice laid back time, and it was great to see and catch up with everyone. Which was the perfect way to spend the afternoon before getting on a 12 1/2 hour flight.

There was a nice view of the Santa Monica pier from atop the parking garage for the promenade:

IMG_1769

I was driven back to the airport by [livejournal.com profile] zellandyne, where I checked into my Air New Zealand and went to await my flight to Auckland. The plane loaded up promptly at 8:30 PM, but we didn't take off until almost 9:30 as they were awaiting passengers from a slightly late flight. My experiences with Air New Zealand (I'd be taking 6 flights with them over the next two weeks) were more or less positive. Their food wasn't very good - but that's par for the course with airline food. The in-flight 'entertainment' system was nice. Each seat had their own personal TV screen built into the seat in front of us, but rather than being stuck whatever the airline decides to show you, they have about 25 different movies on demand that you can watch whenever you feel like during the flight. On the way over, I watched Little Miss Sunshine as I was eating dinner. Then I slept for about six hours. When I woke up, unable to fall asleep, I watched LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring. (They had all 3 in the trilogy in their catalogue of movies, so if you didn't feel like sleeping on the flight you would have been able to fit in all three during this flight.)

Next up - Wellington!

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