"Kia Ora" / Welcome to Queenstown on the South Island of Kiwiland - 18,939 kms away from former home Londontown. This is the end of the world, the real one, something that New Zealand has over Australia.
Stayed by Lake Te Anau overnight and drove to Milford Sound in the morning - one of the rainiest places on earth. No surprise, it was pouring by the time we arrived, but rain made waterfalls going down the vertical rainforest look even more majestic so we considered ourselves lucky. It was also the first time ever Emilia got on a boat - the "Milford Wanderer". She was all-the-more excited that a bus of Chinese tourists turned up, only to become like bees on honey - "sweet as" her.
Back in Queenstown, clouds seemed to wrap up surrounding mountains like cotton wool. Stayed in a Swiss-style chalet with views over Lake Wakatipu and the "Remarkables"- the local mountain range. Emilia looked up and made her intentions clear with a big roar which meant: "I want to become a Kiwi mountaineer like Edmund Hillary". A couple of hours later, anchored down by best-in-the-world-double-"Ferg"-burgers-washed-down-with-blue-cheese, she took us on her first ever gondola trip to the city's top lookout.
Heading into Arrowtown the next morning, a former gold mining settlement. Then started a road trip that took us to Lake Wanaka, Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook, the highest point in NZ at 3,754m.
The visit of Christchurch on our way up was remindful of the all-mighty nature. Four years after the earthquakes, the city is still scarred, with most buildings in the old city centre either demolished or closed to the public. But the city has restarted with containers and other innovative means of operations, showing resilience. Inspiring.
Next on the coast is Kaikoura, known for crayfish. We had some at the Pier Hotel, with green lipped mussels and green curry to start with. Washed down with Whither Hills, 2012 Chardonnay. Superb wine, with flavours of French oak all along. We could hear the ocean from our bed. Maria told me this as we were waking up.
Off to the Marlborough Sounds. At the Raetihi lodge on Kenupuru Sound. We are in Double Bay. This was where Emilia started babbling for the first time. It was on Christmas Day and that was her amazing gift to us. She has grown so much during these holidays. She found a coin under her cot and nearly put it in her mouth, before I stopped her doing so.
PS: "I wouldn't be who I am if it wasn't for Wellington", Maria, 27 Dec 14