A honeymoon in Middle Earth
Our readers share tales of their ramblings around the world. Who: Susie Lee (the author) and her husband, Brook Tekie, both of Arlington, Va. Where, when, why: We went to New Zealand for three weeks in December and January for our belated honeymoon. New Zealand is a country both of us had always wanted to visit. We had a destination wedding in Mexico in 2015. In the months after, we were busy traveling for other weddings in California, Hawaii and Ukraine. We wanted to take a month off for our honeymoon (including a week in Tahiti and Bora Bora following the New Zealand trip) and could not set aside enough time to do so until more than a year after our wedding. Highlights and high points: We loved Rotorua and the surrounding area. You quickly get over the omnipresent scent of sulfur. Watching a live Maori haka dance was really special, and we enjoyed stuffing ourselves with hangi cooking — the traditional Maori style — and learning more about the culture. The geothermal wonders at WaiO-Tapu were spectacular, especially the erupting geysers, bubbling mud pools and multicolored bodies of water. We debated whether to stop by Hobbiton to see Bag End (Frodo Baggins’s depicted home in the “Lord of the Rings” movie franchise) and Samwise Gamgee’s house, and ultimately were so glad we did. The Shire is really charming and beautifully maintained among the rolling hills in the countryside. Cultural connection or disconnect: We spent a beautiful afternoon in Hawkes Bay on bikes and visited a number of wineries’ tastings. At one, we got into a conversation with a woman who was conducting the tasting. She was a young university student and told us that, compared with her parents’ generation, there is a much more concerted effort among young people to incorporate the Maori language and history as part of mainstream teaching. It brought to mind the importance of preserving indigenous cultures and languages across the world. Biggest laugh or cry: We embarked on a half-day trek on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, which boasts beautiful coastal views. A section of the trek has a shortcut during low tide. We thought we got there in time to cross safely, but as we started on that part, we met other trekkers coming from the other side who told us that the tide had started to come in and we would be waist-deep in water. We had to carry our backpacks over our heads as we crossed. When we finished, we were soaked and our hiking boots were filled with shells! How unexpected: New Zealand far surpassed our expectations. We have a lot of Kiwi friends, as well as friends who had visited the country, so we had heard over and over again how beautiful New Zealand is and how friendly its people are. We were overwhelmed at how, when driving through the country, you constantly get the feeling you are in a postcard. We were also overwhelmed at the hospitality of our Airbnb hosts and hotel staff. Most of the hosts provided us with amazing homemade breakfasts and spent a lot of time chatting with us. The service we experienced everywhere was great, and the people we encountered were very helpful. Memento or memory: Being able to take three weeks off to see New Zealand fully — and consciously not following the news in Washington — were especially wonderful gifts. It gave us an opportunity to be with each other in a conscious way. As a couple, we have had the good fortune to do a lot of traveling together, and this was just another confirmation that we have to continue to take advantage of these opportunities even if piles of email and work await us when we return.
The author and her husband, Brook Tekie, in New Zealand’s Wanaka wine sub-region.