A hon­ey­moon in Mid­dle Earth

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - Travel@wash­post.com

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.

COUR­TESY OF SUSIE LEE

The au­thor and her hus­band, Brook Tekie, in New Zealand’s Wanaka wine sub-re­gion.

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