3/27/14 – 3/31/14: Singapore
Singapore delighted us soon as we entered the airport and walked by a dazzling sculpture called “Kinetic Rain.” Hundreds of copper covered raindrops slid up and down invisible strings, floating through the air in magical waves. We would’ve stood there for an hour if not for the fact that we had very little sleep and were very hungry.
3/19/14 – 3/22/14: Yogyakarta to Jakarta, Indonesia
Our flight from Bali to Yogyakarta (pronounced “jo-ja-cart-a”) was a spiritual one. We knew we’d soon be visiting the largest Hindu site in Indonesia, as well as the largest Buddhist temple in the entire world, but in the midst of contemplating these holy places we weren’t expecting the sudden contemplation on our own fragile mortality. Specifically, Katie’s very real fear of her bladder bursting.
3/13/14 – 3/19/14: Bali, Indonesia
After spending roughly four months in western worlds, traveling through Australia and New Zealand, we were suddenly thrust into much-needed culture shock when we landed in Bali, Indonesia.
3/3/14 – 3/8/14: Bethells Beach, New Zealand
Pretty much everyone who knows Katie and me knows that we love the show Xena: Warrior Princess. In fact, we met because of that show over 19 years ago. So when the opening narrator says “her courage will change the world” I can definitively say that it changed mine for the better.
Our love of Xena took us on a pilgrimage to Bethells Beach, a little known stretch of black sand and rocky outcrops along the west coast of New Zealand. We’d ventured here before back in 2011 and were determined to return, not only because it’s the location of several Xena episodes, but because it’s downright beautiful. Along the way to Bethells, Katie brainstormed what we could do during our 5 night stay. Specifically, what could we do that was Xena related. Somehow, Katie landed on the idea of us reenacting the opening credits of the show. We laughed at the very idea of it as we drove to our Airbnb.
2/21/14 – 3/3/14: Cape Reinga / Kaitaia, New Zealand
Seashells crunched below our tour bus as it barreled down Ninety Mile Beach toward Cape Reinga, the northern tip of New Zealand. Katie and I were on a day-tour that consisted of sand dune sledding and lunch at Tapotupotu Bay, but it was the beach cruising that had lured us in. There something about speeding headlong down a sandy beach in a gigantic bus that felt…unique. Our juggernaut got us to Cape Reinga in record time.
2/17/14: Hobbiton - Matamata, New Zealand
After principal photography for The Lord of the Rings trilogy ended in 2000, the sets were quickly dismantled, leaving the New Zealand countryside as the filmmakers had found it. Understandable, since you don't want travelers stumbling upon broken down, two-sided castle facades while traipsing through the mountains. What Kiwis didn't realize at the time was that those movies would be incredibly successful, so much so that Peter Jackson's films have become a cornerstone of their tourist trade, as evidenced here by Air New Zealand's "most epic safety video ever made".
2/6/14 – 2/15/14: Wellington to Tongariro Northern Circuit, New Zealand
Hiking Kepler Track was a sweet conclusion to the South Island of New Zealand. I wish I could say the North Island gave us a warm welcome, but apparently we did something to piss it off.
For one, the ferry ride across Cook Strait made Katie and I exceptionally green about the gills. Katie sat curled up with a hood over her head for the entire 3 hour ride refusing to move or speak. I was so bad off I sat outside, cold wind buffeting against me for two hours straight, just to keep my breakfast safely in my stomach.
01/31/14 – 02/02/14: Kepler Track, Te Anau, New Zealand
Finding ourselves alone once more, without the distraction of parental guidance, Katie and I buckled down for a week’s worth of RTW trip planning. With year-long travel it’s impossible to map out everything ahead of time, you need to make room for research along the way. With this in mind, we rented an airbnb outside of Christchurch for a week-long sequestering, nothing but the internet and a fridge full of groceries to sustain us. It was a fruitful endeavor that ended with a rough outline for the rest of New Zealand and all of South East Asia. Thankfully, long walks and the large bay window in our studio apartment made us feel less isolated.
01/02/14 – 01/21/14: Queenstown to Nelson, South Island, New Zealand
As you know, our trip to New Zealand in 2011 beguiled us to no end. We told anyone who'd listen about the country's welcoming people, adventurous spirit, and extraordinary beauty. You can't turn your head without seeing another sublime vista or mountain begging to be climbed! It truly is a remarkable place. (No, New Zealand isn't paying us to be ambassadors of their country, though they should!)
Our incessant adulation of New Zealand must have made an impact, because Katie's parents, Joe and Mary Lou, decided to take an incredible risk: they decided to spend three solid weeks with us traveling around the South Island together. They willingly placed themselves in our hands, exposing themselves to "Lord of the Rings" mood music and mandatory ice cream stops. We accepted this challenge and were surprised to find tour guides lying dormant in our DNA. Then again, I suppose it's not hard to point out the good stuff when everything around you is spectacular.
12/24/13 – 12/28/13: Routeburn / Caples Track, Glenorchy, New Zealand
When Katie and I decided to go on a RTW trip we had no idea where we’d be traveling. The options were limitless. How would we narrow it down? An easy way to start narrowing it down would be to immediately rule out places we’d visited before. For instance, New Zealand, where we’d experienced 9 weeks of nirvana back in 2011. It was literally the perfect vacation. Based on that perfection, however, it was hard to resist the opportunity to return. It was, after all, only a short flight away from Australia…