Australia and New Zealand are places that we would like to visit some day, but were not in our near-term travel plan. But here we are on our month-long adventure in Australia and New Zealand. It all started with the “mid-life crisis” of a high school classmate Helen (or the start of her 4th life, according to her). She bought a boat (“Out There”) and learned how to operate it. “Out There” is a he (according to Helen) and is based in New Zealand. She invited us and a few friends to come and visit. I casually told Sally about this, and to my surprise, she jumped for it.

After a lot of planning (hundreds of emails!), we wound up with 5 couples on this NZ trip. Sally and I will go to Australia for a short (10 days) visit first. We stayed with Elisha and Judy in Sydney and traveled to Kangaroo Island. We just covered a tiny part of Australia and so we have to go back some time.

Then the journey with the "Fellowship of the Boat" began in New Zealand. We flew to Queenstown for a 4-day hut-to-hut hike (the Kepler Track) in the Fiordland National Park (only the fittest for this portion :-)). We had our eyes on the Milford Track (hyped as the most beautiful track in the world), but all the huts there were reserved way before we decided to go (more than 6 months ahead of the trip). After that, we drove around in the South Island, making our way to the northern end of the South Island where the boat was moored. We stopped at Lake Wanaka, Lake Tekapo near Mt. Cook, Akaroa near Christchurch (where there was a big earthquake a while back, and several severe after-shocks recently), Kaikoura and wound up in Nelson.

After this portion of the trip, Sally and I embarked on the journey to the Lord of Ring land in the North Island. We went to Hobbiton (Matamata, NZ) and Mount Doom (Mount Ngauruhoe, NZ). We flew back to Seattle from Auckland, via Sydney and San Francisco, a journey lasted more than 24 hours (included all the layover).

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Kangaroo Island
Kepler Track
South Island
Mount Doom