Fiji isn’t an easy place to leave. Friendly people, gorgeous landscapes, great food and picture-perfect beaches. What’s not to love? We’ll miss everything from the colorful buses to the bustling markets. The flame trees and frangipani flowers. The taro leaves with coconut milk, the kokoda seafood stew and the cassava fries. Fiji offered a lot of unique experiences we aren’t likely to have again until we can make our way back to the South Pacific islands. We’ll most miss our friends, the Summerlins, who gave us such an incredible island experience in the place they’ve called home for almost three years.
Possibly the only drawback to this lovely place for our family of Nordic ancestry was the heat, since we happened to be there for the country’s hottest time of year. My friend, Diana, liked to tease me that all my sweating was the result of early menopause. Real funny, D. No, it’s just HOT! Yet, hot or not, we loved Fiji and made some amazing memories during our time there. Our visit to the village of Sawanivo will always be a highlight among our service projects on this trip.
One thing making it a little bit easier to say goodbye to Fiji and our friends was the fact we would be moving on to a place Brian and I had dreamed of visiting for years – the land of Kiwis. New Zealand is living up to our expectations. We arrived in Auckland and stayed just one night near the airport, yet still found a beautiful green space for a walk before our flight out to Christchurch.
We picked up our rental car and stayed in Christchurch for a couple days. Half the city is still recovering from the massive earthquakes occurring four years ago. Progress is slow in many areas. Some residents still live in damaged homes which haven’t been repaired and their neighborhoods now suffer from periodic flooding, a result of the significant geologic changes the earthquakes created.
A major stop for the girls in Christchurch was the Antarctic Center, which they’d been hearing about from other kids and were very excited to visit. The city is a hub and launch point for Antarctic expeditions, so its family-oriented Antarctic Center definitely qualified as a “homeschooling” experience for the girls…and for us parents, for that matter.
We’ve now started our drive to explore New Zealand’s South Island. Our first day on the road we made our way through flat farmlands and then the rolling foothills of the southern Alps. We’re staying near Mt. Cook now and will journey through Wanaka, Queenstown and Milford Sound over the next couple weeks. After that, we’re keeping our options open. During our time in New Zealand we’ll make our way north all the way back up to Auckland, but we’ve learned the benefits of going with the flow and letting the people we meet along the way guide the journey. Who knows what the five weeks will bring….