Video by Carmen; Click on the above photo to play the video.
DAN- I broke my toe surfing in Ragland. Ragland is one of those places that does a pretty good job of ignoring the rest of the world. Not because they don’t care, they just have a lot of good stuff going on at home and are pretty focused on taking care of their neighbors and enjoying the activity each day brings.
Slower, happier, relaxed. People actually live here.
It’s not the group who dreams of a retirement happiness in a place where other people seem to be happy. It’s a place where people who already feel that way find others who share this way of being in the world.
Ragland is a bit of a microcosm of New Zealand. There is something beautiful everywhere you look.
Kiwis we met who have lived abroad and chose to resettle here were keenly aware of the choice they were making. Less, slower, simpler. Healthier, happier, community. This isn’t a fictional place where everything is perfect, but for those who have learned to breathe it is an easy place to call home.
Breaking your toe surfing at 46 years old is probably a sign that you are doing something right. There is, of course, nothing to be done for a broken toe. So, being in Ragland it seems the right thing to simply smile at my good fortune and wait for the next wave.
AVA- North Island, New Zealand was quite a ride. We got to visit the Hobbiton set from the Lord of the Rings, which was absolutely darling. There were both big and small Hobbit holes, and each house had a profession tied to it. You could immediately tell which house was the baker’s, or the bee keepers, or the wood worker’s. There was an incredible attention to detail. I enjoyed Wellington, with its quirky statues and neat port. Of course, watching the Chiefs win the Super Bowl was a highlight! We were in a bar which was playing the game in this small town called Raglan, and were surrounded by Eagles and Chiefs fans (mostly Eagles fans). Overall, The North Island was a place I felt we left too quickly, and would swiftly return if ever the occasion arose.
TERESA- We traveled from the South Island to the North Island across the Cook Straight; taking the Interislander Ferry from Picton to Wellington. Luckily, our friends from New Zealand alerted us we needed to book this early as it does sell out. If both ferries are full, you are out of luck. We had smooth sailing and managed our crossing without any Dramamine!
Next, we made our way up to the small but beautiful destination of Rangatua, near Ohakone. We landed here because of our membership with Home Exchange, a home-sharing platform (https://www.homeexchange.com/?sponsorkey=teresa-c27d4). We traded guest points for our 6 nights in a lovely home which really helps the travel budget. This also managed to get us off the beaten track and see some of the country we might have missed.
We crossed several Lord of the Rings filming locations, including an other-worldly hike and gondola ride at Whakapapa, better know as Mordor. We caught up on school, spent time outside, allowed Ava to practice driving, played at a climbing gym, raced local “challenge course,” and relaxed. When it was time to go, we headed North to Rotorua. We had to continuously monitor the weather because NZ was experiencing record rains and mudslides while we followed the Geothermal Highway. We learned a bit about the Māori, New Zealand’s indigenous people at Te Piua (www.tepuia.com). Within the Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley (no, that is not a misspelling), we enjoyed amazing geysers, a Kiwi Conservation Center, and learned about the Māori Arts.
Other Tips for the North Island:
Zorbing – www.zorb.com – This was not on our travel insurance exclusion list so, yes, we did it and it was fun! Not cheap but I laughed the whole time. You can get a discount if you book at the local tourist bureau.
Hobbiton Movie Set Tour – If there is a cuter place than this on earth, I hope to see it someday. I felt like Bilbo, skipping through the Shire for a pint.
Raglan – This is a cool little town, known for surfing and skateboarding. We were lucky enough to stay in a AirBnb with hosts who generously shared their knowledge, as well as their boards, scooters and skateboards. We were actually set to spend time in Auckland but Cyclone Gabrielle was rolling through so we sadly missed everything but the airport.
Money – The only place to change actual USD was at the airport. You can use a card most places but it is more limited in small towns. Some of the ATMs have quite a heavy fee, so be sure to look at this before arriving. New Zealand is many things, but inexpensive is not one of them.
Truth be told, you cannot go wrong in New Zealand. It is amazing.
CARMEN- While we were traveling in the North Island, we got caught in the middle of a cyclone. The power at our place went out a few times, but thankfully, the family at the place we were staying at were really nice. We hung out with their kids while waiting for the storm to pass. While we were hanging out, me, Tucker and the two boys from the house, went to the park nearby. We used boogie boards to slide down a hill. It was really fun but sometimes the wind threw the boogie board into your face, other times you fell off and slid down without it. It was a lot of fun! We originally planned to stay in a different area but changed our plans at the last minute to avoid going to the center of the cyclone. We were so thankful to get to stay in Raglan.