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Trip Report Sweet As - A Month in God’s Country - South Island, NZ

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August 15-Sept 14, 2013

My love affair with the South Island of New Zealand continues. This visit was special. It combined the best of both worlds; two leisurely tramping-centric weeks spent with my best friend and number one travel buddy, and two fast-paced weeks introducing my favorite brother to the wonders of the South Island.

Other than accommodation reservations and one restaurant booking, the first two weeks were ‘free and easy’. The second two weeks were tightly orchestrated, in an attempt to fit in as much as reasonably possible for my time poor brother.

There were challenges, sure. Bill and I traveled from Perth, Australia. Bob traveled from Colorado. I made all the arrangements, and nearly went mad trying to coordinate flights and find the best deal for all involved.

After months of monitoring airline prices, we finally took the plunge.

My flights were simple – Perth-Auckland-Christchurch and return. Bill’s and Bob’s were a bit more complicated, as they were both open jaw. Bill arrived into Christchurch and departed from Queenstown. Bob arrived into Queenstown and departed from Christchurch.

We discovered that it was less expensive to book Bill’s flights as one way tickets 1) Perth to Auckland and on to Christchurch 2) Queenstown to Auckland and on to Perth.

For Bob however, it was crucial that his flights were all on a single ticket. This enabled him to check his luggage directly through to Queenstown from Colorado and covered him in the case of delayed flights/missed connections. I also wanted to coordinate his arrival in Queenstown with Bill’s departure, and his departure from Christchurch with my return to Perth. The Air New Zealand website wouldn’t allow me to do this, but it was eventually resolved after a few calls to their call center, and bless ‘em they waived the telephone booking fee.

Finally, we were booked.

Bob’s plane fare: COS-LAX-AKL-ZQN, return CHC-AKL-SFO-COS – USD $1,642, plus $125 for ‘preferred seating’ one of which was a sham.

Bill’s plane fare: AUD $1,039.35 + $130 for One Up bid

My plane fare: AUD $940 + $130 for One Up bid

About those One Up bids – Air New Zealand allows you to upgrade to the next level of seating by entering online bids prior to flights, based upon availability. I made bids on Bob’s 13 hour outbound flight and on both of Bill’s and my flights across the Tasman. To do this I had to sign all of us up for the Air New Zealand Airpoints program, as apparently, it’s only available to members. The process was convoluted and time consuming, and there was a chance we’d have to forfeit any miles we might earn towards our United Airlines frequent flyer account, but we decided to give it a whirl.

Seven days prior to our departure from Perth, Bill and I received notice that our $130 AUD per person bid had been accepted and we were upgraded to Premium Economy on the outbound flight. My USD $210 bid for Bob’s outbound flight was rejected and no doubt loudly laughed at, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Our One Up bids on the return were rejected.

On to the itinerary:

Last year’s trip was too much driving and too little hiking, so Bill and I opted to do less driving and more hiking this trip. To that end, this was our itinerary:

Geraldine – one night
Mt Cook – three nights
Cromwell – two nights
Manapouri – three nights
Knobs Flat (located between Te Anau and Milford) – three nights
Glenorchy – four nights

For my brother, I worked out this faster paced, first visit to NZ, try-to-hit-the-highlights-without- driving-every-single-day-itinerary:

Queenstown – three nights
Te Anau – two nights
Wanaka – two nights
Franz Josef – two nights
Greymouth – one night
Kaikoura – two nights
Christchurch – one night

The goal was to fit in a bit of everything – lakes, rivers, mountains, countryside, sounds, glaciers, rainforest, a bit of adventure, a couple of breweries, the Tasman Sea coastline, the Pacific Ocean coastline, seals and seal pups, some nice hikes, the earthquake damage and recovery of Christchurch, etc. We did more organized activities than I’ve ever done on a trip previously, many booked well in advance, and it suited us well.

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