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We’re on our way - The Traveling Alphabet
Blog New Zealand

We’re on our way

Two weeks ago Audrey and I started the trip of a lifetime. We are on a seven-month sabbatical from the “real world” to see the real world. Along the way, we plan to meet many interesting people and experience a variety of adventures. In the emails we send home, we’ll describe what we see and experience as many of you have asked. It’s easy to lose touch beings so far away so please keep us updated on what is happening back home.

We landed in Christchurch, New Zealand after spending 18 hours on the plane and, surprisingly, jet lag was not a problem. New Zealand is 21 hours ahead of California so it feels like a three-hour difference. Kind of like flying from the East Coast to the West Coast — except you lose a full day. I’m still wondering where that day goes.

In Christchurch we went to the Antarctica Museum which is a must for anyone visiting. The museum gives an overview of Antarctica, the type of research conducted on the icy continent and the rugged lifestyle for the 70 or fewer people who live down there. After standing in the simulated storm chamber, I’ve decided it wouldn’t be fun to live on that continent.

As we made our way down the East Coast we stopped in Dunedin to take a trip out to visit the penguins. Before leaving for this trip, Audrey wanted to make sure we saw penguins and the Great Wall in China. So, I was hoping we’d see the awkward, waddling creatures otherwise I’d hear about it for the rest of our journey. Fortunately we found the diminutive critters and watched as they came home from a day of swimming in the ocean and waddle up on the beach to their homes. They are cute.

We then made our way down the coast via bus in order to catch a scenic train through one of the many gorges. It was a beautiful train ride from Dunedin to Pukerangi on an historic train through the Taieri Gorge. We were then dropped off in the middle of nowhere.

As the train pulled away I was recollecting all the stories I’d read about travelers running out of water found weeks later dead on the side of the road. I hoped that wouldn’t be us. Two-hundred yards from the train station, Audrey lost control of the bike on the downhill and crashed on the gravel road giving her a nice scrape and bruise on her arm. A crash is never good but when five minutes into a trip, one’s confidence is shattered making the rest of the days ride less than desirable. In a strong testament to her character, she wiped the dirt away, cleared her tears and got back on the bike.

We continued to cycle 124 miles to Queenstown which most of it seemed to be facing a stiff headwind, dirt roads, and less than optimal weather. These challenging conditions contributed to Audrey taking two more falls, me having some close calls, and both of us having five flat tires. Not good. We hope the weather improves as we take the bikes to the northern side of the South Island.

Queenstown is the “Adrenaline Capital of the World” and has every known heart-thumping “sport” available including Bungee Jumping, Paragliding, Jet Boating, Sky Diving, Mountain Biking, and Para Bungy to name a few. Yes, that last one, Para Bungee does exist. One, not me, is attached to a parachute behind a boat and dragged around the lake at which time you drop from the parachute with a rubber band wrapped around your ankles and careen toward the lake then whiplash back up to the parachute after the rubber band reaches maximum elasticity.

We, however, chose to take the Jet Boat ride up the river which involved a young driver, who probably races motorcycles on his days off, taking a highly, noise-polluting, testosterone-producing jet boat over water at 60 MPH and occasionally spinning it 360 degrees. Neither Audrey or I are into these types of machines but could ride for free as Audrey’s cousin, Susanne, works with the company. Admittedly, we both came back and said, exuberantly, “That was fun!”

Our next day was much less adrenaline pumping but far more exhilarating. We kayaked up Milford Sound which its beauty can’t adequately be described in words or pictures. The highlight came when the dolphins swam with us — literally inches away from our kayaks and flipping in the air in front of us. Magical.

Our plan is to continue to move north in order to escape the wind and rain. Despite the bad weather, we’re excited for the opportunity to travel like this and are enjoying the time together.

Thinking of everyone at home,

Bryan & Audrey

Bryan Gillette

Bryan Gillette is the founder and principal consultant for Summiting Group focusing on Leadership and Organizational Development. He has traveled extensively for both work and personal reasons visiting almost 60 countries and 40 United States. He is an avid runner and cyclist and ran 200 miles around Lake Tahoe in 76 hours as well as cycled across the United States. He recently spent one year traveling the world with his family.

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