In a cozy little cafe in the heart of sleepy Queenstown, New Zealand, R and I are sipping on cocoa and lattes (respectively) and watching the rain fall softly outside. This is the second week we've been exploring this extraordinary country, but the first time we've relaxed at all, since the urge to get outside and see as much as we possibly can has taken over the past week and a half.
We began in Auckland, on the northern island, disembarking the plane early in the morning. R had to learn quickly how to drive on the opposite side of the road as we were handed the keys to a brand new rental car with about 11 miles on it and left to fend for ourselves. He fearlessly drove us an hour into the city and we found our accommodations easily. It was barely even time for breakfast and the streets were just waking up. We wandered down Ponsonby hand in hand in search of coffee. It started to drizzle, but that didn't dampen our spirits. We found a cozy spot tucked away in an alley to order breakfast, next to a fresh flower shop and other fresh produce.
I stop for a moment and look at my husband, glance at the ring on his left hand. This is your honeymoon, I say to myself. You must soak up every moment and let none go to waste. R catches my gaze and smiles. Maybe he is thinking the same thing.
The best part about going on a late honeymoon is that we've already been married a few months so instead of staring at each other all day, we're ready to see all that New Zealand has to offer. I was glad to have a chance to settle in at home and rest from wedding planning so that this trip was much less stressful. I am however already wistful, thinking about how returning home will mean the end of a beautiful year, a beautiful season. After this our wedding will truly be over.
I still have yet to write about the real parts of our wedding. I wrote about the decor, the flowers, the colors that were so important to me - but the stuff that really matters is still stored safe in my heart. In many ways I have yet to process that day - a whole year of planning disappeared in a blink of an eye.
I always knew R and I would be the best of traveling companions. We go at the same pace. Nothing makes us happier than jumping in the car to see where we might end up. With only one day in Auckland, it was no question we had to make the most of it.
We followed a twisty, breathtaking road up, up, up through ferns and palms that made us feel like we were in a colder version of Hawaii. At the very top of the mountain we could see down to Piha. We rounded the corner suddenly and there it was, a sweeping beach marked by the large Lion's Rock that makes it famous.
We ran along the black sand. It was terribly windy and my hat blew off, my hair covering my face. But there was no turning back until we discovered whether or not we could climb the giant rock. Sure enough, we could - it didn't take us long to find the path that led upward.
Sitting in the grass overlooking the crashing waves, it was easy to count how richly blessed I am. How lucky we are to have been gifted this grand adventure. How fortunate to see this corner of the world that is so untouched and unspoiled by humans.
Sometimes dreams actually do come true. Years ago when R and I had just met, he asked me if I could go anywhere in the world, where would I go? And I said what a great question, you answer it too. We laughed and agreed to count to three. We both said New Zealand at the same time.
Now my husband takes my hand and I follow him down a windswept cliff on a beach far away from home, just as I'd always imagined.
To be continued...