South Island & Kisses to Heaven

A little delayed-but here is a post about the South Island!! We spent only three days there, but it is absolutely incredible. That’s when I truly realized the intense beauty of New Zealand. The snow capped mountains, bright blue sky and the dazzling stars.





We flew from Tauranga to Christchurch then to Queenstown. This was faster than driving and taking the ferry, which would’ve taken about a week. Waiting at arrivals were about 20 kids dressed in traditional Maori clothing. Their faces were painted black to appear fierce and bounced around barefoot. They were the Kapa Haka group from Arrowtown School and were waiting to greet the local group. Chris was asked to take photos for the Arrowtown newspaper, which meant Chris asked me to photograph…The performance was pretty entertaining! Not sure what will come of those photos.

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We stayed in Arrowtown, about 15 minutes from Queenstown, in the Arrowfield Apartments. Scott, a friend of Jay and Paul- whose place we’re staying at in the Mount, own the apartments and gave us a good deal for the two nights. Arrowtown is an old gold mining town and still has the same rustic charm, but with more tourist shops. We arrived during dinner time and ate at The Fork and Tap. I had my first taste of mulled wine and I fell in love. Where have you been all my life? For dinner I had the polenta and spicy baked beans. Hit the spot.

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We spent the next day in Queenstown. It’s a typical ski resort town with overpriced coffee, bros and Lululemon shops. Breakfast was at Vudu Cafe- Housemade Muesli with chia seeds, poached fruit & lemon curd labna. Yep.

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Dinner was typical pub food. Dry chicken with thin gravy but with amazing mulled wine of course. The apartment had a heated bed that I set to the highest level until my feet were burning. It was great. And the floors and towel rack heated, which is apparently normal in New Zealand. I’m so okay with all of that.

The next day we decided to drive to Mt Cook and stay the night at Lake Tekapo. It was a gorgeous drive and we got excited every time we passed by sheep, which was about every 10 minutes. We hiked through the forest for a bit then trespassed in a sheep field and walked along the river. It looked like we were in Alaska with the golden shrubby grass and the rocky river bed. Tree Stumps were dotted along the field and the mountains rose above the treeline. Impermeable and confident. I felt like I was on a set of a Vogue modeling shoot. Where’s Tyra when you need her?

After walking until dawn, around 4pm, we headed back to the car attempting to avoid the sheep droppings. Like little Raisinets. We stayed in a Holiday Park where all four of us shared one small room with a bathroom. The beds were made out of metal with metal bed springs. Basically prison. The bunk bed Madeline and I shared was beyond squeaky. Every small movement was underlined with a “weeeeeiik” and every time I moved the squeak would reverberate in Madeline’s ear and wake her up, which would make her toss and turn. That wasn’t the best choice we made all trip. The view of the lake from our porch was beautiful though.

That evening we ate Thai food and went to the Hot Spring Baths. We are generally the loudest people in the pools… a poor representation of Americans. When my sister and I are together our energy levels skyrocket and we’re like kids again. We don’t care about anyone around us. We can make each laugh by eye contact alone- the same thoughts at the same time.

After the pools we bought lots of sugary treats and hard cider for our stargazing. Instead of paying $100/ person to join a tour we drove down a dark road and looked up. The moon was almost full so we waited for it to descend into the trees. Apparently that area is a gold-rated dark sky reserve, so the real deal. I hoping to get back to that area and get some good star shots.

We took our time driving back to Arrowtown and stopped in Wanaka for some shopping and lunch. I really enjoyed that town. A kickback vibe and gorgeous lake. As I was standing by the I Site center to use their WiFi I got a call from John, Chris’s brother in law. I gave the phone to Chris and let him have some privacy. His dad, Jack, wasn’t in the best health when we left. The doctors assured that it would be okay for Chris to join us on the trip to New Zealand. That Jack would be okay.

Chris was told that Jack was put on morphine and was beginning to yellow, which is a sign for liver failure. Teary eyed and scared we drove back to Arrowtown. That night we ate at the Postmaster and had an Aussie waiter who runs a wine touring business in the area. He was amazing and lightened the heaviness with his odd humor. I had the house smoked salmon fillet with an orange & fennel salad.

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My mom and Chris got the first flight back to LA the next day when we arrived back in the Mount. It’s unfortunate that my mom and I had to say our year-long goodbye under those circumstances but I’m glad they left when they did. Jack passed away on July 26th in the early afternoon in Seattle. His loved ones were surrounding him and he can forever be in peace and happy in love forever with his wife, Lorraine.

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One thought on “South Island & Kisses to Heaven

  1. Samantha,
    I love the picture of Grandpa Jack. It’s when you and him had lunch together. Of course tears were falling as I read your blog. Thank you for the beautiful words and view into our amazing trip. It was so hard saying goodbye to you and knowing what the next few days were going to be for Chris and me. I am so happy we had and saw so much incredible stuff as a family. I’m excited to see what this next year in New Zealand will bring you and what you bring to it. I love you. Momma


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