This was it, our last day in New Zealand.  It was time to go home.  None of us was looking forward to the long series of flights back to Chicago, but we did still have most of a day to spend in New Zealand, so we wanted to make the most of it.  We woke up to much nicer weather this morning and loaded up the van to head back to Queenstown.  We had just driven through Queenstown on the way to Te Anau, but we wanted to get a chance to actually explore it some today.  It was about a 2 hour drive from Te Anau to Queenstown, which is funny because Queenstown and Te Anau are only about 45 miles apart as the crow flies.  Unfortunately for driving, there's a major mountain range and several lakes between them, but that's what makes the area so beautiful to visit.  The first 2/3rds of the drive was pretty uneventful except for the bird that I hit with the van.  Eventually, we came to a really big lake surrounded by mountains.  We stopped several times to take pictures as there were some really cool low clouds hanging on to the side of the mountains.

Lake and mountain views along the road

The road hung tight to the side of the lake and was very curvy and windy.

More hanging clouds in the mountains

We got to Queenstown and found a parking spot.  We walked around town and went down to the lake front.  Queenstown is a very nice little town surrounded by lakes and mountains.  It is very scenic and if we ever go back to New Zealand, I'd like to spend some more time in the area.  We did a little bit of shopping and then it was time for lunch.  While doing research about Queenstown we kept reading about Fergburger.  Fergburger was reported to have the best burgers in New Zealand, so we had to try them.  While we were walking around trying to find it, we came across Fat Badgers Pizzeria.  Seeing the red and white sign almost made us change our mind, but we were determined to see if Fergburger could live up to its hype.

New Zealand Badger Fans?

We found Fergburger as well as a big line.  Obviously the place was popular.  We ordered our food and everybody really liked it.  The food was also pretty reasonably priced for what you got.  After lunch we headed towards the airport so we could start the process of returning the van, checking in and going through security.  It turns out the Queenstown airport doesn't make you go through security until it is time to board your flight, so we got to the airport way too early.  We ended up walking around the airport trying to kill the time.  Eventually it was time to board our flight to Auckland.  By the time we landed in Auckland it was raining, so we once again didn't get to see anything of Auckland from the air.  We made the transfer to the international terminal and boarded the plane for the 12 hour flight to LA. 

The flight to LA was pretty bumpy for the first couple of hours as we flew on the outskirts of a large typhoon.  Eventually it settled down and we all tried to get some sleep.  Since we passed the dateline, we actually arrived in LA before we left Auckland.  We left Auckland on Saturday evening and arrived in LA early in the morning on Saturday.  We had some trouble getting seats together on the plane for the flight from LA to Chicago, but we eventually got Erin and Tyler in the same row and then I convinced the 3rd person in that row to switch with me when we boarded the plane.  We got back to Chicago on time and picked up our car at the off site parking lot.  We still had to drive back to Wisconsin which was harder than it seemed because we were all exhausted and it was dark out.  I managed to stay awake enough to get us to my parent's house where we could spend the night before driving back to Iowa in the morning.

We were all sad to leave New Zealand.  The trip was certainly one of the best experiences of my life and we talk about going back quite frequently.  New Zealand really is a fantastic place to visit.  The variety of scenery and activities is truly amazing.  If we go back, we'll either go for longer, or try to stick to just one island.  We probably crammed too much stuff into our two week trip, but we did manage to see most of the big things we wanted to see and were lucky to have great weather for most of the trip.

I am really glad to have been able to share it with Erin and Tyler as well as my parents. 

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