A brief review of what I can remember of New Zealand:
(I put together a little album that's supposed to go along with this, but the pictures got a little scrambled, I'll try to fix it tomorrow.)
1) We arrived a day early (for the pre-pre tour), spending an extra night in Wanaka.
2) We took a solo ride around a nearby lake (49k) to try things out. I stopped to take pictures of some sheep.
3) For the first full day of the pre-tour, the group rode from Wanaka over the Crown Range ("The highest paved road in New Zealand" turned out to not be entirely true--some of it is not paved). After the impossibly long descent, we stopped to watch some of the braver members of the group bunjee jump; then on to Queenstown for a couple of days. Summer luging atop some mountain above Queenstown preceded dinner atop the same mountain.
4) 29 mile ride to Glenorchy where we went jet boating, hiked, then road in a 4wd bus through Lord of the Rings territory. It started raining while I tried to shear a sheep. There was an optional ride back along the same route, but it was raining so we all opted for the bus (bikes in a Budget truck). This 29 mile ride seemed more difficult than the previous day's climb.
5) Ride from Queenstown to Arrowtown and back. Then we boarded a 737 to Christchurch for the official start of the tour. We were picked up at the airport by Antarctic exploration vehicles which drove us to dinner at the "South Pole"--the hopping off point for most Antarctic research. Weirdest meal I've ever eaten. We had two courses in a room with a penguin tank (the penguins were not out), then got up and moved to another room where the lights would cycle on and off every few minutes (the other half of the group did this in reverse).
6) Biked around the crater in Christchurch. Took a ferry across the harbor (rather than biking all the way around), and got rained on for the first time. (My wife's notes say we had our 3rd flat tire on this ride). Took guided walking tour of Christchurch in the rain. Christchurch is beautiful even in the rain: very green, and flowers all around. Had dinner at St. Germaine with ChiChi and stoker. 5 courses + 2 bottles of wine in an expensive French restaurant came out to around $50 US per person. I began enjoying the strength of the almighty dollar.
7) Left Christchurch by train. The optional 100 mile ride (leaving from Arthur's Pass) was canceled due to inclement weather. We weren't planning on doing it anyway, but it turned out to be all downhill. I would have regretted not riding had it not been pouring rain. We stayed on the train until the end (forgotten the name of the town), watched the rain come down in sheets all through lunch at Speight's Ale House, then rode 30 (mostly dry) miles to our beach front hotel at Punakaiki. Tired of walking, we checked in and walked the half km to the pancake rocks/blowhole (which was not blowing at low tide). Beautiful sunset over the water followed by dinner which included Bill's "wine buffet".
8) If memory serves today was a wet ride from Punakaiki to a small airport up the coast where we caught a chartered airplane (with propellers) to Picton (or thereabouts). Wine tasting via bus on the way from the airport to Picton.
9) Bicycling through wine country today. I sort of believed the locals when we were told we would have a tail wind for the whole day; when Bill said it I knew it could not be true. Ended up with a headwind most of the day. Took a 2 km detour into Havelock, the green lipped muscle capital of the world. Too early for muscles, we just had coffee (also, muscles are scary). Lunch at Allan Scott Vineyard; surprisingly, no wine served with lunch.
10) Planned non-riding day. We chose the kayaking option (hiking and/or ocean cruise were the other choices). Flew out of Picton on chartered plane to Rotorua (North Island) after dinner at hotel.
11) Opted for the long ride--around whatever lake Rotorua is on, then up to the Buried Village for lunch. The ride back to Rotorua included a near single track dirt path up and then down through redwoods.
12) Raining again. All but 7 bikes skipped the ride to Tauranga and took the bus. Stopped at Rainbow Springs National Park, which is about the only place you can see a Kiwi (bird). Next stopped for a nature walk (in the rain) with New Zealand's own Kiwi Dundee; saw some glow worms, which are less impressive than they sound. Bus ride ended at Puka Park Resort (on the Bay of Plenty). Staying in Puka Park is like living in a tree house.
13) Biking around the Bay of Plenty. I'm pretty sure I'll be buying a farm around here. We opted for the long ride yet again, which included only 2 ferry rides (as seen in the video at the beginning of the thread). This was perhaps 60 miles of the most fabulous cycling we have ever done...and the sun even came out for a while.
14) We opted to take the bike apart instead of going for an early morning ride. Long bus ride to Auckland; walked around Auckland for an hour and a half before dinner at the Sky Tower. Late flight out of Auckland got us home before we left.
All in all, a very different trip than what you would expect if you've done European trips with Santana. There was not much biking between hotels, few cute little towns along the way, and pretty much nothing flat. The roads are not the friendliest for tires (I lost track of how many flats we suffered), but the drivers are relatively pleasant (not Europe pleasant, but better than the US). The weather was less than ideal, though not horrible. I would call this trip a once in a lifetime experience, but my stoker says we can move there...