Hiking the Thorsborn Trail in Iceland in 1997, we met folks from Germany, England, Australia and New Zealand. One night in a crowded hut the Kiwi told us marvelous tales about the beauty of New Zealand. We were hooked like the bass we fish for in our pond.

In 2000, along with the Choral Guild of Atlanta, Barb and I spent ten days singing in Sydney and Caines Australia. When the group left to return to the States, Barb and I lingered for another ten days that included four days hiking on Hinchinbrook Island and several days in the Outback. We were captivated by the lands down under.

In 2005 the young couple we met in Iceland invited us to stay with them in Munich. After several days with Andi and Sylvia, we continued on to Tuscany where we walked from Florence to Siena. In Siena we met a couple from New Zealand, Bernard and Faye Leov, sheep and cattle ranchers, who invited us to visit them in Rai Valley, South Island.

The proverbial icing on the cake came with the Lord of The Rings movies which showcased the beauty of New Zealand. “We need to go to New Zealand,” said the woman who shares my name. “And the correct response is…”

“As soon as we can, dear.”

In Australia we learned that 20 days is not enough time to explore a land on the other end of the Earth. While we worked full time jobs, taking the six weeks we thought we needed for travel was not possible. But with retirement and the government requirement that after age 70 1/2 you have to take about 10% per year out of your 401K plan, we now had the time and the money to experience New Zealand.

Over the years I accumulated 200,000 sky miles on Delta. Unfortunately, Delta only flies as far as Australia and not to New Zealand. Plus, even those 200,000 miles were not enough to pay for two economy class tickets from Tallahassee to Sydney. We had to pony up $1275 additional dollars and buy the tickets far in advance.

Delta would not let us break the trip into two legs where we could stop and overnight in Los Angeles. That gave us the uncomfortable, grueling prospect of 27 hours scheduled time from departure in Tallahassee, Florida to arrival in Australia. The flight from Sydney to Christchurch, New Zealand is an additional 6 hours and $600. We elected to overnight in Sydney before continuing to Kiwi Land, and to overnight in Christchurch before embarking on our New Zealand adventure. The return trip would be the same misery in reverse.