February 2017 Visit to New Zealand
Our adventures began with a visit to Maggie at The Travel Wallet in Bridgnorth. She ably helped us choose what was to become the holiday of a lifetime.
We began our visit flying into Auckland and then travelling to the west coast calling in at the Kauri Museum in Matakohe where we learnt all about the Gum Diggers, as well as the history and unique characteristics of the Kauri tree.
We learnt a lot more about the importance of the Kauri trees and their preservation from ‘Billy Boy’ our Maori guide on a ‘Twilight Encounter’ in the Waipoua Forest. Billy Boy was a real character who introduced us to the largest and tallest Kauri, and as darkness fell, sang traditional songs as we walked through the forest.
The next part of our journey took us to Paihia, and The Bay of Islands. Our ‘Discover the Bay’ boat trip took us out to The Hole in the Rock. Unfortunately the 1.5 metre waves prevented us from going through the hole!
We spent a fantastic afternoon touring Hobbiton the film set of ‘The Hobbit’, visiting many of the 44 Hobbit holes, and enjoying a mug of ale at The Green Dragon.
Our next stop travelling south was on the sulphur lake at Rotorua. Here we visited Wai O Tapu , and walked through the Thermal park, seeing the Lady Knox geyser erupt, and also features such as the Devil’s Bath, and the Champagne Pool.
From Rotorua we visited a Maori settlement where we learnt how the traditions and skills are being passed down through the generations. We also took part in a traditional Hangi. (feast) The gentlemen in our group learned the basic Haka!
Napier was our next stop, and a very informative guide on our city walking tour explained the impact of the earthquake in 1931, the different styles of Art Deco, as well as highlighting the need to preserve the unique buildings in the city.
We returned our car and spent one night in Wellington before taking the ferry to Picton and then travelling to Raetihi Lodge via water taxis for 2 nights of real luxury! Beautiful accommodation, Amazing views, Fantastic food, and so peaceful. Our room looked out across a lawn to the beach – what more could we ask. We kayaked and walked but generally just relaxed.
On the road again….. The impact of the earthquake along the Kaikoura coast, and a scrub fire as we tried to cross Lewis Pass changed our itinerary, and we spent an extra night in the beautiful seaside resort of Akaroa – a town with an historical French influence. (keeping in touch with Maggie was brilliant at this point)
We then moved on to Dunedin, experienced a local rugby derby between Dunedin Highlanders, and Christchurch Crusaders (all very friendly!), travelled out to the Otago peninsular where we not only saw blue penguins and a sea lion but albatross and their chicks. This is the only mainland breeding site of any species of albatross in the world.
Our itinerary now led us towards the West Coast where we spent a day travelling along the Milford Sound. The beautiful weather and expert commentary made this another one of the highlights of our visit. Our photographs really do not do the stunning scenery justice.
Queenstown was our next stop, situated among beautiful scenery on lake Watakipu, and ‘Oh my goodness’ a haven for Adrenalin junkies! Everything from hang gliding to bungy jumping, down hill luge, jet boating, water sports etc. etc. We satisfied our need for adventure with the Shotover Jet (Just MAD), and a slightly gentle luge (me!), then took a slow cruise to the end of the lake to recover.
We spent a night in Wanaka before heading for Franz Josef, and the two famous glaciers. We made an early start and were able to walk to both Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier, before the rain set in. The first real rain we had encountered during our visit. There was no time to bathe in the volcanic hot pools – next time maybe!
We were now nearing the end of our visit. We now made a second journey through Arthur’s Pass heading towards Christchurch. (The first journey following the scrub fire.)
Even if you remember the scenes in Christchurch from news coverage, following the two earthquakes, nothing prepared us for the scenes of devastation that still remain. 70 – 80% of the city was destroyed, and a huge rebuilding operation is still under way. We visited the Quake Museum, and by buying a hop on hop off ticket for the tram managed to visit many of the special places:
The ‘cardboard Cathedral’, 185 white chairs, the remains of the cathedral, Restart Mall etc.
We learned a lot from the commentary on the trams from the drivers who were real characters.
So, thanks to Maggie and her team we enjoyed our adventures in New Zealand. We saw and did so much, and there is still so much more to see and do. Would we go back again? Of course we would – who knows – one day maybe!
Jane and John
February 2017 Visit to New Zealand