Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New Zealand: Part I

I really need to find a way to keep up this travelling lifestyle (donations accepted). We're part way through our trip and I wanted to quickly share a few pictures with you.

I've kind of fallen in love with New Zealand...particularly since I'm safe in my room in the moment rather than a passenger in the car while R drives up and around a mountain. Those cliffs are steep! If you happened to be driving behind a really slow car in New Zealand lately, that may have been us. What can I say? I'm a Prairie girl. Sorry.

If you're looking for a country with ridiculously beautiful scenery, nice people, lots of sheep (and cows), and adventure sport, New Zealand is the place for you! We spent 2.5 weeks travelling across New Zealand (from Auckland to Queenstown). Of course, we weren't able to see A LOT of the country in this time frame. I think a perfect amount of time in NZ, for me, would be closer to 6 weeks.

Surprisingly, I felt pretty energetic upon landing, despite having been en route for over 25 hours. The view from the plane certainly helped my energy level.

We landed early in the morning and needed to make sure we weren't tempted by "napping" (read: going to sleep for the night, only to wake up at midnight NZ time, 8am Ottawa time). We decided to go to the Kelly Tarlton's, the aquarium.

I'm a sucker for penguins. Can't you just imagine them singing, "The penguins go marching three by three, hurrah hurrah?"

Other than that, the aquarium was just okay. We got our first taste of the spending to come ($33.90 ND for admission). I'm not going to complain (too much) about the cost of everything, but I will say that I was surprised at the high cost of entry into a lot of tourist destinations (in both Australia and New Zealand). I'll save my rant for the cost of climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge for another post.

After a stop for lunch (sushi - which is actually cheaper than in Canada), we went to Skytower.

We went the more moderate route and stayed in the interior of the tower. Nice views to be had.

You can walk the outside of the tower and do the Skywalk or, if you're feeling particularly adventurous, you can bungee from the tower.

Apparently the CN Tower has an EdgeWalk now, for those who want a similar experience.

It was only around 5 or 6pm, but we were both hitting a wall at this point. We checked into our accommodations, the Jucy Hotel. Coupled with our car rental (with the same company), the price was pretty decent. For the car rental, we decided to splurge and not go for the "el Cheapo" (their name, not mine). The rental was pretty cheap (about $31 ND/day). The car got us where we needed to go, with some coaxing when going uphill.

Since we weren't really going to NZ to experience its cities, we left Auckland the next day. We drove to the south of the Coromandel Peninsula.

After stopping for some Lemon and Paeroa (which tasted like a lemony gingerale to me) in Paeroa, we continued on to do a bit of hiking in the Karangahake Gorge and take some pictures of the Owharoa Falls.

We continued on to our next destination to Rotorua. By "continued on", I mean, almost getting run over by a semi (note: some passing lanes in NZ are very short in distance) and getting lost. None the less, we made it to our hostel in Rotorua. Shortly after arriving, we got picked up for our evening at the Tamaki Maori Village. There are a few companies that do similar tourist shows. This one started with a face off between the leader of our tribe (read: bus) and the Maori warriors.

They squeeze about 4 bus loads into the village and have us walk from station to station, learning about traditional Maori living. They then direct everyone to the location where our food has been cooking. We got to see them remove the food (Hangi) from underground.

While dinner is being prepared, there is a relatively short show with Maori songs.

I'm glad we had the experience, but wasn't crazy about the portions of it. I found that beginning portion, where we got to learn about traditional living in the village, was rushed. Since the time allotted to learning about the culture was so brief, I felt like I was contributing to making a spectacle of the culture, rather than truly learning about it. The food was plentiful, but not great in flavour. The chicken was dried out. Gravy was a necessity rather than a nice addition. The pavlova was awesome! I want more of it.

The next day, we did some hiking in The Redwoods, in the Whakarewarewa Forest. It's was a beautiful walk among some massive California Redwoods. They were among the original 170 species planted in the early 1900s as a test to determine which species to use in commercial production.

Afterwards, we went to the Burried Village, the site of the Mount Tarawera eruption, that buried the village of Te Wairoa, where European settlers and Maori lived.

This area was a tourist destination in the latter half of the 1800s. People from all over would come to see the Pink and White Terraces, regarded as the eighth wonder of the world. They were engulfed along with the village after the eruption of Mt. Tarawera that led to the explosion of mud that covered the village. Today, some of the European sites have been excavated (Maori sites can only be excavated by Maori people) and sample traditional Maori homes have been constructed.

The grounds also contain some beautiful scenery and a waterfall.

We also couldn't resist some of the home-baked goods in their cafe. R got a scone with clotted cream:

I went with a dessert that had a shortbread bottom, layer of jam and then a layer of meringue with coconut in it. Tasted good, but VERY sugary. I bet they could cut the sugar in half and it would still taste nice and sweet.

Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity.

This includes geysers, mud pools and thermal springs and much of the city smells like sulphur. I'm not sure if the locals are used to the smell...but, if you go, be prepared to smell that rotten egg smell. Since the hostel is right next to a free park with steaming geysers and mud pools, we took a walk through there. There are, however, other locations with similar (and larger) displays of geothermal activity that are available, though not free.

Here's a map showing approximately the areas I've written about in this post (A: Auckland, B: Paeroa and C: Rotorua):

View Larger Map
Oops...that was longer than expected. I'll stop there. That's only the first 3 days. Next up in the Napier wine region.


Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Looks like you're getting the hang of your new camera Psychgrad. The shots of the falls are truly gorgeous. New Zeakand is on my list of places to visit one of these days.

Mélodie said...

Very cool to have a post while you're still there! And beautiful pictures, specially of the waterfalls.
How is the wine?? :-)

That Girl said...

I've always wanted to visit New Zealand. I'm living vicariously through you.

kat said...

Wow, I'll have to share your post with Matt since NZ is on his travel list.

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