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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Travelogue: New Zealand (North Island, Day 1 - 4)

Time for another long travelogue series! Took a nice long vacation (17 days!) to New Zealand this month. NZ had always been on my 'must see' list and finally I did get a chance to visit. Living in Singapore gives us the advantage of reaching NZ faster than compared to travelling from India. It still was a 10 hour flight to Auckland...

Our itinerary was quite optimal. SGP - Auckland - Wellington - Picton - Blenheim- Kaikoura- Christchurch - Tekapo - Queenstown - Milford Sounds - Franz Joseph - Greymouth - Christhcurch - SGP ! :-) And added a few day trips and short visits to other places like Rotorua, Wanaka, Te Anau, Hamilton, Arthur Pass during the journey. We stayed in 9 different cities on 9 consecutive nights! Yeah, That was a packed vacation! Hectic but full of fun... We chose to travel by trains and coaches unlike the preferred way of renting a car or a campervan and driving around.All trains are scenic and you get the opportunity to see and appreciate the beauty of the nature around, without getting tired of driving or looking at the route maps! I would highly recommend trains/coaches!

We covered both North and South Islands even though people had told me that there is nothing worth seeing in the North. Now that I have seen, I completely disagree with that! North has a different landscape & scenery and Rotorua especially is something you cannot miss!

We flew SGP-Auckland and it was midnight by the time we landed in Auckland. Unfortunately it was raining when we landed and the rains followed us for the next 1 week. It poured & poured everywhere till we reached Blenheim in South. Though it was summer, due to the rains the weather was super chilly! We had just 1 day to see Auckland and as it was raining, we could not get a good view from the top of Auckland tower. There is nothing much to see in the city other than this tower! The photo below captures the tower in the background.

The 2nd day was a full day trip to Rotorua and back. Rotorua is about 3.5hrs drive from Auckland and is known for its geo-thermal springs and Geysers and the Maori village. Maoris are the native tribes of NZ and they have a village in Rotorua which is worth a visit! Don't ask me to pronounce the name of the village...its in the pic below, you can try it yourself! ;)
The "Wh" syllable is pronounced as "Fa" in Maori language. They did teach us how to say the name just so that in case we get lost inside we know what to ask for :) Most of the places & lakes all over NZ have Maori names and if you end up in a coach with a Maori driver in it, he will give you the entire history of the name and place...whether you want it or not!

This one below is the pic of a geyser which had just erupted. The whole village is full of hot springs and they actually cook their food in those springs. So we had a healthy lunch in their cafe with the food cooked in those springs!

We also attended a cultural show where they do the traditional Maori war dance and other forms of songs and dances. It was something new and entertaining!

Saw the zorbing zone and Kiwi birds on the way back to Auckland and reached back by late evening. Must warn that everything in Auckland shuts down by 5.30pm! (Infact all over NZ). The Kiwis have a very easy going lifestyle and dont work beyond 10 to 5.30. So there was not a single bookstore open that evening to pick up a book for the next day's train journey.. The streets look deserted all through the day..people hardly venture out!

The next day we took the Tranzscenic train from Auckland To Wellington, which was 12hrs! It was toooo long a journey but the scenery was beautiful and we also stopped briefly at the National Park midway.. The train also travels just by the side of the Tasman sea and the view is worth the time spent!

Below is a view of the capital city, Wellington taken from the train...It was pouring heavily and extremely windy! Nights were freezing cold. We didnt spend much time at Wellington as we left next day to Picton. Though we did go into the city and checked out the central business district and the main streets...

Next day, Took the InterIslander Ferry from Wellington to Picton (in South Island). That's the only way to get there. (The other option is to fly from Auckland to Christchurch and travel back to Picton). The ferry ride is about 4 hrs and it was a bumpy ride as the waves were high due to winds in the Pacific Ocean...You travel through the Charlotte Sounds before reaching Picton and its the most beautiful part of the journey!

To be continued from the next post!