Archive for the ‘New Zealands’ Category

Day 1 | 22 Nov 2001: Christchurch, NZ

After close to 10 hours of travel, we reached Christchurch, slightly after noon.  Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island, sitting at the junction of the Canterbury Plains. The name of “Christchurch” was first suggested by John Robert Godley, an Irish statesman and bureaucrat who was the founder of Canterbury, New Zealand.

After our lunch at Northland Restaurants, we headed towards the Cathedral Square. This place is locally known simply as the “Square” and is the geographical city centre and heart of Christchurch where the beautiful gothic cathedral is located. Completed in 1904, the Anglican Cathedral has been the focal point of the city. 


On a pedestal stood a statue of John Robert Godley (1867), the city’s founder.


The rest of the evening was “free and easy”. But since it had been a long traveling day, we decided to turn in early at the Elms Hotel.  

Day 2 | 23 Nov 2001: Christchurch, NZ


After breakfast, the tour bus brought us into the Canterbury Plain region. There was a brisk stop at a town called Ashburton, where we took quick snaps at the Baring Square Methodist Church. 


The bus ventured further into the MacKenzie Country region, lined with beautiful, snowy mountains and dotted with fluffy white clouds amongst the clear blue lakes. 




Lake Tekapo  

Along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin lies Lake Tekapo, a summer time haven for boating and swimming.  Wavering silently among the plains filled with glowing yellow tussock grass were beautiful bunches of violet lavenders.


Church of the Good Shepherd 

On the shore of Lake Tekapo stood the unique stone church, Church of the Good Shepherd. It was built in 1935 as a memorial to the early settlers and shepherds. The church is arguably one of the most photographed in New Zealand, as it features an altar window that frames stunning views of the lake and mountains. Next to the church is a sheep dog monument. 

Goldfields Mining Centre 

After lunch, we visited the Cromwell Kiwi Orchard, where they showcased the premium golden kiwi. But the fun really set in at the Goldfields Mining Center, located on the banks of the spectacular Kawarau Gorge. Here, we had first hand experience gold fossicking, that is, recreational “gold panning”. 


After dinner, we traveled south towards Queenstown. We spent the night at Aspen Hotel, next to the famous Lake Wakatipu.


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Day 3 | 24 Nov 2001: Milford Sound, NZ

Our excitement grew as we approched Milford Sound. Afterall, this is New Zealand’s most acclaimed and scenic destination. British author and poet, Rudyard Kipling, had previously called Milford Sound the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. Milford Sound is actually a fjord, carved from granite thousands of years ago, and then flooded with sea water. As we drove into the sound, splendid views of deep green forest, towering snow capped mountains and tumbling rivers came into our sights.






After stepping onto a ferry, the cruise brought us intot the sound surrounded by vertical rock cliff and lush rain forests on either side. The ride was pretty chilly and along the way, we were told to watch out for seals, sea birds, and dolphins..






“Seal! Seal!” Finally, we spotted two resting on the rock.

After the Milford Sound trip, we did some shopping in Queenstown before going back to Aspen Hotel.

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Day 4 | 25 Nov 2001: Queenstown, NZ

We finally get a chance to explore Queenstown today. Reputed as the “Adventure Capital of the World”, Queenstown has the answers to all requests from thrill seekers – bungy jumping, jet boating, helicopter flight-seeing, mountain biking, horse riding, skiing, white water rafting, parachuting and many more popular activities

Kawarau Bridge

Home to the bungy jump, it was where commercial bungee jumping started by New Zealander, A.J. Hackett. at the Kawarau Bridge. “Any taker?” asked our tour leader Daisy. I was keen to take the dive alone but JL resisted. “How about both of us jumping down together?” I proposed. JL shuttered at the thought of the height. Well, at least, let me take a picture…

While traveling along the Lake Wakatipu, we saw this unusual house made of bottles… 

Lake Wakatipu

Queenstown was given the name as it was thought to be a magnificent area “fit for a queen”. The stunning views of the native forest and high mountain peaks are complimented by the scenic beauty of Lake Wakatipu. This “finger” lake is 80 km long and is the longest lake in New Zealand. One of Wakatipu’s mysteries is the rise and fall of the lake by about 12cm every five minutes. The scientists explain that it is due to changing atmospheric pressure but the legend accounts for the fluctuation as follows: Long time ago, a demon abducted the daughter of a local Maori chief and took her to his home in the heights of the ice mountains. After the long climb he became tired and lay down to sleep. However, the girl’s lover had followed close behind them and set the giant on fire as he lay sleeping. His burning flesh carved into the ice and snow and created a huge lake but his heart remained indestructible, causing the rising and falling of the water level to this day.

Daisy suggested that we do a different lunch today. She brought us to the Salmon Fish farm to pack smoke salmon sandwich for a picnic. The weather was sunny with cool breeze; it was a relaxing meal.

On the way back to Christchurch, we passed by some sheep farms…

After our Thai dinner and shopping at Regency DFS, we took to bed at Copthorne Durtham CHC.

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Day 5 | 26 Nov 2001: Christchurch, NZ

They claimed: “There is no other place in the world where it is possible to fly from the centre of the city, in view of the sun rising out of the ocean, toward snow-capped mountains.” 

And this viewing comes with a hefty price; it means waking up at 4 am, rolling up our sleeves to prepare the hot-air balloon with empty stomach. Finally, after one hour or so, the hotair balloon was ready to sail… 




Well, all the efforts were not wasted at all. Imagine the beautiful horizon with the rising sun as the hotair balloon passed by the parks, rivers and buildings into the Canterbury Plains with views of the Southern Alps. 




After an hour long of flight, we landed on a farmer’s field and celebrated our virgin voyage with a glass of chilled champagne. 





In the late morning, we had a relaxing dip at the Hanmer Spring Thermal Pool. 


After lunch, we bid goodbye to our coach driver. We are taking an afternoon flight to Auckland to continue the NZ tour in the north. 

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Day 6 | 27 Nov 2001: Waikato, NZ

In the morning, we traveled from Auckland to Hamilton, a city with striving farming and is the main centre of the Waikato region.

Gails of Tamahere

Gails of Tamahere is a 15-acre property built in 1981 to grow, dry, market and export dried flowers. Advanced heat-freeze drying is utilised to give a wider range of product and stronger colour coordination. There was a friendly dog that followed us closely. I need a hug, he seemed to say.

Gail built a church building, walkways, gardens, pools for wedding, tour group and functions. The 1860’s Church was restored for use in displaying and storing bunches of dried flowers.  




 Shearing Shed: Angora Rabbits

Next stop is the the shearing shed for the Angora rabbits. Angora rabbits are gentle pets whose long hair can be used to spin into yarn for knitting. According to the ladies, the rabbits do not feel any pain at all; in fact, they enjoy shearing off the excess and heavy hair.



Day 6 | 27 Nov 2001: Waitomo, NZ

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

After lunch, we reached the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. In Maori, “Waitomo” can be translated as the “stream which flows into the hole in the ground”. These caves were first discovered by the local Maori in 1887. Like these ancestors, as we glided through the caves on the raft, we marvelled at the galaxy of tiny living lights in the serene ambience. The ceilings were dotted with the lights of thousands of glowworms. Naturally, photography was prohibited inside the caves.


Day 6 | 27 Nov 2001: Rotorua, NZ

The Maori Concert

Soon after dinner, we reached Rotorua’s Lake Plaza Hotel. Just before the Maori concert, we were chasing after the seagulls along the shore.

The Maori are the Polynesian of New Zealand, who arrived from East Polynesia at some time before the year 1300. The Maori society was destabilised from the late 18th century by the weapons and diseases introduced by Europeans. Soon after 1840, they lost an increasing amount of their land, and went into a cultural and numerical decline.

This how they greeted each other; by showing the whites of the eyes and the sticking out of the tongue

Haka is the traditional dance of the Maori performed in a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet rhythmically.




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Day 7 | 28 Nov 2001: Rotorua, NZ


Amidst in the heart of Rotorua lies beautiful a landscape of erupting geothermal activity, hot thermal springs and bubbling mud pools. Whakarewarewa is a geothermal area in Northern NZ with hundreds of alkaline chloride hot springs and seven active geysers. It was also a Māori fortress of Te Puia around 1325. As a strategic stronghold that was impenetrable, the Māori lived here for centuries by taking advantage of the underground geothermal fluid for heating and cooking. As we walked around here, the sulphorous scent filled our lungs.

The geyser can erupt up to 30 m high, usually within an hour.

“Te Whakarewarewatanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao”

Rotorua is the heartland of Maori culture, spirit and heritage. A visit to the New Zealand Maori Arts & Craft Institute provides the insights into the world of the Maori – music, art, carving and the famous haka dance. The Maori are best known for their warm and welcoming nature. As we entered into the compound, the signboard of the entrance showed the phrase: “Te Whakarewarewatanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao”  (meaning The uprising of the warriors of Wahiao). And we were given the “Hongi” welcome or the traditional nose-to-nose Maori greeting.

The Maori pass down their history and traditions through storytelling. Some of the stories were “told” through the art of carving and weaving. Fearing that these traditions are in the danger of being lost forever, the government set up the carving and weaving schools of the New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute. Since then, students from across New Zealand have come to Te Puia to study the traditional skills and craft of their ancestors.

The Institute is the centre depicting Māori tribal society and well-being. Near the main gate is the courtyard and the sacred meeting house.

Traditional Maori food store

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Day 7 | 28 Nov 2001: Rotorua

Agrodome Sheep Show

After lunch, it was time for some action-packed farming entertainment and it started with the Agrodome Sheep show. The one-hour show introduced us to 19 breeds of sheep and included a live sheep shearing demonstration.

After the show, we were allowed for up and close personal touch with the sheep…

And the show did not stop here. We were adjourned outside to observe the talent of a shepherd dog leading with three sheep


Organic Farm Tours  

The farm tour offers more close encounters with sheep, beef cattle and even a rooster. What a weird combination. Bought a bottle of kiwifruit wine at the Organic Education Center.


Paradise Valley Spring Wildlife Park 

Before heading back to Auckland, we stopped by Paradise Valley Spring.


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