New Zealand: People, Landscapes, Adventures
Photo: Milford Sound
We landed in Christchurch, New Zealand on Tuesday, Sept 18. After a couple of days and much debate, we decided to rent a car and do a quick tour of the South Island before we headed across the channel to the North Island.
Our first stop out of Christchurch was Dunedin, on the southeast coast. Though we were less than 24 hours there, we managed to take a quick tour through the Larnach Castle, walk up and down Baldwin Street – the steepest street in the world – and have a Lamb Stew at the Baa Bar and Grill.
We left Dunedin on Friday to make our way to Te Anau and the fjords on the southwest coast. Richard likened the amazing scenery across this southern route to driving through a fairy tale book. God had rolled out a green carpet for us and dotted it with white sheep. He added some valleys, rolling hills and mountains for good measure. It was absolutely magnificent!!
We chose to stay in Te Anau for a couple of nights in order to take a bus tour to the most famous of the fjords, Milford Sound rather than make the 2 hour drive. We both wanted to enjoy the scenery which turned out to be almost as good as Milford Sound itself. The day started out somewhat foggy but by the time we were a half hour into our tour, the fog cleared and the sun came out. More fabulous scenery – more sheep, more mountains, more lakes and rivers, more valleys – the ride was never boring. Much of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies were filmed here. Every turn reminded us of a scene from the movies. Amazing!! Milford Sound was everything that was promised. The sun was shining, the water was calm, the waterfalls were wet and we loved every minute of it!!
We left Te Anau early Sunday morning and headed north east driving past a number of stunning glacial lakes, snowcapped mountains, and the very popular tourist town of Queenstown before stopping for the night just outside of Christchurch. The following day we made the six hour drive up the east coast to Picton where we caught the ferry across Cook Strait to the city of Wellington and the North Island.
Though it poured rain for the day we were in Wellington, we managed to take a quick drive out to Kaitoke Regional Park, which is home to the Lord of The Rings set of Rivendell, home of the Elves. We took a short hike in the rain, took some pictures of the set and then again headed north to the town of Rotorua. Here we would spend the next 6 days taking in the sights, smells and adventures of the North Island.
Rotorua is famous for its bubbling mud pools and Maori (aboriginal) culture. Though we did not partake in any of the therapeutic mud baths, we did witness (and smell) a number of the sulfur pools as we wandered throughout the town.
We took a couple of day trips – one to Hobbiton, a fantastical set from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and another to Waitomo, where we silently rode a boat through a series of caves, guided only by ropes and the lights from a million glow worms. We went to a Maori hangi (meal) and performance where Richard actually became one of the participants in the peace offering ritual.
We discovered the Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park just up the road from our BNB. This beautiful park is home to trout streams, birds, ducks goats, pigs, sheep, wallabies, deer, a miniature horse and surprisingly enough, lions. We witnessed feeding time and after hearing them roar and dominate each other for food, we were glad that there was an nice big fence between them and us. We took in the Sheep Farm show because I just wanted to get closer to the sheep!
We took a gondola up to the highest peak of Rotorua to get a breathtaking view of the nature around us. But, I have to believe that the most exciting thing that we did here was go ziplining through the trees with Canopy Tours. Though I was super nervous, I had the time of my life. The forest was beautiful and the views were fantastic. We have such big smiles in all of our videos. No wonder Tarzan always looked so happy!! Though the opportunity never came up again while we were travelling, I really can’t wait to try it again!
After a couple of days in Auckland it was time to say goodbye. We loved our time in New Zealand – the people, the landscapes and the adventures made it one of our very favorite places. Our next stop would be Cape Town, South Africa where many more adventures would be waiting for us.