Wow! It’s going to be hard to cram all the three week New Zealand adventure into this little blog.
We landed in Auckland, New Zealand on the evening of January 15th and we rented a really bad cheap motel room for the night. We all slept in a one room stinky filthy room with no air conditioning. The next day, we picked up our Jucy Rental van and started our adventure.
Day one we drove to a place called the Coromandal Peninsula, where the famous Hot Water beach is. Unfortunately, we arrived late for low tide and we missed the opportunity to enjoy the mud baths. However, we did walk the beach and saw the reminisce of mud hole baths that are dug out everyday at low tide by hundreds of tourists. There is hot springs under the sand and sea and people dig down at low tide to access the hot waters, creating their own make shift hot tub. After the Hot Beach visit, we drove up the coast to an awesome beach called the Cathedral Cove. The Cove is a 45minute trail walk that leads you to a magnificent private beach. The trail is a long tought walk, but it was well worth the effort as we were rewarded by a beautiful secluded paradise with giant cliffs guarding each side of the white sanded, aqua water beach. The same day, we decided to make an unscheduled stop and we took a tour of a really cool Butterfly and Orchid Garden that was filled with exotic colorful butterflies. We stayed there longer than expected trying to get the perfect photos of the little flyers, but unfortunately, when we viewed the photos later, only a few turned out worth keeping. Oh well, the memory will have to replace the pictures this time. The next day, we ventured out on a mini tour of Auckland city. We went to the downtown Sky tower building and watched thrill seekers bungee jump off the top of tower. Man that is high! You gotta be pretty brave to step of that baby with a rubber band strapped to your leg. We didn’t stay downtown too long, but long enough to know that Auckland is yet another beautiful city with a very nice harbor that is full of expensive yachts and funky restaurants.
The day after, we drove a couple of hours south and went on a tour the world renound Waikato Caves were hundreds of thousands of phosphorescent filled glowing worms have lived in the dark caves for millions of years. They are truly a freak of nature and have a very unusual existence. These brilliant little worms use their glowing attribute to attract small insects to their glow, then the prey gets caught in their slimy secreted string matter that hangs down from them on the caves ceiling. When they feel the vibration on their sticky line, they pull the prey up and eat them. Really Creepy cool! The tour is half walking and half boat ride. The boat ride portion is so amazing and abundant with Glow worms that is looks like you are looking in space at the Milky Way.
The highlight of the trip for the kids came the next day when we arrived in a town called Rotorua. There, we took them to an amusement park that offered bungee jumping and another terrifying ride called the Swoop. The Swoop was this big pendulum style ride that swings its victims down from a ridiculously high height in a free fall pendulum motion. The kids were strapped in this worm like gear, so they obviously would not fall out and then released. It was way scarier than they ever anticipated. You could see the stress and fear on their face as they swung by us at what seemed to see light speed. That was good warm up ride for their bungee jump. Well, that was really something to see them jump because I didn’t think they had it in them. It takes a lot of guts to do, but they did it and loved it! As parents, are hearts were in our mouths as they took the dive, but thankfully, everything went smooth.
Next we went to a place called Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland where there are fantastic colorful volcanic hot pools. The sulfur-based pools are very hot in temperature and emit hot steam and an array of beautiful colored waters of orange, red, white, green and blue.
The next day, we decided to take in a local annual fair. It was a great experience to meet the locals and learn about their livelihoods. It was a typical small town fair with outdated kiddy fair rides and games, cattle and alpaca competitions and a red ribbon award system. There was tree climbing and log sawing competitions, a small showcase of old farm machinery and some vintage cars.
The following day, we took a guided tour of an authentic native village called Whakarewarewa Village. In the village, they have several boiling hot pools, which are used for cooking, washing and bathing. The main cooking pool is over 100C at the top and over 200c below. Apparently, scientists have attempted but have never reached the bottom of the main hot pool. Weird. We watched the locals method of cooking corn on the cob in the boiling pool. They tie corn in a bag and lower it with a rope into the boiling hot steaming water. The steam is so intense, at times you can’t see 2 ft in front of you! We then attended a traditional Maori tribe dance and we all enjoyed it because they really have a fun time with their traditional dancing. At the end of the show, we were all invited down to the stage to have our pictures taken with them. Everyone posed in the traditional Maori posture displaying big popping eyes and sticking out our tongues. It was a fun time for all. That night, we attended another local event at the Paradise Valley raceway. It was really cool because the races had a real small town feel. You just knew that almost everyone new everyone there, including the drivers. We watched the races from the stands for a while and then, we were able to visit the racing compound and take pictures of our favorite cars. No security and the racecars roared by us as they headed for the track.
Funny story: Near the end of the race night I asked the kids if they wanted a picture of themselves standing beside the racetrack while the cars raced by them. As they stood posing for the picture, there was a major accident right in behind them and a car crashed right into the wall and then was launched straight up into the protective screen right where they stood. Wow, it scared the crap out of us all, but everyone was OK including the driver of the car.
The next day, we departed from New Zealand’s north island via the Island Ferry to its south island. It is said that this commercial transfer is one of the most scenic ferry rides in the world. And it was beautiful with aqua blue water and mountainous green islands throughout.
Our first south destination on the south island was a town called Kaikoura. Klikoura is one of New Zealand’s large tourist attractions, because it is home to the Sperm Whale (the Moby Dick kind of whale). The whales are so popular that tours leave twice a day, everyday to see these amazing giants. On our tour, we learned that sperm whales are very rare to see in most parts of the world because they live in very deep ocean waters. Interestingly, New Zealand has a very steep drop right off its coast of Kaikoura area and subsequently serves as a perfect natural home for sperm whales, and allows tours to travel a short distance to watch them. I can’t think of a greater experience than to watch these graceful giants in their natural habitant with your arm around your children. It was incredible!
Then next day we hired a local fishing boat in Kaikoura to take us out in a much smaller vessel to fish. We climbed aboard the fishing vessel and were introduced the perfect captain, Captain Nick. Captain Nick is a local New Zealand native Mori Indian, whose life story is displayed all over his body with tattoos with ancient Mori images. He also sported a beat up old peg leg with no fingers on his hands except for his two thumbs, he smoked cigarettes like a chimney with is finger stubs, all while manning everyone’s fishing rods and bait. Amazing! What else or who else could possibly wish for! The only things missing were an eye patch and a parrot on his shoulder. Professionally, it turned out, he was the perfect captain. He took us to a fishing place out in the ocean and we caught about 40 fish in less than two hours. Drew was the luckiest, catching 3 sea perch in one cast. Jessica caught the biggest fish and we all caught fish until our arms were worn out from reeling in. Then, Nick took us to a little island inhabited by seals. We were so close to them in the boat, that we could almost touch them as they lay sunning themselves on the island rocks. Then we buzzed off to another location where Dusky dolphins jumped all around us in the hundreds. They are very playful dolphins that do amazing flips right out of the water. Again, just an incredible experience, as they too were in almost touching distance right at the side of the boat. The day ended at Nick’s Crayfish trap where we were each to pick a crayfish to eat on shore. When Nick started hoisting up the cage, we all expected to see a few crays. Well, when the cage surfaced (with great effort I might add) there were over 50 giant crays slashing around the container. We all picked the biggest one we could and Nick put them in a pale and then re-bated the trap with the fish heads we had caught earlier, shut the cage, and lowered the remaining crayfish back into the water. I was surprised that he didn’t take all the crayfish out of the cage and bring them to shore to sell. So I asked him why? He replied,” crays are just like people mate, they all like a good party, and if you wanna get more, ya gotta leave’em in cage, so the other crays think it’s a wild party.” That was Nick. We got to shore and we boiled crays in a big outdoor pot, then we barbecued them right on the beach with butter and garlic salt. Honestly, that was the best seafood I have ever had. They are similar to lobster in looks and taste, but much sweeter and tastier. Yummy yum yum!! Oh ya, while we were fishing, Nick immediately fisted every fish we caught and put them in a bucket. At the end of the day we had 40 filets of sea perch bagged and iced and we ate fresh fish for the next three meals. And all this adventure and food for a cost of $50 Canadian each! That has to be the best deal of our entire trip! Most of the restaurants in town specialized or sold crayfish that were definitely smaller than ours for approximately $60 to $130 each!! We got a bargain!!!!!
Next day, it was time to continue our journey south a pretty town called Dunedin. We were all especially anxious to get there because it was the meeting place where we met our very good friends from Stony Plain Alberta. There we met and partied with Clint and Leanne Carpenter and their son Derek, his girlfriend Annie and Derek’s buddy Matt. We didn’t do much touring in Dunedin, but it was sure a nice town and it was great to spend time there with good friends. For two days straight, we did some good ‘ol Canadian drink’n and visit’n. At times, it felt like we were back home and for us, the visit came at just the right time, and gave us the strength and energy to carry on with our journey.
The next day the road took us to our most southern New Zealand Destination to a town called Queenstown. Queenstown is simply an unbelievable, gorgeous, picturesque town. It reminded me a little of Vernon B.C. Most of our time there we just walked around and marveled at the beauty of the town and it’s mountains, but we did take the opportunity to attend a Kiwi Bird Sanctuary. The Kiwi bird is the national symbol of New Zealand and is now an endangered species. We learned that Kiwis are nocturnal and are non-flying bird and they lay the largest egg in the world in relation to their body size. Ladies you think childbirth is tought, just be glad you are not a Kiwi bird!!! Funny thing about the Kiwi bird is that it is New Zealand’s national emblem, but 99% of New Zealanders have never seen a wild one!! Once they have reached adulthood, they surprisingly, have no natural enemies due to the fact that they are fierce fighters who can kill attackers with a single kick! The reason why they are declining in numbers is because their eggs are easy prey for predators. The sad thing is, their predator enemies, such as weasel are not native to New Zealand and were brought in by the British to control rodent population. Anyway, they do well in captivity and they are really neat birds. Another resident at the sanctuary and exclusive to New Zealand, was a lizardly reptile called Tuatara. They have survived for over 200 million years and are the only survivor of their kind and are actually a closer relative to the dinosaurs than to any other species on earth.
It was now time to start heading back north to our departure city Chirstchurch, but not before we stopped at a really cool place in Wanaka called Puzzle Land. There Grandma, Lyane, Jessica, Drew and I entered a large human maze where the object of the task was to find your way through fenced mazes to four separate towers. Sounds simple enough, but it took us about two hours to complete it! The second portion of the attraction, is based on illusions, such as 3D stuff and amazing architected illusion rooms. It was pretty neat and worth mentioning because the kids absolutely loved it.
Then it was off to our final destination, the city of Christchurch, the home of the award winning Botanical gardens. We took a little train tour through the gardens and the girls really enjoyed all the flowers, plants, trees and the excellent commentary given by our guide. That evening the girls, (Grandma, Lyane and Jessica) bought tickets to an outdoor play of Shakespeare’s, Midsummers Night Dream, while Drew and I searched for anything else to do but attend the play. As luck would have it, we found a self-serve golf course! It was cool. They post there rates, you put you cash in a provided envelope, place it in a security box and away you go! The best part was, they even had rental clubs for free! How’s that for good luck! So we golfed 8 holes in beautiful New Zealand and left early to pickup the girls from the play. They absolutely loved the play and we really enjoyed our golf. A win win situation for both genders!
The next day it was time to leave New Zealand. I would be remiss if we did not comment on the overall experience. New Zealand is the most beautiful, diverse country we have ever seen. Like Canada, it has so much natural beauty, condensed into two small islands. It is the place to be with temperate weather and every landscape you can imagine. The population is only four million and the highways and cities are peaceful and tranquil. We loved it.