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Trip Report ADVENTURES IN NZ - TRIP REPORT

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Hi, everybody,

First of all, thanks to the ones who helped us, answering our questions e advising us about NZ stuff.

We've just got here yesterday from our 20 nights in NZ, plus 2 in a airplane and 1 in a hotel waiting for a connection flight home.

No jetlag at all on our way to NZ or on our way back. We were very tired yesterday, but I guess that was caused by the long trip back.

Needless to say the trip to the "land of the long white cloud" (as the Maori call NZ) was amazing.

What was more impactant for us it was:

a) how polite and happy are the kiwis (the people); and
b) how rich and diverse are the things we could see/do in a relatively small country.

As it happens with every trip, especially when nature is pulling its misterious strings, some bad things happened as well. Besides that, human mistakes and body weaknesses played a role on this story.

We focused the trip on experiences we wouldn't have back home.

In hindsight, I would say we made the old mistake consisting in "disobbeying" the mantra advise that said "choose one island for your first NZ trip (south)" or "take it easy and don't try to do everything if you don't have at least a month to do it", and we decided to visit both islands, as we weren't sure I would have the opportunity to go back to NZ. Now I know we will come back, even if it takes long until we do so.

The airflight company was Lan and, despite services on board were good, and leg space was reasonable, they disappointed us causing some trouble not only to us but to a lot of people, first of all delaying the flight from Santiago to Auckland (in 3 hours, which forced us to make a race, carrying our luggage - from the international terminal to the domestic terminal in Auckland - about 2 kilometers in 10 minutes - if we wouldn't like to miss the flight to Queenstown - that was our first adventure in the adventure's land) and from Auckland to Santiago (5 hours) and, subsequently, from Santiago to São Paulo. The trip back to Brazil, which was supposed to last 19 hours, was extended to an 32 hour odissey until we got to our final destination. And, however having provided a hotel in São Paulo for us and other passengers, they treated everybody really bad in Santiago, giving us wrong information and not caring about the customer's problems or needs. Good luck if you are flying Lan. I am not trying to say you should choose other company, but at least allow a larger time gap between the conection flights.

The hotels we stayed at were all very good - no complaints at all and usually very friendly staff. The points we sticked to when booking were: a) tidiness; b) good location; c) good evaluations made by customers on sites as Tripadvisor and Bookings; d) prices ranging from NZ$ 90-150.

There wasn't breakfast included in the tariff in any of them. The concept of the hotels there is that they provide you whatever is need for your cooking. Some offer a buffet breakfast, and you have to pay for it. So, if you want to save money, it pays going to a market (chains like Four Square and New World) and buy supplies so you can cook your food.

Almost all of them (the two exceptions are the hotel in Wellington and the hotel in Auckland, both in big cities, so it is easy to understand) had free external parking.

Here is the list. I am sure the average person (whatever it means this expression) will like them:

- 2 nights in Queenstown: Earnslaw Lodge
- 2 nights on the Routeburn Track (1 on the Routeburn Hut; the other on Lake Mackenzie Hut) - we found the bunks in the huts very very comfortable, but remember you need to carry your food and your sleeping bag, and that there is no hot shower)
- 1 night in Milford Sound, on a boat - Milford Mariner - Real Journeys
- 1 night in Wanaka: Wanaka Hotel
- 2 nights in Fox Glacier (this is the only one which coasted us more than what we would expect to pay: NZ$200, and the motel quality was just like the others, which are cheaper): Bella Vista Motel
- 1 night in Arthur's Pass: Arthur's Challet
- 1 night in Hanmer Springs (subbing one of the nights we had planned to spend in Christchurch): Heritage
- 2 nights in Kaikoura (one of which subbing the other night that should be spent in Christchurch): Aspen Court
- 2 nights in Motueka: Equestrian Lodge
- 1 night in Picton: Te Mahia Bay Resort
- 2 nights in Wellington: Trinity Hotel
- 1 night at the Tongariro National Park (the other night was rescheduled for Rotorua): Discovery Lodge
- 1 night in Rotorua: Pohutu Lodge
- 1 night in Auckland: Chiffley Suites

Unfortunetely, we had to cancel some activities. No problems, as the capability of good adaptation is required to enjoy a good trip (and life, in general). We had to cancel:

a) Fox Glacier heli-hike: following advices, we booked two nights in the region (Fox and Franz Glacier), for bad weather could cause cancellments. And that was what happened! In the first day, we did a great full-day hike on Franz Joseph. But in the next day the weather was not permitting a helicopter flight to Fox Glacier, so the trip was cancelled (and they refunded us immediately). Actually, although I am sure the trip would be great (other perspective, helicopter flight, other glacier), we didn't feel so sorry about that, because, in a certain way, we would repeat an activity we had already done;

b) Christchurch, including a Balloon trip schedule and already paid for (they refunded us): that was terrible, of course, a disaster with many human losses. Nobody chooses to be touring New Zealand on its "darkest day ever" (prime-minister's words to qualify the earthquake). How did the earthquake affect us? First, ChCh was in our plans for two nights, and I am sure it would be one of the trip`s highlights, and we were actually heading to that town when it was struck by the eartquake. We were at Kotitika (west coast), some 250km from ChCh, when I saw, in a shop in which they were making and selling jade, a certain number of people around a table. I thought they were tourist watching the lapidation of the jade stone (actually there was a funny warning "don't feed the jade carvers"), but they were people watching the breaking news about the event in ChCh). We proceeded to Arthur's Pass, still not knowing the nature of the problem. It was just when we left Arthur's Pass, already in possession of more information about what happened, that we realized we would have to change outr planes. Still with the petrol under control in the car, we saw in a couple of gas stations quite big lines, but we dind't link that with ChCh, so we didn't care about it. We didn't know, then, that the distribution of gas was messy because the city in charge of it in the region, Littleton, was the most affected by the earthquake. Well, when we were heading to Hanmer Springs (in which we have chosen to overnight, instead of doing it in ChCh), we realized we would need fuel to leave town after we visited it. But all the gas stations had the following warning: "no petrol (gasoline): diesel only". The car barely did it to Hanmer Springs. The gas station (3km from the village) had no fuel... They told me: try tomorrow, because we may get gas and we would be more than happy to sell it to you. The other day I went running (to save gas, more than to work out) to the gas station and, good news: gas was back in town. So I ran back, got the car and filled it up. There were people putting gas on bottles and buckets, because nobody knew about tomorrow...

c) Whale Watching in Kaikoura: after we did the Dolphin Encounter, in the same morning, my wife felt a little bit sick, so we decided to cancel it, and they refunded us. No problem, I felt sick - really bad, it might be something I ate, or drank - twice during the trip, and my wife took care of me, so I didn't blame her...

d) Tongariro Crossing: unfortunately, despite having booked 2 nights close to Tongariro, weather was not permitting the crossing. It was just too dangerous (winds at the speed of 120km/h). So the hotel allowed us to cancel the second night, which we spent in Rotorua. Optimiscaly thinking, we can say we saved the "finest day walk in NZ" for the next trip!

"White Stripes" (or "Driving the English way"): If you have driven on the right side of the road for so many years, and then you have to drive on the other side, that's difficult! It changes everything. The most challenging parts for me were "details" like:
a) finding the right door to get inside the car;
b) using correctly the windshield wiper (we frequently used the turn indicator light, instead);
c) being sure if we were or not breaking the law when making certain turns;
d) keeping the car alligned with the central stripes (some misterious magnetic force drove us all the time to the white stripes on the left part of the road);
e) parking the car with other cars in front and behind you;
f) rearing.
The real important other things to do when it comes to be driving a car were easy. I am talking about checking the tires pressure; turning the radio on; and putting the luggage in the trunk. Of course, driving for 2 weeks (3.000 km), me and my wife got used to it. That didn't save me from being honked by other drivers, and I actually let the car drop in a water ditch, in a small road in the Marlborough Sounds, being helped by other 5 nice men and a small off-road car to take the car out of there (95% the driver`s fault and 5% the driving on the different side factor)! Well, the only thing I can tell is that I am now back in my home town I am experiencing trouble driving my car!

Restaurants we would recommend:

a) Gothic Restaurant (Motueka) - crazy deco, made out of church doors, crosses and other things like that, and excellent food;
b) Station Cafe (Tongariro - only restaurant in town);
c) Crazy Horse - meat (Wellington);
d) Patagonia Ice Cream Parlor (Queenstown)
e) Green Dolphin (Kaikoura)
f) Sweet Alice, for chocolate fudge and berry ice-cream (Hokitika).

The list of crazy, different and/or incredible things we did and we love having done them includes:

a) luge;
b) paragliding;
c) bungy (Nevis - 134m and Kawarau - tandem 43m);
d) climbing a glacier (Franz Josef);
e) hiking a 3 day track (Routeburn Track) and several portions of other tracks;
f) cayaking;
g) rafting in a class 3 river (Hanmer Springs);
h) staying in a private hot water pool, in front of the lake Rotorua (Rotorua);
i) Waitomo caves, with the gloworms (Gloworn Cave and Raikuru cave);
j) crazy activities, such as Ogo, Shweeb and X-treme Fall (Rotorua);
k) visiting a recreated maori village;
l) swimming with dolphins (Kaikoura)';
m) going to Te Papa museum (Wellington) and learning a lot about nature forces, immigration flows and the maori culture.

About the food (I will list only the ones we didn't know before), we loved:

a) howky-powky ice-cream (which has pieces of caramel on it);
b) pavlova (kind of a merengue - we have something like it here, called "suspiro", but it's not as soft as the pavlova);
c) mashed sweet potato;
d) deer meat;
e) berries of all species;
f) wheat-bix.

We didn't like yealt, though. Too sour for us.

Well, if you want more details, just write me.

It was an intense experience, and we'll never forget the kiwi people and its magic land. If a marcian came to Earth and asked us which one country he should visit, to experience what it is this planet about, we would advise him to go to NZ. We'll be back for sure!

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    Thanks for coming back with your report Cruzeirense. You had the full NZ experience with bad weather and then the earthquake, didn't you.

    I have flown LAN to South America and while they do pretty nicely in the air, they can be very bad on customer service if something goes wrong.

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    Yealt?

    Great report Cruzeirense - you packed a lot in despite the uncooperative weather and the earthquake catastrophe. It sounds as if you made the absolute best of your time.

    I had to laugh at your description of driving on the left - I travel from Australia to the US and back a couple of times a year - it takes me a good week on either end to adjust to the windshield wiper/turn indicator switcheroo... I hate to admit it, but even after being in Australia for 2.5 years, once in awhile I catch myself trying to get into the driver's seat from the wrong side of the car. Talk about feeling (and looking) foolish!

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    Oops, it is actually YEAST (not YEALT) the name of the bread spread we didn't like much.

    About doing a lot, we tried not to be upset by the climate conditions, and actually we got great sunshine days in Queenstown, Routeburn Track, Kaikoura, Abel Tasman and Auckland.

    Driving on the right side and then on the right side, switching again to the right side shows us how complex and adaptable is our brain.

    If we would redo our itinerary, we would skip Wellington (although it is a very nice city and despite the wonderful Te Papa Museum - free entrance!!!), flying from the South Island to Taupo or somewhere around it.

    I was told that the weather there is pretty much like that year round: very dramatic, with sudden changes and a lot of rain. After all, that is what it makes the country so green!

    Forget about what I said about not experiencing jet leg at all. If I am writing now (it's 3 AM) it's because of having awaken - me and my wife - as if we stii were in NZ. It's happening during the last 3 nights. But when we arrived in NZ we didnt't actually feel tired or confused by the time zones changes.

    Some other things.

    If you have a watch with 2 displays, it's time to make this feature useful: put one of them in NZ time, and the other in your original time, so you will know, without having to use your mathematicas skills, if you can call your friends or family in your country and not disturbing their meeting with Morpheus.

    During the flight from Santiago to Auckland, I was very confused about "what time is it NOW in my country and in Auckland". And I came up with the formula (it is a long flight and sometimes you have nothing to do):

    DT + FTD - 8h + 24h

    where
    DT is "departure time at your origin country"
    FTD is "flight time duration"
    8h is correspondent to 8 time zones (each 15 degrees of Earth circumference)
    24h is the adding day correspondent to the passage of the airplane through the International Line Date Change

    When you arrive in NZ, if you are carrying boots or camping gear, they will inspect it (they are afraid of biological contamination brought from abroad, especially dydimo - a species of micro alga), and you will have to take them out of tour backpack or suitcase, so they can check it. Clean your boots and your tents beforehand, otherwise they would do it, and it can take a while to do so. To make things easier for you and for the airport personnel, put this material on a handy place, otherwise you will do a real mess on the floor (we call it "farofa").

    That's incredible how the national rugby team (the mighty "All Blacks") are popular in the country, just like the brazilian soccer team (which also have a name, "Seleção Canarinho"). I tried to watch on TV some rubgy games, trying to understand the rules, and I think I've got them. Interesting game, very intense and I guess the players get hurt a lot. But, despite having tried hard, I didn't like cricket at all (World Cup was in the air, in Sri Lanka, which NZ represented with the national team). Actually, we met an english and and indian in a boat trip, and they were quite surprised we have not heard in our lives even the name of the most famous cricket player in the world, all times, an indian player (which name I forgot).

    Bungy: I tried Nevis (134m) and me and my wife tried Kawarau bridge (tandem jump) - 43m. I would recommend doing both, because Nevis is the biggest one in the country - it's is really scary, and you seat in a Sweeney Todd barber chair before jumping into the void - and the Kawarau bridge one is the first bungy ever comercialized (in 1988), and you can ask them to get you wet! Very safe and thrilling. The guy who worked at the Kawarau bridge bungy, knowing I am brazilian, said he knew some sords in portuguese: "chupa cabra", "puta que pariu" (almost perfect accent). It is funny how people like learning other language's badwords! Well, this one at least knew we spoke portuguese (some people, to be nice, said "adios amigos" and "muchas gracias"). That is OK, it's just travelling around that you can differ the countries and learn about them. For example, now I can tell more clearly the differences between NZ and Australia, which was difficult to us before going there.

    For the Routeburn Track (that's the same for Milford Track and other multiday hikes) we decided renting sleeping bags (buyin the real good ones can be very expensive), for we wouldn't use them a lot at home, as well as the other hiking equipment.

    Water in the tracks: I was told that we should carry the water we intended to use during the hiking (mainly for drinking and cooking), because the cabin`s and river`s waters were not treated (a booklet by DOC - Department of Conservation). So we bought a 6 liters bottle of water, and I carried it for a whole day. By the end of this first day, a ranger saw me carrying that heavy bottle and almost collapsed. He couldn't believe his eyes. He told me to throw it out, because water found in the mountains were the purest one. Well, at first we stayed like ("who is right, the book or the man?"), but soon the confidence on the ranger grew as carrying that gallon was getting hard, and we threw the water out. So we started using the water from the river beds and found in the huts. Well, some days later (in Kaikoura, and then again in Picton) I felt really bad, vomiting and other stuff (last time I had vomited was 12 years ago, for "celebrating reasons" - graduation party), and a doctor - who actually was a passenger at the Ferry to Welilngton that was called to help me - told me it might be giardiase, caused by contamination of water I might have drunken. Well, I don't know, but, if you are going to drink water in the trails, maybe you should dissolve one of those pills in the water or at least boil the water.

    If I am not boring you a lot, later on I can write more about our NZ experience.

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    Not at all boring! Loving the report. But sorry about your getting sick from the water. I'm exhausted just reading your report. You did SO much!

    You've got me excited about returning in November.

    PS. I couldn't believe it when you first said "no jet lag!" ;-)

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    (Last part of the trip report)

    It was common meeting people travelling across NZ for a month, or three months. Once we realized there was so much to be seen and done, we told a kiwi we would like to have more than 22 days to spend in the country. He told us to say our prayers every night and MAYBE, if we make a good job, when we die, we would go to paradise, which is NZ.

    We liked the swinging bridges in the trails, and also the one lane bridges on the roads (it's is for saving money`s reasons - we thought it would be dangerous, because every bridge has a different rule of preferences for the cars - but once we got used to it, it was easy).

    We also were happy to see that honesty is something which looks natural in NZ. In a number of places (internet at Arthur's Pass, lavanda farm in Kaikoura among others) once you are done, you pay for the services you used depositing the money in a box in which is written "honesty box". No cameras or security personnel to check if you are being honest... That brings back hope. The owner of the "honesty box internet point" ran also a backpacker accomodation the next door. And it was also interesting to observe that the place didn't have any employees. Everything was pre-arranged between the owner and the customers, via internet or telephone (payments, passwords to go inside the place), or even in instructions written in booklets.

    For the long hikes (multi days ones), we liked Back Country Cuisine food, very easy to prepare (there are a lot of flavours - we liked pasta rather than strogonoff).

    The wardens at the Routeburn Track were very funny, one of them works at the Lake Mackenzie Hut since mid 80's, and they tell a lot of interesting stories, about a french women who completed the track pulling a huge bag in wheels, and about a group of monobikers who completed it using the monobikes (there is a rule against using a bike there, but not a monobike, so the ranger couldn't stop them!).

    I was suprised to know that, in the surroundings of the Routeburn Track, there are 23 people, 7 planes and 1 helicopter that are actually missing. Bermuda Triangle in NZ?

    While tramping (hiking), it was easy to see who was from a country colonized by England and who was not, for some people, when passing past others, would stay on the left side of the trail, and some would stay on the right side.

    When kayaking in the Milford Sound, I was told by the person in charge of that activity (we were at a boat that belongs to Real Journeys) that it was easy to paddle, and that she has never seen anybody falling down on the water. Well, after 15 minutes kayaking, I fell over, and my clothes are smelling the Milford Sound (it is salty!) up to these days, despite having been washed. I was rescued by a boat and game was over for me: without a pump it was impossible to come back to the kayak and restart paddling. I became popular in the boat, not exactly for having done something outstanding...

    In Wanaka, we went to a very weird movie theater, called Cinema Paradiso. Very interesting. Inside the projection room there are coaches, old cars, different chais, and even a few regular cinema seats. The whole complex is connected to a small pizzeria, and, before the movie begins, people can order wine, pizza or sandwiches. You can order food and wine to eat inside the projection room. There is an intermission after a certain period, and everybody runs to get their meal. And the first in line always get to seat inside the old car. After 15 minutes, the movie goes on. It's a strange dynamics, and we kind of got lost about what was going to happen. The movie itself was not the main issue.

    My grandmother is on the NZ$10 bill. Actually, the woman in the bill (which looks like my father's mother) is an important person who struggled to give women the power to vote in NZ. Talking about politics, we were impressed
    watching the videos on the topic sports x politics (Te Papa Museum, Wellington), about the homossexual rights laws (80`s) and the visit of the South African rugby team to NZ, in a excursion (also 80`s). Previously, the All Blacks team - which had maori players, and therefore, non white players - had been refused in South African territory due to the apartheid. Well, when South Afric decided to tour in NZ against the All Blacks, half of the kiwis made pressure to cancel the tour, even invading the field amd making protests, while the other half said sports and politics were not to be mixed.

    Visiting Franz Josef glacier was a magic experience for us. We don't have glaciers in our country. Even for those who have them home, the Fox Glacier and the Franz Josef Glacier are special, because we were told that, apart from the Perito Moreno (Argentina), no other glacier in the world is so close to the sea (just a few kilometers). It's like a big iced tongue protruding down the mountain. From far away, it looks like a small chunk of ice. But we have to walk good 2-3 hours just to get to the base of the glacier, staring at it all the time. Once you get there, you discover why the eskimos have dozens of names for the white colour. For us, everything which is white is just... white (there is no light white, dark light). But, when eveything is white and blue, you have to create different names for the different tonalities of white and blue you see. We crossed ice tunnels, ice caves, climbed on ice with crampons, stayed at the glacier itself for 5 hours or so. Amazing!

    When we first learned about the earthquake we were in Hotitika, and, as everybody watched the news on TV's all over the city, we were told to go to ChCh, for this time the earthquake had been weaker than the precedent one, in September 2010. Nobody knew yet about what really happened...

    The gloworns caves were also fantastic. We did the Gloworm Cave tour, where you hop on a boat and pass under the worms shedding light to the place. The other cave we visited was Ruakuri (in this one, you get to spend a lot more time inside the cave - our guide was a person native to the region, which went to Geology school and actually has lived inside the cave, knowing it very well - there are moments of complete darkness - in this one, you explore the cave walking, and there are also glowworns). Difficult to choose the best one! I would do both again, and next time (I have to be optimistic: there will have a next time) we will also will try the Black Water rafting, which takes place inside the same Ruakuri cave (but you have to book in advance, so we were unable to do it).

    The country part of NZ is filled with sheep. But I saw just one single black sheep, in Hanmer Springs.

    I got to known a different sport - for me - while in NZ. I saw that on TV many times and the newspapers gave a lot of coverage to it. That's netball. Looks like a crossing between handball (the number of players and the game dynamics)+basketball (the net and the way to score)+volleyball (the ball).

    In Rotorua, of course we didn't like the sulphur smell which is in every corner. But it is impossible to visit a region which such a geothermal activity and see what the earth brings from its inside without smelling what comes from the same origin! We visited Waimangu (Inferno Crater is awesome, a blue pool - the colour is provided by silic in suspension). We went also to Wai-o-Tapu - Lady Knox, the famous geyser, is high, but a little bit disappointing, for it has to be teased to work - they put soap inside the geyser`s crater to make it blow 10:15AM sharp, but there are other many beautiful spots to see there, such as the Champagne Pool and the Artist's Palette. Last, we visited Hell's Gate, very interesting too. Each one of these places (Waimangu, Wai-o-Tapu and Hell's Gate) have a sign posted trail of some 3km to see a great number of things related to geothermal activity.

    Still in Rotorua, we tried some crazy activities, such as the "Ogo" (you roll down a mountain inside a plastc ball, and then you run inside a similar plastic ball, still, looking lat a laboratory rat), the "Shweeb" (an adapted bike that goes in suspended rails real fast) e the "Xtreme Fall" (you feel like flying, but it is difficult to control your movements). "Ogo" can be found close to Agroventures (a place in which you can "Shweeb", "X-treme Freefall" and other stuff).

    In Auckland, we loved the two main things we did there: having dinner at the restaurant up in the Skytower - and walking on a glass platform watching the cars and the people very small down there, and visiting Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic museum. I suppose Auckland has a lot to see, but we weren't able to explore the city (less than 24 hours there).

    Thanks again for the help you gave me here while we were organizing the trip. This report, which ends here, intends to be a sign of thankfulness.

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