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;
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:
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;
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;
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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