16 days all over New Zealand

Nov 8th, 2009, 05:51 AM
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16 days all over New Zealand

Just got back from a memorable 16 day tour of New Zealand, our first to this beautiful country. Hard to concentrate on work, with images of “snow-clad peaks alongside the ocean and lakes” flitting through the mind constantly. Now that the jetlag is over, and we are slowly limping back to normalcy, I am venturing starting this Trip Report. Hope I manage to finish it before my upcoming business travel in 3-4 days time.

OK, we are a couple from India, in early fifties. Avid travelers, but first time to NZ. And we were accompanied in this trip by my brother-in-law (BIL) and his wife (SIL, I guess). Both about the same age as us. And everyone a vegetarian, although that was not much of a problem in NZ. We had researched our trip relying on Lonely Planet guidebook, the Fodors guidebook, and of course various inputs received from this site. Our special thanks to Melnq8, mlgb, kiwi rob and many others who really helped us plan this trip with their sound advice.

We were flying into Auckland, and flying out of Christchurch. We had decided to rent a car for the entire duration of the trip, and drive through both islands. Our broad itinerary was:
Auckland – 1 night
Rotorua – 2 nights
Wellington – 1 night
Nelson – 2 nights
Punakaiki – 1 night
Fox Glacier – 2 nights
Queenstown – 2 nights
Te Anau – 2 nights
Twizel – 1 night
Christchurch – 2 nights
Everyone on this site had advised us against covering both islands in 16 days, but we ventured nonetheless; although it was a bit hectic on 2 or 3 days, I think we managed well, and covered a lot without feeling too rushed. Anyway, here goes the first installment.

Day 1: Monday, Oct 19th : AUCKLAND
Our Singapore Airlines flight left Mumbai on 18th at 11:45am as per schedule. Reached Singapore at 7:30pm local time. Comfortable 90 minutes changeover time, during which we helped ourselves to some complimentary foot massage on offer everywhere at the terminal ! Then on to our connecting flight at 9:05pm, reaching Auckland the following morning at 11:40am. Swift baggage retrieval, and we hopped on to the Airport shuttle bus, which offers door to door service for the reasonable cost of NZ $ 50 for 4 people put together.

We reached our hotel, the Auckland City Hotel on Hobson St by 1:45 pm.Turned out to be a good choice. Very centrally located (2 min walk to Sky City). Nice spacious rooms, at very reasonable costs. Showered and refreshed, we were off by 3:15pm. First we walked over to the Sky City, and changed currency. Noticed that the rates in the city were the same as the airport.

Went for a late lunch at the “Raw Power” restaurant on Vulcan Lane (just off Queen Street).Awesome place. Had lasagne, filos, feta avacado & hummus on bread, with wonderful juices, smoothies etc. Excellent food, very colorful décor, and highly recommended.

We strolled around a bit on Queens St, which appeared to be the most lively street. Then wandered into Albert Park. Relaxed on the hilly terrain and the neat landscaped gardens of the park. Saw the university Clock Tower, and exited near the Civic Theater. Then strolled back on Queens Street all the way to the Viaduct Harbour. Went into the lovely Ferry building, and bought return ferry tickets for Devonport.

The ferry to Devonport was a pleasant 15 min cruise. On reaching there, we just aimlessly strolled around Devonport. Most shops and eateries had already closed down, as it was getting to 6 pm (it took a few days for us to adjust to the reality of everything in this country virtually closing down after 5 pm !!). Strolled into a supermarket, which was about the only thing still open. Ambled back to the harbour, had superb icecreams, and took the return ferry at about 7:30 pm.

My SIL had started feeling unwell; guess the fatigue of the journey was getting to her. We dropped her back at the hotel, grabbed some pizza slices for dinner, and went back to the hotel for rest. It had been a great day weather-wise, but a slight drizzle had started. Hit the bed and crashed out by 10 pm.

Everyone had warned us that Auckland was not a great place to visit, but I guess it was not bad for half-a-day. Anything more would have been painful.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 8th, 2009, 06:32 AM
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Day 2: Tuesday, Oct 20th : ROTORUA

Got up at 6 am. Could not sleep well during the night, because of the jet lag. At about 7:30am, we walked over a few blocks to Denny’s for breakfast. Had a hearty breakfast of eggs, muffins, corn patties etc. When we left, it had started raining heavily. With some difficulty we managed to get a taxi for the short journey to our hotel, and checked out.

We had booked our rental car with Apex Rentals, who had volunteered to pick us up. They sent a pick-up car at 8:45am, which we rode to the Apex office to complete the paperwork. We had booked a 1.8L Toyota Corolla automatic, but noted that the model available in NZ is somewhat smaller that the one in India. Anyway, we just managed to fit all our luggage in the boot (another inch on any suitcase, and it would have been a no-go). Then came the disappointing news. Apex informed us that they could not supply us the GPS which had been promised, as they were out of stock. So we had to drive over to the i-SITE office at the harbour to rent a GPS. The lady did rent it out, but had no clue on how to operate it ! So we had to come back to the Apex office to seek some start-up assistance. They also agreed to refund us the extra $42 we were paying for the GPS rental over what Apex had promised.

All this mix-up about the GPS had thrown us about 2 hours behind schedule. Anyway, we left Auckland at about 10:45 am, and drove straight to Waitomo Caves, reaching there at about 2 pm. Had an excellent lunch at the “HUHU Café” of Veg Wraps, Pumpkin koftas, salads etc. Everything was tastefully prepared, and we enjoyed our meal.

We took the 3 pm tour of the Glow-worm caves. First the caves with the typical stalactites and stalagmites, the acoustic chamber, and then the boat ride with the glow worms above. Nice humorous guide. Had seen various such caves before, though not the glow worms. I would rate the visit as interesting, but somewhat underwhelming.

We left Waitomo at 3:45pm, and reached Rotorua at 6:15pm, stopping enroute for a round of coffee and petrol fill. Found our B&B at Sandi’s without difficulty. We had booked her independent cottage, called the “White House”, a huge sprawling place with 3 bedrooms. Excellent place. We were surprised to find only one toilet amidst 3 bedrooms, but realized as we went along in NZ that this is the norm in this country. Also noted that there was no latch to bolt the toilet from inside, and realized a few days into NZ that this too is the norm here ! Almost as if they have a law in NZ banning toilets from having latches ! Otherwise, the place was absolutely fantastic, and Sandi was a wonderful hostess. At NZ $ 150 per night for the cottage, it was a steal.

We quickly left the “White House” for the Kuirau Park, which turned out to be great fun. Steam hissing out from every nook and cranny ! We had a lovely and enjoyable stroll through the park, which we had practically all to ourselves. Then we drove to Ohinemutu village on the edge of Lake Rotorua. We saw the St Faith Church from outside (it was closed ), and the Marae just opposite it. We wandered over to the Marae, which some Maori people were using at that time. We knew that outsiders were not allowed inside, but we asked for permission to enter. They consulted their elders, and strangely allowed us in ! This was a real honour, and we thoroughly enjoyed our brief visit inside an actual marae. Clicked a lot of photos outside the marae, of various artistic Maori architecture.

Next we went for dinner at the “Fat Dog Café” which our hostess had recommended. It was a real funky and fun place. Very quirky and interesting things written all over their walls, even in the toilets ! Had the most unusual and delicious nachos, fettucini pasta, and paninis. One of our memorable meals in NZ, and I would highly recommend the place.

Next we drove to the Polynesian Spas, which are open till 11 pm. Inspected their private pools and the public pools, and found the public pools much more appealing. 7 pools in all, with varying water temperatures (from 36 degrees to 42 degrees). Fabulous place, open to the sky, on the edge of Lake Rotorua. Not at all crowded. Superb views, and very very comfortable once you slink in. An experience that we will never forget.

Finally, at about 11 pm we went into a “Countdown” supermarket to buy some breakfast provisions. Returned to the “White House” at midnight and went to bed.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 8th, 2009, 07:07 AM
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great report. i am especially enjoying the details you supply. Can't wait for next installment
carolynne72 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2009, 03:14 PM
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Excellent report indiancouple! I'm looking forward to the next installment...love the details
Melnq8 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2009, 03:49 PM
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Nice report. I'm a big fan of the outdoor pools at the Polynesian spa, although I do recall being dogged by some big hungry mozzies just waiting for me to emerge.
mlgb is offline  
Nov 8th, 2009, 04:25 PM
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Thanks carolynne, Melnq8 and mlgb for the compliments. Will post more installments soon.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 8th, 2009, 04:55 PM
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Day 3: Wednesday, Oct 21st : ROTORUA

We had really enjoyed our previous evening at Rotorua, and were looking forward to an action packed day in the same town. I slept well this night, and woke up refreshed at 8 am, to a wonderful sunny day. The ladies had made full use of the 3 bedrooms (almost 4 bedrooms really) and sprawled the luggage all over the cottage. As they were doing the laundry, Sandi popped in to help and give advice on how to plan the day. A delightful lady.

We cooked breakfast (eggs, muffins, toast, coffee), filled our tummies, and left by 9:30 am. First stop was Wai-O-Tapu, which is about a 25 min drive out of town. We were aware that the Lady Knox geyser erupts at 10:15 am each day, and wanted to witness the start of the eruption. As we scrambled in, the man was just explaining the details about the geyser eruption, and was just about to add the soap solution, which would make the geyser erupt. So we were just in time, and enjoyed the “manufactured” eruption. Great photo ops.

Then went for a full walk around the Wai-O-Tapu park, which is well worth it. It is very well laid out, and the different coloured pools are very interesting. Loved the Artist’s Palette, the Champagne Pool, the Oyster Pool and the Devil’s Bath. We dragged our weary legs out by 12:30 pm. In my opinion, a must-see at Rotorua.

We then drove to the Redwood forests of the Whaka, and took the 30 minute walking trail, which was excellent and highly refreshing. Longer walks are available, but our group was not up to the challenge, after the longish walk around Wai O Tapu. So after our short walk, we drove into town for lunch, selecting the Caper’s Epicurean restaurant. Had an excellent lunch of Spicy Indian salad, Breads & dips, and a Mediterranean pasta, followed by mixed berry cheesecake. Good juices to go with the food. Very good food, but we preferred the funky atmosphere of Fat Dog Café !

After strolling about aimlessly in the town centre for a while, at 3:30pm we left for Te Puia. Took the 4 pm tour inside. The entrance area itself is quite beautiful, and makes you feel you are entering on hallowed turf. We went first to the Pohutu geyser, which was blowing away in full glory. The great part was that whenever this geyser blows, it heats up the rocks nearby, which become an excellent place to lie down on and warm your body ! This is what everyone was doing, and we did likewise. Then we continued on to the Maori village and the Arts Centre. Also went inside a dark enclosure where we saw the kiwi bird. Bought some souvenirs from their gift shop. All in all, it was a decent visit, but I would not call it a must-do in Rotorua.

We returned to Sandi’s B&B, as she had booked us for an evening performance and hangi at the Mitai Maori Village, which was just a 2 min drive from her place. Their pick-up vehicle came at 6 pm. The tour started with a good humorous introduction to the village. Then we walked through bushes to a stream, where their war canoe arrived in full regalia, with chest thumping warriors ! This was followed by their cultural show – dances, war cries, Haka etc. Very nice and interesting. Finally, the buffet dinner. Simple but enjoyable food, cooked in a hangi. Thoroughly enjoyed the evening. As we waited for our pick-up vehicle to drop us back, we were enjoined in a lively conversation with a young Maori man, who was the Chief’s son, and one of the star performers of the evening.

We were back at the “White House” by 9:30pm. Packed up for an early departure the next morning, and crashed out early by 10:30 pm.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 8th, 2009, 05:42 PM
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A very interesting report. I, too, am looking forward to the remaining instalments, but with some trepidation about the type of weather that you may have encountered down here in the South Island. It has been really rotten this spring.

Rob.
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Nov 8th, 2009, 05:51 PM
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kiwi rob, I don't know what good deed we had done in life to merit this, but we had the most fabulous of weather wherever we went. We were prepared for a few rainy days, and on several days the forecast sounded ominous, but as our luck would have it, we only encountered bright clear blue skies. Going by our experience, one could almost assume that it never rains in NZ !!
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Nov 8th, 2009, 06:12 PM
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Day 4 : Thursday, Oct 22nd: WELLINGTON :

This was a long driving day for us, as we had to drive all the way to Wellington. We got up early at 6 am, had breakfast, said goodbye to Sandi, and hit the road by 8:15 am. First stop was Huka Falls, just outside of Lake Taupo, which we reached by 9:30 am. It exceeded our expectations, and we spent a good 30 mins there, soaking in the views and clicking pics. Then drove to the lakefront of Lake Taupo, parking right next to the Fire Station. Strolled for some time on the waterfront, and then sat down for coffee at a café overlooking the lake. Lovely views.

Unfortunately, a brief stopover was all that we had time for, and we were on the road again by about 11 am. The drive from here on was very uneventful, and the scenery was nothing worth writing home about. Scenic in brief patches, but basically flat countryside. At about 2 pm, when we started feeling pangs of hunger, we stopped for lunch at a very small town called Bulls. Went into an Indian restaurant called “Himalaya”. The lone man at the counter, a Mr Upendra Singh from Punjab, was thrilled to see Indian guests at this remote location, and went out of his way to roll out the red carpet for us. We feasted on Matar Paneer, Chhole, Rice, Naan and Papads. He insisted on charging only for the vegetables, and making the accompaniments and soft drinks free ! Also gave us two Indian CD’s from his collection to play in our car stereo ! The food was par excellence, not the usual restaurant variety, but tasted like home-cooked food. Loved it.

After lunch, we drove on. Stopped briefly at Otaki town, where someone had told us we could find a Swanndri store. I was looking to buy a Swanndri jacket, of which I had heard so much about, which is exactly what I did. Then again for some insipid driving, till we reached Wellington at about 5 pm.

We had booked a 2-bedroom apartment at the Southern Cross Hotel, which was beautifully situated, on the corner of Cuba Street and Abel Smith Rd. The rooms were tiny, and the furnishings basic, but the location was hard to beat. We relaxed a bit, and left by 6pm. The weather was foggy and there was a hint of a drizzle, so we carried our umbrellas. We walked down Cuba Street, popping in and out of stores. It was past 6 pm, so most shops were closed.

We walked on Manners St, to Lambdon Quay, and over to the Cable car terminal. Rode the lovely quaint cable car all the way up. Roamed around the Botanical gardens at the top for a while, but it was cold and very very windy. A mild drizzle had also set in, so we immediately rode the cable car down. A pity, because Wellington seemed like a pretty city from the top. It has a hilly terrain, and the land rises up very steeply from the harbour (unlike Auckland, which is much flatter). When we came down, we walked over to the harbour waterfront, and continued walking in the icy cold breeze towards the Te Papa museum. The drizzle had stopped, but the winds had not abated (I understand it is always very windy here).

Today was a Thursday, when the Te Papa had extended hours till 9 pm. We managed to get in by around 8pm, and just enough time to view one level. We selected Level 2, which sounded the most interesting. Went to the Earthquake simulator room, saw the giant squid, and took both the paid rides (the “High Ride” and the “Deep Sea Ride”). The High Ride was a blast, but the Deep Sea ride was a bit of a let-down.

We exited the museum when they threatened to lock us in, and ambled over to Courteney Pl, where we rested in an Irish pub with a round of drinks. Then walked to Cuba St for dinner. Tried going to the Flying Burrito Brothers, which looked like a great place, but they had just closed their kitchen. So we walked back a little to Aunty Mena’s Veg restaurant. They also had posted their “Closed” sign, but agreed to let us in. Had the most wonderful dinner of Tum Yum and Szechuan Chilly Soups, with Laska and Nasi Goreng. Excellent cooking, and very reasonably priced.

Walked back to our hotel, packed up, and went to bed just after 11 pm. We had an early morning ferry crossing to make. This was the one bit in our itinerary that was a bit rushed. We knew this in advance. To make the South Island portion a bit more relaxed, we had knocked off a full day from Wellington. So the last few hours that we had spent in Wellington was all that we had. I am sure the city deserved a little more, but one had to compromise somewhere, to avoid the trip getting longer.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 8th, 2009, 06:47 PM
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Day 5: Friday, Oct 23rd : NELSON :

We were booked on the 8:30 am Interislander ferry crossing. Apex Rentals had given us a complimentary ticket for the car crossing, and concessional tickets for the 4 of us. We were told to report there by 7 am. So once again it was an early morning wake-up, this time by 5 am, a skimpy breakfast, and off by 6:45 am. Made it to the ferry terminal before 7 am, and the loading of vehicles was already in progress. Loaded our car, selected a comfortable lounge to park ourselves, and we all had a great nap. Snacked on some tid-bits and coffee in their cafeteria. Finally got up from our snooze at 10:45 am, when we were nearing the Marlborough Sounds. Went up on the Sundeck, and watched the beautiful vistas unfold before us. It was alternating between sunny and cloudy, but no hint of any rain.

The ferry docked at Picton at 11:30 am, and we were on the road 15 minutes later. We took the scenic Queen Charlotte Drive, which is a wiggly drive from Picton to Havelock, running all along the Tasman Sea. It is longer, but well worth the investment in time. It was indeed a very pretty drive, with lookout points at frequent intervals. Remember stopping at Governor’s Bay, Ngakuta Bay, Momorangi Bay and Cullen Point, besides a few un-named ones. At Cullen Point there was a short walk to the lookout point and back. It was a fabulous drive all through, and would highly recommend it to anyone.

Somewhere towards the end of the drive, we saw a sign pointing us to some ceramic and jewellery studios off the road. We ventured, and came across two wonderful studios set in very scenic environs. Did buy some ceramic candlestands at one of the studios.

We reached Havelock by about 2 pm (with so many stops in between !), and went to the Marina, selecting the “Slip Inn” restaurant. This is a fabulous place with the most amazing views. Excellent meal of Mushroom Soup, thin-crust pizza slices, potato wedges with sour cream, washed down with lovely spicy white wine from the region. Delicious meal with superb views.

After lunch we hit the road again, and reached Nelson by around 3 pm. We were booked at the “Sunshine Cottage” on Harris Hill properties, which is a little out of town (before Nelson, as we were coming in), on top of a very high hill. It has a huge 450 acre farm attached, with horses and sheep everywhere. The views from the top are simply amazing, and the cottage was wonderful. Upscale furnishings, very comfortable living area with an outside deck, comfortable bedrooms, fireplace, laundry, everything. But of course only one bathroom between the two bedrooms, and once again, latches on the bathroom door are illegal !

After taking some well deserved rest for an hour, we ventured out by 4 pm, and drove to Nelson City Centre. Went to the Rutherford Art Studio, and poked around. Then strolled on Trafalgar St, ambling inside various shops. Ended up at a cute café called “Café Affair”, where we had coffee. Then walked up the steps of the Cathedral (church was closed), and walked down another side towards West Nile Street. Walked over one block to the famed South Street, which is a beautiful street with quaint old buildings preserved in their original architectural style. A delight to stroll around on. Then visited an internet café on Bridge St to check our mails.

Finally, it was time for dinner. Had pre-selected a restaurant called “Dellah”, which was reputed to have great Arabian food. Learnt that the establishment had folded up. So went for our second choice – Harry’s Bar on Hardy Street. Very popular upmarket place, with excellent food. We had deep fried Tofu with noodles, Pad Thai, Thai Yellow Curry, with Jasmine Rice and great red wine. Culminated with a dessert of Apple cake with ice-cream. Then drove back home up the steep hill to Sunshine Cottage and went to bed at 11 pm.

Nelson was a very cute town. Very up-market and chic, compared to the other towns that we had seen so far. And we had been blessed with good weather throughout the day.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 8th, 2009, 08:15 PM
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Great trip report so far! I too have fond memories of the Fat Dog in Rotorua.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Nov 8th, 2009, 10:11 PM
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Thanks ElendilPickle. Hope I am not boring everyone with the intricate details. But I want this to be permanent record of our tour, for our own benefit too. Hence the details...more for ourselves, although others may well find it a bit tiresome.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 8th, 2009, 10:53 PM
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You are absolutely NOT boring us with the details. I personally enjoy your details and I can certainly apprecaite the work involved in providing them.

Carry on please...
Melnq8 is offline  
Nov 9th, 2009, 04:04 PM
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I love the details!

Lee Ann
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Nov 9th, 2009, 04:32 PM
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DAY 6 : Saturday, Oct 24th : NELSON :

Today was our day at the Abel Tasman Park. But today was also a Saturday, the day of the famed weekly market at Nelson. We were torn between the prospect of spending the entire day at Abel Tasman, or spending some time at the Saturday market and then spending the balance at Abel. Opted for the latter schedule, as the ladies could not resist the Saturday market.

So we got up early once again, and were out of our cottage by 7:45am. Reached the Saturday market at Montgomery Square just as it opened at 8 am, and made the most of the limited time available. I had somehow expected it to be an arts & craft market, but it was much larger than I had imagined, and had stalls for everything: woolens, jackets, scarves, jewellery, fresh produce, ceramics, food stalls, everything. We had not bothered with cooking breakfast that day, as we knew lots of food stalls would be there at the market. As we wandered around, we kept feasting on small items that we picked up here and there : roasted almonds, cheese on crackers, cakes, cookies etc. DW bought a lot of good knitted woolen stuff: jackets, sweaters, scarves, and some earrings. Burnt a nice hole in my wallet. But the stuff on sale was good quality, and sensibly priced. We tried our hand at haggling a little for the prices. Some sellers were game for it, and yielded a bit on prices, whereas others politely informed us that this was not the NZ culture !

By 9:15 am we were off, driving straight to the Abel Tasman Centre at Marahau beach, reaching there in an hour. We had called ahead the previous day about making bookings, and had learnt that we simply had to be there before 10:30 am to execute a reasonable itinerary. DW and myself opted for the “Abel Tasman Platter” package, which involved a ride on the water taxi, followed by a short unguided walk, followed by a few hours of guided kayaking. Our travel mates, i.e. my BIL and SIL, were not game for kayaking. Instead they opted for the water-taxi followed by a longer walk through the park.

We all left together by the 10:30 am water taxi. First stop was near the Split Apple Rock, of which I had seen so many pictures on internet sites. Great photo clicking. It was a crystal clear day, with very little clouds and lots of sunshine. Could not have asked for a better weather day for Abel Tasman. The water taxi then sped away towards Anchorage, giving a lot of fun-bumps on waves as it went along. At about 11:15 am, DW and I were discharged at Anchorage. My BIL & SIL continued on the water taxi to Bark Bay, from where they would walk the scenic stretch to Torrent Bay, where another water taxi would pick them up for their return. From Anchorage, we embarked on a shorter walk of 45 minutes to the Watering Cove. It was an excellent walk through forests, which occasional vantage lookout points to the sea. We were practically all alone on the walking trail, and it felt wonderful to be in such wilderness. We passed various streams and small waterfalls, and when we climbed the peak of the little hillock at the half-way mark, the views of the sea were extremely rewarding.

We were at the Watering Cove by around noon, and we spent the next hour or so almost “marooned” alone on that small beach. The kayaking guide was supposed to meet us here with the rest of the kayakers, and I guess they were running a bit behind schedule. No complaints. We enjoyed our time alone at the beach, exploring every nook and cranny, and the great rock formations. Birds flitted by in close proximity, showing no anxiety about our presence. Finally the kayak guide arrived, with the kayaks and other tourists in tow. We had a great catered lunch on the beach, of sandwiches, muffins and coffee.

Post-lunch, our guide John started the briefing on kayaking technique (he was all of 24 years of age !). By 2pm we were in the water on our kayaks, paddling away. The coastline was beautiful, and the water was a transparent sheet of glass. The sea was a little choppy, so we were advised not to stray too far from the coast. There were 4 couples in all, including us, each in a double-seater kayak. One couple was from Cascais in Portugal, a small town that we had visited just 2 years ago, and it was a delight to meet someone from there. As we paddled along the coast, we came across various coves and interesting rock formations. John divided his time equally amongst all his clients, and spent adequate time paddling next to each of us. The first hour was really exhilarating. After that, the shoulder muscles started giving way. And the last 20-30 minutes was an ordeal. We kayaked a total of 9 km, and reached Marahau beach past 4:15 pm. A once in a lifetime experience that we will cherish for a very long time.

Our travel mates arrived by water taxi very shortly after we reached, and we exchanged notes. They had an excellent walk from Bark Bay to Torrent Bay, had struck friendship with a Kiwi lady on the way, managed to get themselves invited to her house at Torrent Bay, and had a cup of coffee with her ! We all had a round of coffee at the Marahau beach, bought some breakfast provisions, and drove off to Kaiteriteri beach. There was a general consensus that since we were staying at such a beautiful cottage in Nelson, which offered such panoramic views, we should get home a little early and enjoy that cottage for a few hours. So we did not dwindle long at Kaiteriteri, but headed back to Nelson, picking up some Indian takeaway food at Motueka from a restaurant called “Simply India”: some Dal Makhani, Alu-Gobi-Simla Mirch, Veg Korma and Naan. We reached our Sunshine Cottage by 7 pm, and had dinner on the outside deck. Our host helped us light the fire in the fireplace, we did some laundry, and generally relaxed in the lovely cottage with horses wandering around. Nice end to a great day.
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Nov 9th, 2009, 05:32 PM
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Day 7: Sunday, Oct 25th : PUNAKAIKI :

I had promised everyone that the slightly rushed part of our itinerary was behind us, and the pace would be more leisurely from here on. We all treated ourselves to a late arousal from bed at around 7:30 am. Another bright clear day. Not even a speck of cloud anywhere. The views from the cottage were fabulous this morning, with the snow-clad peaks in the distance coming in full view. Had a leisurely breakfast, and left by 9:15 am.

As we stopped by at the main cottage to say goodbye to our hostess Sue, we noticed baby lambs crying for attention from their enclosure nearby. Sue’s daughter enquired if we would like to hand-feed milk to the lambs. The ladies were thrilled at the idea. So several milk bottles were conjured up, and DW, my SIL, together with Sue’s grandchildren, all lined up to feed a long line of hungry baby lambs from milk bottles. It was truly a sight to behold. Their fat pig, Daisy, slumbered nearby, totally uninterested in the proceedings. The horses came to the edge of their enclosure and stood around silently, also clamoring for attention. It would be hard to find such idyllic accommodation anywhere.

Reluctantly, we took leave. First stop on the way out was Boulder Banks, a 5 min drive from our cottage. Nothing of much interest here. So we drove again to the city centre of Nelson, and poked around a few art studios that we had missed out on earlier. There was a nice ceramic gallery on the edge of South Street, where we spent considerable time. DW bought a nice ceramic tile which reads “Never Eat on an Empty Stomach”!! Walked over to the Flamedaisy Glass Studio on Trafalgar St. When we pushed the door, it opened, but there was no one inside. I think they had left the door unlocked by mistake. Wanted to look around, but it didn’t seem right to wander around a deserted store, so we left quickly.

Our last stop in Nelson was the World of Wearable Arts Museum (WOW). This is a whacky over-the-top must-see place. The entire collection is funky and hilarious, but the best of all are the bizarre bras. Too bad they did not allow photography inside. Their AV show was also great, and so was the section on antique cars. What do antique cars have in common with bizarre bras, to be bracketed in the same museum ? Can’t figure that one out, but enjoyed both sections immensely. Never seen a museum like this. Had a round of coffee in their cafeteria, and departed from Nelson.

We drove non-stop to Murchison, making it there by about 2 pm. Went for lunch at the “Rock Snot Café”, which we learnt had changed its name to a more respectable “River View Café”. Lovely setting by the Buller River. After placing our orders, we walked over to the riverfront, where teenaged girls were diving off rocks into the cold river waters. Nice rocks and very very beautiful scenery. We took an outside table by the river, and really enjoyed our lunch in such a pretty setting. Enchiladas, nachos, pizzas, pizza puffs and tomato juice. The food was good, but I guess we ordered too much. By the time we finished, we were up to the brim and waddled back to the car.

Drove off after lunch, and made a stop soon thereafter at 3:30 pm at the Buller Gorge Swingbridge. Took tickets for the Flying Fox Comet ride. They gave the Swingbridge tickets free along with it. The walk on the swingbridge was great fun. We were being followed by an Aussie couple, who were intent on really “shaking things up” on the swingbridge. I loved it, but DW was petrified ! Then we did a circular scenic walk for about 15 mins, and finally the Tandem Comet Ride, strapped in chairs, whizzing on top of forest and river while suspended from the top. Great fun.

We left at 4:15 pm, and drove to Punakaiki. The drive was very pretty, alongside the Buller river, mostly in a gorge. As we hit the West Coast, the vistas changed, and the Tasman Sea came into frequent view. Excellent lookout points everywhere, and we just had to stop ever so often to take in the views. Finally reached Punakaiki at about 6:30 pm. When we called in to our hosts for the upcoming night’s stay, we discovered that they were not located exactly in Punakaiki, but about 20 km further down in a small town called Barrytown. Our host Dennis advised us to dispense with our Punakaiki sightseeing, and our dinner, before coming to Barrytown.

We first went to the Pancake Rocks. Unfortunately, the high-tide had gone two hours earlier, so we were told that the rocks would not be “blowing away”. Nevertheless, the walk around the rocks was very pretty. We thoroughly enjoyed it, although there was a tinge of disappointment at missing out on the Blowholes. Unfortunately, the next high tide was at 4 am in the morning. Had it been a little later, we were all game for returning in the early morning.

We then did the short “Truman Track” walk, which was about 30 mins return. A very pretty forest, followed by a view of the ocean and a lovely beach. Then we went to the Punakaiki Tavern for dinner at around 8 pm. Had Veg Quiche and Veg Pastas, with the famed Montieth black beer and ice-creams. Then proceeded to our B & B for the night: Bluewaves Homestay at Barrytown. It turned out to be a marvelous place. We had two separate bedrooms in the main house. Hosts Dennis & Raelyn were the most fabulous people. Dennis had a fire going to greet us, and helped us out in our tour planning for the next day. Their property was lovely and very spacious and comfortable. Snuggled into bed by 11 pm.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 9th, 2009, 06:05 PM
  #18  
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Day 8 : Monday, Oct 26th : FOX GLACIER :

Once again, a leisurely wake-up. Miracle of miracles – toilet here even had a latch from inside !! By 8:15 am we were ready for breakfast. This was the only place in our entire trip where the hosts were supposed to feed us breakfast. Raelyn served a wonderful breakfast of cereals, milk, OJ, toast and scrambled eggs. Meanwhile, Dennis slowly emerged from his shell, and regaled us with hilarious episodes connected with their various guests from different countries, all with full action and mimicry ! We could have sat up all day and listened to him, and were tempted to join him for a fishing trip later in the day. But all good things have to send sometime. We toured their lovely gardens and clicked lots of pictures. Living in a town which had a total population of 35 was a strange experience for us, coming from India. We concluded that this had been the best stay of the trip so far (we had felt the same way about Rotorua and Nelson too !!).

We drove back the 20 km to Punakaiki, and embarked on the Pororari River Track. This was the best walk so far. Lovely forest, vertical limestone cliffs on both sides, and a river running alongside. Did not have time to do the entire stretch, so we walked for about 30 mins, and then walked back.

The weather forecast for the day was not the greatest. It was supposed to be good in the morning, with some rain developing in the afternoon. We started our drive south towards Hokitika, and reached there by about 12:30 pm. First some sight-seeing at the Gibson Quay waterfront. Then the exploration of art shops and studios on Tancred St and Sewell St. Bought paua shells, which was on sale everywhere. Strolled through some expensive jade shops, and finally landed up at the lovely Hokitika Glass Blowing Studio. Picked up some beautiful souvenir pieces. As we strolled out for lunch, we realized that most establishments were closed due to it being Labor Day. Settled down at “Hokitika Cheese & Deli”, one of the few places that were open. Had survival food of sandwiches, fries and coffee. Average meal. Noticed that the rain had started to come down as predicted.

We departed Hokitika at 3 pm. Our stay for the next two nights was at the Fox Glacier village, but Franz Josef was on the way, and we planned to look into Franz Josef that evening. On reaching there at about 5 pm, we went straight to the Visitor’s Centre, and got details of the various walks available. Also made a booking for a guided walk on Fox Glacier for the next afternoon.

We parked our car at the Glacier carpark, and got into our rain coats for the first time in this trip. It had almost stopped raining, but we wanted to be well prepared. At 5:30 pm we started our walk (unguided) to the Glacier Terminal face. This was a lovely walk on the river bed, taking about 40 mins to the terminal face. Not at all strenuous. Stopped there and took pictures. Many waterfalls all around. The glacier itself looked awesome. It was misty and cloudy, which added to the scenic appeal. Slowly walked back to the car park, by which time the rain had stopped completely.

We selected an Indian restaurant called “Priya” for dinner. A certain Mr Reddy hailing from Hyderabad was there to serve us. Had a Veg Platter (which was very average), followed by very spicy Malai Kofta, Yellow Dal, Rice, Kulcha and Naan, washed down with black beer. Decent food, but perhaps not the best. Lots of Indian tour groups visiting this restaurant.

At about 8:45 pm we drove the 30 min stretch to Fox Glacier, reaching at our Mt Cook View Motel at 9:15 pm. Nice spacious 2-bedroom apartment. Unloaded our luggage, relaxed a bit, and hit the sack past 11 pm. It had been a nice relaxing day.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 9th, 2009, 06:09 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
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What great weather..you are indeed very lucky with the weather genies.
mlgb is offline  
Nov 9th, 2009, 08:22 PM
  #20  
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Join Date: Apr 2007
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Yes mlgb, we were indeed very lucky, and we know it. I know how notorious and fickle the West Coast weather can be, especially in October. But we wanted this holiday very badly. And if you want something very strongly, the Heavens conspire to make it possible !
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