NZ TRIP REPORT

May 23rd, 2003, 11:21 AM
  #1  
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NZ TRIP REPORT

Hi, live in Bombay India, and returned three weeks ago from New Zealand after a 25 day trip with my husband. Have managed to put in order most of the things piled up on my table in my absence and hence am now ready to share my experiences on this forum. I did the same thing after my trip to Australia in November, you can find it in the Australia section of the forum. I found that putting a sort of travelogue up here for the benefit for my fellow travellers is probably the best way to share most of what I have to say about my time there with a large number of people So I?m going to break it up and put up a little bit at a time, give as much info as possible and if anyone has any questions, fire away.

First off, we are what you would call planned travellers, so no real flying by the seat of your pants kind of thing can be expected. Also, given that we get to travel overseas about once a year, if that, we do fall into the category of people who tend to try and get the most out of a given number of days. Our holiday in NZ was no different, it was quite hectic and on the go most days. Would I prefer to have taken things at a slower pace ? Absolutely, but we always want to see all we can. So our itinerary may seem rushed, but we did get to do most of what we wanted to. As I have mentioned, our trip was about three and a half weeks long, with 10 days on the North Island and the rest on the South.

As planned travellers we did the usual stuff. We started with guidebooks and I can safely say the Footprint guidebook to my mind was absolutely the best, lots of info, recommendations and website urls. Highly highly recommended. Surfing the net was next, purenz.com is excellent, but also check out the various regional sites for more detailed info. We were lucky to get a decent airfare with Air NZ for our international leg which we booked through our local travel agent as they were running some sort of promotional scheme here. For domestic airfare, we got excellent Super Saver fares from Air NZ ?s domestic site, in some cases just 10 dollars more than the coach fare and a whole lot of time saved. Same holds true for two other things ? the ferry crossing as well as the TransAlpine. In all these cases, good planning well ahead of time can ensure some excellent savings. More on this when I get to the relevant part of the trip.

We did a combination of rail, air, bus and a lot of rental car to get around. I?ve covered rail and air above. With regards to the bus, sometimes there are Saver and Super Saver fares, should always email and find out. They also have Student, Backpacker and Senior fares so definitely worth availing of those discounts if you are eligible. As regards the rental car, our itinerary did not permit us to go with just one car, we were returning cars and picking up new cars elsewhere so obviously asked for quotes from several companies and went with the cheapest, but did not for sure get the most economical deal given that some rental periods were pretty short. Also our itinerary was North to South and we found that since most people tend to do that, the car companies offer cheap rentals for people driving cars the other way, that is South to North. For example if you were to start the South Island in Queenstown and drive up North to Christchurch and then further up to Picton, you could probably get an excellent deal as against the other way around. Might make sense to factor this in when planning the itinerary.

As regards stay, firstly we got 5 nights free in Quality Hotels across NZ as part of our airfare deal. We decided to use them up in cities like Auckland and Wellington rather than picturesque places like Queenstown where we still wanted an overall experience rather than just a place to lay our heads. In such places we stayed mostly in some lovely B&Bs and motels. I second everyone who has recommended staying in motels, they are reasonable, exquisitely clean and some of them are beautiful places to boot. Everything is normally of very high standard in NZ, even the hostels. So stay can be cheap, as can food, what kills you budgetwise is the activities. Which reminds me, all prices that I mention are in NZD.

But let me begin at the beginning.
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May 23rd, 2003, 11:24 AM
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We arrived in Auckland mid morning on a Sunday, after a long journey, transiting through Singapore. I cannot stress the importance of ensuring that you declare all goods deemed questionable at the Quarantine desk after baggage collection and before customs. There is a declaration on the Disembarkation card that you fill out which will help clarify, but the general rule of thumb is, if in doubt, declare it. They will examine it and return it if it is ok, sometimes they will irradiate some items and sometimes just confiscate things, but it for a good cause, and penalties are very stiff, so best to comply.

A shuttle to the city with door to door drop to your hotel is $ 25 for two people and a taxi is about $45. The only difference is that the taxi leaves right away and heads straight for your destination, with a shuttle, you might have to wait till it gets filled, or 15 minutes, whichever is earlier, and you may see some of the other passengers off before getting off yourself. We took the shuttle to our hotel, the Quality Hotel at Rose Garden, Parnell. It?s a 10 minute walk from Parnell village and a $10 taxi ride away from the Harbour, but it was free as part of our air ticket deal, and adequate in every way. In any case we were not spending the night here, the objective was just to leave some extra luggage with them for when we got back as we were heading North that same day.

Knowing that this was the plan, we had packed sensibly and hence were able to leave our stuff in two lots, stuff that we would leave till we got back, and stuff we would come by to pick up a little later. After unburdening ourselves, we decided that we were so tired and jet lagged from our trip that nothing serious or strenuous would go down well. So we did what we normally do on first days, spend the next couple of hours over lunch and walking around the stalls in Victoria Park Market which cost us about $ 10 by taxi from the hotel, followed by a similar browse through some of the New Market area. Victoria Park Market is fun, some of the nicer shops include a NZ souvenir store, a wool store, a nice store with craft from all over NZ which is definitely worth checking out, and adjoining it a store with all sorts of South Pacific collectables. We were particularly fascinated with some lovely tapa cloth that we saw here. This cloth is made by beating the bark of trees into cloth, and then painting it with tribal motifs. It is a dying art practised in Fiji and Tonga and is getting harder and harder to find, and you have to be careful not to get it wet as it will become hard like bark again. Worth a look. New Market on the other hand has lots of brand shops.

Pretty soon the unpredictable NZ weather gave us a taste of its best feature, it started to rain. Luckily it was time for our move on anyway, so we got back the hotel, picked up our overnighters and headed off to the HSBC Building opposite the Ferry Building at the wharf, for our Northliner bus to the Bay of Islands.
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May 31st, 2003, 11:06 PM
  #3  
 
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Hello! I remember reading about your wonderfull travel experiences in Australia and am anticipating more to come about your recent trip. Your writing style is very enjoyable and your experiences encourage many to follow some of your footsteps and avoid others as I seem to remember you also share.

I have promised to write a trip report from a Feb/March trip to Sydney/New Zealand but am still "catching up" so I can relate. Your continuation is much awaited by many, especially those who remember your lovely writing from before.

Thanks!
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Jun 5th, 2003, 08:20 PM
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The drive to Paihia is about 4-5 hours long and not something we wanted to do ourselves with jetlagged brains. Hence a coach was the most economical option, about $42 each. Both Intercity and Northliner run coaches up North and back, but we decided to go with Northliner because they were reaching an hour earlier. On Sundays, they depart at 4.00 p.m. from Auckland and arrive at Paihia at 8.30 p.m. as against Intercity which arrives at 9.30 p.m. We made our bookings on the net and picked up the tickets at the office. Once on the bus, our weary bodies could no longer stay awake and we fell into a deep slumber, waking only occasionally when the bus stopped enroute. So we did not see much of the gorgeous scenery outside, but my consolation was that I was going to return the same way on my way back. We had a pit stop halfway through, for a loo break and tea at a quaint tea room, with alpacas in the front yard. We finally rolled into Paihia at 8.30 p.m. on the dot.

We had decided to stay at a beautiful B&B with an awesome view called Allegra House. Now one of the reasons this place has such a great view is that it is fairly high up on the hill and takes some climbing get to. Luckily, our wonderful host Brita came to pick us up with her car at the coach drop off point at the wharf in Paihia, knowing that we would probably be bushed from our journey. By the end of our trip I was to realise that this and other such acts of kindness and going above and beyond come naturally to the wonderful people that live in this part of the world, and their hospitality, generosity and genuine acts of kindness are as much a part of this landscape as all the outdoor beauty.

Once we entered their lovely house, Brita gave us another great surprise. They have two accommodations, the cheaper one at $ 120 with breakfast on the ground floor and the more expensive one at $ 140 on the top floor. We had opted for the cheaper accommodation but since their top floor was vacant, she had decided to upgrade us at no extra cost and hence we spent the next two nights in a wonderful large room with bay windows and a private terrace looking out at the fabulous view of the Bay of Islands. Of course given the time we arrived there were no islands to be seen that night, and we were too tired to go and check out the town so we decided to have an indoor dinner with half of next days breakfast. It is common practice for most places serving Continental breakfast as part of the deal to supply you with the ingredients the night before. Brita gave us more than plenty so we feasted on muffins, croissants, jams and spreads, cheese, biscuits, cereal, juice and coffee and promptly fell asleep on our first night in NZ. We knew we had an early start the next day.
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Jun 5th, 2003, 08:23 PM
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We woke to a picture perfect day with a wonderful view spread out in front of us. The huge bay windows and the lovely terrace just open up the entire vista of the beautiful Bay of Islands, and directly opposite in the distance is Russell. Watching the ferries begin their to and fro between Paihia and Russell while breakfasting on the terrace as the sun comes up is the first complete realisation of a holiday having begun. But we couldn?t dally long as we had to be at the bottom of the hill for our pick up for the day trip to Cape Reinga.

Having thoroughly evaluated all options of doing this, we had decided on a day trip with a company called Dune Riders. They really did an excellent job. We wanted to have a slow and relaxed start and not go trying to figure out everything, but most importantly, we did not wanted to be herded 60 to a bus and driven around either. Dune Rider takes a max of about 16-18 people, which is a much nicer group size and their itinerary is quite comprehensive. They operate a 4WD mini coach which can safely be taken on the 90 mile beach. They have a website with comprehensive information on their trips, and are well worth checking out. We found their pricing more competitive than others like Fullers.

We started with driving out to a Kauri forest where we had a most enjoyable 20 minute walk looking at these wonderful trees up close. It was also the time when the rains came down for a short while, making everyone a little edgy about the rest of the day, but our fears were to be allayed in the next hour itself as the sun came out in all its brilliance and stayed firmly in charge all day. We had a long drive after the Kauri forest, passing beautiful beaches and coves, heading north all the time while our wonderful driver cum guide gave us lots of info on the environment, the landscape, the history and everything else we were seeing along the way. We stopped for a break mid morning at a lovely village inn where we also had to buy lunch, since from thereon till we returned to civilisation in the evening, we would not find any cafes or shops. Leaving the town behind, we headed directly for the Cape arriving at around noon. Its about a 15-20 minute walk from the car park to the lighthouse, relatively easy with a gentle gradient, very doable. There are toilets in the car park too. The lighthouse is picture perfect, and you can take the obligatory pictures with the signpost next to it showing the distance from Sydney and London and other places across the ocean, whole time zones away. The most interesting sight lies offshore, you can see the pounding reunion of the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, it is a remarkable sight to see waves crashing into one another in the middle of this large body of water.

After a gentle perambulation of the area we returned to our bus and we driven to a lovely cove just around the bend from the cape for lunch. You could go for a short swim if you wished, and some did. I was content with wetting my feet in water, the temperature of the likes we do not normally get back home, it was freezing cold. Although the site had the usual picnic amenities such as tables, most of us opted to perch on the sand or on some rocks and enjoy our lunches. It is a beautiful spot and the clean fresh air and the sound of the pounding waves and the cries of the sea gulls adds to your appetite. After lunch we headed for the Te Paki quicksand stream where the 4WD capability of the bus came into its own and we settled down for a bumpy ride. But not for long. Pretty soon we were out again, for our first tryst with the incredible pursuit of boogie boarding on sand dunes.
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Jun 5th, 2003, 08:25 PM
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The Te Paki stream is lined by huge sand dunes and at one time it was possible to drive on them with your 4WD vehicle until the DOC decided that it was adversely affecting the environment. However you can still boogie board on the dunes for now, but that might be revoked soon too, so we were advised to make the most of it while we were there. The task is simple. Hike to the top of a dune, lie down face first on a boogie board with your legs trailing in the sand behind you, get someone to give you a push and down you go at a 100 km an hour for a few seconds till you either gracefully dig your toes in and glide to a stop at the bottom, or, wound up in the momentum crash headlong into the sand bank below. Once you get there, don?t take the moment to savour what you have been through, quickly get up and out of the way as someone else is careening down the slope straight at you. It is so much fun, the hardest part is the climb up, very tiring, but the ride down is fantastic. Its totally safe provided you keep your body on the board, hold it in the right way and remember to dig in your toes only at the very end and not all the way down else you?re liable to end up with a permanent pedicure.

After a few rounds of our first ?adventure activity? most of us had to be pulled out of there, back on to the bus, and following the stream soon hit the beach. This is the big one, the 90 mile beach. Its not 90 miles long, that?s how distances were estimated in the past, but it is an incredible sight. Coming from the kind of place we do, it?s a bit of a wonder how you can have such a gorgeous beach with absolutely no one around. We passed a few other vehicles along the way, but that?s it. If you have a 4WD you can safely use the beach as a regular highway road, but we came across many buried remnants of non 4WD hopefuls who had gotten onto the beach and never gotten off. Buried car skeletons make for great pics. As our guide said, if you are caught with you car sinking, don?t bother going for help that?s miles away, don?t bother checking your cellphone as there?s no coverage. You might as well find a nice sand dune and watch the destruction of your car, at least you?ll have a great story for your grand children.

After traversing the beach, we head back into inhabited areas, stopping for a break at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom workshop where you can buy articles crafted from genuine swamp kauri. Fresh kauri felling is banned and the only kauri that can be used is the old kauri that lies buried in swamps in the region, so it can get a bit expensive but there is stuff to tempt the eyes. There is also the unique opportunity of a huge kauri tree trunk that has a circular stairway carved inside it that you can climb, right in the middle of the shop. This is also where you can buy postcards, write them up and give them to your guide who will then dunk it the next time he goes to the cape into the postbox at the car park, the northern most postbox of the country. We sent ourselves one and sure enough it was waiting for us when we got home.

Driving back, we stopped at Manganui for their famous fish n chips as a tea break. Being a vegetarian I cannot comment first hand, but my husband did give them a thumbs up. As the sun set on our first day, we settled down for the long drive home, but our guide had one more special stop to do. Just outside the town of Kerikeri, which is known for its fruit orchards, there are a couple of farmers who lay out stalls with the fresh produce of the day and they let you sample and buy what you like. We stopped at one such stall to pick up some luscious tangerines and pears as well as some homemade macadamia nut chocolate. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

By the time we got back to Paihia it was close to 8.00, making it a really long day. We decided on a quick dinner at a café on the main street before trudging up the hill to our warm beds. It was truly a most relaxed informative and enjoyable day that saw us through most of what the beautiful north has to offer.
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Jun 5th, 2003, 10:15 PM
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Hi, We just did what you have done in Dec and Jan and loved every moment. Your description of boogie boarding on the sand dunes brought back such happy memories. It is an awesome place and I am so glad you see it the same way. For those who are interested in an 8 page trip report that I have composed you can email me at [email protected] We did alot of camping in a tent and used cabins in holiday parks when the weather would not cooperate. We did have 7 weeks so did alot and did both Islands. Wendy
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Jun 6th, 2003, 10:18 PM
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Before I go further, Gynna, thanks so much for your encouragement, I?m glad you are enjoying and reliving your wonderful trip through my posts. Wendy, I did ask and receive your very interesting report, thanks for that, sort of come full circle now haven?t I.

Our next morning heralded the last half day that we would be spending in the north, and we had opted to hit the water. Given just half a day, we were spoilt for choices that finally boiled down to two ? A half day cruise with the Hole in the Rock, or a Swimming with Dolphins trip. After much debate, we had finally settled on the latter. We were to do this trip with Fullers, the chief attraction being the time they give at one of the islands on the way back called Urupukapuka Island. After the cruise, we were scheduled on the afternoon bus back to Auckland.

Given our tight time budgeting, we decided to check out of the Allenby with all our belongings and get to the wharf. Our host were kind enough to give us a lift to the wharf, saving us the trouble of lugging our stuff down the hill. We checked in for our trip at the Fullers office, and then left our luggage with the Paihia Tourism Office for a charge of $ 2.00 per bag. You can also leave your stuff for free with Fullers, and they will simply stash it behind the counter. The travel office has proper lockers and since we were carrying our dox with us, we decided to go the safe route.

We boarded our boat sharp at 8.00 and were on our way. It was a beautiful morning, but with the wind blowing in our faces, it soon got chilly enough to put on jumpers and anoraks. Whilst we cruised out of the harbour, our crew of three ? a lady navigator, a lady marine biologist and a young photographer gave us information on what the trip was to cover and what to expect, etc. Most of us on the boat were up for swimming with the dolphins, but were reminded that if there were young dolphins in the pod, or if they were feeding, for their sake we would not be allowed in the water.

We found our first, and as it turned out, our only pod for the day within 10 minutes of leaving the harbour. It was quite a large pod of about 30 full sized bottlenosed dolphins, all swimming about in that absolutely wonderful way that only dolphins can. We could see right away that there were young ones on the pod, so we knew that swimming was out with this pod for sure. However, there are more than one ways to get up close and personal with these wonderful creatures. The boat has a forward deck that about 5-6 people can visit at one time. You are supposed to lie down on the deck on your stomach and pop your head out over the bow. All dolphins love to surf ? they ride the wake of the boat, for which they come up under the bow of the boat and cruise along. When you stick your head out over the bow, you are about 6 inches away from them swimming below you, which is pretty amazing as you can see how wonderfully graceful they are. Every now and then they will surface and do a flip or somersault just for the sheer joy of it and its wonderful. The most memorable moment for me was when I was looking down below at a dolphin and it turned its head upwards, rolling its body to get a better look at me. It was the kind of eye contact that you never forget. You are encouraged to make faces at them and sing and make odd noises, they find it more interesting and will come closer to check it out. Another wonderful moment was when a mother and her baby both somersaulted out of the water in complete synchronicity just in front of me and my husband just happened to click a wonderful picture at the same time.
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Jun 6th, 2003, 10:19 PM
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After spending about an hour watching this pod, we left them to go looking for another, but sadly although we cruised around for quite a while, we did not find any other pods. So no swimming, but a great encounter nevertheless and we did get to see a fair bit of the Bay of Islands they way it should be seen, from the water. Before heading back, we stopped off at the Island for a 20 minute break, where we had a free hot drink at the Zane Grey café. It?s a lovely place and the sort of site where given more time, you would not mind spending the night. Back on the boat, back to the harbour, and we had just enough time to pick up a couple of souvenirs and a very quick lunch at the charming Café by the Bay before it was time to retrieve our luggage and board the Intercity bus back to Auckland.

Unlike the journey to Paihia, I was able to stay awake for longer this time, and spent a happy few hours simply looking out of the window at the breathtaking scenery. Tea break was along the way at a café adjoining a small Kauri museum and shop. We rolled into the Sky City Terminal of Intercity in Auckland at around 5.30, took a cab to the Quality Hotel Rose Park, retrieved our left luggage and checked in for our first night in Auckland. Dinner was at a small café in Parnell, and on the way back we stopped and picked up a Wises mapguide to NZ that was invaluable through the driving legs of our trip, before hitting the sack.

On the whole, the north was for us, as I suspect it is for many, a wholly disjointed section that can so easily be trimmed from any itinerary, but we are glad that we did make the time to do it. Naturally we were pressed for time, and eventually did not get to see Russell, or even more sacrilegiously, Waitangi either as we had no spare time at all. However, I am still very pleased with what we did manage to see and it was a wonderfully relaxing beginning to a great holiday.
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Jun 8th, 2003, 09:57 AM
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Like most days of our trip, the next day was an early start too. We had to be out of the hotel with all our stuff and at the Intercity?s Sky City terminal to catch our 8.00 a.m. bus to Rotorua. We got to the terminal a little ahead of time and decided to have a quick breakfast at the café there, but were debating how we would handle our luggage while we did that. A kind bus driver interrupted his breakfast to come and open up the luggage compartment of our coach so we could stuff our luggage in it and enjoy our meal unencumbered. Pretty soon we were off, on another bright sunny day, heading for the Thermal Wonderland.

Along the way, we made a few stops to pick up and drop off passengers. We had a mid morning pit stop at Hamilton at the tourism office so that we could grab a cup of coffee and visit the restrooms. You are expressly forbidden to eat or drink anything aboard the bus other than water. Another memorable stop was in the town of Matamata, which proudly declares ?Welcome to Hobbiton?! We tried to picturise the hills and dales from the movie as we passed through the rolling pastoral landscapes, and it was not too difficult.

We rolled into Rotorua on time and stopped at the Tourism centre and disembarked. Our first order of business was to pick up our rental car that we had reserved with Budget online before we left home. The Budget office is just a block away from the drop off point of the Intercity bus so we had no problems getting there with our luggage. After completing our paperwork, we set off for our accommodation in our white Toyota Echo.

Extensive browsing and reading had found us a wonderful B&B accommodation in Rotorua. Its been mentioned on this site before too, and I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending it as a wonderful place. This is the Lake House B&B, and its situated on the shores of Lake Rotorua, about a 7minute drive from the town centre. You can find it on the web and the pictures on their site are enough to entice anyone as to what a wonderful looking place it is. I can go a step further and tell you that our hosts are wonderful, informative and genuinely interested in making your stay as comfortable and memorable as possible. Firstly, as soon as you book online, they mail you a confirmed reservation, a detailed map and some brochures about Rotorua so you can get a head start even before you leave home. They have two rooms, one ensuite and the other with a private bath. We had opted for the latter at $120 including a full cooked breakfast, which was both generous and delicious on both days we were there. As soon as you arrive, you are offered a welcome drink, you can use the internet whenever you want, and do your laundry as well. An altogether wonderful experience and highly recommended.

After getting settled in, we decided that we had time for just one sortie that afternoon and decided to see the magical landscapes of Waiotapu. You are spoilt for choices as regards thermal parks in this region, but hands down, this is the one not to miss. Its about 30 minutes from Rotorua on the road to Taupo and is a pretty drive, you get out of Rotorua after 5 minutes on that road and suddenly in the middle of a forest. By the time we got there, our stomachs were growling for some calories so the first order of business was to feed ourselves at the café at Waiotapu, before going on our walk through the park.
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Jun 8th, 2003, 10:00 AM
  #11  
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It is advisable to take a hat along on a good day as it can get quite warm on the walk and the steam billowing around you does not help. The walk has a gentle gradient, nothing very strenuous and you follow a signposted walkway all through. At first the attractions are confined to steaming holes and gurgling mud pools but everything changes once you get to the Artists Palette, so aptly named and very beautiful. On the other side is the famous Champagne Pool and to get to it, you walk across a boardwalk right through the smoking and bubbling Artists Palette, which it a pretty cool thing to do. Once you get to the other side, you can walk around the Champagne Pool and retrace back to the start, or else, go for a couple of side trips to see other things like the Flat Pan, the Oyster Pool and some steaming waterfalls, which we did, before coming back to the Champagne Pool. It is such an incredible colour, and you are tempted to stay there and keep gazing into its depths, if it wasn?t for the clouds of noxious gases swirling all around you, before heading back past some more steaming attractions to the start. I would keep aside about 90 minutes for the whole walk, give or take. They have a nice shop, and the prices on some things would prove to be the lowest we saw on our whole trip, so it?s a good place to pick up something you like.

Speaking of shopping, Rotorua is the place to pick up all your Maori souvenirs, both in terms of choice and price. I would recommend the Waiotapu shop, walking down the main street in Rotorua and seeing the various shops there, as well as a couple of shops in the Whakarewarewa reserve.

On the way back, we debated whether we had enough time to swing by Waimangu, which is on the road to Waiotapu, but seeing the time, decided to give it a skip. We wanted to get back to the Lake House, chill out a bit, get cleaned up and ready for our 6.00 p.m. pick up by the Tamaki Maori Village transport. We walked along the lake, took pictures, tidied up, and got picked up promptly at 6.00 p.m. by the coach and were driven to the Tamaki Maori Village office in town where we registered and waited for everyone else to show up.

A genuine Maori hangi is a good way to generate awareness about this wonderfully colourful culture and these cultural tours are a big hit. We had booked with Tamaki on the net before leaving, and they are one of many good options in town. By the time we were ready to depart the office, our gathering was 4 coaches strong, nearly 200 people. The experience begins as soon as you board your coach. Your driver gives you some historical background and a little bit of information of what the evening has in store. The first order of business is to elect a chief, who will represent our tribe through the course of the evening. Ours was an African American gentleman called John, hereafter to be called as Honne, in Maori pronunciation. Once we arrive at the village, a 20minute ride from town on the Taupo road, we will assemble in the front courtyard and wait. A warrior from inside the village will come out and challenge our chiefs making warlike gestures and threatening sounds. We are not to move, laugh or imitate what he does, it is extremely disrespectful to do so. Finally, after this show of bravado, the warrior will make a peace offering to one chief and the village will announce far and wide that guests have come and they are to be allowed into the village, after which we can enter the village.

Everything goes exactly as planned, and we enter the village, many photos richer. You are then given time to go about the village, most of which consists of live exhibits of actors enacting various daily activities of the Maori people, before assembling in the meeting house for the cultural show. The first row of seating has to be occupied by males only. There is a wonderful cultural routine of songs and dances, including of course the haka. Following the cultural show, you assemble in a large hall for the hangi. Being a vegetarian, I had requested for a vegetarian option, and they had three. I had reserved the samosa meal online while booking, which is sort of like a Indian pastry stuffed with potato and spices. Unfortunately, what I did not know is that I had to reconfirm this at their city office which I did not do, so there was some confusion for a while, but they did accommodate me very comfortably, just had to wait a bit while my meal was being prepared. For the others there was potatoes, salad, sweet potatoes or what they call kumara potatoes and lamb and fish, all cooked in the hangi. They invite each table by turn to go help themselves, it?s all very orderly. My meal was great and my husband enjoyed his too.

After the meal, you can browse around the shops they have in the village or go and get more information about the hangi, see the pits, etc. After that the kitchen and cooking staff put on a little cultural performance of their own, before you are all encouraged to hold hands and join in the farewell song before boarding your coach for the journey back. On the bus ride home, everyone is encouraged to sing a song from their country. We had Native American gospel, German, Indonesian, Singaporean, Dutch, Japanese and a few others I forget. Before long we were back at the Lake House and tumbling between warm sheets looking forward to the next day.
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Jun 11th, 2003, 11:02 PM
  #12  
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Our second day in Rotorua was more relaxed and hence we made the right start with a great breakfast. We had a couple of things that we were interested in doing. We had a visit to Whakarewarewa, white water rafting on the Kaituna river and a flight in a biplane called the Redcat on the agenda, but we had to see how these were to be fitted into our day. We decided to spend the morning at Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve (hereafter referred to at WTR, it?s a tough one to type again and again!), followed by a 40 minute Redcat flight. We would have to be done with these by 2.00 p.m. if we were to make the last rafting sortie for the day.
So off we drove to the WTR. On buying the ticket, we were told it does not cover the entrance to the Maori Arts and Crafts Village. We proceeded down the walkway, opting to cover the park on our own rather than join a tour as we were going to be pressed for time. On the whole, I found the park to be quite a let down after the amazing stuff we had seen at Waiotapu the day before, the only saving graces for us being the presence of geysers here, we got some nice pictures of Pohutu, having missed the morning eruption of Lady Knox at Waiotapu. The second was a couple of interesting shops with some nice Maori wood carvings and we were able to pick up something nice for back home. We must have spent about an hour all told in the park, and if you retain your ticket you are allowed to come back and visit on the same day, so we decided to head off for our flight and see how the day went thereafter.

We drove to the airport, which also hosts the Rotorua Flying Club in a hangar next door, which is where the Redcat operates from. We were quite keen on doing this, they have a website that gives more details on all the different options of flights they offer from a 20 minute city overflight to the longer 1 hour flights that cover most of the Thermal sights below. We had decided on the 40 minute flight that covered the city and surrounding lakes, some Thermal areas such as Waimangu and WTR and the Mount Tarawera crater. Being a weather dependent activity, we had written and told them that we would be interested, but there is no point in booking these ahead of getting there and seeing the weather on that day. While the engine of the plane was being warmed up by our pilot we chatted with a young Indian pilot operating scenic fixed wing flights, who had emigrated to NZ a few years ago.

Finally we were shepherded out to the plane. It?s a beautiful blood red 1950s Grumman biplane with a propeller up front. We donned our leather bomber jackets and the huge goggles and ascots and posed for our pictures, so Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn! Then we climbed in. We get to sit in the front cockpit and the pilot sits in the rear. Its gets really cosy upfront I must say, both me and my husband are regular sized people, I am actually quite small, but it was still like sardines in a can. We plugged in our radios so we could hear both the pilots commentary as well as his communications with ground control. Pretty soon we were taxiing down the runway and literally glided gently into the air. The first thing that hits you is the breeze, and the realisation that you are in the air equivalent of a convertible with the top down. As you climb higher, its gets colder and more windy and you are then glad for the jacket and the whole leather headgear. If you like, you can substitute your own sunglasses for the big goggles, but you do need to wear something over your eyes. The whole feeling is really very magical, like being suspended in air, and everything you look at seems that much sharper, and the colours seem that much brighter for lack of windows to look out of. We flew over the incredibly blue Blue lake as well as lots of the surrounding countryside and other smaller lakes, and coasted over Waimangu, taking in the billowing steam charged atmosphere below. Pretty soon, we could see Mount Tarawera, which is when you climb to the maximum height of the flight to see the crater and the colours and cragginess up close are awesome. As we climbed we encountered some cloud cover and it was an amazing thing to head right for it and fly through it. For a moment there is all this cotton wool looking stuff and then as you are in it, it suddenly feels colder and you are surrounded by a thick fog which is strangely unnerving and exhilarating at the same time till you emerge from the cloud cover and see your surroundings again.
dyscover is offline  
Jul 20th, 2003, 09:55 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 21
I am planning a trip to NZ with my daughter in January and your beautifully written trip description has been so helpful. Will you be writing about the rest of your trip or is it in a different part of the forum. Thanks!
LittleNell is offline  
Jul 21st, 2003, 02:53 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 786
Hi there, so pleased you had a great time 'down under' but also want to commend you on a fabulous written report which should be of great help to other posters. You should have it bound in book form for your future enjoyment, it is really excellent. I recently completed a 56 page journal on my trip to Europe of last year and altho' long and hard work it was worth getting it completed.
I said at the beginning when you were researching that the itinerary looked exhausting, well you seem to have managed very well so good for you. You also researched the right places for the airfares and other transport and were really 'on to it'.
The reason I recommended Waiotapu to you was just as you have said, Whaka is a little commercialised these days, it didn't used to be but things change I guess and not always for the better. At least Pohutu played for you, Lady Knox is only a small geyser. You report is very honest and true.
KathyNZ is offline  
Aug 21st, 2003, 05:56 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 21
Thank you for your most interesting post. I am planning a trip to NZ with my daughter and have used many of your recommendations. Will you be posting the rest of your trip? Thanks.
LittleNell is offline  
Nov 30th, 2003, 01:58 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 18
Hi Dyscover,

This is a great account of your very comprehensive trip. I was wondering if you could publish your complete NZ trip report?? It may be really helpful for travellers planning vacations in NZ.

If you want to limit distribution, could you let us know an email address where we could contact you?

Thanks in advance,
anandanj is offline  
Mar 28th, 2004, 09:55 AM
  #17  
Jed
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,546
Is the drive from Auckland to Pahia really 4-5 hrs? I was also hoping to drive that just when we got to AKL, and not stay in AKL the first night.
Jed is offline  
Mar 28th, 2004, 02:25 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 609
The drive to Pahia from Auckland airport should not take you more than 3.5 hours. This is so long as you are not planning to travel at rush hour (Either end of the day) through Auckland.

The Airport is in South Auckland and you have basically only two choices of road to get up and through the city to get north to Pahia. Both of these routes get a bit clogged at rush hour and will probably extend your drive by .5 to 1 hour.

Once you are north of Auckland the trip becomes very nice with good countyside to drive through.

Hope this helps.

Steve
Kiwi_acct is offline  
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