Three weeks on another side of the globe

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May 14th, 2018, 06:34 PM
  #1
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Three weeks on another side of the globe

I want to share my experience of traveling to N.Zelandia in last November (2017), I hope it would help anyone who plans to visit this wonderful country. My husband and I visited both major islands, starting from the North, first on campervan, then on foot (on Milford Track), then on a small cruise, car and finished on the train. I short, I loved almost everything, if you want more details, then read on.

Why New Zealand?

Every year we try to alternate continents: 2012 - North America (USA), 2013 - South America (Peru), 2014 - Asia (Japan), 2015 - skipped (son started a college), 2016 - Europe (Germany). The choice was between 3 remaining continents: Australia& Oceania, Africa or Antarctica. We decided to postpone Antarctica till we retire in hope the prices for the cruise there would drop by that time, so the choice narrowed down to two.
The decisive factor was the choice of transportation. We have long wanted to try an RV vacation. But since none of us had any experience, for our first RV trip we wanted to go to the safe country with a developed infrastructure . At first we thought about the national parks in the States, but we were practically in each of them and wanted to new places. Some body suggested me N.Zelandia, "a paradise for trailers and campers". Why not, the country has great infrastructure, besides all speaks English, and just on the continent we never visited. New Zealand, here we come!

Why in November?
We are empty nesters, not dependent on school breaks, so for the sast two years we travel on shoulder season. New Zealand in southern hemisphere the main season between October and May, and the peak falls on December-February. In October, the prices are the lowest and very few tourists, but the weather is still unpredictable, March was too far and we did not want to wait that long, so November turned out to be the best for our vacation.

Itinerary

The itinerary was finalized after reading the reports and guides (Fodor's, Lonely Planet & DK):

November 3 - flight New York - Los Angeles - Auckland
November 5 - Day in Auckland
November 6 - RV rental starts, Waitomo caves
November 7 - Rotorua
November 8 - Wai-o-Tamu thermal Wonderland, road to to Lake Taupo
November 9 - fishing on Lake Taupo, road to the national park Tongariro
November 10 - Tongariro Alpine crossing
November 11 - Wellington
November 12 - Ferry to the South Island, Nelson
November 13 - N.P. Abel Tasman: a day on kayaks, a night on a private yacht
November 14 - wineries of the South Island, road to Kaikoura
November 15 - in the morning - fishing in Kaikoura, afternoon - watching whales flight, overnight in Christchurch
November 16 - Mount Cook, trekking, stargazing
November 17 - road to Queenstown, RV return
November 18 - bus to Tel Anau, start of the Milford Track
November 19-20 - Milford Track
November 21 -Milford Track ends, a night cruise on Milford Sound
November 22 - return to Queenstown, rest after a 4-day trek and return to civilization
November 23 - rent a car, Wanaka, road to the Franz Josef Glacier
November 24 - Franz Josef Glacier, road to Greymouth
November 25 - train Greymouth - Christchurch
November 26 - Christchurch-Sydney-Los Angeles-New York flight

To be continued...
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May 15th, 2018, 07:50 AM
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We were deciding between New Zealand and Patagonia for next January-February. Patagonia won the day for 2019, but we fully intend to do New Zealand the following year (when we WILL be retired and can spend as long as we like in New Zealand and Australia). I can't wait to read the rest of your report....
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May 15th, 2018, 11:40 AM
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Day 1 - November 5, 2017

Auckland, the largest New Zealand city.


Itinerary:Sky Tower - Auckland Domain - Queen street - Auckland Waterfront

Hotel: Skycity Grand Hotel (https://www.skycityauckland.co.nz/hotels/skycity-grand/rooms/) - the room was booked via Expedia using points, so paid only taxes, where that's about $45.

Transportation:from airport to hotel - taxicity exploration - on feet

Dining:
breakfast - on a planelunch - had some pastries in hotel's lobbydinner - restaurant (do not remember the name, it was one of the myriads of places on Auckland waterfront)We landed in Auckland at 7am, immediately we were shocked with the old-fashioned way of leaving the plane on a ladder, very strange for the largest city's airport. The last time I used the ladder was in the rural village of Vijayawada, in India, but we flew there on a very small aircraft, not on Boing that just covered 6.5 miles.When we arrived to the hotel around 8:30, our room was not ready yet and we were asked to wait for a couple of hours. We left our suitcases with the bell captain, took our swimsuits and went to the hotel's sauna and swimming pool to wash off the road dust and relax after a long flight. We did not have any special plans for today, mostly we came to NZ to see nature, not the cities. However, since we were already in Auckland we could not miss the chance to explore the New Zealand's largest city. And because of this status, Auckland , of course, had a mandatory observation tower, which happened to be a part of our hotel's property. The views from the top were nice, especially the weather cooperated and we had clear blue skies. Here we also witnessed the love of New Zealanders to extreme adrenalin driven activities: people were Bungee jumping from the tower, plunging almost 200 m. Ah, scary, we decided to passThe went to the main park of the city, Auckland Domain, very quiet and pleasant place to be in a spring day like that.Then we strolled along the Queen Street, city's main street towards the city's waterfront promenade. That city part was the opposite to the quite park, it was noisy, crowded with a myriad of restaurants, cafes and bars, a choice for every taste and money. We started our acquaintance with NZ cuisine by ordering local fish and local pinot noir. Here we were, sitting outdoor enjoying the food, warm weather, beautiful yachts and cruise ships, and watching the sparrows stealing food from the restaurant's patrons.Later we returned to the hotel, but not to the room, to the casino, also in the hotel's property. During check-in were received $20 vouchers each to gamble and we did. We won $120 and with this was a great finish of our first day in New Zealand.
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May 15th, 2018, 12:10 PM
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May I suggest you add paragraph breaks? It will make your report easier to read.
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May 15th, 2018, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Melnq8 View Post
May I suggest you add paragraph breaks? It will make your report easier to read.
Melnq8, very sorry. I actually properly formatted the text and copy and paste it from the Word. Unfortunately, I can no longer edit it, so I re-post it

Day 1 - November 5, 2017

Auckland, the largest New Zealand city.


Itinerary:Sky Tower - Auckland Domain - Queen street - Auckland Waterfront

Hotel: Skycity Grand Hotel (https://www.skycityauckland.co.nz/hotels/skycity-grand/rooms/) - the room was booked via Expediausing points, so paid only taxes, where that's about $45.

Transportation:from airport to hotel - taxicity exploration - on feet

Dining:
breakfast - on a planelunch - had some pastries in hotel's lobbydinner - restaurant (do not remember the name, it was one of the myriads of places on Auckland waterfront)

We landed in Auckland at 7am, immediately we were shocked with the old-fashioned way of leaving the plane on a ladder, very strange for the largest city's airport. The last time I used the ladder was in the rural village of Vijayawada, in India, but we flew there on a very small aircraft, not on Boing that just covered 6.5 miles.When we arrived to the hotel around 8:30, our room was not ready yet and we were asked to wait for a couple of hours. We left our suitcases with the bell captain, took our swimsuits and went to the hotel's sauna and swimming pool to wash off the road dust and relax after a long flight.

We did not have any special plans for today, mostly we came to NZ to see nature, not the cities. However, since we were already in Auckland we could not miss the chance to explore the New Zealand's largest city. And because of this status, Auckland , of course, had a mandatory observation tower, which happened to be a part of our hotel's property. The views from the top were nice, especially the weather cooperated and we had clear blue skies. Here we also witnessed the love of New Zealanders to extreme adrenalin driven activities: people were Bungee jumping from the tower, plunging almost 200 m. Ah, scary, we decided to pass

Then we went to the main park of the city, Auckland Domain, very quiet and pleasant place to be in a spring day like that. After the park we strolled along the Queen Street, city's main street towards the city's waterfront promenade. That part of the city was the opposite to the quite park, it was noisy, crowded with a myriad of restaurants, cafes and bars, a choice for every taste and money. We started our acquaintance with NZ cuisine by ordering local fish and local pinot noir. Here we were, sitting outdoor enjoying the food, warm weather, beautiful yachts and cruise ships, and watching the sparrows stealing food from the restaurant's patrons.

Later we returned to the hotel, but not to the room, to the casino, also in the hotel's property. During check-in were received $20 vouchers each to gamble and we did. We won $120 and with this was a great finish of our first day in New Zealand.
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May 15th, 2018, 04:42 PM
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Thanks for posting. Just curious, on arrival at Auckland Airport you had to disembark the plane on a ladder? Which airline was this?
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May 15th, 2018, 05:04 PM
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American Airlines
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May 15th, 2018, 08:16 PM
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Diamantina -

I suspect the OP is referring to the mobile stairway sometimes used at airports - we used one in Queenstown a few weeks ago and we've used them in Germany on several recent trips - they often use mobile stairs to unload passengers into a waiting bus. It's not all that uncommon at very busy airports - particularly in Europe. They usually make other arrangements for those needing extra assistance.

Perhaps the gates were backed up in Auckland.
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May 15th, 2018, 11:01 PM
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Melnq8, I thought that as well but mobile stairways for disembarking off jets are pretty common at airports throughout the world. Fetinia said the only other place she's had to use a ladder to get off the plane was a rural village in Vijayawada, India, and said she was "shocked" by this old-fashioned way of getting off the plane. I'd be shocked by a ladder, too! I've never flown American Airlines into New Zealand and don't think I ever will. I agree, the gates must have been backed up.
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May 16th, 2018, 06:18 AM
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Day 2 - November 6th, 2017

Hitting a road!

Itinerary: Auckland - RV pick-up - Waitomo
RV Park: Waitomo TOP10 Holiday Park (https://top10.co.nz/park/waitomo-top-10-holiday-park)
Transportation: Hotel to Maui rental office - Uber
Auckland-Waitomo - RV company Maui (http://www.maui-rentals.com/nz/en)
Dining: cooking ourselves (today for dinner we had a seafood stew with brown rice)
Today's first stop was Maui Rental office to pick-up what would be our home for the next2 weeks. There are many RV rental companies in N. Zealand , we chose Maui because they guaranteed a brand new Mercedes. The pick-up time was booked at 10AM, all pre-paid, but when we arrived to the office we were horrified the number of people practically camping there on a floor, chairs and all available space, seemingly for a long time. I do not know what was the reason, but we were told we needed to wait at least 2 hours. This was very unfortunate, especially for the money we paid for this rental. For inconvenience Maui was giving a bottle of New Zealand Chardonnay to every customer, but I'd rather get my car on time.

As a result of this delay, we hit the road only at 2PM instead of 11AM. The original plan was to stop by supermarket for supplies and groceries, then drive to Waitomo for the tour in Glowwarm caves. Of course, we needed to change the plan as we obviously were very late even for the last 5PM tour. We postponed the tour till tomorrow , and we did not want to rush considering we were in an unfamiliar huge vehicle trying to to get accustomed driving on an unfamiliar left side on unfamiliar roads.

A little about our RV: We booked an RV for 4 people so we have more room for 2 of us, because it was supposed to be our home for the next 2 weeks.It really felt like home because it was roughly the same as our apartment in Manhattan . As promised it was a brand new Mercedes, including everything inside the car: it had a shower, toilet, stove with gas and electric hob, microwave, coffee maker, Media Center & DVD, tableware and utensils,cleaning products, bed linen and towels (they could be changed in any Maui office in the country, but since there were only 2 of us, not 4, we had enough sets). The clerk explained to us how we do a proper maintenance including filing water, LPG , dumps, etc.

Throughout the country there is a developed infrastructure for RV maintenance and anetwork of RV (holiday) parks with powered and non-powered sites for overnight parking. All these parks have communal kitchens and showers, so no need to waste RV water and collect dump. As an alternative to holiday parks, there is so called freedom parking, usuallyin ecologically clean places or reserves, but only self-sufficient but RVs are allowed. During our vacation we used both, holiday parks and freedom parking.

Remark: It seemed to us, renting a trailer is not cheaper than renting a regular car + hotels. Yes, we saved on hotels, but first, renting self-sufficient RV is expensive, and second, gas in NZ is very expensive, considering RV is not the most efficient vehicle in terms of mileage. Also, if you use holiday parks you pay for the site anyway.

Today our overnight stop in Waitomo was in one of the parks of TOP10holiday park chain. Looking ahead, we liked that chain the most, everything was very clean and convenient. But before that our first stop was in supermarket to buy everything we needed: groceries, staples and supplies, like laundry detergents, etc.We were surprised by the very poor selection of beef and lamb, compared to US supermarkets. Considering that NZ is famous for its cattle breeding, it was very strange. Initially we thought that it was just that particular store, but nope, we could not find big variety of steak cuts in any store we visited.

First look at the country: New Zealand is huge green beautiful impeccably maintained countryside with a wide range of plants: you can see the palm tree standing next to the Siberian pine. And cows and sheep are everywhere you look...

Last edited by Fetinia; May 16th, 2018 at 07:02 AM.
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May 16th, 2018, 09:07 AM
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Day 3 - November 7th, 2017
Waitomo - Rotorua


Itinerary:
- Waitomo Glowwarm Caves (Waitomo Glowworm Caves)
- Rotorua Redwood Tree Walk (Redwoods Treewalk Rotorua)
- Maori Cultural Show in Tamaki village (http://www.tamakimaorivillage.co.nz)

RV Park: Rotorua TOP10 Holiday Park (Rotorua Holiday Park Accommodation, Cabins & Camping Grounds)

Transportation: RV (Waitomo-Rotorya - 100ml/160km - 2-2.5hrs)

Dining: dinner in Tamaki village as a part of Maori cultural show

We got an early start to catch up with our plans delayed yesterday. We took the one of the earliest tours to Waitomo glowworm caves with their cascades of glowing insects hanging like chandeliers from the cathedral ceilings of the cave. I hadn't seen anything like this in my life, just incredible! Unfortunately, photos and videos are not allowed.
After that we drove to Rotorua, a town known for nearby thermal activity, beautiful surrounding landscapes and not very pleasant smell of sulfur.

There is so much to do in Rotorua. The weather that day was lovely, sunny and warm, good for outdoor activities. We started with Redwood Tree Walk , the pleasant walk on hanging bridges between giant redwood trees. There we learned the history of the trees in New Zealand: native large trees in New Zealand grow very long, like several hundred years. When the first European settlers came here, there was not enough local wood, so they brought trees, including fast-growing red trees from California. We were told, that nowadays there is a rather controversial policy of getting rid of flora and fauna not native to NZ: imported trees are burned, and non-native animals (rats, possums) killed by poisoning.

After the walk we drove to our RV park for tonight, Rotorua TOP10 Holiday Park to check-in, settle. The park had pools with mineral water where we relaxed for a bit.

On afternoon we were introduced to Maori culture. There are many offerings for the cultural shows, we booked the one in village Tamaki. At 6PM we and several other people from the same RV park were picked by the bus and we were taken to the village of Tamaki. Maori men and women demonstrated their crafts, told about their history, showed the famous Haka and at the end there was a several courses dinner. Maori are also not aboriginal to NZ, but came much earlier than Europeans. Unlike Australia, where the local population and immigrants were not integrated peacefully, the Europeans and Maori got along very well, there were a lot of mixed marriages. Now, 16% of the NZ population is Maori, and their culture and language are strongly supported by the government, and Maori language is compulsory for studying in schools. The show was interactive, men were taught haka, women were doing dances, in general we liked it a lot. Kia ORA!

Last edited by Fetinia; May 16th, 2018 at 09:18 AM.
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May 16th, 2018, 03:39 PM
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Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to more.
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May 16th, 2018, 06:02 PM
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Day 4 - November 8th, 2017

Rotorua - Lake Taupo


Itinerary:
RV Park: Five Mile Bay Recreation Reserve (https://www.rankers.co.nz/experience...pervan_Parking)

Transportation: RV (Rotorua-Lake Taupo - 50mi/81km - 1hr)

Dining: today for dinner my husband cooked zuccini linguini with broccoli, octopus and shrimps, green salad and Pino Noir.

Morning sky was cloudy, and it was drizzling, when you do not know if one needs umbrella or needs no bother. Nevertheless, the weather had little effect on our plans to visit Wai-O-Tapu Wonderland, the thermal park 10km from Rotorua. This park is located at the most colorful and diverse geothermal region of the country, home to the Lady Knox Geyser. This very geyser, with a little help from a man (an environmentally friendly soap is used to "wake up" a geyser) erupts every day at 10:15. The lady Knox was awesome, but I was more impressed with other natural wonders, especially boiling "Champagne Pool" flowing down from the terraces with a petrified ocher edge, the "Artist's palette", lime-colored "Devil's Bath" and other boiling muddy hot springs in a variety of ever-changing colors. The easy walking path was leading from one spring to another with stunning views of this unique place.

But it was time to continue to our next destination, the small town Taupo and the lake of the same name, the largest in New Zealand. By the time we reached Taupo, unpredictable ever changing NZ weather was back to sunny and warm, ideal for cycling around the lake. We rented 2 bikes and pedaled along the shore on a bike lane. There were many beautiful upscale houses around the lake, very picturesque. We biked almost 3 hours, stopping several times: feed the ducks, watch the local people in the hot spring right in the lake (oh we did not know and left our swimsuits in the car), once to have coffee.

Today, for the first time we stayed no in the RV park, but on a freedom parking area on the lake shore. My husband prepared a fine dinner with wine, and the rest of the evening we spent enjoying the stunning sunset.
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May 17th, 2018, 07:00 AM
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Day 5 - November 9th, 2017
Trout fishing on Lake Taupo


Itinerary: RV Park: Whakapapa Holiday Park (http://www.rotoruatop10.co.nz/)

Transportation: RV (Taupo-Tongariro N.P. - 65ml/105km - 1.5-2hrs)

Dining: grilled trout, of course!


Do you know that commercial fishing and/or selling trout in a restaurant or supermarket are prohibited in New Zealand ? That's right, the only way to eat a trout in New Zealand is to catch it yourself!

My husband Dmitry is a big fan of fishing, so the question of to include or not include fishing was not even a choice for me on a planning stage of our vacation. And how one can miss fishing in the country surrounded by water? However once I began to do my research, it became clear that freshwater fishing in New Zealand is no less popular than the ocean fishing. Thus we included two fishing tours: in the ocean on the South Island, and fresh water on the North Island, and where else if not on the largest country's lake, Lake Taupo, famous for its trout fishing?

As I mentioned, trout fishing in NZ is allowed only for personal consumption and required a license, which is very easy to obtain on this website: https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/buy-a-taupo-fishing-licence-online/ .There are a lot of charters on Lake Taupo, I contacted many of them by e-mail, eventually choosing the
Captain Susan Hasti, based on excellent reviews and reasonable prices. I did not tell my husband, he's a little old-school and is suspicious of woman operating any kind of engine or machinery, so he could begin to grumble. On the contrary, I wanted to support women-owned business especially in male dominated field!

Anyway, we started at 8, the weather cooperated, warm and sunny. Susan took us to a place on a lake where we were completely alone, treated us with cappuccino and homemade cookies and explained the process. we spent some time going back and forth trying to find a "sweet spot", and, finally, boom! I was the first one to get lucky, catching a fairly large specimen. Later, Dmitry caught two more and our dinner plans were settled!

Besides having a successful fishing, we had a wonderful time: the surroundings were fabulous, and on the way back Susan took us to a beautiful beach accessible only from the shore.

By the way, Dima was very pleased with job well done by Susan: everything was very efficient, the boat was kept in perfect condition, no blood splats, no specks, no scattered fishing gear, the fish caught was neatly cleaned and packaged in branded clear bags.

After saying goodbye to Susan, we drove further along the North Island to
Tongariro National Park. The sky was perfectly clear, no clouds, and, approaching the park, all the volcanoes of this park Ngauruhoe, Raupehu and Tongariro appeared in full glory.

The Wakapapa RV park where we stayed overnight was not as well kept as TOP10 parks. But most importantly they have outdoor grille where my husband cooked our catch and fresh vegetables, so our dinner was super yummy! We went to bed early to take a good rest before walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing next day.

Last edited by Fetinia; May 17th, 2018 at 07:12 AM.
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May 21st, 2018, 11:23 AM
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Day 6 - November 10th, 2017
Tongariro Alpine Crossing


Itinerary: Whakapapa - Mongatepopo - Cold Springs - Red Crater - Emerald Lakes - Blue Lake-Ketetahi - Whakapapa (http://www.tongarirocrossing.org.nz)

RV Park: Whakapapa Holiday Park (http://whakapapa.net.nz)

Transportation: from RV park to a trail head and from trail finish back to the park - Roam Shuttle Service (http://whakapapa.net.nz/transport-options/673-2/)

Dining: sandwiches, nuts, dried fruit, apples, bananas, granola bar and plenty of water!

Today, Dima and I made an 8-hour hike (19.4 km) in Tongariro National Park, the location of one of the best mountain and volcanic landscapes in the world. The trail starts in one place (Mongatepopo ), and ends in another (Ketetahi ), but there are several options how to get back. You can leave the car in the parking lot at the beginning of the trail, and after the end of the trail, take a taxi to get back. The second option is to hike till the Emerald Lakes and then turn back, many did so, especially elderly people with weak knees, who could not do the steep descent in the deep sand. And the third option, which we used, is using the shuttle buses, which take you to the beginning of the trail, and pick up at the finish. If, for some reason, you could not complete the trail and decided to turn back, you need to call and they will pick you up. Buses make several pick-up and drop-off stops, including in our RV park. I booked the shuttle in advance, but it was not necessary (at least not in November pre-season), plenty of tickets were available during our check-in.

Since the weather in NZ is unpredictable, the forecast is a pure gamble, it is better to have several layers of clothes for this hike. Be sure to take a sunscreen and sunglasses, since there no shade from the scorching in most of the trail. Gloves are also recommended, as it's quite cold on top. Water is a must,of course, but there are a couple of places where it can be replenished, food rich in nutrition but light in wieght: we took sandwich, nuts, dried fruits, apples, bananas and a granola bar bars.

Now about the trail. The whole train will take 7-8 hours, depending on your fitness level and number of stops. The first and last 2 hours there was nothing special, even quite boring and monotonous, but the middle of the trail is something amazing. Over there, we saw the most, perhaps, amazing and memorable landscapes of New Zealand. The Red Crater is something beyond the wildest imagination, it struck us even more than the famous Emerald Lakes (we were prepared for them, seeing many times in the pictures). Of course, we were very lucky with the weather, it was sunny most of the way, only the last 3 hours (after the Blue Lake) became cloudy. This trail is not an easy walk, there are quite heavy areas both during the ascent and descent, but as a whole all this effort was rewarded with unforgettable scenery and views. But for us the most difficult part was not not a tiring, steep climb, not a tricky descent through the deep sand, but, as I said, the last 2 hours thru the endless monotonous forest, a strong contrast to what we had seen on the same trail just an hour ago. But eventually everything comes to an end, we got to the parking lot just on time for the 4PM bus. Back to the RV park, I did not have any strength left to eat. I climbed the bed and fell asleep until the next morning.

Last edited by Fetinia; May 21st, 2018 at 11:28 AM.
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May 21st, 2018, 01:33 PM
  #16
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Day 7 - November 11th, 2017
Road to Wellington


Itinerary:

- Road to Wellington

- Exploring Wellington


RV Park: Caoital Gateway Motor Inn (http://www.capitalgateway.co.nz/index.php/campervan-park)

Transportation: RV (Whakapapa-Wellington - 210ml/337km - 5-6 hrs)

Dining: Brutwurst stew with mashed potato, sauted green beans and fresh salad I fell asleep at 5PM yesterday and slept for 12 hours straight,waking up very early, at 5AM. Good, I took a shower with no crowd, washed laundry and cooked a hearty breatfast: omelette with red pepper and onions, home fries, grilled cord on a cob, sausages. By the time Dmitry got up, the table was set and smell of cooked meal and fresh coffee was amazing.

Today our plans were to leave the natural beauties of the Tongariro National Park and move to the urban surroudning of the New Zealand capital of Wellington, and, if time permits, take a walk around the city center. Today was our last day on the North Island, and we move slowly, stopped many time to tae pictures and enjoyed the vistas. The road to Wellington was the greenest I've ever seen, and landscapes with cows have been replaced by landscapes with sheep.

Our park was not anRV park per se, rather a large parking lot next to a motel, but with the communal block (kitchen, showers, toilets ). After check-in we immediately took off to see a city. Wellintgot seemed a very clean, pleasant city. On this day there were two dominant themes: the qualifying match for the World Cup between New Zealand and Peru (it was a tie 0-0), and a march against breast cancer. Half of the city was mostly pink in color, including portable toilet booths, and the other half mostly red and white, the Peruvians fans dominating the crowd.

We walked on a waterfront, around the shopping street, and watched the sunset. Came back to the park hungry and had a wonderful dinner outdoor with other RV patrons (mostly Germans). We visited Germany last year and had a lot to talk about, even Germans are usually very reserved.
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May 23rd, 2018, 08:02 AM
  #17
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Day 8 - November 12th, 2017
In the north of the South Island.


Itinerary:

- Moving from the North Island (Wellington) to the South Island (Picton)

- Nelson

- Road to Abel Tasman National Park


RV Park: Old Macdonald's Farm Holiday Park (https://www.oldmacs.co.nz)

Transportation:

- Wellinton-Picton - Interislander Ferry (https://www.greatjourneysofnz.co.nz/interislander)
- RV (Picton-Nelson-Abel Tasman National Park - 125ml/200km - 3 hrs)

Dining:
- Lunch - restaurant "The Mussel Pot" (http://www.themusselpot.co.nz)

- Dinner - Lamb shanks with basmati rice and green salad

Today we said goodbye to the North Island and took a 3.5-hour ferry to the South Island. Our rental company Maui booked the ferry tickets for us in advance, the only thing we needed to do was to show up an hour before the departure, at 8AM, and follow instructions of the crew guiding us to the deck for RVs.

The ferry was huge, like a cruise ship with several decks, large panoramic windows, a cafeteria, a sports bar, there was much to do there. When we finally parked our car in the designated place, and came up to the deck, all the places with great views were already occupied. So we went to get coffee and join the local fans in a sports bar cheering New Zealand national team in rugby match. We went outside to watch the passby scenery, got a spot next to a panoramic window and eventually even managed to lie on the couch.

At 1PM we arrived to the first stop on the South Island, the town of Picton. The weather was so-so, cloudy, a little rain. Our next destination was a small town of Nelson, the interesting place accordingly travel guides I read.

The landscapes of the South Island today did not differ much from those already seen in the North: the same beautiful meadows of luscious green color, cows and everywhere is very clean and well-groomed.

On the way, we caught sight of a small restaurant with an appealing name "The Mussel Pot". It was already lunch time, so we decided to give a break to cooking and have a lunch there. And it was a hit! The mussels were gigantic size compared to American ones, and for every taste: steamed, grilled, pickled, smoked, or battered. We ordered one large dish with all of those varieties ("Mussel platter for 2"), soup and a glass of wine. I'm not a white wine lover, but the waitress strongly recommended the local Sauvignon Blanc. We liked the simple steamed mussels the most. I strongly recommend this restaurant to anyone happened to be in Havelock, New Zealand.

Done with this tasty lunch, we continued our way to Nelson, the oldest city of the South Island, but it did not impress us much. Whether it was Sunday, or a national emergency requiring full evacuation (joke!), but the streets were completely deserted, and all shops and stores were closed. We drove thru the downtown then decided to follow everyone's example and left the town.

Approaching the Abel Tasman national park, we were amazed by the greenery of the forest on the hilly landscape. There are several national parks in Marlborough region, which is also famous for its wineries.

We arrived to the RV park called "Old MacDonald farm", and the host looked exactly like this name suggested: an old tanned wrinkled dude in a cowboy hat and boots, who checked us in old-fashioned way by writing down our names in a huge granary book.

We walked around the farm. Surprisingly, MacDonald was not growing cows and sheep, but alpacas and lamas But all signs indicated that the main business of his "farm" was tourism, not farming. In addition to the RV park for trailers, there were cabins for backpackers, community center (the only place with wi-fi).

We had dinner, fed the leftovers to the partridges walking around the farm, and went to bed early.


We arrived to the RV park called "Old MacDonald farm", and the host looked exactly like this name suggested: an old tanned wrinkled dude in a cowboy hat and boots, who checked us in old-fashioned way bt writing down our names in a huge granary book.

We walked around the farm. Surprisingly, MacDonald was not growing cows and sheep, but alpacas and lamas But all signs indicated that the main business of his "farm" was tourism, not farming. In addition to the RVpark for trailers, there were cabins for backpackers, community center (the only place with wi-fi).

We had dinner, fed the leftovers to the partridges walking around the farm, and went to bed early.

Last edited by Fetinia; May 23rd, 2018 at 08:04 AM.
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May 24th, 2018, 04:51 PM
  #18
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Day 9 - November 13th, 2017

Abel Tasman National Park


Itinerary:
- Kayaking in Tasman Sea ( http://www.abeltasmankayaks.co.nz)
- Overnight charter at the Abel Tasman (http://www.abeltasmancharters.co.nz/...-overnight.php)
RV Park: n/a
Transportation: n/a


Dining:
- Lunch - tasty lunch provided by "Abel Tasman Kayaks" as a part of full day kayaking tour: sandwiches, salads, dessert
- Dinner - great steak dinner aboard of yacht "Torea" cooked by our captain Rod

Looking ahead, all 3 weeks in New Zealand we were very lucky with weather, most of the days very sunny and warm. Only two days out of 22 had a really bad weather: heavy rain and chilly wind. Unfortunately activities planned for both of those days needed a good weather, and today was one of those days: kayaking in the South Pacific, on the Tasman Sea.
It was raining all morning, and we were not even sure if our tour would take place. Nope, the tour was not cancelled, the guy in the "Abel Tasman Kayaks" office was surprised that we even asked! After checking us in he introduced our guide Darryl, who explained the itinerary and rules. Besides us our group included 3 couples from Australia, France and San Marino, all , except us, honeymooners. each couple had a double kayak, only Darryl used a single.
We booked the tour called "Remote Coast." First we were taken by boat to this very remote shore , from where we started kayaking. We could not take a lot of photos, because we were both focused on staying afloat, and not turning over. Although we are relatively experienced kayakers, we never did it on such extreme stormy weather. It was not easy to fight the big wind and the storm, but at the same time it was sort of fun: we were very lucky with Darryl, our guide, a cool guy with a big smile, a unique sense of humor and an easy-to-understand New Zealand accent We saw sea lions, dolphins, even penguins, the smallest in the world! Then we stopped on remote bay for a picnic. After lunch we continued kayaking, and even sailing a little connecting all 5 kayaks side by side and holding a sail! Another unique experience for the first time: we had oysters right out of water, scrapping them off the rocks.
On afternoon we had a completely different type of activity, relaxing: we rented a yacht for one night with a skipper named Rod Stewart. When we hear the name we asked if there would be singing, he laughed and said that he had nothing to do with the famous namesake and his last name has a different spelling (Stewart vs Stuart). The weather improved and Rod took us on a different route, where we saw the famous rock "Split apple" and much more. Then, after we anchored in a quiet bay for overnight stay, Rod cooked us an excellent steak dinner with the famous New Zealand Pinot Noir. We finished 2 bottles chatting on different topics, politics, sports, for life. New Zealanders were very proud that they elected the first female president, 35 years young woman. Kiwis actually do not have much interest in foreign politics, their main concern is to beat Australia in rugby. Shortly before our visit NZ beat Australia 18-0 and it was a matter of national pride and at the same time mocking poor Australians.
The yacht was very nice and well-maintained. It had everything you need: 3 sleeping cabins, 2 showers with toilet, a kitchen, a living room, upper deck for rest and sunbathing. Expensive, but after our challenging kayaking we felt it was well deserved.

Last edited by Fetinia; May 24th, 2018 at 05:27 PM.
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May 25th, 2018, 09:16 PM
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Wow! Very brave to kayak in rough weather. Sounds like a good time nonetheless.

And just a point of clarification: by president, I assume you mean prime minister. I am aware of at least one woman to hold the post prior to Jacinda Ardern, and that's Helen Clark.
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May 27th, 2018, 07:32 AM
  #20
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Originally Posted by tripplanner001 View Post
And just a point of clarification: by president, I assume you mean prime minister. I am aware of at least one woman to hold the post prior to Jacinda Ardern, and that's Helen Clark.
Thanks for clarification, good to know! All kiwis we talked were very excited about a new prime minister being a woman and so young, we just assumed it was a first female ever elected.
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