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Old 24th October 2012, 13:57   #1
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Default There and back again - A trip to New Zealand

For the fan of Lord of the rings, the title says it all. For the non-fans, this is the travelogue written by Bilbo Baggins about his adventure and which will be the inspiration for the next Peter Jackson's trilogy about Hobbits.

For years we have planned to travel to New Zealand. For some strange reason we always thought New Zealand is closer to India than USA. This is even more bizarre because we had traveled to Australia and Fiji from West Coast. Anyway due to our frequent traveling we have a cache of frequent flier miles and during July I saw that tickets to New Zealand were available quite readily for end of Sept and early Oct from Bangalore. Well people may wonder what is special about this time ? For most countries this is precisely the time when the schools and universities start their session. So less crowd, better hotel rates and more importantly more peace of mind. Also end of Sept is officially the start of Spring in southern hemisphere. For New Zealand this is the perfect time to visit since mountains are still snow capped but the roads are open due to the spring thaw.

My wife and I are major Lord of the Rings fan, so aside from the usual sight seeing we also planned to visit the places where the movies were shot. New Zealand's dept of conservation has even published the GPS co-ordinates for people like us !! So it was quite easy to plan. We decide to leave Bangalore on 20th Sept and return on 7th Oct for a total of 16 days. We planned for 6 days in North Island and 10 days in South Island. One thing I must confess at this juncture that 16 days is not even close to adequate for visiting New Zealand, one needs easily double the time. Our plan was initially to rent a camper van from Auckland and criss cross two islands and drop it off at Christchurch before flying back. Later we dropped the plan because of two reasons, one Spring is still quite cold and secondly it was lot of driving and we wanted to go to lot of off the beaten track which was difficult on camper vans. So the plan was roughly something similar
Day 1: Stay in Auckland and explore
Day 2: Leave Auckland after lunch and drive towards Coromondal Peninsula
Day 3: Drive to Rotorua
Day 4: Explore Rotorua
Day 5: Drive towards Wellington but stay somewhere north of Wellington
Day 6: Drive to Wellington
Day 7: Fly Wellington - Queenstown, explore QT and then drive to Te Anau
Day 8: Milford Sound
Day 9: Around QT, Te Anau and Glenorchy
Day 9: Drive towards the Southern Alps country, stay somewhere close to Wanaka
Day 10: Decide to drive either to West Coast Glaciers or towards Twizel, Mt Cook village based on the weather.
Day 11: Explore
Day 12: Explore
Day 13: Drive towards Christchurch and stay somewhere east of Christchurch
Day 14: Drive to Christchurch and explore
Day 15: Explore CC and neighboring region
Day 16: Fly to Bangalore.

We booked hotels at Auckland, Wellington and Te Anau before we departed and decided to plan on the fly for the rest.

So the service providers are as follows:
Airlines : Thai Airways using United Miles
Car: Apex Car Rental, Apex rents slightly older cars that are cheaper than the normal rates and the insurance is significantly cheaper than the other vendors. They don't have one way drop off fee and free ferry tickets if one decides to take the car across the islands.
Cell Phone: Vodafone. The best network is Telecom NZ but their 3G network is different from India. Unless one has pentaband 3G/UMTS cellphone it is difficult to use Telecom NZ. Vodafone had good network coverage around towns with very decent 3G data rates.

Most hotels have free Wifi in New Zealand. Also the hotel rooms are mostly like suites, so one has access to Kitchenette. This helps if one wants to save money and time for Breakfast as food is quite expensive in NZ.

Now for the sights.
Beautiful Auckland from North Shores
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How green is my valley ? Near Whitianga
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Bathouse in Rotorua
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Beautiful Rivers
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Putanguria Pinnacles (LOTR Site)
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Majestic Southern Alps from Queenstown
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Alpine Trail in Fjordland
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Southern Alps in full glory
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Last edited by acurafan : 1st November 2012 at 14:58.
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Old 24th October 2012, 14:45   #2
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Thanks for the write up. I am assuming this is just part one of many posts and pictures that you must have shot over the fortnight.

I can see that you have mentioned Scuba as one of you interests, did you check on logging-in a few dives or is it too cold, or was not in your plan for this trip?

Also which car did you hire? Some on-the-road pictures would be great. Abroad, clean picturesque countryside, decent roads, lesser people, cows and chasing dogs make for great drives. And it can be any car, need not necessarily be a Ferrari (although it might be a bonus if you get one), and is that much more enjoyable.

Have made a mental note of the car hire company you have mentioned, sounds like a sane bunch of people running it, especially for travellers on a budget.

For the LOTR part, do tag your pictures so that fellow Tolkien fans will get an eyeful and know that setting and context better.
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Old 24th October 2012, 15:24   #3
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Default Re: There and back again - A trip to New Zealand

Quote:
Originally Posted by Automaton View Post

I can see that you have mentioned Scuba as one of you interests, did you check on logging-in a few dives or is it too cold, or was not in your plan for this trip?

Also which car did you hire? Some on-the-road pictures would be great. Abroad, clean picturesque countryside, decent roads, lesser people, cows and chasing dogs make for great drives. And it can be any car, need not necessarily be a Ferrari (although it might be a bonus if you get one), and is that much more enjoyable.

Have made a mental note of the car hire company you have mentioned, sounds like a sane bunch of people running it, especially for travellers on a budget.

For the LOTR part, do tag your pictures so that fellow Tolkien fans will get an eyeful and know that setting and context better.
Scuba was not in this trip's plan as the itinerary was too hectic. I have been to Australia and Fiji which was primarily trip built around diving. New Zealand was too cold around this time and I am familiar with the kind of diving found in New Zealand having lived in North California for a decade.
I will add details about the car and individual day's activities.

Glad to know that you are a Tolkien fan, I will have a separate section on LOTR locations. It was the highlight of the trip.
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Old 26th October 2012, 11:58   #4
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Day 1: The travel from Bangalore to Auckland

We left Bangalore at mid night. It was a long flight to Auckland exacerbated by the 12 hours break at Bangkok. Arriving at 6:00 AM means we are really sleepy by Indian time. Only thing that brain could process was to find the nearest United lounge and ask for the slumber room. Well slumber rooms in Bangkok are probably little better than jail cells but not by much. The leatherette beds make a squeaking sound when ever you try to move and next door gentleman also added the jet engine sound from his nose on top of that. Anyway we were dead tired and easily slept till noon.
After multiple round of Swasdee Kha/Khrap and Shumai lunch we were ready to board our Auckland flight. Auckland flight was quite empty.
We landed at Auckland amidst glorious sunshine and Airforce One parked in the tarmac. Apparently US Defense Secretary was visiting New Zealand.
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Now the glorious sunshine is something that we don't see during our trips. I don't think we have ever traveled anywhere where it didn't rain. We have ended the 18 months drought in Queensland in the past, have flooded the Death Valley and brought in cyclone to Fiji to name the major ones !!

Auckland airport is a small airport by international standards. It was a quick immigration and customs clearance. We decided to buy a cell phone connection for our stay. The two major operators are Vodafone and TelecomNZ. TelecomNZ looked at our phone and said that Vodafone's network will be better for our 3G connection. Vodafone had NZD30 deal for one month pre-paid with 500 MB data, 60 mins voice and 5000 texts.

After the communication was sorted out we called the rental car company to pick us up from the curb and they arrived within 5 minutes. The check-in was quick and the lady at the rental car agency gave us some quick tips about driving in New Zealand. NZ is left hand drive like us. So it was quite easy for us to follow the traffic. Only major thing to learn was the roundabout rule where the car on your right has a priority, even if you arrive at the roundabout at the same time.

One useful thing to learn is the Kiwi accent. Rick Steves in his weekly Radio program had once lot of fun with the Kiwi accent. It was quite evident why. Kiwis drop the vowels when the speak. So it is not Fish and Chips, it is F'sh and Ch'ps. We rented a Nissan Bluebird but what we got "N'ssan Blu Bued". You don't need a permit but you need a "puemit". Once you figure out this, then life is good.

We picked up our car and used the Nokia Lumia as our GPS to go to our hotel which is on the north shores of Auckland.
View from our hotel
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Nearby ferry stop
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Esoteric photos near the ferry stop
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The north shore hotels come with free ferry ticket to downtown Auckland which we availed in the evening.
Beautiful glass in the ferry station
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Mrs. Acurafan was happy to see her Bank
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Auckalnd CBD
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Last edited by acurafan : 1st November 2012 at 14:49.
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Old 1st November 2012, 15:11   #5
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Default re: There and back again - A trip to New Zealand

Day 2: Auckland and Drive to Coromondal Peninsula

Next day we decided to explore Auckland further. One of the most interesting place is the Auckland War Memorial Museum. It is not just a War memorial museum but amazing preservation of New Zealand history and culture. It should be one of the must place to visit in Auckland for tourists.

War memorial
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Maori Canoe that was used to cross Pacific to go to Polynesian Islands
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Totempole
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Dino
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National Bird: Kiwi
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Intricate Maori carving
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Replica of Maori Chief's house
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Post lunch at the Museum we started our 200 KMs drive to Whitianga. Whitianga is situated in the Coromondal Peninsula region. There are two ways to go to Whitianga from Auckland. SH1 from Auckland to Bombay (No Kidding) and then SH-2 to Thames. From Thames one can take Route 25 to go to Whitianga via Coromondal or take Route -25A to go to Whitianga directly. The drive through Coromondal is stunning. Probably one of the most scenic drive I have ever been to.

Some shots from the road

Near Thames, beginning of the coromondal coast road
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Coromondal
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More sheep than human in New Zealand
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Last edited by acurafan : 1st November 2012 at 16:10.
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Old 2nd November 2012, 16:23   #6
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Default Re: There and back again - A trip to New Zealand

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 5th November 2012, 15:50   #7
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You are living my dream acurafan !
Excellent to say the least.

I tried to plan this trip a couple of times with little success. It just don't seem to work out for me. NZ tickets from BLR seems to be terribly expensive and it indeed is a "long haul" flight.Someday maybe...

Quote:
Originally Posted by acurafan View Post
Glad to know that you are a Tolkien fan, I will have a separate section on LOTR locations. It was the highlight of the trip.
Can't wait for this. Does this LOTR locations include "The Shire" as well ?
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Old 7th November 2012, 21:32   #8
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Default Day 3: Exploring Shire

Today we planned to drive from Whitianga to Matamata and then on to Rotorua. Matamata is famous for "Shire". The story goes that one of Peter Jackson's production assistant found this farm house in Matamata plains. He went and asked the farmer for permission to shoot in his property. The farmer was busy watching All Blacks play their rugby test against Aussies and asked the cinema guy to buzz off. The persistence paid off and now it has become one of the major LOTR pilgrimage.
Unfortunately for us, this was not the best place to visit. Firstly, Peter Jackson is shooting "Hobbit" in Matamata and secondly it is quite expensive to take a tour and cannot take pictures. On the brighter side most farms in that region looks the same, so one does not miss much in terms of scenery other than the Hobbit holes dug in the hills.

On the way to "Shire"
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Our trusty Nissan Bluebird
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At "The Shire"
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Tour starts from here
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Typical scene in Waikato plains
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Instead of the Hobbits it is the Kiwi house
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Recurring theme
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Behind the woods is the "Hobbiton"
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That is as far as one can go without taking a tour
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From Matamata we traveled towards Rotorua. Rotorua is situated in the volcanic region of New Zealand and is one of the most touristy town in NZ. Somehow it is overrun by the Asians (Chinese and Koreans). All of them want to visit the numerous hot pools in Rotorua. But if one goes 10 kms outside of Rotorua it is back to pristine New Zealand with hardly any tourist. Today afternoon we spent time exploring around Rotorua lake and bathouse.

Rotorua Bath-house built in early 20th century
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Near Rotorua Lake
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Old 8th November 2012, 12:41   #9
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Wonderful log from a wonderful and scenic country. I heard there are some glacier walks which is that location?
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Old 8th November 2012, 15:04   #10
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Wonderful Pictures acurafan. I am sure you had a great time there. Looking forward to the rest of your TL.

New Zealand is one country that I have been planning to visit for quite sometime now. These pictures may act as catalyst
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Old 11th November 2012, 12:14   #11
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Quote:
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Wonderful log from a wonderful and scenic country. I heard there are some glacier walks which is that location?
There are two glaciers that are quite easily accessible. Fox and Franz-Joseph Glaciers. We didn't take a walk but flew. Glacier walking is also wonderful but it was raining quite heavily when we were there.
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Old 20th November 2012, 10:49   #12
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A visual retreat and a temptation to go to NewZeland. Thanks for this.
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Old 26th November 2012, 18:31   #13
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WOW!! Lovely thread and pictures. Very useful to plan ahead and get a picture.

Last October was planning 3 week tour, the world rugby matches in Auckland cooked the trip with high air fares, prices went up everywhere. Have done lots of planning on the routes with AA Maps, motels, places, sights etc., Would do an end-to-end drive some day.

Looking forward to more of your story and pictures. Thanks for sharing.

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Old 8th January 2013, 00:37   #14
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Sorry for the long break. I was away for work related travel and Christmas break. This post is about our stay in Rotorua. Rotorua is situated in the volcanic region, hence lot of Geysers and mud pools.

Geysers near Rotorua Bathouse
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Steam pool
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Rotorua Park
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Site of Mt Tarawera Eruption in 1886
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Okere Falls
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Gift from the Japanese
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Silver Fern, Emblem for Black Caps
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Next day we traveled to Tarawera falls which was an adventure and firmly in Elvish land.
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Old 8th January 2013, 00:54   #15
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Most waterfalls that I have seen fall over the top of a cliff. Whereas Tarawera Falls pours out of a rock face. Tarawera river which originates from Tarawera lake goes through multiple lava fissures. They were caused due to the volcanic eruption in the previous page and finally comes out of a rock face. The water is crystal clear due to almost zero sediment and multiple layers of filtering through the lava rocks.

Sheer remoteness adds to the sense you’re looking at something spectacular.
It was the inspiration behind the digitally created waterfalls shown in Rivendell (LOTR fans). Tarawera Falls is far off from the regular track, 60km from Whakatane, 20km of that on unsealed roads which is made for the loggers. Though in my opinion the surface is far better than most Bangalore roads. One need to start the trip with a visit to the information centre at Kawerau, to pick up a "pewmit" to visit the Falls ($2.50 per car). When I said remote, I didn't see a single car or person during the last 20 KM drive.

I have never seen a river water this clean
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Magnificent Tarawera Falls

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Tarawera River
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Last edited by acurafan : 8th January 2013 at 00:57.
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