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Old 7th December 2014, 19:43   #31
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Post Day 9: Taupo

Day 9 | Sep 30, 2014
Taupo


We woke up to a cold morning. And checked the day's weather prediction. And the weatherman had predicted a better day closer to and past mid day. Hence, a late start. Some overnight rain had left a dusting of snow on the mountains of Tongariro national park. We had the mountains in the direct line of sight from YHA Taupo. It was a different feeling standing in the sunny but cold weather with a mug of hot coffee staring at the might of the mountains.

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The plan for the day was simple. Go to Huka falls - claimed to be the most visited natural attraction in New Zealand. So, what's Huka falls? The Waikato river, which is one of the largest river systems in NZ, is generally quite wide and meanders along slowly, but reaches a point just outside Taupo where it is forced through a narrow gorge. The huge volume of fresh water thunders down the narrow opening with a thunderous sound and speed and the result is Huka falls.

There were 2 ways to get to Huka falls. Drive to the Huka falls car park, and walk 2 mins to the falls. Or walk the Huka falls walkway for 90 mins to give the body and the legs a good workout. As the day progressed it became sunny and less windy and hence we chose the latter. Quite early into the walk at the point where the walk way first meets the waikato river, there is a small underground hot water stream spurting out water at bubbling temperature. The point where it meets the river is a free hot water pool. Huka falls was waiting, so hot water pool got the cold shoulder.

The walkway is along the river bank and it rises and falls to give you panoramic view of the scenery around. The walkway itself is quite popular, and you will have good company.

At the beginning of the walkway
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The Waikato river meandering along
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The clear waters of the Waikato
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The river provides different options to different people
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Picking up speed as it nears the narrow gorge
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Thundering along
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Culminating in a grand descent at Huka falls
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The Huka falls jet makes it appearance and does a 360 close to the falls
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From the Huka falls, there is another walkway that leads to the Aratiatia dam, which is another popular tourist attraction. But we skip it that day, and chose to explore Lake Taupo.

Taupo lies nestled on the banks of the Great lake but the city centre is compacted into a small area spread across 4 streets along the banks of the lake. And the rest of the day was spent on strolling those streets. And for replenishing our fast depleting stock of nutrients.

Some more snapshots along the banks of the lake

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A picnic bench waiting for summer and sunnier days
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Mountains of Tongariro
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Sunset over the lake
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We move towards the cool little capital of NZ...
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Old 8th December 2014, 05:40   #32
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Default Re: 1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand

This is an Awesome Thread , this is something that I was really looking for , I am planning to go there sometime Next year , thanks for writing this in so much detail can't wait to see and hear about South Island.

Last year i planned my own trip just like this to Malaysia and Singapore with the help of people on Tripadvisor and made all my bookings myself online and it was great fun. The kind of excitement you get when you plan it yourself is something totally different compared to to when a Travel agent does it for you.

PS. - If you don't mind will you help me plan my trip as I have been trying , reading Tripadvisor , but don't get a lot of time to read and do the research and this is a huge country i guess 100 times bigger than Singapore , I start planning and the planning goes no where very soon.
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Old 9th December 2014, 11:58   #33
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Post Re: 1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand

Quote:
Originally Posted by rahul0303 View Post

This is an Awesome Thread , this is something that I was really looking for , I am planning to go there sometime Next year , thanks for writing this in so much detail can't wait to see and hear about South Island.

Last year i planned my own trip just like this to Malaysia and Singapore with the help of people on Tripadvisor and made all my bookings myself online and it was great fun. The kind of excitement you get when you plan it yourself is something totally different compared to to when a Travel agent does it for you.

PS. - If you don't mind will you help me plan my trip as I have been trying , reading Tripadvisor , but don't get a lot of time to read and do the research and this is a huge country i guess 100 times bigger than Singapore , I start planning and the planning goes no where very soon.
Rahul, thanks for your kind words. You are absolutely right. The whole process of research, planning and executing the trip gives a certain excitement that is unmatched.
Let me know what your questions about NZ are. I'll try answer them. Otherwise, One of our friends here, or I, can definitely point you in the right direction.
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Old 11th December 2014, 11:26   #34
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Post Day 10: Taupo - Whanganui - Wellington

Day 10 | Oct 1, 2014
Taupo to Wellington via Whanganui


A nice bright sunshine welcomed us on the day we were leaving Taupo. Initially, during planning we included the Tongariro alpine crossing which is generally regarded as the best day walk in NZ, famous for it But later, unfortunately, we had to tweak our itinerary to leave it out. Had it been on, this would have been the day we would be on that walk.

Since we were not going to Tongariro this day, we decided to catch up on what we left unfinished yesterday - The Aratiatia dam and the Aratiatia rapids. The name sounds quite adventurous i guess. But in reality its far from that, and it is a tourist magnet too. The Waikato river is dammed up at the Aratiatia dam. And what is a huge wide meandering river upstream, turns into a small trickle downstream. The authorities release the water from the dam occasionally, (At 10 am, 12 pm and 2 pm, and additionally at 4 pm in summer) and for 15 mins, the river turns alive into a raging giant, swells up downstream, creating rapids for the small duration. That's why the name Aratiatia rapids. Not quite impressive? But the tourists have a different opinion. Is it curiosity? Or is it the marketing brilliance of NZ tourism? I do not know. Anyways, here are some shots of the act.

Waikato river reduced to a trickle prior to the water release
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Water being released. It was a much more gentle affair than I had imagined.
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Surging waters of the river creating raging rapids
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With that, it was time to head out of taupo. A long drive to wellington lied ahead. We drove all the way around Lake Taupo, and the plan was to reach wellington via Tongariro and Whanganui. We wanted to see Tongariro up close, although we were not doing it.

A short break by the banks of Lake Taupo
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Some pictures of Mount Tongariro, mount Ruapehu along the way
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The rear view mirror shot of the fading mountain in the distance
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A bio break beckoned and we got off the highway into a town called Raetihi. Another, nice and useful feature in NZ is that all towns had toilets that were prominently signposted. Very clean and serviced on a regular basis. Even the remotest of places had a pit toilet. After a short break it was time to hit the highway again when I sighted a board that said Whanganui was 102 kms away. The distance via the highway was ~88 kms. So, it looked like there was another route to Whanganui. Immediately, I look at my wife and say "Let's take this road; It promises to be more scenic". Ignoring the GPS cries to turn left, we turned right towards the Whanganui River road.

Sometimes, the decision made at the spur of the moment turn out to be a pleasant surprise. And how wonderfully memorable it turned out to be. And wonderfully scenic too. It was a small but sealed road running parallel along the Whanganui river. We drove into the Whanganui national park. We came across some charmingly remote villages named after some European cities. We motored along a twisty mountain road with dense forests on one side and the Whanganui river valley on the other. What was most memorable about that part was that we took a little more than 2 hours, but encountered only 5 vehicles in the opposite direction. It was as if the road was just not there for everyone.

Whanganui river flowing through the Whanganui national park
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View from the Whanganui river road
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Whanganui river taking a turn
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We got into Whanganui closer to 6 pm, and found that most of the shops have already downed their shutters. In fact, we found that many cafes all over NZ worked only 0730 to 1600 hrs (After that they get on with their life and family). With no option but to move on, we go around in circles in the city centre before finally heading out to Wellington.

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The river flowing through the city
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War memorial shot from the car
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Day 10 in review
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We reach Wellington late in the day, where a wet windy wellington welcome was in store...
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Old 20th December 2014, 21:54   #35
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Post Day 11: Wellington

Day 11 | Oct 02, 2014
Wellington

I would not want to visit a place and find that it's already taken by many others, already. Well, don't jump to conclusions - I am all for sharing - either willingly or otherwise - and I share each single day with my countrymen. But in an occasional while, I would also love the solitude, the tranquility, the feeling, and the realization of being the only one. Travelling off season might reward you with such an encounter, if you can brave it out.

There could be few pitfalls too. There is always a chance that you might find services shut down for maintenance. Or accommodation being limited. One of the pitfalls of off-peak season travel is adverse weather. As NZ would show us this day and for the next 2 days. But, with many days in NZ being 4 seasons in a single day, would travelling in season be any different? I do not know. Probably, the odds would not be against you. This day was off to a wet start, with persistent rain predicted in the later part of the day.

We stepped out amidst cold wet windy weather - that was set to become worse - to explore the cool little capital famed for its cafe culture. Wellington had a good public transport network, and we preferred it over the car, as the small CBD is best explored by foot. It would be counter productive taking the car and finding parking space. There are plenty of options for all day parking available in the CBD for the ones whose preferred mode of transport is car. But the best slots get taken early, hence the advice is to get there early.

We reach Lambton Quay slightly after the early morning office rush hour. Lambton Quay is the heart of the Wellington CBD. Strolling along the streets and by lanes, we see numerous people in a rush to their office, meetings, discussing strategies, and ladies carrying expensive shopping bags milling around aimlessly. We also had the company of our Chinese friends. I learnt later that it was the holiday season in China, and that explained why we met so many people from China.

The CBD was the only place where I saw some designated 2 wheeler parking. 2 wheelers were quite popular all over NZ with lot of people using the high performance vehicles for rides. But very few 2 wheelers found usage as regular daily commute, and those 2 wheelers were the ones found cooling their heels at the designated parking spots in the CBD.

The waterfront was close by and offered some quirky art by its banks.
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The weather started getting gloomy again, hence it was about time we experienced a wellington icon before the weather turned worse. Back along Lambton quay to the cable car lane. The Lambton terminus is tucked into a small lane off Lambton Quay, aptly called cable car lane, so small and nondescript that you might miss it but for a small board indicating its presence.

Some snapshots along the way
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Look at the crisscross network of wires in the photo above. Its is a network of power cables used by the city buses in the CBD. They switch over from diesel to electric in the city centre, to keep the pollution down and probably to protect the old heritage structures. The bus driver gets down and manually hoists the twin rods up to connect to the power network. A closer look in the photos below.

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We buy tickets priced at 4 NZD one way. Return tickets are available for 7$ (not sure). And waited with excitement.

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The cable car arrived, we got in. The car started, and stopped soon after. And we realized that it has reached a station. 3 stops in between Lambton quay at the bottom and Kelburn at the top. The car literally stopped every few seconds, because, that is all the time it took to cover the distance between 2 stations. About 5 mins later (most of it spent remaining static), and much to our disappointment the ride was over. We consoled ourselves that we had experienced a part of history and get out to explore the views from the top.

The views from the top are stunning.
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There is cable car museum at the top and that's where we headed to. It has some interesting anecdotes about the history of the cable car and some old restored cable cars on display. At the museum, one can get a good idea of how the system worked, how it was built, how it had changed over the years. An interesting anecdote about the cable car system was that more people preferred taking the car uphill than downhill because Kelburn was on the top of a steep hill. Hence they subsidized the ticket prices downhill to encourage more people to take up the downhill ride. But that luxury had long been withdrawn.

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We walked downhill via the Botanical gardens. To a steady drizzle. As the drizzle remained persistent, the second half plans went awry. Amongst the plans were a visit to the Basin Reserve And the Zealandia night experience too was doubtful due to inclement weather. Our tryst with Kiwi - the bird - had to wait. Hence, we decide to head to some place that would protect us from the elements - The Museum of New Zealand.

A bench in the botanical gardens carried this message
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Wellington sights
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The beehive parliament of NZ
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The museum had quite an expansive collection, and would take a good bit of your time. And a nice way to beat the weather too.

Some wise man had said this
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Why Man is the worst offender of nature
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The treaty of Waitangi which is regarded as the founding of NZ
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A maori war canoe
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From the terrace of the museum
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We exit the museum, when the rain reduced to a drizzle, but it got very windy. It is said that no visit to Wellington is complete without Cuba street, the heart of the cafe culture. We got there to find people unwinding with a mug of beer after a hard day's work. Quite quirky and colourful, Cuba street is mix of interesting mix of restaurants, cafes and some quirky art. You would not see Cuba street now, as the drizzle kept the cameras inside. We found a group of people on the pavement singing Hare Rama Hare Krishna and some Indian Bhajan. Probably the ISKCON followers. We did not investigate.

More Wellington rain, More rain... And the south Island beckons.
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Old 26th December 2014, 14:26   #36
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Post Day 12: Crossover

Day 12 | Oct 03, 2014
Wellington - Motueka


Merry Christmas, to the present day readers!

Stepping back in time: It was early October, and would mark the beginning of the North east Monsoon that generally brings generous amount of rainfall to Chennai. Though being in distant Wellington, we were not missing any of the action. Same story as the previous day, gloomy skies, uncomfortable chill and pregnant clouds that threatened to deliver.

The weather showing no signs of improvement
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Hopefully not for long, as we were moving away to sunny weather. We were going to the south island. We were going to the Abel Tasman region. We were going to move closer to Nelson - the sunniest place in the south island and with 2400 hours of sunshine per year, finds its place amongst the sunniest places in NZ.

There are two options to get to the south island. Either take the ferry between Wellington and Picton, or take the flight to your preferred location on the south island. Both would cost you almost the same, if you book well in advance. Flights are the quicker option but the ferry is the recommended option. Hence we were taking the ferry this day. As for the car, we returned it at the ferry office just before we took the ferry.

There is an option to take the car on board the ferry for a small fee. But there is also an option to return your car on the north and get a new one on the south island. All major car rental companies have their offices around the picton ferry terminal, and that makes life easier. Some car rental companies might not allow you to take the car on board the ferry; Some do not mind that but levy a one-way hire fee. Some companies levy the one-way hire fee if your hire and return locations are different, even though they might be on the same island. Generally, the longer the duration of hire, the cheaper it gets, but for us getting a new car on the south island made more economic sense than taking the car across. Hence, it was bye-bye corolla.

If flights are your preferred mode of transportation, you would find this site useful to find discounted tickets, http://grabaseat.co.nz/flights. If you wish to take the ferry, your options are The Interislander and the Blue bridge. The Interislander is the longer serving liner and the more luxurious of the two, hence slightly expensive. But it was the blue bridge that had the privilege of ferrying us that day. The ferry between the islands takes about 3 hours. The route is scenic and the cruise comfortable. The ferry reaches Picton via the scenic Queen Charlotte sound. But it was gloomy and drizzling throughout rendering us to the insides of our cabin for most part of the journey.

The Blue bridge ferry
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Due to heavy rain en route, the incoming ferry got delayed. We were behind by an hour. Those who had onward connections were transferred to the Interislander. Finally, instead of 8 we set sail at 9 am.

It was time to bid adieu to Wellington - The cool little capital.
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The interislander sailing towards Wellington
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Frequent light houses, and numerous small islands dot the way
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The cook strait which we crossed to enter the South Island.
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The scenery en route was stunning. On a sunny day, the deck would be the best possible place to be. But it was gloomy this day, and drizzling. The rain confined us to the cabin for most of the journey.

Some rare moments of clear weather
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At the Picton harbour, we got our next set of wheels - A silver Mazda Demio - which would server us for the next fortnight. Paper work done, we quickly hit the road. But before we start with the Mazda -

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Don't be surprised that the fuel tank is only half full. It was provided to us half full and that's how we are supposed to return it. The rental agreement mentioned the number of bars of fuel that's being displayed in the instrument cluster.

We drive towards Nelson, via the Queen Charlotte drive. The drive was very beautiful and a twisty hill track with hardly any signs of human habitation. We frequently came across remote bays that glistened in the clear sunny weather. The villages were scenic, but devoid of much activity. It was sunny weather to begin with, but soon that gave way to rain. The news was that another tropical storm was blowing in from the Tasman sea and it is going to be rainy weather for the next few days.

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A steady rainfall put to rest our plans to visit the Abel Tasman national park. We drove to Motueka instead, where we were staying for the night.

Day 12
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Old 31st December 2014, 15:17   #37
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Post Day 13: Towards the mountains

Day 13 | Oct 04, 2014
Motueka - Greymouth - Arthur's pass


We thought South Island would mean exciting times. But the start at least was not great. The first day in the South Island was washed away. We were expecting some play today. But a lot of overnight rain and snow had fallen. Good thing that it made the green mountains more scenic with a white cap. But bad that it had partially closed the Tranzalpine highway, our final destination for the day. The authorities were working on it, meanwhile we just had to hope that it would get cleared by evening.

How did we have that information at our disposal? How does one track the state of the roads and highways? How to find out road closures and diversions? How to get the latest updates about land slides and anything else that might affect your commute? A quick visit to the NZ transport agency will give you the required information. In fact, quick morning checks on the NZTA and NZ Met service should be a part of your routine.

Continuing bursts of rain meant only one thing. We had to wait longer for Abel Tasman. We could not get there the previous day and neither could we go there this day. We did not want to get caught in the rain, as we had a long drive ahead. Hence, we trace our way to Arthur's pass via Murchison and Greymouth. But before that, some impressions of Motueka.

Motueka was a nice quaint small town which looked quite like the regular. Nothing fancy or special that would make it stand out, but lush green hills around. And on that day, a dusting of snow on the upper reaches of the hilly peaks made it a sight to behold. Marlborough might be wine region, but Motueka and surroundings too had plenty of orchards bordering the highways. Most orchards offered fresh fruit bags ready for pick up. And, with the overnight rain, the orchards and their leafy boundaries appeared greener and more photogenic.

We quickly made our way to the local i-site at Motueka to check out what local options we had in this weather. Murchison was suggested and agreed. Being on the banks of Buller river, it offered interesting and short tramping options close by. Of particular interest was a walk through an old and now deserted mining town. We make quick work of the distance to Murchison. But not before stopping en route. Had we not, we would have missed this.

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The rain was intermittent, but the cloud cover was persistent. Rarely we were treated to the views of the snow dust covered peaks due to the low hanging clouds. But by the time we reached Murchison, we were caught in another round of heavy rain. The tramps looked quite unsuitable in this weather. Hence we use our pit stop at Murchison to refuel man and machine. And proceeded towards Cape Foulwind on the west coast, close to Westport.

The cape has a beach, has a light house, has a walkway, has a seal colony, has an island just off the coast which is a bird colony. A short distance from Murchison, we came across the only major accident that we witnessed during our trip. A MUV had turned turtle in the inclement weather and was lying in a ditch by the roadside. The road was sloping down for a long stretch and then curved slightly. We assumed that the vehicle picked up speed and then went out of control, probably unable to sight the curve in the road due to the rain. Rescue work was on and we did not stop to take a closer look at it. We drove on with an acknowledgment about how dangerous and unforgiving the roads could be! And how Safe driving is a virtue.

At Cape Foulwind, the conditions were windy. But the sun shone in parts and the rain stayed out, and that meant good news. A short walk from the car park leads to the light house conveniently placed on a small hillock. The walkway further leads to the seal colony and would take 1.5 hours. So we return and take the car instead. We find few seals basking there. There is also an island just into the sea, and devoid of any land-based predators it is an active bird colony.

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In the photo below, the small specks of white on the islands are Birds; Zoom view would reveal
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The seals soaking up whatever little of the sunlight was available
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Some time spent watching the seals and we returned to the car and made a quick check of the status of the road to Arthur's pass. The tranz alpine highway to Arthur's pass was open. We made a dash to it but not before stopping at one more attraction on the way.

More meadows, farmland towards Greymouth and Punakaiki
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Punakaiki pancake rocks and blowholes are located almost midway between Westport and Greymouth, and hard to miss. That we chose to visit Punakaiki in this weather was a coincidence, as Punakaiki puts up a bigger spectacle during high tides, and when the seas are rough. And it did put up a grand one for that day. Punakaiki is a part of the paparoa national park and the pancake rocks are a unique geological formation where the rock edges have horizontal lines running through them. This happened when alternate layers of hard rock and soft rock got settled, and over millions of years. The wind and the tides working tirelessly to erode the softer rock thus creating the horizontal lines.

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At many places large holes are created, and when the tide blows into the tunnels underneath with huge force, the water and air hiss and rise out of the holes. Quite spectacular to watch the mighty tasman sea striking repeatedly with terrifying force.

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The west coast road is amongst the best roads in NZ, with the sea hugging you on one side and rain forest cliffs embracing you from the other side. With such great views there is a call to stop at every turn, but the fading light a 150 km drive to Arthur's pass put those to rest.

The foam in the below pic looked more like the one coming from a detergent, and the beach was full of it.
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Shortly afterwards we reached Greymouth town and on the way to Arthur's pass we saw something unique and for the first time - A narrow one lane bridge, that's also shared by trains. The rails run right through the centre of the bridge. The trains have the right of way, obviously! We could not stop and click, but a search on the internet revealed this.

Source: http://www.theroadjunkies.com/2014/09/west-assured.html
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Source: http://www.farrail.net/pages/touren-...lways-2011.php
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The road started climbing up steadily as we were nearing Arthur's pass, but there was no hint of snow or overnight rain. We crossed the famous Otira viaduct to reach Arthur's pass, but that day we were unable to stop becuase it was dark already. We would take the same route one more time later, and I'll share the photos along with that trip.

A quick recap of the route we took
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-day13.jpg
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Old 9th January 2015, 20:37   #38
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Post Alpine rain

Day 14 | Oct 05, 2014
Arthur's pass

What is Arthur's pass?

Arthur's pass, the national park, is a mountainous region in the south island, between the west coast and christchurch. Arthur's pass township is a small village in the southern alps and along the tranz alpine highway, and the village is used as a base for walks nearby. We also had similar plans, and hence Arthur's pass figured in our itinerary.

Arthur's pass is a quaint village. Picturesque, surrounded by hills on all sides. And has a good bit of history around it. I would not divulge and include a history lesson here; to learn more about the history of the place and the activities on offer, please visit the DOC link. But being right along the Tranz-alpine highway, this village encounters a lot of east-west traffic.

It was bright outside and the sun was out. So, our first point of interest was the Arthur's pass visitor centre. It has a display about the history of the region, the flora, fauna and the walks around the region. It is also the information centre. The information that we gathered that day was not too pleasing. Same story - of a storm blowing in - rain was predicted from late afternoon. So we get out quickly on our walks to make the most of the time on hand.

The conical building is the railway station
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The tranz-alpine highway
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The Bealey river, or a tributary of it
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Snow capped mountains, but the clouds had begun descending
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Plans reorganized. Longer walks were dropped and shorter ones selected. Devil's punchbowl falls was the nearest, and hence we walk towards it. Nice easy walk and a short climb leads to a waterfall. Melting snow and rain combine to create quite a spectacle. And absence of wind meant the water was falling in a thick straight line. The platform does not get you closer to the falls, and stops at a distance. Hence no spray abound.

A glimpse of the Bridal Veil falls
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Devil's Punchbowl falls
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From there, we follow the Arthur's pass walking track that connects multiple tracks. Easy walking track, the initial part of which is through thick forest, and then the track winds upwards and through open tussock grasslands, and reaches the historic Jack's hut and continues beyond to the Bealey river valley in one direction and to the Otira valley in another. Mid-way through the walk, the rain starts coming down in a fine drizzle. But we brave it and continue further to reach Jack's hut. And we turn back from there.

Some scenery en route
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Through the forests, the tree trunks were uniformly covered in moss
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The highway as seen from the walkway
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Snaking highways and snaking walkways
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Jack's hut
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So wet, the moss started growing on processed wood too
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Late noon, and the rain was showing no signs of stopping. So we again stepped out to explore the town. First we went to the Arthur's pass railway station. We were curious to check out how stations would be in NZ. As expected, the only activity in and around the stations was during the times of train arrival and departure. On that day, there was none. The Tranz alpine came and went. No one got on, and no one got down. And the rain was getting heavy.

This probably should make it to the list of scenic stations
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The Kea
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We return and spend some time in the only store in the village, called Arthur's pass cafe for obvious reasons. And there we had our first tryst with the Kea. It's quite an inquisitive bird, and is not afraid of coming in contact with humans in its search for food. It will amuse you with its antics, to the point of begging, borrowing or stealing food. But big DOC posters urge us not to feed the Kea. We chose to abide by that advice and ignore it. It moved on, and so we did. The evening was spent by the fire place, going through travel books to plan for the next few days. It was still pouring outside, though.Through the evening and the rest of the night.

And Aoraki was waiting...
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Old 24th January 2015, 22:15   #39
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Post Turqoise lakes, Mountains and more.

Day 15 | Oct 06, 2014
Arthur's pass - Mount Cook

This was the day we were going to the region of glorious landscapes. This was the day we experience clear starry nights. This was the day we get a taste of the world's largest International Dark Sky Reserve. This was the day we encounter turquoise lakes and fantastic backcountry. This was the day we encounter amazing snow-capped mountains. This was the day we were going to the Mount cook Mackenzie region.

In the morning, Arthur's pass weather was still a little under the weather. The after effects of the previous day's weather were seen still. But as soon as we exit Arthur's pass village, the weather clear's up, and we were treated to the some glorious sunshine. The canterbury plains were glowing in the morning sunshine. A rainbow appeared and the day dawned on us smiling.

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It was a heady drive on the winding twisty roads of the canterbury plains. Clear blue skies, a smattering of white clouds, the brown mountains - some with a cap of white on top, the golden yellow tussock grasslands, and the occasional farmland and the sheep within. Everything was unfurling ahead of us and urging us to stop.

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And the Demio wanted to pose with the Lake Pearson as backdrop.
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We pass another Narnia setting, The Castle hill. It is just off the highway, but we don't stop.
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The glorious canterbury plains were rolling by, but not time to stop as we had upwards of 400 kms to cover. We encounter heavy rain that delayed our progress just as we joined SH77 also called the Inland scenic route, and encounter lots of farm land and very few villages.

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We reached Lake Tekapo around 1 p.m and head straight to the Mount John Observatory. The plan was to have an high altitude lunch at the Astro cafe. There is a walkway leading from Lake Tekapo to Mount John and takes about 2 hrs. But we took our car to the top. And the vistas from the top absolutely took our breath away.

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Ascending towards Mount John
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Lake Tekapo from the summit of Mount John
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Lake Tekapo village
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A very scenic dining table where we had lunch
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But the clouds were approaching, and hence we decided to head down to Lake Tekapo
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To be contd...
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Old 2nd February 2015, 22:19   #40
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Post Turqoise lakes, Mountains and more... Contd.

The approaching rain clouds hastened our descent. We might have stayed on Mount John longer, just for the scenery. Since this region is a part of the international dark sky reserve, the observatory offers nightly tours which I am sure must be fantastic.

Once down we head to Lake Tekapo for a closer look. 2 things are famous here apart from the turquoise lake itself, The Church of good shepherd and the memorial dedicated to sheep dogs. And on that day we were witness to a Tekapo wedding being held at the Church.

A combination of rain, some distant sunshine, snow covered peaks and low hanging clouds helped me click this photo below. Another of my favourites from the trip. This was shot from inside the church. The cross was set against glass background that has fantastic view of the lake.

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The church of good shepherd
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And the memorial for Collie
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This was the backdrop for the cross in the church
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The Turquoise waters. The water level was low as the snow had not started melting just yet.
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And then we take off towards Mount Cook
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En route Mount cook just as you turn off highway 8 into highway 80, there was another lake called Pukaki that was more beautiful more serene and more intense in its blue colour in comparison to Tekapo. The lake was long and narrow and would remain with us for many kilometres. Till few hundred years back, this lake stretched all way till Mount cook and a Glacier fed it at one end. More on this later.

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Earlier in the thread, on the first post, I had posted an image which was a sort of inspiration for this whole trip. That image remained with me throughout the trip, and I wanted to recreate that image. And with the image below, I think I have come the closest to recreating that. Barring the colour difference, which can be attributed to seasons, other parts almost fit in closely. No other image gave me as much joy clicking, as this one did

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Some more scenic diversions as we kept moving towards Mount cook

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As we were nearing our destination, the terrain flattened out and the mountains grew taller on either side.
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The mountains surrounding YHA Mount cook
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After check in and dinner, I braved out for a walk in the cold. A casual glance confirms why this area is chosen for the dark sky reserve.

Day 15 in review
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-day15.jpg
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Old 8th March 2015, 19:13   #41
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Post Aoraki/Mount Cook

Day 16 | Oct 07, 2014
Aoraki/Mount Cook


Mount cook is the English name given to the highest mountain in NZ. In Maori, it's referred to as Aoraki.

2 things which were easily doable at Mount cook - the Hooker valley walk and the Tasman glacier walk, and the plan was to do both. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. Both the walks provide good views of Mount cook. There are others of varying difficulty and the DOC site, as always, provides more information

It was cold and frosty in the morning, but the sun was out which meant good weather in store for the day.

Icy start to the morning, but the ice was thawing already
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We head towards the hooker valley walk, which is quite popular with tourists. Start early to avoid the crowds, it gets crowded as the day progresses and the as the weather gets better. It's a nice easy walk that takes about 3 hrs, and you pass a lake and 2 swing bridges over glacial rivers. You also pass the alpine memorial erected by the families of 2 mountaineers who lost their life on an expedition long back. Other mountaineers who have lost their lives over the years have also been tagged on. The walk ends at the hooker lake that is fed by the hooker glacier. Aoraki looks within touching distance at the end of the walk.

View from the car park at the beginning of the Hooker valley walk
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The Alpine memorial
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First view of Aoraki
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A handful of glaciers populate this area, but they are a dying tribe. The glaciers ended in a lake, and this one was the Muller lake.
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In the shadows, the icy top later was still surviving
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The Hooker valley path
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Glacial melt which had gathered force to become a stream now
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Hooker Lake. The Hooker glacier visible at the end. Parts of the glacier have separated and are floating in the lake
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The other end of the Hooker lake.
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Aoraki - Up close and personal
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Aoraki - Framed
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From one of the swing bridges
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The other easily accessible glacier in the area was the Tasman glacier. And one may drive to the car park and walk for about 30 mins to get to the top of a small hillock to get fantastic view of the Tasman glacier and the lake.

The western alps
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The Tasman lake, and the glacier that feeds the lake in the distance
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The valley across which the glacier stretched not too long ago. The glacier fed Lake Tekapo few decades back, But it has retreated significantly today.
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One of the Blue lakes
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Do not be surprised to find it green in colour. Long back when the lakes were fed by the Tasman glacier, they were all in a pristine blue colour. Now the glacier has retreated, and rain water is the source of these lakes. The algae now makes the lake green in colour, and the blue remains only in the name.
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Mountains all around
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Taking a breather in a beautiful alpine setting, before calling it a day
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The Edinburgh of the south awaits...
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