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Old 29th October 2014, 22:12   #1
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Post 1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand

The Introduction

1 incredible Country - New Zealand
2 Islands
4 weeks
13 places
6400 km behind the wheel
Richer by Countless memories

Read along as I take a trip down memory lane by writing this entry. For people who are yet to visit, hopefully this would inspire you. And for people who have visited, hopefully this post would evoke joyful memories.

We, my wife and I had already decided at the beginning of the year that we will take an extended holiday (read foreign trip) this year. It was that time of the year, when after working for more than 6 months we start thinking about some time off-work. A call from my friend asking us whether we would join them on a trip to Maldives hastened the decision making process. What followed next is deciding where to go, and when.

The initial plan was screaming EUROPE. But guess we were not quite ready for it. An extended holiday in India was considered and dropped in equally quick time. Andaman, Sri Lanka made it to the list but did not gather favourable opinion. Singapore/Malaysia/Bali - did not impress enough. My plan was to go to central asia, but one ugly stare laid it to rest HongKong-Macau No. Kenya and a south african safari was postponed to a later date. Mauritius and Maldives - we were looking for a something different. Australia/NZ... Looks like we were finally making some headway with the plan. We decided to explore that further.

What tilted the scales towards NZ was this picture below (Image courtesy Targa)

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-img1.jpg

We began charting a rough itinerary to decide how many days we would need. The consensus was that we will do Aus/NZ and not just see it. That meant we will explore it by ourselves, including the planning part. That also meant that we will not use the services of a package tour. NZ up first, the research was primarily conducted using www.newzealand.com/in/ and rankers and a rough itinerary was prepared. With so much information available online, and in such great detail, it is very easy to plan the trip by one self. With each passing day of researching NZ, and talking to tour operators to get an idea of the places and activities, the number of days just kept creeping up steadily until we hit 2-3-4 weeks. 4 weeks already put aside for NZ, and we still had not touched Australia. Which automatically meant that we had to drop Australia this time. In hindsight, this was a blessing in disguise for us. We realized later that had we included, rather squeezed in, Australia) we would not have had enough time for Aus and NZ both. 4 weeks allowed us to explore NZ at a relaxed pace.

In the end, what followed was one incredible journey. You will learn more about it, one day at a time, in this post preserved for posterity and for future NZ visitors who are looking for a quick tip.

Time to get down to business which meant it was time the money starts flowing out We had to take care of the Visas, flight tickets, local transit, rental car and hotel bookings.

Visas: Quite an easy process (where you do not have to stand in a queue at 8 am for a slot few hrs later. No photos clicked, no finger prints) We just fill the forms, enclose the required proofs and submit the application along with the demand draft for application fees at the local TT Services office. They facilitate the whole process for a fee. The good part is that you file one application per family (which in turn means one set of fees only) and not one per person. You can include your spouse and kids in the same application. We paid 6800 INR as visa fee and 880 as facilitation fee. We were lucky, we filed just in the nick of time. 2 days after we filed, the fees were revised to 8600 INR.

Flight tickets: Malaysia airlines was offering the cheapest fare, and MH370 was slowly fading from memory. It was time to book, and coincidentally Malaysian unveiled their sale marking 40 years of their existence. And then...Few hot headed guys in Ukraine (or was it Russia?) brought a Malaysian flight down. And we started deliberating on whether we should book with Malaysia airlines. Wife wanted to book with some other airline. The closest was Singapore airlines but there was a 75000 INR price differential. So Malaysian finally won! MAA-KUL-AKL tickets booked.

For crossing over from the North island to the south, we wanted to take the ferry via the cook strait for the beautiful scenery en route. Booked the ferry tickets with bluebridge ferry. The last leg of the trip involved a flight from Christchurch to Auckland. For that we chose Air New Zealand.

Accommodation: We wanted to try a campervan, at least for a short duration during our trip, but finally decided against it and booked regular accommodation. In hindsight, we should have tried it out as it seemed a very popular option with lot of people (So popular that, in few stretches, we counted as many as 4 campervan vehicles out of 10 that pass in the opposite direction). Our trip was more on the lines of a backpacker, hence we booked basic double rooms with shared toilet and kitchen in most places. Accommodation for most of the nights were booked on a pay later basis, but very few we had to pay upfront. More on it later.

Car: There was a significant price differential between the premier rentals like Avis/Hertz and the economy options like Omega. There were cheaper options available too but the cars being offered were very old models. We were a bit worried about the reliability part and the last thing we wanted on a trip was getting stuck with a lemon. Hence the economy option won. We booked 2 cars with Omega rental cars - one for the north island and one for the south.

And then there were 50 days to go...

Last edited by narasimhan.iyer : 9th November 2014 at 23:06.
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Old 30th October 2014, 17:52   #2
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Default re: 1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand

I do not have to wax eloquent about NZ but here is my take on it. NZ, is quite rich in terms of natural beauty, but the best part is that they are all bunched up in 2 small islands the size of Tamil nadu (north being slightly smaller and the south slightly larger). Since both the islands were created out of volcanic activity, the coast is strikingly beautiful, surface is undulating and that quite adds to the charm. When you travel couple of hundred kilometres from the coast, you encounter the snow capped hills and stunning alpine scenery. Amongst these 2 islands, you will have amazing variety of activities to choose from.

If you have lots of money to spend on these activities, you would definitely be a happy person! However, being on a limited budget meant that we had to plan to include a mix of free activities and activities that were paid for. NZ, we found, has a cost of living index that is higher than average. We found most things expensive. Food, fuel, activities amongst others. The only thing we found to be cheap was, believe it or not, Pizza! We had our share when we were there.

Getting back to the activities, the starting point again was www.newzealand.com and rankers which would give us an idea of what to expect and further, there were micro sites for each city that gives us tons of information on the attractions and activities in each place. I could not reiterate how much the above 2 websites and the Department of conservation (DOC) website helped in trip planning. They were our constant go-to sites.

Additional list of micro sites that we found useful -

http://www.aucklandnz.com/
http://www.rotoruanz.com/
http://www.greatlaketaupo.com/
http://www.wellingtonnz.com/
http://www.christchurchnz.com/
http://www.queenstownnz.co.nz/
http://www.dunedinnz.com/
http://www.mtcooknz.com/
http://www.fiordland.org.nz/
http://www.glaciercountry.co.nz/

http://motorcamps.com/map

DOC had information about all the national parks, camping sites, mountain biking or walking tracks, hut accommodation details. It will also give you details about the 9 great walks. These are multi-day (generally 3-5 days) walks along NZ's best scenery. We wanted to do 1 of the great walks, but could not quite fit it into the itinerary this time. The DOC site also has information about a host of small walks across the length and breadth of the country. Browse, and you would surely find many walks in the area that you are planning to visit. Also included is a list of activities and the list of authorized operators. In short, a treasure trove of free activities.

We chose to travel during late September till mid October. Yes, it was the beginning of spring, and not quite summer yet. Which meant warm days and cold nights, but this way we will also avoid the peak tourist season beginning Nov. There was a risk of encountering rains, but thankfully we did not have them interfering much. True to what is said about NZ weather, it is very unpredictable. Many days, we encountered 4 seasons in a single day.

Armed with all this information, the itinerary took shape and we were able to dream away the 50 days till it was D-day.

Last edited by narasimhan.iyer : 7th November 2014 at 08:45.
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Old 30th October 2014, 18:53   #3
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Default re: 1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand

Day 0 | Sep 21, 2014
MAA - KUL - AKL

Distance covered: 11265+ km

Our flight out of Chennai was at 0030 hrs. The airport at MAA has got to be one of the worst amongst the major airports in India. Even after all this supposed reconstruction, and tonnes of money spent, it still is no where close to the acceptable standard. Smelly loos!

A cramped flight dumped us at Kuala Lumpur. And another packed flight dumped us at AKL. In the second leg of our flight, goibibo goofed up. Our meal options were not registered with the airline. This meant the airline served us non-veg food. The air hostess was having a bad day, i believe. When we requested for an alternate arrangement she shot it down in quick time, saying our name is not on the list. So we unwillingly have bread butter in the flight, and watch Taken 2. At least, the movie is good. Lesson learnt - double check meal preferences on international flights. This lesson implemented on our return flight did not help much either. More on it later.

Kia Ora, NZ!!!

The flight landed on time at 2240 hrs, and post customs there was an elaborate bio security check. These guys are quite serious about bio security. No major surprises though, as we were not carrying any bio bombs on us. Even the bio security sniffer dogs too did not seem much interested in us. So the officer lets us through and from there begins our adventure.

At the airports, you will find a tourist guide to NZ. Make sure you pick it up - it has discount vouchers on many activities through out NZ. I did not see that guide again at any other location except airports. So i believe, it is available only at the ports of entry.

You can also pick up the Jason's guide or the Automobile Association travel guide that provides discount vouchers. These 2 are very widely available at i-site centres, or at most places of interest or at most hotels.

We had booked Auckland accommodation via AirBnB, and we had to reach a suburb called New Lynn. Our accommodation was a double room with shared bathroom in a home stay with breakfast provided. Since it was late, and we had 2 suitcases to drag along we could not take public transport which was anyways running on a reduced frequency at that hour. To get to the city centre, one can take the airport express which runs round the clock. One can hire a taxi too, but a cost effective way is to use Super shuttle. This service is available in many cities of NZ. Higher the number of people you share the cab with, lesser the price you pay. It was 44 for 1 person, and 53 for 2. So at 12 in the night, for 53 NZD we reach our destination and retire for the night. It was raining en route, and we were only hoping that the next day would be clear.

Last edited by narasimhan.iyer : 10th November 2014 at 16:00.
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Old 31st October 2014, 15:52   #4
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Post re: 1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand

Day 1 | Sep 22, 2014
Auckland


After a long flight and a late night, we woke up to a wet windy morning. A tropical storm decided to pay a visit to NZ at the same time, and it was pouring outside with howling winds. Worst start to the day, week and the holiday.

View from the window of our accommodation. Not a good sight on your holiday.
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-rainy_start.jpg

The plan was to have breakfast, and explore the rainy day activities in Auckland, the museums and the indoor activities, etc. (of which I am not a big fan of). Just then the unpredictable NZ weather came into play, and the weather started clearing up, and within no time the sun peeked out from behind the disappearing clouds. Never were we happier to see the sun shining.

The initial plan was an early start to do the coast to coast, a walk straddling the west and east coasts of Auckland, and passing along vantage points such as One tree hill, Mt.Eden, and through the Auckland domain (It's a park, as a matter of fact, lot of parks in NZ are called domain.) to the harbour via CBD. But the rains had already eaten into half of the morning. So the revised plan was to catch the train to Mt.Eden and start the walk mid-way, walking uphill to the top and then onwards from there to Queen street.

So we walk 500 metres to the New Lynn train station, pay 5 NZD each for tickets to Mt.Eden and wait. Public transport too, like many other things, is relatively expensive. The train itself, is from the old world. It was pulled by a diesel locomotive belching thick black smoke. Soon, it will be a thing of the past, I learnt, as work is on to replace them with electric locomotives. We get down at Mt.Eden station and while walking towards the Mt.Eden domain and the summit we spot a familiar sign - "Subway" - and immediately hunger pangs strike So we get in and help ourselves to a sub and get out lighter by few dollars. And the march towards the summit continues. It was still very windy, but the rains continue staying away.

Mount Eden is an extinct volcano that now offers fantastic views of the City and harbour. But at the top you are very much at the mercy of the elements an windy day meant that it did not provide too many photo ops. It was so windy that i found it difficult to hold the camera steady. Anyways, here are few snapshots from the top

Memorial view
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Crater view
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Looking towards the harbour from the top
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View of One tree hill from Mt.Eden (top right corner)
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A close view
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From there, we got down and walk to Queen street using the Here Maps and Here drive app on Nokia Lumia as our Navigation device. In fact, through out the duration of the trip, we never had the necessity to use a GPS navigation device. The Lumia phone worked perfectly well. 95% of the time, it was able to search and guide us to the destination in offline mode comfortably. Only on rare instances we required a wifi or a data connection to search destinations online. This way we avoided the GPS charges levied by the car rental companies (On an average they charge you around 10 NZD per day for the GPS device). A handy tip for travellers.

Motorway
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-p1040633.jpg

The walk, combined with gusts of wind and the cold meant that the camera stayed comfortably inside through out. We explore Queens street, K road and the CBD by walk. The Auckland CBD is a nice lively place, and we get a coffee, buy a sim card, and get some USD exchanged. And we go see the tallest man-made structure in the southern hemisphere decked up in blue, the Sky tower.

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0152.jpg

A part of the CBD
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0155-2.jpg

And then we go to Britomart, and catch a bus back to New Lynn.

Here is a summary of Day 1
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-day1.jpg

Day 2 - we get our car and head out of Auckland

Last edited by narasimhan.iyer : 16th November 2014 at 14:37.
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Old 3rd November 2014, 18:30   #5
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Default re: 1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand

Day 2 | Sep 23, 2014
Auckland - Whangarei - Russell

Nice bright start to the day. Our hosts dropped us at the Omega rental cars office on beach road in Auckland. We head in to the Omega office with excitement, like a kid entering a candy shop. After all it is going to be our first foreign drive. The car hire process was an easy affair. Just some customary documentation, DL verification and explanation of some dos/dont's. And then our Toyota Corolla hatch arrived. It was an automatic. I checked for the availability of a Manual, but the one they had on site was looking considerably old. We chose the automatic. Paid for the car plus standard insurance (1500 NZD excess). The charge for complete waiver was 12 NZD per day. We load our luggage and start our drive up north. We barely move few feet when the car came to an abrupt stop, in the middle of the road!

First mistake: Old habits die hard, they say. My left leg got so used to Manual transmission, it searched for the clutch and came down hard on the brake pedal. Luckily, there were no cars behind or we would have been rear ended. Quickly, we regain composure and drove on towards the north, destination Whangarei. It was time to hit the motorway.

We were a little cautious early on till we were out of Auckland, with merging and exiting traffic. The traffic was not heavy and driving was a easy. We came across only one toll road in NZ just north of Auckland. It is a short 7.5 km road and the toll charge is 2.20 NZD. There was an alternative available, though. We just took the exit before the toll road and took the coastal scenic route via Orewa and rejoin the motorway few kms ahead. We mantained a steady clip and were covering good ground. Every few kms you come across a passing lane which is overtaking zone. And people were generally patient with their overtaking manoeuvres until they reach the passing zones. Once out of Auckland, city views give way to excellent scenery. Small lush green grass covered hillocks on which cows and sheep were having a field day. Unable to get a good shot from the car as the roads were twisty throughout. We reached whangarei just past mid-day.

On the way to Whangarei
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-towards_whangarei.jpg

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Whangarei falls, just outside Whangarei town is a good pit stop on the way up north. We did not enter Whangarei town, and went straight to the falls. The falls are not too touristy and you can spend some quiet time here. We trekked to the base of the falls and got a close look at the falls.

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0161-3.jpg

View from the top
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Do you see the seating bench?
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0162-3.jpg

At the base of the falls
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Lot of spray floating around smudging the lens
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Along the Whangarei river
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0182-2.jpg

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We also followed the walkway to the kauri memorial, a tree top walk through kauri forests. Not spectacular, but interesting. And a good way to keep the kauri trees free of diseases, as soil contamination is one of the major reasons for the spread of the disease. Kauri trees, apparently, were prevalent all over the country few centuries back. Then the migrants arrived, and most of the forests have vanished now, either logged for timber, or cleared for farming and grazing. The government is now fighting to keep the last few remaining tracts of kauri alive.

After meandering along the river and taking a long enough break, we head out towards Russell. The easy and quick way is to drive to Opua and cross over by the ferry. But there is a longer and scenic route which borders the coast and that is what we took. It is certainly got to be one of our best drives, and we recommend doing it in the day time with ample time on your hand.

One of the bays towards Russell
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-one_of_the_bays_towards_russell.jpg

The road sees very less traffic and is entirely windy but sealed, which makes it a fun to drive. Each curve brings along such spectaular views of hidden remote east coast bays that you would be compelled to stop. And stop again. And again, till you are pressed for time and are forced to drive on. But we did take some time out to click our car in the scenic surroundings.

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-corolla_frontview.jpg

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1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-corolla_side.jpg

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We reach our destination in Russell (about 8 km from Russell town) by 7 p.m to our supposed destination for the night, only to find there is no sign of it there. And the owner was unreachable. We leave a message, and drive around in search of the hotel till we realized we reached the right destination initially. We also receive a call from the owner and she confirms that we reached the right place. A comedy of errors! The place did not have a sign or a board. And it looked like a regular house. Only when we got close to the main door, we realized that the owner left a small note and the key stuck to the door. So we sneak in.

We quickly get out again and go to Russell centre to have dinner, but find that everything is closed except a thai restaurant. And a grocery store. We have a quick bite at the restaurant and head back for the night!

Day 2 in review
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-day2.jpg

Day 3 - The march up north continues...

Last edited by narasimhan.iyer : 16th November 2014 at 15:01.
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Old 16th November 2014, 15:03   #6
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Default re: 1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand

Day 3 | Sep 24, 2014
Russell - Waipapakauri


Russell, is a small quaint town in the Northland region on the east coast, and is the biggest town in the Bay of Islands. Naturally, it forms a base from which you can explore the Bay of Islands. Marine activities are quite popular here - fishing, sailing, diving etc. The main Russell town itself is quite small but has a charming waterfront. The town has the air of a resort. In terms of activities, there are many options of the paid variety to choose from. There are frequent cruises that take you to few of the 144 islands that form the Bay of Islands, including the one that goes to the hole in the rock. Else, you may just swim, snorkel, sun bath or just lie around lazily.

We chose none of the above, instead preferred to go on a walk to the top of a hillock nearby that provides wonderful views of the many islands that make up the bay of islands. The track is called the tapeka track and the end of it Tapeka point. http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-rec.../tapeka-point/. I would let the pictures take over.

View from our Hotel
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0204-3.jpg

Bay near Tapeka point
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Some views towards Tapeka point
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The pacific shimmering blue on a clear sunny day
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The Bay watchers
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End of Tapeka track
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View from the top
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Do you see the many small islands?
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Waiting for the Summer and the sailing season
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We got down and drive to Russell and explore the waterfront, which has an interesting mix of cafes and restaurants. No vehicular noise, hardly any traffic, the only distraction is the omnipresent seagull and the sound of waves lapping the shore. Time flies when you are in such a setting, and we still had some distance to travel. So we click few pics and head out of the Bay. Here is what we saw -

From the Russell ferry wharf
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Under the wharf
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Few fishing and sailing boats are all that this old cannon has got to aim at
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The main thoroughfare of Russell - Perfect to relax with some coffee
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You can see the wharf in this photo
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I asked this guy to oblige me with a photo
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He registers a strong vocal protest and walks away.
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We take the Okiato-Opua vehicle ferry to quickly get across to the mainland. The ferry runs frequently and takes just 10 min to get to the other side, whereas taking the road would involve a 45 km detour, some of it on un sealed roads. 11 NZD for ferrying your car, and driver goes free. Additional 1 NZD per person. We head out and drive towards our next stop - Haruru falls, and we get there quickly. It's a little more than 10 km from the ferry wharf at Opua. Not amongst the big league, but here are some pics.

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Slow shutter speed shot
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We drive onwards to Kerikeri, a small town with a famous chocolate shop called Makana confections. They give chocolate making tours, and you can watch the confectioners at work. Also on offer are free chocolate samples for tasting, and you can of course buy chocolates there. The chocolates, though tasty, were priced a bit on the higher side. So we chose not to strain our purse strings for buying chocolates at this early stage in the tour because we (read I) would end up finishing them anyways. This route towards the north, also offers you lots of opportunities to pick up fruits and fresh local produce from the numerous stalls dotting the roads. Many counters are unmanned, and you just pay for what you pick up. The system runs on trust, and runs perfectly well.

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-p1040691.jpg

Most orchards have this boundary wall of trees around them
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A casual drive through Kerikeri and we head onward to Waipapakauri. This place is on the way to Cape Reinga, the northern most point of NZ with public access (Northern cape is slightly more to the north, but being a scientific reserve it does not have open public access). We reach the place of our stay, which was a wonderfully rustic setting, with a composting toilet, a shower under the stars that it felt like being a different world altogether. The house, though having modern facilities, still felt like being light years away from civilization, and quickly absorbed us in for the night.

Day 3 in review
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-day3.jpg

Stick on, next day, we make an early morning dash to the Cape...

Last edited by narasimhan.iyer : 17th November 2014 at 18:54.
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Old 17th November 2014, 09:01   #7
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Default re: 1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand

Day 4 | Sep 25, 2014
Waipapakauri - Cape Reinga - Auckland

Cape Reinga, is a very famous tourist spot that is on the itinerary of most visitors. It is famous for a lot of things. It is of sacred importance to Maori because they believe that it is from the cape that the soul of the deceased starts it voyage to the other world. It marks the boundary between the Tasman sea and the pacific ocean - The energetic waves of the tasman sea crash against the calm waters of the pacific here. And there is a light house located in this scenic corner of the country where both the water bodies are in constant conflict with the volcanic mass of land.

From where we stayed, the cape is about 100 kms up north on the Far North road. The meteorology department predicted that the sun rise was at 6:20 am and hence we start about 90 minutes in advance. The road was in excellent condition all the way till the cape, with very less number of towns in between which means very less traffic. The 90 mile beach keeps you constant company on the left, and other non-descript but remote and beautiful bays on the right beckon you. And farmlands with sheep and cows keep you company throughout. And you would frequently have an opossum or a rabbit dart across the road forcing you to take evasive action.

but NZ roads, especially the ones in Northland, had a very high incidence of road kill. The problem is so intense that we were encountering roadkills every few 100 metres and it becomes disturbing beyond a point. Probably it was the opossum that was being hit, and hence the government was not showing much concern towards this issue. Because, I learnt later, that the opossum is a species that was introduced into NZ to establish a fur trade industry. But the move turned out to be quiet foolish, as the opossums have multiplied beyond control now. They are the main predators, and destroy large tracts of forest and farmland. They kill the native animals and the flightless birds. esp, the Kiwi and their young ones.

Back on, towards the cape at the early hour there was hardly any traffic, only the logging trucks were going about their chores. In spite of that, we could not beat the sun to the cape. The sun rose when we were few kms short of the cape. Even then, It was a pretty sight. We reach the cape ten mins after sun rise. The first sight of the dark grey waters of the pacific on a cloudy morning was a sight beyond words. Inexplicable. One would just stand there awe-struck, and that's what happened to us too. We were only talking in the superlatives. I would just let the pics take over, as i might not be able to do justice with words.

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0355-2.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0357-3.jpg

Just as the sun was rising
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0358-2.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0378-3.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0373-2.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0368-2.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0361-3.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0393-3.jpg

Wide expanse of the pacific
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0399-2.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0359-3.jpg

At that hour, there was just one more couple from Australia. After we clicked their pics together and they clicked ours, they too left and we were standing all alone there at the Kanyakumari of NZ, 6211 kms from the south pole and admiring the confluence of the sea, land and ocean.

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0369-2.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0370-2.jpg

Cape Reinga, up close and personal
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0388-2.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0387-2.jpg

The cape was magnetic. We were repeatedly being pulled towards it on the way back, and kept stopping to click.

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0392-3.jpg

One of my favourite images from the trip. The energetic waves of the tasman sea crashing into the calm waters of the pacific
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0394-3.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0395-3.jpg


We move on, as we had a lot of distance to cover this day. Our initial plan was to walk from Taupotupotu bay to Cape Reinga, a 3 hr walk. But later we dropped it and chose to drive to the cape for sunrise. So we decided to stop by Tapotupotu bay, which is a popular camping site. Early morning, the seagulls were hovering around and diving for fish. Few snapshots.

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0410-2.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0415-3.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0427-2.jpg


We drive south towards our next destination, The Te Paki sand dunes. This place is a short 4 km detour off the main road, and famous for another activity - Body boarding. People walk up the sand dunes and body board down them for an adrenaline rush. Looks out of place with its desert setting in the heart of forest land. The dry stream is frequented by vehicles looking for some offroading fun. Rental companies do not allow their vehicles being driven on the dry stream bed.

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0428-2.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0429-3.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0431-3.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0440-2.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0443-2.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0446-3.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0451-3.jpg

This formation is due to the relentless erosion activity of the winds picking up the sand from the beach and depositing them at this location some distance away forming huge dunes.

The erosive behaviour of the wind seen clearly in the layers

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0460-3.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0461-3.jpg

After having some fun at the sand dunes, it was time for the 90 mile beach
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0463-3.jpg

Continued in the next post...

Last edited by narasimhan.iyer : 17th November 2014 at 19:39.
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Old 17th November 2014, 09:14   #8
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Day 4 continued...

And here is how you reach 90 mile beach -
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0471-3.jpg

We found large tracts of forest area being logged around the Cape. The whole area wears a barren deserted look shorn of its green. But the 90 mile beach itself, is quite popular. Its a wide expanse of sand and surf stretching to about 90 kms. Rental companies, again, do not allow their vehicles to be driven on the beach, but it is popular and scenic route running parallel to the far north highway.

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0464-3.jpg

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0466-2.jpg

This is where you drive your vehicles
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0465-2.jpg

We further continued south ward, and the plan was to do the twin coast to Auckland via Dargaville. On the way, we call upon Tane mahuta, the lord of the forest. This tree is the largest kauri tree in NZ, and hence aptly named. The sunset was decorating the lord in eerie colours.

1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0477-2.jpg

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1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-p1040709.jpg

And this is his story
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0488-3.jpg

This was a constant wherever we went. A green DOC board that provided all the required information and can easily be spotted even while driving.
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0490-2.jpg

I chose to include this photo to highlight the meticulous efforts of the authorities. This is an anti-skid rubber covering on the wooden boards that have been put up for walking. Makes it so much easy for the elderly to participate. I found this at many other places too.
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-p1040707.jpg

And then we take leave of the lord and head towards Auckland via the Waipoua forest, and reach at 9:15 pm. The Waipoua forest was a delectable drive.
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-dsc_0495-2.jpg

Day 4 in review
1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand-day4.jpg

Wild western beaches of Auckland on Day 5...

Last edited by narasimhan.iyer : 17th November 2014 at 19:41.
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Old 18th November 2014, 11:23   #9
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 18th November 2014, 11:35   #10
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Excellent post and awesome pictures. All the places look so serene.

But why are most of the places almost empty? Is that an off-season?
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Old 18th November 2014, 14:03   #11
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A very detailed travelogue with brilliant pictures. Rated the thread a deserved *****.

How was the driving experience in NZ and was the Corolla hatch able to swallow all your luggage?
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Old 18th November 2014, 14:09   #12
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Default Re: 1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand

Dear Narasimhan

Beautiful Travelogue. Rated this thread a 5 Star!!

The pics are extremely well taken, so much so, that with your due permission, would like to save a few on my desktop!!

Hope you had a great time.
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Old 18th November 2014, 15:17   #13
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Default Re: 1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand

Yeah was about to ask the same. All the places look so empty of people. Wonder if it is always like that.

If so, I am moving to NZ soon

Awesome pics!
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Old 18th November 2014, 15:29   #14
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Default Re: 1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand

A close friend just came back from a trip to New Zealand and was going ga-ga over the place. He just couldn't stop praising the serenity and the beauty of this country especially the south coast. I never understood the superlatives he used while describing the place. However, after seeing the pictures posted by you and your report, I can actually relate to what he was saying.

Coincidentally, another friend is flying to NZ tomorrow night for a month. I am sending her a link to your thread. I guess this thread would be enough for her excitement to reach overboost mode .
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Old 19th November 2014, 11:42   #15
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Default Re: 1 Country, 2 Islands, 4 weeks - New Zealand

Great pics with equally good narrative with all the small details. Rated this thread a 5 Star!!

Looking forward to going to NZ sometime.
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