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Old 11th June 2014, 15:48   #1
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Default Driving through Heavenly New Zealand!

Disclaimer: This is a travelogue that has been long pending and I hope the moderators will be kind enough to let me post this. I was greatly motivated reading some travelogues off late and decided that I would give mine a shot as well.

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The Trip: Amazing New Zealand
Passengers: Wifey and Self on Honeymoon
Time: End November
North Island Leg:
Kolkata- Singapore- Auckland- Rotorua-

South Island Leg
Christchurch- Mt Cook- Queenstown- Millford Sound- Dunedin- Christchurch- Singapore- Kolkata

Steeds for the trip: North Island: Toyota Corolla Hatch, South Island: Ford Falcon XR 6

No of Days: 12

The spreadsheet below outlines the drive distances and times. I am working on a more detailed spreadsheet as well with the costing.
Attachment 1249094

Introduction: This is a trip that had been a personal dream for the both of us and we had spent more time planning this than our actual marriage. To the extent we even went on to cut out some of the functions to the utter dismay of the relatives. Our thought was simple: This was going to be some US time and we were really not too bothered about cavorting and displaying ourselves around umpteen uncles and aunties who would disappear as soon as they appeared. At the same time, we didn't plan every single aspect of the trip (Except the cars and the Heli :-) ) and decided we would take it step by step, use the Lonely planet guide and do what we wanted to rather than stick to a tried and tested packaged itinerary. In case anyone travel to NZ, I'd suggest to keep lots of open spaces in your itinerary. You never know what you might miss out on otherwise.

About New Zealand: Contrary to expectations, NZ is not a very small place. The distances between places are around 300 kms on an average, but one can make short work out of these distances due to the awesome roads (speed limited to 100 kmph). Thus, you might be wondering about the unusually high times taken by us to complete the journeys, but one cannot help but stop from time to time to marvel at the picture postcard vistas of the place.

Day 1-2:

We took Singapore Airlines from Kolkata to Singapore then onwards to Auckland. Considering the long flight, the only thing we did on Day 1 was go off to sleep. Sadly, the room AC decided to give us a rude wake up call 2 hours into our slumber by switching itself off and not turning on despite our threats, pleads and cajoling. The only option was to request the management to change the room and BOY, did they oblige by upgrading us to their Suite. Thats when we knew, this trip had started off on the Right note.

Day 2 saw us rising late and then deciding what we were to do. We happened to find out that it was Farmers Day and that a fantastic parade would pass through the centre of town. Day pack ready, we headed off to explore the wonderful city of Auckland on foot. The weather in November is excellent and the temperate climate really whets your appetite for walking and eating both. I recollect stopping for at least 3 coffees, 1 dessert and 2 main courses during our 4-5 hour sojourn.

The upgraded rooms
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The wonderfully well organized parking
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Farmers Day parade
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With Ron Mc D (Sorry Ron, I hardly ate a single Mac during my trip)
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Drooly Baby
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All hail the Queen
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Post the farmers day parade, we walked off to the Auckland Sky Tower to gets a birds eye view of the city.

Day 3:Auckland to Rotorua via Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Day 3 began early in the morning waiting for my Compact car to arrive from Avis. While there were other cheaper options available, we decided to go with Avis because of a limited period offer of Free GPS, Free Excess reduction insurance and Free second driver. All in all, we hardly paid a premium of 5% over cheaper rental companies. The car was a Red Corolla Automatic (Didn't know they had Dual VVTI's on the compacts as well) with a Garmin GPS Unit. Funnily, the GPS unit we had would decide to switch off from time to time (A problem which persisted during our entire North Island sojourn) and we would have to stop, restart the unit and then reset the coordinates. Being my first time in NZ, fast expressway traffic all around, led to some really close situations while getting out of Auckland. That said, the traffic is very disciplined and many folks realized we were tourists and gave us a thumbs up (No Middle Fingers surely !!) as they passed by.

Roads from Auckland to Rotorua were fantastic (as was entirely through NZ) and we expected to cover the 229 Kms distance in around 3 hours or less. But, little did we know our wanderlust and laziness would extend the drive to 300 kms and almost double the hours. Well, such is the languid beauty of NZ coupled with tons of village cafes (Ok, by now you guys must know I like to eat as much as I like to drive)

Thats not our car
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The cafe
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Rainy weather
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Prim and proper villages
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I could not attach any pictures of the Waitomo Glowworm caves since no photos were allowed inside, but its an experience in itself. May not be to everyone's liking though.

We reached Rotorua around 2 PM and checked into a motel, Six on Union, which is walking distance into the main town square and also close to the lake. The owners provide cheap rooms, free parking and also send across a breakfast tray in the morning. We spent the remainder of the day at the lake and stopped for a Salmon dinner at a lakeside cafe.

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Day 3: Rotorua- Whakarewarewa Thermal Village and Buried Village:

Day 3 began very very late (Blame the Jet Lag) and we were rushing against time to do our site seeing. However, rather than rush, we decided to drop the evening visit to the Tamaki Maori Village and only cover the Thermal Village in the day time. The Lakeside setting was wonderful and we couldn't get enough of it.

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Co-pilot getting ready to take the controls
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Day 4: Flight from Rotorua to Christchurch, O/n in Christchurch

Early Day 4 and it was time to head to Rotorua Airport to catch an Air NZ, ATR to Christchurch. While there are lots of things to see and do in north Island, we were more keen to spend more time in the South and hence our hurry to head there pronto. Also, its possible to drive from Rotorua- Christchurch, but it involves a ferry crossing as well as a One way fee (while x-ing from the North to the South) payable to the rental car company. For the same money, we were able to buy tickets on Air NZ and reduce our travel time to 1 hour or so.

Having landed in CHC, we took a super shuttle bus to the hotel (Ibis on Hereford Street), which was bang in the city centre (The subsequent earthquake has quite changed the landscape of this beautiful place now). Rest of the day was free to explore a breezy and chilly city on foot.

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Christchurch is also an amazing city. We totally loved the vibe of the place and the wonderful working environment there. 5.30 PM and the PwC, KPMG and ANZ officers near the hotel would have scores of people rushing out and heading off to their favorite pubs to spend some time bonding with colleagues and friends. By 7.30- 8 PM, everyone would leave for home, with only the tourists being left behind. I wish my work environment back in India was similar but Alas...!!

Prelude to what's coming: An amazing car and an amazinger drive. I wish I could do it again and again and again. Stay tuned folks.
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Old 12th June 2014, 09:05   #2
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Default re: Driving through Heavenly New Zealand!

Wow amazing weather! Reminded me of my Honeymoon trip. I had been to Auckland-Rotorua-Queenstown-Franz Josef-Kaikoura-Christchurch. Some more pictures please
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Old 12th June 2014, 11:29   #3
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Hi All,

And we're on to Day 5, which led to the start of the spectacular South Island stage which spanned almost a week. On hindsight, I wish it spanned a month, such is the beauty of the South.

Differences between the South and the north: One of the key differences between the South and the North is the relative absence of the traditional Maori people in the South. While the North has a fair share of Maori influence in their culture, day to day life, the South is somewhat different and has a more cosmopolitan look and feel. In the end, both the island exist in harmony and a visit to the country is incomplete without covering both the islands.

Day 5: Christchurch to Queenstown via Mt. Cook

The day started off early at 6 AM, when I got jolted out of bed by the alarm. Suddenly, great excitement overwhelmed me, when I realized that it was time to go and fetch the car from the local Avis office. The local office of AVIS was on Hereford Street, near my hotel, but they parked most of their cars in a lot a bit of a walk away.

My initial booking had been for a Big Car, a Full Sedan i.e. the Toyota Camry and there I found it, All silver and gleaming. Moving up from the Fiesta, this was a big car for me and I was all set to make my deposit and drive away. After all, they'd gotten the car all the way here for me. As I walked towards the car, I spied on another huge vehicle, A FORD, in BLUE (Many on Tbhp would be aware of my passion for the Ford and the love of my life, the Fiesta 1.6S in Aquarius Blue). Oh !! This was looking even better when I realised it was the Ford Falcon XR6. The lady spotted me looking eagerly and drooling at the car, before quietly handing me over the keys and asking me to check it out (Sales people, you know). No, I was SOLD on it already and quickly requested if I could take this instead. She made by day, when she said I could have it for the same price as the CAMRY even though the Falcon is a class higher. With my most brilliant smile, I signed the papers and took the Keys before heading back to the hotel to surprise the better half.

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After a quick pitstop at the hotel to wolf down some breakfast, buy some Red Bulls and some eats for the way, We'd set up our GPS and pointed us straight towards Mt. Cook, where the first stop was the Aoraki Mt. Cook Ski Planes office.

A little bit about the Falcon XR6: This beast is a 4.0 DOHC with 490 Nm of torque at 3200 RPM. We were lucky to get the one with the optional ZF 6 speed auto box with sequential shift. The XR6 is the second in line after the XR6 Turbo in the entire Falcon series and packs a mean punch with its Powerful torquey engine, smooth shifting gearbox (I am not a pundit of Autoboxes and found this pretty good) which can drop two notches when you mash the throttle and has brilliant handling thanks to the 18 inch allows and Control Blade Rear suspension. All in all, despite the higher fuel bills, you cannot go wrong with a car of this calibre on such brilliant roads. The only other car that came close was the Holden Commodore, which was also a dime a dozen.

The Mrs. fought hard to get behind the wheel
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Leaving Christchurch was easy, the roads are nice and wide with dedicated overtaking zones, even though this isn't strongly enforced or followed. I am not attaching any google map extracts etc, since we pretty much used the GPS all the time and found it to be extremely reliable with virtually no drops, despite the fact that we would pass through pretty barren areas.

One advice that I'd like to give to anyone that is planning to drive in NZ, please do not set targets to reach a destination in a specific time. NZ was a laid back place and we never really followed the TSD mold and stopped pretty much wherever we wanted. Regarding stops, there are clean toilets and drinking water areas at 2 km intervals at least and you can pull into village cafes or petrol bunks whenever you want a food stop. But, the best thing is to carry some stuff with you and generally picnic wherever your "Heart skips a beat"

My heart skipped a beat here
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And Here
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The wonderful roads
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The Burkes Pass Reserve
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Our jaw dropping moment at Lake Tekapo
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Lake Tekapo
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Too much beauty
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By now, I am sure most of you would be wondering when this travelogue would end if we were just on the first half of the fifth day, with seven days more to go.

Next post, I am going to write about our arrival at Mt. Cook, a scenic Heli trip and the onward trip to Queenstown. Stay tuned folks !!
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Old 13th June 2014, 11:29   #4
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Default Re: Driving through Heavenly New Zealand!

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 13th June 2014, 12:10   #5
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Originally Posted by rahulsharma2008 View Post
Wow amazing weather! Reminded me of my Honeymoon trip. I had been to Auckland-Rotorua-Queenstown-Franz Josef-Kaikoura-Christchurch. Some more pictures please
You can go through my travelogue here
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Old 13th June 2014, 12:27   #6
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And We're back...with more escapades of Day 5, which didn't seem to end, Not that we wanted it to.

Having mesmerized by the magnificent Lake Tekapo, we decided to have a picnic lunch of sandwiches and soup at a local cafe before making a dash to Mt. Cook.

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Wifey takes a last look, She will be back someday
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The roads to Mt. Cook are fantastic and you can easily manage 150 kph, but it'd be my advise to stick to the limit at 100 kph. I did get flagged down for speeding on another leg of the journey and while the cop was kind enough to let me go, I felt I shouldn't have broken the speed limit at all.

Arriving at Mt. Cook, we made our way to the offices of the Aoraki Mt. Cook Ski planes. We had booked a 45 minutes explorer trip which would allow us to land amidst the snow and experience nature in all its glory. Was an expensive option at around 14000 INR per seat, but well, it was worth it.

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Sadly, 45 minutes flew past faster than a jet fighter and it was time to get back down and on the road to Queenstown. By now, we were super late, but then again, another picnic snack called.

I could sit here for hours on end
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Having been there and done that, it was time to head off to the fun part of the trip, Queenstown. This time we were determined there were going to be no further stops, but then thats not really possible in NZ

So we stopped and we stopped at Lakes, Road Sides and at Flower nurseries till it was 4 PM and we had been on the road for a long long time without reaching our eventual destination.

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After a what was supposed to be a hectic day, we reached Queenstown, but the funny thing was that we didn't feel tired at all. We checked into Pounamu Apartments, which at that point in time was rated quite highly on most travel sites and were shown to a lovely lake facing room, which made us debate on whether we actually wanted to walk into town at all?

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After a debate over some coffee, It was decided that it was time to give Big Blue Streak some rest and hit the town and explore till we couldn't walk a single step more. That way we'd tire ourselves out and hit the sack.

The town itself was a leisurely 10 minute walk from the apartment and was filled with vacationers chilling at the unending cafe's and bars. After walking around and exploring what we could it was time to find a nice place to sit back, relax and plan the next few days in Qtn.

More follows...
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Old 14th June 2014, 10:45   #7
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Default Re: Driving through Heavenly New Zealand!

Loved Every bit of your travelogue.
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Old 15th June 2014, 12:14   #8
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Default Re: Driving through Heavenly New Zealand!

Wow - the only word that came to my mind. The world is very big place indeed. Adding NZ to my To-Go list.
Wonderful pictures man. And I especially like that picnic table against that beautiful snow-clad mountain background. I got goosebumps just looking at that picture. Kudos dude. Looking forward to your next post
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Old 16th June 2014, 13:00   #9
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Default Re: Driving through Heavenly New Zealand!

Rated this thread 5 star for the beautiful pics and informative write up.

I really wish that I could visit NZ. I wonder what it would be like to live there. I know the place is less crowded, country side, with vast green landscapes, with amazing people.

Thanks for sharing. If at all I have any doubts, I will PM you.

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Old 16th June 2014, 13:16   #10
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Default Re: Driving through Heavenly New Zealand!

Its a beautiful travelogue with excellent narration !! Simply loving it.

Keep the pics coming
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Old 16th June 2014, 18:26   #11
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Default Re: Driving through Heavenly New Zealand!

Your travelogue is simply wow!! and thanks for sharing this in such great detail.

Would love to follow your foot steps some day and your thread will surely come in handy.
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Old 17th June 2014, 09:16   #12
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Nice travelogue and beautiful pics. NZ is awesome! The rainy weather just adds to the beauty!
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Old 17th June 2014, 09:19   #13
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Default Re: Driving through Heavenly New Zealand!

Fantastic. Written in a very matter-of-fact way, and the pics and narration are excellent. This place is truly breathtaking.

Btw, what was the power rating of the Big Ford?
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Old 17th June 2014, 11:52   #14
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Beautiful pics and wonderful description, mesmerised with the jaw dropping views spread all over.

I am also planning to do a riding trip across New Zealand later this year (5th-15th, Oct), can't wait for the same
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Old 17th June 2014, 12:38   #15
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Superb stuff, can't wait for the rest. Some of the pics are just mind-blowning!!!

I am in the exact situation And you travelogue just helped us reaffirm our decision to do NZ.
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