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Old 3rd December 2017, 23:25   #1
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Default Bonhomie in New Zealand - 5000 kms in 15 days

Warning and disclaimer
As this was an emotional trip for me , I've taken the liberty to share what I went through before the trip in the Prelude and Planning sections of the blog. Also, there a lot of pictures and a few videos so you might have to spare some time to go through the entire travelogue.

Prelude


Travel for me is an opportunity to fulfil two of my crazy obsessions - Photography and driving and obviously every activity / trip is planned around both of these being the main objectives. If cameras or cars are not allowed , the trip is not for me !

Another human being crazily obsessed with photography (who was my partner in crime to spend weekends after weekends shooting in Mumbai) had moved to Wellington, New Zealand about 2 years back. He'd been sending photographs that looked unreal and his only explanation was, "Nature has been partial to this country". I think this statement sums up what New Zealand is - It's blessed with beauty beyond imagination and more importantly, the people there respect that and take utmost care of every little thing nature has given them !

Having never been abroad before , this gave us (wife and me) a great chance to that first trip beyond our borders and make it a once in a lifetime experience ! Given the fact that New Zealand is best seen by driving all along , and it being a photographer's delight, both my travel conditions were met !

Then I looked at the prices - Wooh ! Just the tickets for the 2 of us would have costed double of what we normally spend on an entire 7 day trip we do in India ! But then I did a calculation that made things tick

Cost of return ticket : Rs 61,000 per person
Distance (two way - Mumbai to Wellington) : 12400*2 = 24800kms
Cost per km of travel : Rs 2.5 per km !
Our auto rickshaws charge Rs 13 per km
(Cost details are mentioned in the section at the end of the blog)

Boom, I booked the tickets. There was a sense of excitement as this was the beginning of an experience I had never had before this - Counting down to the push back moment, planning , imagining every moment before actually living it , oh I can go on and on !

Planning

This was the toughest and most crucial part of the trip. I wanted it to be planned and executed meticulously, so since the day we booked our tickets , I spent 1 to 2 hours daily on researching the country and places we could go to . As we were 4 of us doing the trip (thankfully only 2 of us were doing the planning), there were obvious differences of opinion between how we wish to do the trip. The below video just summarizes our daily discussions beautifully.



We both made our compromises at every stage and ended up planning an itennary we both were quite proud of

We used Google sheets to share information , edit and collaborate . I that that tool is brilliant for collaboration. We made summaries, details and micro details for each day . I even tried to plan where and at what time we will see the sunset and sunrise ! (Now I laugh at myself for doing that). Quite a few Saturday and Sunday was spent making bookings of stay, activities etc.

Visa Formalities

Parallel to the planning , I had to start the visa formalities

We were flying Singapore Airlines
Mumbai to Singapore (6 hrs)
(3 hrs layover)
Singapore to Canberra (1 hrs layover) (8 hrs)
Canberra to Wellington (3 hrs)
Same flight back

Few points to note
1. You do not take a pre booked ticket to apply for the visa - Although I believe it's always advicable to have bookings done to address the "will you come back" question
2. ‎we did not go through any interview process as we had tickets as well as an invite letter from my friend
3. ‎it takes 21 working days (Documented TAT which is followed to the T) , so you need to plan the trip in advance
4. ‎the visa application happens through TT Services only - not through the embassy - in terms of hospitality and customer service, I'll rate TT Services 1 out of 5. You expect zero help from them. Get all documents in place before getting there
5. ‎visa Applications can be made online only for a single person per application. If you need to apply for 2 people or more in a single application (upto 4 people), a physical visa application needs to be made.
Visa application fee
Single (per person) : Rs 7550 (151 NZD)
Physical (family) : Rs 8500 (170 NZD)
an additional Rs 2500 is charged by TT Services as application fee in case of physical applications
5. ‎Passports need to be submitted for physical applications - You may choose to collect the passports personally or have them couriered to you - For online applications , the passport needs to be verified by embassy .. not sure how that works
6. ‎If you are flying through Australia (even a stopover for 1 hour - where you might not even alight the aircraft ) , you need a transit visa for Australia. Again, the application for the same needs to be done through their agency VFS Global
7. ‎every application needs to fulfil the following conditions - Purpose, Proof of having money - 1000 NZD per month of stay (or 400NZD if accommodation is already paid for) and proof of stay arrangements made

Following are the links for your reference
NZ Visa : https://www.govt.nz/browse/immigrati...visitors-visa/
Aus Visa : www.vfsglobal.com/Australia/India/transit.html



New Zealand seasons , weather and what to expect


Summer : December, January and February
Autumn : March, April and May
Winter : June, July and August
Spring : September, October and November
Monsoon : All year round - it can rain anytime !

The seasons are only an indication , but the weather can change at any point in New Zealand.
Plan for rain playing spoilt sport on any given day by keeping flexibility in dates as far as possible while making bookings. You might have to also accept a day or so with zero activity due to the weather . Organizers are extremely accommodating to this fact and rescheduling or refunds are done with zero fuss . I've mentioned what activities are rain dependent through the blog

North island obviously is slightly warmer than the south island and the weather in North Island is more predictable.


Car Rentals in North and South Island

As stated earlier, driving has to be an integral part of any trip and that called for hiring a car - The planning had to be done and bookings needed to be done in advance to get good cars / deals.

New Zealand has Right Hand Drive and thus they accept Indian Driving License to allow you to drive in New Zealand for 12 months

There are a few rental car companies and they allow you to drop off at a different city from the one where you hired it. Few of the best are
1) Jucy
2) Go Rental
3) Apex car Rentals
4) Omega Car Rentals
5) Avis (considered to be the best - but they charge quite a premium)

We used 2 companies - Go Rental - For the South Island and Apex Car Rentals for the North Island - Only point of decision making was the cost

For the Tucson in South Island we paid Rs 35,000 for 8 days and for the Ford Focus in South Island we paid Rs 13,000 for 4 days

Day wise itinerary

Wellington had to be our start and end point, so this was how the itennary panned out.

Day 1: Flight to Wellington (through Singapore & Canberra)
Day 2: Arrive in Wellington - Dinner and ambling around
South Island
Day 3: Wellington to Christchurch - Christchurch to Twizel
Day 4: Twizel to Mt. Cook and back
Day 5: Twizel to Queenstown via Wanaka
Day 6: Queenstown - Activities
Day 7: Queenstown to Milford Sound
Day 8: Queenstown to Franz Josef glacier
Day 9: Franz Josef to Punakaki
Day 10: Punakaki to Christchurch to Auckland
North Island
Day 11: Auckland to Hamilton
Day 12: Hamilton to Rotorua
Day 13: Rotorua to Taupo
Day 14: Taupo to Taranaki to Wellington
Day 15: Wellington to Cape Palliser light house
Day 16: Wellington & Fly back
Day 17: Back to Mumbai

Drive Maps for both South and North Island
(Please note: The actual distance covered is more than depicted due to other locations visited - Will mention in the day wise travel details.)

South Island Drive Map
Bonhomie in New Zealand - 5000 kms in 15 days-south-island-route.jpg

North Island Drive Map
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There is an option to take your car across the sea between north and south island, but we chose to fly to Christchurch and from Christchurch to Auckland as that would give us 2 extra days and it also worked out to be cheaper than moving across in the Inteislander Fairy.

So here starts an epic 17 day trip to the south of the earth !

Last edited by varunraizada : 13th January 2018 at 18:55.
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Old 11th December 2017, 23:40   #2
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Default Day 1 to Day 3

Day 1 - 15 Oct

It was exciting as this is the first time we entered the check in line for an international flight at Mumbai. They checked our visas and checked us in. Both Australian and the New Zealand visas were checked and as we had Singapore Airlines flights from Mumbai to Singapore and Singapore to Wellington (with a halt at Canberra) our luggage was checked in and we would receive it in Wellington !

Changi Airport is a nice place to spend as much time as you want! I would suggest taking a 6 hour layover option if you have one - There are spas, movie theaters, gardens, food outlets etc and except for the food almost everything is free

Day 2 - 16 Oct

We reached Wellington after a long 20 hour journey to be greeted by our friend at the airport. We moved around the city and were quite amazed at the lovely city !

Wellington is considered to be one the most windiest cities in the world and out of every 5 flights that attempt to land on a a windy day, 1 needs to reattempt !

The time difference between New Zealand and India is 7.5 hours. Thanks to the regular meals in the plane, we hardly experienced any jetlag. (May be it was excitement). We also decided not to fall asleep till at least 10pm local time so that our next day would not be spent recovering from the jet lag.

Day 3 - 17 Oct

We took an early morning flight out from Wellington to Christchurch.
We booked Air New Zealand from Wellington to Christchurch although it was not the cheapest fare. This is because - JetStar (the cheapest option) has baggage limitations and we were traveling heavy. Please keep this in mind while making your bookings for domestic New Zealand travel.

We landed in Christchurch at around 9.30 and were taken by a shuttle to the Go Rentals office where we were to receive our car for the trip. Our ride for the South Island was a brand new Hyundai Tucson Petrol which had done about 1100kms so far, white in colour and in pristine condition - All ticks for an SUV

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Road Map for the day

Bonhomie in New Zealand - 5000 kms in 15 days-day-1-map.jpg

We started off from Christchurch and our first stop was to be Lake Tekapo, one of the most famous lakes of South Island, known for it's beauty with snow capped mountains encompassing the water body with water absolutely blue in colour.

Well, the journey was as good as the destination and it was a lovely drive to lake Tekapo. Little did we know that things were just getting started

It was the first time in my life that I encountered a dilema .. the beauty was so encompassing that concentration on driving seemed like a distraction ! I was as happy sitting on the passenger seat as I was driving ! (Trust me lot of you will feel exactly this way) .. I managed to capture a little beauty on view and did it in a moving vehicle. Pics do no justice to this place ! (Suggestion is to view these pics in full screen to really appreciate the awesomeness)

In pics : enroute lake Tekapo from Christchurh.

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Caution : As lovely as they may look, New Zealand has a high penalty of venturing out onto the railway tracks. If caught in the act, a penalty of $20,000 will be levied. Thus the below pic was taken (even though I was tempted to brake rules from a distance)

Bonhomie in New Zealand - 5000 kms in 15 days-train-tack.jpg

Being one of the most visited places in New Zealand, we reached Lake Tekapo and found only the 4 of us to the beautiful view. We spent 2 hours clicking pictures and soaking in the beauty of the place. Some pics of Lake Tekapo

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40kms towards Twizel, you will encounter Lake Pukaki. It's another beautiful lake, but this time with the mountains seeming a little bit closer. Can't miss this one for sure.

Visitor / Information Center
In New Zealand, every attraction has a visitor center / information center where you would have access to basic information, a wash room, some snacks and normally a majestic view. So do watch out for these when you are on the move.

The area is called Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve and is one of the eleven international dark sky preserves that is certified by the IDA (International Dark Sky Association). In any dark sky preserve, there is a restriction on the artificial lighting permissible in the region. This is done to mainly promote astronomy and help observatories.

Link for your reference : http://www.darksky.org/idsp/reserves/aorakimackenzie/

We earmarked the Lake Pukaki Visitor Center as an ideal place for our stargazing in the night. We have options for Stargazing at Lake Tekapo but we did not feel the need for a guided tour of the stars. All we wanted to do was have some nice pictures.

In Pics : Enroute to Lake Pukaki from Lake Tekapo

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Some pics of Lake Pukaki

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We moved to Twizel and realized that all shops and restaurants shut down by about 6pm in the evening. Please keep this in mind wherever you go as the country shuts down pretty early each day.

We were late and kept enjoying our views given the fact that the sun light was present right upto 8pm in the evenings !

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Place of Stay

We stayed only at AirBnB locations for our entire stay and it was a lovely experience. The only thing is that we needed to arrange for all our meals. You might get a few cereals in breakfast but don't expect much.

Our AirBnB home in Twizel was a lovely cosy home with 3 bedrooms and a huge hall. For your reference, please check out the below link

I will rate the place a good 4 out of 5 - Only losing out on the replenishment of cereals and tea bags etc for the second day of our stay

https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/16531872

We were too tired to make it out to our stargazing spot so that was postponed to the next day

Last edited by varunraizada : 18th December 2017 at 23:41.
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Old 18th December 2017, 23:57   #3
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Default Day 4 : Mt Cook

Day 4

We woke up to a beautiful Twizel morning and started off early (post wrapping up breakfast), for Lake Tekapo again - This is where most of the action is

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Enroute to the Church of Good Shepherd, we encountered a spot at Lake Tekapo which we had not visited on the previous day. We clicked some pictures there

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That's me and my wife on the left and our friends on the right

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Church of Good Shepherd was our next stop which is walking distance from this point of Lake Tekapo. We spent some time at the Church of Good Shepherd . This is a church having historic value at the banks of Lake Tekapo. The scenic beauty of Lake Tekapo is just mesmerizing from wherever you look at it.

In Pics : Lake Tekapo from Church of Good Shepherd

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During our research, we had found a scenic route online where the roads were unpaved but smooth for about 50 kms leading upto the mouth of a river (The Mcaulay River). It was a must do for us and we started moving down that route. You bet, taking the car through that road was completely worth it !

Well, we did reach the point shown in Google Maps, but did not find anything to walk towards. We were quite pleased though with the beautiful drive, that we just turned around and made our way back

In pics : various locations through the gravel road with our ride

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We did not try to do anything special for this picture ... Even a 30kmph speed was causing this ! I asked my friend to drive while I got off to click this

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Back to Lake Tekapo and we grabbed a quick bite. There's no special New Zealand cuisine so we ate wherever we found a decent looking place. As it is we were more interested in th places to visit !

Starting from Lake Tekapo we quickly headed towards Aroki Mount Cook and had to go through one of the most beautiful National Park of the country

National Parks in New Zealand is a concept very different from what we have in India . These are acres of space that are scenic and conserved from habitation .. no enclosed area , just open land with KMS of roads screaming through the beauty

In pics : Aroki Mount Cook national park

Video :

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We headed towards Aroki Mount Cook village where we had planned for our first walk !

Walks

New Zealand as a country believes in fitness ! People walk kms after kms to see sights that are even more beautiful than the beauty that is visible everywhere (well yes , the country is blessed)

People walk a minimum of about 10 kms a day. And the jogs and runs are additional. Fitness is a way of life in New Zealand and oh we felt quite unhealthy in between them all. To make life easier for people completing walks, there are no snakes or rodents or any wild life predators present there. The only animals you will see are sheep , some deer species and cow

So, if you ever plan a visit to this country , please ensure you prepare for 2 to 3 months on your fitness and stamina to really visit places that are unexplored

We started our walk towards Kea Point although we first planned a Hooker valley walk which we gave up keeping in mind the difficulty levels and our fitness

In pics : enroute Kea Point on foot

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The walk was across easy terrain with a few hikes here and there but in general can be completed quite comfortably by everyone attempting it

It was getting dark now and our excitement to explore our stargazing spot was evident on our faces .

We finished our dinner and moved to our spot .

Last edited by varunraizada : 13th January 2018 at 16:38. Reason: Fixing issue... will reply with more info in this thread. Thanks!
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Old 21st December 2017, 23:54   #4
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Default The night of day 4 and day 5

It was pitch dark with only a small bulb glowing outside the information centre . It was chilly at 6 degrees outside and we photography maniacs came out of our car with tripods and cameras .

The stars looked unbelievably brightly lit .. I've never s en the stars so bright and that's solely because of the dark sky preserve with almost nil light pollution

Our foreground was our car and the results are below

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Another beautiful day came to a draw and we headed back again to our Airbnb and crashed

Day 5

It was time to say good bye to the lovely small town of Twizel and head towards Queenstown, one of the most beautiful city of New Zealand

Bonhomie in New Zealand - 5000 kms in 15 days-day-3-map.jpg

Wanaka, another tourist's hotspot in the south island needed more than just one visit, so we routed our Queenstown journey from Twizel through and via Wanaka to visit the famous Wanaka Lake

Enroute, we found a non assuming board mentioning Clay Cliffs and like wanderers, we turned right and towards the clay cliffs.

This has a guarded entrance and it offers a beautiful drive around a small cliff. We reached the entrance, but gave it a skip. Although, we experience what New Zealand is all about ! Sheep wandering across the road and as per the rules of the country, you have to wait till all of them make way and are off the road. It's a crime to honk at sheep crossing the road in New Zealand.

They took their own sweet time and after a minute or so, we were cleared.



In Pics : Enroute Clay Cliffs, the entrance and the sheep crossing the road.

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In Pics: Enroute Wanaka from Twizel - Again a lovely drive

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The planes landing in Queenstown is a sight for the pilots they say. Spot the plane landing in this pic

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We reached Wanaka and this, as per New Zealand standards, was quite a crowded spot, but we did not have to do much to click pics without any crowd disturbing us.

In Pics : Wanaka Lake

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Wanaka Tree - Well, this is a unique tree that survives inside the water and leaves out into the open. This is a famous photography point and we did not want to miss it

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It's easy to miss this as it is right at the end of the parking area - It's advisable to drive down till the end to catch the spot. The tree is not visible from the parking spot, so trust the GPS and just move in towards the lake

Being quite commercialized, we found lots and lots of eating joints along the lake. We ate at an Afghani joint just close to Subway and the rolls were quite India like

Queenstown to Glenorchy

We had read a lot about the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy online and we wanted to experience that before doing anything else in Queenstown.

I was driving and the road is quite narrow to stop for pics, so here's the one stop we managed to stop.

It's a lovely drive along the Lake Wakatipu with mountains enveloping both the banks of the river. It's a majestic experience.

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We made our way back to Queenstown and we wanted to catch the view from the Skyline Hotel for which we had to go through a Gondola.

The activities and pricing is mentioned in the link below.

https://www.skyline.co.nz/en/queenst...nstown-prices/

Here's the view from the top of the Skyline Restaurant

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You can see planes taking off too !!

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We only did the Gondola ride and skipped the Dinner as we planned to do it in Furg's Burger - This is one of the oldest Burger shops in Queenstown and there is a waiting period of a minimum of 20mins after your order - The que for the order itself takes about 10 to 12 mins (on a good and less crowded day), but it is just worth it. Extremely tasty and filling

https://www.tripadvisor.in/Restauran...th_Island.html

We moved to our stay place at Queenstown - Another AirBnB and this was a house of a retired couple with us having private access to our two rooms and private bathrooms and toilets

In New Zealand, people are ok with shared bathrooms and the concept of a private bathroom is not a deal breaker unlike our culture of a private one here in India. So you would find houses - 3BHK with one bathroom ! Different culture

Following is the link to our stay at Queenstown.

https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/7620713

Another day ends and wow, the beauty was just getting started !

Last edited by varunraizada : 13th January 2018 at 18:04.
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Old 25th December 2017, 13:09   #5
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Default Day 6 - 20 October

Day 6 - Activities

We had planned for activities on this day and again, the nature Gods were kind to us with a lovely sunny day. Although, everyone was not doing each of the activity, but the view and the experience itself was like going though it oneself

1) Scenic Helicopter Ride
2) Sky Diving
3) Bungee Jumping

As the norm has been created so far, the day starts off with the drive and here are some pics of the road.

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Helicopter Ride

The helicopter ride was about 30kms from Queenstown towards Wanaka where you have open fields and the airspace is mostly clear from commercial flight. Still, they need to take permission from the air traffic controllers in Queensland before any flight.

We booked Heliview as our service providers for the flight where we were getting a 45 mins flight with Alpine Landing which was the key for us.

There is a site called www.groupon.com where there are a number of deals that keep coming up if you are flexible with your timings and you have to book at least a month in advance. We got a deal for NZD 165 per person instead of a rack rate of NZD 299 per person. Heliview is a family run business and the husband and wife manage the entire show - Richard flies the helicopter while Jolanda manages almost everything else there is to a wonderful experience.

I would rate the overall experience a 5 on 5 and the following aspects as well
1) Safety instructions and precautions : 5 out of 5 - Jolanda briefed us before getting onto the flight as well as when we had boarded. Richard repeated the instructions when on board
2) Professionalism : 5 out of 5 - Every process was followed to the T and it never felt as if this a family run affair. They were superb in terms of execution
3) Friendliness and warmth : 5 out of 5 - Richard was the reserved kinds, while Jolanda made sure we felt at home by being humourous and friendly while we were waiting for take off and also after landing. We were also treated to nice hot chocolate and coffee and a lovely chat on the history of how Heliview came into being.

In Pics: Clicks from the helicopter and alpine landing

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Yeah - That's an original Holden Jacket I am wearing

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This was the first time we took a helicopter ride and it was an experience I will never forget all my life ! Heliview offers a Pen drive with the video (taken on gopro attached to the bottom of the helicopter) and the photographs that Richard takes when the helicopter lands for 50 NZD and it is worth taking ! Those videos are a must have to relive the entire flight !

Here's a PDF about Heliview giving details about the flight and company

About Heliview Flights.pdf

Sky Diving

We chose Wanaka Sky Dive as the place to do the sky dive. Only my wife was to do it as I was too scared and both my friends had already done it.

If you are not too scared, I suggest it is a must do and a once in a lifetime thing. Best place to sky dive in New Zealand is Queenstown or Wanaka as the views are similar and consist of mountains, lakes, rivers and green fields.

I stood there and enjoyed my photo clicking session

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Bungy Jumping

Only one of us had the courage to do this ! All others were too scared to go anywhere close.

We chose AJ Hackett Bungy which is one of the oldest Bungy in New Zealand and has presence in France as well.

They are experts and know exactly what to do and say. I think it is also a lot about counselling once the person is right at the edge and about to take the leap. It's a tough job !

This Bungy has the option of water dip too !

In Pics : Random Jumps captured

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Post the 3 activities, we just wanted to relax and we strolled around the Queenstown market to end the day and a lovely evening it was .

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We stayed the night again at Queenstown

Last edited by varunraizada : 26th December 2017 at 00:03.
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Old 26th December 2017, 00:37   #6
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Default Day 7 - 21 October

Day 7

Arguably on this day, we saw the most scenic views that New Zealand had to offer. Believe me, the pictures (especially from this day) do very little justice to what was on offer.

Milford Sound !

The drive to Milford and the place in itself are wonders of the world !

Options for travel

There are quite a few options to visit Milford

1) Drive down
2) Bus trip - These buses are different, they have glass tops and allow you to enjoy the views etc. These buses take you from Queenstown to Milford Sound, include a cruise and dinner and bring you back.
3) Scenic flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound , Cruise and back either by the flight or bus

However tempting options 2 and 3 might be, being the car enthusiasts that we are, a scenic drive cannot be done on a bus or even a flight. We had to drive and believe me it was super special.

Fiordland National Park has an avalanche area and it is rated New Zealand's most scenic national park to drive through.

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The best way to see Milford Sound is by taking a cruise through right upto the Tasman sea and back - This is a 2 hour curise and it goes through the mountains and takes you through waterfalls and gets you back. If you are lucky, you can also see seals and dolphins in the water !

We booked our cruise again through the groupon website and we chose the Mitre Peak cruises for our cruise.

In Pics : Enroute Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park

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We thought we had seen it all with the lovely valley views, but then we came across Mirror Lakes ! The reflection truly made sure it did complete justice to its name.

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Further, here are some of the pics from the cruise

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This region is formed through volcanic activity and it experiences about 1500 minor and major earthquakes every year ! That's about 4 every day ! You will hardly know though as you are on the cruise

The drive back through the avalanche area was something just out of the world. We were soaked in the beauty and just could not believe our eyes at the beauty. The pictures below speak only 10% of the story that those mountains had to speak !

Sadly, in the avalanche area, stopping enroute was not permitted. There were only few sections where you can stop and I did manage to click some pictures.

But the drive experience was something I have never experienced before. It's a must do !

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This is one thing everyone visiting New Zealand must do.

The good part about Milford Sound is that this is weather independent. If it rains, the place looks even more beautiful with the fog and the clouds that settle ontop of the peaks !

We closed in on Queenstown and another magnificent day of beauty came to a wrap. A lovely 600kms drive and cruise right upto Tasman sea.



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Old 26th December 2017, 23:54   #7
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Default Day 8

Day 8

It was time to leave Queenstown and move to the glacier region on the west coast. The weather needed to be really good for the glaciers to be explored, but sadly, this was the first time on our trip that weather played spoil sport. It started raining in the morning and just continued all through till the evening till we reached Franz Josef Glacier region.

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With the weather not supporting us, we planned on visiting the toy and transport museum of New Zealand at Wanaka.

You will be surprised to see the collection in this museum and for us car lovers, there are at least 1000 cars on display - You can easily spend a day in the museum and it would still not be enough ! It looked quite non assuming in the beginning but it kept going on and on.

If you are on a tight schedule, do rush through most of the places

Here are few of the selected pics in the museum

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It took us more than 3.5 hours to complete the entire museum and I would suggest some more time allocated to this if you are into history and collectibles.

The entrance fee was 18 NZD per person and I would recommend this to be seen

Enroute, there is a lookout named Lake Hawea Lookout - A must stop here

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By then the weather was slightly better with only slight drizzles here and there, so we decided to visit the Blue Pools walk very close to Wanaka on the way towards Franz Josef.

It is worth doing that walk. It has lovely forest and a beautiful river flowing.

It started raining again during our walk, so I could not click too many pictures but it was a lovely experience

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Here are some pics enroute Franz Josef

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On reaching Franz Josef Glacier, there was no chance for a glacier visit due to the rains, we decided to experience the Hot Water Pools in the glacier area. We chose "Glacier Hot Pools" for this experience

There are seperate pools at different temperatures and you can move from one pool to the other as and when you get comfortable with one temperature.

Note : These are artificially warmed pools and thus are quite hygenic. Further, I will share details of naturally warmed pools which we also visited

The entrance for the main pools is 28NZD per person and you can use the facilities for as long as you want.

There are options for private pools too which cost 95 NZD and can accommodate a maximum of 4 people

Link for your reference.

https://www.glacierhotpools.co.nz/

This ended another lovely day, albeit which meant we had to sacrifice our original plan of visiting the glaciers.

We stayed at a Farm House again booked through AirBnB.

https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/7347089

Last edited by varunraizada : 27th December 2017 at 00:41.
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Old 29th December 2017, 00:27   #8
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Default Day 9 - 22 October

Day 9

We were hopeful for better weather which would allow us to visit the glaciers, but to our dismay, it was a gloomy morning for a walk / trip into the glacier, so sadly we had to skip the glacier walk

For those who get the opportunity, there are 2 walks that you must do, weather permitting : 1) Lake Matheson 2) Franz Josef Glacier Walk

We planned to go right upto the starting points for both the walks and this is what we saw.

At the starting point of lake Matheson walk

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This is where we walk to reach the Franz Josef Glacier. How we wanted to do this walk !

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We were quite facinated with the Kiwi Bird and wanted to see the kiwi so we decided to do that in Franz Josef with the weather outside playing spoil sport

Sadly we could not click pics of the kiwi and they needed a dark environment to survive .

http://www.wildkiwi.co.nz/

Entry fee is $35 per person and when you see what all the government does for the kiwi, you feel the 35NZD is worth contributing to that effort.

We were also able to see the Tuatara - Only species to survive since the Dinosaur era.

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The following were sculptures - How real they look

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We then started on our trip along the west coast to Punakaiki where we were to see the Pancake rocks

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No pics enroute as it was a rainy day and visibility was quite poor.

Pancake rocks are something you will not get to witness too often. Luckily, the weather had settled and the rain had stopped. Although, it was completely overcast and the magnificent blue sky was a pale grey - The pan cake rocks and the sea looks really different with the sun out (as per people who have visited it earlier)

Few pics from Pan cake rocks

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We decided to hit the bed early as the next day was the last day of our South Island trip and we had a long day to go.

We spent good time with our AirBnB hosts for the day . It is a lovely farm house with a private cabin for the guests where the 4 of us enjoyed our stay.

https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/13238829

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Old 29th December 2017, 01:26   #9
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Default Day 10 - 24 October

Day 10

This was again going to be a lovely scenic drive from Punakaiki to Christchurch through Arthur's Pass National Park, which again is considered to be one of most beautiful places in South Island and yeah, it surely was.

We started off early as we needed to be at Christchurch by 4pm. We had a flight to Auckland (North Island) at 7pm and our friends would head back to work at Wellington and had their flight at 7.30pm

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The below pic shows a bridge that is a single lane bridge which is used by cars as well as trains.

The drivers are extremely disciplined and follow the "Give Way" rule to the T. If a train approaches, cars need to give way and stay off the bridge.

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Some pics enroute Arthur's Pass

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As you can see in the pics below, the train track runs extremely close to the road, with no barriers etc and people are extremely disciplined not to cross over etc

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And then we entered my favourite part of the entire loop we were about to complete in South Island - Arthur's Pass National Park

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There were some areas in Arthur's Pass National park, where roads were under construction - This caused the speed limit to be reduced to 20kmph and only one lane movement at a time, so we faced a 5 minute delay (huge by New Zealand Standards), but the views were awesome

On moving ahead, we came across an unassuming place with a lake on the left side of the road and we stopped by to explore. This turned out to be Lake Grasmere Wildlife reserve - We only saw a wild rabbit run across the walk track for "wildlife"

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These were views of the road.

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As we approached Christchurch, the views started becoming more city like (as compared to the rest of New Zealand) and we started clicking lesser pics

So, this ended our South Island trip as we flew out from Christchurch to Auckland.

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Default Day 11 - North Island trip starts

North Island

We landed in Auckland at about 8pm and we had opted for extend hours for collecting our car. We chose a Ford Focus for the north island drive.

Our North Island drive was a one way drive from Auckland to Wellington as we had our flight back from Wellington.

(Sorry for the poor image quality)
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We opted for Apex Car Rentals (the tried and tested rental car company) for our North Island car and the checkin experience was awesome. We got a pick up from Auckland airport in the aftermarket hours (around 8.45pm) and our car was ready with the keys handed over. No signatures etc were taken - This just shows the culture of trust the New Zealanders have on people in general.

We moved out of the Apex parking lot and into the supermarket next door. Shopped for a few groceries and checked into our AirBnB for the night

https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/17299209

This was one of the most satisfying stays in New Zealand - A beautiful cozy private cottage with a separate entrance and lovely hosts.

Day 11

This was the first day with just the 2 of us and again, we started off as per the plan

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The first thing one will notice here is that the North Island looks completely different from South Island. The two islands are like 2 different countries. Where the South Island is about lakes and mountains and nature's majesty, the north island is all about farms, hillocks, volcanoes and culture

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We moved to our first destination which was Ngarunui beach close to Raglan. This beach is extremely famous for it's large waves and the opportunity it provides for surfing.

It was a beautiful and clean beach and we move over to the lookout to click some pictures. Both of us are not the "adventure" kinds, so we gave the surfing a miss.

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We moved ahead towards Toto Gorge Lookout - This is a spot right on the top of a cliff and right below is the sea crashing into the rocks ! It's a sight to behold.

The roads to Toto Gorge are unpaved and go through a dense forest cover. As soon as the dense tree cover reduces, you will find the lookout point. There is also a walking track that takes you higher to the peak from where surely the view would be even more majestic, but we were satisfied only with the lookout point !



In Pics : Enroute and view from Toto Gorge Lookout

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Although the roads were unpaved, the views were just amazing. Sadly I could not click any pics as I was driving all through.

Post Toto Gorge Lookout, we headed towards the Bridal Veil Falls. These is a huge waterfall and has 3 lookout points - View from the top (image below), a view from the center and then a view from the bottom of the water fall. The parking area is at level with the spot to view the water fall from the top.

We being the "healthy" kinds, only went upto the middle view point and huffed our way back to the parking. The falls were fiercely

In Pics : Walk towards Bridal Veil Falls and the falls itself.

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Post the bridal veil falls, we wanted to head back to Hamilton Gardens as we had read online would close down by 6pm.

The gardens are a marvel in themselves with themes of various countries being put together.

The entry is free to the gardens and we were mistaken about the timing. The closure time was of the information centre and not the gardens in themselves.

Allot at least 2 hours to the gardens to really appreciate everything. We rushed ourselves to complete it in 45 mins and how I wish we had spent little more time.

In Pics : Few locations of Hamilton Gardens

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Our AirBnB for the night was a few kms west of Hamilton in a place called Te Kowhai and this was another farm stay. The hosts were super warm and spoke about their entire family history etc and were quite enthused about how our love marriage was accepted in our Indian Culture

In this stay, we actually realized what NZ culture is all about - The warmth and respect the culture has for human beings is just brilliant !

The link to our stay is below

https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/15088794

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Old 3rd January 2018, 00:54   #11
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Default Day 12 - Hamilton to Rotorua

Day 12

The day started off extremely gloomy with heavy rains lashing down in their glory. We feared losing out on the day to weather and had the Hobbitton tour planned for the day.

We spent 1 hour with our hosts chatting about various things and luckily the weather improved. It stopped raining which gave us the opportunity to move out.

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We saw the worst traffic in New Zealand in Hamilton as the number of round abouts in the city were the maximum we encountered in the entire country and the "Give Way" rule at round abouts caused jams. (Please read jams as a relative term and the jams meant congestion for 1 or 1.5 mins and not the 1.5 hrs congestions we are used to in Mumbai

It's a beautiful drive to Hobbiton through lovely lush fields. The weather thankfully stayed at bay, but conditions were still overcast.

The tour entry fee is 79 NZD per person

Brief history of the Hobbiton movie set was explained firstly. This is actually a huge farm called the Alexander's Farm and it was rented out to the LOTR trilogy for creating the epic Hobbiton !

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We were treated to a complementary drink before being escorted back to the information and ticketing centre. I think Hobbiton is a must do for anyone visiting New Zealand.

Then we started moving towards Rotorua

Again, the drive is superb with lovely views enroute, but only limited places to stop over for some pictures. We moved towards Blue and Green Lakes

In Pics : Various Lookouts enroute Blue and Green Lakes

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This is an extremely interesting point where there are 2 lakes separated by a small hillock and due to the placement and the light reflections and refractions, one of them appears green and the other appears blue.

You might not be able to make out in the picture attached, but seeing is believing

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We moved over to check in to our AirBnB for the evening and this one was very different from the rest of the places that we had stayed during our trip. This was right in the middle of the city and we were hosted by a Chinese couple where we found zero intrusion and quite a transactional interaction.

https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/20542663

Post checking in, our day had not ended. We had heard a lot about the natural hot water pools (Remember the hot water pool we experienced in Franz Josef was an artificial pool). The most famous of the ones in and around Rotorua was the Waimangu Volanic Valley hot pools. This was around 45 kms from our stay but the experience was well worth the drive.

Photography is not permitted in the pool area so no pics here.

You would find the hygiene levels in natural pools to be slightly lower than the artificial pools as this water is untreated and naturally heated by the volcanic activity in the region. The pools are drained out every evening at 9pm and filled in again at 9am although the water keeps flowing through the day from and into the wild.

It's an experience one should definitely not miss. The entry for this was 19 NZD per person

We left the pools at around 9pm and on our way back to Rotorua , we encountered about 20kms of pitch darkness and forest. It was quite scary but we always had at the back of our minds that NZ is rated one of the safest and crime free countries in the world

We had a lovely night's sleep thanks to the hot water bath we took.

Last edited by varunraizada : 3rd January 2018 at 01:17.
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Old 7th January 2018, 17:58   #12
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Default Day 13 - Rotorua to Lake Taepo

Day 13

Another day which started off with little rain, but went one to become a nice day with the sun eventually coming through.

Our plan for the day was

1) Redwoods Tree walk
2) Wai o Tapu thermal park
3) Hukka Falls
4) Lake Taupo
5) As much of Tongariro National Park that we could cover

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The Redwoods Tree Walk is in Rotorua inside the city. It's a unique experience where you walk on bridges designed especially by German engineers for safety.

If you have the chance, do this tree walk in the night. The experience is just super awesome. Sadly, I had not researched on the timings, but Had we known about the option of doing this in the night as well, we would have done this twice !

The prices for the tree walk is NZD 25 for a single walk (day or night) and NZD 35 for a combo (both walks included). I'll definitely suggest the combo to everyone. It's a must do.

New Zealand as it is, we were the only ones on the walk that morning so we had all the opportunities to take photographs. But rain was intermittent and spoilt the mood on many occasions.

http://www.treewalk.co.nz/en_US/

Few pics from the Walk

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These are hanging lanterns with lights in them. They are switched on for the night walks ! It's definitely a must do

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Once we were done with the walk we headed straight towards the Wai o Tapu Thermal Park .

New Zealand North Island is an island having a lot of active volcanic activity - The sight of which is on clear display in the Wai o Tapu Thermal Park

Again, like I have mentioned earlier, this is another activity which you would not find anywhere else too easily. It's an experience you will remember for some time.

Some pics from the Wai o Tapu Thermal Park

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We then moved towards Lake Taupo and the super famous Hukka Falls.

The Huka Falls is almost a horizontal water fall and it is shocking to see the speed at which the water gushes through.

It's a beautiful sight and I've tried to capture it. Below are few pictures of Huka Falls

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We moved towards Lake Taupo and the various lookout points on the way. Below are few of the pictures.

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Last edited by varunraizada : 8th January 2018 at 23:26.
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Old 9th January 2018, 00:15   #13
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Default Day 13 and 14

Day 13 - Contd

We were on our way to check in to our AirBnB for the evening, we encountered a board towards Tongariro National Park - This has mountains with active volcanoes. We just moved in as wanderes, hoping to get a view of some mountain volcanic activity

There is a long 6 hour walk towards the alpine crossing which is supposed to be one of the best hikes in New Zealand. We did not have time for that and I'll keep that for next time !

It was beauty all around, and we were lucky enough to get a view of the mountains and a little bit of volcanic activity.

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We moved towards our AirBnB for the evening and this time it was a cozy little cabin right in the garden of the small little home with dogs and cats living in harmony together. The below view was at about 2 mins walk from our host's home.

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https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/16124985

For dinner we went back into the city of Taupo and ate at an Indian restaurant

Day 14

This was a day when I could manage to click only 1 picture due to 2 reasons.

1) We travelled almost 650 kms in about 10 hrs
2) It was raining for almost the entire day

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We started off from Turangi and went through the "Forgotten World Highway" . The road has zero commercial stops for 145 kms (thus the name forgotten world).

The road runs through dense trees and is a serene drive.

About 45 kms of the 145kms is gravel road. Be extremely careful when driving as the gravel road has sudden turns and almost U bends. It can become really slippery when turning on the gravel.

The weather did not support us on this day and it kept raining ! We reached Taranaki and tried to locate Mt. Taranaki.

The skies were so overcast that we could not even catch a glimpse of Mount Taranaki even after driving through right upto Cape Egmont Lighthouse. The views of Mt. Taranki are mostly awesome from here

Below is the link on how Mount Taranki looks like from Cape Egmont and below the link is the pic we took

https://www.google.com/search?tbm=is....0.rIEVK9cJuKw

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5 mins outside the car and it started raining again. We started for Wellington along the west coastal road of North Island and it was a nice feeling. With non rainy conditions, the views would have been super awesome.

On our way to Wellington, we stopped for coffee and the shop was owned by an Indain, who over the last 5 years had created 10 properties in New Zealand and had shifted his entire family to New Zealand. We spent some time chatting with him (in Hindi) and he refused to take money for the coffee.

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We reached Wellington and returned the car. We had dinner and ended the day after a nice conversation with our friends.

Yeah, our AirBnB for the day was our friend's house

Our Plan for the next day was to head to Cape Palliser, the southern most tip of the North island. It was a Sunday, so both of friends would accompany us.

Last edited by varunraizada : 10th January 2018 at 00:35.
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Old 10th January 2018, 01:14   #14
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Default Day 15 and 16

Day 15

Below is the route.

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We started early and encountered some beautiful landscapes on the way to Cape Palliser. This route connects Wellington to the east coast of North Island and is an important route.

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There was a coastal drive of around 15 to 20 kms and it was really awesome, before we saw the lighthouse

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And woah, we found a beach where seals rest ! There was an entire colony of seals at the beach. There were hundreds of seals and sometimes they were extremely close as well.

A word of caution is to be extremely careful amongst the rocks due to their ability of camouflage and laziness - A rock from a distance would suddenly reveal a seal sleeping on it. Seal bites don't heal well as the bacteria they transfer are deadly.

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Post seal watching, we moved towards the light house. There are about 300 steep stairs that need to be climbed to reach the light house, but the view from up there is simply majestic. Don't carry too much weight on you as the steps are not too wide and while getting down, you need all the balance .. You can also see snow capped mountains (part of South Island) in the distance

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Post a little snack, we headed back towards Wellington where we went to the Macra Hill which is a Windmill Farm and from this farm, there are a number of other Windmill farms available.

Wellington, is one of the windiest city in the world, and no wonder Wind Mills are present in huge quantity in the capital city

Of course, New Zealand farms without sheep is impossible. We got to get up close with the sheep grazing around and they were more interested in the lush green grass than us. Some pics of the Windmill

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We ended our day with another dinner in the CBD area.

The next day would be our day to fly out ! We had mixed feelings as 15 days away from home was a first for both of us.

Last edited by varunraizada : 11th January 2018 at 22:05.
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Old 11th January 2018, 23:08   #15
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Default Day 16 - Time to get back home

Day 16

Monday and our friends needed to go for work as they ran out of leaves with us around

This gave us the opportunity to use the public transport within the city. Pardon me for the pics as I did not carry my camera - so phone camera was used.

We did the following

1) Took the public transport - Bus and went over for a cable car ride
2) Took the cable car ride and saw the cable car museum
3) Weta Workshop
4) Took the flight back

Public transport - Bus

If you have to do at least 3 to 4 trips through buses, taking a daily pass will work out cheaper. A daily pass that can be used across all bus routes in the city costs 10 NZD and a single trip costs between 3 to 5 NZD. The bus driver suggested us to go for the daily pass and it saved us about 20 NZD through the day after we did all our encounters.

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We got down in the middle of CBD (Central Business District) and this was the only occasion where we saw a working day in this beautiful country. Formally dressed and rushing from one building to another with coffee in one hand and their laptop in the other, it was life as we know it

Cable Car

The cable car was one of the most important means of transport in Wellington that took passengers to the top of a hill and connected the CBD. This is now sparingly used and is mainly only a tourist attraction.

https://www.wellingtonnz.com/discove...ton-cable-car/

A standard pic clicked by me too !
The cable car drops you off at the top of the hill where there is a Cable car museum, a garden and a zoo. We went into the museum only which talks about the history of the cable car in Wellington and has sample cars and an actual old cable car on display. The problem is photography is not allowed.

We let one cable car go when we had to return as we wanted to click the below pics

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The return journey costs NZD 7.5

Weta Caves

This was one of the most unique experiences we went through in our New Zealand trip. Weta is a company that makes props for Hollywood movies. They make silicon masks, faces, and creatures using plastic and rubber.

It's an absolute must do when in New Zealand. A 1 hour workshop will take you through the most amazing work of art that you would have ever witnessed.

Again, photography is not allowed in 90% of the places inside, while it is allowed in few of the places where we clicked

The price for a 45 mins to 1 hour workshop which we did is NZD 45 and is completely worth every penny !

http://wetaworkshop.com/visit-us/wor...io-tours-combo

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We were let into a room where there was a senior artist working on a piece of art that would be shifted to "one of the richest man in New Zealand" (name was not disclosed due to customer privacy)

There would be 3 parts of a tree that would be made - Every curve and contour of the tree is being hand crafted. The price too was not revealed, but he said, he won't earn that much throughout his lifetime

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This would be assembled in the garden and then painted and finished on site !

After a brilliant experience, it was then time to start preparing for our departure and we had to again take the Singapore Airlines flight back to Mumbai.

So this ended our first trip abroad !!

It was an emotional trip and a lovely trip nonetheless.

I had never thought, I'll be spending this much on an international trip, but it was well worth the money ! 17 days of majestic experiences and a lifetime of pictures and memories.

New Zealand is a country you must definitely visit once in your life time. The people, the warmth and nature's beauty is just something unseen and unheard of.

Before I end, some random points for your reference


Some random points for your reference

Short Summary
Distance Covered : Approx 5200 kms (North and South Island put together)
Days : 14 days (excluding the 3 days of travel to and from India)
Cost : Approx Rs 250000 per person

1) Review of the Tucson - Petrol
Looks : Awesome - I think this is the most majestic looking mid size SUV around. The fluidic design language of Hyundai is brilliant.
Ride Quality : Again fantastic. Although, New Zealand roads are really kind on your car, We took the car through some unpaved roads too and we did not feel a vee bit uncomfortable. The 4 of us were super comfortable all through long drives through the day. There was no requirement for an AWD option for us as 2WD worked just fine in every situation we went through.
Engine and Gearbox : The 2.0 litre NA engine just spoils all the fun that car can offer. The petrol engine is extremely sluggish and when coupled with the horrendous gearbox, you feel like you are playing NFS on a slow processor - The time to react to any command will be executed post processing for ages !
Features : Hyundai makes up for its flaws through its features. Apart from the normal features, there was seat warming on all 4 seats and top of the line music system and auto aircon with split temperature control
Space : Acres of space
Overall : Just because of the engine and gearbox I won't buy this car ! Even the diesel engine which might just about make up for the horrendous gearbox - The gearbox still screams I'm bad ! I'll rate the car a 6 on 10 only because of the engine and gearbox. Please get the CRDi one if you plan to hire the Tucson.

2) Review of Ford Focus
The ford focus carried only the two of us and is super fun to drive. This also had the 2L petrol NA engine with a fantastic auto gearbox and ample space !
It had Bluetooth which took care of the music bit while it had an auto speed limiter. This not just buzzed when I exceeded hundred, but it also ensured the speed does not exceed it. Although this has its limitations when on an incline and accelerating brutally

My overall experience for the car was a 8 on 10

3) Review of AirBnB

This was the first time that we tried out AirBnB homes and it was a brilliant experience. Every host exhibited trust as the biggest characteristic and almost handed over everything in the house to us. I would be scared to do so as a host, but that is the culture of the country I think. The hosts again were open to sitting with us and interacting and also gave us our personal space when we wanted it. We ensured that we kept the place almost as we received it - by doing the beds and keeping everything neat and where it belonged before we left

Obviously the privacy is not comparable to a hotel, but it's a brilliant experience which was a first for us.

Rated 10 out of 10

4) Driving in New Zealand

Driving in New Zealand, although similar to India in terms of the Right Hand Drive, is a completely different and humbling experience.

"Empathy" is the word that sums up the difference between the two experiences. Everyone in that country, apart from following rules to the T, shows immense empathy towards the other car.

For Example: If you give way (a rule that needs to be followed when crossing a one lane bridge or around a round about), you will find people raising their hands in acknowledgement saying "thank you". I've started doing that nowadays and get some vague reactions from people

If we start driving with empathy in India, 50 percent of our traffic jams would be over !

Personally I have changed my driving habbits and a big change I've got into my driving is that I've stopped honking. This means about 10 mins extra to reach home from office (due to people just rushing into the space ahead) and keeping safe distance to allow the auto driver to safely do his drama

I urge all us TBHP folks to show empathy to the other driver and don't expect it in return. Our roads would be a better place to drive on.

5) People in New Zealand

Few characteristics of Kiwis which we observed
a. Friendly : Extremely friendly and helpful - They will go out of their way to help you in the foreign land
b. Mostly Law Abiding : NZ is amongst the top 3 countries when it comes to lowest crime rates
c. Fitness Freaks : A country with about 50 L of population, features in the top 5 of almost every sport there is on the planet. Walking and running is as important to them as having wada pav / paneer is for us
d. Content : Everyone's content with what they have. You will find hardly anyone with a huge career ambition - Most of such individuals move to Australia / America from NZ. The lifestyle is what matters to them than the money. So you won't find too many people with fancy cars or spending extravagantly anywhere

6) Cars in New Zealand

There's no industry in New Zealand except farming and no manufacturing units. So every car is imported. The import rules are quite liberal and as the people are content individuals, most of the cars that are banned in Japan after completion of 10 years of life are imported to New Zealand and used there.
Even the new ones bought, are held onto for years and years.
So we saw various kinds of cars on the roads


Thanks for Reading the long travelogue !

Last edited by varunraizada : 13th January 2018 at 14:27.
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