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Old 9th October 2019, 14:11   #1
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Default Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island

Foreword:

Referring to my intro thread (Photologue: Journey through my lens) information gathered from T-BHP is the real motivation to plan and visit many parts of India, Nepal in the last few years. Winter trip to Ladakh, Trip to Nepal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Parts of Jammu, many places in Southern India completed successfully during recent years.

Wanted to celebrate 20 years of my work life with a unique trip to some remote location. Was quietly dreaming about this from past couple of years. Got an opportunity to visit cousin and his family at Perth, Australia. Couple of my best buddies (brother and cousin) from our regular travel group too joined. Cousin from Australia suggested week long trip to New Zealand and agreed to join in. Suddenly the family visit trip turned to a 15 days backpackers journey within Australia and neighboring New Zealand.

Brother's wife with their 3 year old son expressed willingness to join for the Australia part, covering Perth and Melbourne. She has a relative in Melbourne, so wanted to spend a few days with them.

Planning started from Jan 2019 itself. We unanimously decided mid September as the time for our trip. Reason being relatively less crowd, less chance of rain, the beginning of spring season, we were ready for the bone-chilling weather.

Teasers:

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Plane taking off from Queenstown airport

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Road next to Lake Pukaki, NZ

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Lake Tekapo, NZ

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Hooker Valley Glacier, Mt Cook National Park, NZ

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Kangaroo spotting - outskirts of Perth

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Fur Seal sunbathing at Milford, NZ

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MCG, Melbourne

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Melbourne city night view from Yarra river side

Last edited by Nempuguru : 20th October 2019 at 09:33.
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Old 9th October 2019, 15:02   #2
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Default re: Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island

Some highlights of the trip:

* This tightly packed, purely backpackers trip included 8 flights in 15 days, majority mid night or early morning flights.

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* Total distance we covered is roughly around 28,000 Kms in 15 days. Approximately 25,000 Kms air distance.

* Kuala lumpur and Perth 2.5 hours ahead of India. Sydney, Melbourne 2 hours ahead of Perth. New Zealand is 2 hours ahead of Sydney/Melbourne or 7 hours ahead of India. Planning and adjusting to different time zone is important.

* While going to Perth layover time at Kuala lumpur was 1 hr 30 mins. During return it was just 1 hr 10 mins, our arrival was 20 mins behind schedule. Still boarded the connecting flight without any issue. Thanks to supportive ground staff, same airlines, same terminal, faster security check.

* Accommodation: Stay was at Youth Hostel/Backpacker hostel, AirBNB in some places. All were good, clean, with spacious kitchen, modern facilities including heater and 24/7 hot water.

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* Skipped staying in crowded places or cities and booked our stay in village or small town in New Zealand. During immigration check one of the officers asked about this after seeing our itinerary. To that we replied "we believe real beauty of a country lies in its villages and hope it holds good for New Zealand too". Without any more questions he stamped our passports. Yes, interior parts of New Zealand beautiful indeed.

* Visa: Applied both Australian and New Zealand visa online (group visa) through their web portals. For Australia: IMMI Account; for New Zealand: Immigration Online account.

* Road trip was the highlight of this trip. Covered 2000 Kms in 7 days, traveling within South Island, starting from Queenstown and ending at Christchurch. Main route we opted:

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* Car Rental: We got Hyundai i30 Automatic for our road trip from Snap Rental. Car was relatively new, peppy, sporty and easy to drive with enough space for four. Good legroom and boot space are the highlights.

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* Navigation: We relied on Google offline maps, didn't face any issue during our journey, was accurate almost all the places. New Zealand roads are well marked with clear signage. Roads are empty excluding few cities/townships. Asking co-traveler or localite for route not really an option at least in NZ South Island.

* Fuel: NPD Fuel is cheap compared to other bunks. But these are fully self operated, not a single soul within the bunk. Situated in rural areas or city outskirts. Preferred this bunk wherever possible for refueling. Note: They deduct NZD 150 as security deposit for the initial transaction from your card. This was credited back within a day.

* Food: Being vegetarians opted self cooking, preparing breakfast and dinner. Afternoon managed with whatever veg options we got on the go or with whole wheat bread/butter and fruits.

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No, it's not instant noodle Semiya Upma and Muesli with fruits for breakfast! Backdrop: View of Wanaka lake from our room.

* Day to day shopping: For groceries like rice, pulses, veggies, fruits, milk etc preferred supermarkets like Coles, Woolworths in Australia and Countdown in New Zealand. Price was comparatively less, products were good.

* Connectivity: I had opted Jio international roaming Rs 1100 plan with Rs 1200 worth talk time. It worked within Australia and New Zealand. Call rate was Rs 10 per minute from Australia, Rs 2 per minute from New Zealand to India. Mobile data was also cheaper.

* Weather: In Perth, Melbourne weather was cool (between 7 to 14 degrees); Sydney weather was warm. New Zealand was freezing cold most of the time, during the night it was below zero in many places. At Mt Cook village and Christchurch it was raining when we visited.

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* Lucky to spot Sea Lions, Fur Seals, Dolphins, Blue Penguins, Yellow Eyed Penguins, varieties of birds in New Zealand. Spotted Kangaroos, other reptiles in the outskirts of Perth.

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* Thanks to T-BHPian "Varunraizada" for his epic New Zealand travelogue (Bonhomie in New Zealand - 5000 kms in 15 days). This gave us many insights, information on places.

Last edited by Nempuguru : 20th October 2019 at 20:59.
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Old 9th October 2019, 17:38   #3
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Default re: Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island

Tour Preparation:

As soon as the concept of trip to Down Under materialized booked Bangalore-Perth-Bangalore return ticket. We opted Malaysia Airlines with very less layover time at Kuala lumpur. This is a gamble we took as the price was much cheaper. Before booking spoke to airlines and found out that 1 hour plus layover not an issue.

Next step was how well we utilize the 15 days we got. This indeed a tough task considering all accommodations, within Australia/New Zealand plan, air travel are interlinked. It took more than a weeks time to organize itinerary. Many brainstorming sessions later concluded to a plan which was doable with relaxed way.

Tour Itinerary:

Day 0, Friday: Mid night flight from Bangalore to Perth.

Day 1: Afternoon Perth arrival.

Day 2: At Perth. Mid night flight to Melbourne.

Day 3, Day 4: Melbourne sightseeing.

Day 5: Early morning flight to Queenstown, NZ. Car rental. Travel to Wanaka and night stay.

Day 6: Wanaka, Queenstown sightseeing, stay at Te Anau.

Day 7: Milford Sound, on the way sightseeing; Milford Sound Cruise; couple of hike during return. Night stay at Gore.

Day 8: Gore, Kaka Point, Nugget point, Dunedin, Otago Peninsula.

Day 9: Sand fly bay, Dunedin. Moeraki boulders, Oamaru, Omarama.

Day 10: Lake Pukaki, Mt Cook Village. Hooker valley track; Tasman glacier hiking.

Day 11: Lake Pukaki, Lake Tekapo area exploring. Journey to Christchurch. Handing over the car.

Day 12: Early morning flight to Sydney. Sydney arrival by 8.30 AM. Local sightseeing. Night flight to Perth.

Day 13: At perth

Day 14: At Perth; night to Airport.

Day 15: 2.30 AM flight to Bangalore. Morning 10.40 Bangalore arrival.

We skipped travelling to North Island even though Tongariro Alpine Crossing trek was in our bucket list. Instead preferred road trip within South Island.

This itinerary was planned 8 months before the trip. Glad that we could stick to plan, complete the tour without any issues. Everything went on as per itinerary.

Next step was booking accommodation and other flight tickets. This took a couple of months time, helped us to manage finances in a better way. As we did booking in phased manner sorting out the finance was easier, got good offers too. By June with most of the booking completed, we were in a good position to apply for the visa.

It is better to apply for Australian visa first, and then New Zealand. Took a plunge and applied New Zealand first.

As stated above, applied through online application. Soft copies of passport, photo, to-and-fro travel tickets, plans in New Zealand, proof of income, 6 months bank statement, travel insurance, leave confirmation letter etc has to be uploaded with the application. Most important being "bonafide" section. Have to prove there is enough reason to return to our base after the trip (good financial position, family commitments, well paid job/good turnover business etc). Payment for all the applications is together, through credit card.

Once submission is done, printout of the acknowledgement and original passport of all applicants must be handed over to passport verification center (for Karnataka it was TT Services, Bangalore). They ask photocopy of all the pages of passport, scan our original passport and charge Rs 720 for verification. After this it is up to New Zealand immigration to decide on our application, they normally take 21 days to process and approve visa.

Both New Zealand and Australia have e-visa concept, no physical stamping on passport.

After obtaining New Zealand visa, applied for Australian visa. Process was similar, we had invite letter from cousin. No passport submission required, just upload soft copy of documents with application, pay the fees and submit. They took 15 days to process and approve our application.

By first week of August we obtained both the countries visa (with multiple arrival). Majority of the preparation over by then, concentrated on things to carry, sightseeing places research.

Last edited by Nempuguru : 20th October 2019 at 09:50.
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Old 9th October 2019, 21:46   #4
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Default re: Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island

Day 0, 13th Sept: Bangalore to Perth

We were waiting for this day after almost 10 months preparation. Our flight was at mid night 12. Hurriedly completed work formalities at office and rushed towards home. Final packing, preparations all completed by evening.

After arriving at BIAL, baggage drop-off and boarding pass issuance took one hour due to long queue. Security check/immigration formality was faster.

Day 1, 14 Sept 2019: Perth

Flight was on time at mid night 12. Landing at Kuala lampur was on time at morning 7.40. Boarding the connecting flight was quick after security check.

Kuala lumpur to Perth was 5 1/2 hour journey. Flight was not much crowded, got some much needed rest after good meal.

Flight attendant gave Australia Immigration - declaration form. Duly filled form must be submitted during immigration, baggage check in Perth airport.

If seeds, grains, vegetables/fruits, plant products, wooden items are part of luggage it must be declared.

Perth arrival was on time. Immigration, security check, other formalities took almost an hour.

Cousin was waiting for us at the arrival gate. We took airport shuttle and headed towards his house.

Day 1 at Perth was over within no time just by strolling around city.

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Last edited by Nempuguru : 20th October 2019 at 10:01.
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Old 9th October 2019, 21:49   #5
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Default re: Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island

Day 2, 15th Sept: Perth

Cousin's house is just opposite to Kings Park, within the CBD and free public transport area. Travelling within city not an issue.

With our fitness conscious uncle did almost 10 Kms walk from morning till noon to various parks, botanical garden, Elizabeth Quay, CBD area. The sight of colorful plants with varieties of flower throughout the city was mesmerizing. Even spotted plenty of birds.

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Cousin has Mazda CX5. Went to Perth beach in the evening.

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Indian Ocean, Perth

Flight to Melbourne was at 2 AM. From here on Cousin was accompanying us. Quickly rearranged luggage, included electric rice cooker as add on. After dinner started towards airport. Flight was on time, 3.5 hrs journey to Melbourne.

Last edited by Nempuguru : 19th October 2019 at 12:02.
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Old 9th October 2019, 22:53   #6
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Default re: Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island

Day 3, 16th Sept: Melbourne

Melbourne arrival was on time at 6 in the morning. We had booked our stay within CBD, free tram area near Docklands. Quite calm location. Checked-in after having breakfast at Saravana Bhavan.

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The Docklands, Yarra River, Melbourne

Staying within free tram area is very useful, we can move around the city easily.

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Afternoon visited Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), booked a guided tour. One of the well maintained stadiums, worth visiting guided tour.

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Central library, other attractions nearby.

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Returned to our apartment, prepared dinner, had food and slept early.

~~o~~o~~

Day 4, 17th Sept: Melbourne

Morning after breakfast at room, visited Queen Victoria Market. This place offers a variety of items at the best price. Purchased souvenirs, t-shirts, gift items to please the dear ones back home.

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After shopping headed towards Melbourne zoo, located outside the city.

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Evening visited art street, federation square, Flinders street railway station and other places.

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Collage of different street art

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Flinders street railway station

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Quick excursion of Melbourne was over by nightfall. Ended the day with double scoop of this just to get rid of cold weather!

Flight to Queenstown was at 6.15 AM from Tullamarine airport.

Last edited by Nempuguru : 19th October 2019 at 14:54.
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Old 11th October 2019, 12:36   #7
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Default re: Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island

From day 5 to day 11 it is all about road trip in New Zealand's South Island.

Why South Island in New Zealand?

Many asked same question during planning, why going that far, down under? We could not give conclusive reply then. After seeing countless photos and videos from our trip hopefully they have the answer.

This is what Wikipedia description says:

Quote:
The South Island of New Zealand (also officially named Te Waipounamu) is renowned for its mountains, lakes and glaciers. The Southern Alps, home to 3,724m-high Aoraki Mt. Cook, run along the entire length of the island. In the southwest is Fiordland National Park, with steep-sided Milford Sound. In the north is Abel Tasman National Park, known for its trails and ocean kayaking. Queenstown is famed for adventure sports like bungee jumping and skiing.

It is bordered to the north by Cook Strait, to the west by the Tasman Sea, and to the south and east by the Pacific Ocean. The South Island covers 150,437 square kilometres (58,084 sq mi), making it the world's 12th-largest island.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Island

Without any hectic plans or activities just wanted to do a road trip in a less populous, picturesque location. New Zealand's South Island offered all we wanted.

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Scenic route, snow capped mountains, glaciers, blue lakes, lot of day hike options, sea, ocean, forest without any wild animals/reptiles, star gazing, clear sight of milky way, penguins, seals... the list goes on!

Day 5, 18th Sept: Queenstown, Wanaka

Busy day in terms of travel. Arrived at Melbourne Tullamarine airport by 3.30 AM. Check-in formality, baggage drop are automated here. Security check/immigration was breeze. Flight was on time and not much crowded.

Everyone got window seat. Views of Tasmanian sea and snow covered Southern Alps peak are breathtaking! Enjoyed the views with yummy hot chocolate.

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In this flight too they gave self declaration form to be submitted at New Zealand Immigration counter. No hazardous goods, plant products or grains with us, so simply ticked 'No' for all the boxes.

Queenstown arrival was on time. Airport is relatively small compared to other international airports. Arrival formalities, baggage collection was faster. Two officers asked about the purpose of visit and our plans.

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Jio network started working without any issue, call rate indeed Rs 2/- per minute. Contacted car rental agency and they arranged pickup from airport to their location. Car handing over procedure was simple. We had opted Toyota Yarris hatchback during booking, got new looking Hyundai i30 instead. They gave driving permission to 3 of us without any extra charge after scanning our original DL. Simple and faster process overall, with good insurance package car returning was also simple at Christchurch. Only thing they look for is full tank petrol during return!

By 12 noon, we were in Queenstown city for a much needed brunch. Parking is limited within city limits, that reminded us about Ooty city parking struggle.

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We unanimously decided famous Fergburger as the food joint. They have quite a few veg and vegan options. Filling was good with lots of vegetables, overall good food.

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After a walk near lake area followed by grocery shopping in Countdown supermarket we started our road trip towards Wanaka. Nearly 2 hours drive. Decided route through Cardrona while going and Kawarau gorge while returning next day.

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Scenic beauty this route offered was mind boggling. With evening sun fully shining, view was simply beautiful all around.

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Sheep farming is significant industry here. View of pastures with herds of grass grazing sheep common everywhere. The country has the highest density of sheep per unit area in the world.

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Herds of sheep aside, other things grab your attention during travelling is dead possums (kind of rodent) on road. New Zealanders believe the only good possum is a dead one!

After many photo breaks, many deviations to explore en route villages we arrived at Wanaka by 6.30. Overall a very pleasant drive. Stay was at Wanaka Bakpaka backpackers hostel. This is very near to the lake and a little away from the city center. Very good location with all the facilities, got 4 sharing room here.

By then it was already dark. Went for a stroll around the lake. View of milky way was there for company.

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After chit chatting with like minded co-travelers had self prepared food and hot chai, then hit the bed for much needed rest.

Last edited by Nempuguru : 19th October 2019 at 14:55.
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Old 11th October 2019, 12:36   #8
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Default re: Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island

Day 6, 19th Sept: Wanaka, Queenstown, Te Anau

During breakfast one of the co-traveler suggested to visit Lake Hawea. Tweaked our day's itinerary and included Lake Hawea instead of Queenstown Gondola. We have had enough scenic gondola rides before so it was an easy decision to skip and include the scenic drive.

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After wandering near lake surrounding, customary visit to "That Wanaka Tree" took diversion towards Lake Hawea. Route to this was deserted and scenic.

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Lake Hawea

More info on lake Hawea:

Quote:
Lake Hāwea is named after a Māori tribe who preceded the Waitaha people in the area. The spelling "Hawea" (without a macron) is common in New Zealand English.

At its greatest extent, which is roughly along a north-south axis, Lake Hāwea is 35 kilometres long. It lies in a glacial valley formed during the last ice age, and is fed by the Hunter River. Nearby Lake Wanaka lies in a parallel glacial valley eight kilometres to the west. At their closest point (a rocky ridge called The Neck), the lakes are only 1000 metres apart.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_H%C4%81wea

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Some photos of our ride

View of the blue lake with snowy mountain as a backdrop was simply beautiful. Took some rest near the lake bed enjoying spectacular view.

Scenery en-route:

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Next visit was to famous Kawarau bungy jumping bridge.

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By afternoon 1.30 we returned to Queenstown. Found out an Indian grocery shop for purchasing pulses, dal and Indian Restaurant (Boliwood) for lunch. Food was tasty and quantity was good. After food went for a drive to nearby places.

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Evening 5, started towards Te Anau YHA, that's where we booked night stay. This will give extra time to explore Milford next day, could plan few hikes too.

Route to Te Anau is deserted, not many villages en route. The drive clings scenically to the edge of Lake Wakatipu. High country landscapes as always was very good, took many breaks in between enjoying the views.

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After nightfall we could not spot any vehicles on the road, what if vehicle breaks down was creeping in mind! Thankfully nothing such incident and safely reached YHA by 8 PM.

Stay here was good with all the facilities, got 4 sharing room. Met many co-travelers from different parts of the world, exchanged experiences with them during dinner preparation. This is the good thing about backpacker hostels, we get lots of new ideas during interaction with other travellers!

After having tasty and healthy "Bisi bele bath" (Sambar rice), hot Kheer we hit the bed.

Last edited by Nempuguru : 20th October 2019 at 21:40.
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Old 15th October 2019, 12:26   #9
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Day 7, 20th Sept: Te Anau, Milford Sound, Gore

Te Anau town sits on the shores of Lake Te Anau. From here, the delights of the Fiordland National Park are within reach.

Started early as we planned many activities, hikes today. After breakfast, went to see nearby Te Anau lake. Sun rise time, morning dew, plenty of chirping birds, no human soul around... perfect start to the day!

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Te Anau surrounding is home to different varieties of birds. There is a mini bird sanctuary too, we decided to visit during return.

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Te Anau Downs

Route to Milford is all together different level of experience. Our decision to stay in Te Anau and start early in the day was perfect. No words to describe the nature's beauty en route. Let pictures do all the talking.

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1.2 Km long Homer Tunnel

Our cruise booking was at 10.00 AM. After stopping many times in between managed to arrive at Milford before 10. But missed the cruise journey due to some confusion. Friendly crew accommodated us to next trip at 12 noon ignoring the error from our side.

That gave us the chance to hike to nearby places.

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We returned to the deck well within time and boarded the cruise. Not much crowd being a working day. 2 hour long Milford Sound cruise must be experienced to be believed.

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They go up to Tasmanian sea, go beneath many waterfalls, can spot dolphins, plenty of fur seals. View of giant Mitre peak and other snow covered mountains, many waterfalls is gorgeous.

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Sunbathing Fur seals

More info:

Quote:
Milford Sound is a fiord in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s known for towering Mitre Peak, plus rainforests and waterfalls like Stirling and Bowen falls, which plummet down its sheer sides. The fiord is home to fur seal colonies, penguins and dolphins. Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory offers views of rare black coral and other marine life.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milford_Sound

After the cruise, started our return journey. On the way we planned other activities including hike to Lake Marian. But time was running out and decided to cover as much as possible in this hiking route. After crossing a hanging bridge path goes through a narrow stretch inside rainforest, next to a roaring river.

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Path is slippery at many places, difficulty level is moderate. Here are some of the pictures of this beautiful hike:

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Our night stay was at Gore, still 2-3 hrs journey. Time was nearing 5. We cut short our hike and decided to return after covering couple of kilometers. Next "pic"stop is near mirror lake, just a customary photo point.

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After this visited Te Anau bird sanctuary. We could spot few birds freely roaming around, some are inside a cage. Morning would have been the ideal time to visit, nothing spectacular though.

By now battery level of all camera gear was close to zero, our energy level too draining fast after hectic activities. Journey from Te Anau till Gore was uneventful, reached at 8 PM.

Here we booked AirBNB accommodation, big house co-sharing with hosts. Place was good, friendly aged couple were our hosts. They gave many insight about places, history of Gore.

Last edited by Nempuguru : 19th October 2019 at 13:04.
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Old 15th October 2019, 15:25   #10
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Day 8, 21 Sept: Kaka Point, Nugget Point, Dunedin, Otago Peninsula

From yesterday we travelled from west coast towards east coast, Tasmanian sea to Pacific ocean, snow capped mountains to greener pastures. This is to break the monotonous journey. Gore was just a stop over point in between. From here Kaka point, Pacific ocean is within an hour's drive.

The host offered breakfast options including cereals, freshly baked bread, fruits, hot beverages. Had a healthy discussion with them on different topics during breakfast. By 8.30 AM bid farewell to them and hit the road towards east coast.

Near Kaka point, while strolling around the beach we spotted a sea lion. It was aggressive, wild, roaring loudly. We took a few photos and escaped from its territory.

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Next in our list was Nugget Point Lighthouse. Nugget Point is an iconic panoramic platform on the Catlins coast with one of the country’s oldest lighthouses. If we look down onto the rocks below the lighthouse, can see a colony of fur seals lying down lazily. After parking the car at parking lot, it's an easy walk to the Lighthouse. View from here is fantastic but blowing wind and cool ocean breeze are the hindrance.

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More info on Nugget Point:

Quote:
Nugget Point is one of the most iconic landforms on the Otago coast. Located at the northern end of the Catlins coast, along the road from Kaka Point, this steep headland has a lighthouse at its tip, surrounded by rocky islets (The Nuggets). The point is home to many seabirds, including penguins, gannets and royal spoonbills, and a large breeding colony of fur seals. Roaring Bay, on the south coast of the tip of Nugget Point, is home to a small colony of yellow-eyed penguins.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nugget_Point

Spent some time and returned to parking lot and started towards Dunedin. After few days we are back to city like atmosphere. Dunedin is the second biggest city in the South Island. Well planned city with British type of architecture. Otago University, Dunedin railway station, museum, Chinese garden, war memorials are some of the attractions here.

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Dunedin Railway Station

Parked our car near Chinese garden, went to railway station, museum and other city attractions. After having lunch, continued our journey towards Otago Peninsula.

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Our stay was at Penguin Place. They are conserving yellow eyed penguins in an isolated, private location. Do conduct guided tour and provide accommodation to visitors. By the time we reached it was nearing 4 PM. Their guided tour already commenced. So we decided to visit Royal Albatross Centre after completing checking-in at Penguin Place.

More info on Albatross Centre:

https://albatross.org.nz

They conduct guided tour on Royal Albatross, Blue Penguins. We decided to see the world's smallest penguins returning to their home in its natural environment. Tour starts at 6.30 PM. Till then visited the beach and surroundings. Place itself is beautiful with ocean view combined with hilly terrain.

Guided tour starts with introduction on their activity, about smallest penguins, royal albatross, Maori culture. After sunset they took us to the beach again. From a pavilion we can see the penguins waddling to their hides. Making loud noise, camera with flash, other disturbing acts strictly not allowed.

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We were there till 8 PM watching little penguin waddle home in small groups, more than 60 overall. Informative guide answered all our questions. These little fellas leave early in the day before sunrise, travel around 70 kms daily in search of food and return to shore after sunset.

We returned to our room, prepared dinner and had food. This property has 12 rooms, with common kitchen, hall and other facilities. Only one visitor was there apart from us during our stay.

~~o~~o~~

Day 9, 22 Sept: Dunedin, Oamaru, Omarama

As usual day started with a morning walk to nearby places.

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After breakfast at room (Dosa, muesli, tea) started again to Dunedin through a different, picturesque route. With morning fog view was totally different, that forced us to take many breaks.

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During one such stop we saw a board and deviation towards Sandfly bay. Took a detour and headed towards that direction. Route itself is scenic with ups and downs, could see Pacific ocean from distance.

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Parked our car at parking lot and continued through a walking trail towards the bay area. 10 mins walk through grass field, sand dunes to reach the beach. Spotted many sea lions lying down lazily basking in the sun.

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This place, a surprise addition in our activity list, totally worth it.

More info on Sandfly Bay:

Quote:
Sandfly Bay is a sandy bay with large dunes, located on the eastern side of the Otago Peninsula, New Zealand, 15 km east of central Dunedin. The bay is accessed from Seal Point Road or a walking track from Sandymount.

At the northeastern end of the bay the Department of Conservation (DOC) has constructed wooden hides for the public and DOC staff to view yellow-eyed penguin, Megadyptes antipodes, activity without disturbance. The beach is a popular site for the Hooker's sea lion, Phocarctos hookeri, to bask on the sand. It is also an excellent site for washed up Durvillea antarctica (kelp) to be found.

A small island which lies at the northeastern end of the bay is known as Lion Rock or Lion's Head Rock, due to its shape. A distinctive landmark, it can be clearly seen in good weather from Second Beach, close to Saint Clair, 18 kilometres to the west.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandfly_Bay

After this excursion reached Dunedin, till noon just wandered within city, visited Otago university campus, topped up groceries from Countdown supermarket. In an Indian restaurant had lunch.

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Next visited Moeraki boulders - spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach:

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More info:

Quote:
The Moeraki Boulders are a group of large spherical “stones” on Koekohe Beach near Moeraki on New Zealand’s Otago coast. These boulders are actually concretions that have been exposed through shoreline erosion from coastal cliffs. Even today, there are still boulders remaining in the mudstone that will, eventually, fall on to the beach as they come lose due to erosion!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moeraki_Boulders
https://www.moerakiboulders.com

I remembered reading during research that chances of spotting Yellow Eyed Penguins at Oamaru beach is good. So next stop is towards Oamaru's bushy beach.

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Reached here at 3.30 PM. To our luck there was a friendly, energetic young researcher on penguins. He explained all about penguins, shared info about nearby places. Even shared his binocular for viewing. That helped a lot. Yellow Eyed Penguin returning to shore was a sight to remember. These penguins are often referred to as the rarest penguin in the world.

Yellow-eyed penguin breed at Bushy Beach. Wind-sheared scrub, dominated by hebe and broadleaf, clings to the cliffs and shelters penguins. Adult penguins return to feed their young at any time of the day. One can also regularly see fur seals, with sea lions occasional visitors to the beach.

Local administrators block public access to these beaches (common throughout east coast) during penguin arrival time. This is for their well being and protection. People can watch from a distance through makeshift hides.

These are small creatures. Viewing hide is bit far from beach. This is what we got in camera!

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Today's night stay is at Omarama, small village on the way to Twizel. We had booked AirBNB accommodation here. This is by far the best stay in this entire trip! Nothing fancy, decent property in the lap of mother nature.

We arrived after night fall. Two bedroom house with kitchen, hall, big bathroom was clean, cozy and warm. Apart from electric heater, there was a wood fire heater too. That kept us warm till morning.

After having vegetable Pulav and moong dal kheer for dinner we hit the bed.

Last edited by Nempuguru : 19th October 2019 at 14:58.
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Day 10, 23 Sept: Lake Pukaki, Mt Cook village, Hooker valley track, Tasman lake glacier

Another interesting day with full of activities. Met friendly host, discussed with her about local surroundings. Came to know the weather forecast for Mt Cook national park area not good today.

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Our stay at Omarama

Started early after breakfast towards Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook Village. Stopped at first viewing point near Lake Pukaki. View was fantastic but with a very strong wind which forced us to leave this place quickly. Could also see dark clouds gathering over Mt Cook.

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State Highway 80 on the South Island follows the length of Lake Pukaki all the way to Mount Cook National Park. Approximately 55 kms scenic drive is pretty straight with not too many sharp bends. Other than a few tourist facilities, you will not come across any houses here. Mount Cook is one of the most popular national parks on the South Island of New Zealand. Mount Cook National Park is a piece of conservation land that is maintained by the Department of Conservation. As we came closer to Mt Cook village it started raining. Intermittent rainfall continued till afternoon. Initially bit disappointed, decided whatever the weather continue with our plan and complete the hike.

We parked our car at parking lot and started walking from the Visitor Centre wearing rain gear. This is one of the most popular walks in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Pass through Hooker Valley and walk beside the Hooker River ending at the glacier lake, where there are amazing views of Mount Cook on a clear day.

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More info:

Quote:
The Hooker Valley Track is the most popular short walking track within the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand. At only 5 kilometres length and gaining only about 100 m in height, the well formed track can be walked by tourists with a wide range of level of fitness.

The lookout point at the end of the Hooker Valley Track is the closest any walking track comes to Aoraki / Mount Cook,[9] and reveals completely unobstructed views of the highest mountain in New Zealand, with Hooker Glacier in the valley below. There is also access to the shore of the glacial lake. The vegetation around the track is open alpine tussock, and as such the track offers clear views of the mountains surrounding the wide valley floor of the Hooker Valley.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hooker_Valley_Track

Track is really good, scenic. One with moderate fitness can easily complete the hike. View of the lake with floating icebergs, glaciers, majestic Mt Cook hill is fantastic, well worth the effort.

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After reaching the lake, we spent more than an hour simply roaming around lake bed, playing with icebergs. Weather was freezing cold, accompanied by intermittent rain. That didn't hamper our spirit. Certainly one of the best moments in this trip.

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It was already well past lunch time, we had fruits, chocolate, juice which we carried. Started return hike. Without much break in between completed in one hour.

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Wind protection

Next was Tasman lake view point hike.

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More info:

Quote:
Tasman Lake is a proglacial lake formed by the recent retreat of the Tasman Glacier in New Zealand's South Island.

In the early 1970s, there were several small meltwater ponds on the Tasman Glacier. By 1990, these ponds had merged into Tasman Lake.

Tasman Lake has quickened the retreat of the Tasman Glacier. Initially it did so by undercutting the cliff at the end of the glacier, causing parts of the cliff to fall into the lake. Since 2006, however, a 50–60 m apron of submerged glacial ice projects out from the cliff, and icebergs periodically break off the apron and float away down the lake. Because more of the glacier is now in contact with the water, its rate of retreat has increased. By 2008 the lake was 7 km long, 2 km wide and 245 m deep, having almost doubled in area since 2000.[7] It is expected to grow to a maximum length of about 16 km within the next one or two decades.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tasman_Lake

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After the hike we went to Mt Cook village YHA, our night stay pre booked here. Unlike other places, this was almost full. Got 8 sharing room here.

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Aoraki Mt Cook Village

By 5 PM decided to visit Lake Pukaki again. Rain had stopped, the sky was clear by then. View was superb with evening sun shining brightly. Spent some time here and returned to our room.

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After night fall we witnessed one of the best views of the Milky Way and other brightly shining group of stars. This area is in the center of dark sky reserve and with clear sky view was fantastic.

After dinner came out of the cozy room for a walk enjoying the views of stunning, colorful sky. It was freezing cold, pitch-dark outside but such opportunity will not come again and again!

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That ends another fascinating day in New Zealand.

Last edited by Nempuguru : 20th October 2019 at 21:39.
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Old 15th October 2019, 18:34   #12
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Day 11, 24 Sept: Lake Pukaki, Lake Tekapo, Christchurch

Just a day more in New Zealand! After morning walk, breakfast we were ready to go towards Christchurch.

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Aoraki Mt Cook village YHA

Nothing particular in today's plan. Visiting Lake Pukaki, Lake Tekapo and reaching Christchurch before 5.30 in the evening to return the car. If we skip this have to pay NZD 40 extra!

Relaxed day, just enjoyed scenic view, snowy mountains, blue lakes throughout the journey one last time on this trip.

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Visited many viewpoints of Lake Pukaki. Each provides a different perspective with different shades of blue.

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More info on Lake Pukaki:

Quote:
Lake Pukaki is the largest of three roughly parallel alpine lakes running north-south along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin on New Zealand's South Island. The others are Lakes Tekapo and Ohau. All three lakes were formed when the terminal moraines of receding glaciers blocked their respective valleys, forming moraine-dammed lakes.

The glacial feed to the lakes gives them a distinctive blue colour, created by glacial flour, the extremely finely ground rock particles from the glaciers. Lake Pukaki covers an area of 178.7 km˛, and the surface elevation of the lake normally ranges from 518.2 to 532 metres above sea level.

The lake is fed at its northern end by the braided Tasman River, which has its source in the Tasman and Hooker Glaciers, close to Aoraki / Mount Cook. Good views of the mountain, 70 kilometres to the north can be had from the southern shore of the lake.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Pukaki

Next visited Lake Tekapo. This is on the way to Christchurch from Twizel in the Mackenzie Basin.

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More info on Lake Tekapo:

Quote:
Lake Tekapo is the second-largest of three roughly parallel lakes running north–south along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin in the South Island of New Zealand (the others are Lake Pukaki and Lake Ohau). It covers an area of 83 square kilometres (32 sq mi), and is at an altitude of 710 metres (2,330 ft) above sea level.

The lake is fed at its northern end by the braided Godley River, which has its source in the Southern Alps to the north. The lake is a popular tourist destination, and several resort hotels are located at the township of Lake Tekapo at the lake's southern end. The Lake Tekapo Regional Park, administered by Environment Canterbury, is located on the southern shore of the lake.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Tekapo

After this, all the way to Christchurch. On the way took many diversions just enjoying nature's beauty. Managed with whatever snacks, fruits, juice we had with us for lunch.

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_4839.jpg

Well maintained beauties...

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_4860.jpg

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_9612.jpg

Outskirts of Christchurch has NPD bunk. They were giving even more discount compared to other places as part of promotional offers. That's the right place to fill the tank to the brim!

We reached Christchurch by 4 PM. Our stay was at Jucy Snooze just outside the Christchurch Airport. They have pod type rooms with all the facilities, very useful for backpacker type travelers. This is huge compared to other places, with large community kitchen. Airport is just 10 mins walk from here. As we had an early morning flight to catch this really was a good option.

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_4871.jpg

After freshening up, had snacks and tea. Cleaned the car and took one last group photo with it. Throughout the journey no niggles, no complaints whatsoever. Safe, reliable, easy to drive, comfortable too. Full marks to Hyundai i30, full marks to Snap Rentals for the car.

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_20190924_162220.jpg

Time to say goodbye to this beauty. Handed over the car to the rental agency which was close by within the time frame. They offered to drop off to our place during return.

We had enough time in our kitty, spent time just wandering around here and there visiting shopping malls etc.

Returned to room completed packing, prepared dinner, had food and slept early. Next day another busy day starting early at 3 AM.

~o~o~o~

Day 12, 25 Sept: Sydney, Perth

With our luggage, heavy heart headed towards airport by walk in the wee hours. Trip to New Zealand definitely deserves more days than just a week. We are glad that managed to cover many beautiful places in this short trip. Must plan a detailed visit covering both the islands in near future, with that dream boarded the flight to Sydney.

Time to fill that declaration form yet again for Australia entry at Sydney!

There was no direct flight to Perth from Christchurch. Connecting flights had layover at Melbourne/Gold Coast/Sydney with entire day's journey. Instead of wasting a day in an airport terminal, during planning itself decided quick day trip within Sydney and travel to Perth by late night flight.

Cousin was in Sydney for nearly a year earlier. He planned activities within Sydney. AUD 15 per day Opal card gave more flexibility to our tightly packed plan. We could travel in buses, train to all parts of the city including airport transit.

Sydney arrival was at 8 AM. After coming out of the airport, got rid of all the bags at a locker facility, had breakfast, started visiting city attractions one by one including Bondi beach, darling harbour, harbour bridge, Opera house. That was one super fast "mega city" visit all using public transport!

Sydney day tour photos:

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_4881.jpg

State Library

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Bondi beach

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_5167.jpg

Darling harbour

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Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_5261.jpg

Opera House

At 6.30 PM, after collecting luggage rushed to the airport. Flight was on time at 9 PM. By now we are dead tired. Even in not so comfortable Tiger Air, bench like seats, 4.5 hour long flight all four of us slept like a log! Woke up only after landing formalities started.

By 1 AM we arrived at cousin's house. Took much deserved rest.

Last edited by Nempuguru : 19th October 2019 at 15:01.
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Old 16th October 2019, 15:48   #13
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Default re: Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island

Day 13 and day 14, 26th, 27th Sept: Perth

By now most of the major attractions of this trip is over. Spent the rest of the day with cousin's family. Did many rounds of shopping to please the home ministry and kids back home.

We visited Rockingham beach, Fremantle and other places too.

Some pictures of the day:

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_5428.jpg

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_5455.jpg

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_5685.jpg

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_5543.jpg

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_5391.jpg

World War II era barracks

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_5711.jpg

Bobtail skink (Yoorn)

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_5687.jpg

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_5688.jpg

Second day, during morning walk decided to visit Heirisson Island which is near Waka Stadium. Someone said if you are lucky could spot Kangaroos early in the morning. To our luck we could see couple of Kangaroos from a close distance.

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_5921.jpg

Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island-img_5818.jpg

Afternoon completed all packing and ready for the return journey.

Our flight was at 2 AM the next day. By 9.30 PM after dinner, we bid farewell to our cousin and his family and started towards airport.

Day 15, 28th Sept: Perth to Bangalore

Perth departure was delayed by 20 mins. We checked with airline officials about the delay and connecting flight from Kuala Lumpur. They assured, there won't be any issue in boarding connecting flight. With that assurance we boarded the flight and slept off.

As stated earlier with minimum layover time we could board the connecting flight at Kuala lumpur.

Bangalore arrival was on time at 10.40 AM. After arrival formalities and collecting luggage started towards home enjoying traffic congestion (was missing badly for many days ). Reached home sweet home by lunch time.

One of the best and most memorable trips concludes successfully. Sharing quality time with like minded travel buddies visiting many parts of Australia and New Zealand for a period of 15 days altogether different level of experience. Lucky to get a break from work life too!

Thanks to one-and-all who are part of this successful trip, special thanks to family members, cousin and his family, peers at work!

~o~o~o

Camera used:

My Humble, 10 year old Canon 600D with multiple lenses

GoPro Hero 4, Nokia 5 mobile

Last edited by Nempuguru : 19th October 2019 at 15:04.
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Old 21st October 2019, 08:33   #14
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Default Re: Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 21st October 2019, 10:20   #15
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Default Re: Down Under: Trip to Australia and a 2000 km road-trip within New Zealand's South Island

Amazing pics. I am hoping my next vacation will be to NZ. Will definitely re read your itinerary when I do my planning. Can you give me a brief breakdown of costs on your NZ leg of the trip?
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