A Travellerspoint blog

JANUARY 2007- In The Land of the Long White Cloud -part I

A rather detailed rundown of our New Zealand adventure- part I with Nick

sunny 25 °C
View Wellington to Monika and Ralp's Farm & Wellington to Lake Taupo & Seoul to New Zealand on Bulls's travel map.

In the middle of Korean winter chills we only had to fly 10016 kms south east off Korea to find the welcoming sunshine of New Zealand

We were not up early enough to enjoy the sunrise -New Zealand claims to be the first country in the world to not only give women the right to vote (pretty amazing achievement considering it was the last country in the world to be settled) but also to see the sun rise- but man we enjoyed its sunsets!
Here is one seen while on Monika's and Ralph's farm -buggers they have it pretty much every night and probably wonder why the photo of this probably an average one, found its place on our blog.

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So far this trip has been a highlight (at least for me) of our year away from home.
We got to swap the snowless winter for the sunhine and summer, the grey and noisy hubbub of the city for a break on the far away and isolated island hopping between the lavish greenery of farm lands and the dramatic settings of the mountains:
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cruising (and more!) on the silvery and pink glitters of lakes and meandering amongst the spectacular and in places very smelly thermal theatre displays:
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enjoying unspoilt and suprisingly unpeopled beaches:

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and meeting some of the most beautiful creatures there are on Earth- such as whales, seals, dolphins, albatroses
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and of course ....OUR FRIENDS !!!!!...

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...all going about their days in their own natural enviroment or as it goes for our friends -in a very cosy, beautiful, somehow contemporary (no I did not use the wrong word here) country cottage on a secluded sheep farm and a few storeys house sitting on the hill with a spiral staircase (dream of mine) overlooking the most serene and content country capital I've so far experienced -Wellington.

But let's start from the beginning.
The same as we couldn't wait to get on the plane, we also couldn't wait to get off it. We had 2 extra legs on our journey Auckland to Christchurch and Christchurch to Wellington that were not showing on our tickets or itinerary and were not previously mentioned by our travel agent. NZ_-Maja_o.._posing.jpgExcept for a fright that we might have got on a totally wrong plane (being heads in clouds on that day we felt like we've been just cruising at the airport from the check-in through the passport control to the departure point without controlling anything ourselves, totally relying on other people and knowing by now that stupid mistakes like that could easily happen in Korea although we would only have ourselves to blame)and a bit of inconvenience with getting off and on the plane twice more then expected, we didn't mind it that much -Maja kept herself entertained in various possible ways while we enjoyed the diverse views of New Zealand's both islands.View_from_..aranaki.jpg

***In WELLINGTON with Elisabeth, Phil and Henri***

Once on land in Wellington, it took us a few minutes to collect our luggage and go through the customs. It was so fast and easy that we wouldn't have realised we were at the exit if it wasn't for our friends - Phil (senior) and Henri (junior)standing there and waiting for us -both as laid back as it gets, wearing shorts, T-shirts, jandals (never thought there was another word for flip flops), healthy tans and carefree smiles. It was so good to see them! Maja and Henri were playing shy at first but they quickly checked one another out and were up to their old tricks of running, screaming and talking in their "galla galla" language!

Although we were still at the airport we felt like we landed at the gates of paradise somehow 10 kilos lighter and 10 years younger. The place was filled with light, colour, buzz and smiling people -it might sound really naf but it felt the opposite to where we just came from -perfect holiday place!

It was a short drive from the airport to Elisabeth and Phil's place where we stayed
for a few days as well as in between other trips. Driving through the outskirts of New Zealand's capital city -although the word city somehow doesn't agree with me here, it felt like we were in some small holiday town by the coast. It looked perfect with its beautiful clear blue skies and green hills embracing the harbour. Known also as New Zealand's cultural capital, conveniently located sort of in the middle of the country( at the bottom of the North Island) and being now a home town to Elisabeth, Phil and Henri it served as a great place to hang around as well as a "hop off" point for our "tours".
It was good to see our friends settled in and looking so well and happy. Although they were pretty busy themselves -Phil was working, Henri was going to school and Elisabeth was pregnant, they looked after us so well and managed to organise their time so we could spend quite a bit of it together! THANK YOU GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!

It was also Maja's 4th birthday and what a treat she was in for! She had her b'day breakfast in the company of her kindergarden sweetheart Henri!Majas_bday_breakfast.jpg
There also happened to be a music festival in Wellington's botanical gardens on this day so we went along for a picnic with some pizza, wine and of course a birthday cake for Maja (again thanks Elisabeth!):
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The next day we went to explore Wellington's picturesque harbour:
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and visited a nearby Museum of New Zealand TE PAPA TONGAREWA to find out a bit more about the country's history, its natural enviroment and Maori's heritage. It is well worth a visit, full of interesting information and hands-on activities for kids. Sorry didn't take any good snaps.
Afterwards we treated ourselves to a lovely lunch of fish and chips and Elisabeth took the kids for some ice cream while we had a little time to ourselves and wandered back from the harbour through the town centre.
I remember loving it. It seemed very compact and easy to find your way around.
With few modern and higher then the average here buildings in the centre, through the streets lined up with a variety of commercial buildings and as we were walking away from the city -charming wooden and old looking cottages and stunning suburban hillside villas. The town gave off mixed (but always positive) vibes -it felt lazy or laid back and in the same time stimulating, old fashioned (vintage shops) and chic and happening(contemporary museum buildings, art galleries and cool looking , windows free bars filled with colorful people and laughter). It felt friendly,leisurely and so easy going if this can be used to describe a place. I think I could easily live there! Never mind the winds...

***On the farm and around with Monika, Ralph and the sheep***

See the itinerary of this trip, and details about each destination.

After a couple of relaxing days in Wellington, we went to visit our friends Monika and Ralph, who lived on a farm (also called station) near Martinborough, north of Wellington and "on the other side of the mountain" -about an hour and a half drive. We decided to go in the car that Elisabeth and Phil kindly lent us. The drive was fantastic through the "proper" mountain range with spectacular often dramatic views of the mountains and trees that seemed to be shaped as if bent by the wind and frozen in time. Once we got to the other side, the landscape had completely changed. We arrived at Martinborough Hotel where Monika had already been waiting for us for a while as we were running a bit late. Sorry mate!

Monika_and_I.jpg

It was so good to see her -the last time we saw Monika and Ralph was probably before they got married some .....years ago. She hasn't changed and looked really good! As it was still early in the day and Ralph was busy on the farm we decided to catch up a bit and stopped for a bite to eat and a drink in the restaurant at the hotel where Monika used to work. After that Monika gave us a drive guided tour of the area - we visited what Martinborough area is best known for -the vineyards
and drove to the farm.

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What a place! The farm is situated amongst the hills but still close to the coast where we went for a walk....

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....in the middle of nowhere or rather in the middle of the most green and scenic countryside I've ever been to. Once Ralph got back from work, he invited us for a look around the farm which turned into a spin on quad bikes.

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The ride up steep in places hills was awesome. We managed to get to the highest point on the farm (or quite close to it I think) and enjoy a pretty good view - look for yourselves -it was absolutely stunning

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After that we came home, had some dinner - home grown potatoes, salads, sheep and few drinks and did a bit of catching up. It is funny how it is with friendships -it did not matter that we haven't seen each other for ages -it was just good to spend time together,see that the others are doing great and are happy and talk about now and the future. We didn't dwell on the past as much as we used to (no Travelguide holidays ferry parties stories Monika -next time hey....)and having all sorts of responsibilities we didn't drink until the morning as we used to. Definetely make up for it when you come and visit us in London!

The next day we were in for yet another treat. Monika took us to see a seal colony. We drove for a while to get to the coast and there they were as close to us as we wanted them to, taking it easy, lazing about:

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and posing for the camera!
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It was wonderful and heartening to see them in action or totally out of it and to feel like this time we were the intruders invading their world (although we tried to keep the distance)! So much nicer than seeing seals in zoos swimming endlessly from one wall to another, diving through metal hoops or moving back and forth on swings in exchange for an old fish!

After that we climbed the 200 or something stairs( if my memory doesn't fail me here) and it wasn't just the climb that took our breath away. Look at these:

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After chilling out a bit on the beach

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and a lunch of fresh fish and chips and paua burgers, we went on another drive this time a mission to trace Peter Jackson's property that he had recently bought around the area. Nick who is a great fan of Lord of the Rings really wanted to visit the film sets etc but didn't have enough time for it so we thought this could compensate him for it a little bit.
However sad it sounds it was actually a great fun! We felt like we were being on a safari except it was not the animals we were looking for!Monika heard from few locals about its whereabouts and Nick had read something that he was also buidling a rail line (???) on his land. Put the two together we managed to find it, following a small road in the middle of nowhere. Once we saw a little tower (hello?the country houses do not have towers here)
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some sort of tunnels being dug out and
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a beautiful gate with a camera zooming in at us
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we felt like real paparazzi with the mission accomplished -for all you fans out there (Nick's mates) although can't really see anything!!!!

We had a lot of fun as well as a little peek into the scenes of the daily life on the farm and chores it involves, which we found is very demanding, challenging and requires a lot of commitment. Thanks guys for finding some time for us and showing us around!!!

*** Long weekend with Elisabeth, Phil, Henri and Nigel at Lake Taupo***

See the itinerary of this trip, and details about each destination.

After the flying visit to Monika and Ralphs we went back to Wellington in the evening ready for an early start next morning - a drive for a long w/e to the central part of North Island -by lake Taupo. Elisabeth and Phil arranged the car and accomodation so there was not much else to do as pack up and go!
On the way there and back we passed through few small towns as well as Tongariro National Park so we could get a glimpse of the mountains
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as well as take a "postcard snap" of what I had imagined New Zealand to look like but found that it is so diverse that the mountain and some sheep simply don't stand a chance and I would have a problem picking my postcard.
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We stayed in Oasis 5 minutes away from the lake in the small village of Turangi -perfect spot away from the crowds and with natural mineral hot baths on site!!!
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On the first day we ment Nigel -a friend of Elisabeth and Phil, who was also by the lake and offered to take us for a cruise . It was brilliant!
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We stopped somewhere on the shore to have a snack

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and found that there were also water skies on board so we all (except for kids and pregnant Elisabeth) decided to have a go but not all of us succeeded....never mind-next time hey? At least you tried !Let's have some practise in the UK!

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At the end it all comes down to experience and a little talent ......

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The next day we drove a little bit north again to visit Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland
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-recognised as one of the most active volcanic areas in the world or according to Maja and Henri's speculations -home to all witches and place where they make hot chocolate and cook up....their dinners! We took a walk past a succession of many geothermal features like bubbling craters (witches pots), geysers,caves

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and colorful pallettes of hot and cold pools!

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It was a great walk with amazing views for our camera and out of this world scenery that wonderfully fed our kids' imagination and gave beginnings to many stories we've heard while exploring....

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Sunday was our last day and we planned to visit Tongariro National Park and have a little hike in the mountains as well as stopping by the beach on the way home.
As for mountains we managed to see all three peaks of Mounts Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe,but a drive to one of the mountain stations and lunch in a wooden bungalow was as close as we could get to a hike. The weather had got much worse than it was in the morning and it started to rain so we decided to head back home.

It did however clear a bit and we managed to have a wonderful afternoon by the sea. We sat on the beach and dined on fish and chips out of the paper,played ball, splashed around in the sea,built sand castles and admired the shells and other bits and pieces that the sea had chucked away.
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It was an idyllic afternoon and the last day of the holiday we got to spend together as Nick Waiotapu_T..nd_Nick.jpg

was flying back to Seoul early next morning.

Mine and Maja's journey around New Zealnd continues in part II coming soon to Travellerspoint

This month we liked:

"TRAVEL IS PARTIAL.WHATEVER ROUTE YOU TAKE MEANS A HUNDRED YOU DON'T TAKE" - taken from a great book describing the author's journey down and up New Zealand filled with information, humour and interesting and very insightful points of view -" A Land of Two Halves" by Joe Bennett

and by the same author "Bedside lovers" -collection of esseys on life and culture in New Zealand and beyond

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides "NEW ZEALAND"

seeing our friends, the scenery, the fresh air, Elisabeth's home made flan (can I have a recipe pls?), the wine, Monika and Ralph's little cottage with remainders of places they had visited, a cool, old style record shop in Wellington complete with dusty vinyl and geeky owner, the quiet nightsky forever stretching sparkling with stars, flying fox ride in the park -or better known as "a death slide"........ TUI adverts and its product:

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Posted by Bulls 04:29 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel

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