New Zealand, situated in remote South Pacific Ocean was not a popular tourist destination till about 1970s. However, all of it changed with greater mobility of tourists and dissemination of information through the internet. It is no longer the ‘forgotten land’ but a tourist paradise.
Composed of two main islands – the North Island and the South Island, it is a country of immense beauty un-spoilt by tourism invasion. Volcanoes, caves, geysers, glacier lakes, fjords, beaches, and the spectacular Southern Alps – all contribute to make this country a paradise for vacationers. With Emirates flying directly to Auckland, the travel to New Zealand also became easier from New Delhi!
Our itinerary of New Zealand was drawn up to take in as much of the natural beauty as possible and not spend time doing the newly-popular organized tours to wineries and food tasting. We landed in Auckland in North Island (the cheapest route from India), transferred to Christchurch and then to Queenstown in the South Island. To travel between North and South Islands, we utilised JetStar, a local low-cost airline.
New Zealand has a robust tourism infrastructure and is very toursit -friendly. All trips can be reserved online well in advance and there is hardly any difference between on-the-spot and advance fares. There is no tendency to take advantage of tourists, touts are non-existent and haggling is discouraged.
North and South Islands Itinerary
Auckland – an agglomeration of high-rise buildings, bustling streets and harried people.
Skytower Auckland. 328 m tall, this spire offers spectacular views of Auckland harbour and the city on a clear, sunny day.
Though serene in appearance, Auckland is located right in the middle of a volcanic field. Evidences abound of its tumultous past. Just 230 kms from Auckland is Rotoroa, an area of intense geothermal activity. In this picture the theremal spring of Rotoroa during eruption.
The boiling mud pool at Rotoroa.
Bothered by continuous sputtering of the geothermal spring.
Another example of recent volcanic activity around Auckland. Just 30 mins ferry ride from Auckland harbour, Rangitoto island was formed by volcanic eruption some 600 years back and still retains the lava flows over the entire island.
Mahuya, ready for an exploration of Rangitoto volcano.
Pohutukawa tree (New Zealand Christmas tree) on Rangitoto. The crimson flowers of Pohutukawa during spring & early summer adds another layer of contrast to the black lava rocks.
Binay contemplating the past eruption of Rangitoto.
The pseudo geologist!
Waitomo Cave. A subterranean formation of limestone stalactites and stalagmites preserved in pristine condition by the local Maori community. [Photo credit: Waitomo Discovery Centre] Black water rafting inside Waitomo Cave. The glowing dots are aptly named glow-worms and are the only source of light inside the caves. [Photo credit: Waitomo Discovery Centre]
A kapa-haka performance by a Maori troupe. Maori people are the the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand.
A traditional Maori building. Notice the use of sea-shells for decorative purposes.
An example of Maori wood carving.
Christchrurch – a city with two faces. A planned urban sprawl along the reclaimed swampy coast.
And a planned development on the slopes of the hills away from the coast.
Christchurch – roads laid out in precise geometric patterns, traffic & pedestrians following rules – certainly more than we can say about our own country!
An open-air exhibition at Chrischurch museum. No defacing, no graffiti to spoil the photographs.
The effects of the February 2011 devastating earthquake are still apparent in the city centre. Here the famous Christchurch Cathedral, almost completely ruined.
Restoration & reconstruction of the Christchurch cathedral is in progress.
Another earthquake affected area. It is uncanny how a single building can be ruined while its adjacent will stand untouched. Reconstruction is in full swing and is expected to be complete by 2013.
Christchurch is also known as the garden city. In 1996, it was acknowledged as the outstanding garden city from 620 international entries and in 1997, was judged Overall Winner of Major Cities in the Nations in Bloom International Competition to become ‘Garden City of the World’! (source: CH city council)
Christchurch also has the dubious distinction of being ‘the most English city outside of England’. Whether the title is self-proclaimed or awarded by some authority, remained a mystery to us. Here the river Avon meandering across Christchurch.
A bridge over river Avon (not a tropical river this, has no resemblance to our Ganga, Brahmaputra or Yamuna)
Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch.
Among the many gardens in Christchurch, perhaps Mona Vale has the best rose garden. Here the hybrid variety of rose ‘Ingrid Bergman’.
And here is the very interstingly named ‘Rock and Roll’. I would have expected a rather more psychedelic colour scheme for a rose named such 😉
Beauty abounds in Christchurch & the South Island. Just outside the city limits are green rolling hills and white peaks of the Southern Alps.
New Zealand has very low population density – a little above 16.5 per sq. km. As a result the natural environment is not wantonly destroyed, affording such beauty everywhere you look.
A field of gorse. Imported from Western Europe, these hardy bushes are the cause of destruction of New Zealand’s native flora and have been designated as noxious weed by New Zealand government.
Gorse bushes – a little closer.
A railway bridge over a gorge in Southern Alps. The entire hillside is overtaken by gorse bushes.
Waimakariri River and its gorge in Southern Alps.
The beauty of Waimakariri River yet again.
The mainstay of New Zealand economy is farming. Sheep stations covering thousands of sq. kms are the norm in South Island.
The sheep are raised for their wool and meat. New Zealand merino wool is not only extra warm but expensive too!
Too many animals and too much commotion!!
Busily leading the pack! Notice the ostrich joining in in the back.
A merino sheep in all its wollen glory…
And the same merino shorn of all its glory 🙂
In addition to sheep rearing, dairy farming is big business too.
The camelid Llama from South America. A no. of them are farmed in New Zealand for their wool (and possibly meat).
Kaikoura, a small town on the east coast of South Island. Claim to fame- a pod of semi-permanent sperm whale and crayfish meals.
Kaikoura. One main street dominated entirely by crayfish serving restaurants 😉
Except for whale watching & crayfishing, Kaikoura is a barren strip of land pounded by waves & strong winds.
Whale watching is the biggest activity in Kaikoura. The whale watch boat that takes tourists out to see the ever obliging sperm whales.
Patience rewarded! A sperm whale diving under water. Sperm whales may dive to a depth of 3 kms in search of its food – mostly giant squids.
And all that is left are a couple of bubbles!
Lake Brunner famous for trout fishing.
Lake Brunner. The inclement weather was not conducive to fishing though a few hardy folks persisted.
Did ya say trout fishing? Only the weather did not permit 🙁
Lake Tekapo surrounded by Lupin shrubs. It is the second largest lake in the South Island of New Zealand.
Lupins at close quarters. Imported from UK, these are also an invasive species that is threatening the indigenous plants of New Zealand.
Like all alpine lakes, Lake Tekapo is also an expanse of aquamarine in the midst of drab, monochrome hills.
Church of the Good Shepherd, on the banks of Lake Tekapo.
To commemorate the loyalty and support of the Collie dog without whom no sheep farm can work efficiently.
On way to Mt. Cook. Southern Alps, Lake Tekapo and Lupin all along the road.
Mt. Cook village located just about 12 kms from Mt. Cook summit. A small settlement devoted entirely to tourism related activities centred on Mt Cook.
Our first glimpse of Mt. Cook – shrouded in clouds, mysterious and unwelcoming.
And the day after! Sunny, welcoming and beautiful 🙂
Mt Cook, at 3754 m is the highest peak in New Zealand. It also served as the practise ground for Sir Edmund Hillary before he ascended Everest. Notice the icefalls showing up in bluish tinge.
The Hermitage hotel at Mt. Cook village. Isolation & Mt. Cook served in five star luxury 😉
The same Hermitage hotel against the perspective of Southern Alps.
Buttercups in Mt. Cook.
Takahe – a flightless bird indigenous to New Zealand and on the endangered species list. And no, it is not of the pterosaur family (pterodactyl) though the size may lead one to think about a pterodactyl.
Quuenstown. Literally the jewel of New Zealand. Azure waters, pine clad hiils and blue sky – a sensory overload on a clear, sunny day.
The centre of Queenstown is the Wakatipu lake. At 80 kms, this lake is the longest in New Zealand.
Hotel Novotel, Queenstown. On the lake-front promenade but still far from the bustle and crowds.
The lake side premenade, Queenstown. More eateries per sq. m than anywhere else in the world!
Queenstown and lake Wakatipu. The peninsula in the foreground has the Queenstown golf course.
The Remarkables mountain range. Not only is it remarkably beautiful, but its original name is such.
The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu from top of Queenstown gondola tower.
Queenstown – a weekday afternoon in the centre of the town!
Different shades of blue and green!
In Queenstown, Bollywood ishstyle!! [btw, I hate luv storys film was shot exactly on that spot]
Retake, Bollywood ishstyle!!
For the love of speed. Luge ride in Queenstown. Their tagline is ‘once is not enough’ and how true is that!
Kea – a large species of Alpine parrot found in South island of New Zealand. Intelligent and inquisitive, they are perfectly comfortable around humans and are more than happy to pose for photos.
Kea’s inquisitiveness has a downside too – when they make off with unguarded possessions and investigate with their sharp beaks the rubber sealings and tubes of cars and buses.
Remember Lord of the Rings trilogy?
Milford Sound, about 307 kms from Queenstown is an area of sheer cliffs, innumerable waterfalls and deep, dark shadows. It is one of the wettest places on earth and receives rain 182 days in a year, on an average.
On way to Milford Sound. The landscape gradually changed colour from green…
Due to heavy rains, Milford Sound is almost always wreathed in clouds.
An interesting part of Milford Sound cruise is going under a waterfall in the boat.
New Zealand fur seals basking in the sun – Milford Sound.
Fiordland Crested Penguins in Milford Sound. These are rare birds and only the tenacious ones are rewarded by a sighting 🙂
Looking back New Zealand – a land of immense beauty, warm people and carefree life-style.