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New Zealand 2004

Aotearoa -- New Zealand is quite possibly the most beautiful place I've ever been. I knew it was going to be good because everyone I know who's been said it would be, but it totally topped all my expectations. Just when you think it couldn't possibly get any more beautiful ... it does.

I only had a short time as I was visiting en route to Australia, but I managed to pack a whole lot in.

I started off with 3 nights in windy Wellington on North Island. What a beautiful city. I woke up on the first morning and headed into town for a hearty (and delicious) breakfast at Fidel's on Cuba St. Suitably fortified I set off for my walk up Mount Victoria, (a big hill rather than a mountain) for absolutely superb views of the city and its harbour.

After this invigorating and beautiful walk I spent the rest of the day wandering around the excellent Te Papa museum. In the evening I headed back over to the Cuba St. area for a wonderful Malaysian meal at Rasa. Here I also got to sample some of that famous Kiwi friendliness as a group of teachers out for a meal "adopted" me for the evening and showed me a little of what Wellington's many bars had to offer. Next day, one of them invited me for brekky and a whistle stop tour of Wellington's bays. Highlights included stopping off at the Chocolate Fish Café at Scorching Bay for a coffee and a bite to eat.

Later I did a bit of shopping, and in the evening checked out a couple of bars, including the Blue Note on Cuba St. Here I met another bunch of friendly women and went on to the Pound Club to help celebrate the historic passing of New Zealand's new Gay partnership laws.

Next morning I left Wellington and North Island and headed to Picton on South Island on the ferry. The ferry trip takes around 3 hours and provides absolutely stunning views all the way particularly going through Queen Charlotte Sound on the approach to South Island.

Nelson was my base for the next few days. For my first day in the area my plan was to head towards Collingwood and see how far I got.

Close to Nelson I did a quick detour to Rabbit Island, definitely worth more time and a closer look. You could easily spend a day here just chilling and taking in the view. However I pressed on and after having a quick coffee and snack in Motueka, stopped off at Kaiteriteri for a nice long walk to stretch out the legs before heading further up the coast to Marahau to walk a bit of the Abel Tasman coastal track.

There were so many beautiful places to stop on the way to Collingwood that I only made it as far as Takaka. The ear popping drive down Takaka hill provided yet more stunning views.

After hanging round Takaka and the nearby Pohara beach for a bit, it was time to head back to Nelson via a couple of quick stops to enjoy the sunset at Ruby Bay / Mckee Memorial Reserve and Rabbit Island again. All in all, a fabulous day's driving, walking and taking in the stunning scenery along the way.

Next on the agenda was a trip to Nelson Lakes National park so I rose early the next morning to take in the views and walks around Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa.

All too soon my time in Nelson came to an end and it was time to leave South Island's west coast and head east. I headed east via the stunning Lewis Pass my final destination in New Zealand being Christchurch.

The drive from Nelson to Christchurch should only take about 5 hours but again there are so many beautiful stops along the way that I took over twice this time to get there.

I planned to take a slight detour and stop off at Buller Gorge (which used to be a gold mining area) but initially missed the turn off just outside Murchison. I was really glad I turned back, found the gorge, did the walk across the swing bridge and a couple of little walks the other side of it.

After hanging around Buller Gorge for a couple of hours it was time to continue on towards Christchurch via further brief stops at Springs Junction, Maruia Springs, and Hanmer Springs. All the while being almost overwhelmed by the breathtaking views along the route.

I arrived in Christchurch late evening and got settled into my room at the friendly Frauenreisehaus Women's Hostel. I never actually saw too much of Christchurch apart from eating in a few of its fabulous restaurants and cafés, including enjoying great Turkish food at Topkapi on Manchester St., and the best Thai food I've had outside Thailand at Mythai on Hereford St.

I was only in Christchurch for a couple of nights but had a full day to explore some of the surrounding area. First off I visited New Zealand's largest Marae to experience a little bit of Maori culture.

Next stop the pretty town of Lyttleton where I stopped for lunch at the Door café and explored a bit of the town. The folk in the visitor centre were very helpful and friendly. Suitably equipped with map and directions my plan was to head to the historic town of Akaroa via the scenic Summit Road out of Lyttleton and along the Banks Peninsula.

After spending a few hours in Akaroa it was time to head back to Christchurch for what very sadly was to be my last night in New Zealand as I was heading off to Australia the next day.

New Zealand is definitely a place I hope to return to very soon and for much longer next time too. There is so much to see and do. I had a fantastic time, met lots of really lovely people and saw many, many beautiful places.

Even before I went, I never quite understood why anyone would want to leave New Zealand to come and live in England. After being there it's even harder to understand...

If you ever get the chance to visit New Zealand, take it - you won't be disappointed!


Click on a picture to enlarge it and get a short description of the place

 

Wellington Harbour, New Zealand
Wellington - Mt Victoria

 

Maori treasure box Te Pap Museum, Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington - Te Papa Museum

 

Queen Charlotte Sound, South Island , New Zealand
Queen Charlotte Sound

 

Kaiteriteri, South Island, New Zealand
Kaiteriteri

 

Abel Tasman National Park, South Island, New Zealand
Abel Tasman

 

Lake Rotoiti, South Island, New Zealand
Lake Rotoiti

 

Lake Rotoroa, South Island, New Zealand
Lake Rotoroa

 

Lewis Pass / St. James Walkway, South Island, New Zealand
Lewis Pass

 

Nga Hau e Wha Marae, Christchurch, New Zealand
Christchurch

 

Akaroa, South Island, New Zealand
Akaroa

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