Saturday, 4 April 2009

New Zealand (“NZ”) ITINERARY

“Think Quality not Quantity”

NZ is breathtaking beautiful, a recreational wonderland, and is one of the great tourist destinations of the world and in making contact with the following people, all have one comment- being the best place they have been, they want to return or have done so and still want to go back; with the South Island being more spectacular than the North Island:
• Julie Roberts
• Gareth Williams
• Steve Hopkins
• Rob Richardson/Simon Carruthers
• Dawn & Dan Bodey
• Roger Brown
• Veronica Brown (from NZ).
Thank you all ever so much for all the information, books, maps and recommendations.

Many people think NZ is two small Islands of the coast of Australia but they are wrong. It is “adrift” in the South Pacific Ocean some 2,000kms east of Australia. In total NZ is an area of some 268,704 sq km and with a coastline of 15,134km in length. Mountain ranges run for most of its length. Mt Egmont or Tananaki is one of the most beautiful in the world. Mt Cook (also known as the “Cloud Piercer”) is the highest at 3,754mitres (12,313ft). Tasman Glazier, nudging one side of the mountain is one of the largest glaciers outside the Himalayas. Mt Cook National Park covers approx. 700sq km (270sq miles). NZ has more national parks (as a % of the country’s land area) than any other country in the world. NZ consists of 3 main islands:
1. North Island (“NI”) (44,197sq miles) some 70%+ of population live here.
2. South Island (“SI”) (58,170sq miles)
3. Stewart Island (676sq miles)
4. There are also Antarctic Islands and the Chatham Islands.
NZ is thus bigger than the UK and this was taken into account when we agreed our itinerary. The distance between the very north of the NI and the southern tip of the SI is over 1,600km. The population is just 4.3m approx.and some 40m approx of sheep!! Best time to visit is January to April each year. Tourism is a BIG earner with around 2m visitors a year. It is one of the safest countries in the world for travellers but of course usual precautions should be taken.

“Essentials to do in NZ”

• Drink local wines/beers – D.B. Lion, Steinlager and Monteiths. Lots of local boutique brewery labels (Mac’s). There are plenty places to try them which sounds good. Coruba Rum-you must try (Julie).
• Eat a NZ delicacy – Bluff oysters, Nelson scallops, West Coast Whitebait, or the king – “Toheroa” (a type of clam dug from the sands of Ninety Mile Beach), green-lipped mussels, crayfish, Canterbury lamb and pavlova dessert – “yum” I here Stuart say!!
• Gourmet meal - Hangi Feast, a traditional Maori feast (meat and vegetables are steamed for hours in an earth oven).
• Climb a mountain/walk a trail – perhaps two/three. There is not a better place on earth than NZ for hiking, which is called “tramping”. www.alpineguides.co.nz www.ultimatehikes.co.nz
Steve/Roger have mentioned a number of trails but alas on this trip we will not have the time to do them:
• Milford and Kepler tracks
• Humpridge track
• Queen Charlotte track
• Abel Tasman track
• Glenorchy…Rees/Dart track
• Inspect a thermal area – Rotorua.
• Do a train journey – Arthur’s Pass.
• Do a boat/kayak journey – Milford Sound.
• Visit a museum – Canterbury Museum (NZ history and ethnology). Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington is the finest (National Museum of Art, History and Maori Culture).
• Stroll along a beach – Tahunanui Beach Reserve nr Nelson.
• Visit a flea market – Nelson – a Saturday morning.
• Whale watching – Kaikoura. www.whalewatch.co.nz
• Fishing – Lake Taupo/Rotorua.
• Take a 4 wheel drive safari.
• Take a gondola trip. Mt Ngonotaha by gondola before a lugeride all the way downhill!!
• Try a bike ride:
o www.cyclingnz.com
o www.pedaltours.co.nz
The Whakarewarewa State Forest Park has 10 of the best mountain bike trails in NZ. Hire bikes at Rotorua Cycle Centre.

Our 14 days on the Road - Brief Overview

We realised we just cannot see all of the Islands and we do not want to spend all our time travelling so after a lot of research and spot on comments from Veronica, we have now agreed our route and booked all our accommodation to maximise this wonderful opportunity. Yes we have opted for a Mondeo car rather than a Motorhome!! All of this has been done on the internet. We want to thank all the wonderful people who we have made contact with and who are welcoming us with loads of suggestions as to what to do. Leisha who owns the B&B at Evans Bay, Wellington is picking us up at the airport. We know what car she owns and we know how she will be wearing a red jacket – what a lovely way to be welcomed into the country!! She also says the weather “is just beautiful at the moment”.

We will be in Wellington on the night of 8th April and on the 9th we leave for Tongariro National Park, a World Heritage Area and Mordor in The Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies; and stay here for the night’s of 9th,10th and 11th. We are staying at the National Park Backpackers were Anna has been so helpful. Our key activity is to undertake the TONGARIRO CROSSING see http://www.tongarirocrossing.org.nz & www.whakapapa.co.uk This is a one day’s hike of 8 hrs and is the “icing on the cake”. It is a 16km (10mile) hike that traverses the mountains, passing craters and brilliantly coloured lakes, and is generally considered one of the finest walks in NZ. Here I quote Steve, – “Just happened to be the No1 highlight!...absolutely stunning with fantastic views of Mt Ngauruhoe...Mt Doom in Lord of the Rings”. Hopefully we can also get to the top of Mt Ngauruhoe!!

On 12th April we leave for Rotorua and stay the nights of 12th, 13th and 14th with Lyndsay and Graham Butcher at Ngongotaha Lakeside Lodge, proud winners of the NZ AA “Spirit of Hospitality” Award 2007. Lyndsay says “NZ is only one sleep away from the UK”. This is a three hour journey with a lake edge drive to the town of Taupo. Lake Taupo is the largest lake in NZ (covering some 619sq.km.). We will check out Huka Falls on the way. We are already booked into a Hangi evening!! Graham is a keen fisherman so our equipment, licenses and day’s fishing is in place. The average size of rainbows is 4lbs!! We will see boiling mud pools, erupting geysers, silica terraces, explore live volcanoes, lakes, mountains, rivers and streams, forests, wild life parks with a choice of adventure activities. Rotorua is the spiritual home of the Maori people so this is where we can best experience their culture and traditions.

On the 15th we are back to stay with Leisha as this is near the ferry crossing to Picton on the SI. Ferries both ways are already booked so we will be in Nelson on the 16th and 17th and staying with Cheryl and Robyn at the Palms Motel. It takes 3hours to cross between NI and SI. This is one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world and is 20km wide.

The northern end of the South Island (Marlborough) is one of the most pleasant spots on earth. Nelson, the area’s main city, is one of the sunniest spots in NZ and is one of the most attractive cities with many gardens and with wonderful views of the Tasman Bay. The whole of the town reflects the nautical flavour of the name.
What can we do?
• Visit a vineyard. Some 40 wineries including Cloudy Bay. www.nelsonwines.co.nz
• Boutique beers brewed by Mac’s (delicious stout-like beer called “Black Mac”). www.macs.co.nz Tastings/tours $3/7.
• Surrounded by lovely beeches so visit one. Tahunanui Beach Reserve or Separation Point and runs westward past Takaka and is known as Golden Bay.
• Dry-fly fishing. Brown Trout Heaven (freshwater fishing operators) www.browntroutheaven.co.nz

Where to eat?

Waterfront restaurants serving locally caught seafood.
• Smokehouse Café with great food and views up the estuary and across to the Richmond Ranges.
• Smokehouse Restaurant in Mapua – top-notch fish.
• Lambretta’s Café – Bar (Italian).

On 18th, 19th and 20th we are staying with Mary Owen at Ardwyn House in Greymouth. From this base we have a number of options.
What can we do?
• Visit the Franz Josef and Fox (slightly larger) glaziers.
• We can fly over Mt Cook and land on the glaziers. www.skiplanes.co.nz
• Climb to Muller Hut 1,768m (5,800ft).
• Walk on The Hooker Valley Track 12km (8miles).
• Visit Mt Cook Village www.mtcook.com
• Walk in Arthur’s Pass National Park.
• Go over Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch by Tranz-Alpine Express train (231km.) or by car.
(We will have now run out of time to go further south and alas we cannot go down to Queenstown or visit Fiordland. Queenstown is an alpine town and is the adventure capital of NZ and this is where you get the ultimate adrenaline rush!!. It is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. It is a most remarkable place and some travel magazines have ranked it 3rd as a world destination. Visit Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound (“Eighth wonder of the World”). Of all the glories of NZ, Fiordland is surely the most magnificent. It is the country’s largest National Park (also a world heritage park) and at 1,251,924ha it is one of the largest in the world.) If we were lucky enough to return to NZ this is the area we would next discover.

We make our way back as far as Nelson on the 21st and are staying at the Palms Motel. On 22nd April we are back with Leisha at Evans Bay and on 23rd April we both leave NZ. Stuart is making his way directly to Manchester (he has been in NZ a week longer than me and has work assignments there) whereas I am staying three nights in the Hotel Jen on Victoria Island in Hong Kong and I arrive back at Heathrow at 0505am on Monday 27th April.
Thank you for taking an interest in our adventure and please make e-mail contact if you want any of our vast research information – fm@uwclub.net .

Fraser Mackay
3-4-09

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