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Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand’

For our last post on New Zealand I’m just going to share with you some of the unforgettable sights we saw at the Wai-o-tapu Geo-thermal Wonderland. We enjoyed the Lady Knox Geyser and the colors and the smell of sulfur of the park were like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. 

I wish we had photos from the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves but we were not allowed to take pictures.  The caves were incredible, though, and the glowworms were…magical.  The only (lame) adjective I can come up with to describe the experience.  Definitely a must-see if you’re near the area. 

The final pic in the slideshow is on our way back to Auckland.  We were so sad that our trip was over but that photo really captures the beauty of the North Island and is exactly how I’d like to remember our time there.

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I caveat this post with the very obvious fact that we spent less than a week in New Zealand so all observations and theories below are strictly opinions based on our limited time there.

One major difference between New Zealand and Australia is that New Zealanders seemed so proud of their heritage.  Australia’s aboriginals are still struggling (and I mean that in the most serious sense) in so many ways; for their rights to be recognized, to find their place in society, for equality and acceptance…I could go on and on. 

The Maori people and traditions, in contrast, seem to be celebrated in New Zealand.  This pride was evident throughout our experience.  From the very moment we arrived, we were greeted with “Kia’Ora” and other beautiful Maori words. 

While in Rotorua, we enjoyed a Maori performance and traditional Hangi dinner.  The Maori were fierce warriors and we were greeted by the Chief and his warrior clan.

After a walk through the Maori village and very informative performances about the Maori way-of-life, we watched our Hangi dinner being taken out of the ground. 

 

The dinner was delicious and the smoked flavor was so unique.  Both Ryan and I went back for seconds.

We also enjoyed a performance which included songs, dances, and stories from the Maori.

*Sorry for the bad quality of this picture.*  The Maori have distinctive dances and chants (hakas) that can be very intimidating.  They use their body parts as instruments and fierce faces for intimidation.  The New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks, begins each match with the Haka, issued as a challenge to their opponents.  If you haven’t seen a haka before, click on the video links below.  The intensity and pride is truly amazing. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdMCAV6Yd0Y&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JphKPhW_m68&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nrkvpi9IuSk&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0W7YdKYPl0&feature=related

I’m a sucker for traditions, culture, and patriotism.  I’m one of those girls who gets weepy during the National Anthem so the whole evening with the Maori was truly moving.  As we were leaving, one of the hosts shared with us a Maori saying that was perfectly fitting for that evening (the 10th anniversary of September 11th) and for the world in which we live. 

“E ki ana te korero ko te mea nui ki roto i te ao he tangata he tangata he tangata. [The most important thing in the world is people, people, people.]”

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For our third and final B&B stop, this city girl booked a farm homestay in Rotorua.  GASP!  While Rotorua is the top destination in New Zealand for it’s abundance of things to do, we wanted to be away from the tourism craze and thought that a farm would be the perfect place to do so.  Plus, I wanted to pet sheep.

The Panoramic Country Homestay had the most amazing landscape and views from the property of the three B&Bs at which we stayed.  The home was on a small plot of land with a sheep farm and it overlooked Lake Rotorua.  It was gray and gloomy when we arrived but the view was still breathtaking and in such a different way than the other sights we had seen on this trip so far.

Chris and Dave were such gracious and knowledgeable hosts.  They greeted us at the door and immediately gave us helpful pointers for where to go and what to see. They had been in the business for something like 15 years and had a wonderful map of the world on their wall full of little push pins, each representing where their previous visitors were from.  I was excited to see that we were the FIRST from Des Moines and perhaps a bit over-excited to happily push in that little pin marking our lovely state capital.

Chris knew I was excited to feed the sheep so she took me outside as soon as the rain cleared and I got to feed Allie, the lamb.  Allie’s a twin but her brother is a bully and everytime she tries to feed off her mother, he knocks her over.  UGH – boys!

We had such a lovely time at the farm in Rotorua, despite the weather, and there was much more fun to be had.

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Just a short drive away from Hot Water Beach is the scenic “walk” to Cathedral Cove.  The walk — which is really more like a 45-minute hike– begins at the top of cliff with this gorgeous view of the ocean and the cove off to the left. 

When we arrived at the cove, we laid out a couple of towels and settled in for some well-deserved relaxation.

And by ignoring warning signs warning about falling rock inside the cove (sorry, Moms and Dads)… 

…we got some great shots inside the Cove…totally worth it.  

That evening we stayed at the Cathedral Cove B&B, owned by Rachael and Pat.  It was the most modern of all our B&B accommodations as it was just newly remodeled.  Our room had an ensuite and its own little outdoor patio and the whole house was just full of light and cheerfulness.   Beautiful.  Spacious.  Private. 

In the morning we enjoyed a (very big) cooked breakfast and had a wonderful chat with Pat and Rachael.  All of our B&B hosts on our New Zealand trip were lovely people but Rachael and Pat felt like old friends.  We talked about their B&B experiences, our travels and life in Australia, growing a garden and eating fresh, and how to cook a perfectly poached egg.  We could’ve sat at their kitchen table all day just visiting.  What good is travelling if you can’t learn about others and learn a little bit about yourself in the process?

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Hot Water Beach is a major tourist attraction in New Zealand and it is exactly as it sounds.  During low-tide, you can dig holes into the sand, and lay in hot, bath-like water.

I tested the water myself to verify the “hotness” but no, I did not get into bath-like water with a bunch of strangers.  We just sat on the beach and enjoyed wave-watching and people-watching…both equally as entertaining.

After Hot Water Beach, we grabbed lunch at Hot Waves Café and had a scrumptious meal.  New Zealand might just be the best country to eat your way around, as we—and our waistlines –found out.  We did not have a SINGLE bad meal while we were there.  Everything was made on the spot and with fresh ingredients.  At Hot Waves Café, for example, Ryan had Thai beef pasta and I enjoyed a steak sandwich with garlic aioli.

This was right outside one of the major tourist destinations of New Zealand and Ryan and I reflected that any restaurant near a major tourist destination in the US would serve a meal that left you anything-but-satisfied.  I generally leave those places mad that I spent double the price on a processed and mediocre (at best) meal….and am still hungry.  I’m not ragging on our beloved country.  It’s just an observational opinion.  A sad, observational opinion.

Later that evening we feasted on a gourmet dinner at Eggsentric Café , owned by “eggsentric” Dave, aka, “Chook” (Short for chicken, in Australian), who greets all the regulars, cook all the meals, and chats it up from the open kitchen.  His lovely wife seats and serves the entire place!  This cafe is a “must-visit” if you’re ever around the area.  The name says it all about the atmosphere and the food is “eggcelent”!  (INSERT GROAN HERE)

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Coromandel is one of those places that should have a song written about it; it’s beauty, it’s hospitality, it’s splendor.  It was our first stop on our B&B tour and what a way to begin!  It took us two hours to drive from Auckland, through the (seriously) windy mountain and ocean roads, into Coromandel, but even though it was late and dark when we arrived, we knew every white-knuckled moment was worth it.

We checked in at Mangrove Manor, our first B&B,  and were warmly greeted by Anne, one of the owners.  She recommended Umu café for dinner and, although the kitchen was closed upon our arrival, they graciously offered to make us a pizza, which, by the way,  was the best –and we don’t say that lightly– homemade pizza ever!

The next morning we enjoyed a fabulous cooked breakfast and had a bit of a chat with Anne and Peter.  Such lovely people!  Before we took off, I snapped a couple of pics to remember our first stop.

Each of the three B&Bs we stayed at were hand-picked by Travel Planner Extraordinaire, aka ME, because of their proximity to wonderful scenery (lakes, hills, oceans, etc), and because all three offered something unique.

Our first stay at Mangrove Manor was definitely the best value for the amount we paid.  We couldn’t believe how friendly our hosts were, how yummy the brekkie was, how enveloped we were in such unforgettable sights, and of course, how reasonably priced it was.  We would’ve stayed longer but alas…we were on a schedule and had to make it to Hahei by mid-morning.

We took in the incredible views heading out of Coromandel on our way to Hahei (via Whitianga).  This one (of many) was looking down directly at Coromandel Town.  Amazing!

We began to understand that over every hill awaited an exciting surprise and a breathtaking sight like these:

Our only disappointment along the way, was knowing that our pictures would never fully capture what we were experiencing.  There were lots of “Jim-and-Pam-insta-brain-photo-captures”.  “The Office” fans know what I’m talking about…

Onward to Hahei!

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Kia Ora is the native Maori people’s greeting.  It literally means “be well” but as we discovered, it is also used as “hello” quite regularly in New Zealand.

Not more than a year ago, I complained to co-workers, friends, family — and basically anyone who would listen — that I hadn’t been to a new country in over two years.  Towards the end of college I created a goal for myself to visit a new international destination every year and in recent years, that goal was out of reach and I was distraught.  I am laughing at myself now. Little did I know that Australia awaited and from Australia we’d visit amazing places and yes, New Zealand!

The next several posts will be about New Zealand, where we spent one glorious week, travelling around the countryside in a small deathtrap -er, I mean, car.  But for now, this post will serve as a brief taste of what we saw.  And as the Kiwi’s say, it was “Sweet As!” (Translation: Awesome!)

Our trip boiled down to fun facts around numbers:

  • 0 – Number of bad meals we ate
  • 2 – Number of minor arguments along the way.  “Good on us,” I say in my Australian accent
  • 3 – Number of B&Bs at which we stayed.  Our upcoming posts will highlight all three.  It’s also the number of rainbows we saw throughout our drive, including this one below:

  •  4 – Official days of vacation (although we were there for a whole week but Ryan worked the first several days).
  • 4.5 – Pages in my passport that have room for new stamps.  Good thing I’m due a new one soon.
  • 5 – Number of John Deere tractors we saw pulling boats.  Yes, 5!
  •  12 – Hours of driving across the North Island.  We contemplated doing a guided tour or taking the train but in the end, we did a DIY driving and B&B tour planned courtesy of Laura’s travel department 🙂 Our route is below and if anyone is planning to visit the North Island, I would highly recommended the route we took. 

  • 17 – Number of sheep I fed, including 1 adorable baby lamb named, Allie.  Pictures to come in an upcoming post. 
  • 20 – Teams competing at 2011 Rugby World Cup!  How did we not know that Auckland was the host city of the matches?  PS, the US has a team but I’m pretty sure they are not expected to win.
  • 776 – Pictures taken
  • 834 – Total number of kilometers driven
  • Immeasurable – Number of unforgettable memories and priceless experiences

The amount of different scenery we saw during our trip was amazing.  From beautiful pastures to rolling hills…

To rivers and forests….

…Oceans, cliffsides, caves, and mudpools (all of which will be shown in upcoming posts)

I visited the Villa Maria Winery — which claims to be NZ’s most awarded winery– in Auckland by myself one day when Ryan was working.  On the lawn there was this very modern sculpture with a beautiful saying.  I took a picture at the time because I appreciated the art of it but going through our pics upon our return, this seemed like the perfect way to summarize our time in New Zealand.

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