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Travel to New Zealand with its beautiful lakes and mountains


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Travel stories, a trip to New Zealand with its beautiful lakes and mountains. Famous for films as Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Chronicles of Narnia, Wolverine, etc.



Where do you find New Zealand?


map new zealand


About New Zealand



New Zealand is a country formed by islands. The two major ones are the South and the North Islands. They're split by the Cook Strait. Situated South-East from Australia and South-West from the Pacific, you'll find the Pacific at the east side of the country and in the west the Tasman Sea. The capital city of this beautiful country is Wellington, also called Windy Welly, because of its extreme windiness. The acreage is 268.000, but it only has 4,5 million citizens. Most of them, 3,5 million live on the North Island. 1 million of them call Auckland their home, which makes it the largest city in the country. In New Zealand, you can find a lot of active volcanoes. The highest two are called Mount Ruapehu (2797m), located on the North island and Mount Cook, (or Aoraki in Maori) (3724) found on the South Island.

The most important revenues of New Zealand are generated by exportation of lamb, sheep, cattle, dairy, kiwi-fruit, apples, fish hand timber. Although, the stunningly looking landscapes and beautiful scenery are a big inspiration for the film industry, which leads to a growing tourism industry. Next to that, the vineyards become bigger each year.

New Zealand's fauna has been under extreme pressure for years. The import from foreign creatures, especially rats, dogs, cats and possums, damage the country and imperilling the original birds and species. Next to that they have caused extinction for all birds, and still do. Most of these foreign animals come from Australia, originally Europe and Asia. Especially possums form a big plague. Possums have no natural enemies and therefor are on the top of the food chains. There a several projects to drive back the number of possums, especially on the North Island. Most of them make use of reusable traps or poison the animals, some projects are bit more active and hunt. So, when on one of the many walks available in New Zealand, you see a trap or yellow containers next to, or on the path, take a step back for your own safety.

The flora in New Zealand has been through a bit of a different development then the rest of the world. This is mainly because of the separation, 80 million years ago. Through the years, a lot of trees have been felled and many new plants and trees were introduced. This all lead to extinction of the original vegetation. To protect that what's left, most of the tropical forests are now classified as national parks.

In the early days, only the North Island was infected by an algae plague, named diatoms, but it's now also found on the South Island. To prevent the waters from pollution, the government has placed signs close to all basins to make visitors aware of the surroundings and ask to please don't commingle the different waters. A common method you'll see here is 'check-clean and dry'.

The most important wine region on the South Island is Marlborough, this is where the best Sauvignon blanc grapes from New Zealand are grown. But, can also be found in Napier and Hawkes Bay, on the North Island. Meanwhile the Chardonnay made its appearance, but isn't very big yet. Slowly, but surely the red wine cultivation is coming up as well. This by bringing Pinot Noir grapes, as well as the Merlot and Syrah into the New Zealand vineyards. The red wine produce is fairly bigger in the east of the North Island, but a small part can be found in Martinborough, as well as in the middle and south of the South Island.

In 2015, the grape vine cultivation amounted 234 million litters. 62 million litters were used for New Zealand's own wine consumption. To realize the export of 209 million litters, they needed to dawn their stock. The total amount of acreage that was used was 35.000m2.


Travel stories, a trip to New Zealand.



Sunday the 30th and Monday the 31st of October 2016

From Amsterdam to Dubai to finally arrive in Auckland, New-Zealand:


New Zealand had been on our wish list for a long time, but only this year we succeeded to find time as well as the budget to make a tour through the land of the Kiwis. For most people, the distance/travelling time, is the biggest obstacle when making the passage to the other side of the world.

There are a lot of different routes to get to New Zealand. A lot of people choose to have an extra day in for example Singapore, but we chose to get it over and done with quick as possible. With a massive Boeing A380-800 from Emirates we fly from Amsterdam to Dubai in 6 hours, to straight away catch a 15-hour plane to Auckland. We're very happy to be able to catch some sleep and don't get to New Zealand totally knackered, but definitely experience some distortions in our biorhythm.


Tuesday the 1st of November

Auckland:


As we're flying east, we lose half a day and arrive in Auckland on Tuesday at 10.00am local time.

Scared as a rabbit, we join the que for the strict immigration and border security. The anxiety was completely misplaced as we get through quickly and in no time, get to our luggage. At the arrivals, Lode Notredame from Amazing New Zealand is already waiting for us. Originally from West-Flanders, but based in New Zealand. He has lived here for 14 years and organises custom made trips for couples and groups.

Before Lode drops us off at the hotel, we first make a stop at Mount Eden. Famous for its amazing views over New Zealand's largest city, Auckland. Mount Eden is one of the 48 extinct volcanoes from the Auckland Volcano Field.

Next, we go for a short tour along some sights to eventually get dropped off in front of the Mecure Hotel in the city centre. From our room on the 11th floor we have some impressive views over the harbour and historical buildings.

To fight the jetlag, we decide to straight away go explore Auckland. We first walk along Queen Street. This is Auckland's high street, which apparently is very popular among Asian tourists. Between the high-rise buildings, most consisting of glass, we find some alluring architecture from the 1900s, but other than that we find little charm.

On the way back we pass the Sky Tower. This tower is with 328 meter, the highest tower found in the southern hemisphere. At the top, we find a revolving restaurant, that within 1 hour gives you a 360degree view of the city. Next to that, visitors have the option to bungee jump from 192m high. This, I would only recommend to the real adrenaline junkies.

After a nice dinner, with a view over the marina, our eyes are getting tiny and we're fighting off sleepiness. We decide to go to bed early and get some rest.

new zealand auckland

Pictures - photos of the city Auckland 1



Wednesday the 2nd of November

What to do in Auckland:


A good night's rest and an invigorating shower and we're ready for a new day. We go to the 13th floor of the Mercue hotel to enjoy a delicious breakfast buffet. Again, with a great panoramic view over the city.

We dive in the information brochures to decide on a plan for today. Shall we take a boat trip to one of the surrounding islands, find out more about the city on a hop-on-hop-off bus, visit Sea Life Centre or explore the city by foot. We choose the last option and go for a stroll at a venture.

We saunter along the water, where we see some great yachts and catamarans. Around noon we take a break at a cute terrace that overlooks the Harbour Bridge and the Boat Harbor. The biggest of the many marinas in the city. This is why Auckland is also called 'City of sails'.

We slowly make our way back to the city centre and walk through Albert Park, a nice park, which also is the highest point in the city. We gasp for breath as the way up is quite steep, but as soon as we arrive on the top, surrounded by lush trees and lots of nice green, we know it was worth it. In this part of the city you can also find one of New Zealand's biggest Universities and its beautiful historical buildings.

Finally, we walk back to the water front, where an Irish pub catches our eye. We choose to have dinner there and end the day with a glass of wine at the bar on the top floor of the Mercure hotel.

new zealand auckland

Pictures - photos of the city Auckland 2



Thursday the 3rd of November

Excursion to the Kiwi in Otorohanga and glow-worms in Waitomo:


A sunny day kicks off Spring, as well as the start of our tour through New Zealand.

We take a taxi (22NZD) to Thrifty Rentals City depot, where we pick up our pearly white, Toyota Camry, rental car. Soon we find out that, although we didn't see or read anything about this in the travel brochures, an international driving license is definitely necessary to rent a car in New Zealand. If you don't bring this with you, they'll give you the option to translate your (Belgian) driving license in to English for 60NZD!

Next, we head south for a trip of approximately 200km. The road seems to be busy, but as soon as we leave the metropolis of Auckland it quickly changes into a breath-taking landscape full of rolling green hills, grazing cows and cute little sheep. It almost looks like an elongated scene of the Shire from the famous Lord of the Rings- or The Hobbit films and we feel blessed to cruise through this beautiful scenery.

In Otorohanga we make a stop to visit The Kiwi House (24 NZD). As the Kiwis are night birds, you only get the opportunity to admire the little creature in a darkened environment. We're very lucky as one of the birds just decided to go for a little wander along the window when we're there. It's a lot bigger than expected and it looks a lot like a plush ball. Extremely cute! The show is over soon as it quickly creeps back in to its hiding spot.

On the site, there are loads of other species as birds and reptiles from New Zealand's origin, but because of our strict schedule we can't effort to spend a lot more time here.

We're in a hurry to make it to Waitomo in time, as we've got booked in a tour at 14.00. The tour will take us to the Waitomo caves, to set eyes on the famous glow-worms. We bought this trip at Spellbound (75 NZD), a small organisation with a very personal approach.

We drive for about 30 minutes through, an again, breathtakingly landscape and after a short walk arrive at the entrance of the cave. Before we actually enter the cave, we pass a little stream where our guide allures some big eels with meat waste. It was very impressive to see how the eels in such a strong current, fight for a bite.

To enter the caves and see the glow worms you have several options. You can choose for a wet version, and explore the caves in a wetsuit and rubber band or the dry version, what we did. This way you explore the caves while slowly cruising on a boat.

As our eyes slowly get used to the darkness, we start to see thousands of little light bubbles around and above us. The light comes from the glow worms, who try to lure their prey this way. A most magical experience that leaves everyone speechless. It's like a gigantic Christmas tree.

When we leave the cave, there's coffee, tea and biscuits provided. We leave for a second cave in which we walk. Here we get the chance to admire the tremendously beautiful stalactites. There's enough light and paved to get us through the cave, without any accidents. This cave as well is stunningly beautiful.

At around 17.30 our tour guide drops us back off at the start in Waitomo, from here we need to go for a little drive towards Redwood Lodge B&B, our berth for tonight.

new zealand kiwi otorohanga gloeiwormen waitomo

Pictures - photos of oure excursion to the Kiwi in Otorohanga and glow worms in Waitomo



Friday the 4th of November

The film set of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in Matamata and an authentic Maori performance.:


As we're enjoying a delicious homemade breakfast the sky is getting darker and soon we see low clouds and squalls of driving rain. Unfortunately, that isn't it for today.


At around 9.00am we leave the Redwood Lodge to go to Matamata. Here you'll find the big estate of 1250ha, belonging to the Alexander-family. Most famous as the décor of the film set of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. At the parking area, we find out that this place is extremely popular. From all over the country, there are big tour busses full of tourist showing up, all wanting to experience the magical world of the Shire.

With a little van we drive through rolling green pastures full of sheep towards the film set. This is where our two hour long tour starts. Our tour guide tells us all about the set, the films, the production and why Peter Jackson chose this specific location. As we're passing several little hobbit houses, people make optimal usage of their cameras, clicking incessantly, trying to get the ultimate photo of this magical place, while the tour guide tells us some anecdotes.

After a walk through the Shire we get to The Green Dragon. Here we get a real Hobbit beer to end this unique experience. The tour, including the guide and the beer, have definitely been worth the 79NZD.

Next, we head down south to a volcanic area and town; Rotorua. We've booked a night at the B&B 124 on Brunswick and are very happy this residential is in the suburbs and not in the city centre. As Rotorua, because of the sweltering ground, has a very distinctive smell.

Rotorua is mostly famous for its natural hot springs in which you can take very nice baths. Next to that there are a lot of activities to find in the area, such as zip lining, duck tours and a big adult playground. We prefer to take it easy and visit the blue- and green lake.

Tonight, we're booked in at 18.20pm to visit an authentic Maori show at the Mitai Maori village. The show starts off with a welcoming 'hello' in all the different languages of nationalities attended. After that we get shown how to prepare a traditional 'hangi' meal, which is cooked in the ground. Next, we witness the arrival of a true 'waka', full with real Maori warriors. This is a little boat, the traditional form of transportation.

Finally, we get an authentic Maori performance. A surprisingly melodic, musical show, that makes our heart smile. Of course we get to see the world famous 'haka'dance, including the intimidating moves and facial expressions. Outstretched tongues weren't forgotten.

After the show we get lead to our tables and enjoy a most delicious 'hangi'meal. All of this together with the other international visitors. Last, but not least, the Mitai tribe takes us on a 20-minute stroll through the woods, where we get to see even more glow worms while they explained more about the local flora and fauna.

new zealand lord of the rings the hobbit

Pictures - photos of the film set of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in Matamata and an authentic Maori performance.



Saturday the 5th of November

Geothermal sites in Wai-O-Tapu and the Tongariro National Park:


After we charged our batteries, we are spoiled with an amazing breakfast. Meanwhile we've become big fans of the B&B concept, as our hosts showing of the seam to make their guests stay as pleasurable as possible. We love this personal approach!

Our final destination today is the prestigious Chateay Tongariro Hotel, but first we'll visit a geothermal park called; Wai-O-Tapu (32,50NZD). Because we got a little distracted chatting with Jonathan and Lindsay we missed the very punctual (10.15am) eruption of the Lady Knox Geyser. Such a shame!

Wai-O-Tapu includes 20 geothermal sites, scattered over a trail of 3 kilometres. The most impressive sites are the Artist's Palette and Champagne Pool consisting of differing colours. Lake Ngakoro with its emerald green water and the almost yellow fluorescent Devil's Bath. At the main entrance, there's a nice souvenir shop where you can find some nice remembrances to take home.

We hit the road for another 150km to the Tongagriro National Park, where we'll stay for a couple of nights. On the way there the weather is gradually getting worse. The occasional downpours transfer in to unceasing showers and the green surroundings suddenly look a lot less attractive.

When we get to the Chateau Tongariro Hotel, the three big volcanoes this area is famous for are fully concealed in the clouds and we can't see any of the rough landscapes which make this place so popular. A big disappointment.

Thankfully, the prestigious hotel, build in 1929 meets is reputation and expectations. Everything here exudes the grandeur of yesteryear, though the rooms are well adapted modern tourism and the needs of the 21st century.

Unfortunately, we can't dine at the hotel restaurant, because it applies a reservation and dress code. Instead we go for a satisfying meal at the Pihanga Café & T-bar.

new zealand wai-o-tapu-park

Pictures - photos of the geothermal sites in Wai-O-Tapu and the Tongariro National Park



Sunday the 6th of November

The three volcanoes Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, famous because of Lord of the Rings:


As soon as we wake up, another disappointment awaits. The weather today is as bad, if not worse as the day before. It's so cloudy, we can barely see the other side of the road.

Instead we enjoy a long and lovely, extensive breakfast buffet at the rather chic restaurant. Another fun experience!

Thereafter we go to a nearby information centre, where our hope once more gets defeated. The weather isn't changing and will stay this miserable at least till tomorrow. Even worse, they're expecting thunder! This means our panoramic flight over the three volcanoes (Tongariro, Ngauruhoe en Ruapehu) won't be able to set off. We bewail we can't see any of the scenery used for Mount Doom and Mordor from the Lord of the Rings films with our own eyes.

Even the short walk to the waterfalls isn't planning to leave. Due to the dense fog and the heavy showers nothing will be visible and won't be not as fun to visit.

We then decide to undertake our own plan and drive up to the highest reachable point in Wikau Village. From here you can take a chairlift up to the Knoll Ridge Café. This tavern is the highest café (2020meter) in New Zealand, but due to the appalling weather conditions, the chairlift and café, obviously are closed as well.

We eventually realize that our best option here is to take a rest day instead and make the most of our expensive hotel room (280 NSD). We watch some television, read into- and prepare ourselves for the upcoming travel days.

For dinner we go is towards the nearby Tussock Bar. A no frills eatery where hospitality is hard to find, but at least you do get a decent meal at a reasonable price.

new zealand tongariro national park

Pictures - photos of the three volcanoes Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, famous because of Lord of the Rings



Monday the 7th of November

From the Tongariro National Park to Wellington:


Today we've got a long drive ahead of us. It'll take us about 5 hours to get from the Tongariro National Park to the capital of New Zealand, Wellington. Which is situated in the far south of the North Island.

This morning as well, the weather isn't with us. We get the message, so quickly have breakfast, grab our stuff and leave as soon as we can.

When we pass the ski town Ohakune, the tips of Mount Ruapehu slowly appear and become slightly visible. The photo won't do it any justice, but at least we've seen a glimpse of the impressive mountains.

We've got a long way ahead of us. We drive through 'hobbitland' and see bright green rolling meadows full with white sheep and black cows. It feels good to finally see some more colourful landscapes.

Normally, the route to Wellington isn't very spectacular, but as we drive passed Mangaweka we stumble upon a sign which says 'Scenic Route'. Our GPS says it will take up an hour more, but we decide to take it anyway. Glad that we did, as this route gave us some fantastic and uncountable idyllic panoramic shots.

In the middle of nowhere we bump in to a Dutch couple that drove their camper in to a grass verge. We try, but soon find out pushing it, doesn't help at all. The car is completely stuck. We drive back to a very nice road inspector that just helped us out by telling us the right route. He straight away jumps in his car to see if he can help the sufferers. Unfortunatelly, the camper doesn't have a towbar, so he can't connect a cord to pull it out. Very unlucky! At the same time, another car, with two locals in it passes by and with a little help and strength from everyone, we get the camper back on the road. Manpower! A perfect example of the thoughtful and sympathetic Kiwi's. Thanks guys!

After the panoramic route, we still have a three-hour drive to go to Wellington. A monotone route, which gets even worse when it, again, starts raining cats and dogs. The rest of the way it pelt down and we're slightly becoming a little depressed.

At around 16.30pm we arrive in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. Mentioned as Windy Welly earlier, we can now also add rainy, as the it's still pouring down.

We stay at the Bay Plaza Hotel (18NZD extra for parking). The hotel is situated close to the water and our room on the 11th floor gives us a beautiful view over the harbour of the city. Due to the weather we don't really get to enjoy it. Very unfortunate.

We find out that close to the hotel there's a museum, named Te Papa (which is free of charge). We decide on a blitz visit. Next to a gigantic squid, there's heaps of modern art and Maori wood carvings to see, as well as great seasonal exhibitions.

The shitty weather really doesn't improve the quality of our stay. It's almost impossible to see anything of the city and when we're looking for a nice restaurant, our umbrellas immediately get ruined by the howling wind. Shit, shit, shit!

In one of the highstreets we find an Irish pub with a decent menu. We decide to go in, warm up a little and eat till we're satisfied. After our meal we head back to the hotel, hoping that the weather gods bring better news tomorrow.

new zealand wellington

Pictures - photos from the Tongariro National Park to Wellington



Tuesday the 8th of November

From Wellington to Kaiteriteri:


Hurray! The day starts off great with a bright blue sky. Unfortunately, we don't have time to explore Wellington a little more as our ferry to the South Island leaves at 8.15am.

Soon as we dropped off our rental car in Wellington and checked in our luggage, we go on-board of the Interislander ferry. To make sure we could enjoy the views comfortably and make optimal usage of the passage, we booked premium tickets (100NZD) in advance. These tickets included entrance to the premium lounge, as well as breakfast, drinks and WiFi.

On the ferry there are several other payed options for food and drinks. And if you like, you could even watch a film at the mini cinema.

Due to the mild weather, the three-hour trip to the South Island runs very smoothly. The last hour of the trip we sail through the Marlborough Sounds, a fjord-like area, that offers some spectacular perspectives.

At around 12.30pm we get to Picton and make our way back to Thrifty Rentals to pick up our new rental car. This time we get a Korean Korando, of which the trunk, noticeably a lot smaller than the Toyota Camry. It's very peculiar that this time, no questions were asked about an international driving license. Especially strange, after we couldn't take the car with just a Belgian driving license in Auckland.

From Picton we take the Queen Charlotte Drive, a scenic route with a lot of viewpoints that look out on the fairytale-like bays with bright turquoise blue waters. It's known for its curvy roads and winding passage, so people who easily get carsick, may want to prepare themselves by taking some sickness tablets, perhaps?

We lose quite some time, as we stop the car on most of the viewpoints and take some amazing shots, as well as a quick run of errands for the next day. At 18.30pm we arrive in Kaiteriteri, a cute little town, famous for water sports. We stay at the Split Apple Lodge, a by a German couple owned, B&B, that gives us a fantastic view on the surroundings in Kaiteriteri.

We drop off our luggage in the room and drive straight to Hooked, a restaurant in the neighbour town Marahau, recommended by our hosts. We order the 'green lipped mussels', which are cultivated in the area, and the fresh fish of the day. Rediciously delicious! We feel spoiled and the staff of the restaurant is very friendly. It's nicely decorated, and so we decide to reserve a table for the next day.

new zealand kaiteriteri

Pictures - photos from Wellington to Kaiteriteri



Wednesday the 9th of November

Boottrip and hike in the Abel Tasman National Park:


After a delicious continental breakfast with fresh fruit, we only need to drive 15 minutes to the little harbour in the centre of Kaiteriteri. Departures of daytrips to Abel Tasman National Park leave here and we find several organisations lined up.

At Wilson, the oldest, but best organised agency with a number of excursion options, we booked a 'open day pass' (80NZD) in advance. This way we could rock up any time we wanted and werent too fixed on time. We choose the boat leaving for Totaranui, at 9.20am. This is the furthest point of the Abel Tasman National Park. We weren't the only ones with this idea, as the boat is absolutely cramped and we have to fossick a seat at the sun-drenched deck.

We sail along several idyllic golden beaches, where other passengers leave the boat to start their hikes. We make a quick stop at Tonga Island, where we find a see lion colony, but we only get to see a few of them in the water and on the rocks, next to it.

A little after 11.00am we arrive at Totaranui, the most northern point at the National Park. We sail back a little to finally leave the boat at Tonga Quarry to start off our hike. The hike takes about 4,4 kilometer to Medlands Beach.

Before we start to climb the steep ridge, we obviously make a few stops to take some photos of the paradise-like, almost deserted beaches with turquoise coloured water. As we walk, we thank the bushy subtropical, magnificent big ferns, that protect us from the burning sun.

We decide that for us, two hours is enough to see- and create a picture of this beautiful nature. Avid hikers, of course, can make longer treks and may even want to stay at the primitive camp spots you'll find on the road.

At 15.00pm the boat picks us up from the stunningly looking Medlands Beach and we make our way back to Kaiteriteri. When we arrive at 16.00, the weather has changed completely and bright as the day started, it now looks very grey, full of dark clouds with little drops of rain pouring down.

Afterwards, we drive back to our cosy B&B, where we, before we go for dinner, chill out on the communal terrace. Since we were so eutrophic about Hooked, the restaurant we went last night, we wouldn't want to miss out on a second time. Never change a winning team!

new zealand Abel Tasman National Park

Pictures - photos of the boottrip and hike in the Abel Tasman National Park



Thusrday the 10th of November

From Kaiteriteri to Kaikoura:


After a sunny and warm day in Kaiteriteri, yesterday, today, again, awaits a chilly, gray day with loads of rain. The weather in New Zealand is really fickle!

Fortunately we didn't plan any activities for today, but we do have to drive the longest route of our entire tour. The drive between Kaiteriteri and Kaikoura is 365 km and our GPS indicates this will take up to 5 hours. Along the way we see much more lush green meadows on steep mountain walls and a piece of the alpine area. Again, the low clouds block the view and we only get to see a glimpse of the beautiful surroundings. It's an absolute shame. Afterwards we drive through the Marlborough region, which is well-known for its many vineyards

Once we've passed Blenheim, it's time to stretch our legs. We make a stop and go to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. In this centre you can find a great collection of warplanes from WWI (25 NZD) and WWII (20 NZD). The combination ticket costs 39 NZD, but since our time is limited, we only visit the hangar of WWI. The planes mainly belong to the private collection of Peter Jackson and usually get placed in an authentic decor, which perfectly conveys the atmosphere of yesteryear. I'd highly recommend this exhibition.

The last hour of our long drive to Kaikoura, we drive along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, here as well, it rains cats and dogs and the our sight gets blocked by the low clouds.

Then the highlight of our day appears when we suddenly spot a colony of fur seals on the coastal rocks. The playful animals aren't afraid and let us get quite near. This results in a lot of great photos.

Afterwards we step up the gear for our final sprint towards the cozy seaside town of Kaikoura. In Kaikoura we stay in the beautiful Bendamere B&B's. As we enter our room, we can hardly believe our eyes; an amazing view over the deserted black beach and the underlying Pacific. It takes our breath away! Even better, we get to stay here for two nights.

Recommended by our host, we visit the 'Green Dolphin' for another delicious fish dish. A well recommended place, worth visiting a second time.

new zealand kaiteriteri Kaikoura seals

Pictures - photos from Kaiteriteri to Kaikoura



Friday the 11th of November

Sperm whale, Whale Watching and seals in Kaikoura:


Shit, shit, shit. Another dark and bleak day. We had a somewhat sunnier expectation of our New Zealand trip, but nevertheless it isn't raining, so we can't complain too much.

After a modest continental breakfast in the company of the other B&B guests, we make our way to the Whale Watching encounter (150NZD) in Kaikoura, at 10:00 am. 800 Meters in front of the shoreline of Kaikoura, the ocean floor dives in to a 1,200 meters deep trench, which, as they prefer cold water, is ideal habitat for (male) sperm whales. The sperm wales can be found any time throughout the year. This is why the organization has a 95% success rate to at least see 1 à 2 fish per trip.

Since we have to wait half an hour before the briefing starts, we take this opportunity to explore the virtually deserted black pebble beach.

After a short safety introduction, we get driven for about 10 minutes to the other side of the peninsula, where we will board a fast catamaran. Fortunately, we have calm seas, but a cheeky pill against seasickness never hurts!

As long as we are sailing and the crew is trying to locate a sperm whale, we&re not allowed on the deck. But it doesn&t take long before they find Jonah; one of the residential fish. Most people rush to the deck and all around us, the camera&s clicks incessantly.

In general, the sperm whale come to the surface on order to absorb oxygen. This can take up to 10 minutes. They then dive back into the dark depths in which they reside for an average of 45 minutes to hunt on giant squid, their favorite snack. During the last dive, the tail of the sperm whale happens to vertically stand on the water. This is the big 'wow' moment everyone waits for.

After this, everyone needs to go inside and watch and wait for Jonah to appear to the surface, to perform her little set of tricks once more.

Around 13h00 we return to Kaikoura, after we make some short stops at rocks with seabirds and fur seals.

Whale watching is 'big business' in Kaikoura. Most organizations take several trips a day and usually you get what you pay for. Or what they promise in their brochures: each trip you get 1 à see two sperm whales. Sometimes you get the chance to also admire other whale species, but that is rather exceptional. On the way back, there's still a chance to see some dolphins, so keep your camera close!

At the end of the afternoon we go up to the furthest northern tip of Kaikoura, where most fur seals are close to the road. Besides some females sleeping on rocks, there are also two large males very close to the parking lot. They willingly pose for all the photos lenses, but when the Asian tourists come too close, they open their mouths and create some loud hums. Although they're used to the attention, the seals clearly need their personal space. They're still wild animals and it's necessary to keep a reasonable distance.

Afterwards, we eat a tasty fish dish in 'The Pier',a tavern which is mainly known by locals. Finally, our sperm whale chapter is over and we can start to move on and look forward to our next adventure in New Zealand.

new zealand whale watching seals kaikoura

Pictures - photos of Sperm whale and seals in Kaikoura



Saturday the 12th of November

From the cute little seaside town Kaikoura to Mount Somers:


Again we wake up with a grey sky and wet day ahead of us. We're starting to feel a little despondent.

After breakfast we leave the cute little seaside town Kaikoura, without the chance of even a little peek at the surrounding mountains. Quite frankly, very annoying.

We head to Mount Somers, situated fairly central to the outskirts of the Canterbury Plains and the Southern Alps. We choose for the slightly longer inland Scenic Route, making the total driving time a little over four hours.

Initially there's little beauty to find along this route. The hills and mountains have disappeared completely and we drive on a plateau that's less appealing to us. Eventually we arrive at the Rakaia River. The landscape starts to become hillier and the bushes brighten up with their many yellow flowers. After all, we still get the chance to take some nice photos.

On the way we pick up a German backpacker, who we can only take on for a little while, up to Methvens. Today, she needs to travel for another 250 km to arrive at Mount Cook Village; which is going to be a devilishly difficult task.

At 15h30 we arrive at the Old Vicarage B&B in Mount Somers. We're kindly welcomed by Katherine, Kaylib and their two sons Jack and Oscar. We take our intake in the Chestnut Room, which, fortunately is equipped with some warm blankets, as it's only 10°C outside.

Since the weather here as well hasn't been very nice, we decide to take it easy and relax the rest of the afternoon in our cozy room. The weather forecast promises some improvement for tomorrow. Hope springs eternal!

new zealand kaikoura to mount somers

Pictures - photos from the cute little seaside town Kaikoura to Mount Somers



Sunday the 13th of November

The Hakatere Conservation Park, where some of the filming of Lord of the Rings took place for the Golden Hall from Edoras:


After a delicious breakfast we head to the nearby Hakatere Conservation Park, where some filming of Lord of the Rings took place for the Golden Hall of Edoras.

We leave the B&B looking out on a gray sky, but Katherine is convinced that there's a different microclimate between the mountains, more prone to sun. Hopefully she's right!

Through the 50 kilometer long grit road, along Ashburton Gorge Road and Hakatere Potts Road we gradually approach the high mountains of the Southern Alps, of which the highest peaks are covered with snow. Fortunately, the prediction of our hostess comes true. The sun breaks through the thick clouds and puts a warm glow across the rugged landscape.

The grit road ends at Erewhon Station (an anagram for 'nowhere'). We start our hike to Mount Sunday, the site where they, especially for the Lord of the Rings, built a city called Edoras. Too bad the film set was immediately removed after the shooting, but the views remain pretty impressive.

First we walk on a flat stretch. To get to the other side of the small river, we need to make the necessary antics to not get our feet wet. Next, we pass some cows in a meadow, which curiously observe their visitors passing by. From then, the path goes upwards very steeply. We occasionally need to gasp for breath, but the view from the top of Mount Sunday over the surrounding mountains is truly unique. At one point we are the only people there. A magical experience! We can't get enough of the view and can't stop taking photos of the enchanting landscape.

All up, this hike should have taken 1h30min to complete, but due to our many 'photo stops', it takes us 2,5 hours. Worth it.

Back at the car, we hit a side road leading to Lake Heron. Again we get magnificent views of the surrounding mountains with snowy peaks.

Around 17:00 we leave the Hakatere Conservation Park and gray skies have returned. There really reigns a microclimate!

Since the restaurant in Mount Somers aren't open on Sunday, we have to drive another 30 km to Methven for our dinner. We choose for the Dublin's Pub, where we enjoy the delicious Irish cuisine.

Around 20h00 we arrive back at the Old Vicarage, where we crawl in bed quite early. Tomorrow awaits an early start.

new zealand hakatere conservation park

Pictures - photos of the Hakatere Conservation Park, where some of the filming of Lord of the Rings took place for the Golden Hall from Edoras



Monday the 14th of November

Off to Mount Cook Village for a boattrip to the Tasman glacier:


At breakfast, Katherine asks us if we slept well or if the earthquake woke us up last night. Earthquake? What earthquake? We didn't feel anything and slept like a baby! Apparently it was a strong shock that lasted two minutes and registered 7.5 on the Richter scale. The epicenter was near Kaikoura, the town we stayed at two nights ago. Awfully close! According to news reports, there are many electrical and communication problems in the affected region, there is tsunami alert in the coastal areas and two people didn't survive.

Meanwhile, we get some anxious text messages from family and friends and we let them know that we're safe, but it was very close by!

As we still have an 256 km long drive ahead of us and are expected in the Mount Cook Village at 13h30 for a boat trip to the Tasman Glacier. We say goodbye to our friendly hostess and leave the Old Vicarage around 8:00am.

The South Island is full of scenic routes and again, we drive along panoramic scenery and are spoiled with the beautiful landscapes flashing by.

Just past Lake Tekapo we make a turn into a side road to the summit of Mount John (5 NZD per car) where we enjoy a stunningly beautiful 360° view over the turquoise lake and the surrounding mountains with its endless snow-peaks. Breathtakingly beautiful!

Afterwards, we continue our journey along the 50km long scenic route, which runs just alongside another turquoise lake, Lake Pukaki. We occasionally make a quick stop for some shots. The landscape becomes rougher and the mountains rise even higher. This region was also used for several recordings of The Hobbit.

Unfortunately, like it did yesterday, in 20 minutes time, the pleasant spring sun turns into gray and bleak rain. When we arrive at Mount Cook Village at 13:00pm, the clouds have lowered in such a way, that we can't see any of the beautiful surroundings.

Once we've arrived at the Hermitage Chalet, we quickly drop off our luggage. We grab we our raining jackets and run to the Activities Desk at the Hermitage Hotel. There we get told that our Tasman Glacier tour is cancelled due to bad weather. We obviously feel a little disconcerted, but do understand that security prevails and that it wouldn't have been very pleasant to sail on an open boat on a glacier lake, in such horrible weather. We can get our money back (155 NZD per person), but we prefer to withstand the journey to tomorrow morning. Hopefully the sun makes is return!

We spend the rest of the afternoon hanging and lazing in our chalet and watch some TV. We could go for a walk, but that's the last thing we feel like doing at the moment. A glass of red wine and the homemade biscuits Katherine gave us, are very comforting. Meanwhile, we watch some TV and find out more about the earthquake from last night. It's left a substantial material damage and Kaikoura is fully closed off from the rest of New Zealand. This, as well as the region gets to deal with some firm aftershocks. A real horror scenario!

In the Mount Cook Village are several dining options with varying price ranges. The buffet at the Heritage Hotel costs eg. 63 NZD per person. We find it a bit much and opt for the cheaper and much cozier atmosphere of The Old Mountaineers. Which turns out a great choice; tasty food for a reasonable price.

When we crawl in bed, it's still raining drastically and we wonder if it will all be cleared up by tomorrow.

new zealand mount cook village

Pictures - photos to Mount Cook Village for a boattrip to the Tasman glacier



Tuesday the 15th of November

A boat trip on a glacial lake, next to Mount Cook and a trip towards Queenstown:


Unbelievable, after a soaking wet night, this morning the sun slowly peeps through the clouds. Our heart skips a beat.

Before we go for breakfast at The Alpine Restaurant at the Hermitage Hotel, we first walk past the Activities Desk to ask whether our glacier cruise at 9.30 will leave. Unfortunately, we are told that the tour is currently 'on hold' since it's extremely windy. That wasn't the answer we hoped for, but we don't give up, just yet.

After our continental breakfast with a view over Mount Cook (that with 3754 meters is said to be the highest mountain in Oceania). We take our luggage back to the car and we bring back the chalet key. Prepared for the worst, we turn back at the activities Desk a little after 9:00am. This time, they have good news. Tour will depart!

In a 10 minute drive, we get taken to the start of a short walking track from 1.5 km. This leads us to the boats on the glacial lake. When we arrive at the lake, the sun reflects in the water which turns into a milky white color. With the mountains in the background this immediately creates a perfect shot.

Before we step into the boat, everyone needs to put on a life jacket and follow the usual safety briefing. We then get divided into groups, up to 16 people. Everyone is assigned a seat in the boat and we're ready to leave.

As he carefully makes his way through the floating ice blocks, our guide tells us a lot about the origin of the Tasman Glacier and the speed with which it's shrinking. Each year the Tasman Glacier shrinks at an alarming rate. Yet the 27 km tall glacier, still is, the highest glacier of New Zealand.

During the trip we get the chance to hold the ancient and crystal clear glacial ice, while the guide sufficiently turns the boat in different directions so that everyone has the opportunity to take some great photos.

After an hour on the icy water of 2°C, the educational tour is over and we return to the dock. Meanwhile, dark clouds start to form and little showers start to pour down. We can't really care about it, this time.

Around noon we arrive back at the Hermitage Hotel and we get in the car, off to Queenstown.

Just before Omarama we deviate from the planned route and drive about 10 kilometers to the Clay Cliffs (5NZD per car). A set of bizarre cliffs with ravines and sharp tilt in the rock walls. The natural phenomenon reminds us a little of Bryce Canyon in Utah and delivers superb photographic material.

We drive an hour through the magnificent Lindis Pass, a rugged desert mountain landscape, without any reception. Best not to breakdown here!

Just before we reach Queenstown, we make a stop at Jones Fruit Stall where they literally dump busloads of Asian tourists to buy fresh fruit. Instead of fresh fruit, we get a delightful, tasty, cherry ice cream (5 NZD). Made locally. Yummy!

Around 17h30 we arrive at Lake Vista B&B. When we enter our room an amazing surprise awaits. A beautiful view over the lake and the adjacent city. Wow!

Afterwards we set foot in the pleasant Queenstown, searching for a nice dining room. There is such a wide range of restaurants and so it takes quite some time to make the right decision. We finally bite the bullet and choose to go to the Coal Fire BBQ. Here we get served by a friendly young man Steven, who truly cares for his customers and enjoy some very appetizing food. Highly recommended!

new zealand tasman gletsjer

Pictures - photos of a boat trip on a glacial lake, next to Mount Cook and a trip towards Queenstown



Wednesday the 16th of November

From Glenorchy for a jet boat ride on the ancient glacier flow Dart River :


We enjoy our free morning to sleep in and have a comprehensive breakfast on our cozy terrace overlooking the 'Remarkables'. The mountain that is situated on the border of Queenstown.

Around 11:00am we get in the car towards Glenorchy, where we are expected at 13h15 for a jet boat ride on the ancient glacier flow Dart River.

The 50 km long panoramic road to Glenorchy, continuously follows the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the longest lake in New Zealand. Fortunately, there are enough stops along the way to take photos, because this area really is amazing.

Around 12h45 we reach our destination and we check in at Dart River Safaris. Since we still have half an hour left before we leave, we take this opportunity to explore this charming town, that's entirely focused on tourism.

The trip includes a 'thrilling jet boat ride', a short walk through the forest and ride back in a bus along the Nullah (239 NZD).

Dart River Safaris offers its customers extensive rain jackets that can be used while on the tour, as we know, there's always a chance on heavy showers. Next to that, we're asked to also wear a life jacket for safety. We feel like real Michelin males, but guaranteed to stay dry this way.

Once we are on, our guide floors it, and we tear with an extreme speeds over the lake and the shallow river. We're continuous making very sharp turns and an some occasional rotations of 360°. Yihaa, this is fun!

Meanwhile, we lay our eyes on the surrounding landscape, it's stunningly beautiful. Clouds and sun alternate continuously, which give us a different perspective on the surrounding mountains. Wow, we can't get enough of it.

Occasionally, we make a short stop so the guide can give us some information about the Dart River and Mount Aspiring National Park. Meanwhile, cameras clicking incessantly.

The 43km long trip on the Dart River takes about an hour. We definitely get value for money. When we want to make our return, the engine blocks and refuses all service. Damn, here we are in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately a guide from another boat, jumps into the icy, knee-high water, without a whimper. He helps us out and immediately gets proclaimed to our hero of the day!

Afterwards we make a short walk through the Mount Aspiring National Park, where we get the told more about the local flora. Interesting, but obviously less exciting than the boat tour.

Finally, we return to Glenorchy through the dry riverbed by bus and see how a local farmer tries to catch an escaped calf. His three barking dogs chase the young animal into some shrubs, where it gets stuck. It all seems a little dramatic, but the farmer easily frees the calf from its plight.

Along the way we also make a stop at a film set of Lord of the Rings, The Chronicals of Narnia and Wolverine. It's great to be able to admire this location with our own eyes.

Around 16h45 we get back to our car and we drive straight back to Queenstown, where we, again, will have dinner at Fire BBQ.

new zealand dart river

Pictures - photos from Glenorchy for a jet boat ride on the ancient glacier flow Dart River



Thursday the 17th of November

Drive to Te Anau, where a convent has become a lodge:


Since we've only got a 'short' drive of 210km ahead of us today, we take it easy and hang and chat with our lovely hostess Bev. this morning. Around 10:00am we leave the beautiful Lake Vista B&B behind us and start our trip towards Te Anau.

First, we make a detour to Coronet Peak, where we again, get spoiled with majestic views. Next we drive through Arrowtown, a former gold mining town that's now fully transformed into a tourist attraction with shops and cozy restaurants.

At Kelvin Heights, we try to visit some film locations of Lord of the Rings and Wolverine, but the private domain, where the scenes were recorded, unfortunately aren't accessible to the general public.

Next we drive further south, along the rough Remarkables mountain range and the endless Lake Wakatipu. The Panorama snaps we take are stunning and we stop as much as we can to take a countless amount of shots of these remarkable landscapes.

Around 13h00, the heavens open up again and because of the fog and low clouds, we practically can't see anything of our surrounding. We don't mind it too much, as we now drive through a flatter area, that's less photogenic anyway. Worse is the temperature drop to only '6°C, and that in combination with a very strong wind. Brrr, cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey!

Around 15h00 we arrive at Te Anau Lodge, a former monastery that's totally been converted into a large B&B. This without detracting from the authentic character of the building. We stay in the Baptisery Room, a rather simple and small room that, fortunately, does have Wifi.

After we unload our luggage, we cose ourselves in the cozy library. Throughout the day, guests can go here to enjoy a nice cup of coffee, tea, cakes, biscuits and wine. With a glass of wine in our hands we relish the beautiful views of Lake Te Anau and the Murchison Mountains.

At night we go into town to find ourselves a nice restaurant for dinner tonight. Our choice falls on The Ranch, a kind of Country&Western shack, with a no nonsense style of serving. On the menu they have a delicious venison fillet, at a very reasonable price. Highly recommended!

new zealand anau lodge

Pictures - foto's Drive to Te Anau, where a convent has become a lodge and the Murchison Mountains



Friday the 18th of November

Cruise on Milford Sound, a fjord:


During breakfast we meet Karl, the friendly owner of the B&B, who also makes delicious cupcakes.

Today we join a scenic cruise on Milford Sound, one of the biggest tourist attractions of New Zealand. The road between Te Anau and Milford Sound is about 120 km long, but it's advised to take out at least 2.5 hours, pulling out the drive and numerous photo stops. Knowing this, we leave early, to have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the bright sunshine and spectacular scenery.

The 120 km long road, indeed is a concatenation of beautiful views and, if possible, we would have stopped every five minutes to take a photo. Unfortunately, the SH94 sometimes looks like a real highway, where packed tourist buses rant over. So, we only get to stop on the provided parking areas. Once we tried stopping in a grass verge, in which we came loose, in a deep groove and drove against a large rock. It effected in a loud bang, but, fortunately, no damage was made to the car and so, we quickly got back on the road. Lesson learned!

We're nearly approach our destination. The closer we get, the more beautiful the spectacle gets. With its rugged snow-capped peaks, idyllic rivers and crystal clear waters. We even find a film crew recording the environment and our camera works overtime. Words won't do this place justice.

Milford Sound also is the area where the Kea, a large green parrot, with an orange colour on the underside of its wings. They are very curious and definitely not shy. Instead, they jump on the roofs of parked cars, try to get through the windows and literally go around begging, from one person to another. Everywhere is stated that it's forbidden to feed the birds, but of course there are always some idiots who ignore it. Such a shame!

One of the highlights of this amazing drive is the passage through the Homer Tunnel, which was completed in 1953. Consisting of one lane and only 1.2 km long. A traffic light indicates when you can drive into the tunnel (up to 10 minutes waiting time). It looks a bit like a rabbit hole, as it's very narrow and dark!

The descent from the Homer Tunnel via hairpins supplies us with some spectacular sights, but unfortunately, there are only a few viewpoints provided.

new zealand milford sound fjord

Pictures - photos of the route to Milford Sound, a fjord



Around 14h00 we arrive at the car park from Milford Sound. In total it took us about four hours to make the journey! Afterwards, we only have a little less than ten minutes to go to the terminal and check in for our cruise.

We booked our cruise at Cruise Milford (90 NZD) one of the smaller companies. The full buses from Queenstown especially, work with companies as Real Journeys and Southern Discoveries. Mass tourism at its best!

At 14h45 we embark and see it coming; all day we've had such lovely, sunny weather, but now dark clouds slowly are coming our way. It will not be long before they overshadow the fjords. Too bad, but fortunately we remain spared from rain.

All cruise boats, more or less, sail along the same route, which includes Mitre Peak (with its 1692 meters the highest and most photographed mountain in the area), Copper Point, Fairy Falls and then turn over to the Tasman Sea on the other side of the fjord, back along the ledge full with fur seals. Then Stirling Falls where the boat anchors for a few minutes (so the healing water, makes us look 10 years younger) and the beautifully exuberant Bowen Falls.

At the end of the tour, we bump into six swimming Fiordland Crested Penguins, the rarest penguins species of New Zealand. To be found, only a small amount of 2000 breeding pairs. How fortunate we get to see these cute animals here!

At 16.30 we get back on the dock. It was a nice trip, but due to the low and heavy clouds we couldn't see the highest peaks, and the whole fjord area seemed a bit bleak. Too bad, but fortunately we didn't need our raincoat, and this in a region which, on an average, has 250 rainy days a year!

On the way back we almost hit a bird of prey, that decided to nibble its prey in the middle of the road. He luckily, can escape and fly away just in time, but it was very close. Shocking experience!

Since we took all our wanted shots this morning, we don't need to stop and arrive back in Te Anau at 18h45, where we, again, dine at the good old 'The Ranch'.

new zealand milford sound fjord

Pictures - photos of a Cruise on Milford Sound, a fjord



Saturday the 19th of November

Drive back from Te Anau towards Queenstown to Wanaka:


Before we return to Queenstown and Wanaka, we stop for a quick visit at the Bird Sanctuary (free) in Te Anau, where you get the chance to admire the nearly extinct Takahe. This prehistoric-looking, blue and green bird does have wings but can't fly. Literally a strange bird!

Next, we hit the road, back down the same route that we drove last Thursday. Luckily the sun is shining now and we get a second chance to take some photos of the beautiful mountains along Lake Wakatipu.

After having passed Queenstown and Arrowtown, we follow the scenic Crown Range Route which is a zigzagging climb to an altitude of 1120 meters. Meanwhile, we are spoiled with sublime views over the underlying landscape. Once we reach the top, we're, again, presented a totally different prospect of mountain slopes full of brown tussock grass (bluegrass).

Around 15h30 we drive in to the pleasant town of Wanaka, where behind the fourth largest lake in New Zealand, the stunning snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps rise.

The B&B Aspiring Lofts has been a hit once more. We are warmly welcomed by Don and Lorraine, who immediately overwhelm us with useful information about the region. And when we enter the room, we can't stop grinning. What a lovely room and spectacular outlook over the mountains. This trip, we're so spoiled with super deluxe stays in prime locations. Wow!

Since it's a sunny day, we decide to enjoy the rest of the afternoon on the terrace outside, sipping some delicious wine. Feeling blessed! As recommended by Don, we dine in style (at Wanaka Gourmet Kitchen) overlooking Lake Wanaka. The deer filet, really is, finger-licking good. We immediately reserve a table for tomorrow night!

new zealand queenstown wanaka

Pictures - photos drive back from Te Anau towards Queenstown to Wanaka



Sunday the 20th of November

4x4 ride with panoramic view of Lake Wanaka and surrounding snow-capped peaks


Since our only planned activity for today, doesn't take place till this afternoon, we take the opportunity to extend our breakfast and get acquainted with Don, Lorraine and the American couple that also stayed in our B&B last night. It's always nice to get to know other travelers and locals and exchange helpful travel tips.

The rest of the morning we explore the little town, Wanaka where we inter alia insert a brief visit to Puzzling World, a kind of amusement park with all kinds of optical illusions.

Since it's a bright sunny day, we may as well take some extra photos of Lake Wanaka and the underlying peaks of the Southern Alps. These shots just look like real postcards!

We consider to go on a scenic flight to Mount Aspiring, the highest mountain in this region, but the price (270 NZD P.P. for 50 minutes) slightly overweight's our budget.

new zealand lake wanaka

Pictures - photos of a panoramic view of Lake Wanaka and surrounding snow-capped peaks 1



At 13:30 we get picked up by Ridgeline Adventures in Wanaka's city centre, for a 2.5 hour trip to a large cattle farm (168 NZD). We start off with feeding the two alpacas. Initially, the creatures are still a little shy, but soon start to eat more quickly from our hands. A great start!

We then start the in a 4x4 jeep, bumpy and steep ascent. We pass hundreds of sheep with their ultra-cute lambs, grazing Angus cattle and deer running away skittishly, when we come too close. Meanwhile, we also get provided with more information about the surroundings, by our guide Steve.

Once we reached the top, we have a an amazing panoramic view over Lake Wanaka and its surrounding snowcapped mountains. Since it's so incredibly beautiful, we take the strong wind as it comes.

The tour finishes around 16h00 and as we drive back, we pick up two hitchhikers that also need to be dropped off in the centre of Wanaka. At last, we drive ourselves back to the Mount Aspiring Road for our final, ultimate photographs. What a beautiful scenery!

new zealand lake wanaka

Pictures - photos 4x4 ride with panoramic view of Lake Wanaka and surrounding snow-capped peaks 2



Monday the 21st of November

From Lake Wanaka to Fox Glacier on the West Coast


Today we travel to the west coast of the South Island, known as the wettest region of New Zealand. That does not bode well! Therefore, we are trying to stretch our stay in sunny Wanaka as long as possible.

When we leave the fantastic Aspiring Lofts and its sympathetic ownerw, we start our long journey of 275 km. First, we still drive along Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka for a while, which results in a number of idyllic photos.

From Makarora, we leave Central Otago and drive on to the West Coast. And yes, we can literally see the storm coming; it doesn't take long before it starts to drizzle. That, however, doesn't stop us to take a few photo stops at the charming waterfalls and mountain streams. Gradually it starts to rain harder and unfortunately we drive kilometers long through the dense green rainforest that's completely shrouded in mist. Benefit, it does look very mystically.

From Haast we reach the coast of the Tasman Sea and the weather starts to clear up. Lucky for us, as we now get the chance to stop here and there to enjoy the beautiful sea views. The road then plunges back into the rainforest and we still have a fairly long and quite boring ride to the village of Fox Glacier to go. Where we'll spend the night at Mountain View B&B.

It seems the common thread of our trip, but again we can't see anything of Mount Cook and the rest of the Southern Alps because of the low clouds. Our hostess Karen, however, tells us clear skies are coming. So (if we're lucky, tomorrow we can still catch a glimpse of the mountains.

After Karen has given us a very detailed explanation of the available activities in the area, she also recommends us to book a table in Lake Matheson Cafe, the best restaurant in the area. We follow up on her advice willingly and soon find out her suggestion was worth it, as our bellies are indeed spoiled with very tasty and sophisticated dishes. Another marvelous recommendation!

new zealand fox glacier

Pictures - photos from Lake Wanaka to Fox Glacier on the West Coast



Tuesday the 22nd of November

Views of Lake Matheson, Mount Cook, Mount Tasman and the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki


Ouch! At 06:00, we roll of out bed, to go on a hike around Lake Matheson, that only in the early morning, a perfect reflection of the surroundings, the forest and the underlying Southern Alps in water shows.

When we walk out, we're pleasantly surprised with full visibility of both the top of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, the two highest mountains of the Southern Alps. Finally, we get see these promised beauties in all their glory!

Ten minutes later, we arrive at Lake Matheson and our euphoria quickly changes into an angry frown. The clouds very rapidly have invaded the mountain peaks. Too bad, our photos of the reflection will be a reflection showing trees only.

Despite the fact that the clouds today are a little bummer, the 5 km long walk around Lake Matheson is definitely worth it. The walk takes you through a dense rain forest with large ferns and trees which trunks are completely covered with moss and other plants. It's what you imagine a fairytale forest like. So magical!

Along the well applied walkway, there are three main viewpoints and some smaller 'tiny holes'. This way we see the lake from a different perspective each time and as long as it remains calm (until 8.30am) we'll indeed be able to see the beautiful reflections of the surrounding forest in the water.

After our morning walk, Karen serves us a hearty breakfast and when we take our last little bites, Mount Cook and Mount Tasman make their appearance once more. Breakfast with a view, what a luxury!

Then we drive to Fox Glacier, a large glacier which, with a steep 30 minute walk, is accessible to the general public. Since our time is limited today and Karen told us that the weather is rather gray and dirty, we decide to only drive to the viewpoints and take some great photos there. Here we get to see the famous light blue colour even better.

About 20 kilometers further, we repeat this scenario at the Franz Josef Glacier. This 12-km tall glacier can be reached in a flat 45 minute walk, but we prefer the 'easy way' and admire the glacier from the parking lot. We arrive just in time to get some photos with the snowy peaks and steel blue sky. As a few minutes later, the clouds again, take over the airspace and done we are.

We drive to our berth in Rapahoe in one go. Along the way there's little to nothing to see, therefore we can easily call this the most boring ride of our entire tour.

Around 15h30 we arrive at Breakers B&B, located right next to the Tasman Sea and has direct access to the deserted beach. We are warmly welcomed by our hostess Jan and as icing on the cake we even get a free upgrade to the Driftwood Room. Wow, such a spacious room with a super king size bed and an amazing view over the stormy sea. Life is full of surprises!

When we dumped our suitcases in the room, we immediately set off to see the Pancake Rocks (free), which are located 30km north in Punakaiki. Comparing to the boring drive this morning, all the more impressive this route is. We drive along to the coastline, with many beautiful viewpoints on the rock formations in the sea. The abundant sunshine completes a 'picture perfect'. These are the photos which the West Coast of New Zealand is renowned. An absolute gorgeous view!

The Pancake Rocks are probably the main attraction of the West Coast. It is a group of highly weathered limestone rocks where the Tasman Sea during high tide by a number of vertical 'blowholes' breaks, resulting in literally dazzling images. By immense pressure on alternating hard and soft layers (of fossils of marine animals and plant remains), the limestone get the behold of thin stacked pancakes.

Since today is a very sunny day with less wind, the sea spray doesn't reach its maximum height of 15 meters, but nevertheless it's a beautiful spectacle to watch and listen to, as the sea pounds with a loud bang against the rocks each time. Here we spend a few comfortable hours.

Around 20h00, we arrive back at our B&B and we enjoy the sunset on the spacious terrace with a glass of red wine. At night we'll be lulled to sleep gently by the crashing waves of the Tasman Sea.

new zealand pancake rocks punakaiki

Pictures - photos of a views of Lake Matheson, Mount Cook, Mount Tasman and the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki



Wednesday the 23rd of November

Drive to Christchurch with stop at Dobson Brunner Mine Site, Devils Punchbowl Falls, bizarrely shaped limestone rocks at Cave Stream and Castle Hill


During breakfast, our hostess Jan gives us a plethora of information about the sights along the route we'll take to Christchurch today. She's even typed it all out and printed it off for us to take away. Great service!

Before we start our 280km ride across the South Island, we first go for a short walk along the deserted beach. The radiant sun of yesterday, unfortunately, has made space dark clouds. Moreover, rain again!

Our first stop is Dobson Brunner Mine Site, a former mining village which was completely demolished, but whose foundations are preserved. On the information panels provided you get a good impression of what the town used to look like and the forthcoming heavy industry.

Next on our agenda, Lake Brunner. According to Jane, a very beautiful and photogenic place, but the fiercely challenged mist and rain, don't make us even bother getting out the car. Another missed opportunity!

Then we pull over Arthur's Pass into the mountains. Again, through the thick fog we can't see anything of the striking views of the Otira Gorge.

Once we have passed the highest point, the low clouds gradually disappear and we can even make the short walk to the Devils Punchbowl Falls. On the other side of the mountain, the weather seems significantly better and the further we drive into the valley, the warmer it gets. In an hour's time the temperature rises from 12°C to a tropical 29°C. Unbelievable!

Next, we go for a walk between the odd shaped limestone rocks at Cave Stream and Castle Hill, locations used during the recordings of The Chorincles or Naria. A very nice setting, where you easily, can find yourself wander for several hours.

Finally, we leave the mountains through Porters Pass and drive another hour of plane pastures and cropland to Christchurch, the second largest city of New Zealand.

Around 17:30 we arrive in Christchurch at Orari B&B, a fully restored Victorian home from 1890 which has up to ten rooms and is located very central. Again, we are kindly welcomed by the manageress who immediately also secures our restaurant reservation for tonight and tomorrow. This way, we're sure of a seat in the busy centre.

On our trip we've been generously spoiled with super king beds and beautiful lake views, mountains and seas. This rather small room with queen bed and a outlook over the parking lot, immediately puts our feet back on the ground. Our trip is almost over. Back to reality!

new zealand cave stream castle hill

Pictures - photos of Cave Stream en Castle Hill, locations that are used for the movie The Chorincles of Naria



Thursday the 24th of November

An awesome trip to Akaroa to see hector dolphins, penguins, fur seals and spot amazing rocks


Today we take a 'short' excursion from Christchurch to Akaroa, 95km away. Her we'll go on a boat trip to try to find hector dolphins, the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world.

We leave with plenty of time left, so we can insert enough photo stops during our passage on the green and hilly peninsula Banks Peninsula. Unfortunately, the low clouds play a trick on us, so we only get to see the landscape through a dim haze.

So, when we arrive in Akaroa we have plenty of time to explore the town. During the colonial period, especially French fleets alight. This is the reason for the still existing, typical French atmosphere. The houses are very picturesque and photogenic, accompanied with the many rose gardens. We also seize the opportunity to score a few more affordable souvenirs here.

Around 12:30 we embark at Akaroa Dolphin Cruise (75 NZD) one of the smaller and more personal companies. We immediately get offered a drink and asked if we wish to use an extra windbreaker. An offer which we take full advantage of today because it is only 13°C and water can be damn cold. We also get introduced to Jet, the dog, which also is a crew member and an expert in detecting dolphins. He even has his own life jacket. So cute!

Fifteen minutes later we leave the harbor and sail towards the Pacific Ocean. Jet takes his job very seriously and is constantly walking back and forth across the deck. Apparently, dogs can detect the sound of dolphins. Meanwhile, the captain provides us with more information about the area and its local fauna.

It doesn't take long before we spot the first group of hector dolphins in the distance. Not a bad start, but they're too far out for a good photo opportunity. They quickly disappear from our sight.

Through the natural bay, we continuously sail towards the open ocean and suddenly a group of six hector dolphins show up right below, beside and in front of the boat. They seem to have great fun, as they keep making joyful jumps out the water. The cameras click constantly and everyone is thrilled. This is what we've come along for!

After a while we are approaching a rare White Flippered Penguin (the smallest penguin in the world) and the skipper must reduce speed, thus hector dolphins lose interest in our boat. They put on a higher gear and disappear quickly in the blue water.

Afterwards, we sail along the coast to see some caves and rocks with lounging fur seals up close. We also pass a salmon farm and when we throw some fish feed in the cages, the salmon start jumping like crazy. Jet also does his oar in and starts barking with joy. A beautiful ending to this successful trip.

At 14h45 we get back ashore, we take a little walk through the lovely Akaroa and slowly make our way back to Christchurch via the panoramic Tourist Drive. The road winds gradually upwards. We get so high that we literally drive through the clouds and unfortunately don't see a thing. Next to that, it's very dangerous driving this way. Again, very unfortunate, because it's supposed to be a very nice track.

When we take a short detour, later, via Dyers Pass Road, there are less low clouds, but it remains a foggy scene. Well, at least we tried.

Around 18:00 we return to Christchurch, we drink a glass of wine at the B&B and make our way to Mexicano's (reservations are a must) for a delicious margarita and some Mexican specialties.

new zealand Akaroa hector dolphins

Pictures - photos of an awesome trip to Akaroa to see hector dolphins, penguins, fur seals and spot amazing rocks



Friday the 25th of November

Christchurch visit and return to Antwerp


Our last day in New Zealand starts off with rain. Therefore, we decide to first visit the Canterbury Museum (free). A large part of the museum, of course, deals with the history of the country, the Maori and early settlers. Although, there's also a wide variety of topics; ranging from Asian and Egyptian artifacts (there's even a sarcophagus with mummies), some skeletons of dinosaurs, the history of Air New Zealand, the indigenous birds, etc.

When we step outside the museum, it, fortunately, stopped raining and we take a look in the adjacent botanical garden. A timid sun even allows us to sit on a terrace for a little while.

Afterwards, we walk passed the most important sites of Christchurch: the Avon River, which you can sail a boat on, the cathedral which was completely destroyed by extreme earthquake in 2011 and, still is in progress of restoration, some historic buildings from Victorian times, the cozy New Regent Street with its pastel facades and of course the Re:START mall, a shopping area that was completely rebuilt in containers after the devastating earthquake. Originally, this was an initiative of the destroyed shops provide with a temporary shelter, but has now become an unique and lively shopping neighborhood. An added attraction in Christchurch.

Meanwhile, even the most clouds have disappeared and the temperature has rose to 26°C. The weather in New Zealand keep surprising us.

Around 15:30 we bring back the rental car and drive back to Orari B&B, we put on our winter clothes and we drive to the airport. The best things come to an end!

First we have a short flight of three hours to Sydney. Next, a slightly longer trip from 14 hours to Dubai and at last, another extra seven hours to Amsterdam, where we take the Thalys (train) to Antwerp.

18:00 at Saturday, we arrive home, tired but content. This was a really fun trip with all the trimmings: great scenery, friendly people, super deluxe accommodation and lots of amazing memories.

new zealand christchurch

Pictures - photos of the city Christchurch



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Helpful information:



Booking of our trip


Except for our airplane tickets, we booked our accommodation and activities through Amazing New Zealand. A local travel agency, which is run by Lode Notre Dame, a Belgian who's lived in New Zealand for over 14 years and his New Zealand wife Sandi. They develop fully customized packages, according to your specified budget. They arrange the most amazing accommodation and offer fun activities that are also cheaper than when you book through a Belgian or Dutch organization. All communication can be done in Dutch and despite the time difference of 12 hours, they quickly provide you of answers and advice. Lode and Sandi know the country off pat, so that they can conclude a perfectly personalized travel package. We were picked up by Lode himself at Auckland Airport, where he handed us all vouchers and an uncluttered map with directions and schedules. Really useful and very detailed! On the way to our hotel, where Lode dropped us off right in front, we got a personal tour to Mount Eden, where you get a spectacular view of the city. No hassle with buses or taxis, which is great after such a long flight!

www.amazingnz.com
info@amazingnz.com
Whangaparaoa 0930
Auckland
New Zealand
(0064)9.428.4668


Some B&B's:


Lindsy & Jonathan
124 on Brunswick
www.124onbrunswick.co.nz
0474 204 535 or 0274 549 037


Don & Lorraine
Aspiring Lofts
www.aspiringlofts.co.nz
+64 3 443 7856 or +64 21 236 1518


Karl Lamb
Te Anau Lodge
52 Howden street, Te Anau 9600
www.teanaulodge.com
+64 3 249 7477 or +64 21 0222 0360


App Camper Mate voor smartphones:


Camper Mate is a free and very handy App which you can download on your smartphone beforehand. (works best with GPS localization)
Camper Mate: http://www.campermate.co.nz/


Emergency number in New-Zealand


National emergency number New-Zealand: 111


Language:


English and Maori are the two official languages spoken in New Zealand.


Traffic:


In New Zealand they drive on the left side of the road. Be careful when crossing, approaching roundabouts and driving into streets. In big cities like Auckland pedestrians can cross an intersection diagonally. Definitely pay attention here! A civil liability insurance (BA) for vehicles is not mandatory. Therefore, always take a car with full insurance. That way you'll avoid many problems.


Electricity:


The electricity in New Zealand is 230V - 240V and 50Hz (which is slightly more than in Belgium and the Netherlands, but our equipment can be used as usual. They make use of a very specific electrical outlet, which requires an adapter with three flat pins. The grounding pin is a flat straight pin and the two other flat pins are inclined towards the earth and are directed towards each other. These adapters are only for sale in New Zealand and Australia.


Medical information and hazards in New-Zealand:


Always consult your doctor to check your vaccinations such as hepatitis A - B, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, typhoid, etc.
vaccinations
Sand flies are mainly found in the west of the South Island, but can basically occur anywhere where water is present. Sand flies are small flying insects from 2 to 3mm which especially in the mornings and at dusk bite to drink blood. Because they are so small, you don't usually feel them, or too late, when they have bitten already. A bite can cause severe itching that can last several days. The bites can cause infections and can develop into severe ulcers, that can result in ugly scars. Try not to itch in order not to worsen the infection. Some people have an allergic reaction to the bites. When this happens, a big itchy bump which arise around the bite. If the infection doesn't seem to heal, go to a specialist in tropical medicine. Baby oil or sunscreen products based on oil are the most appropriate means of prevention against sand flies.
sand flies

The Katipo spider that lives in and on driftwood, mainly occurs on the beaches of the North Island. It's toxic to humans. When you're bitten by the Katipo spider, go straight to a doctor. Especially if you have an allergic reaction, a bite of the Katipo spider can be cause a very dangerous situation
Katipo spin

In one quarter of the water of rivers and streams, the parasite Giardia Lamblia occurs. It's not visible to the naked eye. This parasite causes intestinal infections. In a case of persistent diarrhea a medical advice should always be obtained. Indicating contamination of Giardia lamblia parasite.

The geothermally heated waters contain single-celled organisms that can cause an amoebic infection. The government therefore advises to never stab your head under water. These single-celled organisms can enter the body through the even nose or ears.

At first sight, possums may seem cute and sweet, but don't put them in a tight spot, because they can attack and transmit diseases. The same, for fur seals, never choke their escape to the water.

Protection against the sun, even on a cloudy day in New Zealand is an absolute must. The use of sunscreen with a high-factor is at all times recommended in order to protect the skin against sunburn. A good pair of sunglasses to protect the eyes can't be missed either. The ozone layer is very thin, so that the solar radiation is more intense. The risk of developing skin cancer in New Zealand is much higher than in Europe.


Needed documents:


In New Zealand, an international passport is needed. Which upon arrival, is still valid for at least 6 months. At rental companies they usually requested an international driving license. When you haven't got one, you'll have to pay 60 NZD for the translation costs. In Belgium it costs €15 to apply for an international driving license.


Weather and climate:


The climate on the North and South Islands differs from one another. On the North Island, during the day, there's a maximum temperature of 24°C in summer and 8°C at night. Therefor kiwi fruit is grown only here. On the South Island it's usually a few degrees colder. In the mountains it can properly freeze (even in summer). In winter several ski resorts open in the mountains. The country being surrounded by the ocean, the wind, the construction of the islands and the vegetation, sometimes results in days of four seasons. The greatest differences in climate in New Zealand occurs between the west and east coast of the South Island. Usually it's the Westerly winds, which cause a lot of rain (up to 8.5 m per year) to the central mountains. In the East of the South Island it's much drier.


Time difference New Zealand - Belgium:


The Belgian daylight saving time is not simultaneously followed in New Zealand. Normal the time difference is around 12 hours.


DHW, beer and wine:


Tap water is usually drinkable, but to be sure, always ask at the hotel or B&B. When eating at restaurants you always get offered a free bottle of drinkable tap water. The beer is rather bland and much more bitter than ours. The wine is quite young and has a light taste, but better than the beer. Make sure to try it!


Currency:


The currency is the New Zealand Dollar. The acronym is NZD.


Tips:


In New Zealand it's not customary to tip. If you still experienced very good and friendly hospitality, obviously a (small) tip can be given.


Clothing:


Depending on the season you need other clothes. When the sun shines in spring and in summer, loose fitting light cotton clothing and headgear are ideal. In other seasons appointed his long pants and sweaters. In the mountains, extra warm clothing is necessary. The temperature increases at nightfall and decent extremely at night. Don't forget to take some waterproof clothing with you because, (short) rains fall isn't uncommon.






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