"Land of the long white cloud"......
the most beautiful green.....
and blue water.....
And some really cute seals!
New Zealand is an island country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It is a 10-hour flight from Singapore, but because we were using frequent flyer points for me, we had to fly two hours to Bangkok and then to New Zealand, so it was a 14-hour flight over.
This is the first time in all of our travels where we have crossed the equator. D was very excited about this event and informed me that we are now "shellbacks". In the U.S. Navy, when a ship crosses the equator the sailors become shellbacks; those who have not are called pollywogs.
We spent 15 days/14 nights in NZ; we flew 8 flight segments (shortest 45 minutes - longest 14 hours), and we had 2 ferry rides (one very rough & one calm).
We spent 30 plus hours driving in a car up and down the south island and we got extremely lucky and had only one day of rain!
We knew very little about NZ before this trip, here are a few tidbits we learned.
It is far from any continent and is not considered one. I thought NZ, along with Australia, made up a continent. When I asked our New Zealand friend Mike, his response was "we are not Aussies, or British, or European, we are Kiwi, part of the Pacific." So there you go. The country is divided into two main landmasses ‒ the North and South Islands. We had to opportunity to visit both.
Because of its remoteness, NZ was the last major landmass to be populated (with the exception of the polar regions) by humans.
Although the Maoris arrived from Polynesia around AD900, the first Europeans did not find New Zealand until 1642. In 1840 the British and Māori signed a treaty making New Zealand a colony of the British Empire.
The official languages of NZ are English and Maori. Elizabeth II is still officially the Queen of New Zealand. A Governor General selected by the Queen resides over the country.
NZ is about the size of Colorado. The population is 4 million and they say there is around 9 sheep to every human. However, once dominant exporters of wool, it has been overtaken by dairy products, meat, and recently wine (we carried 4 bottles back to Singapore).
Marmite (a toast spread) is a "national treasure" and there was a big shortage going on while we were there. The plant that makes marmite is located in ChristChurch and was damaged by the earthquake.
New Zealand is ahead of the US (east coast) by 17 hours. It is the first country in the world to see the sunrise.
Thirty percent of New Zealand land is made up of forests. From what we saw, they were all very tropical.
The "kiwi" is a native New Zealander. It is also a bird and the country's national symbol. The funny thing is, they are rarely seen because they are nocturnal and only come out at night.
For you movie buffs - the movie the "Lord of the Rings" was filmed entirely in New Zealand.
We started our adventure in Auckland. It is in the North Island and is the largest city in all of NZ. Auckland has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world. We spent two days at the beginning and one day on the return trip. It had the feel of an old western town in the United States. Parts of the city were very artsy.
Our next leg was a flight from Auckland to Wellington and then a ferry ride from Wellington (North Island) to Picton (South Island). We had a very very rough ferry ride and many people were sick - including yours truly! Let's just say it was not a fun 3-hour ride!
We arrived in Picton, a pretty little water town early evening Sunday.
The next morning we picked up our rental car and started on our drive.
What you need to keep in mind is that New Zealand is the pack-packer/out-door person's dream. And as we all know - I am not a "back-packin" kinda girl. With that being said - let me share the beautiful nature of New Zealand with you!
The roads were filled with campers, many of them old school. I liked this one from the 60's - her name was Paige. Maybe we should have rented a camper.
The first leg was a long drive (7 hours) and the scenery was mostly brown hills. The towns were hours apart and very small. We felt like we were out in the world alone! We were able to get really good coffee in every town we stopped.
Because it is such a young country, there are few historical buildings or sites. It is all about the scenery, which reminded us a lot of the west coast in the US – Seattle, San Francisco, and the Big Sur.
Punakaiki had very interesting rock formations called the Pancake Rocks. It is a heavily eroded limestone area where the sea bursts though a number of vertical blowholes during high tides.
Nature began this work of art about 30 million years ago. Alternating layers of small marine creatures and sand became buried and compressed on the ocean floor, which created areas with multiple layers of hard limestone and softer sandstone.
Earthquake activity then lifted the ocean floor and the rain and the wind began to erode the softer sandstone. The outcome is cliffs and ravines with hundreds of horizontal slices along their vertical faces, like huge stacks of pancakes.
As I mentioned before, this was back-packing/camping territory so the choice of places to sleep was very limited as well as expensive ($115 to $140 USD). They did not have hotels, but rather motels - like in the US in the 1960's. They were clean but very sparse. Each unit did have a small kitchen with utensils, a stove, and refrigerator. Not what I am use to when we travel!
At every motel, when we checked in, we were handed the keys and a small bottle of milk (trim or regular) for our coffee. They also supplied a small bag of coffee and a coffee press. Very interesting. All of the owners were very friendly.
They say there are thousands of waterfalls in NZ. Glaciers formed the waterfalls as they moved down mountainsides, cutting into the river valleys.
This has created high falls with a relatively small volume of water, often drying up in summer.
We enjoyed our stay at this little "motel" in Hokitika. It was just a few steps to the beach and we had a great sunset that evening. We had half of the unit and the bed was in a little nook on the second floor.
We had a glass of lovely New Zealand wine on the beach as we watched the sunset. We then cooked steaks in the little kitchen.
Frans Joseph and Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier is located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park. It is 8.1 miles long and is fed by four alpine glaciers. It is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. We only had to hike an hour to get to the mouth of the glacier. You had to book a tour guide to go further.
A close up photo where you can start to see the "blue ice". It really did not photograph well.
Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook
Lake Tekapo covers an area of 32 sq mi, and is at an altitude of 2,300 ft above sea level.
The amazing turquoise blue color of Lake Tekapo is created by "rock flour": the glaciers in the headwaters grind the rock into fine dust. These suspended particles in combination with the sunlight create Lake Tekapo's unique water color.
New Zealand's highest mountain is Aoraki Mount Cook. It is 12,316 ft high. The mountain formerly appeared on maps as Mount Cook. In 1998, the mountain was officially renamed Aoraki Mount Cook to incorporate its Maori name.
Just down form our motel was Lake Matheson where they told us on a beautiful day you could capture the snow-capped Mount Cook reflected in the waters. Our day was gorgeous! Lake Matheson was formed about 14,000 years ago.
Wanaka was one of our favorite towns. It was more upscale then the other towns we had visited.
We stayed in a lovely little B&B called Beaconfield B&B , owned by Mark and Carla. They had two well-appointed rooms and their own little vineyard. There was also a beautiful mountain view out of our bedroom window. We definitely recommend this B&B.
We walked to the lake where D was inspired to do yoga.
I just relaxed while he exercised.
We also enjoyed our stay in Christchurch. Pierrette, owner of our favorite B&B in France, Ambiance-Jardin, introduced us to her friends Mike and Karen who live in Christchurch and they so graciously showed us around town for the day and then invited us to their lovely home for an excellent lamb dinner. Oh yes....and the most delicious appetizer of hot smoked salmon. We had never had it before and I will definitely be craving it!
Christchurch is a town that most people recognize due to the devastating earthquake they had a year ago (February 2011). The earthquake caused widespread damage across Christchurch, especially in the central city and eastern suburbs. In total, 185 people were killed. It was followed by a large aftershock on 13 June (which caused considerable additional damage) and a series of large shocks on 23 December 2011.
In the photo above the code on the glass shows that a NZ rescue team went though and searched for people/bodies on 2/24 the 2nd window shows that a US rescue team completed a 2nd search on 2/25. If any bodies were found - that number would have also been show. Fortunately, there were zero found in this building.
A year later the people of CHCH are still suffering. We could see the damage everywhere. Every few weeks more houses are being declared unlivable due to the structural damage. And many of these cannot even use the land to rebuild, as the soil has been deemed unbuildable. There are large neighborhoods were the houses are completely empty and cargo containers everywhere to help contain the property if it falls. Look at the house on the edge of the land in the photo below. It is very sad.
The total cost to insurers of rebuilding has been estimated at NZ$20–30 billion, making it by far New Zealand's most expensive natural disaster, and the third-costliest earthquake worldwide.
On one of our favorite drives of the trip and our last leg, was from Christchurch to Picton. We got to see the New Zealand fur seal in the town of Kaikoura. They are only found on the coasts of New Zealand and the south coast of Australia.
One area, where we were able to get up close and personal with the seals, had only a few males lounging around. But, we were able to get pretty close for some really nice photos.
Males weigh up to 450 lbs. They can be very aggressive. Not sure about these guys – they barely noticed we were there.
Seals usually feed at night traveling out to sea to feed on octopus, squid, lantern fish and barracuda.
There was a separate area several miles down the road where all the females and babies were lounging and playing. This area was fenced off so we were not able to get as close to them.
Female seals start to breed at 3 - 4 years old. The gestation period is about 51 weeks. They give birth and mate again as soon as one week later. We had so much fun watching the babies play. The pools of water were like a playground for them.
The females were definitely more aggressive than the males - at least to each other.
In the early 1800’s seals were hunted to near extinction for their fur which was used for hats, coats clothing etc. Luckily, in 1946, the Government stopped commercial sealing. They are slowly making a comeback. Thank goodness - how could anyone harm these sweet guys?
Wellington, the Capital City of New Zealand is the southernmost capital city in the world. D's conference was here and where we spent the most days - five.
Ka Kite Ano New Zealand!