<< markandrupa

New Zealand

february/march 2008

This was our first self-drive road trip of the year and it was a real blast - we especially enjoyed the convenience of not having to repack for airport security for more than five straight weeks. Surprisingly, driving on the wrong side of the road was not as difficult as I imagined - what has been difficult is switching back now that we are home. Both sides of the road look equally "correct" even after being home for four months! Below is a brief day-by-day breakdown of our trip - I'll write up a more complete log when I find the time.


When I find the time...

Trip log

  1. Seattle to Auckland - february 3

    Some poor advance planning had us flying out during the Super Bowl, but we did manage to catch the third quarter while waiting around in the San Francisco airport. We then flew all night, losing a day due to the international date line.

    Air New Zealand Flight #7

  2. Auckland & Devonport - february 5

    Our friend Peter picked us up at 4:30am and drove us back to his house in town. Later in the day he gave us a brief driving tour of town and then dropped us off downtown while he went in to work. We took a ferry over to the cute town of Devonport, walked around a bit, and then headed back to the house where Peter grilled a nice dinner.

    Peter's house, Auckland

  3. Auckland - february 6

    Peter's partner Roy took us on an all-day hike outside town along the beach and up into a lush forested stream valley. We cleaned up back at home and then all went out to dinner atop the rotating restaurant in the Sky Tower - a taller, more impression version of Seattle's Space Needle.

    Peter's house, Auckland

  4. Auckland to Omapere - february 7

    We said goodbye to Peter today and drove up to Omapere. We then joined an evening tour of the nearby Kauri forest. The Kauri trees are ancient and gigantic - some are claimed to be over 4,000 years old and have a 50ft diameter!

    McKenzie's, Omapere

  5. Omapere to Ahipara - february 8

    We spent a few hours at a puzzle shop outside town (run by a friendly hippy) before driving further north to Ahipara.

    Siesta Guest Lodge, Ahipara

  6. Cape Reinga - february 9

    We hopped on a tour bus for an all-day tour of Cape Reinga, the peninsular tip of the North Island. The weather was crappy but we had a great driver and enjoyed the tour, especially the sand boarding. After the tour we immediately drove east a couple of hours to the beautiful Bay of Islands.

    Crisdon Castle, Haruru Falls (Bay of Islands)

  7. Bay of Islands - february 10

    Our day began with a fantastic breakfast at our B&B, after which we self toured the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where native New Zealand Mauri and western settlers came together to sign a national accord. Later in the day we took the ferry over to Russell - a small historic port town - but arrived a bit late and most of the shops in the small downtown were closed.

    Crisdon Castle, Haruru Falls (Bay of Islands)

  8. Bay of Islands & Mangawhai Heads - february 11

    Today we took a half-day cruise around the Bay of Islands, including a ride through the "Hole in the Rock" - a natural sea arch formation that isn't aways passable. Afterwards we drove south to Mangawhai Heads where we met Peter at his beach house. He took us for a cold dip in the Pacific before grilling up dinner.

    Peter's beach house, Mangawhai Heads

  9. Mangawhai Heads to the Coromandel Peninsula - february 12

    We drove Peter back to Auckland today, had lunch with him, and then continued on to Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula.

    The Heights, Thames (Coromandel Peninsula)

  10. Coromandel Peninsula - february 13

    It was a stunning day so we opted for a scenic drive around the Peninsula, which began with a fun ride on the hand-built narrow-gauge Driving Creek Train (it took the creator 27 years to complete). From there we drove to Hehei and participated in a fun but exhausting 3.5 hour sea kayaking excursion, our first real kayaking experience. Finally, we stopped in at hot water beach, a sandy stretch of oceanfront warmed by natural thermal springs.

    The Heights, Thames (Coromandel Peninsula)

  11. Waitomo - february 14

    We began with a long drive to Waitomo this morning, in time to catch an adventerous black-water rafting tour that including some abseiling, spelunking and cave rafting. It was nearly 10pm by the time we arrived at our countryside B&B, but the host was gracious and the cottage itself was just lovely.

    Kamahi Cottage, Otorohanga

  12. Rotorua - february 15

    We continued on to Rotorua today and participated in a traditional hangi dinner (similar to a Hawaiian luau). The hangi was large and quite touristy, but featured an authentic umu dinner and was a genuinely fun evening.

    Regal Palms, Rotorua

  13. Rotorua - february 16

    Our big event of the day was a visit to the Te Puia geothermal park where we watched the large Pohutu geyser spout, observed bubbling mud pools and stopped by the kiwi house for our first look at this iconic bird.

    Regal Palms, Rotorua

  14. Wai-O-Tapu & Waimangu geothermal parks - february 17

    En route to Taupo we stopped in at the Wai-O-Tapu & Waimangu geothermal parks and spent the better part of the day wandering around and enjoying the unique geologic features.

    Magnifique Homestay B&B, Taupo

  15. Tongariro Crossing - february 18

    We were up by 5am to catch a one hour shuttle ride to the start of the Tongariro Crossing, a moderate 11.5 mile hike across a variety of terrain including volcanic rock, sand dunes and forest. One of the highlights was walking in the shadow of Mt Ngauruhoe, which was used as Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. We finished the hike in 8.5 hours and then proceeded to drive two hours to Napier for a late dinner.

    Marinelands Motel, Napier

  16. Napier & Wellington - february 19

    This morning we joined a one hour guided tour of Napier, a small city famous for its Art Deco architecture. We then drove 4.5 hours to Wellington at the southern tip of the North Island. After checking in we met up with Rupa's cousin Mukesh and had dinner at Rupa's Aunt Gangu and Uncle Jarem's house.

    Museum Hotel, Wellington

  17. Wellington - february 20

    We self toured New Zealand's premier museum, Te Papa, for most of the day and then had another pleasant dinner with Rupa's Aunt and Uncle.

    Museum Hotel, Wellington

  18. Wellington to Picton - february 21

    We moved on to the South Island today, taking the ferry across to the small port town of Picton.

    Glengary B&B, Picton

  19. Queen Charlotte Sound - february 22

    We joined the four hour mail run cruise of Queen Charlotte Sound this afternoon - a small boat cruise in which the captain actually delivers the mail to remote homesteads. After dinner in town we drove on to Kaikoura.

    Lemon Tree Lodge, Kaikoura

  20. Kaikoura - february 23

    We signed up for an early morning whale watching cruise today, and though we did manage to spot a sperm whale the seas were quite rough and a number of people got sick. After lunch we took off on a long walk along the rocky and extremely windy shoreline.

    Lemon Tree Lodge, Kaikoura

  21. Kaikoura & Hanmer Springs - february 24

    One of the highlights of the trip was this morning's Albatross encounter - a small boat cruise out into the bay to feed and watch a variety of Albatrosses and other seabirds at extremely close range. From there is was a two hour drive to Hanmer Springs where we spent the evening relaxing in the natural hot springs.

    Settler's Inn, Hanmer Springs

  22. Hanmer Springs to Punakaiki - february 25

    We crossed the Lewis Pass and stopped for lunch in Reefton en route to Punakaiki. After a lovely drive through Buller Gorge we arrived in Punakaiki and immediately set out to see the blow holes and unique geology of the Pancake Rocks.

    Punakaiki Resort, Punakaiki

  23. Punakaiki & Franz Joseph Glacier - february 26

    We returned to the Pancake Rocks for another look, and then drove south to Hokitika and walked around the artsy town center before continuing on to the Franz Joseph Glacier, where we hiked out to glacial river bed for a nice view of the glacier's leading edge. We then drove a bit further south and spent the night in Fox Glacier Village.

    Fox Glacier Lodge, Fox Glacier Village

  24. Fox Glacier & Gillespie's Beach - february 27

    Another highlight of the trip was today's heli-hike on the Fox Glacier. It was, it think, my first helicopter ride, and though is was a short ten minutes I really enjoyed it. We landed on the glacier and spent two hours ice hiking before taking the helicopter back down. In the afternoon we embarked on a pleasant four hour hike out to Gillespie's Beach.

    Fox Glacier Lodge, Fox Glacier Village

  25. Fox Glacier & Haast - february 28

    After a morning hike to see the Fox Glacier from a different perspective we drove south to the Haast River for a mild and relaxing jetboat safari. It was a scenic two hour drive from there to Wanaka where we spent the night.

    Alpine View Lodge, Wanaka

  26. Wanaka & Arrowtown - february 29

    February 29th - bonus day! We toured Puzzling World today, a unique and engaging "museum" featuring room-sized optical illusions and a large outdoor multi-level maze that we navigated together. We then moved on to the adorable little village of Arrowtown for a self-guided walk through the remains of the old Chinese goldrush station.

    Brown's Hotel, Queenstown

  27. Routeburn Track - march 1

    We spent six hours in the pouring rain today hiking a portion of the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand's premier multi-day hiking trails. We were only on a day hike, though, and had lunch at one of the overnight lodges before turning back the way we came. We warmed up in the room and hung out in Queenstown the rest of the day.

    Brown's Hotel, Queenstown

  28. Queenstown - march 2

    It was raining again today which put a damper on my plans to bungie jump (it's not clear, though, whether I'd actually have followed through under better conditions). We did ride the Shotover Jet Boat though, which was much more thrilling than the relatively tame Haast safari. It was a painful ride, though, as the rain pelted us in the face the entire time. Next time I would opt for the rafting rather than the jet boat in rainy weather.

    Brown's Hotel, Queenstown

  29. Doubtful Sound - march 3

    We moved on to Manapouri this morning and checked in for our overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound. The cruise began with a speed boat ride across Lake Manapouri, and from there we transferred by bus over to our cruise ship on Doubtful Sound. We spent the afternoon hanging out on deck, touring the shoreline in as small powerboat and "enjoying" a short swim in the shockingly cold water.

    Fiordland Navigator, Doubtful Sound

  30. Doubtful Sound & Te Anau - march 4

    It was a chilly morning here in Fiordland, but we woke to a beautiful sunrise and enjoyed a hearty breakfast aboard ship. The highlight of the day was the spotting of a pair of Fiordland Crested Penguins on a small island - an extremely rare sight this time of year. The cruise ended mid-morning and we drove on to nearby Te Anau where we took a self-guided tour of the local wildlife "park", which was really just a few decrepit looking cages with some interesting birds, including a very endangered Takahe. We filled the afternoon with a cruise across Lake Te Anau and an informative tour of a glo-worm cave.

    Cambell Auto Lodge, Te Anau

  31. Milford Sound - march 5

    Today we drove up to famous Milford Sound for a 2.5 hour scenic cruise out to the Tasman Sea. Afterward we joined a German couple for a thirty minute helicopter ride over the sound and up to a glacier landing. We also hiked out to a couple of waterfalls before returning to town for a late dinner.

    Cambell Auto Lodge, Te Anau

  32. Te Anau & Key Summit - march 6

    We had planned to hike a portion of the Milford Trek today but it didn't get very good reviews, so instead we hiked up to Key Summit for a fantastic 360 degree view of the surrounding mountain ranges. We thought about finding a second hike, but instead opted to chill out back in town.

    Cambell Auto Lodge, Te Anau

  33. Otago Peninsula - march 7

    It was on to Dunedin this morning, which included a drive along the "Presidential Highway" between the towns of Clinton and Gore. We checked into our lovely B&B and joined an Elm Wildlife Tour around the hilly and sparsely populated Otago Peninsula. Our first stop was a Royal Albatross breeding colony - the only mainland colony in the world. Unfortunately the wind was relatively tame and there was no airborn activity. Next up was a seal colony beach where a number of large males worked to impress a solitary female. From a hide at the end of the beach we did manage to spot a dozen or so Yellow-Eyed Penguins as they returned from their daily feeding session at sea.

    Lisburn House, Dunedin

  34. Taieri Gorge Railway - march 8

    We booked afternoon seats on the scenic Taieri Gorge Railway and walked around the town center this morning. We had lunch in the octagon (the town "square") before boarding our train car - a 1910 passenger car with wood sash windows and a punched metal ceiling. It was a lovely sunny afternoon for a ride and the scenery was spectacular as we wound along the river valley, crossed over tressels and chugged through more than ten tunnels. After the four hour ride we drove to the north end of town to see Baldwin Street, billed as the world's steepest residential street. We then returned to the B&B for a fantastic dinner prepared by the owner - formerly a professional chef.

    Lisburn House, Dunedin

  35. Moeraki Boulders & Mt Cook - march 9

    We had a long drive to Mt Cook Village today but broke it up with a couple of stops. Our first stop was Koekohe Beach to see the large spherical boulders strewn about the shoreline, like gigantic cannon balls from some ancient wreck. A little later we found our way to a large rocky outcropping in the middle of otherwise flat farmland. Known as Elephant Rocks, it was a filming location for the recent "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" movie. We finally arrived in Mt Cook Village just before sunset and rushed out to a cool and windy viewpoint to watch as the snow-capped peak transitioned from white to yellow to violet in the fading light.

    Hermitage Motel, Mt Cook Village

  36. Mt Cook - march 10

    Today we embarked on two fabulous adventures around Mt Cook. The first was a fixed wing, hour long scenic flight that covered Mt Cook, the Tasman, Fox and Franz-Joseph Glaciers, a glacier ski-landing on the Horace-Walker Glacier and generally fantastic views of Fiordland and the Tasman Sea. Our second adventure was a lake cruise on a milky-white glacial lake. We rode around in a small speedboat driven by an enthusiastic and knowledgable guide who told us all about the glacier and the jagged icebergs that have broken off.

    Hermitage Motel, Mt Cook Village

  37. Twizel & Lake Tekapo - march 11

    We had hoped to hike up into the Hooker Valley this morning, but wind, rain and white-out conditions crushed that plan. Instead we left My Cook a bit early and drove over to the small town of Twizel to visit the Black Stilt breeding center. Twenty years ago there were only two dozen of these birds left, but efforts by the passionate staff at the center have grown that number now to a couple hundred. From there we moved on to Lake Tekapo and paid a visit to the oft-photographed Church of the Good Shepherd - an adorable cottage-sized stone church with a dramatic view of the lake. Finally, we spent the evening on a very nice and informative stargazing tour at one of the world's southernmost observatories (you have to go to Antarctica to find one more southerly).

    Moonlight Bed and Breakfast, Lake Tekapo

  38. Christchurch - march 12

    We drove the Inland Scenic Route to Christchurch and arrived mid-afternoon at our downtown B&B. We stopped by the post office to mail home a box of souvenirs and guide books so we wouldn't have to carry them all around Australia. We also toured the lovely 120 year-old cathedral and stayed for the enchanting evening choir service.

    Orari Bed and Breakfast, Christchurch

  39. Sydney - march 13

    It was cold and rainy this morning so we hung out in the hotel before heading to the airport around 1pm for the short three hour flight to warm and sunny Sydney.

    Sydney Harbor Bed & Breakfast, The Rocks, Sydney

Souvenir List

  1. Native NZ wood geometry puzzle
  2. Pair of photo frames made of 35,000 year old Kauri wood
  3. Pen cup carved from 35,000 year old Kauri wood
  4. Pair of traditional Mauri carvings, one a gift from Rupa's Aunt
  5. Paua Shell bookmark, a gift from Rupa's Aunt
  6. Trio of tiny magnets from whale watching shop
  7. Train magnet & pens from the Taiere Gorge Railway
  8. Hand-turned wood bowl from a Hokitika artist shop