Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Zealand

In the distance, braw rocky mountain hills,
Like giants rising out of misty chills.
Here and there, flowers, purple and yellow.
Lambs and cows, they bleat and bellow.
An ancient land, with forgotten tales,
Of men and gods and giant whales.
With woody forests and open plains,
And Summer sun with flooding rains.
All people welcome and all things allowed,
Here in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

I was in New Zealand from the 10th-15th of December, for a total of six days. Blow-by-blow summary:

Day one: 5am wakeup, to get to airport for four hour flight. When finally got there at around 2 in the afternoon (two hour time difference), we had to wait another hour for the tour group to arrive and pick us up. Around forty Asians in total in the tour group, mostly North Islanders, but had people from Malaysia and China too.
Drove west straight off, passing through Arthur's Pass, which looks absolutely spectacular. First view of snow-capped peaks in summertime, ever. Spent the night at Greymouth, pretty scenic little town at the mouth of the Grey River (hence the name). Rain, rain and more rain.

Day two: 7am wakeup, which was one of the later ones of the trip. Headed south, stopping at Franz Josef Glacier (which we didn't see, accessible only by helicopter), as well as Fox Glacier, which was seriously epic. Until you see a glacier in real life, you can't begin to fathom how giant they are, and the impression that they make. Spent the night in Haast, which was pretty dull. Plenty more rain.

Day three: 7am wakeup, went through Haast pass, which was awesome. Threaded through snow-topped mountains, then through a 100m long single-lane tunnel, emerging to be surrounded by a veritable wall of mountains on either side, with waterfalls plunging from snowy heights. Passed by Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka, which are amazingly scenic, both backed by mountains in the distance; even the weather cleared up just in time for our photos. Spent the night at Queenstown, our first night in a town of any great size. Roamed the streets a bit, went to the summit of a nearby mountain by cable car and...well, the view was simply spectacular. Lake Wakatipu bracketed by mountains as far as the eye could see, idyllic and breathtaking.

Day four: Drove direct to Te Anau, dropped off stuff at hotel, then drove to Milford Sound, from whence we boarded a boat and headed for the mouth of Milford Sound. Foggy mountain peaks with giant waterfalls emphasised the ancient rugged beauty of the place. It's probably been that way for many thousands of year, untouched by the all-pervading hand of humankind. Simply wonderful.

Day five: Longest drive of the entire trip, with a 6:30am wakeup. Stopped at Dunedin for a while, found out my VCE results at the local library. Internet is seriously expensive in NZL: 10 cents per minute, most places offer $4 for an hour. Even VA is cheaper WITHOUT membership, AFTER you convert the money. Seriously, major rip. And Mum was pretty pissed with 96.00. >_> Spent the night in Oamaru.

Day six: Headed up to Christchurch for a quick look around town before our flight home. For New Zealand's second biggest city, it barely compares to an inner Melbourne suburb. More excited to get home than anything.

That's a basic overview...if you want more detail about anything at any particular place, just get in touch :) Didn't visit the north of the South Island, nor the interior, but if the coast is anything to go by, it's a spectacular place.