Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tour of New Zealand, the North and South Islands

I went on the "Pure New Zealand" tour with OAT last month.  It's a 15 days trip with 2 nights spent in Auckland, 2 nights in Rotorua, 3 nights in Queenstown, 1 night in Fox, 2 nights in Greymouth, and 3 nights in Wellington.  Auckland, Rotorua, and Wellington are in the North Island, and the rest are in the South Island.  Our transportation was by bus within the Islands, and by air between the two Islands.    The domestic flights were from Rotorua to Queenstown via Christchurch; and from Christchurch to Wellington.

 The domestic flights highlighted how remote and far away this nation is from the rest of the world, with its being free from  crowds, pollution, and risk of terrorism.  There was no security check at all.  Everyone was friendly and helpful.  All citizen seem to be conscientious of environmental protection and do their part to help.

The Maori culture apparently is well integrated into the main stream.  The government mandated bilingual teaching in schools.  White or Maori kids are leaning both language together and get along quite well with each other.  The nation is currently deciding if they want to break away from the Common Wealth.  I can fully understand that England these days provides no protection to them, yet still demand support from them (like mandatory purchase  of certain supplies....).. The flag project is subjected to a public vote within 2 months.  The citizen will decide if they want to stay with the old flag (identifies with the Common Wealth), or a new flag highlights the national emblem of silver fern:

The bloody history of Gallipoli being exhibited in the National Museum of Te PaPa right now vividly showed how senseless and how much human tolls was it for New Zealanders being a member of the Common Wealth .

Auckland is not the capital of New Zealand, but constitutes 50% of New Zealand's population.  It's Sky Tower is the highest structure in southern hemisphere.
We did some city walk, visited with a Maori local guide, a flower garden, and hiked up to the Victoria Summit.

We saw the green lip mussel in the fish market.  I had a yellow belly flounder for lunch.  Yes the whole fish with head and tail!

The vegetation and flowers in New Zealand are abundant and unique. Just to show a few shots I took.  There are too many though.
 The New Zealand Christmas tree:

A few fellow travelers who hiked up to the Victoria Summit in Devonport: (Dick, Diane, me, Janet, Cathy, Becky, Sue, and Jim)
The cone shaped volcano is right crossed the water
 On top of the Victoria Summit:

Enroute from Auckland to Rotorua, we visited the Hamilton Gardens, which is just delightful.


The geothermal activities in New Zealand is absolutely prominent as the islands sit on many fault lines.  Visiting some of them, however, was fun.
The Blue Spring in the Waihou Walkway:
The Rotomanhana Lake boat ride took us to a pool created by a crater, and shores with hot steam popping out.
The Echo Crater, gateway to the inferno, and the Waiotapu mud pool:

The flight from Christchurch to Queenstown:
We took Air New Zealand to fly to Queenstown. It is a wonderful idea to sit on the window seat at the left side of the plane.  As the plane flew over the mountain toward Queenstown, I got to see the snow capped mountain, winding river, forest, and brilliant colors from above.  It's quite a flight, better than a helicopter ride.


Two excursion we did were to the Milford Sound, and the Dart River (we did a jet boat ride on the river).  This is the region where "The Lord of Rings"  were filmed.
The Milford Sound:
 The Dart River:

I got to know these 3 other Chinese ladies(Janet, Becky, and Beth), and this independent 83 years old Helen pretty well on the trip.  The five of us had a nice fish and chip dinner together in Queenstown water front:
We then started to head toward the west coast.  The drive along the Wanaka lake was pretty, and the crossing Haast Pass was gorgeous with all the clouds.  Then we reached the Tasman Sea.
 The Tasman Sea:
The west coast of the South Island is quite pretty.  The Tasman Sea has created beautiful rock formations, including the Pancake Rocks.

 Sprouting hole:

We visited a local school in Ahaura, and had a pleasant time with the kids.  They were taught both English and Maori.  The teaching style is quite open and allows kids to develop their own creativity. Some kids asked us to hold the chickens on their campus.  Apparently the chickens are used to be handled:
We made a stop at this little town Hokitika used to be very busy with the gold rush.  Helen, Janet and I had a lot of fun in a green stone store, and each of us bought some green stones.

We took a hike to see the Franz Josef Glacier.  It was not too impressive.  But I had my picture taken with Bill, who used to work at Quaker too.  But we did not know each other well back then.  It is quite interesting that we met again in New Zealand!
I was goofing off at the local museum at Christ Church by riding on the bike as shown above.  I was not the only group member to do that though.  Helen also climbed up there, and got off quite easily!


Wellington is the capital of New Zealand.  We did the Te PaPa National Museum, the cable car ride to the Botanic Garden, the Parliment, the WETA studio, etc. I was getting a bit tired by now, and ready to go home.

Some street scene:

The Rose Garden:                                        In an old theater^
The group inside the Te PaPa Museum:

The Parliament Buildings (Beehive, etc.)

We watched a video at the Weta studio.  It was very impressive.  No photo allowed. They really do very nice work.  Their work can also be seen hanging in the airport.
Outside the studio:
Their work of the Gallipoli exhibit in Te PaPa museum:
In the Wellington airport:

As we are leaving from Wellington, I saw this New Zealand Christmas in full bloom by the airport.  How wonderful a conclusion of the tour!

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