Tag - new zealand

Statues and Sculptures of New Zealand Towns

New Zealand may be a small country but some of its towns have rather large statues and sculptures which represent the areas local identity and what they are famous for. These interesting and quirky statues and sculptures are one of a kind and make the tourist experience when traveling through New Zealand a whole lot of fun !

From the North to the South there is a sight to be seen in towns across the country. This article will name a few of the many that you can find on your trip to New Zealand.

Otorohanga (the capital of kiwiana)

*Kiwiana – Certain items and icons from New Zealand’s heritage that are seen as representing iconic Kiwi elements. Otorohanga has many large Kiwi birds made out of corrugated Iron scattered around the town. Otorohanga is the capital of Kiwiana and celebrates New Zealand Icons.

Kiwi bird

Kiwi bird- Otorohanga

Taihape (Gumboot Capital Of The World)

Taihape is a rural New Zealand town with a strong farming community. A Gumboot Festival, which has been celebrated since 1985 celebrates the town’s rural image and all things gumboots. There is the gumboot throwing competition that aims to break the world record of the longest gumboot throw. Large crowds are attracted to the annual event. Taihape takes pride in its big gumboot just at the entrance of the town.



Paeora ( The Home Of Lemon & Paeroa)

The sleepy town of Paeroa is best known for the famous New Zealand soft Drink named Lemon and Paeroa. It was originally made in the town from lemon and carbonated mineral water from the town. The large brown bottle is the main attraction of Paeroa and was used in advertisements in the 90’s. Many people will stop the car and take a photo in front of it before they go to one of the local cafes and try or buy the drink.

 Lemon and Paeroa

Lemon and Paeroa


Bulls is a small town near Palmerston North 160km north of Wellington. The town is named after James Bull, who founded the town and owned the first general store there. Bulls have embraced their name by naming things accordingly. The crèche is named The Bulls Calf Creche, they have a local publication called the bull-it-in and the policemen and woman at the station have been nicked named consta-bulls. This humor makes the small rural town famous even having a large wooden bull to landmark the quirky place.



Gore – (World Capital of Brown Trout Fishing)

Trout Fishing

Trout Fishing

Gore calls itself the World Capital of Brown Trout Fishing. Brown Trout were introduced to New Zealand from Europe in the 1860’s and rapidly established themselves. Gore lies on the banks of the Mataura River where the fish can be caught. Gores famous Brown Trout Statue is leaping up to catch a fly which they are caught with. Gores closest cities are Dunedin and Invercargill.

That is only five of the many statues that can be found in all the different towns and cities around New Zealand these unique “big Things” represent the identity of the area but also provide a novel backdrop for tourists and visitors to the areas. So on your next visit to New Zealand or a city or town within make sure you look out for the quirky landmarks!

10 Best Destinations to Travel in Your Lifetime

Are you looking to go to someplace this holiday season that offers you much more than just plain water activities, wonderful cities and some sightseeing opportunities? Are you planning a vacation to a place where you could get the opportunity to experience wildlife, snowcapped mountains, exotic animals, rainforests and so on. There are a number of best places to travel throughout the world. There are many places which are historic and many which are entertaining. However, there are also numerous places which have been designed to give visitors the most fantastic and marvelous views of the globe. Here is a list of 10 best places to travel in your lifetime even if it just once!

The Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef, acfonline.org.au

Great Barrier Reef, acfonline.org.au

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the best travel places in Australia. There is a huge range of biodiversity that is supported by this reef. This coral reef ecosystem is made up of living organisms and supports well over 10,000 species which includes 1500 different kinds of fish. Some of the species that are found on this reef includes the dwarf minke whale, humpback dolphin, olive ridley turtle, flatback turtle, salt water crocodiles and many more. Together with this, there are also a wide range of birds found on this reef. The Great Barrier Reef is situated off the Queensland coast and is the largest coral reef in the whole world. It is really fascinating and those who love diving and snorkeling would find this destination to be among the best of the best.

The Great Wall of China

Great wall of China

Great wall of China

The Great Wall of China stretches well over 4000 miles. It was initially built to protect China from invaders. But now, it is a hot tourist destination and one of the most famous places to visit in Asia. This historic place is visited by around 12-16 million tourists each year.

Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China

Temple of Heaven- Wikipedia

Temple of Heaven- Wikipedia

This is a series of buildings which were built around the 15th century. This temple is so magnificent and it also represents some of the finest Chinese architectural works of the ancient times. Spiritually speaking, these structures represent the special tie between the earth and heaven. Close to 12 million tourists visit this historic site every year.

The Beautiful City of Paris

Paris, France

Paris, France

Paris is such a charming place to visit that anyone can fall in love with it. People of this city are stylish and no matter at what time of the year you visit this lovely city, you will always find it enchanting and alive. Eiffel tower is one of the most famous places that this city can boast of. Together with this, there are numerous iconic attractions that will just keep any visitor captivated.

The Peak of Africa: Cape Town

Table Mountain Cape Town

Table Mountain Cape Town

Cape Town, which is situated right at the peak of the African Continent, is one of the best places to travel for vacation. Here, you will get a chance to experience a unique range of scenic national surroundings and multicultural lifestyles on your own. This travel destination is filled with tourists during the summer who come to enjoy its hot weather, beautiful scenery and sunny beaches. Being one of the best places in the world, it is often crowded with tourists and therefore it is always important to make prior reservations before visiting.

The Land of Smiles: Thailand

    Phi Phi Thailand

Phi Phi Thailand

Thailand is also one of the best travel places in Asia. It is in fact a country where tourism is the chief support of the economy. Thailand is quite a safe and beautiful place if you choose it as a tourist destination. The people here are friendly and this is the reason this country has been given the name “The Land of Smiles.” There are many popular travel places that can be enjoyed here including the ancient temples, panoramic beaches, bustling cities, picturesque riversides and much more.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, Canadian side

Niagara Falls, Canadian side

This is the most famous waterfalls in the world and a popular tourist attraction. The Niagara Falls has majestic beauty which is beyond comparison and is a great site for nature lovers. Here, you can also take cruise rides if you want to experience the natural wonder closely. At this location, you will surely be collecting some great memories to take back home.

Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas Welcome sign

Las Vegas Welcome sign

Even though most people do not consider Las Vegas among the typical types of spring beach locations, the area has a lot to offer in nightlife and budget friendly deals. One of the reasons Las Vegas is among the best destinations to travel pertains to how there is an assortment of ages within the area. Therefore, if you do not want to be confined to hanging out with only college aged students. In general, Las Vegas limits students only according to their imagination. Ultimately, the area consists of so many places to go and things to do. Some of the main attractions, consists of their shows, gambling, clubbing, and more.

The South Island of New Zealand

Queenstown, Credit-tripadvisor

Queenstown, Credit-tripadvisor

This part of New Zealand is known for large beach forests, broad plains, golden sandy beaches, spectacular fjords and is characterized by impressive open landscapes. The south Island is one of the best places to travel in your lifetime because it attracts thousands of people. It has 10 national parks which incorporate lakes, fjords, coastlines, world heritage sites, superior hiking tracks, native forests and glaciers.

The Tiny Dot of Indian Ocean

    Gorgeous Mauritius Cr: boatbookings.com

Gorgeous Mauritius Cr: boatbookings.com

Mauritius ranks at the top of the platform for what is the best beach destination in the Indian Ocean. The general weather conditions of Mauritius are such that anyone from any part of the world could enjoy themselves as they visit Mauritius. Mauritius is situated very close to the tropic of Capricorn and that is why the heat during the summer never reaches extremes and you can easily endure it while enjoying the fun of the trip to Mauritius. Mauritius is surrounded by coral reefs and beautiful beaches that will ma

Mount Tai in China

Mount Tai is not far from the Tai’an City and is considered as one of the scared mountains to Taoism. These Mounts attract millions of people every year and there are many who also climb the 7000 steps to make their way right to the top of the mountain which is the Azure Clouds Temple.

 Mount Tai

Mount Tai


Finally, trains, buses, ships, airplanes, cars, even your own two feet can get you sooner or later to your perfect destination. No matter if you embark on just another trip to the same place or on the journey of your life-time, travel with your heart light and open to discover and fall in love again or for the first time with all the places encountered!

A Trip To New Zealand

 Are you planning a vacation? Exploring a new country? or just looking for a thrilling adventure? Then you should visit New Zealand. With rugged islands, wild coast lines, a mild climate, mountains, glaciers, and a diversity of parks. All you need to have a wonderful and thrilling holiday.

Beautiful New Zealand

Beautiful New Zealand

New Zealand, is actually made up of 2 islands, the northern and southern islands. You will find Auckland of the northern island to be a very interesting place, a visit to the Sky Tower, will give you a great view of the city, from above and a thrilling Sky Jump if you enjoy crazy adventures, and a casino. The Kelly Tariton’s underwater world is also an exciting place; you get to have a wonderful view of the marine animals in their natural habitat. The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, is also worth visiting, if you want a walk through the native rainforest and coastlines. Other fun places in Auckland include the Rangitoto Island, the Waiheke Island and the Great Barrier Island.

The Coromandel peninsula, also in the northern Island is also amazing, the east coast of the peninsula has many beaches. The Cathedral Cove, with soft sediments, under water arches, and reefs of hard rocks, it is only reachable on foot, or on a boat, a sea kayak tour is recommended, because you get to paddle your way through beautiful sea caves, and explore other islands. Other places of interests includes the Hot Water beach, and the historic Gold mine.

Hawkes Bay, also has plenty of attractions, like the On Yer Bike winery Tours, you get to have a cycling tour, and experience hawks bay’s luxurious wines and foods. The national aquarium is also a must visit, you get to see New Zealand’s largest display of sharks, tuatara, kiwi, piranha, crocodiles, and other aquatic life. The museum and arts gallery is also amazing, but so is the Gannet beach, and the Long Island tours.

arriving in Picton, South Island, NZ

Arriving in Picton, South Island, NZ

The southern Island too is also remarkable, if you have visited the Christ church city, a walk through its botanical gardens, or a ride through the axon river that snakes through the botanical gardens. The International Antarctica Centre, that gives you a wonderful ice experience by showcasing The wonders of the Antarctica, including a view of beautiful blue penguins. You also get to see many of the native birds in the quail islands especially the rare blue penguins. Other places of interests in Christchurch are the Canterbury museum, Christchurch Gondola, and the willow bank wildlife reserve.

The Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, if you love hiking, you definitely should visit this place, the glacier guides will guide you deep into the heart of the glacier, where u get to squeeze amidst tight. Crevasses and slide through caves of ice, and shuffle down close to vertical ice walls. Other places in the south with lots of attractions include; the hammer springs, the Lake Tekapo, the Kaikoura, Blenheim almost every town in New Zealand is wonderful, and a place to be.

 So whatever you want to do, be it river rafting, glacier walking, bungy jumping, or sky jumping, or simply appreciating works of nature, New Zealand has exactly what you need to have a fun filled vacation, and a revitalized mind.

An illuminated journey: A glow worm canyon by sea kayak

Travel writer Michele Sainsbury seizes the night with a tour of brilliance.

Enjoying Wine

Enjoying Wine

The Bay of Plenty region in the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui) of New Zealand lives up to its name. Situated near the central hub, Tauranga is magnificent Mauao – Mount Maunganui. Atop, the panoramic view of the coastal area, with its forever long white sanded beaches and sparkly emerald oceanic hues of the Pacific Ocean, is breathtaking. A well known surfing spot, the water below inspires adventure, in whatever form or vessel that may be. The statue of Tangaroa – the God of the sea – stands proudly guarding the harbor entrance, bestowing abundance on this region.

And the bounty continues inland. The region is the epicenter for the kiwifruit industry; the microclimate also produces brilliant citrus and avocado crops. When Captain Cook sighted the coast in 1769, announcing ‘a bay of plenty’, as with his proficiency in navigation, he wasn’t wrong. He further noted ‘a great bay full of plantations and villages’. And rivers run through this land of plenty, and lakes too, reaching out to even more adventures. These could well be the spoils.

And they can be accessed very quickly. A mere ten minutes from the city centre North on State Highway 2, a green belt, a luscious interior unfolds and locates the Wairoa River. Wairoa, meaning ‘long water’ is the longest watershed into nearby Tauranga harbor. The expansive river was an ideal place for the visionary kayak adventure company, Waimarino  to establish in 1975. At a prime spot on the river banks, they have become a popular kayaking and recreational destination.

Waimarino can also optimize surrounding locations, bringing great regional knowledge and kayak expertise to a range of guided tours. With easy access to nearby coastal areas, and close proximity to rivers and lakes, there are fantastic offerings. But it was the extraordinary chance to do a guided sea kayak tour through a glow-worm canyon at nearby Lake McLaren which I seized.


kayak ready

It’s a balmy evening when we meet at the Waimarino base, and with kayaks loaded, we soon set off. The scenic twenty minute drive is a chance to chat with fellow adventurists from all over the world. The colourful journey through the heartland of the lower Kaimai ranges offers elevated views of the Wairoa River. Our guides, instantly friendly, outdoor hungry and fit Kiwi blokes, share insights about the land and their adventurous pursuits. When they excitedly relay the world class – grade 5 /class 6 whitewater kayaking at the upper reaches of the Wairoa River, we know we’re in expert hands.

At our launch point, the setting sun casts a gently dappled light across the dreamy Lake McLaren. The calm hydro lake is set amongst 190 hectares of pastoral and horticultural parkland, infused with native and exotic trees. A vast amount, this park is New Zealand’s second largest arboretum (tree zoo). Off the grid tranquility at the park provides an instantaneous feeling of peace. With redwood trees as a backdrop, a swiftly assembled table appears and is appointed with wines from local winery  Mills Reef , gold kiwifruit juice, and New Zealand cheeses.

The multi-tasking guides explain wine varieties impressively, down kiwifruit juice and return their focus to setting up the double kayaks. We are well briefed and equipped. Additional to safety gear, warmer and wet weather gear is supplied by Waimarino. Then voila, safely and securely in the kayaks and donned with head torches, we are away.

A new realm expands for the senses as we glide across the calm lake. The 2.2 mile (3 km) journey towards our destination at Maungapapa canyon is one to savor. Falling darkness accentuates sound, and vision adjusts and sharpens. Trees are now silhouetted on the lake’s edge. As the paddles enter the water in unison, we hear swans ahead. Taking flight, their white wingtips highlighted by evening sky. The magic begins.

GWT hi-res portrait

millions of tiny glowing lights

The river narrows as we enter the canyon, the sides graced with intensifying native bush, replete with a rich sweet aroma. Only the gentle sound of trickling water from the bush, amidst the quiet. It doesn’t seem possible that the elemental environs could become more amazing. But they do. We become serenaded along the steepening sides of the canyon as intermittent lights begin appearing. Then multiplying in numbers, they are in abundance rising higher up the canyon walls.

It is perfectly still. We cease paddling, suspended on crystal calm water and enfolded in a universe illuminated by constellations of millions of tiny glowing lights. There are collective gasps from the awe inspired voyeurs, captivated as we trace the patterning of the lights. Our guides explain the meaning of the Māori word for glow-worm – ‘titwai’, refers to ‘lights reflected in water’. With the night sky visible above, stars add to the splendor mirrored in the water beneath.

The feeling of exhilaration remains with us for the return journey. As we emerge from the canyon where the river fans out towards Lake McLaren, the sky reveals a crescent moon and amidst the starry constellation, a glistening Southern Cross. It seems a perfect finale, this natural light fantastic above, to conclude a magical evening.

[Thank you to all at Waimarino Adventures]

    • Waimarino operates the glow worm kayak tour year round and almost all weather conditions.
    • The refreshment tour is NZ $120.00 per person (minimum 2 people) as at September 2014.

Beautiful Sceneries of New Zealand

There’s no denying that the stunning sceneries of New Zealand sometimes defy superlatives. Residents, travelers, photographers and filmmakers around the globe. New Zealand is the country with sceneries. Here are few of the images I captured during my 6 months stay.

Hot water Beach: Dig your own pool just few feet from the Pacific Ocean. The water is naturally heated from the earth and bubbles up through the sand. The beach is located along the NZ’s Pacific coast just south of the thermal spgs.


Lake Rotorua: This is the 2nd largest lake of the North Island, located in the bay of plenty area. The lake was formed from a crater of a large volcano. Its a great place to hang out and enjoy a great day. If you walk around the lake, you may see few active geezers. Even-though the smell is terrible, you get used to it within 30mn time and be able to enjoy the beautiful lake. Animal life is abundant.

44705_104360959625221_100001539520350_32804_5196275_nSomes Island, Wellington: The island is a retreat for wildlife, occupied by Maori for generations. it is now belong to department of conservation scientific and historic reserve. The island has some stunning views, bird watching opportunities as well as the chance to study native plants and animals enjoying the pest-free environment.

44786_104362876291696_100001539520350_32877_3052499_n Cooks Strait: is the strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. It connects the Tasman Sea with the South Pacific Ocean. These views are stunning. Take the ferry from Wellington harbor to Picton, South Island. Its an hour cruise with stunning views.

45650_104363496291634_100001539520350_32888_1750130_nThe picturesque seaside town of Picton is the South Island base for the ferry service that links the main islands of New Zealand. It’s also the gateway to the marine, forest and island attractions of the Marlborough Sounds. The town is beautiful and there is an aquarium and a floating Maritime museum to visit. While you are walking on the beach, not far from it, you can see stingray fish swimming in the ocean.

45839_104365512958099_100001539520350_32896_1945858_nAnother image of the Hot-water beach. Views are stunning.

46165_104361219625195_100001539520350_32812_6517310_nThe anti-aircraft gun emplacements in Somes Island near Wellington.

47465_104365559624761_100001539520350_32897_6184270_nBeautiful beach area  near Bay of Plenty


47951_104368182957832_100001539520350_32932_7457339_nBeautiful state park near Wellington, NZ. This tall tree is just Amazing to look at.


Breathtaking views from a hike in the upper hut area, 30mn from Wellington by train. Make sure to follow the path or you can easily get lost on your hike.


 Beach near Queen Elizabeth park located on the Kapiti coast. Park contains the last area of natural sand dunes of the kapiti coast. The views are very pleasant.

edb886ab379e8c3bf4de36527089dbae Beautiful trees in the Botanical gardens of Wellington. Free to visit and the park is a great gateway for anyone. Walk to the top and you can get a great views of the Wellington area with its surroundings.

The Best New Zealand Scenery

The Crown Range Road connects Wanaka to the Arrowtown Junction on the South Island of New Zealand.

The Crown Range Road connects Wanaka to the Arrowtown Junction on the South Island of NZ.

by Elizabeth Hansen,

Are you headed to New Zealand for some Southern Hemisphere summer? If so, be prepared to witness jaw-droppingly gorgeous scenery and make more than a few wonderful memories. I’ve written four guidebooks to “Godzone” (God’s own paradise) and spoken to many audiences about my home away from home. The question that always stumps me is “Where is the best New Zealand Scenery?”

The truth is that there are no unattractive areas. I love driving up to the very tip of the North Island and standing on Cape Reinga – the point from which the Maoris believe souls depart.

South of here, the Bay of Islands is comprised of several small communities and lots of islands and inlets. I like Kerikeri because it is less touristy than Pahia and more conveniently located than Russell.

The rolling green hills of Northland appear to be a slice of heaven.

The rolling green hills of Northland appear to be a slice of heaven.

In terms of scenery, the only mistake a visitor can make in New Zealand is to forego renting a car. I promise you, your view will be so much better if you drive yourself and stop when you feel the need to gaze longer at the water, or the wild flowers, or the sheep.

Yes. New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road, but that isn’t a deal breaker. The highways are mostly two-lane and only rarely will you run into traffic.

I remember – on about my tenth trip to New Zealand – speaking with a confident young couple from Los Angeles. She (of the designer sportswear) was assuring me that they were real travelers, not tourists. “Why we didn’t even take the freeway to get to Queenstown from Christchurch,” she boasted, “we just took a narrow highway.”

I struggled to keep a straight face.

Traffic jam, New Zealand style.

Traffic jam, New Zealand style.

In the South Island, Fiordland is gorgeous and DOC (the Department of Conservation) has done a great job of sign posting short hikes that start right from the road. This means you can leave your car (locked and with valuables out of sight) and walk for 20 minutes or two hours or longer.

I also love the drive from Dunedin to the end of the Otago Peninsula, and when I get there, I always treat myself to tea at Larnach Castle.

The “knicker fence” near Wanaka was a popular attraction until the local council declared it a traffic hazard.

The “knicker fence” near Wanaka was a popular attraction until the local council declared it a traffic hazard.

While I find Queenstown way too touristy and full of thrill seekers, I enjoy driving out of town along Lake Wakatipu towards Glenorchy. Not far from there, the Crown Range Road (formerly highway 89) winds steeply from Wanaka to Arrowtown, providing some of the best views in the country.

Wanaka is a beautiful little community named for the lake it overlooks, and beyond Wanaka, the Haast Pass takes travelers to the West Coast, which offers a whole host of scenic wonders – include Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers.

The truth is that the “best New Zealand scenery” is everywhere you look.

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This Summer, Follow The Hobbit By Car

by Thomas Brooks,

This spring’s release of the latest Hobbit film “The Desolation of Smaug” will no doubt inspire Aussies to spend their summer holiday among the Kiwis to visit the locales graced by Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves. Sir Peter Jackson’s visions have become one of New Zealand’s major tourist attractions and habe spawned an industry rivaling Moria’s treasures.

Photo of Milford sound by Olywyer via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Milford sound by Olywyer via Wikimedia

There are many tours that will take you ’round both of New Zealand’s gorgeous islands to see Middle Earth sites. However, driving offers the chance to stop at other, non-Hobbit locales as well and maybe absorb a bit of the local culture while you’re there. Anyone with a valid driver’s license can rent a car, so make your reservation ahead of time and be sure to budget insurance into your trip to cover delays, lost luggage, and anything unexpected.

Take charge and drive where Frodo and Bilbo could only walk!

Self-Drive LOTR and Hobbit Tours On New Zealand’s North and South Islands

Photo of North Island by TylerIngram via Flickr

Photo of North Island by TylerIngram via Flickr

More than 150 sites were used to film The Lord of The Rings series, and the current Hobbit trilogy, of which Smaug is the second, was filmed throughout the North and South Islands.

Drive ’round one island or cover both, taking one of the many Cook Strait ferries. Be sure to verify your rental is allowed on both islands. Some agencies will charge a new relocation fee if you don’t make appropriate arrangements in advance.

The Go New Zealand site lists driving tours that range from a four-day Hobbiton Loop to a fortnight that covers both islands. Seven-day tours are also available for each island, so choosing one or the other won’t be easy!

New Zealand Offers Urban and Mountain Adventures

Corrine Goodman, who arranges tailor-made New Zealand holidays recommends that if you are short on time and can’t spare more than a week, consider a more cosmopolitan or beach holiday, head to the North Island. If you prefer a mountainous backdrop, the South Island is where Sir Peter filmed those spectacular mountain scenes.

Photo of Auckland by Sandy Austin via Flickr

Photo of Auckland by Sandy Austin via Flickr

North Island features:

  • Home to New Zealand’s largest and most urbane cities, Auckland and Wellington
  • Warmer beach locales and scuba
  • Maori culture, particularly in Rotorua

South Island features:

  • Mountain scenery
  • Marine and bird life, including penguins
  • Home to six of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks

A Quickie South Island Hobbiton Tour

Photo of Hobbiton by Daniel Peckham via Flickr

Photo of Hobbiton by Daniel Peckham via Flickr

A four-day tour that blends the South Island’s urbane features with the Hobbiton set will have you driving approximately seven hours. First, spend a day in Auckland, where you must visit the iconic Sky Tower and maybe take a Sky Walk round it, shop along Queen Street, and enjoy a drink at a Vulcan Lane pub. Next day, drive to the Waitomo Caves and see the glowworms and perhaps book a room at the Hobbit Motel Units. Cap your visit to the Hobbiton film set where the much of the magic was accomplished.

Anzac Day in Whitianga, New Zealand

 Anzac Day in Whitianga

Anzac Day in Whitianga

by Sarah Juggins,
It was early morning, still dark and pouring with rain. But silently, in their twos, threes and small goups, they gathered. Old men in uniform, medals shiny under the street lights, old women in macs with their umbrellas pulled low over their faces. A father, holding a toddler in his arms, a mother anxiously wondering if the kids she left sleeping soundly would remain peacefully unaware for the next half an hour.Teens in sloppy tee shirts, ignoring the fact that they were getting soaked to the skin, curious tourists, the ubiquitous cameras around their necks.

All gathered together under the few trees, just a few metres from the war memorial and the four young guards who were standing stiffly to attention on each corner of the cenotaph. On a road, just away from the main crowd a mini tourist train had pulled up with the inmates from the local care home, wrapped in blankets and half hidden by a tarpaulin to keep out the rain, but nonetheless determined to pay their respectsA murmur suddenly went through the crowd.

A lone bagpiper could be heard. People nudged each other and all heads turned towards the sound. Eerily, the sound broke through the dark and then, from around a corner, the marchers came.Leading the way was the commander, proudly aware of his duty. He called orders, perhaps without the snap of earlier days but still with the authority that age brings. White-haired, ram-rod straight of back and carefully memorising the order of events, he led the assembled group of navy, army, airforce, firefighters, scouts, cadets and school children through the procession.The vicar – a small, matronly woman, who unleashed a powerful singing voice when it came to singing the anthem, said prayers. The commander stumbled over a couple of words as the service moved on but regained his composure quickly. As the prayers remembered the fallen New Zealanders, the familiar names of the theatres of war rang out across the blue-black sky – France, Italy, Crete, Africa, the Pacific, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and of course Gallipoli, the most tragic event in Anzac history.

The crowd stood silently, heads bowed. The soldiers gazed stoically ahead, one young female cadet raised her eyes skywards, fighting back the emotions. A woman in the crowd dabbed her eyes, an old man turned and slowly walked away.

The haunting sounds of the ‘Last Post’ played out and the rains continued to fall. One-by-one people stepped forwards to lay their wreaths – the Commander called out the names of the regiments or organisations they represented, except in the case of one man, who quickly popped his wreath down and with a shake of his head and a small smile signalled that he wanted to remain anonymous.

The national anthem broke the sombre occasion. People sang with gusto, united in their determination to remember the dead or those serving with an uplifting tune. And then, as the Reveille played out, the crowd dispersed – going back to their breakfasts, their runs on the beach, or just back to their beds. Pleased to have paid their respects but carrying the slight guilt that they would never, really be able to repay the debt.

And six hours later, as they gathered at the local pub, the laughter replaced the sadness, jollity rang out across the still wet streets and there was almost an embarrassment that once again they had become part of a pathos and ritual that has not diminished in the last ninety years.

The Top of Paradise – Cape Reinga, New Zealand

 Cape Reinga, New Zealand"

Cape Reinga, New Zealand”

Cape Reinga is recognised as the northern-most tip of New Zealand and is so much more than just a rocky and windy outcrop that protrudes out into the Pacific Ocean (although of course it is also that). Cape Reinga is the top of the region referred to as “Northland” which encompasses pretty much anything north of Auckland. It has extreme cultural significance to the Maori people of New Zealand, making it more than just another piece of rock to stare at.

Getting There

As with every spot on the New Zealand “places to see” map, Cape Reinga is a little hard to get to. The roads in New Zealand are so unbelievably windy they have been said to have even set seasoned sailors stomachs on edge. Cape Reinga is also very isolated so it is important to come prepared; if you get stuck in a situation it will be a good few hours until assistance can arrive. However, being such a popular tourist destination, the roads are well maintained, albeit very windy. We headed up from Mangonui and from there you can follow the clearly marked signs all the way to the top. Allow at least two and a half hours to reach the Cape (more if you are in a caravan or camper) and if you are in this latter category be prepared to cop some flack from impatient car drivers as there are little places to overtake with such tight corners and cliff like precipices.

Along The Way

Despite there being a lack of amenities along the way, there is no shortage of incredible natural scenery. Of course there are the quintessential rolling green hills dotted with sheep aplenty, but there are some special spots along the way that are worth pulling over. Along the main highway there are several points where you can turn off west to the nearby coast and spot New Zealand’s famous 90 mile beach. Be careful swimming as none of the strip is monitored by lifeguards and be careful taking your car onto the sand if you don’t want it to become bogged and up to its mirrors in sea water by high tide. About 45 minutes from the Cape is Te Paki sand dunes, the most immense sand dunes I have ever seen. They are located very close to the main highway but again be careful taking your caravan or camper as the road is unsealed and quite steep. Sandboards are available for hire and dragging it up and down the enormous hills are sure to keep those extra kgs from the NZ fish and chips at bay.

The Cape

Once arriving at Cape Reinaa, the area is set up well for tourists. Avoid the main lower carpark as it is usually chock full of tourist buses. Head instead to the smaller one up the hill, it is a little further to walk, but again those fish and chips won’t work themselves off. There are a couple of rules the Maori people of this land ask you to abide by including no eating on the site and no littering. It is important to not insult the cultural importance of such a place – culture is part of the strong identity of New Zealanders and is something that must be carefully observed if you are a visitor to their lands. Starting the walk to Cape, you follow a well constructed path down the cliff and then up again to the very last peninsula. Along the way are plaques and memorials to acknowledge and inform visitors about the traditions and legends of these lands. At the very end of the Cape sits the famous Cape Reinga lighthouse, a sturdy structure that has battled the gale force sea winds for many a decade. It is now of course automatically operated but is a nod to the Pakeha, (or “white” people of New Zealand” and how they have made their contribution to this historical place.

So don’t forget to look North on your next New Zealand trip!

3, 2, 1 Bungy! AJ Hackett Bungy – Queenstown, New Zealand



Ever wanted to throw yourself off a bridge with a rubber band tied around your ankles? To the old untravelled Sarah that would have been a worse fate than poking my own eye out with a red hot needle or listening to back to back Bieber for 24 hours straight. But once I arrived in Queenstown, New Zealand the new “the world is my oyster” Sarah decided bungy jumping would be the best way to start 2013 and leap off into the unknown of what was to come (pun 100% intended).

So are you on the” to bungy” or “to-not bungy” precipice? It is a common resting place for those deciding whether to sign up for it, as well as those standing on the edge deciding whether to risk their lives by hurling themselves into nothing but air. To try and help you make an informed decision, here is a look at the pros and cons of bungy.


1. It is expensive.
Unfortunately I thought it would only be in some odd alternate universe where YOU had to pay $200.00 for the privilege of being able to leap from great heights with only a cord to ensure your safety, but sadly not; it is reality. Having said that a lot of the money goes towards the maintenance of the equipment (which you definitely want) and the training of the bungy staff (which again you definitely want) but it is a little on the pricey side. It is important to remember that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and the magnitude of that statement also contributes to the price. Alongside the cost of the jump, there may be additional costs for photos or video footage, so keep this in mind. Also buyer beware – most bungy operators do not
offer refunds for “sorry I changed my mind and am peeing my pants I’m so terrified”. However, this does serve as a good incentive to make the leap.

2. It hurts. A little.
Some people may disagree with me on this but I think it is important to point out the possible (albeit slight) injuries that can be sustained. Most people who are hesitant about bungy are worried about the jolt and the bottom. In my experience, this was not actually as bad as I expected – the cord starts to pull you gradually so the shock to your body, and your mind, is not incredibly sudden. However, as your body has completely inverted in a matter of half a second, that is a lot of blood to rush to your head. My head was pounding for the rest of the afternoon after the jump and I’m not sure whether to attribute to this the action of the jump itself or the adrenaline doing mental things to my body. Either way it is not overly pleasant but you feel so stoked that you did it that you almost don’t really care.


1. The operation is very well run
My experience with AJ Hackett Bungy was exemplary. Their staff have to undergo a hugely rigorous training regime before they are allowed to start letting people fly free and they have the best in safety equipment. The process is streamlined and safe and there are plenty of staff to help you every step of the way. Apart from the logistics of the jump itself, their videography and photography team is excellent. They capture your bungy on film and in motion and although it is a tad expensive to purchase at the end, the quality is worth the price. It is made very people friendly and easy to use, which is good – leaving you to concentrate on the main reason you are there; to jump into oblivion!

2. The feeling afterwards
Ok so this is going to sound lame, but I cannot describe how you feel after bungying for the first time. I went tandem with my partner and although I clung to him like a limpet and burst a lung screaming so much, I couldn’t have been more proud of myself when I finished. It is an amazing feat and not something that everyone can say they have done. Yes the bragging rights are worth it alone, but more importantly it is the feeling of accomplishment that you get from conquering your brain who was telling you the whole time that you were mental. You could also not ask for a better backdrop than beautiful New Zealand. Whether you choose to do the Kawarau Bridge jump into the aquamarine blue waters of the river below, or from high above the town on the Ledge jump, or from a tiny podium in the middle of a chasm from the Nevis bungy – there is something special about leaping into the arms of some of the best scenery you will see anywhere in the world. And it lessens the scare factor…well a little anyway!

So there you have it – bungy is not for everyone but it was for me. Would I do it again? I’m not sure. Not just because it is expensive, or because there are only a few places in the world that you can do it safely. But perhaps because I’d like to keep it sacred and have it as the one and only time in my life that I felt what it was like to fly. Good luck and fly you fools!

Copyright Sarah Bown © STI

Baby Cows

babycows, Credit-newscientist.com

babycows, Credit-newscientist.com

My husband and I were told of a beautiful hike that we must go on. Because we love to go for hikes we didn’t mind the fact that it would take two hours to get there on both trains and buses, but hiking in New Zealand became a sort of passion for us. So we got up extra early that morning and made the long journey to the base of the trail. As soon as we got there we noticed that the air was sort of moist, like it wanted to rain and the ground seemed soft. If anyone has done any hikes in New Zealand in the winter they  know that moist there is actually wet, sticky and cold. Against our better judgement we decided to go on the hike anyway. After all we had just traveled so far to get here.

After studying the big map at the head of the trail we decided to take the shortest of all the trails due to the weather; the map said follow the orange flags and in about five kilometers we should be done. What we quickly learned about New Zealand is that there was rarely a trail because so often they go across private land, so instead they mark the trails with small flags in the ground. The flags are not always consistent and often some are missing. This day was no exception, only to make it worse most of the flags that were on the ground were faded. It made it hard to tell the colors apart, I mean all the colors, even colors like yellow and blue were hard to tell. To make it even more difficult the two main trails … our trail and the “long trail” were red and orange and for a huge portion of the trip the trails crossed back and forth over each other. We had to practically pull the flags from the ground to tell which was orange and which was red.

It was about two hours into our hike when we reached the top of a glorious hill with incredible views. We stopped to eat a little bit and tried to figure out which way we were supposed to go. All we could see ahead of us was a blur of little flags that could be either orange or red, each group headed in a different direction. We did the best we could to pick what we thought looked like the orange flags and headed on our way. In just a few minutes we had to travel through a gate that signaled we were on private land; the land was usually for cattle or sheep but rarely did the animals ever come near you when you walked through the properties.

This time was different. It was a herd of large black cows. Although they looked young they were still large and the herd had to number at least 40. These young cows came running to us as soon as we got on the property and continued to come in large numbers. Pretty soon we found ourselves surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of large black animals. Although I am sure they were not mean, when there are so many you can’t help but wonder if this might be the one herd that is not as sweet as the rest. We quickly looked through our lunch bag and found apples and carrots and began tossing them towards the animals. Slowly the animals began to go for the treats, leaving a small path for us to escape. As quickly as we could we walked away from the herd and headed on looking for the nearest gate. On the way we ran into a deep patch of mud. My shoe became lodged in the mud and as I bent down to try and free my shoe we saw the herd heading our way. I pulled as hard as I could and freed my mud-soaked shoe. We ran through the gate just in time!

As we continued on our way we it not only began to rain lightly on us but we also realized that we had taken the red trail and not the orange trail we had been counting on. With all of our leftover food gone to the cows and a limited amount of water left we continued on our way, not knowing if we would ever make it out alive. Somehow almost four hours later we found our way out, it was almost five pm and getting dark fast. We had hiked nearly ten miles that day. Wet tired and muddy we found our bus and headed home too tired to even stop and eat. When we finally got home we showered and crawled into bed just happy to be alive.

Ways to Sleep in New Zealand

    Auckland-Wellington Train

Auckland-Wellington Train

My husband and I spent many months staying in New Zealand, besides camping, we slept in almost every different type of accommodations possible. From backpackers, hotels, trains, flats, bed & breakfasts to holiday parks all different and all for different types of people and different costs. Each had it own unique experience to fit different needs.

Lets start with the hotels, we tried three all together. They are exactly what you would expect, comfortable beds with a private bathroom with a small coffee maker and television. I must say when traveling a hotel is almost always the way to go if you can afford it. Most hotels go out of there way to may their rooms warm and comfortable and after a long day of site seeing there is nothing like a warm shower followed by a great night sleep. The two big down falls is the price, New Zealand is expensive and their hotels no matter how many stars they have will cost you deeply. Plus most don’t offer anywhere to put your own food, so you will have to foot the additional cost of eating every meal out. One of the hotels was in a busy part of town and we were kept up most of the night by the late night party goers so you do need to watch what part of town you stay in.

Next we slept a night on the train, the ride itself was beautiful a great way to take in the incredible beauty of the country side, the down side is you end up sleeping in seats with others right next to you. It was an endless night of listening to others snore and talk in their sleep. Plus the food cart is limited, most of the food is ready made, not the most healthy and incredibly expensive. Hey your on a train what do you expect right. It was fun getting a chance to meet people from all over the country for those hours you become close friends bonded by your train car. Those friendships are short lived once you get to your stop you walk off and say goodbye to all you have met forever.

Then we got to stay in a bed and breakfast for two weeks, it was in a large beautiful home in a swank part of Wellington. The inn itself was walking distance to most of the great tourist attractions of Wellington making it a great convenience. Our room was small but the bed was warm and comfortable, because they don’t have central air we were given a small heater for our room, it left part of the room hot and the other part cold. The downside we had to share a bathroom with five other rooms. For me the bathroom is a private time, having to share made it feel like you could never really relax. I found myself taking fast showers and using the toilet when everyone was done so I felt a little less rushed. Now I only have this inn to talk about but the breakfast was not worth getting up for. It was nothing more than cold cereal and coffee, if you woke up in time you might be lucky enough to get a small croissant with jelly, plus if you took more than one bowl of cereal you got a stink eye from the host. The shock of it all was the cost, we spent more on this inn than we did for a hotel and we found out this was one of the best priced inn’s in the area. I would say that if all the inns are like the one I mentioned. It is best just to skip the experience.

We spent most of our time in a flat, it was the lower half of someones home. In New Zealand this is a common practice to convert a portion of your home into a flat to rent to others. Although not a cheap way to live it is a better price than almost anything else. We spent nearly $300 a week for a small one room fully furnished flat with a private entrance, private shower and small kitchen. When we walked in we almost laughed at the two twin beds we were provided, we tried to sleep in our separate beds but being a young married couple we wanted to sleep next to each other. I tell you no matter how you put those two twin beds together they never really fit. Although we made it work I must admit it took nearly four months to recover from the back problems we suffered with from sleeping on those beds. The rest of the flat was great, we had an amazing view from our room and our host was a warm and wonderful person, she alone made the stay worth our time. Now Wellington is built on hills and this flat was not an exception, the town and train were almost two miles away, all via little stair cases straight up or down steep inclines. Most nights we were so tired from the climb to and from town that we could barley keep our eyes open, we would get home and crawl right into bed. I would say if you can find one of these little gems to stay in they are by far your best bet for an affordable way to live during your stay in New Zealand.

For several nights we stayed in a backpackers inn in Rotorua And Hamilton. They are known here in the states as hostels. I must say this is a rough way to stay while you are vacationing, there is a reason why they call it a youth hostel. We toured several over our time each time feeling like they were a little more of an adventure then we were ready for. Most are large rooms with bunk beds, one of the hostels had almost 40 bunk beds in one room alone, most were co-ed. There was a large public kitchen where everyone like to gather and eat together. There were also large public lounges with games, televisions and old sofas to sit on, a perfect fit for young travelers out to meet new people. We did find a backpackers that had a private room for a reasonable price, I think it was about $40 a night. There was nothing fancy about the room, it was a hard cold bed in an almost scary cold white room. There was nothing warm or comfortable about our nights and not to mention we got to hear the young party goers all night. We were lucky to get more than a few hours of sleep each night. This is a great way for the true bargain traveler.

Probably our most romantic time was our week in a holiday park in Te Aroha. I had never stayed in a holiday park before and was not sure what I was in for. It was like a trailer park, camp ground and motel combo.  The location of this park was in the about five miles from a small town in the middle of the country. We rented one of the rooms for 10 days, nothing fancy like a small one bedroom apartment with a private bathroom, kitchen and television. It was small and comfortable, plus the hosts did everything they could to make our stay as comfortable as possible. The nicest part of living here was the location, each morning we got to walk outside to a view of the mountains on one side and horses on the other, plus the air was so cool and fresh here. At night they filled a small rock pool with hot water so we could sit outside in the mountain air while enjoying a warm bath. The cost is not cheap but well worth the experience.

There are so many ways to sleep while on vacation, I would say its worth the time to try at least a few different ways. You not only get to meet different people but you get a taste of a different way of life in each. Some are better than other, while some are cheaper than others but each is a unique and special experience.

All I Wanted was A Good Cup of Coffee !!!

Beautiful New Zealand, Credit- Gunner

Beautiful New Zealand, Credit- Gunner

My husband and I spent many months traveling around New Zealand. While this is a beautiful country worth the time to visit we found that it lacked a few of the basic’s that we were used to as Americans. One of the biggest disappointments we had during our time there was the lack of good coffee.

Now I know to many this may seem like a small thing something should be easily overlooked, after all is it not more important to appreciate the many great things about the place you are visiting rather than looking at this one small thing. Sure it could be and maybe should be but for some reason to this day it still bugs me that I could not find one good cup of coffee while in New Zealand, not even at the American owned Starbucks. To make matters worse, even with a great exchange rate the price of a cup of coffee is enough to make you scream “bloody murder” at the poor barista that has to ring you up.

Lets start at the airport, we landed after a long flight where the coffee and food were limited, mostly due to lazy flight crews and airlines decreasing the amount of service offered on their flights. Off the plane we headed through a long and very personal check at immigration, followed by a long sniff of my person and my bags by Barney the bio-security dog. All I wanted was a great cup of hot coffee to sip as I gathered my thoughts and took in this great country. We quickly eyed a coffee bar and like small children getting a cup cake we ran to get our dark cup of delight. Suddenly we were hit with a reality that we would soon learn plagued the entire country, this country has no idea  what coffee really is. To me coffee is a big pot filled with  warm dark goodness, one that opens every sense in your body starting with the smell, one that lingers deep into the back of your nose and throat, then moves into your chest down your body and keeps going until every part of you tingles with delight and anticipation. Once you hold the cup in both hands and take a deep inhalation just before you take that first hot sip you know all is right in the world again.

That is not the world of coffee in New Zealand, it is more like a wee small bit of espresso followed with a huge amount of warm milk, they call a flat white, I call it “show me the coffee please”. Seriously, in all flat whites I tried (which I assure you is probably in the hundreds if not the thousands) none of them tasted like coffee. Oh I would ask even plead for something stronger, if I had to have the flat white version at least let me have a real shot or two of espresso. The people there looked at me as if I had lost my mind, I was called the “crazy American” the “need for speed junky” or my favorite “are you insane you’ll ruin the milk”. I tried to ask for the standard cup of brewed coffee, or as they like to call it drip coffee. Most had no idea what it was, the ones that did said it was not worth brewing, very few people in the world had a taste for that coffee we were told over and over again. We even found a breakfast joint that promoted itself as an American diner, they were shocked when we asked if they had a bottomless cup of coffee, “are you crazy we don’t even own a coffee pot”, why do they all think I’m crazy.

My quest continued over the months I was there, the closest thing I came to was what they call a press pot. Basically you put your grounds into the bottom of a glass jar, fill it with hot water and use this huge plunger with a wire net on the end to push the grounds of coffee to the bottom leaving you with a jar of coffee. I had seen them here in the states, I think they call them french press pots. Now this coffee will never replace the coffee brewer back home but it was a nice filler while we were there. We found ourselves buying a large thermos and filling it with our own coffee from “home”. Surprisingly the thermos did a pretty good job of keeping the coffee hot for our long days on the cold shores of Wellington, plus there is nothing like a hot cup of coffee in the middle of a long hike. We had found our happy place at last and were at last able to really enjoy this beautiful country, when our time there was over I was almost sad to leave behind our thermos and press pot, they had become like old friends.

After nearly four months overseas you would think we had overcome our need for cup of brewed coffee, but that is wrong. The very first thing we did the moment we landed in LAX  was to head straight to the coffee bar, we wanted a cup of regular Joe. There must have been a hundred people in line,after all we landed at 8 in the morning, prime coffee time, that’s ok it was worth the wait. When we got to the register to place our order the kind young girl at the counter sweetly asked if we would like to try one of their sugar laden artificially flavored coffee lattes (I think she called it the chocolate Carmel latte from hell) with an evil stink eye like I have never given before I told her I wanted the largest cup of dark fresh brewed coffee she had, with a look of fear in her face she got me my larger than life cup of coffee, then told me it was the end of the pot so I could have it for free. It was like a gift from the gods, I almost jumped over the counter to kiss her, but I resisted I’m not sure if kissing the girl behind the counter was proper airport etiquette. As nice as it is to travel around the world, it’s the little things that make you glad to be home.

Enter God Zone

As you fly over Queenstown, you could be forgiven for thinking you are about to enter a toy village. A veritable rainbow of hues from gold to yellow, orange and red spots the landscape with maples. Each tree has been planted by some minute person in the past to make up for the stark landscape that assaults the senses when winter no longer hides the dark imposing mountainside throwing its icy white blanket over the landscape.



If you look closely you might smile at the cabbage tree standing defiantly amongst a patch of maples or the bromeliad hiding amongst the scrub. Each native plant has weathered another strong winter to assume it’s place in the cold southern climes and remind us that we still are in New Zealand, just a much more majestic and ethereal version.

To add to your pre-existing delusions of grandeur, whirly birds buzz around underneath like metal dragonflies; if you were imaginative, you might pretend that they are the paparazzi and they are waiting for you to exit the plane.

As soon as you step on to the tarmac you are assaulted with pure, unadulterated beauty! The scenery is quite simply, remarkable! The mountainside (aptly named ‘The Remarkables’) stoops over the airport like a giant surveying his empire. Deciduous trees spot along the bottom of the mountainside and around the airport.

Queenstown is the perfect backdrop for the New Zealand Tourism Board; in fact some marketing whiz from Auckland probably coined the phrase “GodZone” whilst visiting this natural box of jewels. Queenstown has everything you could want if you were indeed a god. It has the sweeping mountainside, the ice cold water as still as a mirror, and a bird life parallel to none.

As soon as we set down at the airport it was time to find our way to the hotel. We had decided to spoil ourselves just for the first night and managed to get a great deal for a “mystery hotel” which turned out to be the Kawarau Hotel “Managed by Hilton”.

Of course, we straight away jumped at the thought of staying in a hotel managed by Hilton and assumed the airs and graces of such a visitor, telling everyone we knew including perfect strangers that we would be staying at “The Hilton”. Once we arrived at the hotel, the taxi driver made a comment on our broken down backpacks and we stood and waited at The Hilton amongst some very swish-looking tourists.

After what seemed like an age we were finally attended to and promptly told that we were in the wrong place and the Kawarau Hotel “Managed by Hilton” was actually a hop, skip and a jump down the road. A staff member kindly offered to get the porter to take our bags but by then we were suitably ashamed by our attire and quickly slunk out to the glares of the walls, walls which had never seen such filth darken their doors before.

After a five-minute hike down to the more affable but much less ostentatious Kawarau Hotel “Managed by Hilton”, we realized that a hotel managed by Hilton didn’t actually make it the Hilton; it made it a beautiful hotel overlooking stunning Lake Karapiro.

Once we arrived in our room we found a deck which looked out to the stunning lake. We were told we could use the spa at the Hilton but it would cost $20 for the privilege Our airs and graces suitably dampened, we decided to go for a nice “free” stroll along the lake and a couple of quiet ones at the local pub where we felt a lot less, for want of a better word, Poor.

After a much-needed sleep in the king-sized bed and a glorious migraine suffered by yours truly, we set off at daybreak in another expensive taxi to the airport to pick up our campervan. It is truly the best way to travel if you want to use a campervan and can’t afford the hotels.

Our next trip, to beautiful Milford Sound took about three hours through amazing terrain under torrential rainfall. The trip was uneventful until we got the Sound where we were told that the boats had all been canceled thanks to stormy weather.

Undeterred, we decided to camp out at Lake Gunn, a truly picturesque camping spot, free and off the beaten track, or so we thought. By 8 p.m. there were three other campervans, two cars and a tent! A tent! We had the best campervan by far and we were freezing to the core of our being, whereas some smart alecks were showing us up erecting a tent, and sleeping in it.

When I awoke early in the morning and wiped the icicles from my hair, I walked up to the car and videoed it. We stood, jeered and laughed at the maniacs who would tent next to a lake, then we stood concerned for a minute, wondering if they had survived the ordeal, then ran back to the campervan like the ostentatious pricks that we were and drove back towards Milford Sound.

By now the rain had turned into snow, a constant source of amusement for those of us who don’t get to encounter snow very often, yet not so great if you don’t have chains on your wheels. By the time we had arrived at the base of the mountainside it was clear to us that we would not be going any further.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

A van full of tourists was skidding up the hill, determined to get to Milford Sound. We might be ostentatious, but we weren’t stupid so we decided to take the long trip back towards Queenstown and try our luck elsewhere. Not before we got out, threw snow at each other, jumped about and got back to the heater.

After another long and uneventful trip back, we arrived in Arrowtown, a place which had been trumpeted in our tour guidebooks as an “Outback town” known for its gold mining days and general ancient housing. I was excited; nothing gets me more interested than “ye olde worlde” living. In fact, I had pictures in my head of sepia photos with myself and my beloved dressed in period attire.

We arrived at your stereotypical tourist town where outrageous prices assailed our sense of injustice and after a $ 20 cup of coffee (well maybe not that expensive), we decided to up and move, but not before gazing at the beautiful autumnal colors that continued to assail our senses, quickly and abruptly ruined by the throngs of tourists taking incessant photos of buildings which weren’t really that old.

Leaving Arrowtown, it was clear to us that we needed warmth, as we had had enough of being cold and wet; it had been raining and snowing for two days and no matter how long we kept the gas cooker on and the engine idling in order to maintain some warmth from the car heater, we still woke up sodden with dew and coughing up a lung.

On arrival we knew straight away that we had made the right decision as this romantic destination just screams lust and love. The town quietly ensconces a lake that is so faultless it makes you want to weep. Pine trees and those autumnal maples scatter themselves around the lake as it quietly laps against the rock bed.

Above the lake there is a rather large camping ground, which costs money to stay in. There was no way we were going to go without power for another night so we handed over the small fee to camp in a real-live campground and parked our car. We quickly made our way to the most beautiful spa resort imaginable.

Set against a backdrop of brilliant stars, the water goes from lukewarm to toasty hot in three different pools, allowing you to gradually make your way from frozen to thawed, to lukewarm, to body temperature.

A thermal pool under the stars in the freezing cold Fiordland is pure heaven and we lolled about on our backs looking up at the southern cross which was clearly defined in the centre of the sky next to the two pointer stars, alpha and beta centauri.

Of all my years on this earth I had never been able to locate the southern cross but standing these blatantly in front of me were those four fabled stars crying out to the quiet world beneath them.

While stargazing, we floated quietly amongst native plants such as poi poi which dotted the pretty rock gardens, quietly bobbing about unseen by the small number of tourists, owing to the freezing temperatures.

After what seemed like the most infinitesimal solitude, my migraine had dissipated and my partner and I were on cloud nine. We truly floated back down to earth and landed in the local pub. This time to feast on potato wedges and beer. Then we happily floated back to our campervan for another freezing night due to the fact that the heater didn’t work particularly well.

We woke ready to meet another day. For me, the day began with cleaning out the effluent tank; for my beloved the day began with a cold shower (he didn’t have $2 to enjoy a hot shower). The life of a traveler can be cold and tiresome but it can also be so rewarding. Already planning our next trip, we wonder: will it rival the beauty of New Zealand’s South Island?

Wenderholm Regional Park

Wenderholm Regional Park, Cr-flicker

Wenderholm Regional Park, Cr-flicker

It’s a place as whimsical as its name, if its name casts the same old-world charm on you as it does me. Not that Wenderholm Regional Park, whose name means ‘Winter Home’, is old world much; rather, it lies on the coast of New Zealand, only a half hour’s drive north of the New World city of Auckland.

However, despite its situation not far from the peopled tourist attractions of Waiwera‘sThermal Resort and the increasingly cosmopolitan town of Orewa, it shrugs off urbanity and cloaks itself with an older vibe, one more akin to New Zealand’s pre-European past, and in fact, the area was a centre of Maori settlement for almost a thousand years, as overflowing as it was with kaimoana, or seafood, and this ancient echo seems to reverberate through the centuries. Huddling between outcrops of land within the embrace of the Puhoi and Waiwera Rivers, it shelters from the modern world’s intrusions, its estuary flowing to a primordial lunar rhythm without reference to human presence.

What to do, what to do…

Modern humans, however, are welcome here, but they come in numbers that avoid feeling like an invasion, and out of season, you may find yourself virtually alone, the beaches and the walks beneath trees which have witnessed the gathering of people dead over a hundred years, deserted now. A long stretch of white sand beach invites swimming and sun worship, or contemplative strolls from cliffs along the wooded spit of land which guides the Puhoi River inland. Turning in along the river’s outlet into the sea, the water laps into a series of shallow coves, each with its own personality.

Bring food along, and when hunger strikes, you can set up an impromptu picnic with your choice of surroundings, but tables are available closer to the campground, and can be booked in advance for larger groups.

Bush Trails and Walks

There are also trails through native bush with expansive panoramas out over the Hauraki Gulf and coast and inland towards the historic settlement of Puhoi. Look out for rare North Island robins, or toutouwai, which have been reintroduced into the forest, and other treasured native forest birds like kereru and tui.

History for the Buffs

On the site, historic Couldrey House in its landscaped gardens presides over the park. Built in the late 1800s by the first European landowner in the district as a wintering homestead, hence the park’s name, it is now a museum of local history, open to the public only on weekends as it’s run by volunteers.

All Out to Sea

Besides bush and coastal exploring, there is also the Hauraki Gulf and its islands, and the Puhoi River with its mangroves and local views along the Puhoi River valley across to Mahurangi Regional Park. To this end, there are boat ramps for small to medium boats, and kayaks are available for hire onsite at times during the year.

Where to stay

In terms of accommodation, there are basically two options, depending on taste and budget as always, one being tenting, or caravaning. There are camping sites for up to 40 people, with bathroom facilities and a potable water supply. The small sites lie unobtrusively under and between the native pohutakawa trees so that it feels as if nature is not subdued here, but sanctions our presence. The beach and estuary are brief strolls away on either side, and the incessant susurration of the sea on the shore lulls tired holiday makers to sleep at night.

The other option for overnight accommodation is more elusive, requiring months of foreplanning to book ahead, but so worthwhile. Wenderholm Beach House, another historic building, is unpretentious and quaint, and sits alone at the end of the peninsular, wrapping itself in tranquility and the sound of sea and birdsong. Enveloped in self-imposed isolation, it is often the haunt of artists-in-residence, some of whom have left a creative echo in work which remains at the park. Look out for one such display in the estuary; the outlines of three waka, or canoes, in semi-submerged stone, evoking the area’s seafaring past.

At the height of summer or in the gloom of winter, Wenderholm is a small wonder well worth sampling, and easily accessible from the Auckland region.

Handy Links:

Wenderholm Regional Park information

Wenderholm Beach House information

New Zealand Facts & Figures

New Zealand

New Zealand

New Zealand is an extremely beautiful country, situated in the south-western Pacific Ocean. It comprises of two large islands, namely North Island & South Island  separated by Cook Strait ( Approximately three hours across by ferry from Wellington), and a number of smaller islands (including Stewart,Rakiura & Chatham Islands). New Zealand is famous amongst the nature lovers, owing to its breathtaking landscapes, luxuriant forests, gushing rivers, placid lakes, glacial mountains, thermal regions, semi tropical islands and exotic wildlife.

Name: New Zealand – Aotearoa. Aotearoa is the Maori name meaning ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’. New Zealand is also known colloquially as ‘The Shaky Isles’ because of it’s geothermal activity and numerous earthquakes.There are about 14,000 earthquakes in New Zealand every year.

Kiwi: refers to New Zealand’s native flightless bird and also used as a slang term for a New Zealander. The kiwi bird lives in a hole in the ground, is almost blind, and lays only one egg each year. It’s been around for more than 70 million years. Kiwis call the fruit kiwifruit, also known as Chinese Gooseberries.

New Zealand: is part of what is known as ‘The Pacific Rim of Fire’ – it’s most active volcano is Mount Ruapehu in the central North Island.

Capital: Wellington – the southern most capital in the world – aka: ‘The Windy City’.  The Largest City is Auckland – 1.3 million and growing – aka: ‘The City of Sails’ and ‘The Jewel of the Pacific’. Three quarter of New Zealand’s population live on the North Island, and one quarter of the population live in Auckland. Auckland City Sky Tower is the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere at 328 meters. Auckland city also has the largest number of boats per capita than any other city in the world.  Gisborne is the first major city in the world to see the sunrise. It is 496.3kilometres away from the International Date Line

National Parks in New Zealand:  There are 14 national parks.  Tongariro, Te Urewera, Whanganui and Egmont in the North Island, and Abel Tasman, Kahurangi, Nelson Lakes, Westland Tai Poutini, Mount Aspiring, Fiordland, Paparoa, Arthur’s Pass, Aoraki/Mount Cook in the South Island. There’s also Rakiura National Park in Stewart Island.

Largest Lake: Lake Taupo – 606 km. Lake Taupo is one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations,was the source of the largest known eruption in the world in the last 70 thousand years.

Deepest lake: strong> Lake Hauroko – 462 m.  It is  located in a mountain valley in Fiordland National Park in the South Island.

Longest River: Waikato river – In the North Island, it runs for 425 kilometers from the eastern slopes of Mount Ruapehu, joining the Tongariro River system and emptying into Lake Taupo

Largest glacier: Tasman Glacier – 28.5 km long.  It lies entirely within the borders of Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. The glacier covers an area of 101 square kilometers (39 sq mi) and starts at a height of 3,000 meters

Deepest cave: Nettlebed2,  located in NW Nelson – 889 m deep.

Surface: New Zealand is spread over an area of approximately 268,021 sq km and its coastline is around 15,134 km long.

Cars: With 2.5 million cars for four million people, including children, New Zealand’s car ownership rate is one of the world’s highest.

Driving directions: You drive on the left side of the road in New Zealand, and always give way to cars on your right.

The longest place: name still in use, and the name of a hill in NZ is: Taumatawhakatangihangaoauauotameteaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupo-kaiwhenuakitanatahu

New Zealand is one of only three countries that have two official national Anthems. The first is God Save the Queen  and the other is God Defend New Zealand. The other two countries with two anthems are Denmark and Canada which both have a Royal Anthem and a State anthem. New Zealand was the first country to have its three top positions held simultaneously by women – Prime Minister Helen Clark, Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright and Chief Justice Sian Elias. It also has a strong hold on the international trade in sheep meat. There are presently around 9 sheep to every 1 human in New Zealand.

Sports: Rugby union is the most popular sport in New Zealand.

Sir Edmund Hillary – the first man to reach the peak of Mount Everest was a New Zealander (born in Auckland) and his face is on the New Zealand $5 bill. The first European to reach New Zealand was Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642. The Maori killed many of the ship’s crew and no European returned to New Zealand until Captain James Cook in 1769.

Internet: New Zealand Internet is among the slowest in the developed world. Most households achieve an average speed between 1 Mbit/s to 10 Mbit/s per line.

Predators: New Zealand had no predatory mammals prior to European arrival, and the major grazing animals were species of huge flightless birds, the Moa, which could weigh around 250 kilograms (551 pounds) when fully grown.The heaviest insect in the world is a New Zealand native – Weta which  is an insect endemic to New Zealand that is a relic from the time of the dinosaurs. It has incredible survival instincts


Newzealand.com,Wikipedia.com, befollowingyourdreams