Auckland, New Zealand
Trip Start Aug 15, 2008
90Trip End Aug 14, 2009
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After enjoying free internet access in virtually every hotel, motel & backpacker hostel in both North & South America, it came as quite a shock to find that in New Zealand, where it was available, you had to pay an extortionate hourly rate for access, sometimes $10 per hour! The cyber cafes were cheaper but it was difficult to upload pics to the blog from there.
This, together with the amount of alcohol consumed, caused the delay in producing my latest Pulitzer Prize winner. I therefore humbly apologise.
The flight from Papeete to Auckland was with Air New Zealand; we had an all male crew but they seemed very nice (!)
They wore smart grey suits but they looked scruffy, as none of them wore ties. The immigration officers, however, gave us a thorough going over, inspecting tickets & itineraries to check we weren't intending to stay.
We found the Kiwis lovely people with a well developed, ironic sense of humour - even the bus conductors joked with us. They were, without exception, helpful & pleasant.
Their accent was stronger than I expected, more nasal & they muddle up their vowels - you could say they had strange vowel movements.
Our first impression of New Zealand was that food & other goods were cheaper than in the UK. One curious thing was that Australian wines were cheaper than New Zealand wines - even though the local wines were produced just up road.
Car hire was also inexpensive, if you avoided the big companies like Hertz, Avis & Budget who have a nasty habit of loading lots of extras on, like insurance & mileage charges.
Barbara's sister, Margaret & her husband Michael had flown out to join us for the New Zealand leg of our trip. We were going to spend the first 2 days in Auckland with them, but as we had crossed the International Date Line, we were cheated out of a day, so we only had one night there. The hotel was fine but we were kept awake that night by the screams of bungee jumpers in a car park opposite the hotel, being catapulted into the air.
22nd March - Christchurch
A busride away from Christchurch is a gondola that takes you to the top of the Port Hills, on the edge of the volcanic rim overlooking Lyttleton. There are many walks from there, happily all of them downhill. We took the path that the original settlers took down towards the port, it was hard going down, it must have been nearly impossible climbing up carrying all your worldly goods.
Lyttleton was the last port for the Antartic explorers like Scott & Shackleton & it still services boats going to the Antartic bases today.
24th March - Akaroa
We went on a walk above the town which gave a great view of the drowned volcanic crater.
25th March - Lake Tekapo Village
We then pressed on down the flat eastern side of South island to Lake Tekapo via the pretty town of Geraldine.
The roads were straight & had very few cars on them, so to pass the time we played "spot the car" but had to abandon it after 20 minutes as nobody had scored. The maximum speed limit throughout NZ is 100 kph (60mph) which was a bit of a culture shock for me. I didn't get stopped for speeding (this time) though.
In Lake Tekapo we vegged-out in a lakeside holiday bungalow just up the road from a famous tourist trap, the "Church of the Good Shepherd" (would they erect a church to a bad shepherd ?). This tiny church is about the size of a double garage & has a picture window at one end that perfectly frames the lake. It's a pity they ban photography in the church.
The air here is supposed to be the cleanest in NZ, which is why they built the Mount John Observatory here. You can take a 3 hour walk to the top, where you can see for miles - we drove up.
This area has all year round activities - hiking, kayaking, cycling, boating in summer & skiing in winter.
26th March - Mount Cook
From Lake Tekapo we drove to Mount Cook Village to see New Zealand's highest mountain, Mount Cook (3,764m).
The informative & lovely visitors centre tells the story of the many climbers who have climbed or perished on the mountain which was first conquered in 1894. There are photos of one famous woman who climbed it wearing a long skirt & blouse, button-up boots & a wide brimmed hat. She probably stopped for tea halfway up !
The village itself is monopolized by the Hermitage Hotel which, together with the shops, are owned by same company - everything is overpriced, so not many people stay there (serves them right).