Archive for August, 2009

Touring New Zealand

August 26, 2009

Mount Aspiring National ParkWhat can you say about a country that boasts only 4 million people and over 40 million sheep? Well, a heck of a lot of sheep for one thing, but better yet lots and lots of wild and open spaces just beckoning the avid adventurer. New Zealand offers so much in the way of outdoor activity, and attracts those looking for everything from soft adventure to adrenalin pumping extreme sports. Hiking, biking, skiing, jet boating, sailing, fishing, hot air ballooning, and of course bungee jumping, just to name a few.
We started our trip landing in Auckland, on the North Island, and passed through to Rotorua, one of the main seats of traditional Maori culture, and also known for its thermal springs. Her e we were treated to a cultural performance at Te Puia, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imbC1g3bofk  followed by a tour of Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve and its spouting hot geysers. An obligatory visit to the Agridome and its entertaining sheep show was next, as well as a stroll through Rainbow Springs Nature Park. A morning soak in the natural Polynesian Spa, and its sulfuric hot pools, worked out the kinks from the previous day’s ventures. Now it was on the South Island, where we would be spending most of the trip. Following a visit to the garden city of Christchurch, we embarked on a scenic train ride on the TranzAlpine railway through snow covered peaks and mountain passes. The Southern Alps, which dominate mu7ch of the scenery of the South Island, were just starting to reveal themselves. The train terminates in Greymouth on the West Coast, where we caught a coach up to Punakaiki, known for its Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. The Punakaiki Resort offered a nice respite from the stormy weather we had on the West Coast. Next stop was Franz Josef and its stunning glacier. Heli-hiking is the most popular activity here, however unpredictable and changing weather conditions prevented us from partaking in that activity. Instead we did an easy hike to view the glacier, and later in the day as the weather cleared, we were treated to a scenic helicopter sighting flight up and over the glacier. I have posted a short video of this trip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0HN_HaAkio    Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are a year round attraction, and easy to access as part of any South Island itinerary. Camper vans are a popular way to go. The remainder of our trip would be spent in Queenstown, the picturesque town built around the lake and surrounded by snow filled alpine peaks. Although only late May, winter had already hit with a vengeance, so there was a lot of snow in the mountains and surrounding valleys. Queenstown is pure escapism, where the limits stop and people take over. Adventurers of every sort flock to this small city, which operates in all seasons, but is most popular during the winter ski season. There are so many activities and excursions to choose from when using Queenstown as a base, that it is hard to cram it all in. I went with a couple of must-dos: Milford Sound and the Shotover Jet. The scenery at Milford Sound (actually a fiord we are told) from the cruise boat is simple awe-inspiring. Alpine peaks, chasms, countless waterfalls, marine wildlife (seals, dolphins, and penguins) provide a stunning backdrop to the pristine waters. We opted for a scenic plane flight back to Queenstown, which was actually a highlight in itself. Here is a short video from the cruise http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQvo7cC7HLo 
Adrenaline junkies will love the Shotover Jet, the original NZ jet boat excursion, speeding up the scenic Shotover River, narrowly avoiding boulders, rock walls, and spinning 360s the entire way. It’s a rollicking good time and a great way to wrap up a short stay in the Queenstown area.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfsPfreO01E   I found New Zealand to be a wonderful destination. The people are humble and friendly; the scenery breathtakingly gorgeous and extremely diverse. From scenic coastline and beaches, low lying rainforests to alpine peaks, there is something for everyone in New Zealand. Oh, and did I mentioned all of the great ales they brew? Speights Gold Medal was one of my personal favorites. For more information on travel to New Zealand, please contact me at http://www.southpacific-vacations.com
Frank Lazzaro

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