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A Dream Come True Finally I am off on a dream trip that I dreamt of for many, many years. I flew from London Heathrow on 2 October 2008 to Delhi I will continue my journey to explore many places for the next 8 months:) And years to come......

New Zealand

NEW ZEALAND | Monday, 18 May 2009 | Views [327]

I don't know how to describe this stunning country. As I have been driving around the South Island, I just want to stop and take pictures everywhere. The scenery is so amazing and variable. Sometimes it changes so drastically just as you turn round the corner and a completely different scenery appears. As I drive along I can see mountain tops covered with snow, I am passing beautiful lakes surrounded by mountains, the colors of the trees are a wonderful golden colors. I drive up winding roads around the mountains and then I go down the other side of the mountain and arrive into green valleys.  Sometimes I drive through rain forests and other times along fantastic ocean road. As I arrived on the North Island an addition to this amazing scenery I came across steam raising above the ground from all the hot springs and geysers. Never seen anything like it, it is so wonderfully beautiful, I almost get tears in my eyes sometimes.

Anyway back to the start when I arrived in Christchurch,  I stayed there one night continuing staying in hostels as this is the cheapest option. Christchurch I thought was a sweet little place. In the evening as I walked into town I arrived at Cathedral square all lit up and it almost felt like Christmas at home, very crisp cold air, someone in the square playing beautiful music. After one day, having visited the art galleries, some quite interesting exhibitions and walked around the town I was ready to move on.

So I drove to a place called Lake Tekapo, I stayed in a YHA hostel looking over the lake which was so beautiful with surrounding snow topped mountains and trees in all shades of yellow, orange and red, this hostel was nice with an open fire lit every night which made it homely and cozy. I had a nice walk up to a observatory at the top of the mountain where I could see Mt Cook (NZ highest mountain). I then walked down and along the lake, very nice.

After Lake Tekapo I continued my drive to Queens Town which I didn't think that much of, so I continued to Wanaka a much smaller place and quieter. It is beautifully surrounded by mountains and a lake, here I did a couple of nice walks, you feel such a stillness and it is so quiet when you are out walking with no one to see for hours. The same when you are driving, you can be driving for miles and miles before you see another car, so much space with so little people and so clean, wonderful!

I then drove further west and stayed in Franz Josef Glazier. Here I had an amazing experience, one of many highlights of the trip. I decided to do a helihike up to the glazier. Firstly, flying in a helicopter was a fantastic experience, I got to sit in the front next to the pilot, seeing the mountains, the ocean far ahead and the glazier from the air was such an unbelievable experience. At one point the pilot went up over a mountain top really close and then tipped the front of the helicopter down and wooshed down along the mountain, it was like a really good roller coaster ride. We then had landed and had a 2-hour walk on the glazier, this was like another planet so beautiful, peaceful and quiet. I think it made it even more special with the clear blue skies. We found an ice cave we went through this was great and I saw some wonderful blue ice which I never seen before. However this is where it got tricky using your crampon and I ended up falling into deep puddle of water and got soaked up to my waist in freezing cold water, a bit of a shock. Luckily my trousers dried  very quickly in the sun, but my feet stayed wet and got very cold. Still, this is one of the best things I done it was such a great experience.

I then continued to Kaikura which is a town on the East coast, here I went whale watching and we saw three Sperm Whales about 15 meters long. They come up to the surface for about 6 minutes before they dive deep down in the ocean for 45 minutes before coming up to the surface again. It is so nice to see this kind of wildlife that you would never see at home. I also did some beautiful coastal walks here and saw lots of seals. This part of NZ is so rich in sea life, the reason I was told is that the sea bed is like a huge canyon, they describe it sometimes as the Great Canyon under water. If I understand it right there are both north and south currents moving into this canyon and along comes a lot of sea life.

After all this outdoor life it was time to move on to the Marlborough region and do a bit of wine tasting. I stayed in a very nice homely hostel in Renwick. I had a nice lunch on a vineyard, after my lunch I walked between the vineyards tasting different Savignong Blancs, Reislings, Chardonnays and Pino Noirs. These were the main wines they produce in this region, Savignon Blancs are what they are famous for apparently. I could only handle one day of wine tasting, so I traveled on to a place called Takaka close to the Abel Tasman National Park. Now I had company with Monica a girl from Poland who I gave a lift to and she ended up traveling with me for the next 2 days. Here I did another beautiful walk along the coast, if weather and time permits you can walk for days and days and stay in little huts on the way, it was so nice and I definitely want to come back and do longer walks here. I then continued to a town called Nelson, this is a nice little arty place. The hostel I stayed in here was more like a hotel than a hostel, it felt like real luxury. I wish all the hostels were like this.

Now it was time to cross over to the North Island, the ferry took 3-hours, a beautiful journey through the Marlborough Sounds, with its winding waterways. Wellington was much bigger than I imagined, with some modern skyscrapers, but also some beautiful old wooden houses built up the hills facing the harbor, mixed with some more modern architecture which I really liked. There was some very, very cold southerly winds while I was in Wellington, so not that pleasant. One afternoon I met Paula a old work colleague that now lives in Wellington, we had a nice few hours catching up with gossip and I tried a few nice local beers.

From Wellington I drove up to Taupo, the drive was not as dramatic as the south island in terms of scenery, until I came nearer to Taupo when again the scenery became so beautiful, especially as they had some recent snow fall, so it looked really nice. Taupo is suppose to be the worlds skydiving capital, so this is where I felt the fear but did it anyway, yes I did a skydive, yes I jumped out of a plane 15,000ft above ground, yes I know I must be mad. I can still not believe I did it, never had any intention to do any of this adrenaline rushing sports, but when you come to NZ, it is hard not to. As you talk to so many people who tells you how fantastic it is and so on, and yes it was absolutely amazing.

After all that action it was time for more peaceful walks again, I went to Tongariro National park the day after which is suppose to have a great walk called Tongariro Alpine Crossing but we were advised not to do it as the weather was not very good. We did a shorter walk to some waterfalls, the weather was freezing, with high winds and it started snowing heavily while we were walking, so I would not have enjoyed to do the Alpine Crossing and I am glad it was canceled. However, this is another walk I have a huge desire to do and would put it on my list of walks to come back for.

I continued up to Roratonga which only took a couple of hours to drive. This is a geothermal area and as you are driving along the roads you see steam raising across the country side, it looks quite spectacular. I visited a couple of geyser parks. I have never felt so aware of our earth as I do here with all this activity going on below me. Bubbling pools of water, bubbling mud, geysers erupting and spraying water high up in the air, colorful lakes and so on, it is magical. I also went to an exhibitions about the Maori history and culture which was very interesting. One day I did another beautiful walk along Okataina, similar nature to some walks in Sweden, but I was out walking for 5 hours and didn't meet a single person. Occasionally I had a little fantail bird that was singing to me and it felt like it almost flew with me and wanted attention, I  started to whistle back to him/her, it was so funny.

My final destination in NZ is Auckland where I am only staying for a day, when I arrived I met Lindy who I met in London once, about 15 years ago through another friend of mine Ingela. Ingela gave me the number to Lindy and I am so glad I gave her a ring as we had a wonderful evening drinking wine and had a curry which was a lovely ending to my visit in NZ which is I think top of my list of places.

Tomorrow I am flying to Cook Island for some sun sand and sea.

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