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Part 3 - New Zealand

South Island

View upriver from Arthur's Pass, between Christchurch and Greymouth on the Trans Alpine railroad Well, we now started the last leg of the South Pacific Adventure, a 10 day journey through both south and north islands of New Zealand. To see a map of New Zealand, click on the link. Except for the Trans Alpine railroad trip to Greymouth, all our traveling was by rental car. This has to be the only way to see the country. To stop, gawk, and wonder. Then drive on again.
Only one word can describe New Zealand.

West coast beach on the south island, near Waitaha. Very deserted area, and they say the undertow is very strong on the west coast beaches. WOW!

Katie and I with the Franz Josef glacier in the background. This glacier is growing some 10-15 meters a year lately. Never before have we seen such georgeous and immense landscape scenery. Mountains, glaciers, gorges, rivers, lakes, panoramas like none to be seen anywhere else. Simply magnificent. The photos included in this section are only a few of the many we took. There isn't enough disk space here to show all that I'd like to. But I've tried to show some representative shots that might entice anyone who has been there, to go back again and for those who haven't been fortunate enough to get there yet, to start planning a longer trip than we had.

Here I am flaunting the rules and getting up close and personal with the Fox glacier, nearby to the Franz Josef glacier. The ice cave behind me is as tall as a 3 story house where large chunks fall down regularly, hence the reason to prohibit my activity... In a nutshell, we went from Christchurch to Greymouth to Franz Josef to Queenstown to Milford Sound to Mt. Cook to Christchurch to Rotorua to Thames to Auckland and back to the states. In all its glory, I don't think I've seen so great an area be so totally beautiful and scenic as the south island. Sure, Bora Bora is fantastic, but it is small. Sure, Yosemite is impressive, but it is small. The Grand Canyon stands alone, but the glaciers and mountain ranges and rivers and jungles and forests of New Zealand are unmatched in my experience.

This is an overlook view of Bruce Bay on the west coast near Jacobs River. Ain't nobody around for miles (kilometers). The country, as well as the cities are immaculate. You just don't see litter anywhere. Billboards are practically unheard of outside Christchurch. There are only 3.5 million inhabitatants, only 900K of them in the south, most of them in Christchurch and Dunedin. That makes for many hours of driving in the wide open spaces.

Here is where a small river empties into the Tasman Sea and its secluded beach near Lake Paringa on the west coast. Some interesting observations of our time in NZ:
There are approximately 1.1 smushed possums per km of highway in the country. Serious possum population! Radio stations love to play the U.S. 'oldies' music and many restaurants are 'oldies' themed. Most roads, even in the towns and villages, do not have curbs. The west side of the south island is nearly deserted, with few towns, fewer people, and the best scenery anywhere.

A view of fields and mountains from Highway 6 southwest of the glaciers. One highway feature I found interesting, is that they will take a normal single lane road, paint a divider line down the middle and call it a two lane road. These are particularly fun to negotiate on dark mountain roads that typically have never seen a guard rail. Small stores love to wrap your purchases in bags with lots of tape.

View of the Milford Sound fiord from the cruise boat at the beginning of the cruise to the sea. Every town has public toilets that are immaculately maintained. Or maybe New Zealanders are just not as messy as Americans. Also you'll only find electric hot air hand driers. Paper towels are apparently on the endangered species list 'down under.' Many small towns also have clock towers in the center of town. And they all seem to work!

View back toward the end of the fiord from the stern of the cruise ship. New Zealand! A fabulous place with friendly English speaking (sort of) people. The Kiwis have great beer, excellent food, low prices (except gasoline), litter-free highways and towns, lots of sheep (20:1), lots of cattle, clean air, spectacular scenery, and the America's Cup in yachting!

View of a large waterfall on Milford Sound taken from the cruise ship. Beautiful sunset from our hotel in Queenstown on the south island. This was taken at about 10:00 pm. View of Mt. Cook, NZ's highest point, with hayfields and Lake Pukaki in the foreground. View of Mt. Cook again, with a field of lupine in the foreground. View once more of Mt. Cook with the turquoise colored Lake Pukaki in the foreground.

North Island

 A waterfall on a nature walk at the Buried Village, outside Rotorua. This was a Maori village covered in volcanic ash. Of course, this is a waterfall near the site... The north island of New Zealand is a bit warmer than the south, as it is considerably closer to the equator, but Auckland is at about the same latitude as Melbourne, at the south of Australia, so it is not exactly tropical. However the north island has a number of geologically active areas, including volcanoes and thermal areas, much like Yellowstone in the U.S. To see a map of New Zealand, click on the link.

Photo of players at a Maori cultural center near Ngongolaha, close to Rotorua, where old rituals are re-enacted for gullible tourists. There is a former Maori village near Rotorua that was buried in volcanic ash in1886 during a period of heavy volcanic activity in the area. This has been largely excavated and is now a tourist area. There are also two hot springs/geyser/mud pot areas with strong similarities to Yellowstone, albeit not as large.

Katie at her own city sign, a town north of Tauranga on the drive from Rotorua to the Coromandel Peninsula, our next destination. 75% of the population of New Zealand lives in the north, with about 1 million living in Auckland. We spent most of our time in the northern half of the island, traveling from Rotorua with its sulfur/hydrogen sulfide smell permeating everything, up to the Coromandel Peninsula, east of Auckland, which is apparently a resort area for Auckland residents.

A rain-spotted water iris at the Water Gardens in Thames, southwest of Tairua, on the Coromandel Peninsula. The peninsula area is very scenic and the road there is somewhat mountainous with many switchbacks on the famous 'two lane' roads. That is, single lane roads with a stripe painted in the middle, thereby making it two lanes. Yeah, right! Much of the peninsula coastal area has high cliffs with sheer drops to the sea.

This was another waterfall at the Water Gardens in Thames, southwest of Tairua, on the Coromandel Peninsula. The trip to New Zealand after having been to Fiji and Australia, was certainly a high point. Katie was talking about going back there to live for a year or so. It really is that beautiful, and the cost of living, compared to the U.S., is extremely reasonable, with an exchange rate of about $1.90 NZ for every $1.00 U.S. Prices for most items seemed to be reasonably close to that of the U.S., until you realized that we were paying about half price because of the exchange rate!

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Last updated February 27, 2000