Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Come visit New Zealand

For adventure travelers, come to New Zealand for an extreme down under experience.

For the families and non adventure travelers, come to New Zealand for her scenes and sights.

The Kiwis or the people of New Zealand are very friendly people. I have lived here for a long time, and lived in a few countries, so I am not bias here. Just ask any one who has been here, I daresay he/she will agree with me.

First, many people do not know that Australia and New Zealand are two different countries. Australians or Aussies and Kiwis are fiercely proud to be different, though they fondly call the Tasman sea, the "Ditch."

New Zealand is 268,680 sq km, and Australia is7,686,850 sq km. So if you are about to plan your holidays, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to decide where you want to go even if both countries have similar activities. You do not want to travel half a day from one activity or place to another.

New Zealand is famous for fun and extreme sports. The adrenaline pumping bungy was founded here by AJ Hackett. If you are pressed for time, you jump off the Auckland harbor bridge or Sky jump off the Sky Tower, the highest tower in the Southern hemisphere. All the way south, you can bungy jump at Rotorua or Queenstown if you missed the Auckland jumps. Both my two teen aged daughters bungy jumped, and they swear that it is the most exhilarating thing they had done while my heart was in my mouth when I witness them jumping. So like me, if you don't want to jump, you can always watch other people crazy enough to jump.

Also in Auckland, and Rotorua, there is the Zorb. The Zorb is one big giant transparent rubber sphere. You can choose a dry ride or a wet one and you crawl into it. The Zorb spins down a slope and you spin with it. One moment the world is under you, another it is on top. It takes New Zealand to invent this fun sport. This must be so "fun" as even the Americans and the Aussies have made it available in USA and Australia.

In New Zealand, you can have volcanic mud baths, and after the beautiful Polynesian ladies have finished with you, your skin will be as smooth as a baby's bottom, and you will feel rejuvenated.

Enjoy a hangi, a tradional Maori banquet cooked in a pit. If you ask the right people, you might be invited to watch as the Maoris prepare one. You will be amazed by the mount of food; whole pig, chicken, lamb, kumara, potatoes, cabbages, vegetables prepared for the feast. In half a day, you will be feasting on the succulent food and feasting on the Maori dances.

If wanting to be on top, what about jumping out of the plane by yourself or with an instructor in tandem Skydive. This is available in the North Island at Taupo or near to Christchurch in the South Island. There are helicopter rides, small planes and you can fly off giant kites. You can land on a glacier and walk on it. There are hot air balloons, parachutes.

On shallow water, you can go on water jet and they go so fast that they can make three hundred and sixty degrees spin. When I was in one, a friend shot into the front covered part of the jet. I understood why the jet was called a shot over jet. It gives such an adrenaline rush that the operators call them thrill therapy.

Many people say that New Zealand has the best fishing water in the world. There are many lakes where you can have fly fishing. Rainbow trouts and salmons are plentiful. Come around September, you can go whitebait fishing. You can charter a boat and go out to sea. There are cray fish, snappers, crabs and all sorts of seafood. At Bluff, you have oysters.

There are many rivers and waterfalls in New Zealand. Whitewater rafting, kayaking, and sledging are very popular.

At the Waitomo caves, you journey into the "centre of the earth," and Glow worms hang from the roof like stars twinkling at you. I went with my twelve year old daughter, on a three hour cave tubing or black water rafting in the underground labyrinth of limestone caves and formations of stalactites and stalemates. The running water was freezing water, and it gave a feeling of being trapped and never being saved. At the end of the adventure, you are so grateful for the long hot shower and hot thick winter soup. Honestly, toast never tasted so good. When I did this, I went in a group. Among the young back packers from all over the world, there was a man in his seventies and his wife in her sixities. So this is not just for the young hunks and gals. The operator also did a one to one, and he didn't charge extra for giving you a guide all for yourself.

I asked him, "isn't it uneconomical?"

He said, "We are not doing this for money, we are doing this for love."

There is also cave abseiling if you are not scared of heights and still have energy after your black water rafting.

Then all round the country is 15,000 km of coast line. Some are excellent surf beaches and many are good swimming beaches watched carefully by life guards, many are volunteers. There are literally hundreds of scuba diving sites on the coast and at the numerous lakes and rivers. Many of these sites are world class. Coastal waters teem with colourful, fascinating sea life and the usually clear waters make for excellent viewing. The country abounds with sub-tropical reefs, wrecks, clear water springs and alpine fiords. There are not many virgin wonders left in diving today. New Zealand has some of them.

You can go on an off road motorcycle tour. You get to see the scenes where "Lord of the Rings," were shot. The scenery is breathtaking.

For those who like tramping, you can tramp a nine hour track up the volcanic tracks of alpine Tongariro. It is New Zealand's oldest national park and a dual World Heritage area. Part of the track is near volcanic lakes and the thrill is avoiding falling into the sulphuric lake.

As an ex marathon runner, to be, the ultimate would be running the Antarctica Marathon. Antarctica belongs to New Zealand. Imagine running in the foothills of the scenic Ellsworth Mountains with snow and ice underfoot, and at sub-zero temperatures.

Most people know Edmund Hilary, the first man who reached Mt Everest. Not many know Mark Ingles. He too reached Mt Everest in 2006 as a double amputee. He lost both legs below his knees 23 years ago while climbing in the South Island. This goes to show how extreme the snowy mountains can be and how determine Kiwis can be when they set their minds to it..

There are many ski fields, and ski fields for the real skiers during the winter months.

In Oamaru, you get to watch the penguins coming back from their adventure during the day. I was awed by the little creatures who battle the giant ocean waves every day.

Auckland is known as the city of sails, the harbor around her make good sailing. You can take your family and sail in an authentic America's cup yacht. You become the crew, take the helm, exert energy on the grinders or sit back and enjoy the action on the beautiful Auckland Harbour. One day, you may be around when the America's cup is competed here. There are regattas on Auckland anniversary day. Or you can take the catamaran ferry and sail to the neighboring islands.

Whether you come in summer, or in winter, there are plenty for you to do. These adventures are just some that my family and I had undertaken. There are lots of other places and things to do. The list is inexhaustive. We drove round the country for three weeks and stayed at Top Tens camping site. We met other travelers and made many friends.

****This pix of Sam is taken at Te Henga (Bethells Beach)or Bethells Sand dune. It is 30 kilometres Northwest of Auckland City, on the Tasman Sea. The Māori name Te Henga, meaning sand. The sand is black and is rich in iron.

We love the challenge of sliding down the giant dunes. The challenge is even greater climbing up, when you climb one step, and slip two thirds down. Each time I climb up, I vow I will never do it again. But the call of the sand beckons me to slide down again. It's like there is a spirit.

Our boogie board serves us well. We boogie at the beach, down the slopes of the sand dunes and the snowy slope of Mt Ruephehu.****

No comments: