February 28, 2012

Still Out of Oz

To see New Zealand adequately you need about six weeks. As far as we can tell the country is one big tourist destination designed with campers in mind. Not Canadian style snow birds—with their huge condos on wheels (you'd run one of those off the narrow winding roads inside an hour)--but more modest campervans, and tent dwellers (who range from car campers with basic stuff—like us, to expedition setups that would put safari camps to shame). Once you're on the road you can bunk down in anything from Holiday Parks (complete with communal kitchens, hot showers, laundries, entertainment rooms etc) to Department of Conservation sites (which are basic, beautiful and cheap).
The goal is to travel clockwise, or anti clockwise, North Island, South Island, or a combo of both and set off exploring at a fairly leisurely pace. If, however, your trip to NZ is suddenly cut short by the fastest visa processing time that anyone could have predicted, you need to develop a different strategy. We're calling ours the Sample NZ tour. Much like in wine tasting, where you sip from a large number of varietals, vintages and vineyards (then try in vain to remember just which vineyard had the best Riesling on your next visit to the bottle shop...) in two days SNZ saw us travel from the Bay of Islands, to the Tasman Sea, through the Kauri forest to Hobbiton.

The Tasman Sea: glorious, wild and rugged. The Kauri forest was lush and inspiring. Hobbiton was crazy weird—it is the movie set from LLTR 1 & 3 and was recently rebuilt for the Hobbit movies. Over 65,000 faithful show up each year (some in costume, we had an elf on our tour) and wander through the shire—walking in Gandolf's footsteps or looking out through Frodo's door, reciting lines from the movies.

Then came hot springs in Rotorua (a soak felt good after all the driving) and horse riding (through amazing country side past more sheep! and more cows!, bubbling volcanic mud (both to look at and soak in). And then more. We rode a gondola up a mountain and luged our way back down (so fun we did it twice). Then we visited a Kiwi recovery program and saw a newly hatched chick. Tonight we're headed to a cultural show then it's on to river rafting, mountain biking and another stop by the sea shore. We're trying to get in as much of NZ as we can before flying back to OZ on the weekend and I'm trying to hit the high points I have stories pegged to (NZ Tourism has been a gracious and helpful host on many of our outings, for those who asked about our budget...).

Our sample tour is busy—but we are taking time to hike interesting trails and drive down intriguing roads. We're not planning out more than a day or a so at a time—but we do have a departure date and will be back in Auckland in just a few more days—but between now and then we're on holiday so we're not going to count just how many days we have left...
But photos soon. NZ is gorgeous--suddenly flipping cold though...

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