Roy's Trip to New Zealand March 2017
The Langham is a beautiful luxury hotel with a great location within walking distance to restaurants, shops, the waterfront and attractions. After getting checked into the hotel, catching my breath and meeting up with friends, we then decided to take a 30 minute ferry over to Waiheke Island to tour around and visit the wineries. I was amazed at how good all the wines were that were made on this small island but I had always known that New Zealand wines were very good.
On Friday night I attended our opening reception and dinner at Ōrākei Marae in Auckland, where the indigenous people of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei have preserved their 400-year history. In this very special and unique evening we had a traditional ceremony on sacred grounds of the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, including a ceremonial tree planting.
|View of Auckland from sailboat|
On Saturday we had a group that went yachting on Viaduct Harbor and there is no better way to see the city than from the water. The sailboat was beautiful, the wind was nice and we spent about 2 hours sailing around the harbor.
Saturday night we had a wonderful dinner at a seafood restaurant located at the wharf right on the harbor. On Sunday we took a tour to the Waitomo Glow-Worm Caves. The drive was a couple of hours from Auckland to the village of Waitomo. It’s known for its extensive underground cave systems. Thousands of glow-worms light up the Glowworm Caves. You take a small boat down an underwater stream through the cave for a great view of the Glowworms. The vast Ruakuri Cave features waterfalls and limestone formations. We also visited Otorohanga Kiwi House which shelters several species of the rare native kiwi bird.
On Sunday night we had our closing Travel Leaders dinner and cocktail party back at Waiheke Island at the Cable Bay Vineyards. We had a private ferry that took our group to the island. The winery and vineyards were beautiful and had a spectacular view of Auckland that we enjoyed as the sun set.
|View of Auckland from Waiheke Island at sunset|
After the Travel Leaders summit was over on Monday, a small group of us started a week long trip to the South Island. We took a flight from Auckland to Queenstown and stayed in the Hotel Novotel Queenstown Lakeside for 3 nights. Queenstown was one of the most scenic towns I've ever seen. It reminded me of a village in the Alps with it's beautiful lake and the surrounding mountains. After arriving and getting settled in we took the Skyline Gondola Ride to the top of one of the mountains and sipped a few drinks while the sun set.
|View overlooking Queenstown|
On Tuesday, we had breakfast at the Hotel St. Moritz and had a look at the property and a the individual rooms that they offered. It is a beautiful property that is built on the edge of the lake. After breakfast we toured the facilities at SkyDive Paradise and the weather was too cloudy for any in our group to skydive. In the afternoon we did the Shotover Jet Boat ride, which was so much fun!! The video is a little long but definitely worth watching.
Wednesday was another magical day! The clouds finally cleared and some of our group were able to get the skydiving in form a plane that let them jump from 15,000 feet. Unfortunately, I wasn't one of them but I could almost experience it just from looking at the smiles on their faces. After the skydiving, we traveled by van from Queenstown to the Milford Sound which is a fiord in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. We boarded an old motorized sailboat to tour the sound. Milford Sound is known for towering mountain peaks and waterfalls that plummet down the side of the mountains. The fiord is home to fur seal colonies, penguins and dolphins and is surrounded by beautiful rain forests.
|Shotover River Jet Boat Ride Video|
After our boat tour, we took a scenic helicopter trip from Milford back to Queenstown. We flew over some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen. We landed near the top of a mountain and got out of the helicopter for a photo opportunity in the snow.
|R/V that we traveled in during daytime|
|Scenic photo after stopping on side of the road|
|Punting on the Avon River in Christchurch|
On Saturday, we flew from Christchurch to the capital of New Zealand, Wellington. We stayed at the Novotel Wellington which is located within walking distance of all the great attractions. The Te Papa Museum is the national museum and art gallery of New Zealand and is located on the waterfront. Te Papa means "Our Place" and has hundreds of exhibits from the indigenous Maori culture of the past to stunning exhibits that are focused on the future.
The Gallipoli Exhibition is also exhibited at Te Papa and was created by Oscar winning Weta Workshop. The exhibition tells the story through the eyes and words of 8 ordinary New Zealanders who found themselves in the middle of a brutal battle and under extraordinary circumstances. The Gallipoli Campaign was a campaign in World War I that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and 1916. In total, 2,779 Kiwis lost their lives on Gallipoli and others were scarred forever. I had visited the actual battleground of Gallipoli in Turkey in 2014 so the exhibit had even more meaning to me. Below are the pictures of the giant sculptures which took over 24,000 hours to complete.
|Gallipoli Exhibition at Te Papa by Weta|
|Look at the detail on his face!|
|View of Wellington from top of Cable Car ride|
Unfortunately that winded up my trip and it was time to fly home and get back to work. If you had the patience to read this entire blog or maybe I should call it a short story, thanks for taking the time. If you enjoyed it one one hundredth of as much as I did experiencing this great country then that makes me happy!