(Cue the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings)
Well the time was 20:30 on the 4th of May and our adventure had started to Middle Earth – aka New Zealand! The four of us (my partner, my son Craig, and myself…oh, and a stowaway – my Mum!) all stepped aboard our Emirates flight from Glasgow to Christchurch, New Zealand via Dubai and Sydney: 40 hours of fun, fun, fun! The highlight of the flight out was to experience the Emirates A380 from Dubai for the first time…it was so roomy!
Nau mai ki Aotearoa – Kia ora!
We arrived two days later in Christchurch after a brief stop at Dubai and Sydney to get a shower and chill out. I have never felt so tired in my life!
We were based on the west coast of the South Island in a city called Greymouth: a sleepy hollow, but full of charm – it reminded me of the Wild West.
We started our adventure by taking the Southern Alpine Explorer train from Greymouth to Christchurch. It was a wonderful experience travelling by train to see the scenery of the southern alpine passes and coming down to the Canterbury plains. The journey took 3 hours to get from the West coast (Tasman Sea) to the East coast (Pacific Ocean). We arrived in Christchurch in the evening and stayed at the Rodgers Hotel right next to the Christchurch Cathedral that is made entirely of cardboard.
I had heard about the damage caused from the earthquakes but it didn’t really hit home until you witness the devastation. The whole of the city centre looked like a war zone (not much happening with regards to regeneration). It was shocking to see, but the people of Christchurch are strong and things were moving on. We bumped into Prince Harry too, by the Re:Start Shopping Mall – everyone was going crazy…pfft…yeah, OK, we thought!
3 days later we flew up to Auckland, kissing the ground as we landed, as the turbulence was horrific due to being attacked by two air flows (narrow islands you see). My stomach was definitely in my throat! But worth it for an amazing place, with such a diverse population of cultures and nationalities.
We stayed in a skyscraper apartment, which had great views of the harbour. Did you know the Auckland Harbour Bridge was created by the same builders who built the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Sydney, and the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle? Well there you go!
Did I say I climbed up a hill and came back down a volcano? No? Well I did…it was amazing. It’s an easy walk they said…it’ll be fun! Hmmm…
The views were amazing as you could see the lava fields and the steam from the ground. It started off as a leisurely walk, which then turned into mountain climbing to get to the summit of the volcano. It was really a good day but due to the sub tropical temperatures I was puffed! And guess who we bumped into again…? Yup…Prince Harry! I think he was following us!
Rotorua and Lake Taupo
So we hired a car and travelled down to Lake Taupo just south of Auckland. Did you know that Lake Taupo is infact a super volcano? Yikes…
We stopped by the Huka Falls to take in the famous views of the falls…another amazing sight to see.
We then carried on back up to Rotorua. I was in heaven! Mud pits, hot springs, SPAS! I was wallowing in volcanic mud! The only downside was the smell…the smell of rotting eggs due to the sulphur in the air…Ew! But, I have never felt so relaxed in my life – the waters were very good for you and so warm!
We said goodbye to Craig as he wanted to go and do some things by himself. We wouldn’t catch up with him again until we all meet back at Greymouth – Poroporoaki, Craig!
My other half and I travelled back up to Auckland to catch a flight to Fiji for 5 days! Oh I was so excited…and despite the trip being a washout, it was still great to see and the resort we stayed in was incredible! All inclusive and the local fire water really hit the spot! 😉
The Northern Explorer, Wellington and Blenheim
We flew back to Auckland and stayed the night to catch The Northern Explorer to Wellington – a 12-hour journey. We departed at 06:35 in the morning – thank God Kiwi’s love their coffee so much…I needed it!
The Northern Explorer is the only train that departs from a sub-tropical to a temperate zone in the world. The train travelled down the middle of the North Island through the Death Valley where the volcanic plateau is located. The views were awesome: waterfalls, sheep…sheep everywhere! The train wasn’t very fast so you could see the country in comfort.
We arrived in Wellington (“The friendliest capital of the world”) in the evening. We were tired but to see the bustling city open before us when we left the train station was amazing. Did you know that Wellington is quickly becoming one café capitals of the world? Yes…I was at home! A coffee lovers heaven!
On the first day we went to see the Beehive Parliament building and visit the historic sights like the Government House etc. We even took a cable car up to the Botanic Gardens…and guess who was in town? Yup! Prince Harry! Defintely stalking us! 😉
The next day we went to WETA Workshop – these were the guys who created all the costumes and props for the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. They also worked on quite a lot of major US films. We didn’t see Peter Jackson but I was told he was kicking about as they were doing some Avatar things…Yes guys, there is going to be a new Avatar by the sound of it!
Third day we went to Te Papa, which is a great museum about New Zealand, the culture and history… an interesting place!
Fourth day, we took a ferry trip back to South Island. We took the early morning ferry sailing from Wellington to Picton via the Cook Straits that took 3 – the sea was very calm and fresh, a pleasant alternative to our previous turbulent flight!
We arrived in Picton, the Gateway to the South Island – it was like cruising down a Norwegian Fjord! The scenery was lush and green with the mountains on either side of the calm clear water, with lots of sheep! Lots and lots of them…the air was so pure, too.
Then, things got weird – we end up on a Naked Bus! Panic was setting in as I looked at my beloved. The windows were all blacked out and there looked like a lot of dodgy back packers getting on the bus…it was a laugh for two hours as we headed to Blenheim: Mecca to J F Cameron…wine tasting…hello! 😉
Blenheim is the home of the Marlborough wine region. We went to the Nobilo winery to sample some amazing wines. I was in heaven, but with a very sore head the next morning!
We returned back to the Naked Bus to travel down the west coast via Westport and end up in Greymouth again! Phew – a long journey but the entertainment of a band with a captured audience helped pass the time!
We spent the rest of the holiday relaxing in our sea container room…yes, sea container! It was very odd hearing the rain beat off it and the birds walking on the roof! We even spied a Kiwi too when we were walking back from the pub!
Our trip came to an end on the 5th of June. We flew back via Melbourne and Dubai, arriving back to Scotland on the 6th of June.
“It was an amazing trip and if you ever get the chance…GO!!”
Written by James Cameron: Senior Project Manager