Just spent some time at one of the most beautiful locations in the World. It takes more than thirty hours to get there from Europe. I enjoyed New Zealand very much. But as a team of travellers’ we f….d it up. The post is on goods and bads of a New Zealand trip. A subjective one. But if you travel there, do not repeat mistakes we made. Part One.
EXCITED. THE JOURNEY BEGINS
The journey begins. In forty minutes it is boarding time on a flight to Singapore and further to Auckland. More than twenty-five hours on a plane. In Singapore I will meet with my five fellows. The sixth will await us in Auckland, New Zealand. Greetings from the Munich Airport. It is 11 am on January 26th, Friday. On our way we will lose a half day.
THE TRAVEL SCHEDULE
Our New Zealand planning involves constant change of locations with only one two-day stay at the Wanaka lake. An ambitious plan. In eleven active days we will ride on a rented van more than 2800 km, around 250 daily on average. We want to make many beautiful photos at many beautiful locations. We will see Hobbition of the Lord of the rings. Some outdoor activities are planned in as well, like a glacier walk, kayaking and a boat trip on the Milford Sound. We are a fellowship of seven, but still it is a packaged tour we paid for. The itinerary is bound by the hotel locations booked in advance.
As I decided to go on this tour, I was so excited to go with fellows, with whom I travelled Japan, that I did not scrutinise our schedule fully. In aftermath, I enjoyed New Zealand very much. No regrets. But both the travel plan and our travel style I consider a failure. New Zealand offers great vacation possibilities and a true travel comfort. By not using it, we simply f….. it up.
Our New Zealand travel schedule as we planned it.
THE OTHER KIND OF THE BORDER INSPECTION
As we land it is short before midnight in New Zealand on Saturday 27th of January. The border control is a bit different from that in other countries. New Zealand authorities pay much attention to that people do not bring any foreign organic stuff into the country. It is not about customs duties. It is about protection of the local environment. If you have trekking shoes, you must not bring it with any foreign soil. No foreign seeds must be brought into the country. The border official tells me bluntly: ‘Lady, I am not interested in your passport. I am interested in that what you have in your luggage.‘ In the entry document I had to list the countries where I was to in the past month. So, I listed Poland and Norway. ‘Do you have any outdoor equipment and shoes that you used there?’ ‘No, I do not. It is winter in Europe. I took only sport shoes that I use in the gym’. ‘You may go’ I hear. As the next step my whole luggage is x-rayed.
Short of time. Our time perception is confused. In Europe it is Saturday evening. Here, at the end of the world or better to say the beginning of the world, it is already Sunday morning (January 28th). The time difference to Europe is exactly twelve hours.
Just the morning view on Auckland. To get the view we woke up before six. For most of us it was only four hours of sleep. But it was worth it. We were excited as to what was to come next. While coming back to our hotel to pick up our two fellows, who skipped this time as well as our luggage, we drove through the posh quarters of the city. But did not stop. We had to hit the road.
Auckland at the sunrise
A BIT LONGER BREAKFAST THAN PLANNED
Our morning got longer than we actually planned. One of our fellows is sick. We need to find a doctor. At our insurer’s call centre we are advised that it should be them to arrange a doctor, but as our travel schedule is tight they agree we find a doctor at site by ourselves. Somekind of a virus. Our fellow was given medicine. She will be all right…
As we wait for her, we try one of the numerous restaurants that serve breakfast menu. A kind of coffee shop. A couple of days before we departed we were sent a message by an acquaintance, who landed in NZ a week before. ‘Those local restaurants it is something we should try and rely on.’ As we realised on that day and later on, good coffee is something you can count on in New Zealand. The breakfast menu is wide. At the counter I see things I am not accustomed to. Just the other way of prepping breakfast. The New Zealand way. In the restaurant we observe a couple of elderly ladies enjoying their Sunday morning. A leisurely and long Sunday morning …
My first breakfast in New Zealand. The filling was of salmon and spinach, but the wrapping was different to that we are accustomed to in Europe
DAILY SHOPPING IN MATAMATA
On a twelve people van we hired for our journey we hit the road. Finally we arrive at Matamata, heading to Hobbiton aka Shire (of the ‘Lord of Rings’ and the ‘Hobbit’). We are a bit jet lagged. We need to buy some food. We talk making us a barbecue night this evening. In aftermath an error, I think. But nevermind. We enter yet another hypermarket. The first one was in Auckland where we bought us water and some snacks. But then we were a bit in a hurry. The hypermarket is very well supplied. Much of the stuff is well-known to us. It is of European and American manufactures, some of it however tailored for a New Zealand customer. The brands well-known to us make moving around easier. Later on, the same we will see in the local pharmacies. We are maybe at the end of the world, but may truly understand how globalisation works. The choice is exquisite.
Our hotel is not far away. It is a so-called lodge hotel. The apartments are like small homes: a living room with a kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms. It is a standard we will be seeing through most of our journey. In the backyard there is a small jacuzzi. Quite comfortable conditions. The hotel is one of the kind. A historic place. We were surrounded by New Zealanders on vacation. The air was a leisurely one. The New Zealand art of living. Only couple of hundred meters away there were hot springs. I was excited about the evening to come. It might have been fun. It might have been… But we had to hit the road. Hobbiton awaited us.
THE HOBBITON MOVIE SET
Hobbiton movie set is located on a private property, which can be achieved only by coaches operated by the owners. The place is very picturesque and worthwhile. The whole village is maintained like it looked like on the Hobbit movie set. We are assigned a guide, who talks particulars and curiosities. Like the one, that Sean Austin aka Samwise Gamgee in one of the last scenes of the ‘Lord of The Rings’ trilogy was surprised by the director, who not having told him appointed his little daughter to play Samwise’s daughter. Yes I can recall the scene. His face looked like truly surprised.
The walk through the Hobbiton takes us around two hours that end in the Hobbiton local pub (a restaurant). Designed for a ‘bit larger’ Hobbits. All Hobbits’ houses in the village are only exteriors. But in that restaurant you feel like being inside, even in the rest room. We were served ginger beer. But, we have to leave shortly. The next group that entered Hobbiton was the one that stayed longer there to enjoy a long evening in the Hobbits’ restaurant. To be frank, I was a bit envious of them. It sounded like fun.
The exterior of one of the many Hobbits’ houses in the Hobbiton village.
The Hobbiton restaurant, made to suit the men. I would have stayed there longer if I could have.
OUR FIRST BARBECUE. NEITHER RIGHT TIME NOR THE PLACE
In the evening it was barbecue time. Our schedule involved one night of camping in Milford Sound on the Southern Island. We were fully equipped with camping stuff that we bought already in New Zealand. Barbecue with private equipment was however forbidden at our lodge hotel. It was too late to get a slot at one of the public gas grills available at our hotel. So we simply stopped at one of numerous rest places at a road side and made us party time. It was our first full day in New Zealand. Excited about our trip, we simply neglected to have a decent meal in the middle of the day. We all were hungry like wolves. We stopped at the first place suitable. Not a very good choice at all. Just between a road and a bit stinky cow field. No matter. With a sip of wine it was fun. Most of our time we spent however in the darkness after sun went down.
Our first barbecue night in New Zealand. It was fun, but with the alternative we had, of spending the evening among New Zealanders, a misconception. As it turned out, on our whole trip it was the only occasion to see how Kiwis (New Zealanders) enjoy their evenings
LESSON ONE. KITCHENS CLOSE EARLY IN NEW ZEALAND
As we returned to our hotel, it was too late to enjoy the place. It turns out, unlike in most of the European locations, the social life ends early in New Zealand. A lesson for the next days. If you want to enjoy an evening in New Zealand being surrounded by locals in a local restaurant and enjoy the local cuisine, be aware that the kitchens close around eight or nine pm. If you do not switch over your thinking to the New Zealand way, you may end as we did in aftermath. Failing to truly taste, what the New Zealand cuisine has to offer.
A LOST OPPORTUNITY
If I had to choose once again, what to do on our first evening, after the Hobbiton visit I would come back to our hotel as quickly as possible, use the kitchen in our apartment to prepare supper and enjoy a New Zealand evening with locals lodging at our hotel. A beer in the hotel local pub would be a good idea, too. A relaxing bath in the jacuzzi in our back yard would do good, as well. We have been in New Zealand for less than twenty-four hours. Some relaxation after almost thirty hours spent altogether in the air in narrow seats would do good to all of us. Travelling long distances is a kind of discomfort that one just counts in. Counting in remedies as well would be wise. On that day I was however too tired to think of it.
Waiting for the free bathroom, according to my fellows I fell asleep on the coach in the living room. No idea when it was as I switched to the bedroom, maybe one or two am.
DAY 1 ROUTE
Part Two >>>
A photo gallery and index of posts on New Zealand >>>