Sunday, February 11, 2007

New Zealand - Auckland

"Let's go on a road trip." When Viv said this, I had no idea he meant driving 3500 kilometres through the entire country of New Zealand, covering both North and South Islands through mountains, valleys, deserts, bridges and what not. However, I was excited as he loves to drive and I love being driven around. And we set off for what was to be the most fabulous holiday of our lives so far.

A little bit about New Zealand first. In the early 14th century, Polynesian settlers arrived in canoes. Their ancestor Kupe had found the country 400 years earlier and named it 'Land of the long white cloud'. In 1642 Dutch explorer Abel Tasman landed there and called it 'Nieuw Zeeland'. In 1769, British navigator Captain James Cook arrived and hoisted the Union Jack. In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, making New Zealand a British colony, putting the Maori people under the protection of the crown and promises of continuing rights to tribal lands. In 1947, New Zealand became an independent nation as a member of the British Commonwealth.

Though the indigenous culture is Polynesian Maori, the country shows heavy influence of European settlers. This has resulted in a good multi-cultural mix with English and Maori being the official languages. People are friendly and worship sports, especially rugby. What cricket is to India, rugby is to New Zealand. Home to writer Katherine Mansfield, actor Russell Crowe and director of the 'Lord of the Rings' fame Peter Jackson, New Zealand is indeed middle Earth.

There are five geographic hubs in NZ - Auckland, Rotorua and Wellington in the North Island and Christchurch and Queenstown in the South Island - and we were going to cover all these and more! NZ has an excellent network of roads and abundant natural beauty - I couldn't get over how mountains, valleys, lakes, beaches, deserts and glaciers can all be found in the same country!

Day 1 - Auckland

We landed at Auckland airport on 10th February where we were supposed to be greeted by the car rental people. To our shock, there was no sign of them. Finally after making a few calls, they came to pick us up and told us that there had been some miscommunication between them and our agent who had not told us that we would be received at another gate. Anyway, we got our car, an adorable silver Mitsubishi Colt Plus, and armed with a city map, we were off to the Sky City Hotel.

Our holiday started with a lot of rain!

While Viv was getting used to driving an automatic car, I was well, looking outta the window and enjoying the sites. Suddenly he threw the bomb at me. "Look at the map and guide me to the hotel." He said. "WHAT?" I could not believe my ears! I'm the kind of person who can get lost in her own neighbourhood, the kind who needs to call friends and ask for directions to go from shopping malls, the kind who never ever uses a map. And now, there I was, with a map in my face, and no one to ask directions from, expected to guide us to our hotel! Sheesh.

Anyway, I had no way out but to face my fear - the city map. But on hindsight, I think I did well. We only travelled 10 km extra to get to our hotel, and that too because Viv turned right when I yelled "Turn left here! Turn left here!"

Nevertheless, we ended up getting a nice little tour of the city centre.

By the time we checked into our hotel, it was late afternoon, almost evening. We were exhausted, we'd been travelling like crazy in the last month or so.

We decided to study all the maps and brochures we had and plan which places we were going to visit the next day.

We also took some sample shots with our new camera.

Then we set out for dinner and a walk around the place.

We ate at a kebab place and wandered around, enjoying the night views.

The Sky Tower (more about it later!) presented an awesome sight!

I pose in front of an ad agency called 'Work'. At 'Work' away from work! Yippeee!

Finally we get back to the hotel for a good night's rest.

Day 2 - Auckland

The next morning was an absolutely glorious one, and though we had slept like crazy (we even missed breakfast!) we got ready quickly as we had a lot of places to see. Auckland is also known as the 'City of Sails' and is the most populated city in NZ. Of the 4 million inhabitants of NZ, almost 1 million live in Auckland itself.

Morning view of Auckland city from our hotel

We decided to start with the 328-m Sky Tower. The tower is not just the tallest landmark of Auckland, it is also the tallest tower in the southern hemisphere, offering breathtaking views for more than 80 km in every direction.

We took a glass-floor lift up to the tower. Scary.

View of the city from the Sky Tower

All important landmarks such as the Harbour bridge, the port, ancient Maori sites, the Auckland war memorial museum, Albert Park and Mt. Eden are visible from the
Sky Tower, as well as many of the 50 islands of the Auckland's gulf, and 48 volcanoes, many of which erupt regularly. Auckland is the only city in the world built on an active field of volcanoes.

You can see the Harbour bridge on the left.

Crazy cross-cross of roads (to think that Viv actually drove through all that!)

Sections of the floor atop the
Sky Tower are made of glass, and it was so freaky to stand on them that both Viv and I decided that if this scared us, we were not really the bungy-jump kind of people. Of course, all that was to change in a few days.

View from the glass flooring. I tried to be brave and stand on the glass panel, but was absolutely terrified when I looked down...

... in spite of the notice that said "This glass floor is 38 mm thick. It is as strong as the concrete you are standing on."

There were red boards with multiple-choice-questions to tell us about trivia related to the tower.

I pose against the glass walls of the
Sky Tower while Viv clicks this.

I wanted a picture of us together so we found a kind soul to click it for us.

There's something called a sky jump which you can do from the top of the tower. Unlike bungy, it does not involve hanging upside down or bouncing. You just fall down straight at about 85 km per hour and then slow down in the last few metres to gently land on the floor. Of course, we did not do it.

We made our way down, bought a New Zealand atlas to help us navigate the rest of the country and set off for our next destination - Mt. Eden. We were basically following the route of the Auckland City bus that takes tourists to the 14 important landmarks of Auckland, but we decided to skip places like museums and spend more time at places that we liked more. It was another long drive and because I was still honing my map-reading skills, we got lost.

On the way we saw some pretty buildings...

... and I multi-tasked between clicking pictures and reading the map. Finally, we decided to stop at a shop and ask for directions. The shop-owner turned out to be a sari-clad Gujrati lady who only spoke hindi, and she gave us perfect directions to get to Mt. Eden.

We were back on track, looking for the Honeywell building to take a left from.

And ah, there it was!

After we took the left, we saw this tourist bus in front of us, so we just chilled and followed the bus through the winding road up. The views were even better than the ones from the sky tower!

Stalking the bus... check out the second tree, it's not fallen, it's just growing like that!

Rows of cars atop Mt. Eden

View of the city, including the sky tower! Now you can't see the sky tower from the top of the sky tower, can you? :)

Mt. Eden (Mangawhau in Maori) is a dormant volcano, which at 196 metres above sea level is the highest natural point of Auckland.

This is Mt. Eden's majestic crater - about 50 metres deep. And what are the black dots??

Cows!! If they knew that Mt. Eden is only a dormant volcano, they wouldn't dare graze in there eh? :P
By now, Viv had got the hang of driving in NZ, and we were both so in love with the car we named it Golu (because of its round-ish shape). Golu Plus actually, since it was a Mitsubishi Colt Plus.

Viv poses with Golu after parking it.

I pose too! Hey, if he's the driver, I'm the navigator!

Atop Mt. Eden

This lady was just chilling up there with her dog and I found it an irresistible shot!

Me in tree

View from Mt. Eden

We decided to take a walk around the area. It was incredibly windy up there, the wind was so loud it actually interfered with conversation!

A candid shot

As we walked through the grass, I was amazed at how beautiful even the flowers growing amongst the grass were!

I pause to catch my breath.

More panoramic views of the city

Cowdung! (yes, given a camera, I am a mad woman!)

Is that a bird or a plane?

That was a plane, this is the bird!

We decided to take a walk around the rim of the volcanic crater.

Sign near the rim - guess it's not really for the cows.

We had finally seen everything around Mt. Eden and were ready to head off to our next destination.

Viv studies the map, which was fluttering so hard he had a tough time hanging on to it.

Our next destination was Parnell Village, a collection of wooden villas reclaimed and restored for retail purposes.

Many of these villas are linked by little wooden bridges, and are surrounded by shrubs and little fountains to maintain the rustic look.

Though they are called village shops, their prices are anything but village-y! :P

Jane Daniels (?)

I pose in front of the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Another pretty building

Random interesting structure

As we walked along Parnell Road, we saw this red car with the number plate 'EAT U UP'. In NZ, alphabetic number plates are allowed, and we saw a few funny ones throughout our holiday.

Yet another one! It says 'I AM A LADYBIRD'.

After this, we headed for the beaches along Tamaki Drive. The cold weather ensured that there was no way we were getting into the water. Throughout the vacation, the one question I had for every New Zealander I met was "Excuse me, isn't it supposed to be summer now??" Brrrr!

The drive along Tamaki Drive was full of amazing views of sailboats.

Finally we reached Okahu Bay, one of the prominent city beaches. It was a small beach, and the beachgoers consisted of families with incredibly cute babies and children!

I had a fun time frolicking with the seabirds!

Though the sky looked cloudy, the weather was awesome!

On the drive towards Mission Bay, we passed the Tamaki Yatch Club.

We saw beautiful houses on the way...

...and grand trees too!

Finally we reached Mission Bay!

Mission Bay seemed to be a much more happening beach, with many more people indulging in beach activities such as flying kites, jogging, and bathing in the sea.

Joggers and sunbathers

We watched this guy fly this very cool kite! It was awesome!

We also wanted to go to the Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World, but they had changed the summer opening hours, and we missed it by five minutes. That was kinda sad, but we had seen a lot in the day, and were ready to go back. We freshened up in the hotel and went for dinner at Denny's near our hotel, where we had the most gorgeous fudge brownie of my life!

Coming up next - an oarless boat ride in a pitch dark cave, and Angora rabbit shearing in Waitomo



  • Nice pics...of ur HM...if m not wrong :)

    By Anonymous Prerna, at 6:18 PM  

  • nice

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:39 PM  

  • Honeywell, NZ.
    Nice yaar...well Honeywell india doesnt have such cool building :-(
    [i work for hts,blore ;-)]

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:45 PM  

  • hey where r ur wedding pics ? Upload them also...wanna c what u wore on ur wedding day...so tht i can also get sm idea for my wedding dress also ..ha ha ha

    By Anonymous Shweta, at 7:17 PM  

  • ahh :) nice pics :)
    but where r the captions? :-?
    too lazy eh? :D
    anyways..pretty nice pics..NZ luks like one hep place :-)
    n u n viv make a very sweet couple :)

    By Anonymous Thisisme, at 7:27 PM  

  • great pics sayesha bhai!

    By Anonymous satish, at 4:38 PM  

  • We finally get to see what Viv looks like! We probably don't say this enough - but it's nice of you to share the pics with us - Makes it feel more family-like :)

    By Anonymous Singh, at 5:28 PM  

  • nice :-) Honeywell on Honeymoon...hmmm interesting ;-)
    btw...two qsns-
    1) What crater was that?
    2) How tall is the sky tower actually (if I'm not wrong, t's the one resembling the sears tower in a couple of those pics right)?

    By Blogger Bivas, at 11:04 PM  

  • #Prerna,
    Thanks! :)

    Thanks! :)

    Thanks! :)

    This is a travel blog yaar, no wedding pics here! ;)

    Yippeee! I have done up the text and the captions too! Yeay! :)
    Thanks! :)

    Thanks! :)

    Thanks! :)

    I've added the text so you can read it now, but to answer your questions:
    1) It's the Mt. Eden crater.
    2) The Sky Tower is 328 m tall.

    By Blogger Sayesha, at 3:49 PM  

  • amazingly beautiful.
    and those car plates..hahahaha

    By Blogger Neihal, at 8:14 PM  

  • The travelogue makes the pics more interesting :) btw, viv wears watches these days? :)

    By Blogger sandya, at 1:12 AM  

  • Is all this travelling a part of your job???????

    Seriously, I ll change my profession if it is.

    Wow!! lucky u.

    By Blogger Blogger Bhaiyya, at 2:16 PM  

  • Very scenic pictures and nicely described trip... Bt what do you do

    By Blogger SpensersDelite, at 11:11 AM  

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