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Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Unforgettable New Zealand (Part 1)

My best friend once told me this popular quote: "when you are young, you have time and energy but no money. As an adult, you have money and energy but no time. And finally, when you are old, you have money and time but you don't have energy." We were lucky enough to make this BFF trip when we were still quite young (early 30's), while we had energy and enough money for travelling. Time might be our constraint back then, but I am glad that we managed to take two weeks leave from our busy working life and flew to New Zealand.

We visited only the South Island, starting from Christchurch, Akaroa, Mt Cook, Queenstown, Arrowtown, Lake Wanaka, Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier, Hokitika and then we were back to Christchurch. We missed Milford Sound because on the day we planned to go, the road to Milford Sound was blocked by snow so the tour agent cancelled that day trip. For Part One, I wrote only the journey from Christchurch to Queenstown.
I came one day earlier than my best friend. I took a shuttle van from Christchurch airport to the city. Along the way, I saw pretty houses with garden and trees. The city was very quiet and peaceful. Very different than Jakarta where I lived last time. No traffic jam and no air pollution here. After I put down the luggage at Ibis Hotel, I went to Cathedral Square that was just five minutes walk from my hotel.

Christchurch just suffered from earthquake few months before we came. Some parts of Christchurch cathedral were destroyed by the quake so it was closed for public. But nevertheless, the gothic style cathedral was still very attractive. I took my selfie picture with Christchurch cathedral as the background and then sat in the Square, looking at my surrounding. There were many people in the Square that afternoon. The street musician played his instrument and was watched by many people, some people just sit in the cafe and had chit chat. The Christchurch city tram was parking on the street. Based on the information from city tour centre, we could book Christchurch City tour combo by tram, punt and gondola so we could get the view of the city from many perspectives. We could also walk or ride a bicycle around the city. Christchurch is such a small city that I could explore by foot.

The cathedral of Christchurch.

The following day, I walked around the city. It was still autumn but the weather was already cold especially for me who came from a tropical country. I spent some time sitting beside the Avon River, looking at some pretty ducks that were sunbathing in the grass just next to the river. They were so lovely with their colourful feathers. I also enjoyed looking at beautiful cherry blossoms and exotic trees along the river. Another way to enjoy the river is by punting and that's what we did by the end of our trip. 

Avon River.

The wild ducks, resting at the riverside. 


When my friend arrived in Christchurch, we continued our city tour to Christchurch Botanical Garden. This place is a must visit place when you come to Christchurch. Founded over 150 years ago, it is the green heart of the Garden City. It's a huge garden with many trees and a lot of colourful beautiful flowers that I never saw before. We strolled around this big garden and took some pictures. Just across the Botanical Garden is Christchurch Art Gallery, a home to New Zealand's most important public art collections. Do a visit if you're an art lover.

At Christchurch Botanical Garden.

From Botanical Garden, we went to Gondola Base Station by bus. Gondola is basically the same with cable car. The gondola brought us to the top of Mt. Cavendish (the Summit Station). Unfortunately it was a cloudy and foggy afternoon, otherwise we could see Christchurch cityscape as well as the stunning Southern Alps and the hills of Banks Peninsula from the Canterbury Plains. 

My friend, Dewi, a moment before we boarded the gondola. 

The view from Canterbury Plains.

On Day 3, we took one day tour to Akaroa, a small town on the Banks Peninsula that is famous by its beautiful bays and harbour. Our bus departed early in the morning. Along the way we enjoyed Banks Peninsula's beautiful scenery. When we arrived in Akaroa two hours later, we walked around the city. If Christchurch was quiet, this town was even quieter. We barely saw any people in the street. After lunch, we joined the cruise, sailing on the deep sparkling blue water and saw the rarest and smallest dolphin in the world, Hector's dolphin, swimming joyfully near our boat. They were so cute. We also saw some seals sunbathing on rock platforms in the middle of the bay. Our tour guide told us that sometimes the penguins also appeared but we weren't lucky enough to see them that time.

Welcome to Akaroa!

A pier in Akaroa.

A Hector's dolphin.

The following day, we continued our journey from Christchurch to Queenstown by bus. The 11 hours scenic drive via Aoraki/Mount Cook included sightseeing and lunch break at Hermitage Hotel, Mount Cook Village. Along the way, we saw the stunning view of Lake Tekapo and the magnificent Aoraki/Mount Cook Mountain. At 3,724 metres, Aoraki/Mount Cook Mountain is the highest mountain in New Zealand and is one of the popular tourist destinations. It is also a favourite for mountain climbers including Sir Edmund Hillary who made his first ascent here in January 1948. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Hermitage Hotel, it was raining and foggy. We couldn't see the mountain clearly. Looking back now, I think we should spend at least 1 day in Mount Cook to explore the area and enjoy the scenery. One or two hours is definitely too short! We missed one of the best views one can experience in NZ. 

View of Mt Cook from the back of Hermitage hotel

The turquoise blue water of Lake Tekapo.

Another highlight of the trip was the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd. Located at the shore of Lake Tekapo and with Southern Alps as the background, this church is one of the favourite object for photographers. Close to the church is a well-known bronze statue of the Collie sheepdog. The statue was commissioned by Mackenzie country residents in recognition of the important role of the sheepdogs in their livelihood. 

Church of the Good Shepherd. 

Lindis Pass.

After these stops, we continued the trip to Queenstown, passing the stunning view of Lindis Pass with its unique yellow brownish grasses. I tried to take a picture from inside the fast moving bus but the result was a bit blur. How I wish we had rented a car and gone by ourself so we could stop for a while and take as many picture as we wanted. I made a note to myself, if I have the opportunity to visit this beautiful island again with my family one day, I will book a caravan so we can really enjoy the nature at our pace. And the sun was going down when we finally reached Queenstown...  

Photo from Lonely Planet.

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