New Zealand (October 2003)

New Zealand Travel Diary (October 9th to 18th, 2003)

Updates still evolving but I managed to avoid the lengthy delays in building the Budapest/Vienna Travelogue by keeping track of what we did as we went.

Day 1 & 2 (Thursday, October 9th to Saturday, October 11th) - Ottawa/Toronto to Los Angeles to Auckland

Flights via Air Canada (to LA) and Air New Zealand (between LA & Auckland) -

Day 3 (Saturday, October 11th) - Auckland

Day 4 (Sunday, October 12th) - More Auckland

Day 5 (Monday, October 13th) - Auckland to Rotorua

Auckland to Rotorua is ~4.5 hours of mostly highway driving (to get used to the right hand drive, but they did have 'islands' and 'arrows' to separate lanes at most intersections) -

Day 6 (Tuesday, October 14th) - More Rotorua

Day 7 (Wednesday, October 15th) - Rotorua to Taupo to Wanganui to Palmerston North, via Tongariro National Park & 'middle earth'

This represented a big itinerary change to go through the Tongariro National Park, as we had planned to go to Napier/Hastings instead but at the Maori dinner one couple at our table had just come from there & indicated that it was 'nothing special' while another couple had just driven up from Wellington through the park & said it was amazing ... so we changed our plans. The area from Lake Taupo to White Island (where there still is an active volcano) is the Taupo Volcanic Zone and highway #5 from Rotorua to Taupo is the 'Thermal Explorer Highway' -

Day 8 & 9 (Thursday, October 16th & Friday, October 17th) - Palmerston North to Wellington

Trevor at the Fitzherbert Castle Motel provided us directions to Castlepoint, which we heard about through the lighthouse exhibit of the New Zealand Maritime Museum. So on our way to Wellington we looped over to Castlepoint for the lighthouse and an amazing ocean view.

Then it was on to Wellington. Wellington is a government town (capital of New Zealand) that also is the port for boats between New Zealand's North & South Islands. While we would also have liked to tour both islands, that would have required a minimum of 3 weeks and we didn't have that much time available. But in Wellington most activities/sites appeared to be around the Lambton Quay, Wellington's major tourist-commercial-shopping district. The sample itineraries from Wellington's web site were somewhat disorganized so we limited ourselves to -

Day 10 (Saturday, October 18th) - Wellington to Auckland to Los Angeles to Toronto/Ottawa

Fly home and managed to rework the connections for an afternoon departure - Wellington to Auckland not bad, Auckland to Los Angeles fairly full (with the connection change in LA being a mess - huge lineups for immigration, luggage coming various turnstiles, lineups the entire length of the terminal to transfer luggage to connecting flights as all baggage was being hand inspected and further lineups at our gate) but from that point on it went smoothly & only ~30 hours from the hotel in Wellington to home in Ottawa.

New Zealand is a beautiful country and I wouldn't mind living there. A second trip to the South Island would be great as well, but it is a long way to travel, and I was surprised about how many people on the Auckland to Los Angeles flight continued on to Toronto plus a couple of others who continued to Ottawa.

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